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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Why surrogacy in India??? Our story...

This is a question we get asked quite frequently. So, for those of you who are interested, I thought I would share a bit of what brought us to this leg of our journey in our attempt to have a family.

First I must say, like most woman who are not born with any reproductive issues of any kind, I never thought for one minute I would not get pregnant, carry my baby and ultimately be a mother someday.

Once Gerry and I both decided it was time to start trying for a family, everything happened quite quickly.

I was almost 35 (the age that Docs feel you are starting to get 'over the hill' in the reproductive world) and so when things weren't progressing as we planned (AKA no pregnancy) we decided it was time to visit my OBGYN for answers. Because of my advancing age (35-so OLD!) he was able to get me in for testing right away and not have to go through that 'try for a year and if no results, come back and see me' phase. We were both thankful for that.

I wasn't really freaked out, or worried, but just anxious to get a move on all this baby making stuff.

Gerry had already done his part (long story) so we knew his swimmers were working just fine. So I went for a 'routine' HSG and the results were ambiguous. Word to the wise, go to an RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist) to have the test done as most Radiologists are not experts in where to and how to find things in order to get accurate results. Sorry to my Radiologist friends...

We had our first RE consultation in Florida and we loved the Doc, he was very informative and really included us both in every aspect so much so that when he did my exam, he had Gerry down there stating, 'Oh look what I found!' You are about to get a little TMI, so feel free to skip this part if you choose too...Okay, so picture me on the table flat on my back the with my legs in the stirups and both Gerry, the nurse and the Doc all down there knowing what is going on and I am in the dark and saying, 'hello, can you share a little with the lady you are both staring and poking at's private parts?' What he was showing Gerry, much to my amazement after 20 years of Pap Smears and no sign of 2, (yes that is right) 2 vaginal canals each with its own cervix. Without any trouble this amazingly skilled RE found something odd. What he said was that it would be very hard for any Doc to find, unless they were actually looking for it and when he started looking, the thin flap of skin that he found stuck to the left side of my canal with the q-tip had a life of its own. Who knew??? Certainly not me! He began to ask me a lot of simple questions about years past and menstrual cycles, etc and it all fell into place. For those of you wondering, I have normal healthy cycles (only once a month like every one else...thank goodness!) BUT its kinda like a crap shoot to know what ovary I am ovulating from each month. This is one of our problems. My right side (my dominate side that we 'knew' about) is fine, normal and A-okay. My left side, is much smaller and pretty much a virgin in all sense of the word when it comes to the word. So...if I am ovulating from the left side chances are when we try the old fashion way, that we would unlikely have success in the little swimmers finding their way to my egg that was coming down from the left.

The Doc scheduled me for further tests and of all those months hoping and praying that my period wouldn't come, this was the one month that I was really wanting my cycle to start so I could get on with things. Low and behold it didn't start and shortly after we found out we were PREGNANT! So yes, sometimes, relaxation and NOT trying too hard does work. We found out our little one was tucked in on my right uterus on the outer side wall and looked good. I had a very uneventful pregnancy, no bleeding no cramping...nothing. We went in for our routine 7.5 week ultrasound only to find out there was no heartbeat. We were both devastated! What had gone wrong? Had I done something I wasn't supposed to? Did I take something I shouldn't have before I knew I was pregnant? No answers, just 'one of those things.' Both my Mom and my sister helped us through having suffered from a miscarriage themselves. We tried to remain positive as the Doc said the good news is that we now know you CAN get pregnant which for some woman never happens and there are no answers and no tests to confirm why.

So we healed and moved forward. Moving to Arizona and starting a new path in our lives. Trying and waiting and hoping and praying that we would find ourselves pregnant once again.

After a year of that and no such luck, we went back to the drawing board with my new OBGYN(Dr. Lindstrom) and now an RE, Dr. Johnson to do my HSG. Results were good, 2 definite sides, no septum to separate the uterus's, a true DIDELPHUS UTERUS (it had a name). All tubes patent and good. We were pleased, except for one comment...'I would recommend you try surrogacy in your case.' HUH? But we were pregnant before and why now this?

My funky uterus's

So, off to the High-Risk Perinatal Specialist Dr. Elliott. He looked at our tests and said, 'I have delivered healthy babies with women with a 'Didelphus uterus' but chances are you will be on bed rest early on in your pregnancy and likely will deliver pre-term.' Of course the best layman's term of all asked by Gerry which I am thankful for to this day, 'So, if one woman's uterus is a size 10, what would Rhonda's 2 uterus's each size be?' The answer, well about a 6 and a 6. Okay, well not the greatest news, but... we were prepared and could handle that. If some women have 2, 3 or more babies in a size 10, surely I could have one in a size 6?!? However wonderful this Doc was, he could only help us once we were pregnant and that unfortunately, we were not at that stage right now.

So, back to the OBGYN for his thoughts. He sadly had to agree with the RE...'I think adoption or surrogacy is your best option.' We left the office that day feeling beaten up and worn out. Not the news we had expected....

We looked into Adoption, both domestic and International. Holy Moly, the red tape! The home study which requires medical testing, physical (a certain BMI, no heart disease, etc.) emotional and mental testing(no psychiatric medications including antidepressants for at least 2 years), your financial history (all assets, credit cards, bank statements and W2's and bankruptcies), animals (Dog's tag numbers), pool safety, 5 reference letters, some Social Worker to come into your home and determine if you will make a 'fit parent', etc. etc. etc. The cost of $30,000 plus. Not to mention the big kicker...the wait! 2-3 years (now longer) for international and the same, if not longer, for domestic (waiting for birth parents to 'choose' you, only to be able to change their minds at the time of the birth) for an infant. More disappointment!

So fast forward to surrogacy... NOT Gerry's first option in fact he was completely opposed to it. But, he was accepting to look into all our options for a family. So, I set up a meeting with one of my nurse's from work, who just happened to be a retired surrogate (thanks Angie). Amazingly, Gerry was very open-minded about it and realized this may be one of our only options if we wanted a family now. We talked for hours about the process here in the U.S and the cost and all that it entailed. We left feeling better, but could we afford $50,000 - $80,000 dollars or more, just the IVF alone (that our insurance didn't cover) would be $20-$25,000!!! UGH... what to do, what to do...

What about this thing I saw on the internet about surrogacy in India??? So, I began my search and Googled and looked and tried to find support groups and any bit of information I could find. There was very little information to be found (hence one of the very reasons for our blog).

During my search I found 2 clinics. Dr.Patel from Anand, India who had been shown on the Oprah show and was now very popular. The second clinic was Surrogacy India. I liked their web site which was very informative, but knew nothing about them. We contacted both clinics via email. Ultimately deciding on Surrogacy India (SI) for a number of reasons.

This is/was why...

Dr. Sudhir the administrator and co-founder, answered every one of our numerous (almost daily) questions promptly and detailed. We called and spoke with him and Dr. Yashodhara both on the phone and found them to be kind, patient and honest. We liked the way the contract read. There was a minimal fee required to get the process started. So we jumped in with both feet.

After arriving in Mumbai we met both Dr. Sudhir (an MD specializing in Administration and management) and Dr. Yashodara (a Fertility Specialist) the next day for lunch. We both felt an immediate connection to them. To this day we say we would be friends with them even if they weren't our Doctors they are 'just that kind of people.' There was no talk of money or cost, we just talked about the process and what was in store for us. We felt totally at ease and 100% confident in our decision to go with this clinic.

Just part of the SI team: Dr. Sudhir and Dr. Yashodhara

They are located in Mumbai a major city, for ease of travel and accommodations as well as access to major medical facilities.

They are a 'one stop shop' assisting with accommodations, travel, providing us a surrogate and egg donor, the doctors and medical facilities we would be using, the legal contract and lawyers to assist with that, etc. etc.

We were given a cell phone for our use while in Mumbai to use locally and contact both the Doctors day or night with any questions.

We were provided with drivers to pick us up at the airport and help us to navigate to appointments and around Mumbai during our off time.

We were assisted in making a personal vacation get-away while staying in Mumbai (accommodations, travel and activities).

We had our choice of many surrogates prior to arriving and then having the pleasure to meet her and her family and spend time getting to know her through an interpretator.

We had a back up surrogate prepared and on hand in case of emergencies or unforeseen issues, (which in our case came in handy).

We were assisted by SI staff with hospital check in and discharge during my stay for embryo pick up (and even had the pleasure of Dr. Yash being right there beside me the entire time).

We had the choice of using other Doctors or hospitals if we wanted, but not knowing India we trusted in both our Doctors to determine what was best for us.

We met with all of our extremely talented and skilled physicians while there, having personal consultations and learning about their credentials. Each and everyone of them walked us through the entire procedures and steps along the way.

Meet our Doctors and medical team (click on photo to see more)

Medical Pics Rounds #1 and #2 (click on photos to see more)

We requested and were granted a personal tour of Hiranandani Hospital where our baby will be born with the OBGYN (Dr. Anita Soni), who is caring for and will be delivering our baby.

We were consulted at every moment while in India and since returning home about fertilization, medication dose changes, embryo quality, transfer of embryo's, tests and procedures, etc. a long the way.

We were both also able to go in with our surrogate during her embryo transfer.

We visited the clinic in which our surrogate would stay while waiting during the 2 weeks for the pregnancy results. We learned that once pregnant, she had the choice of moving into a new place arranged by SI or receiving the funds to pay where they are currently staying as long as it met certain standards (separate bathroom, running water, electricity and close distance to the delivering Hospital and clinic).

We learned that our surrogate will have a caretaker to assist with cooking and cleaning while at home and assistance from SI staff in coordinating and attending each and every MD appointment she has.

That any time her spouse has to miss work to accompany her to appointments, he will be compensated.

That she received emotional counseling throughout the process.

That I am able to go in for the delivery of our child (and with her permission, Gerry can as well) pending certain circumstances.

We receive a personal itinerary of all the events that will take place from the moment we start the program up to and including our birth. Appointments, scans, lab work, etc. and can access it any time via the internet and see all our uploaded reports.

That we had a list of detailed costs presented to us from day one and when each payment was due along the way. Any changes due to unforeseen circumstances with the surrogate and her pregnancy were communicated to us prior to payment.

That we can contact her OBGYN at any time and talk with her via phone for any updates.

I am sure I am forgetting a lot of stuff, as it has been a year and a half now that we have been on this part of our journey.

Although it took us 3 attempts (first 2 with our embryo's and 3rd with an egg donor) we have never once regretted our decision to pursue Surrogacy in India with Surrogacy India (SI).

We get this question all the time and often, 'why you chose Surrogacy India (SI)?' So I hope this lengthy post has answered some of those questions and possibly helps others along in their own personal journeys.

In the end, our dreams will have come true and our countless prayers will have been answered ...our little angel is due this Sept 2009. We are eternally grateful to SI and the entire team who has gotten us to this stage in our journey. It has been worth every hurdle that we have had to negotiate and all of the tears and pain that we have experienced along the way.

All of the very best in your own personal journey's...Rhonda and Gerry.