What a Difference an IVF Makes!

***From the Surrogate Sister***

When I first offered to be my sister’s surrogate, I thought, they’ll dose me with hormone pills, insert the turkey baster, inject the little spud, and after a try or two, I’d be pregnant. Little did I know what I was in for. And now, after going through this process, I now have a monumental amount of awe and admiration for every woman who has willingly tried in vitro fertilization and/or surrogacy.

My previous two pregnancies were easy. Easy to conceive (thank goodness), easy to carry (relatively) and easy to give birth (one natural and one C-section). That’s perhaps why I was so willing to carry the load for my sister.

Yet in the IVF / Surrogate world, it’s an entirely different universe. Here’s how my expectations collided with my new reality most glaringly:

First, Your Head Gets Shrinked
No one evaluated my fears, hopes and dreams before I conceived my first child. Although with some awful parents I’ve seen, it probably wouldn’t have been a bad move. But when you’re a surrogate, everyone down to your mailman has to get a psych evaluation before the implant is a go. Separately and together. I learned something new about my husband, too: he hates psychologists. He hates the way they dig and dig trying to find some little speck of dirt they can focus their microscope on. He took to it like mob informant being questioned by the police. He gave up nothing. When our brother found out we had to go, his response was most apt: “Just don’t tell them about the voices.” I so wanted to.

You Become a Pincushion
First, you start taking daily shots of Lupron in your stomach. I took the shots every single day for weeks. And weeks. On top of that, I needed to go on hormone drugs and get my blood tested multiple times for my “levels,” the nurse told me. All of this was to make sure my uterus turned into a 4-star hotel deluxe suite for the incoming embryo. I'm convinced people around me started to worry that I was either ill or shooting up heroin given how many times I showed up with big Band-Aids on my arms. For someone who has a longstanding dread of needles (just looking at one inserted into skin makes me feel woozy and faint), this was not fun. Thank goodness for my husband, who administered the shots with aplomb after being trained by nurse mom. And after a while, I—unbelievably—started to get used to them.

The Hormones Don’t Just Make You Bitchy...
...they make you mad, cranky, impatient, moody, and my personal favorite, an emotional weeping mess. Anything will set me off—commercials, bad news in the papers, a sweet story, anything. When I took my daughters to see the live action Peter Pan, I was bursting into tears so often it was embarrassing. Honestly, if anyone is even considering doing this, my suggestion is to get a mega-pack of tissues at Costco. When I told our friends Neal and Robin at dinner one night how hormonal I was, and how my husband was a saint to endure my mood swings, Neal rightly said, “Of course he doesn’t mind. He gets to exact his revenge by stabbing you with a needle every night!”

The NYU Nurses Put Your Number on Speed Dial
In some ways, it’s great. They check in on you frequently to make sure you stay on course with your meds and know what’s coming around the bend. If I only had someone to remind me of all the other events in my life that I seem to forget, I’d be set.

Everyone Knows Your Business
At least in my case, they did. I realized that if I didn’t tell people in advance that I was going to be a surrogate, I’d be hit with a hailstorm of questions later. So little by little, I told people. And mom told people. And then they told people. And so on, and so on. But then, it was like having sex (kind of) with two doctors, a psychiatrist, your sister, your sister’s husband, your parents, all of your friends, your kids, your kids’ teachers, everyone else your kids blabbed to, and a bunch of other strangers—in the room with you. Everyone knew what I was up to when I left for NY. For weeks before and after, I was terrified it wasn’t going to work on the first try not just because it would be disappointing for my sis, but also for the mountain of phone calls and e-mails I’d need to make afterwards with the news.

What They Don’t Tell You about the Progesterone Shots
A few days before the embryo transfer, you stop taking Lupron injections and start stabbing your butt with progesterone shots. The nurse seemed almost gleeful when she asked if I’d seen the needle they use. When I said no, she said, “Follow me.” Of course, I’m thinking, why the hell am I following her? I don’t want to see that damned thing! She led me into the lab, reached into a drawer and pulled out a syringe with a long, long, long needle…a seriously big f—ing needle at least three inches long. You’ve got to be f—ing kidding me, I thought. And I had spent all that time moaning and groaning about the Lupron shots with that teensy weensy needle? That was the size needle you get for a dollhouse compared to this monster.

Your Husband Can’t Be There
When it’s finally time for the embryo transfer via turkey baster (actually a tiny catheter that they insert into your uterus), it’s just you and a room full of medical professionals. Very romantic. And as opposed to lingerie, you’re head to toe in surgical drab: poofy shower cap, flimsy medical gown, and brown skid-proof booties and all. Very sexy. The best part was texting my husband after it was over: “The deed is done.” He responded immediately, “Was it good for you?”

You Wait for the News…with a Team of People
After the transfer, the waiting begins. After conceiving our first child, no one knew my husband and I had had sex, except for perhaps the next door neighbors. Here, everyone knows what you’ve just done. It’s odd. Waiting to see if the line turned pink on the test with my sis and brother-in-law in the next room I felt a mixture of exhilaration, embarrassment, fear, concern for my sister, concern for me, concern for how my girls’ would react if it didn’t work, and most of all, hope.

My Husband Was the Last to Know
It’s a really strange feeling when you are the bearer of the good news and THE bearer of the child, but not the “owner” of the news that you’re pregnant. It wasn’t my right to tell anyone, I felt. It was my sister’s. I only realized after she called her husband and our parents that I still hadn’t told my own husband! What’s been funny in the few weeks that’s followed is that people are just as confused as to how to react. At first they say, “Congratulations” and then retract it saying, “Well, I guess that’s not right. I should say ‘congratulations!’ to your sister!” But perhaps my husband is having the most fun with the news of all. He’s delighting in telling his customers, “My wife is pregnant. And it’s not my child!” Only after they realize he’s totally serious, he clues them in. Evil.

So I suppose, what I should do now, if I haven’t done so already, is wish my sister and my brother-in-law a tremendous congratulations from me to you! I love you both, and can’t be more happy for the two of you. And me...and us...I guess!

1 comment:

  1. I think I'm having more fun with your pregnancy than I am with my own!! :) xoxox Love to you all. Congratulations to Heidi and Jeremy!