Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Military Spouse of the Year 2018 Nomination!

Once again, I was nominated for the Military Spouse of the Year. 

When you look at the pool of nominees, you see that they are making great waves in their communities.  This program is a fantastic asset to the military spouse community.  Please take the time to vote for me once a day for the next 3 days. I would be forever appreciative for your vote!

Vote for Melanie 

If you want to read more about this program or about our 3 Stars & Stripes Doulas that have been nominated, read this blog.  

I appreciate you!

Monday, February 5, 2018

We are almost 32 weeks - MFM & OB Update

At close to 30 weeks, we had an appointment with the MFM for a growth scan.  Everything looked great with peanut.  She is in the 52nd percentile and growing just as she should.  Everything is perfect with her.  Here are some photos of her -- She was head down and facing the back so the photos aren't the best, but it's probably the last peek we have at her until she arrives on her birthday!

Fortunately the guys got to come to this appointment too - so they got to see her moving and all of her stats first hand.
Head on photo

Profile with hand by face
When I first got there, they took my vitals.  My pulse was high and my blood pressure borderline high.  I have been watching both closely as the last surrogacy I was induced due to Pregnancy Induced Hypertension.  My normal non-pregnant blood pressure is usually 90/60 and pregnant is usually 110/70.  Lately my BP has been in the upper 130s/upper 80s which is not good.  The blood pressure issues didn't start until around 36 weeks last time.  Clinically, they are not concerned.  They look at clinical levels rather than levels for the person. They induce at 37 wks if your levels are 140/90 twice - more than 6 hours apart.  I do have an at home monitor to check this and make sure nothing gets past me, but when it is higher than my normal, I feel pretty crummy. 

As for the pulse, my 130s almost got me sent to labor and delivery for monitoring that day.  The MFM was concerned enough to want me to go and get an EKG done.  I told him that this has been my normal for every single pregnancy  Each pregnancy, I have runs of sinus tach and have had cardiac consults as well as holter monitors for 4 out of 4 pregnancies.  By the end of the ultrasound exam (after being on the pulse ox the entire time), my heart rate was down to 100 and he was okay with me going home but getting an EKG at my next OB appt the next week. 

Before leaving, he started talking about how I am pretty high risk for some things.  Hemorrhage.  Cesarean.  Two words that tremendously scare me.  As we all sat there, he spoke of how if he was the one caring for me, he would have blood products on hand and give me a new medication that aids in clotting even if I wasn't exhibiting signs of hemorrhage since I am at a higher risk since this will be my 5th delivery.  Further, with past dystocia, they have started talking to me about cesarean to help prevent dystocia again.

I can't help but feel this cloud over my head.  With that, we left knowing that I would follow up with my doctor the next week.  Before my appointment, I get an email from my doctor asking me if I would like to schedule a cesarean to prevent dystocia.  No.  I would not.

I get to the appointment the next week and while I am there, the high risk committee (My chart was referred to them by the MFM) is calling my doctor twice urging me to have a scheduled cesarean as it is somehow safer for the baby and for me.  The genetics and presentation are different this time.  The baby does not have the same genes and hopefully will not be a solid 9 lbs when induced early.  Also, hopefully this little girl will kindly not be born with a nuchal hand (she was born with her hand on
 her cheek and even had the bruising to prove it!)  I am all about minimizing risk.  My personal doctor told me that she would advise me closer to delivery if she thinks I need a cesarean, but at this time, she is not asking me to schedule one.  She also has the chance of hemorrhage on her radar though I am not grand multipara until the 6th delivery. 

So with all of this, I am crossing off each day I am pregnant, trying to get the black cloud of doubt out of my head, and knowing that this pregnancy is going to be nice and healthy and the delivery is going to be perfect and everyone is going to be healthy because every other pregnancy has been like that!  Why do medical professionals instill fear into us?  I am glad my personal doctor is on my team, she makes me feel a lot more relaxed -- but there is still that nagging voice of the other....

Saturday, January 20, 2018

29 weeks and A topic that I feel strongly about .... I will die on this hill...

So on Thursday - We got to 29 weeks!  We are firmly in the 3rd Trimester.  This is so exciting.

We have also had a little excitement these last few weeks.  About 2 weeks ago I was having a lot of contractions.  All day -- every 5-10 minutes. They weren't painful but they were noticeable.  After a bit, I decided I should just make sure.  I ran to triage.  They hooked me up to the monitor to check on baby and contractions - she looked fantastic on the monitor even for being 27 weeks she was having accelerations add decelerations with movement which is just what they wanted.  But I was having contractions every 7 minutes on the monitor.  They did an examination and an ultrasound to check out cervical length and it was nearly 5cm which is really fantastic - So my uterus was irritated but it was causing no change.  I took it easy for a few days and the contractions seemed to slow significantly.

Wednesday I took a spill on the ice -- right on my butt.  Baby was moving fine, shes pretty well protected in there.  Everything was good but I had to go to the chiropractor the next day to get fixed up!  I was pretty jacked up. 

Also since the last update, I was invited to the guy's baby shower.  I cannot tell you what an honor it will be to meet their friends and have all of their friends and family be able to 'meet' their little girl for the first time!  I am counting down the days until we get to all hang out! 

Monday we have a growth scan to see how little girl is growing -- The guys will be coming to this so they will get to see her again!


This is the part about the hill that I will die on -- it is long but still surrogacy related.

I am pretty passionate about all things in my life but there are few topics I am as passionate as surrogacy.

Yesterday I was in a doula facebook group where a surrogate was asking how much it was for a postpartum doula per hour so she could put it in her surrogacy contract.  I made the point to say that she could ask for what she wanted but doulas are beneficial but not a necessity.  Someone asked why I thought doula work is not a necessity and instead a luxury service.  Simply put, a woman who has a baby that does not have a postpartum doula will live.  At $40 an hour, to me, a postpartum doula is a luxury service.  I say this from the kindest place I can come from as I am a labor and postpartum doula - I value myself.  But this service is not for every single family - if you cannot afford it, you cannot have it; therefore it is a luxury service.

I posted this in my certification group.  The responses fixated on the fact that it was a surrogate requesting the doula service rather than me saying that it was a luxury service and the conversation went wayward in a direction I could have never seen coming.

The responses fired me up.  I had to eventually turn off notifications because I just could not invest anytime into the fact that these women/doulas have never been in the surrogacy world aside from some of them supporting either surrogates or intended parents during or after pregnancy. 

There were comments like (these are not verbatim as I refuse to go back to the thread and get sucked in).

  • I don't know why you are so worked up - Surrogacy is a luxury service.
  • The intended parents should support the surrogate no matter how she wants. 
  • A few thousand dollars is just a drop in the bucket when you look at the cost of surrogacy so the IPs won't even care as long as the surrogate feels supported. 
  • Would you feel the same way if the intended parents lived in a multimillion dollar mansion?
  • They could choose another way to build their family other than surrogacy.
This comes from doulas who have supported IPs that could afford to pay for a postpartum doula.  I have been around surrogacy for a long time - more than a decade.  Let's be honest - Infertility strikes people of all financial brackets.   I cannot imagine telling a woman who cannot have children that children are a luxury anyway.  Surrogacy is a luxury because not all people have the ability to afford it.  But the undertone of this one gets my goat - BAD.

Let me tell you about the average Intended Parent.  They do not drive luxury cars and live in a multimillion dollar house up on the Hill.  They are living within their means.  Many times they sell their decent cars to buy a beater so they can save that money for a surrogacy.  They don't go on vacation for years.  Many of them take out second mortgages on their houses and loans from family.  Tell them that surrogacy is a luxury. 

On average, surrogates are compensated about $30,000 over 10 months (9 months of pregnancy and one month postpartum) for pain and suffering and other living expenses.  Plus these surrogates are given a $300 a month allowance for small expenses like prenatals, to pay for extra toilet paper and water for extra bathroom trips, mileage on car to appointments, etc.  Add the start of medication fee (usually around $1000), maternity clothing $500-800.  You get the point - over the course of 10 months, many surrogates are being compensated about $35,000. 

But let's ask these intended parents for more money.  Let's stretch them thin a little more for a postpartum doula.  Surrogates have the ability to ask for ANYTHING in their contract.  If they want it or need it, they can ask.  Let me explain contracts.  Before contracts even happen, a surrogate has had her records reviewed and been to a clinic to be medically cleared.  This process can cost easily $5,000 for the IPs - for the travel for the surrogate and the doctors fees, medical tests and blood work.  So after we have decided that the surrogate is a good candidate, we have created a bond.  A lovely friendship is blooming and the Intended Parents have finally gotten a glimpse of parenthood - this is really going to happen.  Then we get to contracts.  Suddenly the rug is pulled from under the IPs.  The surrogate starts asking for things they were not anticipating.  Things that could cost thousands more than they anticipated.  Where will they get this money from?  If they say no, the surrogate could walk away and they could lose $5,000 from the medical screening process. If they say no, the surrogate they felt connected to will no longer be their surrogate and they are back to the drawing board -- finding a connection with a surrogate is hard. 

So the answer that these doulas have is that the surrogate has the right to this service because she carried the baby for them and IPs should bend over backwards to accommodate that.  No.  The surrogate is making $35,000 for pain and suffering. The pain and suffering the birthing woman is having post birth should be covered by her 10th month of compensation for pain and suffering.  If a surrogate does not see the value of postpartum doula services so that she will spend her own money on it, why does she expect to get it for free from someone else?  (Either the doula not charging or the IPs paying for it ends up costing someone else other than the birthing person.) And by the way, my doula agency charges $1000 for labor doula clients -- I do have a small stipend in my contract for a labor doula -- it is less than a 1/3 of what we charge as an agency.   If I choose to hire a doula for my birth and the cost is more than what is in my contract, then I will pay more for the service out of my own money, not ask my IPs for more money out of their pocket for this luxury service -- fortunately they wanted me to have a doula as they wanted to be involved with the baby care and be cheerleaders for me rather than feeling that they have to support me in ways that they are unsure of. 

I obviously see the value of a postpartum doula.  A postpartum doula offers physical, emotional and educational support during the postpartum transition period.  Perhaps a surrogate could benefit from this in a way that others since she doesn't have the baby and has the feelings that come from that transition.  However, if she cannot live without a doula during her postpartum transition -- SHE SHOULD NOT BE A SURROGATE.  If she thinks she can benefit from a postpartum doula, massage, chiropractor, <insert luxury service in here> she may ask for this service but when IPs get to the point of contracts, sometimes they agree on something out of desperation.  Resentment could build from this.  (I am not saying this is the course in all cases!)  Some IPS OFFER to pay for this and good for them, they want their surrogates supported -- but to say that an IP should pay for it if the doula asks no matter what, I can't get behind that.

I was accused of viewing the situation through one lens.  I guess that is true.  I will continue to view this topic through the lens of morals, compassion and sensitivity for the journey that brought the intended parents to surrogacy.  I will never take advantage of intended parents.  I will never ask them for things I should pay for myself no matter how much I can benefit from it.  The doulas are also viewing the situation from one lens -- the lens in which they really don't know about surrogacy.  Rose colored lenses. 

You cannot change my opinion on this. I hear that postpartum doulas are beneficial and surrogates could greatly benefit but at whose expense?  Doulas are a luxury service - if a surrogate wants postpartum support, she should pay for it. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

It has been 2 months !!

Two whole months since I updated. 

I don't know what it is about this pregnancy versus the last one.  Aside from the fact that I blog continuously for my business that it sort of sucks the fun out of blogging for fun!

But when E messaged me tonight asking me if he could include my blog in their baby shower info, I decided that maybe I should update life here quick before it goes out!

So here is a recap of the last 2 months since I updated -- Of course the guys found out the gender and they are excitedly expecting a little girl! 

I was also referred to see the Maternal Fetal Medicine Doctor at another hospital about an hour away.  The reasoning for this is I am on the verge of geriatric pregnancy -- yep at the age of 34.  Also, with IVF, there could be more incidences of things like heart defect.  So that is where the anatomy Ultrasound was completed. Everything with little girl is super healthy.  I had to go back for a fetal echocardiogram as well and again, perfectly normal.  I did have some abnormal glucose screening - My fasting level was high.  So I have had to check sugars (which have been totally normal since the lab test) and she will need a growth scan in January to see what size she is. 

So aside from that -- the guys made it Facebook Official yesterday!  They announced on FB yesterday to all of their friends who did not know prior to this, that they are expecting a baby girl in April.  It truly was a joy to see all of their loved ones that are so excited for E&C and this little girl is already so very loved!  They even announced with one of the Onesies I had specially made for them for Christmas.

Now for a big photo dump from the last 2 months!

Photos from the Anatomy Scan Middle of November
At this time, she measured right on track at 12 oz

Marine Corps Birthday Ball (with my husband and best friend)

Various Belly Photos from the Last Few weeks

21 wks and baby went to her first Packers Game! 

I wish I would have gotten a proper photo of me in this dress I got from Stitch Fix -- We had a wedding we went to!  It was perfect on the baby bump! 24 wks

Christmas Belly Photo - 25.6 wks  

Photos of the Christmas Gifts I got for the guys

Since the guys were married in front of the Lincoln Memorial this year, I found someone to hand paint an ornament for them with their names and wedding date on the back! 

And of course they needed a Daddies to Be ornament!  This year they didn't have a tree or ornaments, I bet next year they will have an entire tree full and totally be in the Christmas Spirit!
For Christmas, they spoiled me with a gift certificate to get a 90 minute prenatal massage -- and a promise to watch my kids while I do it.  Not sure which part of the gift is more valuable!??

So that is it for the updates for now. Upcoming appointments include a repeat of my glucose screening, a regular OB appointment and of course the Growth Scan.  None of us can believe we have about 14 weeks left of this pregnancy.  It has really flown by!  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Gender Reveal

The amount of blogging I am doing this journey is indicative of how busy I am this time around! Between Stars & Stripes Doulas business and PTO stuff, plus cheer, baseball and everything else in between, I have just been super busy.

I finished shots at 13 weeks.  I have been feeling great.  No sickness at all this pregnancy. I have had pretty bad fatigue, but what lady doesn't in their first trimester? 

At 15 weeks, we went to a lovely little boutique ultrasound place to find out the gender of this sweet baby I am carrying -- that is being so kind to me!  So here's some photos from the ultrasound.

Baby snuggling with the placenta

So without further ado, here are the reveal photos that the fabulous Julie Gayler Photography  captured for me!


Yep -- That's right, Gayby is a little girl!!!  I am stunned - She's been so kind to me that I seriously thought she was a boy!  She looks fabulous and healthy and the dads are so excited that they will have a little girl to spoil!

In other news -- I got braces yesterday and they have me questioning life's choices.  They hurt pretty bad -- Keeping the end in mind here!


Finally, today I went in for an early gestational diabetes test.  Since I am not in the 'normal' range for BMI (Who makes these standards anyway?) I had to get 2 tests done this pregnancy.  I failed today's test as it was not fasting.  The soft foods that I can eat are all carb or sugar loaded -- so naturally, I failed today's test -- not significantly, but still. I have to now take a 3 hour test in the next week. I have never had problems with my sugar -- ever.  4 pregnancies and I haven't had an elevated result.  But today, I did.  Next test, the 3 hour, is fasting.  It is going to be brutal.  Drink this sugary drink on an empty stomach and sit there pregnant and starving for 3 hours.  Sounds like a dream! 

Hope you enjoyed this update and photos.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

11 wk update with Ultrasound Photos

It's been 4 weeks. I am not the best at updating this go around!

We are currently 11 weeks today!

A little catching up to do here -- I went in at 8 weeks for an ultrasound here at the clinic I will be seeing for the pregnancy.  I had been having spotting off and on for a week so I was a little nervous.  But all was good.  Baby measured perfectly.

The doctor I had that day was interesting. The nurse actually told me to just not disclose it was surrogacy because the doctor had strong feelings against surrogacy.  So I just answered questions very pointedly.  It was IVF, 5 day embryo and a donor egg.  I didn't really elaborate on it at all from there and fortunately he didn't ask because I am not sure what I would have said.

Today, we had an 11 wk check up and both of the dads got to be at the appointment.  I was placed with a really fantastic doctor and I asked her "How do you feel about supporting a surrogate pregnancy?" and she said she was excited. She hoped we would continue to see her and that she would be the one delivering the baby in April.  She was excellent and thorough.  My favorite part was the ultrasound.  This is the first time that the guys got to see their baby in more than just a video or ultrasound photo.  I couldn't see the ultrasound machine at all, but I didn't care.  I was enjoying their faces and remarks.  Their baby even moved... a lot... for them to see.  Baby's heartbeat was 156 today.

These pictures aren't great, but it was very clear on the monitor -- they did an abdominal ultrasound so they aren't as clear as a transvaginal ultrasound.

And this baby kind of has an unintended nickname.  The last one was called Teacup because her parents were British.  I really haven't come up with anything this time. I tried to. I wanted something that resonated with C specifically, but it just wasn't seeming right -nothing rolled off the tongue.  He likes Western themed things - Tumbleweed & Sheriff were two options... but they just didn't stick.

My Friend Melissa said one day "This is so not PC, but Gayby is the baby's nick name!" and it has kind of stuck in our circle of friends  People crack up over it.  We even got a laugh about it in the exam room today with the doctor in there -- the dads weren't offended!  They think its funny.  Maybe the nickname will come when they find out the sex!

Our next appt is in 5 weeks and they have put the request in for me to schedule the anatomy ultrasound!

One last thing -- Today, I was in the Lab getting my 10-14 week genetic screening drawn. When we were sitting in there, everyone started cheering out in the hallway. I was unsure of what they were cheering about but looked.  Apparently a car pulled up to the front of the hospital and a doctor ran down with a bag of things and delivered a baby right outside the front of the hospital!  The cheers were for mom & baby come into the hospital safely!  That baby is going to be reminded that story every year on his or her birthday!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Beta and Ultrasound Update

So I might be a little bit of a slacker, but I have good reason -- As soon as I had my blood drawn on Monday the 31st, we hopped in the car and started a cross country trip that would take 18 days.  We just returned on Wednesday late at night (we came home a day early).

Needless to say, when you are traveling with a 10 year old, 7 year old and 4 year old, you are busy and you don't sit on the computer much! I only blog from my computer -- though I should figure out how to do it from my phone since I am on it all of the time!

The first beta results at 10dp5dt or 15dpo was

Second beta at 13dp5dt or 18dpo was:

Everything was looking great -- Progesterone and Estrogen were fantastic as well!  I can tell you that I suffered from terrible car sickness on this 4,271+ mile trip!  Not only did I have car sickness, but I also experienced tremendous altitude sickness in Denver and Colorado Springs! 

Our highlights on the road included Denver, Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, visits with friends in Omaha and Des Moines, a Wedding and family time in Wisconsin and meeting up with friends in Louisville, KY.  It was an exceptional trip with a lot of fun memories made.

On Saturday, August 12, my husband and I got to go to a wedding together with no kids (they stayed with their aunt and uncle and cousins).

This paragraph contains TMI -- If you don't want to read, skip this paragraph.

We had a great time -- good food, good company and we danced to a few songs.  We headed home and it was pretty late.  On the way home, I started feeling off.  Got sweaty, felt incredibly nauseous.  I thought it was the food at the wedding.  Then my stomach started cramping and I thought I needed to use the bathroom.  Told my husband that I wasn't even getting my purse, instead I was going straight to the bathroom.  When we got back to the house, I got out of the car and started heading into the house and bleeding started.  It was so much blood.  It was in my shoes, all over my dress, all over the pavement.  I was terrified.  I yelled for my husband but could not go in the house.  He ran in and got me a towel so I could at least get myself to the shower to clean myself up.  On the way, I ruined a rug.  As quickly as the bleeding started, it stopped.  Within 5 minutes, the bleeding ceased but so much blood was lost quickly.  I called the doctor on call and he just said to hydrate and to call my doctor on Monday.  I took it easy all day Sunday and aside from being extremely tired, there were no other signs of any of what I had experienced the night before.  Monday my doctor asked me to come in when I got back in town for an OB ultrasound but seemed optimistic that the bleeding did not continue.

We drove back from Louisville, KY on Wednesday night, got in around 11pm.  The next day we hopped right back into the car to drive the 100 miles to the clinic to find out how this little baby was doing.  Everything is perfectly on track and the bleeding is unexplained but thought to be a subchorionic hemorrhage or hematoma (SCH).  This is a pocket of blood between the baby and the uterus that can just spontaneous release the blood.  This type of bleeding doesn't typically last days, so it is easier to distinguish between miscarriage and SCH.  The doctor explained that this happens in 20-30% of their IVF patients.  While it is common, it is still terrifying when it happens to you.  SCHs can resolve and never have another problem, they can grow and ultimately put the pregnancy at risk or you can have many bleeding episodes throughout the pregnancy.  Looks like we had best case scenario, because this baby is hanging in there with a heart rate of 136 and growing right on target (Baby was 7w0d for ultrasound, measuring 7w1d).  Due date is April 5, 2018. It looks like the pocket of blood completely collapsed and we shouldn't have anymore issues.

This doctor was really fantastic and thanked us for allowing him to care for us -- it wasn't our usual doctor.  To know that the whole practice has compassionate and caring doctor really means a lot for recommendations!  The doctor asked if we wanted to facetime with the parents but due to their schedules and commute, I opted to record it so they could see it as many times as they wanted and could share with everyone!  I love that the doctor explained exactly what we were looking at for the parents -- as if they were in the room and that he congratulated them many times.  Dr. Shah with Virginia Fertility Associates really is a stellar doctor!

Here's the video. 

We have another appointment coming up this week on Thursday as well to get us established with the OB that will care for us throughout pregnancy -- so I will update after that appointment! 

We could not be more excited -- especially the daddies to be -- They are OVER the moon -- I am sure their family is too!  Great things to come!