All about that base, ‘bout that base, our baseline. (tell me you didn’t sing it as you’re reading?)
Baseline…what a milestone. Not to totally minimize how many cycles it took to get here, but sometimes getting to baseline can feel like an eternity. And when you do finally get there, there is the all too familiar, “I’ve been here before,” pit in your stomach. Let’s add in another layer of complicated: I am no longer the patient physically going through the motions of baseline monitoring. I am the intended mom over 1,000 miles away in Chicago, trusting my teammate and gestational carrier to be an extension of me from here on forward. WOAH, talk about a mixed bag of emotion.
I get asked a lot of questions on the logistics of a gestational carrier relationship, especially when they are not local to the intended parents. So, here are the basics to keep you all at the edge of your seats. To become a gestational carrier, carriers must travel to the fertility clinic the intended parents are working with, and be medically screened and cleared. This process happened long before baseline of this frozen embryo transfer cycle, and it is mandatory for all women looking to become carriers. Here’s a very common misconception: some believe if they ask a familiar person to carry their child for them (like a sister, friend, cousin etc.), that they are able to side-step parts of the process to save on money and time. While I can see how one may think that, your fertility specialist is still there to look out for all parties best interest, and that includes having all potential carriers jump through the same screening process as everyone else (whether you know them prior to the process or not). To protect the safety of everyone involved in the surrogacy process, gestational carriers and intended parents are also required to pass a psych evaluation and background checks. Medical clearance, psych clearance, background checks, escrow set-up, and health insurance policy audits are just a few of the required pieces needed to draft the surrogacy contract, commonly referred to as the direct agreement.
A direct agreement is incredibly important for both the intended parents and the gestational carrier, as it outlines each party’s rights and responsibilities during the entire process. We felt like we wanted this layer of protection for both our family and Desiree’s, because we did not want anyone to feel taken advantage of. Not to mention, once an attorney drafts the agreement, and it is reviewed/signed by all parties, it eliminates any potential temper-tantrum I could have if I was having a bad day. What that really means is, I could not throw a fit and try to add in some ridiculous proposition once contracts were signed. Just because I was forced into a gluten-free, dairy-free, fun-free lifestyle, does not mean I should ask Desiree to eat that way in a fit of rage! Without sounding horribly preachy, I can’t express this enough: having separate attorneys navigate the contract phase of this process is incredibly invaluable.
And to be totally honest, as much as I am not wild about Kim Kardashian, I am incredibly grateful that she portrayed the art of non-traditional family making in a respectful way. Surrogacy is such an incredibly well-thought out, planned, and executed process. For some reason, I find it incredibly important to tell people about how methodical it all is, especially the process of contracts. I would be lying to you if I said there were never times the big picture felt overwhelming, but with the guidance of our team and attorneys, we were able to digest the elephant one bite at a time.
so, how does this all work when your fertility clinic is in chicago and your gestational carrier lives in denver?
The process of monitoring patients out-of- state is not quite as complicated as one may think. As most TTC veterans know, there is a little more flexibility granted with a frozen embryo transfer cycle than an IVF cycle. Desiree was set up to do her bloodwork and ultrasound at a local LabCorp and fertility clinic, and those results were forwarded to our clinic. The only time Desiree has to fly to Chicago is for the actual frozen embryo transfer (in just a few short weeks!) If all goes well, she will be delivering the future babe in Denver, and we will be traveling to her.
Still, though. It is so hard to get this far into the process and have a hiccup arise during baseline. It is theee only time you actually will your period to get here, so that you can get the show on the road. After my first failed IVF cycle, I was still incredibly optimistic to get right back onto the horse and try again…only to be clotheslined at baseline. Although my grand plan was to keep on trucking along into a second cycle, I had developed some cysts and I was put on the sideline, yet again. The sideline seems to be familiar place for me these days, but it has also been the place where I was able to gain insight from a very different perspective. Unplanned breaks in the IVF merry-go-round always ended up working out for the better, once I got over the initial shock that our timeline was going to change…again.
In my brain, however, I struggled to digest what would happen if baseline did not grant us the green light to move forward. If things were not quite perfect, then there was nothing I could do to change the circumstances. Letting go of control seems to be the reoccurring theme of our story, especially since I am no longer the patient physically going in for monitoring. Desiree is the patient from here forward.
Well, the cat is out of the bag based on that photo. We were given the good news to start transfer medications, after waiting (what felt like an eternity) for bloodwork and ultrasound results from Denver. Desiree was to begin her first medication called Estrace. Estrace is responsible for thickening your endometrial lining, to prepare your uterus for pregnancy. As of right now, it is safe to say we officially have overcome our first major hurdle. But as many of you know, every single day in this world is a rollercoaster ride. Good news has a history of shifting to bad news in a moments notice, and vice versa. Instead of fixating on all the things that we knew could go wrong, we chose to celebrate the victory of being one step closer to a family. The final countdown to embryo transfer is on!