Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The GOOD ... going to string this bit out so I can focus on the positives ... but  really, the image says it all.

We loved Delhi. It was so different to Mumbai. Despite its population of 16 million, it doesn't seem nearly as crowed as Mumbai, though it is still busy. It is truly a cosmopolitan city. there is a lot of construction going on in preparation for the Commonwealth Games, which Delhi hosts next year. There is still poverty to see, people on the streets a few beggars and a few stray dogs, but nothing compared to Mumbai. If your first trip to India for surrogacy scares the beejeezus out of your culture shock nerve, go to Delhi.

Our bed and breakfast was just wonderful. At $65 a night the rooms were HUGE!!! The service was top quality and our host, Rajeesh, went over and above his role as accommodation provider and drove us to our appointments and generally looked out for us. There was a TV in the jacuzzi, and so many knobs and levers that I just had a shower as the techno-thingies were too difficult to negotiate. The accomodation was plush, if a little eclectic in decor, but definitely top standard. The rates will go up because it is offseason right now, but I don't know by how much. Breakfast is included in the room rate. There is the option of having lunch and dinner as well, both Indian and western food, for a higher price (not much). A bead and breakfast works a little differently to a hotel. you don't get your beds made up, you do that yourself, and bring your own shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste and personal care products as they are not provided as would be at a hotel. No big deal, hotels soaps and shampoos are crap anyway. Yes, stupid here didn't bring her own shampoo and had to wash her hair with soap .. I must say, I look mighty fine right now with my sticky hair.

Our new lawyer (acting for us) was so helpful, attentive, funny and just an all round good guy looking out for our interests. It seems we don't really need him to protect our interests because our new hospital and doctor are the BEST! I highly recommend hiring this lawyer because he goes over and above, is very caring, and he will be acting for your interests during your whole pregnancy and after babies are born.

Our doctor is phenomenal. I have posted my "report" on the forum under Delhi and North India clinics, in the thread Phoenix Hospital. Go to: After our last sad experience and all that went on with that, I completely trust our new "let's pretend we are doing surrogacy in the USA and will always be best buddies and extended family" bull shit. Dr Shivani is a consummate professional. Her standards and communication are Western, the hospital and facilities are Western standards. EPU was done in a proper theatre for one, not on two beds in one room separated by a curtain with a thoroughfare through to the embryology lab.

We were impressed by things like the semen sample room. It was a normal ward with a bathroom. Yeehah for Bob - a place to wash his hands - though no soap or towels, so bring them along.. The sample jar was sealed and labelled by the doctor in front of us, given directly to Bob, who then did his thing and handed it directly to the lab. Very different to the other place where the jar was left in a room and goodness knows how long it sat there or even if it was sterile prior to use. 

Amy had a single room. It had a bed, couch, wardrobe, TV, and a bathroom. She came out of anesthetic saying she felt drunk. She was sitting up, wanting to leave within ten minutes. The doc used a light sedation and she recovered quickly with minimal pain. She is a trooper. Meeting Amy for the first time in person was emotional and wonderful. We are truly connected as friends. I devised many plans to get her to come and live in Australia. 

With everything going so well, what could possibly be the BAD?

As I mentioned in the previous post our surrogate had breakthrough bleeding. This happens and transfers can still go ahead. We were waiting to see if her lining thickened in time for transfer. We didn't even get that far.

On day one we had four embies with two pro-nuclei - that is, they fertilised. We had an appointment at 5pm Friday (Day 2) to sign the contracts and do transfer. The plan was to freeze if Sumita wasn't ready. Not ideal, but I was confident. Bob was in a sour mood, feeling ill and depressed. He later told me he was down because he had a gut feeling transfer wouldn't go ahead. I had high hopes all would be okay. How wrong I was. Which leads us to

the UGLY
Day two we attended our appointment and the look on Dr Shivani's face said it all. I asked her "How did we go?" and she gently replied, "We don't have good news. Please, come and speak to the embryologist". Numb, we trudged downstairs and met the embryologist who explained what had happened. Only two of our embies divided to 2 cells, the other two didn't make it past day one. By the end of the day only one had divided to four cells, the other expired. Our four cell embie was so badly fragmented it was considered poor quality and Dr Shivani didn't want to transfer or freeze it, yet asked us what we wanted to do. I said let it expire. So we were down to none. Zippo, zilch, zero.

Bob was so sad, but said at least he expected it. I was just numb and feeling like the biggest IVF/Indian surrogacy loser on the planet. I asked why - was it the eggs, was it the sperm, was it the medium they use? The embryologist confirmed it was not the sperm, he said they didn't really need to do ICSI, but did anyway. It wasn't the medium because they used the same medium for all IVF and they have a high fertilisation rate with other egg and sperm. So again, it was egg quality. 

I didn't see that coming. Deja Vu. Same as before. All the tests were well within normal range, we had four good looking eggs that fertilised, and all but one just didn't divide. Dr Shivani thought those indicated genetic abnormality and that we would either have gotten a negative or a positive but chemical pregnancy at best.

so back to the GOOD
Dr Shivani was so concerned and careful, but professional. No question was left unanswered, everything added up and we are left with a feeling of peace, but complete trust inour new doctor. She knew we were both hurting and she took the time to let me talk it out, while Bob went off to do his second sample. She did not hurry us, despite there being a full waiting room. I can't believe Bob managed to "perform". His face looked like death. We both just wanted to get out of there.

So, the new plan ... what are we up to now? Plan F,G,H ... I have lost count.

We talked about options and decided we will go with an Indian egg donor. I expressed my concerns about the health and medical background of the donor. Dr Shivani said "I will give you our best donor, she has cycled twice before and both cycles produced high quality eggs and two ongoing twin pregnancies." Dr Shivani has this donor's medical background. This crap about Indian people not knowing the medical background of their parents and grandparents seems to be rubbish. That may be true of surrogates and donors who come from rural areas, or villages, but Dr Shivani's donors do know about their families medical histories, and they don't come from small villages to the big city to earn money. Of course, yes, their motivation is payment... and that is fair enough, but they also love helping cursed infertile couples like Bob and me.  Not knowing the background of an Indian donor has always been my personal stumbling block about going with an Indian ED. I have previously been called racist for wanting a caucasian ED - which is utter crap - I'm not racist, I hate everyone. It's not skin or hair or eye colour that concerned me, it was not knowing if an Indian donor was healthy or if she had genetic disease, mental illness, horrible things like hemophilia or other things that can be passed on to offspring. It is all well and good that we choose Indian EDs, or any ED for that matter, to get pregnant and be happy  in the short term because we have our babes in our arms, but what happens down the track, in two, five, ten, twenty years? I remember expressing concern about mental illness with Surrogacy India and was told by Sudhir that mental illness is not genetic and that Indian people are strong and don't suffer mental health problems like Western people do. What utter bullshit. How ignorant coming from a doctor. 

For now, that problem is solved, but I am still going to have to get my head around using an Indian ED. In my ideal world I would like my babies to look a little bit like me, but that just isn't going to happen. Fine, I can cope with that, but my preference was to not "out" the fact our children were donor conceived, so they were never asked questions like, "Why do your mummy and daddy have blonde hair and you have black hair?" We wanted to give them the choice of disclosing the way they were conceived. I always looking at potential problems that may arise in the future, am incredibly careful with all I do, and at the end of the day - with surrogacy in India, we have so little control and there are no guarantees.

I asked our doctor if we could cycle with two donors, which she confirmed we could. She also offered us the choice of cycling with two donors and two surrogates. But I thought, how ironic and just our fortune to end up witgh two surrogates pregnant with twins and bring home four babies. So we have settled on one donor, one surrogate and a fresh transfer in September. Ugh! Two more months.

Our surrogate Sumita had more spotting so we would not have transferred until next month anyway. Dr Shivani told us "I want to best possible outcome for you, let us change your surrogate". She said even though Sumita had transferred before, with no unexpected bleeding, she didn't want to take the chance it would happen again because "You have been through so much".

So, we've not signed any contracts. We've not had to pay the lawyer, we didn't have to pay the cost of transferring a bad embie that had little chance of a good outcome, and we've not been given false hope, nor financially ripped off.  I have heard lately three stories of doctors from two Indian clinics transferring to thin linings, the IPs sitting one egg shells for two weeks, getting a negative, and finding out weeks later when the actual report came through that the lining was thin. Everyone - check to make sure your surrogate's lining is at least 8mm - in Australia and the states clinics cancel cycles if linings are below 8mm, and even that is not ideal. With Amy's two previous surrogacies her linings were 12 and 13mm. If you are told the lining is less than 8mm and that is okay, don't believe it. If you are told it is thick and lovely, ask for proof, and you don't get proof and find out later the lining was less than optimal, demand a free cycle and a month of your hopes returned.

So here we are again. We're doing okay because we are trying again. I hate the wait, but I am so grateful we have a professional, honest, caring doctor, a great hospital, an excellent lawyer and we don't have to go back to India. I really do not understand why our old clinic makes people return to India, at their own cost, to sign with a new surrogate. i know of no other clinic in India that requires this. We have two frozen samples in Delhi and one in Mumbai that we could transfer to Delhi if needed. (I hope it's still there). The next time we go to India we go for baby pick-up.

So how are we doing?
Bob is doing much better and he is very positive. I was numb until we hit Singapore then the tears started. Thankfully the two beers I drank (I don't like beer) at Singapore airport knocked me out for the entire flight to Perth. It took ages to get through customs, long lines and there were gorgeous babies with their mothers. For the first time seeing other people's babies set me off and I couldn't stop the tears. How embarrassing.

I am super-disappointed that Amy went to such lengths for us for this to happen. I am super sad that I won't be sharing a pregnancy with her, and that there won't be any egg mummy video skypes. I am crushed that our children will never meet their egg mummy, nor know anything about her, and I fear they may be one of the many donor-conceived children who live with a hole in their hearts. But we will have to cross that bridge when we come to it. 

Amy will always be in our lives and we plan for her to return to India with us for baby pick-up, hopefully in June 2010. I told Amy she I still wanted her to be egg mummy, and to dye her hair black. Thank you darling Amy - we tried - that's all one can do. We love her so very much.


Jan & Myleen said...

Amani - I'm so so sorry it didn't go as planned, and I was crushed when I heard the news. I know I can't possibly say anything to make you feel better but the bright side is that you were surrounded by wonderful care, professional staff and great surroundings... You and Bob will get your dream babies soon... it will just take a few months longer than you expected. At least you met Amy, and her friendship is a gift in itself. And you know, so what if you're using an Indian ED... can you imagine how beautiful your babies will be being of mixed race? I'm sure when you have your babies, they will melt you and your family's heart no matter where they come from or what they look like. They'll stare at you with their big, beautiful eyes and natural tan and only see you as their mommy. I'm sure you'll be just as happy anyways!!!

It will work... just let it all out and focus on the next run.


Sarah said...

I can't even believe that I am reading this. I am in total shock and disbelief that this has happened. I am so sorry lady. You are being so strong and this just isn't right. I'm sorry Amani that you guys have had to go through this hell.

jojo said...

I don't know what to say, but to offer you my sincerest condolences. This bites beyond belief.

You're being tested so much, and you will succeed. Argh!!!!!!! Why does life have to be so hard?

2 months is not long at all. It's not.


Stephaniekb said...

Sending you a huge hug. There aren't words to discuss how crappy this was, but sounds like you made the best outcome out of a sad, unhappy mess. At least you trust the people you've found to work with. I know we'll see pix of your beautiful embies (and babes soon after) very soon!

crystal said...


I know the pain must seem endless, but it will end. This doctor sounds wonderful as well as professional. Good for her, and thanks for making the inroads for all those who will be following you. Please stay strong.

Jackie said...

Oh Am....I am so sorry for both of you and know the disappointment you are feeling right now. Why, oh why does this have to be so hard with so many hurdles to cross.

But(and there is always a but), I am so proud of you for being strong and looking at the future!

Well done!

Lots of love and hugs!

Anonymous said...

Heaven knows that we have not agreed with each other in the past but I am truly sorry for the struggle you are going through. I completely understand your reasons for hesitating at an Indian donor but over time surrogacy will not be so 'out of the ordinary' for Australians and therefore people may not be so quick to ask questions. You will have your baby or BABIES! Someone once said to me when I was having difficulties "You will hold your baby and think, the rubbish that went on beforehand was meant to happen just so we could be together." Just remember that when you hold him/her - you will get there!

Rebecca said...

I am so sorry!

mcsass said...

Amani & Bob, I'm so sorry for this latest disappointment. As much as you prepare yourself, there's always a period of mourning.

I also want to send a hugh thank you to you both for sharing your story. You're helping a lot of people.

I'll be crossing all of my fingers and all of my toes for you.


s (perth) said...

Dear Bob and Amani - I have followed your story right from the start. This is certainly a rollercoaster ride for you both - One that I have been on, but I must admit the ride was not as long or as large as yours. The ride will eventually come to end and you will have your baby/babies in your arms, just as I have my babies in my arms (they are toddlers now.) Once you have your baby/babies in your arms you will look in awe and amazement at him/her/them and realise just the fete that you have all accomplished. It is all worth it!!
Yes, it might be a different way to go about parenthood and costly, but family is your biggest investment. You can't worry about the $$$. I know you will succeed. "Giving up" is not in your vocabulary. I love your optimism and sheer determination and that you keep overcoming all the obstacles put in your way.
I will continue to follow your story and be cheering for you from the sidelines.


SwitzerTwins said...

My heart breaks for you two. But this doc seems to have your best interest at heart. Unlike the shysters..
You are in my prayers always.

Niels and Alexander said...

After reading this a few days ago, I just didn't know the right words, and I still don't.
I am utterly sorry that things didn't work out this time, and I think you two are brave to keep on going! All the luck with your next attempt and I am confident that things will work out for you too.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bob and Amani,
I have been following your story also and I hope you don't mind me writing on here. I work with IVF and Surrogacy Intended Parents through an agency and refer IP's to clinics around the world.I watch the message boards for negative feed back and positive- After reading what you have written and your experiences, I have contacted Dr Shivani and I will be sending my patients to her. I wondered if you would mind if I refer people to your page and/or if you would allow me to use your comments about your experience with her? I apologise if I am intruding and I wish you every success.