Canadian Fertility Consultants :Thursday, 22 August 2013 – Guest post by Candice Collins
Start at the End
Life is funny. I dont consider myself a smug person. I try to be positive (although I’m not always sunshine and roses as those close to me can attest to). Generally though, I make the best of things, and can’t tolerate whining. I believe in karma, and the universe sending you back what you put out. I think we should all ‘Pay It Forward’. I had always been in love with the idea of surrogacy. As long as I was aware of it, it spoke to me. I had an extremely easy time getting and staying pregnant. I couldn’t conceive (yes, I said it) of wanting a family with no means to have one.
After my youngest three children were born, an opportunity presented itself, and with Jeff’s blessing I pursued it. And so 19 months ago, my first surrogacy journey began. Aside from a slightly bumpy start (we lost a twin early on), it was a pretty seamless pregnancy. At 40 weeks and 1 day, with Jeff and my phenomenal doula Michelle by my side, I delivered an 8 pound 10 ounce baby boy to his waiting mom and dad, and 2 ecstatic grandmas. It was awesome, in the truest sense of the word. And I knew that this wouldn’t be my last time. Until you have seen a painful 13 year journey come to such a life-changing conclusion, you cannot fathom the emotion.
When I got the all-clear from my doctor, I was ready. I connected with a fantastic couple, and knew that these were the guys. We talked, emailed, texted and finally met. We loved them, and we just felt like these were people who were ready for a family. I was excited to help them. And so we started. We went through testing, and screening and felt excited for the future. Within weeks, E’s sister came from Scotland to donate her eggs. And on a hot and sunny day, with the dads, my daughter and one of bestie surro sisters there, two perfect embryos were delivered to my ‘perfect’ uterus. We were giddy and anticipating the best. 4 days later, a home pregnancy test confirmed that those embys had found it comfy enough to stay. I sent P and E a picture of the test that said “YES”. They were over the moon, and couldn’t sleep that night. Like any other expectant parents, they spent the night dreaming, and planning. 4 more home tests and bloodwork confirmed what we knew. At least one baby was on board.
However, my closest friends and family knew that I was uneasy. Something just didn’t feel ‘right’. I went to my clinic to get more bloodwork done and mentioned my concerns to my doctor. He felt certain that all was well, and told me that the risk of something being wrong was minimal. So I came home, somewhat reassured, but still concerned.
Fast forward a week and a half, and I knew. I woke up in the morning to blood. It was almost like a confirmation for me that I wasn’t crazy. I emailed my clinic right away and was told it was normal, and not to be concerned. This wasn’t my first rodeo though, and this felt different. Perhaps like my last pregnancy, I was losing a twin? I worked through the weekend while spotting off and on. By Tuesday morning, I knew that I needed to be checked. I drove myself to the hospital, and after ultrasounds, the on-call doctor proclaimed that I had in fact lost a twin and likely ruptured a cyst. He prescribed heat and Tylenol. I took my daughter and her friend shopping and for lunch, and then came home to rest. I messaged P to let him know that we had in fact had two babies, but we were down to what appeared to be one healthy bean. He was sad but happy that one baby was hanging in. We talked about our ultrasound at the clinic on Thursday and made our plans to meet up. I told Jeff that apparently, “I could carry twins for us, but not for anyone else”.
Wednesday morning I woke sore and with more blood. I wasn’t overly concerned, but I did feel like crud. I spoke to Jeff and got ready to head out to grab coffee. As I got to the door, I turned to leave and the pain was horrible. I felt myself starting to black out, so I laid on the couch. When Jeff couldn’t get me to sit up, or make sense I guess, he called an ambulance. The paramedics transported me to Picton. They could see I was bleeding, and they could see the baby, but it didn’t seem to be viable. I was sad, but knew we had lots of frozen embryos, so figured we’d go right back at it once this was resolved. They sent me to Belleville by ambulance to clarify what was going on, and for a possible D&C. I remember being at the hospital. My ob/gyn happened to be on call, and after doing his own ultrasound, he knew I was bleeding but couldn’t figure out why, or from where. The only thing that he could fathom was that the first twin we thought was lost had actually migrated to my tube, and I had a ruptured ectopic. He prepped me for surgery and assured me he would only do what was absolutely necessary to stop the bleeding. As the nurse got me ready to go, my leg began to ache. And swell, in front of our eyes. They didn’t mess around. I was transferred to the OR.
It gets hazy for me here. I recall a bit of panic. I know that I apologized for ruining the doctors carefully structured day (I knew he had a surrogate waiting to be induced) and he told me, “You’re an enormous pain in my ass”. God, I love that guy. It was about 11:30 Wednesday morning. And then, nothing.
I woke up, and panicked. I could see Jeff sitting next to me, and I couldn’t breathe. There was a respiratory therapist in the room, and he removed the tube that had been breathing for me. Jeff asked if I knew where I was. I assumed Belleville. I was in ICU at Kingston hospital. It was Thursday afternoon. Apparently things had gone horribly wrong. When my doctor when in to repair my ruptured ectopic, no such thing was there. Both babies were gone, and I was bleeding out as fast as they could put it in. They finally found a tear in an artery in my pelvis. My doctor and surgeon tell me that in their combined 65 years of practice they’d never seen anything like it. When I was bleeding, a tiny little lymph node made his way around and blocked a vein to my leg. My leg proceeded to clot, and as a result, I almost lost my leg. My doctors in Belleville did what they could, and then stabilized me to move to Kingston. In Kingston a vascular surgeon put a filter in my leg to catch the clots. And then they waited.
When I woke up, and started to get more aware, I realized I couldn’t move my left leg. It was the size of a tree trunk and numb. The clot had damaged tissue, muscles and nerves. It would remain to be seen whether it would ever be normal. I had lines coming from everywhere. But I was alive, and apparently a few hours before, that had remained to be seen.
My first thought was for the dads, and their lost babies. I was devastated for them. I immediately set about to find them a surrogate and make sure that they were okay. I think the reality of my situation hadn’t quite set in. I was worried about Jeff being at work, and who was running the restaurant. I was worried for the babies, and for my older kids and whether it was too much for them to cope with. I was worried about my job, and whether they could cover my shifts. I asked Jeff if he had let them know I’d be off for the weekend (see, reality and I? Not quite in step)
I was on a mission. I wanted to get home. They were pretty impressed by how quickly I made strides. But I had a plan, and clearly they’d never met me. So, three days after almost losing my life, they were able to send me back to Belleville. And by Monday, I was home. On blood thinners, unable to really walk (I had a hobble down pat though) and with a c-section incision, but no babies (this was the first surgery I’d ever had, and I was NOT impressed) But I was HOME.
It has been 2 weeks now, and over the last few days, my new reality has set in. My world has shifted on it’s axis. I can’t walk properly or stand for any length of time. I can’t work as a server, and no one cares that we own a restaurant, or that it’s all I know. But the hardest thing to come to terms with is that I can never carry again. It’s too dangerous, and no doctor would support me. I will never be pregnant again, feel a baby move, know I’m growing a life. That is the thing that torments me. Not for my own loss, but for the couple that was planning a nursery, and looking at baby clothes and dreaming the dreams of parents-to-be.
In the dark, or when no one is home, this is what makes me weep. Copious tears of pain and loss. I grieve for P and E, and their dreams that are on hold while they regroup. Sadness for the end of what was supposed to be a beginning of something wonderful. I know that I am fortunate. I lived. I mourn the babies that didn’t. I wonder if there was something that I could have, should have done. Or shouldn’t have. Did I not ask enough questions, push hard enough for answers? Was there something that *I* did that caused this?
I have begun to regroup. I support surrogates in their journeys, and I am a huge cheerleader for them as they go throught their transfers. I celebrate their positive tests, and commiserate when it didn’t work this time. It is helping me to heal. I am devoting my time to starting back into birthwork, and being a doula to support women and their families as they welcome new life. And quietly I grieve. To myself, I mourn.
Life has no guarantees. We are not promised anything. There are those with better, but many with worse than what I have come through. This blog is my homage to life, and it’s surprises. And it’s to share with you how my life almost ending has helped me to start over, from a better, more grateful place