Archive for July, 2011

Surrogacy Celebration, Windy City style

Friday, July 29th, 2011

In spite of a rainy start, more than 30 people braved the elements for ConceiveAbilities’ first annual Chicago surrogacy picnic last weekend. Armed with umbrellas and good humor, staff, surrogates and their families gathered under the park shelter for cookie decorating and a chance to discuss all different aspects of the surrogacy process.

We were thrilled to welcome several women at the very beginning of the process looking to learn more. “The picnic,” said Amie, “was a relaxed and casual setting, yet I felt comfortable asking all of the serious and important questions. I left with a lot of good information and very excited to start the whole process with ConceiveAbilities!”

Kristina, who is four months pregnant, is a regular at our meet ups. “As is true for any gathering where ConceiveAbilities or other fellow surrogates are at, the picnic could not have been any better,” she said. “There was something for everyone.”

By mid-morning the skies brightened, giving the kids – and several husbands – a chance to venture out from the shelter. Sara, who was there with her husband and their two young sons, said “The kids couldn’t get enough of the playground and cookie decorating…and puddle jumping!” It was also a chance to share her experiences so far – she is four months pregnant with twins! “It was fun to meet family members and potential surrogates,” she said. “And, of course, see the other pregnant ladies!”

Danielle is preparing for an upcoming IVF cycle with her intended parents. “It’s wonderful to know that there is a great support group of friends that know and care about what you’re going through,” she said. “I loved getting to know the families of all the surrogates and seeing old and new faces.”

Indeed, Kristina introduced us to several friends who are interested in the program and was also able to connect for the first time with some of our staff as well. “I thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to get to know a few of the staff members better, especially those that I haven’t had as much contact with.”

“ConceiveAbilities is an amazing ‘surrogate family,’” Sara affirmed. “I couldn’t imagine going through this journey any other way.”

The weather was just another example of how these ladies handle the unexpected with grace and a smile. In an often unpredictable journey, we were once again reminded of the dedication of our surrogates.

Cindy, who is soon to be matched with intended parents, put it best: “It’s amazing that a group of women can come together from all walks of life, different backgrounds, but with the same common goal – to provide a gift to a couple that they have been longing for.” It’s truly what ConceiveAbilities is all about, and we are so fortunate to work with these incredible women who make that mission a reality.

Anonymous No More?

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

For decades, anonymity has been the hallmark of egg and sperm donation. Like most agencies, we take great care to protect the identities of our donors and recipients and establish a direct agreement between parties to ensure the desired degree of privacy of all parties involved. A new law in Washington, though, makes it the first state to change the “rules.” It will now guarantee that children who are conceived with the help of egg donation agencies and sperm banks in Washington have access to their donors’ full name and medical history. Unless the donor specifically opts out of this agreement to be identified, the information will be available to the child when he or she turns 18.

It’s a controversial concept, particularly considering what the standard has been for so many years. Unlike adoption, where open relationships have become quite common, the act of “donating” is often viewed as something that is done anonymously – like blood and organ donations. But in a Time.com article last week, law professor Julie Shapiro notes that “there is an emerging sense that it’s a problem for children and it’s a problem for donors. They have regrets.”

We are finding that more and more intended parents want to provide this option for their future child. It’s not so much about identity now, but rather to answer questions about their genetic origins later. And donors tend to respond in kind. While they’re not necessarily looking to share personal information, they may be able to see it from the recipients’ perspective and agree to be identified in the future. The law in Washington is clarifying something that is already happening in many legal documents around the country – the donor must confirm that she is open to the potential of future contact, should the child desire it.

In the field of third party reproduction, laws are constantly evolving. Donor anonymity will continue to be a delicate aspect of the legal process, and none of us – states included – should be the final judge of what is right for each donor match.

Read more about the new law and its implications at Time.com.

A Surrogacy Celebration in Denver

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

On a sunny afternoon in June, nearly 60 people converged on a Denver-area park for ConceiveAbilities’ second annual surrogacy picnic – and lots of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Thanks to the amazing women – and their equally supportive families – who came out to celebrate with us, the event was an absolute blast.

Paula, who completed her first surrogate experience in October with the birth of a healthy baby boy, said, “Being a surrogate is such an amazing and special thing and it is so refreshing to be able to share it with people who have been through it as well, or are about to go through it.”

While regular meet-ups give the women a chance to visit, the event provided an extra connection. “It was great to get to know the other surrogates better,” explained Rebecca, who is preparing for a cycle with intended parents. “We see each other at monthly meetings but it was nice to be in a casual environment.”

Holly, who was a surrogate for twins born in March, agreed. “My children had a great time, and I enjoyed catching up with other surrogates and meeting their husbands.” One enthusiastic spouse has even volunteered to run a “husband’s group”!

For first-time surrogate Lori, the timing was perfect. “I had given birth about three weeks earlier, and I hadn’t seen any of the ConceiveAbilities folks since then,” she said. “It was great to be able to re-connect with the staff who supported me, as well as with surrogates who were in different stages of the process.”

The picnic was a welcome opportunity for many of the women to see what lies ahead. “It was nice to ask surrogates who were further in the process questions,” noted Rebecca.

”It was refreshing to see some brand new faces and be able to share my now-complete surrogacy experience with them,” said Lori. “I hope I managed to communicate how much of a positive experience this can be, while also helping to minimize any of the normal anxieties ‘newbies’ tend to feel.”

Amanda, who is in the early stages of the process, felt the support. “By the time I left I had all my questions and more answered,” she said. “Everyone was so warm and friendly. It made me really excited to work with an agency that cares so much about making this an amazing experience for everyone involved.”

And one of the most moving reactions from the day came from Paula. “The picnic actually convinced me that I want to be a surrogate again!”

The sense of community amongst the surrogates and their families is truly what sets ConceiveAbillities apart, and we are so grateful to each one of them for embarking on this journey. We look forward to connecting with more of you at this weekend’s Chicago surrogacy picnic – you can learn more and RSVP by visiting the ConceiveAbilities website at http://www.conceiveabilities.com/

A Dirty Little Secret?

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Elton John – just a few of the celebrities who have recently welcomed new babies via surrogate. They’ve happily gone public with the news, and most sing the praises of the generous women who gave them the opportunity to become parents.

But when it comes to egg donation, publicists are silent. There are no press releases, no magazine covers informing the world that a different kind of generous woman – one who donated her eggs – has helped the new parent overcome infertility.

An article this week on CNN.com addressed this very issue and, in fact, calls it “Hollywood’s dirty little secret.” In responding to a reader who wondered if celebrities are more fertile than the rest of us – with many having babies in their mid- and late 40s – Dr. Roshini Raj gives the simple answer: no.

”While being famous can get you far in life, it doesn’t extend the warranty of your ovaries,” he responds. “It just gives that A-lister greater access to cutting-edge fertility treatments and doctors that the rest of us may not know about or be able to afford.”

To those of us in the field of reproductive health, and particularly third party reproduction, it’s a no-brainer. But it poses an interesting dilemma for the world of infertility. It shows us that many people are either unaware of the incredible advancements and options with ART – or don’t have access to them. While we can’t expect (nor should we want) celebrities to be responsible for educating the world about fertility treatment, sharing their stories brings the issue to the forefront. It gets people talking – and it would show couples who are struggling to have a baby that celebrities don’t have magical reproductive systems. That the 45-year-old star who just gave birth to twins probably didn’t do it without the assistance of many other people.

Therein lies the dilemma. Just because that star is a public figure, is she any less deserving of privacy when it comes to her body and health? She still has the right to a private life – and so do her children. Disclosure is an incredibly sensitive, challenging issue for anyone who becomes a parent through egg donation. The question of when and who to share details with can only be answered by the parent. A celebrity is no different.

While we should not expect anyone to discuss their means of building their family unless and until they are ready, it has been refreshing to see an increasing number of public figures share their struggles. As awareness grows, we hope that more people will in turn feel comfortable sharing their choice to utilize third party reproduction. It can only lessen the mystery and stigma that still surrounds egg donation and surrogacy and can help the rest of the world see it for what it is – an incredibly generous and appreciated act. We hope that the attention it brings to such a delicate issue will educate people about their options and, in turn, start a true movement that will make fertility treatment more accessible for all. And at the very least, that it will provide some comfort to hopeful parents that they are not alone.

What do you think? Do celebrities “owe” the public full disclosure when it comes to how they build their families?

ConceiveAbilities proud to exhibit, share at UCLA conference

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

ConceiveAbilities was honored to be a first time exhibitor attending the 24th Annual In Vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer Conference. Santa Barbara provided an intimate setting for physicians and embryologists around the globe to present the most current research in the field of ART. Unlike many of the other well-attended and expansive conferences such as ASRM and ESHRE, the UCLA conference afforded us more of an opportunity to meet and become acquainted with such respected leaders in infertility.

It was a privilege to share the key components of our Illinois egg donation and surrogacy programs and to stay up-to-date regarding the challenges practices often face in guiding patients through the collaborative third party maze. We understand the importance of practices partnering with experienced, responsible agencies like ConceiveAbilities in order to grow in this rapidly changing field. We look forward to more opportunities to share and discuss ways we can assist doctors and their patients, and are truly grateful for the time we were able to spend with so many of these remarkable professionals.