The Western Fertility Institute and the WFI Research at Men Having Babies Conference in San Francisco

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The Western Fertility Institute and the WFI Research had an amazing experience at the Men Having Babies’ Conference in San Francisco. The Conference was organized over two days: on January 13th and 14th.

 

JANUARY 13TH
On Saturday, before the beginning of the conference, the staff met an Australian couple. The Western Fertility Institute helped them to complete their family. The couple has two little daughters, and one of them was very little, she was just born 6 days before.

An interesting panel opened the Conference on Saturday: Is surrogacy right for you? Overview and personal stories”. It was divided in two sections: during the first section, two fathers and two surrogates discussed their journey; during the second one, a surrogate’s daughter and a gay couples’ daughter, discussed their story as well the beauty of their lives. It was fascinating for the WFI team to listen to their point of view, as well as all the other families, fathers, surrogates and children. This moment was also a huge opportunity for all the intended fathers who were attending the conference: it is quite different to listen to a story of surrogacy directly from people who have lived these kinds of experiences. Indeed, at the end of the panel, some IFs had asked questions regarding how to manage the relationship between parties.

Likewise, the second panel was quite amazing too: “A mindful look at surrogacy – Attitudes and Ethics”. Ron Poole-Dayan, surrogacy father and Executive Director of MHB, was the panelist of this section. The panelists discussed about the concerns about exploitation and commodification in surrogacy and on the experiences of surrogates. They highlighted that surrogacy cannot be considered as a simply transaction, because it involves emotions and feelings from all the people involved in the journey.
The common thread of the panel was the ethics: Ron suggested to have a look on the document entitled, “A Framework for Ethical Surrogacy for Intended Parents” visible on MHB website.

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Which are the “best practices” to assume during the surrogacy’s journey?
And indeed, at the end of this section, our Researcher Dr. Corinna S. Guerzoni presented her research “The Surrogacy Pathways: An Anthropological Analysis”.

All too often, we wait for others to forward our cause. We forget that it is our responsibility to advance our own culture and ideas that are important to us. It is our responsibility to be able to tell the world about what kind of experience it is for the intended parents, for the surrogates. This is why the Western Fertility Institute created the WFI Research, because it is keenly interested in surrogacy from all view points, medical, clinical, relational and socio-cultural. 

After dinner, the organizers projected a surrogacy movie “Baby Steps”. The Director and star of the movie presented and commented on it. It has showed the potential risks on Surrogacy as transactions, how it is performed in other countries.

JANUARY 14TH
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On Sunday the 14th, the conference started with a medical section: “Medical Aspects of Surrogacy”. Dr. Ashim Kumar had a speech, “From Sperm to Life

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He presented how the sperm is treated after the collection, which analysis are performed on the semen, and the difference between fresh and frozen cycle.

After lunch, it occurred the EXPO Parenting itself; our staff was there to answer all the questions of the Intended Fathers.

As Dr. Kumar said, the Western Fertility Institute loves to be part of this great connection with Men Having Babies. The Conference was an opportunity for several reasons. It was an occasion to meet other colleagues who work in the same field; having the possibility to share the clinical knowledge on Surrogacy with them. It was also an opportunity to listen to different IVF and patients’ experiences. This experience has been exciting and it was amazing to see all that energy only in one place.
Every information we collected is important for the Western Fertility Institute. The stories heard from intended fathers, surrogates and egg donors allow us to reflect on the path we observe daily; especially, on the difficulties of the route, on the importance of intertwining relationships between all the parties involved in the path, on the need to create a fertile environment in which to welcome the life experiences of men and women who undertake these paths. We will work hard to improve our practices and offer our patients the best care ever.

Thank You to Men Having Babies for having constructed such an amazing conference!

How Surrogates describe the Injections they have to do before the Embryo Transfer?

In a previous blogpost I talked about Francis and Melany’s story; two “sisters” who were waiting for the embryo transfer in Francis’ uterus. During the emotive interview, we discussed about the surrogacy journey and in particular about the medication that both the women had to take. Melany, the intended mother (IM), was under medication for the egg retrieval (link to Leslie), while Francis (the gestational surrogate – GS) was under medication for receiving the embryo. Melany took shots for 10 days while Francis took shots for 3 weeks, in order to prepare her uterus for the embryo transfer. Both the women, and especially Francis, who was the one who took the injections for most time, described the medication as “quite easy and funny”.

Francis: “Actually, it is a very funny experience, thanks to my sister. Have you ever seen the Pulp Fiction scene? It reminds me of that! My sister and my brother searched for the ‘perfect spot’ for the injection, and it reminds me of that scene every time. It is hilarious!

During the interview, Francis never mentioned the pain caused from the needles or for the medicine itself. She discussed more about the sacrifice she was doing for a family member, to bring happiness to her sister’s life.

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Not all the surrogates I interviewed have described their medication as a “funny experience”. Every woman defines it in a very different way. Some of the women I interviewed have defined the medication as the hardest part of the whole surrogacy journey. Like Mila, 36 years old, 20 weeks pregnant for a Chinese couple who said: “You know, it is hard to inject yourself every day. It is hard remembering to do it for a month, and it is hard mostly because it is an injection, you know! (Laughing). Especially, when you are at the end and you don’t have any spots available left, to inject the needle in. It is totally the worse part ever. The last week was very painful for me, because I perforated all my back and the medication is oil. Burn and sore, this is how I would describe the medication”.

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Nevertheless, as Mila told me, if the medication was a very hard part, it cannot be compared with the pain that infertile people could experience for years. In other words, Mila nuanced the pain she was feeling during the medication with the pain that the people that can’t have children generally go through. In her opinion, her pain was small in comparison to the one experienced from the intended parents. “The medication I have to take was nothing, it is not a big deal in comparison with the pain that infertile people live with. My couple was trying to conceive for more than 4 years. It is sad, so sad. When I heard their story, I wanted to help them. I cannot imagine my life without my kids.”

Francis and Mila are both surrogates, but they are living a different bodily sensation. Francis and Mila’s experiences, reminded me the study of Almeling and Willey (2017) “Same Medicine, Different Reasons: Comparing Women’s Bodily Experiences of Producing Eggs for Pregnancy or for Profit”. In their study, Almeling and Willey have analyzed the experience of infertile women using IVF to conceive a child and the experience of egg providers. The infertile describe the medication as painful and emotionally draining, while the egg providers, who have undergone the same medical treatments describe it as painless and quick. As the two sociologists pointed out, different individual’s bodily experience of medical intervention varies based on their reason for doing it. In these two stories we saw a completely different depiction of the medication. Francis, who was taking the shots in order to receive the embryos of her sister, described the medication like an “easy and funny” part; on the contrary Mila, who was taking the drugs for receiving the embryos of a Chinese couple, designed it as “sore and painful”. The reasons why these women started a journey as surrogates are different: Francis became a surrogate to help her sister, while Mila to help a family of strangers. Nevertheless, in both of these stories I captured a rhetoric of love and sacrifice to help someone’s having a child.
In conclusion, every woman defines the pain of the medication in a very different way, in relation of the reason why doing it.
References
Almeling R. and Willey 2017, “Same Medicine, Different Reasons: Comparing Women’s Bodily Experiences of Producing Eggs for Pregnancy or for Profit.” Social Science and Medicine.

 

Surrogacy as A story of sisterhood. The journey of Melany and Francis.

For me surrogacy is a resource. After all the years I spent on IVF treatments, all the miscarriages I had, this was an option that give me hope again. I spent more than 5 years trying to conceive a baby. I call this period ‘the Iraq of IVF’, because I think I have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). I was exhausted, but I was ready to start again… but then she offered me her help”.

This is how the interview began with Melany (invented name), an intended mother in her late 30s. She arrived at Western Fertility Institute after a long story of fertility issues. Melany was trying to conceive a child since 2010. Melany had undergone a series of egg retrievals. Her eggs were fertilized with the sperm of her husband, and now she just has a few embryos left.


Melany told me her sister in law Francis (invented name) proposed to carry a baby for her: “When she told me that, I was shocked. I didn’t expect that. Then, I discussed it with my husband. We were initially thinking about adoption, but then we made a comparison: the cost was the same and we had still some embryos left…” This is how Melany and her husband started to consider surrogacy like an option for their family.

During the interview, Francis told me she wanted to be a surrogate for another family member with infertility issues. But then she hasn’t really considered this option because she wanted her family to be completed: “I had just one kid at that time, I wasn’t sure to make it because I wanted another child. But this time it’s different because I have my 3 kids, I feel complete and ready to help, especially my sister. Yes, she is my sister in law, but I consider her just my sister. I am a baby maker, I am good at that. I want to bring some happiness in their life. I am so blessed she came into our lives, she is such a beautiful soul and she deserves to be a mother because she is amazing!”

Melany and Francis are working on the medication part: Francis is preparing her uterus to receive the embryo. As Quiana explained to us, the line of the uterus needs to be around 7mm. There are 3 weeks of medication and during the 4th week, the transfer occurs.

The medication is quite easy and funny. Actually, it is a very funny experience, thanks to my sister. Have you ever seen the Pulp Fiction scene? It reminds me of that! My sister and my brother search for the “perfect spot” for the injection, and it reminds me of that scene every time. It is hilarious!”

The transfer will occur in a couples of day. Melany and Francis are excited and they can’t wait for that day.

A good story to start this new year!

An interview with Quiana, Clinical Nurse Coordinator at WFI

Quiana works in the field of Women Health since 2005. She started in an OBG Clinic in where she gained a lot of knowledge regarding the fertility industry.

Quiana is a Clinical Nurse Coordinator at Western Fertility Institute.

I found it interesting and quite amazing what female bodies can do. It is a life outside of the body, it is like something between nature.”

Quiana works with egg donors, surrogates and people with different fertility issues. I asked her to describe her work with the 3rd parties. She follows egg donors and surrogates during the first part of the process, educating these women about the medication they have to take.

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Most of the women I speak with are educated. They want to know, they ask a lot of questions. I explain to them the medications and I ensure they are taking it on time.

Quiana explained to me the egg donation process. The ovarian stimulation takes from 7 to 10 days, sometimes much longer, it depends on the cases. When the injection starts, the donors are followed during the journey. On the 3rd day, 5th, 7th and 9th day, the blood test and the ultrasound occur to evaluate their response to the medication.

Every person has a different response. We make sure they are followed and there is no a hyper stimulation”.

On the 10th day, there is the trigger shot and 36 hours later the egg retrieval takes place. At that point, the egg donors are followed by medical assistants (for example, like Leslie).
Quiana also follows the surrogates. For gestational carriers, the process is longer because they have to prepare their uterus for the embryo transfer. As Quiana said:

The line of the uterus needs to be around 7mm. There are 3 weeks of medication and during the 4th week, the transfer occurs. We follow them until the 10th week of their pregnancy”.

The critical part of her work, as she said, is when the IVF doesn’t work, because she knows all the efforts that the people involved in these pathways went through. However, at the same time, she loves when she hears about the outcome of a new baby.
I asked Quiana her favorite part of the job and she mentioned, it is when the patients come back to visit the clinic.

Because also if they are the one that made everything, they show us a lot of gratitude and appreciation for the help we gave them”.

A Tale on Surrogacies: “I am a Repeat Surrogate, and my aunt was a Surrogate too”.

Today I would like to write the story of Debra (invented name), a young mother of 3 at her second experience as a surrogate. I met Debra after her last ultrasound here, at Western Fertility Institute. She is 10 weeks pregnant with a baby boy for a gay couple from the US. After the visit, we talked about her journey and thanks to that, I discovered her interesting story. As Debra told me, she wanted to be a surrogate since she was 19 years old. She heard about surrogacy thanks to her aunt Emily (invented name).

My aunt was a surrogate too while I was carrying my first child. We were pregnant together, I was carrying my older son, while she was carrying a baby for a gay couple in Northern California. It was an amazing experience, for both of us. My aunt was a traditional surrogate, it means that she used her eggs. Her egg was fertilized with the sperm of one of the intended fathers”.

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She told me that she couldn’t have done the traditional surrogacy, like her aunt did because, in that case, she would have considered the baby as hers. As Debra highlighted during the interview:

My eggs are my genetic. It is like give up a part of me. With the gestational surrogacy nothing of me is shared with the baby. The embryo I am carrying has nothing of me. I am just cooking him, but he belongs to his parents”.

Debra wanted her family to be completed before being a surrogate; she took this decision especially for her children, because she wanted to protect them and she wanted to be sure they were old enough to understand what surrogacy was. She knew her kids already had experiences of surrogacy, due to her aunt; but she wanted to explain to them and listen to their ideas about it.

Just after my last pregnancy, when I was 25, I closed my tubes, because I felt my family was complete. I had my kids, I was happy. After a while I started to talk about surrogacy to my children, I introduced the concept of surrogacy to them and I asked their thoughts about it. They were old enough to understand that and to tell me if they were okay with it. My older son asked me if I wanted to do this thing (pregnancy) again to my body. I found it a very cute, as I enjoyed all my previous pregnancies”.

Debra had a previous experience with a local straight couple. The intended mother wasn’t able to carry a pregnancy, so Debra carried a baby girl for her. In according with Debra, she felt sorry for the intended mother, unable to experience the pregnancy and have a child herself. After meeting the couple, she wanted to carry for them, because she wanted to give the joy of being a mother to another woman.
She told me how much that experience was intense for her.

I had a very wonderful experience with them. They were not living far from me, so sometimes we were having meetings during the whole pregnancy. At the delivery we both cried. I cried because I saw the emotions that the parents were feeling holding their little one”.

As Debra told me, she decided to carry again for a gay couple, because she wanted to have a complete experience of surrogacy.

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“I had a previous wonderful journey, I really loved it. I wanted to do it again. I have a lot of gay people in my family and I know they need help to have children. This is how I have chosen my second couple. At this time, I wanted to carry twins. But just one embryo attached. And this is it: I am 10 weeks pregnant with a little baby boy.”