Jessie is a mom of two who went through pregnancy loss, infertility and surrogacy to bring her babies into her life.
She shares the truthful challenges she faced to get pregnant, and the IVF and surrogacy journey she endured.
She has a beautiful story which inspired her to launch her own surrogacy consulting and concierge firm, Surrogacy Simplified. She experienced firsthand how wildly complicated the entire process of surrogacy is and was determined to simplify the journey for others.
My story began in 2016 when I became pregnant with my son, Luke. As the pregnancy progressed without complications, my husband, Michael, and I booked a babymoon to Sedona and Scottsdale, Arizona over Christmas.
On Christmas Eve morning, I began bleeding, and we immediately went to the hospital. As soon as we got to the hospital, I was immediately rushed to triage and when the nurses began to examine me, we could tell from the look on their faces that something was gravely wrong.
Our Devastating and Unimaginable Loss
On Christmas morning, I delivered our son, Luke, at nearly 22 weeks gestation.
We were absolutely devastated. Not only were we grieving an unimaginable loss but all of the visions we had for our future with our baby.
The next few weeks were an absolute blur but the next pivotal moment was that I was sitting on the couch with my parents and I began to hemorrhage. I immediately was sent to the OB-GYN. I will never forget going into the ultrasound room and being surrounded by pictures of newborn babies while I was waiting to be scanned to determine why I was hemorrhaging. It turned out that I had retained placenta, which is common in those with a preterm loss, and I needed an emergency D & C. Little did I know at the time that would be the catalyst for my secondary infertility.
Uncovering My Secondary Infertility
Several months went by of trying and I was still not pregnant. I went to a gynecologist who confirmed I had Asherman’s Syndrome (uterine scarring). We thought the chance of having Asherman’s Syndrome was so slim that there was no way it would happen to me. When the scarring is removed, it has a high likelihood of recurrence and, it can cause the uterine lining to be so thin that an embryo would not be able to successfully implant, causing pregnancy to be nearly impossible.
The Fertility Clinic
After three failed IUIs, our Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) advised us to begin IVF. During the IUIs, my lining remained thin which was the reason we believed that this method was not successful. I now had two major obstacles to overcome to successfully have a child on my own; getting pregnant (my lining being thick enough for an embryo to successfully implant) and the second obstacle of staying pregnant (given the fact that I had a 22-week loss). When weighing the pros and cons of my becoming pregnant, the doctors shared that even if the embryo was successfully implanted, there was a high likelihood that I would be in the hospital on bedrest beginning in the second trimester to try to get the baby to viability. It was at this point that my husband and I decided that it was time to pursue surrogacy as the safest option to have a baby.
Our First Gestational Carrier
Once I went through the egg retrieval process and our embryos were genetically tested, things began to finally get moving for us! From that point, it took about two months to be matched with a Gestational Carrier (GC). My husband, Michael, and I met the prospective GC and her husband on Skype. The nerves, the excitement, all of it! The initial meeting was much like a first date. We immediately hit it off and were ready to move forward with the process. We went through the entire process with her (medical clearance, psych evaluations, legal clearance) and then finally the embryo transfer. We were thrilled when we found out the embryo transfer was a success and our GC was pregnant.
About two weeks later, our GC called us and said she was going to the emergency room because she had abdominal pain. It turned out that she had pancreatitis, likely resulting from a rare complication from taking the IVF medication. As it turned out, our GC had high triglycerides that caused her to have a complication from the IVF medication.
The Pregnancy Resulted in a Miscarriage
Several days afterward, the pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage. When I found out, I fell to the floor. I could not believe that this was happening again. As much as we cared and adored our GC, it was a mutual decision that we needed to break the match to protect her health and also give our future child the best chance at a healthy pregnancy. On top of grieving a miscarriage, there was so much time and money spent that resulted in another failed pregnancy. It was absolutely gut-wrenching.
Back to Square One
We went back to our agency and were waiting to be re-matched. While waiting to be matched, I joined several private surrogacy Facebook groups and became more of an active participant where I actually ended up meeting Amber. After FaceTiming with Amber and her husband (Dalton), Michael and I wanted to have her meet our agency to see if she could be our GC.
The process was similar to our previous journey (albeit in a different state; Kentucky). Once all of the testing came back, we were so excited that Amber was medically cleared and we could move to the legal phase of our journey. Once it was time for the embryo transfer, Amber and Dalton flew into Baltimore. During the embryo transfer, Amber and I held hands and it was the most indescribable feeling.
As with our prior GC, we were too nervous and excited to wait 10 days for the bloodwork test to determine pregnancy. We began home testing about 4 days post-transfer and Amber saw a faint line. We actually asked Amber to do her first home pregnancy test on the day that Michael and I met, what we affectionately refer to as our “meetaversary”, making the day even more memorable.
From the time of bloodwork confirming pregnancy through 30 weeks, the pregnancy went smoothly. Amber and I decided early on (in the matching phase) that we would touch base daily but our friendship evolved organically so that it didn’t feel like a “check-in.” We naturally had things to discuss, even outside of the pregnancy, and developed a beautiful relationship. Michael and I FaceTimed for each appointment and flew in to spend time with Amber and her family for the 12-week and 20-week anatomy scan. It was incredible to be in Kentucky and spend time with her family. Amber sent us pictures, told us about her cravings or how she was feeling, and did a really great job of making us feel part of the pregnancy.
On New Year’s Eve (around 30 weeks gestation), we received a call from Amber that she wasn’t feeling well and she was going to the hospital to get checked. We were beside ourselves; so worried for Amber and so worried for our baby. Amber was experiencing some headaches and swelling, and as it turned out, her blood pressure was elevated. The doctors were able to get her blood pressure lowered and she was discharged from the hospital.
About five days later (between 30-31 weeks gestation), Amber was experiencing similar symptoms and went back to the hospital. Once she received her initial intake evaluation, they decided to admit her with the possibility of hospital bed rest until the baby was born. At this point, Michael and I began to pack our bags as quickly as possible and hop on the next flight to Kentucky.
An unplanned and terrifying delivery
At 32 weeks, 6 days, Amber’s blood pressure was at an all-time high. The doctors decided that it was no longer safe for Amber to remain pregnant and it was time to deliver our daughter. Our daughter arrived quickly and the NICU team immediately took our daughter to the NICU, born 3 lbs 11 oz. We were not able to hold her until she was evaluated because they needed to see if she required oxygen and conduct all of the initial testing that is performed on a baby born that early.
Lily is Here!
The moment I held Lily for the first time was indescribable. I couldn’t believe that after every obstacle, every hardship, she was finally here and we would get to love on her for the rest of our lives. Even though I did not carry her, I never worried about our connection or bond. The moment she was placed on my chest I knew she was mine.
The first time Lily was placed on my chest after the NICU neonatologists evaluated her.
The Decision to Have Another Child
My husband, Michael and I knew that if we were fortunate enough, we wanted to give our daughter, Lily, a sibling. Since it had taken about 4.5 years to have Lily, we wanted to start thinking about a sibling around her first birthday.
We had one remaining embryo from our previous round of IVF. Our knowledge of the surrogacy industry helped us make the decision to go ahead and create more embryos. It is usually more difficult to match with a GC when you only have one embryo for a variety of reasons. Mainly, many GCs feel there is a lot of pressure on them to have a successful transfer. Another reason is that if the embryo transfer were to fail, it would significantly delay the process for them as they’d need to wait for you to create more embryos. It is also important to note that this is very subjective and based on the personality of the GC who is viewing the intended parents (IP) profile.
With these factors in mind, we went ahead and underwent the process of IVF, again.
Finding our Gestational Carrier
We were in many private Facebook surrogacy groups. We posted a “profile,” which consisted of a post that shared a bit of our story, why we need a gestational carrier, pictures of our family, and logistical information such as our fertility clinic requirements. We were so fortunate to connect with Sarah, who we met via FaceTime through one of these groups and we loved her from the moment we spoke to her!
Finally, the blood test confirmed the pregnancy and we were ecstatic!
Once Sarah’s medical records were reviewed, we were on our way and began to move through the surrogacy “check-list.” For the embryo transfer, I held hands with Sarah and it was incredible to watch the microscopic embryo go into her body. During the wait, the fertility clinic advised us not to take an at-home pregnancy test, and similar to the first experience, we were not able to listen to that advice! We began seeing a faint line around four days post-transfer (DPT) and watched in amazement each day as the line grew thicker and clearer. Finally, the blood test confirmed the pregnancy and we were ecstatic!
From there, the pregnancy progressed smoothly. Michael and I FaceTimed for medical appointments and drove in for the 12 and 20-week appointments.
The 3rd Trimester
Around 34 weeks, Sarah’s blood pressure went up a bit and she developed preeclampsia. The doctors recommended a c-section (based on Sarah previously having two) at 37 weeks gestation as the best-case scenario. We got into town the night before the c-section and went out to dinner with Sarah and her family. It was fun to have a night “just us” before the baby arrived. We gave Sarah our thank you gifts (which seems totally inconsequential given the fact that she is completing our family) and shared so many laughs.
When we arrived at the hospital, I was pleasantly surprised at how amazing the staff was at differentiating everyone and treating us like the Intended Parents. They provided us with our own private room for our belongings, which was connected to Sarah’s room. Next, they essentially turned the operating room into what they called “Luna’s Birthday Party.” They played country music in the OR (per Sarah’s request). We weren’t sure ahead of time whether Michael and Sarah’s husband, Matt, would be allowed in the operating room. However, we got really lucky and had the largest operating room so that we could all be there (Michael and Matt included)!
It’s hard to put into words what it felt like when Luna was placed on my chest. Her journey had gone relatively smoother than her big sister’s and it was an overwhelming feeling of joy. We had (and still do to this day) a deep sense of gratitude for Sarah and what she had gone through to complete our family.
Turning Pain into Purpose
It was through all of the ups and downs of my surrogacy journey that I launched my own surrogacy consulting and concierge firm, Surrogacy Simplified. I experienced firsthand how wildly complicated the entire process of surrogacy is and was determined to simplify the journey for others. Surrogacy Simplified helps Intended Parents through the entire process of surrogacy, providing them with comprehensive guidance and support from the idea of pursuing surrogacy all the way to the fourth trimester. We offer a complimentary consultation for Intended Parents who are getting started on their journey.
To read another story of surrogacy, read It Takes a Village: Mom and Two-Time Surrogate Shares Her Story.