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I'm a loving [although sometimes crazy] wife, a [very] loyal friend, a passionate educator, an involved citizen, a sensitive soul, a faithful Christian, a fiery Aries, and a classy lady.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Foster Mother Bird AKA Andrea's Story

The beautiful post below was written by Andrea, Easton's wonderful surrogate mom. Enjoy!
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A couple weeks ago, I gave birth to a baby that isn’t mine. Next to me was my husband-it wasn’t his baby either. On the other side of the room, though, were our friends, waiting for their baby to enter the world.

Rewind to the past year and a half. A year and a half that started with a measly conversation, including months of preparation, praying, hormone-taking, and an emotional rollercoaster. It ended with a new life being born.

It has taken me a couple of weeks to put into words what the last year and a half has been like. First off, the decision to be a surrogate may have started with an easy offering during that dinner conversation, but it was a decision that Matt and I didn’t take lightly. We thought about it long and hard and prayed about it, all while watching our own daughter grow up. I remember the day that we knew it we had to do this for Mandie and Patrick. It was that day that MG giggled uncontrollably for the first time. Matt and I had heard a laugh here and there, but nothing to this magnitude. I remember looking at him and seeing that, he too, had tears streaming down his face. That’s when we knew. Mandie and Patrick deserved this same kind of moment with their own child.

The process wasn’t easy. I was cleared by my doctors, including my OB who initially thought I was nuts. You see, I didn’t exactly enjoy being pregnant the first time around. I wasn’t one of those people that were meant to be pregnant, and my OB knew that. But she was supportive and was happy to be a part of this journey. As Mandie prepared for her egg retrieval, I prepared my uterus. I took hormones, inserted pills into lady parts, and injected myself with more hormones. IVF is no joke, and I feel for every woman that goes through it.

Fast forward 8 months to a few weeks ago. July 18th was my end point, my light at the end of the tunnel. I was uncomfortable and felt awful. I struggled through every day and crashed into my bed every single night. My blood sugars were out of control despite my efforts (try being pregnant and not being able to eat carbs!) and my blood pressure crept up. I was admitted to the hospital for a week before the actual delivery date because of this. My body was exhausted and was telling us it was done. And on July 9th, after 7 hours of labor, the baby that was once so active inside me was out. My job was done.

Let me explain something that you may not understand. I went into this entire process with the mentality that this was not my child. She never was. I always acknowledged her as ‘the kid’ and not one time mentioned her by her name. I don’t want it to sound like I neglected her…in fact I did the opposite. I nurtured her, prayed for her, spoke to her, and sang to her. I cared for her like she was my own baby. But in the back of my mind, she wasn’t mine. I wasn’t attached. Since ‘the kid’, now known as Easton Kate, was born, a lot of people have asked how I’m doing emotionally. My answer is this: emotionally, I am so incredibly happy for Mandie and Patrick. Because I was never attached to Easton, I wasn’t sad to see her off to Tennessee where her life was waiting for her. Physically, I am so glad to not be pregnant. I feel amazing and can’t believe I gave birth a couple weeks ago.


I have received so much support through this journey from family, friends, coworkers, and even complete strangers. I can’t thank everyone enough for this. I have also received praise. While carrying Easton was no easy feat, in no way was ‘praise’ the reason that I did it. I simply did this because our friends deserve to have their own child. They deserve to have what Matt and I have. I trust them to raise the child that I grew for them and I continue to pray for the Beeler family. Above all, I pray that Easton is healthy, happy, and knows God. These are the same hopes I have for my daughter, Mila Gray. Easton and I will always have a special bond and I can’t wait to watch her grow up. She is a beautiful human being, and I am the lucky one for getting to know her like I have.

Love, Andrea
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Andrea and Matt also made this video for Easton highlighting our journey. Watching it today, 17 days after Easton joined our family, is amazing. She has changed so much in these past few weeks! This little girl is so, so loved, and we can't imagine our lives without her.

video

Thursday, July 7, 2016

It Takes a Village

From the time P and I got married, we started saving for adoption.

You see, I cannot carry a child. Gynecologically, I have all the necessary working parts, and neither of us are infertile. But for medical reasons, my body is unable to safely carry a child. So, adoption.

Adoption is a very long, very tedious, expensive, exhausting process. Especially when you have to balance all the application components with deployments and school work and jobs and life. I understand that they don't want to let just anyone adopt, but man, it's a tough process. We found an agency we liked and a lawyer we trusted. We wrote autobiographies, had physicals done, organized all of our financial records, had background checks ran, and completed hours of reading and studying for the home study. In May 2015, right after Mother's Day, we met with our caseworker for the first part of our home study. We were nervous, excited, scared, and anxious. They told us it could be two weeks or two years, there is just really no way of knowing. We embraced our faith and knew it would work out exactly how it was supposed to work out.

Two days later, we went to dinner with Matt and Andrea. We've been close couple friends since they got engaged, which was right around the same time we did. They were in town visiting with Matt's family. We always spend as much time as possible with them with they come to visit, but this visit was different. We just didn't know it yet.

Over dinner, we were happily updating them on my recent prospectus defense and P's new job, and Matt and I talked about our doctoral programs while P and Andrea talked about anything else. They told us what it was like to have a 6 month old who was growing up way too quickly. We also updated them about the adoption process since we had just met with our caseworker and finally had news to share that wasn't paperwork updates.

Then something very unexpected happened. Andrea said, "Before you go any further in the adoption process, we want to talk to you about me being your gestational surrogate." We stared in shock, looking back and forth between her, Matt, and each other. We honestly couldn't believe the words they were saying. We probably asked them "are you absolutely sure?" about a million times. They said they knew they wanted to do this when they first heard their daughter laugh. They wanted this for us, too.

Honestly, it wasn't any easy decision to make. We'd worked so hard and spent so much time in the adoption process. Did we want to hit pause to see if this would work? At the end of the adoption process, eventually, we would have a baby. But, there was always a chance surrogacy wouldn't work and our embryos wouldn't take. We couldn't afford to do both, so we had to choose. So, we prayed.

I distinctly remember the moment that I asked God to guide me and calm my heart if this was the path He wanted us to take. Instantly, and I mean INSTANTLY, I had this overwhelming sense of calm wash over me, and I knew what we needed to do.

Andrea had to be cleared by her doctors, and we had to find an IVF clinic in Tennessee that would do gestational surrogacy. Turns out, there are only about 6 in the state of Tennessee what will, and my insurance does not cover IVF at all. Tennessee Reproductive Medicine was recommended to me, and we set an appointment. This was a perfect choice for us. The doctors are wonderful, and they offered a 25% military discount, which helped with the sticker shock.

We first met with TRM in June 2015, and I had to go off birth control for several months before they could even really determine the viability of my eggs. We also had a lot of tests done, and there was almost as much paperwork as the adoption process. Finally, in mid-October, it was time to start the process. This is a very intense process. Estrogen pills, multiple shots, every-other-day trips to the doctor to do ultrasounds and check egg growth, and finally, the HCG trigger shot. This last shot is very interesting. The morning after, you get up and immediately take a pregnancy test. It reads positive, even though you aren't actually pregnant. It's the craziest thing. I'll detail the process later for those who want to know. Let's just say P had the easiest part of this whole ordeal.

On November 7, my eggs were extracted. 17 were taken out. 5 were immature and 1 was an empty shell. 8 of the remaining 11 fertilized. We flew Andrea in, who had been going through a whole process of her own, and on November 12, we had 6 blastocysts (embryos) remaining. They are all graded to determine their viability and strength. Ultimately, we decided to implant 1 that was highly graded - an ABB. (P jokes that this one was definitely my kid since the grade was so high. Ha!)

Let me tell you, implanting 1 was scary. Literally, all of our faith in 1 egg. 1 egg in the basket. We froze the remaining 5.

Well, this 1 was meant to be. It took, and 8 days later, a blood test indicated that Andrea had an HCG level of 91. For reference, they tell you they are hoping for a 50 or higher. So yeah, we were THRILLED because she was definitely pregnant. Still, we didn't say much to anyone because IVF is high-risk, and anything can happen in those first few weeks. It was so tough. We wanted so badly to share with the world.

We were finally able to share our news in February, and the support has been overwhelming in the best way possible. We've learned a lot and been able to teach people about gestational surrogacy. We are so happy to share our story, especially because we know this was definitely God's plan for our family.

Now, about 7 months later, we are almost ready to welcome our little girl to the world. There is so much more to our story, and I promise that one day soon we will share. But for now, we have to get ready to fly to Texas because our little girl is coming this weekend!