- Generally, the first step is medical clearance for the surrogate. This may be done before or after the contract is in place. Both times, for us, our surrogates have come to us already cleared. This mostly means that an RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist, the doctor who does the IVF procedure) has determined that medically they are a good candidate for surrogacy and an OB (obstetrician) has determined that they are safe to carry a pregnancy. Also, as part of this, most clinics require a psychological clearance for the surrogate and her husband.
- Contracts. A surrogacy attorney writes up a surrogacy contract for both the surrogate and IPs (Intended Parents, that's us) to sign. This covers things you would probably never think of in a million years...or until you've been through a surrogacy. It protects both parties establishing a written agreement of the duties both sides have. From our financial responsibilities to Ivy agreeing not to do drugs to what happens to the child if Brandon and I both pass away while Ivy's pregnant, it's all in there.
- Psychological clearance for the IPs. This was not required of us with our first surrogacy, but this time it was. Basically, we met with a psychologist and she determined that we are mentally stable enough to have another woman carry our child.
- Legal. In Texas, surrogacy laws are very straightforward. There are criteria that must be met by the surrogate (have given birth before, be healthy, etc.) and IPs (be a married couple, have a need established by a doctor for a surrogate, etc.). Once the contract is signed by all parties, it must sit for 14 days before you can go forward with the medical stuff. Texas is a PBO (pre-birth order) state. This means that our petition is filed with the court and once a judge reviews our case and contract, we are issued a document that establishes our parentage of the child. In Abram's case, we were required to have a home study, but this is totally up to the judge. Our PBO was in hand before he even existed. In fact, before I even started medications for our IVF cycle. This document allows us to make medical decisions on the baby's behalf, as its parents. It also allows us to be the baby's parents from the moment it takes its first breath, including both our names going directly on his/her birth certificate.
- IVF. The surrogate begins medications to suppress her ovulation and prepare her uterus to receive an embryo. I begin mediation to encourage my ovaries to produce multiple eggs, rather than the one that is normal in a month. Medication protocols vary widely in IVF. This time, Ivy started her injections yesterday, Sept 30. I begin mine on Oct 12. She has one a day. I have five. I will begin going in for ultrasounds and blood work every other day from Oct. 19. When I'm ready, I will take a trigger injection that tells my ovaries to wrap up maturing the eggs. 36 hours later, I go in for surgery. I'm put under and the eggs are harvested. That day, the eggs are fertilized with Brandon's sperm. Depending on how many we have growing and how they are doing, Ivy will go in 3 or 5 days later for two embryos to be transferred to her ready and waiting uterus. The first blood pregnancy test will be 2 weeks from retrieval day. She will likely begin testing at home a week or so from transfer though. During this time, she will stay on a variety of hormonal medications to encourage her body to accept our embryo as it would a natural pregnancy.
That's the process in a nutshell. It can be really complicated and there are tons of little steps I did not include. So, where we are...legal is done and we are waiting on the judge to issue our PBO. We've all been medically and psychologically cleared for another round. Retrieval is tentatively scheduled for the 24th or 25th of October, although I'm seriously praying it will be the 23rd, so Brandon can be with me (He'll be out of town the 24-26). Transfer is tentatively scheduled for the 29th or 30th. We appreciate all the prayers being sent up on our behalf. I'm feeling like October may be our month :) If there is anything I didn't make quite clear or any other questions, feel free to ask. I'm glad to answer.