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!