April 26th, 2013
As we’ve explored infertility awareness this week, one of the prominent reminders is the need for support. Infertility is an incredibly isolating experience for most – no one likes talking about their struggle. No one would choose to fight this battle. But honesty begets honesty, and many find that when they share their story, a whole network of comrades opens up.
At ConceiveAbilities, we talk to so many intended parents who find that it’s like a floodgate when they finally have someone to listen. It seemed only natural to connect them in a safe, honest environment led by a professional who has been there herself. We are thrilled to announce the first support group being held for intended parents to discuss the emotional aspects specifically related to gestational surrogacy. Intended parents often report feelings like fear, loss of control, excitement, anticipation, and sadness…all at the same time! This group allows parents-to-be to discuss these issues with others who “get it.” Group leader and ConceiveAbilities’ Director of Surrogacy Deb Levy, MA, LPC, had her own children via the help of a gestational surrogate, and she can help couples explore all the aspects – emotional and logistical – about this path to parenthood.
We invite you to join us tomorrow – Saturday, April 27th – at our Denver office. For more information and to register, please visit www.conceiveabilities.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 25th, 2013
Today’s guest blogger is one of our own gestational surrogates, Liz. Her incredible journey through surrogacy is chronicled on her own blog, (Im)Perfectly Balanced. We’re honored to feature her story, as well as her insight into this process. Talk about making a difference in the world of infertility!
People decide to become a surrogate for so many different reasons – whether it’s a personal connection to infertility, an overwhelming desire to provide someone with something that they’ve been fortunate to have, or something that (like me) they can’t quite explain. Whatever the reason that took me down this road, it became clear almost immediately that it was the right decision.
My surrogacy journey started nearly two years ago, when I found myself sitting at the computer Googling “surrogate” and thinking to myself that it looked like something that I could do. As crazy as it sounds, it was really as simple as that. Once I started digging deeper, I became convinced that I would be a good candidate to carry a child for someone else. I loved my first two pregnancies. I loved both birth experiences. I had also long lost the “Oh, I wish I had another one” feeling when holding newborns. Aside from all of this, I like to think I deal well with stress and I work in a supportive and virtual environment that allows me some scheduling flexibility. It all seemed like a perfect fit.
Now that I have delivered two perfect babies for one wonderful couple I can look back on the last year. It turns out that I was a pretty good candidate to be a gestational carrier, but there were some lessons I learned along the way that I would share with those considering whether this is a journey that suits them.
- Be selfish. This is a personal journey and should be a personal decision. Family members and friends may have a range of reactions, especially at first. Those who don’t understand the decision may change their perspective as they watch the process unfold. Always come back to what brought you to the decision. Similarly, remember that your own children are still developing their worldview. We may think they will question this in a way that adults might, but it’s more likely the opposite. This is our chance to help them realize that families coming together in different ways is just part of what happens in our world.
- Build your network. Whether it’s a supportive family, friends, or other women in the process, decide who your “village” can be. I was fortunate to work with an agency that brings the carriers together as a network, sharing stories and tips and even frustrations in a safe and supportive space. I have seen many combinations of where women find their support in this, but it has proven to be an important element in the journey.
- Expect the unexpected. Many gestational carriers, decide to do this, in part, because we had relatively uneventful pregnancies. We are reminded often that this is no guarantee that carrying for someone else will be equally uneventful. Understanding that challenges may come along the way is important. Once you watch a new family come together, though, you might have a hard time remembering the bumps in the road.
- Share. Share. Share. While this may not suit everyone, I would be remiss not to mention the value I’ve gotten and that others have gotten from sharing my story along the way. I always knew I wanted to blog about being a gestational carrier and was matched with a family willing to see our story unfold with an audience (albeit, a small one). I could not have imagined the response I would see as a result. From Facebook friends I haven’t seen since I was ten to staff at my children’s school to a woman trying to sell me blinds, it was fascinating and touching to see how many people have a personal connection to infertility and the surrogacy process. I received many messages of gratitude from friends and strangers for providing such a gift to someone that none of them even know. I also had many women of all ages comment that carrying for someone else was something that they always wanted to do, but didn’t for one reason or another.
I would not trade any part of the last year for anything. I was firm in my decision from the beginning, even if others didn’t understand it at first. I secretly had fingers crossed to carry a singleton and ended up carrying twins. I not-so-secretly tried to will myself to have a natural delivery and ended up having a C-section. I had unexpected complications after the surgery that slowed the recovery. That said, I don’t regret a moment of the last year. I learned a lot about myself, my support network and especially about my kids. We feel fortunate to be invited to remain friends with the happy new family. With any luck, our experience can help encourage others to start the journey themselves.
The sweet note Liz’s son brought to her in the hospital after delivering the twins
April 24th, 2013
We’re thrilled to have teamed up with Chicago-based Neighborhood Parents Network in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week. For those who are already parents, it may be almost impossible to remember life before it revolved around their little one. But the reality is that it’s not that simple for one in eight U.S. couples. When you consider your own group of friends, it’s almost guaranteed that at least one of them is, perhaps privately, struggling to have a baby.
For more, check out our guest blog over at NPN.
April 23rd, 2013
Today, we’re sharing the journey of one intended mom’s journey through infertility. She describes her struggle to overcome the many obstacles and set backs, but also her eventual victory – she is now pregnant with twins!
Two to five percent.
That was the chance I was given from my reproductive endocrinologist to be able to conceive using my own eggs. I can’t tell you how it felt to receive that phone call. I was in shock and devastated. I saw all the things I had dreamed about – birthday parties, holidays, weddings – vanish into thin air.
My husband and I had just sat down with the MD that morning and everything from tests and surgical procedures had gone well with no giant red flag. But that morning my labs were drawn to check my FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) level. My diagnosis was diminished ovarian reserve.
We decided to try IVF, knowing the odds were not in our favor. We had gotten pregnant on our own almost a year prior but I miscarried at 12 weeks. We had thought that since I conceived the first time we would have no issues. This, of course, was not the case. The IVF cycle only produced one fertilized egg and no pregnancy.
How could this be? I thought we had done all the right things. We waited until we were financially ready and in a good position to start our family, and now we were not able to. I felt like a failure. I saw everyone around me pregnant or already with children. I did not attend baby showers or kids’ birthday parties because I knew someone would ask (like they always do) when are you having children?
Infertility is a diagnosis that, in my opinion, is worse than other health issues. Why? Because there is very little treatment for it and it such a private matter to struggle with. Men may want to hide things in fear that people will think it is “his” malfunction. Women are usually more open with their struggles. Some women, not knowing what to say, will pacify you and say things like “it will happen when you least expect it” or “it only takes one.” There is very little recognition about infertility issues.
After the first IVF cycle failed, I realized I could keep beating my head against the wall, continue with increased dosages of medications and spend more money, or I could try something different. I began to research egg donor programs and eventually talked with my husband about using donor eggs. He is one of those secretive guys who doesn’t want anyone to know anything about our issues. I told him that the child would genetically be half him and half the donor, but I would still be able to carry the child/children. To my surprise, he said yes. The year had been hell for us and if there was any chance we could conceive a baby (even if it wasn’t genetically mine) he was for it. He just wanted us to be “normal” again. For a year, it felt that my whole life was about going to doctors, injecting medications, and taking tests that never yielded the result I wanted.
When we did decide that by using donor eggs we could drastically increase our chances of a baby, we had no idea where to turn. We discussed using a donor with our RE, who did have a donor program. But when they gave us a book of profiles, there were only 5 – none of whom I felt I had a connection with or who looked like me. I scouted out a few the RE recommended donor agencies and I was not happy. There are so many places with horrible reviews, and I even saw potential lawsuits against others.
And then, I found one company without any negative reviews and that had been in business for years. So I called ConceiveAbilities and spoke with Alicia. I cannot tell you how great it was to talk with or receive an email from someone available during the weekend or at night – I felt like the staff always went above and beyond to make me feel less anxious about the process.
I used their online database, which had a lot of women who looked like “normal” people and not someone using their modeling head shots. I wanted the impossible someone who looked like me, who was smart, and just a good person. A little hard to actually feel these qualities through the computer screen! We found a donor who shared similar characteristics like hair color, eye color and height. She has a college degree, which was important to me. We saw pictures not just of her but also of her family, which gave us an inside glimpse into how she was raised and her family life.
And this is where ConceiveAbilities works their magic. They were actually very informed about the donor I found, and advised me that yes, she would be a great match. I can’t say enough about my egg donor. I wanted to feel a connection with the person who would play such an important part of my life, This was very important, even if it is anonymous. I sent a card for her, and our case manager Kristin said, “that’s funny – your donor mailed us a card to send to you!” She even sent a card after her procedure. I could not have had this connection to my donor – which I think made this whole process so much more personal — if it was not for ConceiveAbilities. It is a lot of money to spend, and you are putting it into the hands of someone you will never meet, but ConceiveAbilities helped me find my dream donor. I am currently pregnant with twins.
Infertility is a nightmare that can take everything out of you physically, emotionally and financially. I am so happy that even though I may not have taken the path that I had originally intended, I am now back to my normal life and my dreams have come true. None of this would not be possible without my donor and ConceiveAbilities.
April 22nd, 2013
Day 2 of National Infertility Awareness Week asks us to change the conversation. While healthcare is a sensitive issue in this country and is constantly in a state of flux, it is spotty at best for people diagnosed as infertile. As Resolve.org points out, there is not enough support or access to medical care for a disease that impacts 1 in 8 U.S. couples.
As many states are passing legislation to limit basic healthcare to women, it’s important that we take a stand to protect all reproductive rights. The support and care that is being denied to so many is inexcusable. Laws should not limit family building options, and this week is the perfect opportunity to speak up about the need for medical care, access to emotional support, and the freedom to build a family.
Learn more about how your state measures up by reviewing this interactive Fertility Scorecard from Resolve and then share it on your social media outlets But don’t stop with your friends. Reach out to your state’s lawmakers. Let them know how this impacts you, their constituent. Remind them that infertility is a disease, and that healthcare is a right. Encourage them to join the movement with you!
April 21st, 2013
Today kicks off National Infertility Awareness Week – and it’s our opportunity to show how strong this community is. Through education and determination, those of us at the forefront have the responsibility to help others understand the significance of the disease. And it is, in fact, a disease. Without proper care and funding, the rates continue to increase. But the isolation doesn’t have to continue. The insensitivity can be diminished. That’s what this week is all about.
Visit All things Conceivable all week to read personal stories, share triumphs, and learn ways you can help the people in your life understand a complex, sensitive topic. Not sure where to start? Resolve.org has compiled an array of educational opportunities around the country – our own support group is included on Saturday, April 27th in Denver.
So check out the list. Find some events in your area, and spread the word. Join the movement with us in the fight for infertility awareness.
April 18th, 2013
One of the most commonly asked questions we’re asked from potential egg donors – aside from “does it hurt?” – is if it will impact their own fertility in the future. My Health News Daily is reporting a new study that shows women who donate their eggs aren’t harming their own chances of becoming pregnant.
The Belgian study found that out of 60 women who had donated eggs, 54 became pregnant within a year of trying to conceive. Three more women became pregnant within 18 months of trying. 57 of the women conceived naturally, while the remaining three became pregnant with the help of fertility treatments. Interestingly, two of these women needed treatment due to male factor fertility issues. Researchers did note that there were limitations to the study – generally, egg donors don’t have fertility issues of their own to start. 16 percent of the women did report changes in their menstrual cycle after donating their eggs, but none of them reported infertility problems.
We always encourage women who are considering egg donation to thoroughly research the procedure and discuss medical concerns with their doctor. While no medical procedure is without some inherent risk, this study provides truly positive reinforcement to the generosity of these women.
April 10th, 2013
We were saddened to learn about today’s passing of Robert Edwards, the pioneer of IVF. Edwards died at the age of 87 after a long illness, and no doubt leaves behind a remarkable legacy. Thanks to decades of research dating back to the 1950s, he developed in-vitro fertilization into a truly miraculous science and the birth of more than 5 million babies. The 1978 birth of Louise Brown, often referred to as the first “test tube baby,” ushered in a new era of family building that has expanded exponentially to include the field of third party reproduction.
As many as 1 to 2 percent of babies in the Western world are now conceived through IVF, experts say. And while the procedure is not without controversy, it has allowed the one in six couples worldwide who face infertility a viable option to create their family.
“He leaves the world a much better place,” said Peter Braude, a London professor of obstetrics and gynecology. Few biologists, he added, have been able to have such a positive and practical impact on humankind. Edwards was awarded a Nobel prize for medicine in 2010.
It is a privilege to honor Dr. Edwards and his tireless work in the world of assisted reproductive technology. The intended parents whose lives have been so enriched through IVF – not to mention the egg donors and surrogates who are integral to the process – are testimony to the profound impact one person can have on his or her world. Thank you, Dr. Edwards.
March 6th, 2013
We were appalled to read today’s CNN article out of Connecticut, where a surrogate says she was offered $10,000 to abort a baby with multiple, complex abnormalities. Despite the parents’ wishes to end the pregnancy, she refused and – after countering that she would terminate for $15,000 instead – traveled to Michigan to deliver the baby in a state that would ultimately supercede the parents’ wishes and allow the baby to be adopted.
It is unfortunate that this is a story in the media because an experienced, ethical agency would never have allowed it to happen. It’s an extreme outlier in the field of gestational surrogacy and certainly not reflective of the multitude of careful, thoughtful and cautious cases unfolding every year. It is the result of unethical practices and poor screening. It is the result of an agency that does not respect the best interest of the intended parents or surrogate.
The surrogate claims that the subject of termination never came up, but she assumed the parents were on the same page. There can be no “assumptions” in a surrogacy arrangement, and it is the agency’s role to thoroughly address and discuss such pertinent issues. While termination is an uncomfortable topic, it gives a voice to the beliefs of both parties and ultimately prevents scenarios such as this.
It is just one of many aspects that must be discussed prior to transfer, and an experienced agency is adept at addressing them. Aside from the obvious fact that both parties should have an attorney, issues like psychological screening, prenatal testing, and birth plan/post-birth relationships must be discussed at the very beginning. These complicated issues must be thoroughly understood and respected in order for a match to move forward. Terminating a desperately wanted pregnancy is not a decision that anyone wants to make, but all parties need to be in agreement. And many surrogates leave the call up to the intended parents.
“It’s a tough situation, but in the end she made bad choices,” said Danielle, an active surrogate. “She didn’t have any right to do what she did. It wasn’t her call to make.”
Michelle, another surrogate, noted, “What’s sad is that stories like this put surrogacy in a bad light. I wish the media would take a look at the literally thousands of great matches.”
March 4th, 2013
ConceiveAbilities was thrilled to be part of The Donor Egg Meeting, held in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina, this past weekend.
For three days, the Charleston Place Hotel hosted a symposium focused on the innovative new technology, legal aspects, and and psychological techniques as it relates to egg donation. More than 150 reproductive endocrinologists, lab professionals, nurses, mental health professionals, and attorneys attended a series of presentations and roundtables designed to maximize success in IVF specifically related to third party reproduction.
It was an honor to be in attendance and discuss ConceiveAbilities’ role in such a unique field.
From a carriage ride through the historic “Holy City” to a jazz brunch to enjoying delectable local fare – shrimp and grits, oysters, and pecan pie, among the favorites – we truly enjoyed the opportunity to connect with our colleagues, both old and new, in such a charming locale.