Jul 16, 2009

surrogacy, ivf, hormones, and all the stuff they don't talk about

I was talking with a mom this week about the after affects of IVF. She used IVF to conceive her daughter, and two years later is still struggling with issues associated with it. I have the same problem. Talking with her was like having light bulb after light bulb go on. First of all, it's been TWO years, and nobody has talked to me about this? Strange. Secondly, if this is a common or "normal" after effect, why have I never heard about it from anyone? My research on any topic borders on obsessive. I read and read until I can't read anymore about everything. I don't recall ever reading anything about this beforehand. What I know is, something changed.

I went into the surrogacy with what I would call a hypersensitivity to hormone levels and changes to begin with. This was further supported by the fertility doctors inability to get an accurate handle on what my body was doing and how it was reacting to hormone treatments for three cycles before having the confidence to proceed with the embryo transfer. And of course the implantation was successful on the first attempt. So with that in mind, I already had somewhat of an awareness that I was particularly sensitive to hormone shifts.

The science involved to be a gestational surrogate are what can only be described as unnatural. I was taking one course of hormones to produce an optimal uterine lining for embryo implantation while simultaneously taking a course of hormones to stop ovulation. It was putting my body out of sync with itself - working against itself if you will. How anyone discovered and perfected such a process is a miracle to me.

While having an understanding of this process going in, there was no discussion about what might happen after the fact. The pregnancy was normal. I was certainly sicker during the first trimester as I was still on hormone supplements during that time. Once I was off of them though, it was pretty typical. The labor and delivery was different than my first two, but I think that was independent of the fact that it was a surrogacy. Each delivery I have had has provided a chance to learn and improve. I would call this last one my most empowering and was such a wonderful accomplishment to me to do it without medical intervention. So much so I think that I would be thankful to do it again.

The postpartum period was horrific - due to several contributing factors. It wasn't until speaking with a friend who had experienced a late term miscarriage vocalized it for me that I understood some of what I was feeling. She reminded me that my body was reacting like I was caring for a new baby, but was not. I was tired mentally and physically, and my milk coming in was distressing in a way I cannot describe. I did not sleep at night, didn't eat. The things that distract one from a typical PPD were not there - forcing yourself to care for the baby, entertain visitors, preparing a nursery, etc. I was left with my postpartum body and my thoughts. I got over it by returning to work, healing, spending time with friends, therapy, medication.

Two years later though the hormonal changes are still there. Every pregnancy leaves its mark, there are always changes. This time I feel like my hormones are simply out of balance. I can't change from one environment to the other - hot to cold, inside to outside, high humidity to low - and I start sweating uncontrollably. My skin is sooooo dry. My hair has changed texture. I CANNOT lose weight. I am frequently tired and worn out. I am NOT depressed. I have been depressed, and this is not it.

Expressing these concerns with my doctors has resulted in testing with results of "normal." I may have NEVER been normal, but I am quite certain that THIS isn't it. I would put some effort into pursuing an endocrinologist, but just can't work the effort into this venture yet.

I can't imagine that I am not alone in what has happened to me, and discussing it this week with the other mom only confirmed that. I am not sure what the next step will be. If this family honors me with the opportunity to surrogate for them again, I would know better what to expect. There are so many reasons that an experienced surrogate is better than a first timer, although I had no idea of this going in. We'll have to see what happens.

I haven't had the opportunity to be as involved as I would like in their lives since they had the baby. This is the function of many things. It's ok, and probably for the best I suppose. It is not exactly as I might have imagined that though. We are at the age that the divide between those of us with older children, those of us with babies and toddlers, and those of us with no children at all becomes more obvious. I've been on all sides of it, and can understand.

Because of our intersecting circles, most of our friends don't really talk about it in terms of the surrogacy, only in regards to the baby. This is the way it should be for them I think. For me though, it helps to talk about things. I have a decreasingly small group of people who listen and talk with me and work through the real stuff. I like to talk about it though. It is not upsetting to me. Even if some of this stuff sounds negative or bad, it's really not. They are just the reality of what happens. And people should know. Maybe someone new doing this will google the right terms and come up with the post and know a little more what to expect. I welcome comments and questions, and any discussion that follows.

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