And so it begins…

So I want to back up a little and explain what a horrible and traumatic month February was for us because it was rough.

My husband had some stomach problems at the beginning of the month but we just blew it off as food poisoning as we had eaten out the night before and figured he would be fine in a few days. When he hadn’t started feeling better 5 days later he went to see his doctor who ran urine and blood tests but couldn’t find anything wrong so they scheduled him for an MRI on Thursday Feb 5. We went to the MRI that morning and didn’t think much of anything but almost immediately after they had finished his scan, they came out and explained that he had appendicitis and we should go straight back to the doctor. We rushed over to the doctor’s office who immediately sent us over to a surgeon’s office who then immediately sent us straight to the hospital where they rushed him into surgery within two hours. It was an extremely exhausting day, but I’m happy to say he recovered great and is feeling a lot better!

About two weeks later, I experienced some car trouble and lost power steering on the highway. I managed to make it to a shop where they explained my A/C compressor has seized which broke my serpentine belt and an idler pulley ($1600 to repair). The car was inoperable and I had to have a friend come pick me up and drive me to a rental car agency as that was our only car. We had it towed back to our condo where it is still sitting, but we have plans to get it repaired in the next few weeks. The good news is that I got a new (well, used, but new to me!) car and I’m loving it.

Then, our case manager suddenly decided to leave ConceiveAbilites and we were given a new case manager, who is absolutely as wonderful as our first except she is based in Chicago. I received an email from her on Feb 17 saying that she needed to talk to me and that I shouldn’t be worried, but it had to be that day. Of course I was worried! I hadn’t heard much from my IPs since we were legally cleared and I had already started meds so I was very worried that something had happened. When I spoke to my case manager that afternoon we received the heartbreaking news that my IM had been diagnosed with breast cancer and they needed to know if I was still willing to continue on with the process.

I was in shock. Of course I was still willing to continue on. How could I not want to keep going and give them something positive to look forward to. I couldn’t believe we were receiving more bad news and my first thought was of my IPs and what they must have been going through the past few weeks. The good news is that they caught it early and she will be starting treatments in the next few weeks, but I’m unsure of all the details. (I’ll let her do a guest blog to explain everything from her perspective). I’m just so happy she is going to be ok and they can do treatments and that she was able to continue on with her egg retrieval so we could move forward. We had a transfer date scheduled for March 2.

Wednesday, Feb 25, was my IM’s egg retrieval and they successfully harvested 31 eggs and were able to produce 13 embryos! So exciting!! It was all beginning to feel real.

We all went out to dinner on Friday Feb 27 and it was the first time we had spoken face to face since our first match meeting in July. I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it was to get to see them again. We got to catch up on all the craziness of our relation and everything else going on and how excited we all are to have things progressing forward. It was a great night and we are so grateful to be able to help such wonderful people.

The following morning, we received more bad news. When doing the retrieval and fertilization of the embryos, something had come back inconclusive on the IFs blood work. The nurse called each of us separately that morning to discuss the possible risks and concerns they had for a virus called CMV. I asked so many questions but hung up feeling more confused than when she called as she really had no answers for me at all. She explained that both the IF and myself had antibodies indicating a previous infection, but at the time of retrieval, the IFs test had come back inconclusive so they couldn’t be sure whether or not he had a current infection and the worry was that it could possibly be passed on to the embryos. Since the nurse didn’t really have any good answers, I researched the virus (thanks Google!) which was a horrible idea. There are some pretty scary complications for embryos and babies born with the virus including hearing loss and blindness.

Again, my heart broke for my IPs. Especially because it was really difficult for them to get any real answers from the doctors as it was the weekend and our transfer was scheduled for Monday. It was a long weekend waiting to hear if things were going to move forward as planned. I began to feel like someone was against us.

They were finally able to speak with a doctor on Monday morning and after getting all the facts, they decided to proceed with the transfer. I was relieved and ecstatic. I just wanted some happy news for my IPs!!

So, now the good stuff!

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Two gorgeous and healthy embryos

I arrived at CCRM at 2:30, had labs done, and then went up to the lobby to wait to be called back. Our IM arrived shortly before they took me back for acupuncture (it’s supposed to help relax you and your uterus). The room was freezing, but they gave me lots of blankets and a Valium and told me to settle in. After the first round of acupuncture, my IM came in to the room to sit with me while we waited for the transfer to begin. We got to discuss all the chaos of the past week and how excited we both were to finally be doing the transfer. It all felt very surreal to me. About 3:45, the doctor came in and explained the procedure and then the boys got to come in to watch. We got to see the embryos on a screen before the transfer and the IPs actually got to watch the transfer being done on an ultrasound machine. It was amazing to see how excited they were!

The actual procedure only took about 5 mins and then I just had to lay still for 30 mins at which point the IPs said goodbye and good luck. Then I did another round of acupuncture and was definitely relaxed, although it could’ve been the Valium kicking in. (My husband says I fell asleep, but I’m not sure I believe him). After 45 mins of acupuncture, I got to get dressed and was wheeled down to the car to go home.

I’m currently enjoying the perks of being on bedrest for two days which includes watching lots of junk tv, getting homework done, and taking naps. I have also been eating pineapple, including the core, as it is supposed to make your uterus sticky so the embryos will implant. I love pineapple, but the core is…not so yummy. It doesn’t really taste bad, it’s just very chewy and stringy.

Now we just wait until March 11 for my first blood test to find out if I’m pregnant! Here’s to hoping for more good news!

The details…

For those of you unfamiliar with the surrogacy process, here is a little bit about how I got to where I am today…

My name is Leslie Mattern, I am currently 29 (I applied when I was 28), I have been married for 6.5 years, and I have two amazing daughters, 5 and 3. I work full time as a store manger and am currently working towards my bachelor’s in Criminalistics.

Probably the most common question I get is why? Why I want to be a surrogate. My answer is: why not? I had such wonderful pregnancies and I absolutely loved being pregnant. I donated my eggs when I was 21, but that was an anonymous procedure so this time I’m really looking forward to getting to know the family I’m helping because they are amazing!

I did some research (thanks Google!) and found several different surrogacy agencies available, but I decided to go with ConceiveAbilities because they have this amazing video talking about surrogacy on their website. (Here’s a link: www.conceiveabilities.com) I filled out the online application and the process began. Within the first four months, I had a phone interview, followed by a home visit, then I had to have the medical records for my previous pregnancies sent to the agency, and then a psych eval (where I completed a personality questionnaire containing 800+ questions!). However, there is a lot of waiting and down time between each step. By this point it was late June and we had decided to move back to Denver from Houston. Luckily for us, ConceiveAbilities has offices in Denver (and Chicago) so the move didn’t effect us at all. Within a few weeks of moving back to Denver, we had a match meeting set up with a couple who had been waiting for a Denver based surrogate.

Going to the match meeting was like going on a blind date. I was so nervous and excited and terrified, but meeting them was like catching up with old friends. A mediator from ConceiveAbilities was present to keep the conversation flowing and to make sure all the important topics were covered. It was a little overwhelming because you’ve just met this couple for the first time and you have to discuss any and all possible scenarios including how many embryos will be transferred, what happens if it’s twins or triplets? Are you ok with selective reduction? Are you ok with termination of the pregnancy if something is found to be genetically wrong with the babies? What happens if there are complications that threaten the life of the baby? What if there are complications that threaten the life of the surrogate? It was nothing like an actual first date would be! You have to answer such intimate questions to people you’ve just met, but I can’t tell you enough how important all those questions are in the long run. You must all be on the same page before proceeding. They were all questions I would have never thought about myself.

It was a little awkward in the beginning, but we very quickly knew they were the best match for us. They explained how the intended mother (IM) had an emergency hysterectomy during the birth of their only son and what had led them to choosing surrogacy. I was surprised how emotional the entire evening was. When explaining to them why I had chosen to become a surrogate I began to cry. I told them about my two daughters and how I couldn’t imagine my life without them. I so badly wanted to be able to give them the same opportunity to grow their family. By the end of the evening, we left feeling overjoyed that we had the option to help such an amazing couple. I think we emailed our case manager before even getting out of the parking lot that we wanted to work with them. But, we couldn’t speak to them again until we cleared legal.

From there, it was on to medical work up, then a mock cycle, then 8 weeks of legal. During this time, I was talking to my husband’s aunt on the phone and just updating her on where we were in the process and some general details about the couple we would be working with. She stopped me in the middle and asked if she could ask their names. I didn’t really know how to respond so she took my hesitation as a yes and correctly guessed their names. She actually knew quite a lot about them which was totally confusing until she explained that the IM is 2nd cousins with my husband! Talk about a small world. We’re not religious people by any means, but sometimes things just happen and it’s incredible. This was definitely one of those times. We were so excited that we were unknowingly paired with family. It makes this journey all the more special to us, but we couldn’t discuss it with them until after clearing legal and that was a long wait!

We got officially legally cleared on Christmas eve and it was the best gift ever. It was so nice to finally be able to communicate with our intended parents (IPs) again after more than five months of no communication! The next two months flew by.

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Med kit
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Needle for the intramuscular injections (the butt shots!)

I received a giant box of medications the end of January and was able to start my meds, which include patches that are applied to your abdomen, subcutaneous injections that go in your tummy, intramuscular injections that go on the outside of your behind near your hip, baby aspirin, and some antibiotics to be taken before the embryo transfer, but my least favorite medication of all are the vaginal suppositories. (Yes, you read that correctly). You begin them the day the IM does her egg retrieval and they are 3 times a day…everyday… up through the first few weeks of pregnancy. (I will gladly take the injections in my behind over the suppositories any day!)

But finally, after a year of the “hurry up and wait” game, transfer day is here! I couldn’t be more excited or happy for my IPs!