1) What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
Surrogacy is a beautiful, amazing journey that brings so much joy into the lives of so many people. I know this because I have had the absolute pleasure of helping bring twins into the lives of a loving, caring family. Helping this family with their dream was, and continues to be, one of the most rewarding events of my life. I knew that this was not to be my last journey within the surrogacy world and I felt a very strong pull at my heart to do this again for another family.
Surrogacy in all it’s beauty can also be extremely hard. Hard for the intended parents who are trusting another human being with their dreams and most precious piece of them. It’s hard for the Surrogate who has to do countless needles, take all sorts of IVF medications, possibly go through sickness etc. In some cases this can go as far as losses and failed transfers as well. I unfortunately have experienced this very hard side of surrogacy myself now twice…
Loss Number One:
November 13th, 2017 was a magical day filled with excitement. It was transfer day for journey number two. Everything went so perfectly. It wasn’t a very long two week wait for betas as I had begun testing only three days after transfer, and to my surprise, started to get faint positives right away. Once I was getting very solid positives I had to let my intended parents know. They were so excited and even more so when our beta results showed amazing numbers. Time came for the 6-week scan, and a healthy growing embryo and a heartbeat was confirmed. We went back at eight weeks and I got an adorable little video for them of the baby and a strong heartbeat of 175. Time seemed to be just flying and we were enjoying each passing week that went by. I would often send them little updates and my belly was starting to grow.
The day came for our twelve week scan. We were all excited as this is the time the baby would really looks like a baby. It is also the time I could stop medications and the first trimester comes to an end. I asked the tech if she could get a good picture for us so I could show the parents later. They are international so unfortunately they couldn't be here for the appointments. She put the wand on my belly and started to do her thing. I was watching the screen on my end as well. I have had many scans before, as this was my fifth pregnancy. I always liked that I knew a lot of what they do and see during these scans.
This scan was different though. I felt the tension in the room. She began to ask me about our previous scans and as I looked at the screen I just knew. I was looking at this beautiful, perfect little baby but there was no movement or no flickering. That’s when the words came out of her mouth, “I’m so sorry, I'm having a hard time finding a heartbeat and the baby seems to be measuring only eleven weeks and one day.”
She continued to look and push harder, trying her hardest for what seemed like an eternity. She finally had to stop. She told me she was going to call my doctor right away. As I lay there, tears started flowing down my face. I couldn’t believe what was so perfect just the week before was now gone. I gathered my things and walked out of the office in a blur. I had to pull myself together to drive the twenty minutes home which also seemed like an eternity. The whole drive all I could think of was that I had to be the one to call my poor intended parents and break this horrible news. What would I say? How could this be happening?
The time came for the call and it was one of the hardest conversations I have ever had to have. I can honestly say that even though I know my intended parents are incredible people, they truly surprised me with their grace in this tough situation. The support they showed me, and continue to show me, is nothing short of amazing.
Loss Number Two:
When people go through a loss, it’s pretty normal to be nervous and not want to share too much, out of fear in future journeys. When you become pregnant after a loss, it is very difficult to keep that positive, vibrant excitement. The innocence of pregnancy somehow gets stripped from you and no matter how happy you feel, the loss, and possibility of loss, will always be there, eating away at the back of your mind. You overanalyze every cramp, every twinge, every test, and every thought. It can be debilitating to have to put on a brave face while fear is tearing you up inside.
In April, after a thorough medical screening with our fertility doctor, we would start back on medications. We had waited the amount of cycles required after the loss and my body seemed like it had healed very well. I was feeling good both emotionally and physically and I was taking good care of myself. We were definitely all ready to move forward with open hearts and cautious optimism.
On May 11th, I made my way to the fertility clinic for the egg transfer day. I had a wonderful thirty minutes of acupuncture before my transfer so I was extremely relaxed and ready. A little later I was having what the doctor said to me was "a beautiful perfect embryo" transferred to my fluffy uterus. Everything went amazing. Then it was time for another thirty minutes of acupuncture and off I went to the hotel for a well deserved nap.
I headed home the next day and anxiously geared up for the longest two week wait. I am a very impatient person so I was testing at just two and a half days past transfer, but sure enough a very very faint line was there! The next day, at only 3.75 days past our transfer, I had a good enough line on a pregnancy test to be able to get a picture and share the news with my incredible intended parents. It was so early that of course we were all extremely happy. The excitement was building and I couldn’t wait to see those beta numbers. For a second all my fears and anxieties were gone. This second try was perfect and this was going to be it for us.
Sadly, our excitement was short lived again with the blood test numbers not doubling. It seemed like an extremely long wait for our six week scan.
Why is this happening to us again? Why can we not just catch a break and be able to celebrate. Is it me? Is my body failing us? Are they better off finding another surrogate? All of these ideas start running through my head and of course my sweet, amazing intended parents put a stop to that thinking right away and assured me it’s no one's fault.
The six week scan confirmed our biggest fear: an empty sac. Our clinic decided it could be too early and said we should repeat the scan in two weeks. Sure enough, the eight week scan showed a larger empty sac. We made the decision to miscarry naturally at home, as we did the first time. Everything was going as it should until I woke up on day four with uncontrollable bleeding. I knew something was wrong instantly and we headed to the ER right away. After a very scary fourteen hour hospital stay, numerous tests and exams, ultrasounds, and an emergency D&C, I was on my way home to rest and heal.
So here we are taking it day-by-day. Continuing on with hope in our hearts in that one day this process will work for us.
2) What have you learned through this experience?
When you go through hard times like this, it can either make or break a relationship. Thankfully the relationship between myself and this couple has only strengthened and continues to strengthen every single day. Not all surrogacy journeys are so lucky. I count my blessings daily that we have been able to stick by one another and help each other during this very emotional journey. I can’t imagine walking it with anyone else.
Since entering the surrogacy and fertility world I have seen and heard about so many people’s struggles and my heart breaks for each and every one of them. I now have a new realization of just how hard the journey of starting family can be for people and the overwhelming strength they must have in order to get through it.
3) How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?
Fertility treatments come with a lot of appointments, medications, and stress. Even though I am more than happy to do this for the couples I help, it has been very hard on my own family at times. It takes away time from them. It also (sometimes) takes away the energy and the happy mind-space to do the little things with my own kids and husband. It’s not easy to always work through your own emotions when it comes to surrogacy loss. I also grieve for, and with, the parents and their families as well. My family has always been extremely supportive, they still are, but it certainly takes a toll on our dynamic when I have gone through multiple tries and losses. However, it has made me a stronger person and I am able to appreciate how blessed I was to not have problems conceiving my own children.
Going through these experiences has certainly changed me as a person. It has made me so much more aware of my passion to help others. I have learned just how much support is lacking around loss and fertility, which has since thrown me into the incredible birth worker role of birth, postpartum, fertility and bereavement doula with my company Mind Body Soul Birth Services. If I can help families not feel so alone, and use my experiences to make any kind of difference in the care people receive, I feel that I am contributing to a movement for more awareness.
For anyone who is struggling, who has suffered a loss or knows someone who has, please be kind to yourself and them.
4)What are you hobbies/passions/pursuits:
I am extremely passionate about birth work and surrogacy. My passion is to raise as much awareness around surrogacy, fertility struggles, and all things around building families. I love bettering myself and learning new things every day by taking courses and reading. I love the outdoors and keeping active. I love practicing yoga and mediation and find both practices help with my surrogacy journeys and everyday life.
5) What is your favourite quote?
“We may run, walk, stumble, drive, or fly, but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way.” – Gloria Gaither
* To learn more about the important work Rikki is doing, here is her website: http://www.mbsbirthservices.ca.