Surrogacy in India: Fresh, Not Frozen

By: Kerrie Olejarz

The call with Dr Shivani was difficult; we had never thought that we would need to go the donor route. It is difficult to wrap your head around using donor eggs when you have been told all along that your own eggs are good and you produce great embryos. Dr Shivani followed up a few days later with a very personal email, encouraging us to not give up hope and promising to make us parents in 2011. Once again, we received much support from our international community. Many people use egg donors and are happy and excited to be pregnant. We too would be fine with it; it was just so far from our original plans that it took us by surprise. I arranged to have my amh test done at TCART and was pleasantly surprised at the low cost. The lab tech who took my sample told me it would be about a two-week wait because it needed to be sent off-site. Another two-week wait to endure…it almost felt more stressful than waiting on a beta!

Two weeks later I received the fax copy of the results and the relief was huge. The results showed my amh in normal levels, which meant we could now think about coordinating a fresh transfer in Delhi. We immediately emailed Dr Shivani, who was very pleased. The resulting news on our frozen embryos is that the freeze and thaw media leave a coating on the embryos, which is not ideal. I spoke with Dr Mitwally here and he concurred that this is the likely reason we continued to fail with frozen. Who knew this was even possible? (And wasn’t this just our luck?) The best option now, in order to continue using my eggs, was to do a cycle and fresh transfer in Delhi. We talked in depth about this and decided this would more than likely be our last attempt. The IVF cycles are really hard on my body and god only knows what the long-term effects of these medications are. It was now September and we had to figure out when we could actually do this. Based on the demands of my work we decided to plan for December, 2010. It seemed so far away and the fear of losing momentum weighed heavily on me. Dr Shivani suggested ways for us to maximize the outcome and Dr Mitwally here in Canada suggested some natural supplements to increase egg, sperm, and embryo quality. We decided with the guidance of Dr Shivani to use two surrogates, as I typically produce a large amount of eggs and there was no option to freeze any leftovers. As scary as this decision was, it was an easy one based on the methodology behind it. The second scary decision we made was that I would travel to Delhi by myself to start the cycle and Mark would come later due to his limited time off of work.

Over the next few weeks we received a protocol from Dr Shivani, which was agreed upon by my doctor here. We had to renew our visas to enter India and book the time off work. I had never disclosed our story at work and was really worried that I could be denied my time off or asked to take it at another time. This weighed heavily on me, but in late October I told my boss about our struggles to start a family and explained the need for such a long time off work. Of course I commited to work while away so that nothing would fall through the cracks. I curse the makers of laptops with their ability to work remotely –anywhere in the world! He was a bit taken back but wished us success. He has three beautiful young children, so I think some of my words tugged on his heartstrings, especially when I pointed to their pictures and mentioned that he must be able to understand the blessing of having children, and how fortunate he is. I did not do this to guilt him; it was more a plea and a common-ground discussion. I felt a huge sense of relief, and he really appreciated that I picked my time off to accommodate the company.

A few days later we started to search out flights…holy smokes, traveling in December is about 40% more expensive than in February, due to the holidays. Over the next few days our travel agent kept us in the loop on daily costs and flight availabilities. We finally committed and coordinated two different incoming flights to Delhi with both of us coming home on the same flight. This was a very expensive travel plan so we had to find reasonably priced accommodations. We looked online and researched our surrogacy pals’ suggestions on the forums and blogs. We decided to rent an apartment for this short-term stay.

Very early in November, I headed to TCART to talk with Dr Casper about the cycle and my anxiety about coordinating it with our booked flights and plans. I had purposely counted out my menses days and decided with Dr Shivani to fly on Day 5 of stimulation. All doctors had assured me that flying on Day 5 would be lower risk for clotting, or clot aspiration and death on the plane. I decided to trust them and take the huge leap of faith –heck, it was just my life in question. By the time I saw Dr Casper I still did not have my November period and had a huge fear of a cancelled cycle and a cancelled trip to Delhi. Fortunately, the always calm and professional, well-educated and experienced Dr Casper put me at ease. (Can you tell how much I like and respect him?) After he sorted through my travel dates and Mark’s travel dates he came up with a plan. I was to start my down regulation now…yes, NOW. Ugh. Meds…needles! But, at least we had a plan! He told me this would just put my body in a state that would trick it into thinking all was normal and I could start my stimulation when required –not dependent on my natural cycle to guide me through it. He said that I would not have a period in December and that I should come in a few days before I started stimulation for blood and ultrasounds and also on the day before I was going to fly. This was going to be a very long cycle, which I dreaded if not for also anticipating a successful outcome. I left TCART with my vial of suppression drugs and a good thirty needles. At this point I did not care about how long the cycle was, just that it was still on and all the pieces were coming together…

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