January 29, 2009

Tanya is 17 weeks and 1 day pregnant and as I am getting ready to leave for a 1 month’s stay in Czech, I would miss our 20 week appointment when the gender of our baby would be confirmed. I don’t think I could wait another month to find out. So Tanya was so kind and agreed to come and see my OB/GYN that offers a “gender check” ultrasound.

Baby was cooperating and was showing off so nicely that the ultrasound technician was able to confirm that we are, indeed, expecting a girl. Ever since Dr. Hsiao gave us a 70% chance at 12 weeks, we were not thinking about anything else. Don’t get me wrong, we would have been happy either way but for some reason, my husband and I knew for years, that we were going to have a girl. Above, you can see an ultrasound picture with the buttocks and two legs with “nothing in between them” and next to it a quick recording of her moving.

I left for Czech the next day.

Shortly after my arrival in Czech, I was invited to Dr. Marek Koudelka’s birthday celebration with his colleagues and friends. It was taking place in very nice wine cellar. It was a great opportunity to hang out with the Reprofit staff outside of business hours and get to know them from the other side as well. I must say that it was a wonderful gathering and all the people there were just wonderful, that made me feel even better about who is taking care of all the couples I sent their way.

I got to spend some time with Prof. Pilka, M.D., DrSc. and we talked a lot about surrogacy as he seems to be the only expert in Czech trying to change the current law there, where the mother is the woman who delivers the baby.

So couples in need of surrogacy need to overcome many legal obstacles to become parents and despites these legal issues he is still trying to help these couples in need of this medical treatment.

Eating, drinking, talking, singing with a guitar and dancing… simply having a great time. That is the Reprofit with a human face.

Gosh, it is so much nicer to be writing about fun and great and finally a “touristy” trip to Czech instead of tears, disappointment and years of medical trips to Czech.

A week later, my husband joined me for a winter weekend in a snow covered Prague and a skiing trip to the Alps with our Czech friends. One with a 6 month old baby another one 5 months pregnant thanks to Reprofit.

Prague is magic at any time of the year and Charles’ bridge is romantic even at night at freezing temperatures. Well, we did have help from the street vendors offering hot wine at almost every corner.

Semmering ski resort in Austria was just 2 hours’ drive from Brno so a very convenient quick getaway to get some skiing. Living in Czech, I started skiing when I was able to stand on my own feet as snow and hills were always near by. Ever since moving to the States, I didn’t have the opportunity to practice my favorite winter sport. For Jeremy, it was his second time on the skies.

Although, Jeremy was doing a great job fighting the hills, him and the rest of the guys had to refresh themselves very often in the local “penguin” bar. Their favorite – shot of local liquor served with a piece of a pear. I must say that one shot kept me warm all day!

Besides, I have started my preparation for lactation so I was very sensitive to alcohol.

Tanya has forwarded me some information regarding lactation induction for mothers-to-be via surrogacy and my OB/GYN has supported me in my attempts by prescribing me (well, actually giving me 6 months worth of monophasic BCP) that I have to take without a break for a period for the rest of Tanya’s pregnancy and a prescription for Domperidone to take until the baby is born. Unfortunately, this medication, originally developed for nausea and stomach problems, is not available on the US market as its side effect was lactation in men and women. I had to order this prescription through a Canadian pharmacy and wait for its delivery for 3 weeks as it was coming all the way from Great Britain.

Back in Brno, we were experiencing a nice winter as well. White snow was giving the historic city a nice color although the malls were already welcoming spring with their beautiful real flower arrangements.

We had a lot of wonderful couples in Brno in February, everybody was so nice and although they all were there for the common goal, they still traveled, explored Brno, treated themselves to massages, spas, salt caves trips; indulged themselves in great food and good beer. But most importantly of all, had a great time and made some true friends.

You CAN get pregnant while having a GREAT time and DOES NOT have to cost an arm and a leg!

May 6, 2009

For months now, I have been trying to prepare my body for breastfeeding. There are many protocols that women can follow to induce their lactation but together with my OB/GYN we have decided to follow the most proven one.

I have been taking active monophasic BCP consecutively and Domperidone 4 times daily.
My breasts have swollen almost immediately.

As I was working on my milk, I was still accompanying Tanya to all of her appointments. We have had a few bumps on the road. First time I freaked out when Tanya informed me that she has passed her mucus plug. All I could find was that this usually occurs shortly before delivery and I totally panicked as Tanya was only 23 weeks.

She has been immediately checked out by her doctor who has not found any signs of labor, measured her cervix and we had a follow up visit a week later when an ultrasound exam confirmed that her cervix is still healthy and strong.

A few weeks later Tanya has called us to let us know that she has been experiencing high blood pressure and that the doctor wanted to see her again. At that time her blood pressure was about 160/80 which is rather high but her blood pressure has always been on the higher side so the doctor didn’t seem to be too concerned. What did concern him, however, was the outcome of Tanya’s blood sugar test. As he was hoping for levels around 140, her test revealed a very high number of 219! She was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and was recommended to take a class and start monitoring her sugars.

She has had that under control some, we have had our last ultrasound at 30 weeks and our baby girl measured just right and her weight was 3.9lbs.

Tanya and I went to the court house to file our surrogacy papers and since there was a lot of waiting around, I got to feel our little girl move and kick in her uterus. It was such a strange and amazing feeling!

Tanya has been experiencing contractions for a while now but they are getting more frequent and intense.

Although, she still has a way to go, her doctor has scheduled her for a C-section for June 24th due to her high blood pressure but she doesn’t seem to think that she will be able to carry her that long.

At this point, we are grateful for every day she stays in her uterus as a baby born before 37 weeks is considered premature.

As it is about 6 weeks prior to our baby girl’s birth, it is time for me to start working on my milk production. I have stopped taking my monophasic BCP, which resulted in a period and I have started taking the following herbs to help me with milk production:

Fenugreek – 3 pills three times daily

Blessed Thistle – 3 pills three times daily.

I keep taking my Domperione and recommended, I am trying to eat as much oat meal as possible. Usually5-6 times a week for breakfast.

Today was also my first day to pump. I have researched some pumps available on the market and I have purchased Medela double breast pump in a stylish shoulder bag.

At first it wasn’t a very pleasant feeling but I got used to it quickly. Also, I have started on low setting and slowly increased pressure to about ¾ of the maximum. Following the instructions, I have pumped every 2 hours during the day and every 3 hours at night. First I would pump for 7 minutes, then I massaged, stroked and jiggled my breast for a minute or two and then I pumped again for about 5 minutes. According to the instructions, I was to expect my milk production to establish within the next 6 weeks and following is my progress (for 24 hours):

  • 5/6 – just a few drops but that was my first pump and I was impressed as I didn’t expect my breast to produce so quickly
  • 5/7 – little more than just a few drops
  • 5/8 – 2 ¼ oz
  • 5/9 – 4 oz
  • 5/10 – 4.5 oz
  • 5/11 – 6 oz
  • 5/12 – 6.5 oz
  • 5/13 – 7 oz
  • 5/14 – 7 ¾ oz
  • 5/15 – 9 ¼ oz
  • 5/16 – 9 ¾ oz
  • 5/17 – 10 oz

All this time, I was just “pumping and dumping”, I wasn’t storing any of the milk yet as we had an agreement with Tanya that she was going to provide our baby girl with the colostrum that is so important for a baby.

May 15, 2009

Today was our 32 week appointment and we were looking forward to some more updated pictures from an ultrasound and update on how Tanya is doing as she has been experiencing contractions more and more. And at our appointment two weeks prior, she was told that her cervix was starting to funnel. Tanya has been following a very strict diet due to her gestational diabetes so she has actually lost some weight in the last two weeks.

To our surprise, she didn’t have an ultrasound but instead she was put on a heart rate monitor measuring the baby’s heartbeat. This monitor also recorded two contractions that were less than 7 minutes apart. The doctor didn’t seem to be concerned and Tanya was sent home. She was really upset, and so was I, that with her high risk pregnancy (at this point) and the fact that she was supposed to be seen every week, she felt like no one believed her that she is having some serious contractions. She was determined to come back Monday so that she could see her “primary” treating doctor, dr. Hsiao.

May 18, 2009
I was woken up shortly after midnight by our cell phones going off. I ran downstairs to the phone as I knew that at this hour, it could have been only Tanya calling us. Sure enough, on the other end was Tanya in pain informing us briefly that she is on the way to the hospital and we need to get there NOW.

I don’t think we have ever gotten ready this fast. We got dressed, grabbed the hospital bag (that I have packed just a week ago), my breast pump and camera. The entire way to the hospital, I was hoping that she was just being admitted for her severe contractions but I was far from the fact. She was just 32 weeks and 4 days.

Audrey Michelle (Míša = Meesha) Cogbill was born on May 18th, at 12.40AM, she was 17 1/2″ and 4lb 6oz, she was breathing on her own, and all of her vitals were good so that she could wait for her parents’ arrival.

Tanya’s water never broke but Misa was determined to come out.

I tried to drive as fast as I could to get to the hospital on time but we still didn’t make it for the birth. She was born 17 minutes after Tanya arrived at the hospital and we arrived 6 minutes later.

Tanya was doing good. Her and Misa had a whole team of about 15 people assisting them. When we walked into the delivery room, it was very busy but everyone was pleased with Misa’s progress. We have then wheeled her to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Other then being kept under the warmer, and being monitored, having an IV providing her with fluids, she didn’t have to be in an incubator and she is there just for observation and to make sure she achieves all the necessary milestones and gains her strength. I am able to visit with her anytime day or night. I have spent the first two days with Tanya in her recovery room so that I could pump some milk and be close to her.

We were lucky that we have signed up with the biggest and the best Women’s hospital in the country.

Everybody was so knowledgeable and nice and made us feel really good when ever we had to leave Misa’s side.

They are prepared for everything, anytime and are very accommodating towards Jeremy and I, our families and Tanya as well.

Last night, about 20 hours after Misa’s birth, she was doing so good, that we were able to put her to my breast and she was latching on sucking, showing an amazing progress for a 32 weeker.

She loves being held, I am encouraged to put her on my naked chest and bond with her some more. It is so amazing, having this teeny tiny bundle in my arms.

To us she looks a lot like Jeremy but has lots of dark hair (when my mom saw her pictures, thought, she said that that is exactly what I looked like when they first brought me to her). Simply she is a cutie and she is doing just great!

We are hoping to move to a family care center where Misa and I could be alone and discharged soon after.

May 25, 2009

I think that the hardest part for me was to see our little bundle with all the wires, needles and monitores coming out of her. After all the years of struggling to have a baby, I couldn’t bare the thought of losing this one. It took me a while to believe to all the doctors telling me that she is absolutely fine and all the scary looking tubes are just for monitoring and to make sure she is getting all the proper nutrients.

As accommodating as Northside Hospital is, I am able to spend the day with Misa and go home for the night to get some rest. This way, I can be there for her diaper changes, I can hold her when she is being tube fed and I can nurse her when she can. At home I am still pumping every 3 hours and bring the milk to the hospital for processing.

Today is one weeks since Misa was born and she is doing excellent. She is up to 35ml of breast milk (inhanced by a few extra calories) per feeding and she is breast/bottle fed 4 times a day.

Once we can get to 8 feedings a day and maintain that for 2 days, we can bring her home. We are half way there and hoping that we can bring her home hopefully within the next 2 weeks, fingers crossed.

June 9, 2009

Today we are taking Audrey home. She has been eating on her own over 48 hours, she is maintaining her temperature and she is gaining weight. Even Baby Mama came.

Three days later we had our first pediatrician’s appointment. Dr. Ani liked everything about Misa, her color, weight gain, eating so no real concern other than checking her weight gain and her round of vaccinations at 2 months.

We have been told that babies born prematurely will spend the time until their real due date just sleeping and gaining weight and that her development should be measured from her scheduled birth date.

In Misa’s case it was July 8th.

Because I was still breastfeeding, pumping and bottle feeding the rest, we have rented the hospital scale for the first week we had her home to make sure she was getting enough to eat.

At the time of Misa’s scheduled due date she was way over 8 lbs just like any other full term baby.

Misa is making tremendous progress – she loves to relax on her belly, she is lifting her head and turning it. She can push herself up on her arms and she is observing things now. Especially her mobile in her crib, she is fascinated by it.

Audrey is a very good baby, making us very happy and proud. She is on target with her weight gain, growth and development. One would never guess that she was born 2 months earlier.

For now, our fertility journey is over but a new journey of parenthood begins.

Our years of struggle and dispair have quickly been forgotten once we held Audrey in our arms.

I believe, that if Jeremy and I could accomplish our dream so can you. Just don’t give up!!

Love Mag, Jeremy and Audrey.

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