About Me

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Caledonia, Northern Illinois, United States
I am a Thirty-Something mother of four beautiful girls. My love for them, and the joy I've experienced during this crazy ride called motherhood, has inspired me to help make the dream of a family become a reality for couples through gestational surrogacy. I've proudly helped A&T, as their lives were forever changed when they welcomed a son in April 2010 and K&S were blessed as parents in Sept 2012 when we welcomed their twin boys. I completed my final surrogacy journey Nov 2015 when I helped a wonderful local couple J&W and Big Brother add their family with the birth of twin boys. I am so very fortunate to have wonderful relationships with each one of my surro-families and continue to share in their lives.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Surro-love Sweetness

E&A are 4 weeks old today. Can't get enough of these lil faces.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Our Due Date - Welcome Home

Today is our 40 week due date, amazing how everything came together and now J&W have been getting to know their precious baby boys for nearly three weeks.

We've been in touch regularly and E&A are doing great.  Of course everyone is adjusting to the new tasks and schedules but sounds like things are going well.  They had a family photo shoot recently and I just adore the "Special Delivery" photo they shared.  I'm hoping we get in some snuggles soon, I haven't visited in about two weeks so I'm sure they've already changed quite a bit.

Welcome Home Emmett & Archer

I'm doing well.  I've been busy pumping round the clock to supply breast milk for the growing boys.  I love that for the third time my IPs have allowed me to do this. It's a big commitment and requires a lot of time and dedication to stop what you're doing every 3 hours to fit in a pump session, but it is a nice transition from my role as their Surrogate.  It helps me to continue to feel useful and it's great for my overall recovery and health.

This c/s recovery seems to be easier than the last.  I have had very little discomfort in regards to uterus shrinking/cramping and I was able to use my abdominal muscle to get out of bed, off the couch etc much sooner than last time.  Incision healing seems to be ok as well.  The hardest part has been sciatica pain on my right side that I had for the first couple of weeks - it's progressively getting better.  I did see my OB last week to follow up on the complications I had during delivery. She was very glad to see me doing so well, despite all I went through. My BP continues to stay elevated due to the preeclampisa so I'll continue to take HBP medication until my postpartum visit at 6 wks and reassess things then.  I'm also taking BP readings at home once a day just to keep a close eye on it because at any time it could begin to stabilize and then the meds would cause me to have issues with low blood pressure.

I had really wanted to return to work soon but my OB feels that due to the hemorrhage and preeclampsia, I'm at a higher risk for postpartum complications and has insisted that I take the full 6 weeks and denied clearance.  Considering the upcoming holiday and the time off I would have had already, it's not that many actual work days but January 7th still seems so far away!  I'm a little stir crazy but finding things to keep me busy.  I've been getting my holiday shopping done but I really need to do some more Christmas decorating, that's been slow going.

So for now I'm going to continue focusing on my recovery and enjoying this time over the holidays to spend with loved ones and just taking time to adjusting to life as usual again.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Happy Retirement

Final Belly Pic - 37w0d
Now that I've posted the somewhat "sugar-coated" Birth Story, I'm going to rewind a little bit and share the not so glamours part of our delivery experience.  Why, because I think it's important for those surrogates following my journey(s) and also because I know many of you were worried about me in the days following.  This is no doubt going to be long but a lot transpired that I want to share.

After all day monitoring Friday without any food, not even as much as an ice chip I was mentally wearing down.  All day they watched my blood pressure - just waiting, waiting, waiting for it to spike to 170/110 for immediate delivery.  I was anxious to see the numbers rise because I wanted to deliver but scared at the idea of dangerously high blood pressure.  Around 9 PM it became apparent that it wasn't going to happen and the OB wanted to continue to wait for my morning labs and/or my 24 hr urine collections to show the need for delivery.  Everyone was sent home.  My night in the hospital hooked up to monitors and an IV was long and restless.  The automatic BP cuff went off every hour and with each squeeze of my arm I'd check the monitor and my BP actually went back into what would be considered my normal range overnight. 

Morning came and still no word, no food, no water, no ice chips.  My nurse wasn't for sure but thought my OB was leaning towards delivery, just waiting on the confirmation of my labs.  I told my husband, IM & IF to make their way back up to the hospital by 11:00 AM so we could await results together.  After contacting them all - I cried, almost an ugly cry - I was beat. It was so frustrating not knowing the plan. I let them all know not to be surprised if I was a mess when they came up.  I was just so tired, hungry, uncomfortable and out of sorts.  I know my IPs felt awful for me, I'm usually such a positive and easy going person but enough was enough.  

Shift change came and my new nurse for the day Laura introduced herself.  Along with her bright smile came the news that the OR was ours at 11:00 AM. My blood work had shown increased levels of liver/kidney enzymes. I was hit with a huge sense of relief, then a quick moment of panic - I had just told everyone to be here at 11:00 AM and with a snowstorm outside if they didn't head over soon they'd be late!! (Although I was reassured that they wouldn't proceed without everyone) A quick text went out to let them all know that they should get up there without delay, it was BABY TIME!!!

After awhile IM/IF and my husband all joined me and with much anticipation we waited ... then we waited a lil more because we got bumped.  No worries, we took the extra time to say hello to a few of IM's family members that came up.  Adrenaline was flowing but I was still pretty tired at this point, we decided it would be good to give me a few quiet moments before the delivery.  Everyone left the room and I put in my earbuds to stream some relaxing music.  I closed my eyes and that's when the instrumental version of " A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri came on. The moment was emotional as I felt my belly buddies movements from inside - for the very last time.  My thoughts drifted to my IPs, past and present, who awaited this very moment for so long.  The heartache, the sacrifice, the acceptance, the trust, the anticipation ...

Time stands still
Beauty is all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything take away
What's standing in front of me
Every breath
Every hour has come to this

I have died everyday waiting for you
Darling, don't be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

All along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

One step closer
One step closer

Everyone reassembled and then it was time, time for J&W to meet their babies.  I was taken back to the OR first and given my spinal, I was draped and IPs brought in.  The delivery as I described in my previous post was exciting.  J&W were over the moon that their BOYS had arrived.  They were perfect in every way.

Proud IM with Archer (L) & Emmet (R)
IPs left the OR with their precious lil bundles in arms and off to the nursery for assessments and skin to skin time.  Back in the OR I was being closed up and prepped to head over to recovery.  My OB commented on how thin my uterus was, not really a surprise seeing as it had grown nine babies which included two sets of twins.  She finished up and within a few minutes the OR staff was down to a few nurses making notes and counting instruments and as well as the anesthesiologist.  They began to move me from the table to a cot to transfer me to recovery when suddenly, I began to hemorrhage.  The room became tense, my OB rushed back in and what was just moments ago only a few nurses multiplied into a team of at least a dozen or more.  Instructions were being called out, meds administered, blood ordered .... I knew what was happening yet remained calm. I felt safe, I felt at peace with the possibility that I could very well need hysterectomy.  Ultimately my OB decided to place a balloon in my uterus to help control the bleeding and thankfully that got it under control - now we just had to wait and see if I continued to remain stable.  Eventually I was moved over to recovery, during my duration there I received two units of blood and they closely monitored my bleeding as well as my blood pressure which was now extremely elevated - those 170/110 numbers I talked about earlier were surpassed which means I would later need to be given anti-seizure medication.  All this while Jason was in and out of the recovery area getting small little updates on my condition.  I know those types of situations make him incredibly uncomfortable, so I told him to stay nearby but not too close for comfort.  Eventually I was moved but instead of going to the Mother/Baby unit as usual, I went back to L&D for skilled nursing care and to stay close to the OR - just in case they had to take me back in.

I was meet in my L&D room by Jason and best friend Daisy, by now it's close to 6:00 PM several hours since surgery.  They continued to check my vitals and bleeding, and at one point they became concerned again and cleared everyone out of my room while the doctor was called back in.  Thankfully everything was back under control and that's about the time they started my magnesium sulfate, the anti-seizure med that I'd be on for the next 24 hours due to the preeclampsia.  By this point I felt like shit; vomiting, numb, headache, and pale.  I got more meds to calm the nausea and was started on pain meds that left me feeling incredibly tired and just plain out of it.  IPs did come by to check on me, they had been very worried.  I wish I could have reassured them then that I would be fine but really I didn't know, and I certainly didn't look fine that's for sure.  

Shift change came and the nursing staff continued to keep a watchful eye on me through the night. Jason stayed with me as well and then into the next day (Sun).  I was relieved come morning to see a familiar face as I was again going to have Laura for my nurse who had been with me the day prior.  She really made me feel like I was her top priority with her attentive care.  I spent the day restricted to the bed, still not allowed to eat and doped up on pain meds - time dragged on yet seemed like it passed so quickly too.  At some point I wasn't even hungry anymore.  Unlike my normal self I was disconnected from the world.  I felt too awful to make phone calls, return texts or post updates online.  The mag sulfate was effecting my eyes and I couldn't focus, and then I got a killer headache.  Not sure if that was due to the eye strain, not eating, the meds themselves, maybe even the HBP.  It hurt.  Jason went home to be with the girls and my mom came up to tend to my bedside. Finally, around 3:00 PM more than 24 hours after delivery they started to deflate the balloon of saline that was in my uterus in small increments to be sure the bleeding was still under control.  Around 6:00 PM it was out, my cath was out and I finished my final IV dose of mag sulfate - I was a FREE woman!!!  It was time to move over to Mother/Baby unit and continue the recovery process there.

Things were slow going and I was exhausted but, I finally got to meet and hold the babies and visited with J&W in my room for awhile.  They were just so very precious and Mom and Dad had fallen instantly in love with their sweet boys.

Surro-twins - two days old
The rest of my time in the hospital went as it should with the exception of having my BP monitored closely and being put on Rx meds to keep it in check.  I had several members of the nursing staff and all three OB's who provided care to me over the course of the pregnancy and during the delivery stop in to tell me how very fortunate my outcome was.  I knew at the time it wasn't good, but hearing the professionals say this when this is what they do day in and out made me so very grateful for their quick actions and for the amazing care and attention they gave me.  Thank you Dr. K, Dr. M, Dr. G, Dr. B and a big thanks to to my L&D nurse Laura, who was there through the worst of it, and the many others involved in my care.

As my warning to the surrogacy community;  Please, understand why so many experienced surrogates will warn against perusing surrogacy before your own family is complete. You just never know.  I was at peace knowing ultimately what the outcome could be.  My advice to you, be sure you would be too.  The risks are very real.

I was told subsequent c/s recoveries are easier and I totally agree.  Since coming home I feel stronger each day and the healing process has gone exceptionally well.  I'm providing breast milk for E&A just as I have my other surro-babes so, the round the clock pumping keeps me busy.  I've been able to spend some time with IPs and their new additions on several occasions already since all coming home and the boys are already changing.  Mom and Dad are getting use to the new schedule and Big Brother is adjusting to having two new baby brothers.

So now I close a chapter.  Jason and I had already decided that this would be my final journey but the outcome of this delivery has also sealed my fate physically - I am now a retired surrogate.  I feel so very blessed to have had the amazing experiences that I have.  Eight years, three families, five beautiful children. Jason, the girls and I have gained lifelong friends - extended family - through this amazing experience and I can't express how grateful I am for that.  I often hear what a blessing I am, an angel etc but these relationships have been just as meaningful to me.  Besides the emotional rewards, surrogacy has also afforded my family and I some wonderful material blessings we wouldn't have had otherwise.  A huge thank you to my IPs, past and present, for everything!

I intend to continue to update so this isn't the end but, I am closing a chapter and starting a new one.  I am excited to see what lies ahead as I refresh, renew and refocus my attention on the family that inspired my passion to help others - my amazing husband and four lovely daughters.

My heart is full -

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Babies Are Here !!! (Birth Story)

Not sure how it's possible but the last couple of days have been a whirlwind, yet also the longest ever at the same time.  I'm going to tell about the day leading up to their arrival as well as their birth story here now, and share separately my experience in the moments and hours after delivery in another entry.  So, first I'll start with the important details ....

On November 21st, 2015, Emmett Gregory (Baby A) entered the world and was 6lbs 5 oz and 19 1/2 inches at 2:00 pm.  Just moments later at 2:02 pm Archer Timothy (Baby B) who was 7lbs 4oz and also 19 1/2 inches joined us.  Babies were born at 37w1d via cesarean section healthy and alert making J&W the very happy proud parents of twin BOYS!  Congratulations!!! 

As I shared in my last post, on Friday (37w0d) I was admitted to the hospital for observation.  We were all very hopeful that it would be "baby day" as I called IM and then both my husband Jason and IF out of work. After getting up to the hospital they ran labs and decided to start a 24 hour urine collection and monitor for pre-eclampsia.  Throughout the day there were mild signs that my my BP was rising but nothing definitive enough to warrant immediate delivery - so we waited.  Around 9 PM on Friday we were told since I was stable nothing was going to happen overnight so, I sent everyone home for a good nights sleep while outside the skies were heavy with the snowflakes of the years first winter storm.

I had a very long night; hospital bed + round the clock monitoring + being very uncomfortably pregnant with twins = no sleep.

Just after sunrise on Saturday morning, blood work was run and before the 24 hr urine collection/results were processed it was obvious my condition was going to get worse before it got better so, since the only cure for pre-eclampsiais is delivery -  it was go time.  I excitedly called everyone to let them know we were being put on the OR schedule and to get everything in order and head up to the hospital. I was oblivious to the winter wonderland outside but after digging their way out and making their way down the slippery streets as the snow continued to fall, Jason as well as J&W all arrived at the hospital around 10:30 am.

A lot of excitement and silliness was in the air as we waited for the next instructions.  Members of J&W's families came into say HI and wish us all the very best of luck and then made their way to the family waiting area, all very anxious and excited.   Finally around 1:00 pm doctors and nurses stopped in my room to give instructions and answer any questions, shortly after I was taken back while J&W suited up in scrubs.

This was my second c/s so I was a bit more prepared for what was ahead.  As I plopped my backside up on the operating table waiting for my spinal I looked around and took everything in.  They kept reassuring me it was all going to be ok, when really I was just curious - not nervous.  The spinal went in and within moments my feet, legs and all the up to my chest went numb.  I was draped and readied as J&W were brought in and given their place to stand.

The OR and NICU teams were great explaining at each step what was happening.  It only took a few moments and then - the world around us all changed as the first baby was delivered.  Mind you IPs did not know the gender of either so, when the doctor presented them with baby and announced, "It's a BOY!" there were squeals and tears of happiness.  The next baby was ready to be delivered and the OB thought it would be fun to have the team bring baby over to the warmer where J&W got to look and announce to everyone the gender of the second baby, "Another BOY!".

I loved watching and hearing all this unfold there in front of me - it's the moment we surrogates look forward to the most.  The moment that truly makes them a family - finally all together - falling in love with precious little people that seemed like only a dream when this journey began for J&W over 3 years ago.  And also in those same few moments, my beautiful journey as a surrogate was complete.  It's bittersweet but I know it doesn't end here, because from these experiences I have gained lifelong enduring friendships with the three families I've helped.  I can't wait to explore the next chapter as these precious baby boys grow in the arms and hearts of their parents, family, and friends -  just as Giovanni and Ryan and Mason have.

IPs and babies - 2 days old

Love you all  ~

Friday, November 20, 2015

Com'n Babies

Week 37

37w0d (Friday) - Spent the day with J&W being monitored at the hospital.  BP has been elevated but not high enough to warrant delivery.  I've been admitted and likely here for the duration but since all is stable for now, everybody else has gone home on this snowy night in hopes to get a good nights sleep.  Night, night .... keep ya posted.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Countdown Continues

36 weeks

36w0d (Friday) - Wow, I can't believe we made it to 36 weeks!  I was convinced these babies would be here earlier than my last surro-twins yet here we are just a couple days away from that.  Of course things could change quickly so IPs are still on high alert and we are all ready come go time.  I'm going to get a pedicure over the weekend to give some attention to these tired swollen feet - maybe a little layman's reflexology will do the trick to get things going if my body is ready.

36w1d (Saturday) - Woke up this morning feeling pretty rested despite spending a good portion of the night on the couch.  The girls and I headed out to run around to morning activities (piano & gymnastics) and then home to do some light housework.  After all that I was exhausted and ready for a nap.  Later in the day bestie Daisy came and picked me up, she was my chauffeur for errands and then out to dinner.  It was nice to get some of my running done that I'd been putting off and wasn't sure I'd get in before babies arrived.

Nothing new on the baby front.  Tomorrow will mark the same gestation that I went into spontaneous labor with last surro-twins.  However, there was one big difference about that pregnancy. Last time, Baby A was vertex or directly head down putting pressure on my cervix whereas this time, Baby A is more transverse, laying across the bottom of my uterus and Baby B is breech similar to shown here in the picture.  This could very well be what keeps them in longer than I expected and really at this point there is no chance in them changing position.  As long as they're comfy we'll just keep on going taking it one day at a time.

36w2d (Sunday) - Hi!  Still here. That's all I gotta say about that.

36w3d (Monday) - Never in a million years did I think I'd carry these babies longer than last surro-twins but I have.  I had an NST today and after getting stubborn Baby B on the monitor all went well.  Good accel/decel episodes and a couple small inconsistent contractions.  My BP has been elevated for what's normal for me the last two appointments so I'm supposed to keep a close eye on any possible Pre-E symptoms that could come up like headache, seeing spots, pain in my chest etc.  Besides the annoying headache that lasted a few days back two weeks ago now, I haven't had any of those issues.

My days are good, I do what I can and rest when I want, but the nights are long.  It's hard when you have a 6-8 hr stretch in front of ya where you know you should be sleeping, but just can't and you're up every 1-2 hours for this or that.  Sometimes I'll get up and use the bathroom, then head back to bed - fall asleep - but when I get back up again I realize only about 15-20 minute have actually passed.  I'm still dealing with the all over body itch I mentioned a few weeks back, it's enough to drive ya crazy!!! Soon, very soon.

36w4d (Tuesday) - I posted this on my Facebook page, thought I'd share it here too.  I can't wait to experience these emotions again and share them with J&W as they welcome their lil ones.

36w5d (Wednesday) - This about sums it up ...

36w6d (Thursday) - I had another long night of contractions last night, but again they fizzled out.  Started around 11pm, at 1am I decided to shower and try and get some rest which didn't work out too well - contractions were causing round ligament pain so I was having a hard time getting comfortable.  My plan was to time contractions and not wake the "team" until 5am as long as they reminded mild.  They were about 8-10 min apart from about 3-4am but I was so tired I found myself falling asleep in between them .... eventually they must have went away because I was woken up at 6am by my alarm clock.  Although frustrating that they went away, going up to L&D in the middle of the night was not really ideal either.

Today I had an OB appointment and J&W were able to join me.  I was glad we were all able to meet up face to face with the doctor before the big day arrived.  Babies looked beautiful on the NST as well as the BPP u/s.  They were doing some great practice breathing and fluid levels were within the norm.  They are hanging in there and apparently nice and comfy.

My weight has been fluctuating a lot lately due to water retention/edema.  The other thing my OB has been noticing is my BP creeping up over the last couple of weeks.  I usually sit around 110/70 and today's BP was 138/88, anything 140/90 is considered pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH) and reason for concern.  I also had +1 protein in my urine.  Initially Dr. K mentioned doing 24 hour urine collection to monitor but decided to go right to blood work that will check for liver & kidney function as well as platelet levels - all indicators of the severity of PIH.  Depending on results, our c/s could get moved up without hesitation.  Preeclampsia is not something to mess around with and can have a negative effect on both babies and my health.  I'm not showing any other symptoms (blurred vision, headaches, etc) which is good but that doesn't mean the risk isn't there.  I'm anticipating getting results tomorrow and we'll know more about the timeline then.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Countdown

I think it's safe to say, we have arrived to the Final Countdown.  Breaking things down day by day until babies come ....

35 Weeks

35w0d (Friday) - I thought maybe, just maybe today was the day but, after several hours of mild contractions - a lil over a minute long each that started at 20 min apart and got as close as 10 min apart - they fizzled out.  This delivery will be a repeat c/s, however it won't be schedule until we've reached 38 wks and I'm convinced I'll go into labor before then.  Now that we're past 34 weeks, if contractions kick in that start to make cervical change (dilation) or my water breaks they'll take babies right away but otherwise - we wait.  We very well could have a few of these false starts over the next few days, or weeks.

Last night we had made plans to go towards the suburbs for my best friend and fellow surro-sister Daisy's birthday, but decided after a day of contractions it was best to stay local.  We had a nice dinner downtown to celebrate.  I'm lucky to have such a great friend who's always there either for a laugh or to lean on.  I couldn't imagine this journey through motherhood, surrogacy, and just life in general without her.  Happy Birthday Daisy!!

Surro-sister Bump Pic

35w1d (Saturday) - I started the morning off talking to IM on the phone and checking in for the day.  It's been quiet and uneventful.  There have only been a few random BH like contractions here and there.  For not doing much today I'm feeling pretty swollen though - face, feet and everything in between.  I'm keeping my legs elevated and drinking tons of water but the swelling is inevitable at this point.  I did fit in a nap while watching a movie with the girls so I'm feeling rested.  It's about that time of day when babies get really active and then once they settle down for the night I'll hopefully get in a couple of good stretches of sleep.

35w2d (Sunday) - Another day down.  All was pretty quiet, I had a very low key day and trying not to antagonize my achey body.  The girls and I went to my parents house for dinner and it was so nice to not have to worry about a meal for the night.  I'm so very lucky to have a great support system to help in these final weeks/days.

I just wanted to share this picture that IM posted.  This is their lil guy doing some driveway art - a pic of their family.  I can't wait for these babies to be in their arms. 

35w3d (Monday) - I think my status has officially become human incubator.  LOL  I'm not able to do much else right now other than grow babies - I remember reaching this point last time as well. I did get adventurous and walked to the mailbox at the end of our circle driveway today.

35w4d (Tuesday) - Well, looks like another uneventful day.  My feet started to swell in the last week or two when I'd be on them for long but now it doesn't make a difference, they're swollen all the time.  It looks worse than it is, they just feel a little tight and itchy.  Hey, at least now I have a good excuse to wear my beloved flip flops into fall.  Overall not a bad day but, so very ready at the same time though.

35w5d (Wednesday) -  Today I saw my OB and , nothing too exciting happening unfortunately.  First I had u/s and babies looked good.  Racked up all their BPP points.  Then it was on to NST and OB. BP & urine ok, my weight was up significantly from last week thanks to water retention. I had two mild and one decent contraction while on the monitor  - Baby B didn't like the strong one and had a decel in HR setting off the alarm, but recovered quickly - so Dr. K wasn't concerned.  Since we were doing the GBS test today and she was gonna be down there anyway she went ahead and checked me and I'm sitting at 1 cm and Baby A is high yet.  I've never been one to dilate much before labor starts so not surprised.  Next week I have an NST Monday and OB with u/s and NST on Thurs ... assuming babies aren't here before then.

35w6d (Thursday) - Nothing much happening here.  I've been laying low the last couple of weeks to ensure babies made it to at least 35/36 weeks but I think it's time to get moving as much as I can again to convince them they should come out.  Based on my history, I'd assume something would happen on it's own here soon but, we do have an official c-section date if not.  Babies will be joining mom, dad and big brother at the latest Friday 11/27 at 7:30 AM.  Two for one special on Black Friday!!  I'm very hopeful however that these lil turkeys are here, and even possibly home already, for the Thanksgiving holiday and don't make us wait that long.

Just Hanging in There

It's 3:00 AM and I can't sleep, seems like a good time for some Law & Order and an update right?

Yesterday we had what will likely be our final MFM appointment.  It started with an NST which babies were very cooperative for and both looked lovely.  We then made our way to u/s to get a peek at how these two "lil" ones are growing.  Unfortunately babies weren't very photogenic, their position prevented us from getting any great pics but the tech was able to get all the necessary measurements to make an estimate on their size.  As of now (34w6d) Baby A is estimated to be 5lbs 13oz and Baby B 6lbs 2oz - and they may have more time to grow yet!  Of course these late term u/s can sometimes be off by a pound or more either way but since they've consistently been in the upper percentiles, I'm guessing they'll both be good sized.

My very good friend Daisy, who sees IM on a regular basis, outed me and told her how miserable I've been.  It's true, it's been a little rough these last few days.  I actually text IM the other night and told her that her babies wanted to come home. LOL  Besides just being very pregnant, I've been super itchy these last couple of weeks.  My OB ran some additional labs to rule out something such as chlolestasis - which thankfully checked out ok.  I'm thinking it may be an allergic reaction to the new acid reflux med I'm on so I'm going to try eliminating that and see if it helps.  I also had a headache that's not intense but has lingered for a few days and Tylenol hasn't helped much.  It's not that it's all that bad but in addition to everything else it's been frustrating.  Yesterday was a pretty good day though and that's all I can do, take it one day at a time.

In promising news ... in the last 12 hours I've had my first timeable contractions of the pregnancy.  Mild contractions are a good sign that my body is getting ready.  The ones from last night fizzled out and went away but reappeared just a bit ago (could've been what woke me up in the first place). So, for now we just keep an eye on them and if they kick in and get stronger or become more frequent, we'll head in for some monitoring.  Today (Friday) marks 35 weeks, which is average gestation for twins, and although I'm willing to keep them in here longer if needed - I'm ready when they are!!!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

It's November!!! (34 Weeks)

Hello November, we've been waiting for you.  Our "twin due date" month has arrived which makes everything that much more real - OMG babies are going to be here soon!!!

I'm feeling good, just very cumbersome and ready for Mom and Dad to take over the sleepless nights.  Besides slowing down a lot these last couple of weeks, my nights are pretty restless as I'm up every 2 hours or so to either change positions (which is no small task), use the bathroom, make a lap around the house to stretch out my hips or change things up by moving to the couch - where I can sleep a bit more upright.  Most nights I can fall right back to sleep but I've had a few insomnia episodes where I find myself watching AFV at 3:00 am.  Acid reflux had gotten bad at night again so I'm on a new medication to keep that in check.  Babies are VERY active - the movement in a twin pregnancy is crazy -  and I'm feeling lots of pressure, even pain at times at the "exit".  I keep reminding these babes they'll be using the trap door so to please be kind and knock it off. LOL  No real signs that labor is near.  Braxton Hicks (BH) contractions have been frequent but rarely intense unless I have a full bladder.  I had some minimal spotting the other day, may or may not mean anything though.  I am noticing a bit more swelling in my hands and feet, but that's expected as we near the end.  Besides the fact that some days - just based on my size -  I'm convinced I'm about to burst, I think these babies are pretty comfortable in their cozy little rental space.

Our appointments are becoming very frequent, I'm being seen by the OB twice weekly now and we have what will probably be our last MFM appointment coming up on Thursday to check babies growth.  They are still measuring big - as in big enough for the doctor to question whether or not my GDM was being well controlled.  My sugars have been in check and pretty easy to manage with diet, as long as I pass on sweets and don't over indulge in carbs.  However, she thought maybe my glucose monitor, which I'm still using 4x per day, was giving inaccurate readings because these lil ones are still in the upper percentiles.  We ran some additional blood work and my A1C levels were within normal range - as I've said all along J&W just gave me big babies to grow. My OB would like to see us get as close to 38 wks as possible, lung maturity is the biggest concern right now, and each day they stay put the better for them.  However, based on my history (delivered previous surrotwins at 36w4d) I'm not sure that that's gonna happen. ;)   They'll continue to monitor me closely with the frequent appointments and weekly NST (non-stress tests) but there is no plan to schedule a c-section until we reach 38 wks.

Jason and I had the pleasure of spending an impromptu evening with J&W at their home last night.  We stopped in briefly to get some paperwork squared away and ended up staying into the early morning hours just chatting and enjoy one another's company.  The lower level of their house has been under full remodel for several months and now it's all finally coming together - just in time.  The nursery has fresh paint and carpet and the crib is going together today.  I love seeing their excitement as they get ready to welcome these two little ones.

You all have a little more time to get your guesses in for the baby pool, I'll close it out after Friday (11/6) which puts us at 35 wks (average twin gestation).  Still hopeful to keep them baking another week or two, or possibly three but it's definitely just a matter of time now!

I'll update again later this week after our appointments. :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


32 weeks, about another month till we meet these babies!!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

More Fall Fun (GS#1)

We were able to sneak in a visit to a favorite fall destination, Goebbert's Pumpkin Patch over the weekend.  This time we were joined by my first surro-family - Giovanni and his parents A&T.

It was a beautiful day and the kids had fun as usual running through the haunted house, jumping on the bouncy pillow, visiting the exotic animals and playing in the corn crib.

Mr. G is now in Kindergarten and the transition went well.  He's enjoying school and making friends.  IF couldn't wait to put Giovanni in soccer so he's being introduced to that now and having fun with it.  The family also recently moved out of the city and more towards the suburbs closer to grandparents.  We are looking forward to seeing their new space when we visit again in December, which will be here before we know it.

I have a few pics to add to the photo album, can't believe how big this special guy is.  He's grown so fast!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pumpkin Patch 2015 (GS#2)

Although we just saw the boys recently at their 3rd birthday party, we were also able to sneak in our annual Pumpkin Patch visit with the twins last weekend.  It was fun to see Ryan and Mason and Daddy.  The boys enjoyed pony rides, inflatables and snacks and kept us all busy as they explored with our girls.  This year we opted to stay a little closer to our hometown since I'm carrying J&W's lil ones and feeling very pregnant these days.

Here are a few pics of our day.

Mason taking the lead pony

Howdy Mason
Giddy-up Ryan

Friday, October 9, 2015

An Incredible Loss

Yesterday evening the surrogacy community was rocked as news poured in that a fellow experienced surrogate from Idaho had just lost her life near the very end of her current journey. She was 37 weeks with twins, scheduled to be induced today, but suffered from complications yesterday and could not be saved. She leaves behind a husband and 3 boys. The surrotwins she was carrying, who were delivered by emergency cesarean, are in critical condition and fighting for their lives.

This outcome is rare, the first I've heard of in the eight years I've been involved in this process, but the news comes at a vulnerable time seeing as I am 31 weeks pregnant with surrotwins myself.

 While we surrogates understand that there are risks involved when helping others expand their families, we make informed decisions along the way and have many backup plans in place just in case, knowing its all worth it to help ease the heartache of an infertile couple. Until the worst case scenario does happen. My heart is so heavy over this situation. Please keep this family, and the twins family, in your thoughts and prayers.

Monday, September 28, 2015

(Nearly) 30 weeks

Can you believe we are headed into the home stretch!  At one point this pregnancy felt like it was going to go on forever and now here I am packing a hospital bag and making arrangements for delivery day and IPs are painting the nursery and moving in furniture!

Baby A (top) Baby B (bottom)
Babies are very active and continue to grow and grow.  We have another visit with MFM coming up for a growth u/s to get an estimate on their sizes.  Here are a couple of sweet images from the last OB appt.  Getting a lil baby squish on them now!!!  Aren't they just too cute!!!

Things are going well.  I did end up not passing the 3 hr GTT so I've been diagnosed as having gestational diabetes (GDM).  This is a first for me and although it comes with a few risks to myself and babies, if well controlled we all should do just fine.  My OB suggested I start modifying my diet about 6 wks ago and that was going well but, unfortunately with the GDM diagnosis not only do I have to watch what I eat but I also have to monitor blood sugar levels so, on Friday I met with the dietitian and picked up my glucometer.  I take my blood sugar readings 4x daily, once after waking up and then an hour after each meal and I also have to document what I'm eating throughout the day.  If anything the dietitian was concerned with how infrequently I was eating so I'm being very diligent about taking in enough nutrients by getting in three decent meals and a few snacks while still keeping a close eye on my carb(sugar) intake.  I follow up with both my OB and the dietitian in about a week to find out if the GDM is being controlled well enough by diet alone or if we have to consider medication.  Fingers crossed for a good update.

Just for fun I'm adding a baby poll to this post and it will also be available in the sidebar with the full blog layout.  Would love to hear your guesses.  Remember, full term due date is December 11th but due to being multiples, if I don't go into labor on my own before 38 weeks (November 27th), my OB will deliver babies via c-section right around that date .  Babies have been measuring big and we DO NOT know gender of either A or B.  Have fun!!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Big Milestones (GS#1 & GS#2)

There have a been a few big milestones with my surrofams these past few weeks.

Giovanni started KINDERGARTEN!!  Mom and dad weren't quite ready for this.  Despite them both having jobs that keep them busy, they've been able to avoid daycare over the years and besides some help from Grandma Lou, he's been home with the two of them until this transition.  We have a trip to the apple orchard planned in a few weeks and I can't wait to hear how everyone is adjusting. (Picture in GSx1 photo album)

This past weekend my family and I made our way to Chicago to help Ryan and Mason celebrate their 3rd birthday.  I just can't believe it, three years since these beautiful little boys stole away our hearts and K & S were blessed by their arrival.

Momma held their party at a pizza place downtown Chicago complete with balloon twister to keep the kids entertained.  Some of his creations were pretty darn cool.  She also had a professional photographer on hand to capture memories from the day.  We bribed the boys at the end that they could open a gift if they smiled nice and said "cheese" to get a pic with me.  Oh man did they ham it up!!  The photographer said I got the best pics of the day with them.  I can't wait for IM to share those.

Ryan (L) & Mason (R)
We have another little get together planned in a few weeks at the pumpkin patch that will allow me a little one on one time with these goofballs.  Can't wait. :)  Here's a pic of the silly three year-olds till then. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

26 Weeks

We ended last week with an uneventful MFM appointment.  Babies were both measuring approximately 2lbs 5oz which still puts them close to the 90th percentile.  There had been some concern a few weeks back about the increased amniotic fluid levels but that was back within normal range which was good news and the blood work I had run a few weeks back came back negative for any kind of intrauterine infection.

Yesterday I followed up with OB for a routine visit and to also take the 1-hour GTT. We had a quick u/s to check heart tones which were perfect.  Despite a few days prior Baby A being transverse and Baby B being breech, yesterday they were both breech with heads up under my rib cage. Ouch.  BP and urine were fine and I only gained 2 lbs the last few weeks.  Yay!  After my rapid gain of 8 lbs over a similar time span last check up, I was relieved to hear this news.  I've been modifying my diet and cutting out/back on sugars and carbs and it seems to be working.  Despite my efforts though, I still failed the 1-hour GTT.   Although I'm not entirely surprised it's still a bummer.  My result was 155, the guideline is typically under 140 but my OB actually uses under 135 as her cut off.  So, I will head back in bright and early Saturday AM to have the 3-hour GTT done.  Since I haven't passed the 1-hour my last four pregnancies now, this will be my 4th time taking the 3-hour.  When you add up ALL the time I've spent taking this wonderful screening test over seven pregnancies, it comes up to be 24 hours of my life - an entire day!  I'm hopeful the result comes back within normal limits otherwise we will be looking at a gestational diabetes diagnosis which I've never had before.

Overall I'm feeling pretty good, very pregnant but good.  I am welcoming the cool down in weather that is coming and recently modified my work schedule by going down to part-time.  The last few weeks had become rough working full days.  Although I was doing my best to hang in there and work at a normal pace, I'd come home exhausted with no energy to offer my family.  The change in hours will allow me a good balance between work, family and rest.

I am seeing the OB every two weeks now and we will continue our monthly MFM growth scan appointments as well.  I'm hoping to carry these lil ones to 36 weeks, so another 10 weeks or so to go.   I have no doubt with the frequency of appointments picking up here now as we begin the third trimester it will be here before we know it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

24 Weeks

We've had a couple of recent appointments so here's the latest.  Babies are growing like weeds and measuring in almost the 90th percentile each. (Yikes!!) They are averaging about 1.5 lbs and doing great. Here is an adorable pic of babies snuggle together.  Their heads were nestled in by my right hip (vertex) side by side.
It's obvious my belly is growing, so just for fun I had my OB take a fundal height measurement and my 24 week bump.  It is measuring 36 cm or comparatively to what would be expected at 36 weeks gestation with a singleton.  Oh my!  Although they are growing beautifully, there are some concerns.  I have excess fluid and based on babies size and my faster than usual weight gain, I may be developing gestational diabetes (GD).  Boo!

Fraternal Twins 24 weeks
For now I've been instructed to modify my diet, reducing the amount of carbs and sugars I'm eating.  I already took a glucose tolerance test (GTT) at 16 weeks and there were no concerns, but we've moved up the next one - which is typically done at 28 weeks - and I'll be taking it at 25 weeks instead.  There are some risks to both babies and I if I do indeed have GD so it's good that the doctors are being proactive with some early monitoring and lifestyle changes.  The sweets are a given and easy to identify but carbs are a little more difficult ... I'm just taking it one meal at a time.

24 weeks with J&W's twinsies
I've found a few things that are keeping me more comfortable as this belly continues to expand.  One thing I've discovered are compression socks/sleeves.  Oh my what a difference!!!  I was having a lot of discomfort in my legs and these work miracles.  I can tolerate being on my feet for longer periods of time which is significant while I'm still working yet.  I've also been able to find some more comfortable sleeping positions lately keeping my waking down to a bathroom trip or two a night.  It's the small things really.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

22 Weeks

Please excuse my pity party from last week, I'm feeling a little better these last few days.  I had a light work week and more time to rest.  Everything just happens so fast with twins, and then even faster yet with the 2nd set and I was feeling a little discouraged.  In my singleton pregnancies it was always around 30 weeks that I felt the "slow down" and I'm guessing physically I'm right about there - but we are only 21/22 weeks.  It becomes a little daunting to think ideally we still have another 14-16 weeks left to go before these little ones arrive.  Only thing to do is keep listening to my body so that physically/mentally I don't push myself too far, and just continue to take things one week or one day at a time.  Mom and dad need every bit of the next 3 months to get ready for their twins arrival so hopefully we all - myself and babies - can just hang in there!!

We've had a great weekend and had the pleasure of spending the day with my surrofam at the zoo yesterday.  It was nice to visit with my IPs and just chat about "stuff".  The funny thing about them being so very local is that I actually probably spend less time with J&G then I ever did my first two sets of IPs. My first two journeys when IPs would venture from Chicago out our way for an appointment we'd usually make a day of it, but this time with them being right here in Rockford, we often go our separate ways after seeing the doctor.  We still keep in touch via text/email often but our face to face time is probably less than I've experienced in the past.  I have a feeling as summer comes to an end and things slow down, we'll get a few more of these longer visits in before babies arrive.

Their four year-old, big brother-to-be "G", enjoyed hanging out with our girls checking out the animals and exhibits.  The highlight is always visiting the play zoo where the kids painted their faces and had fun dressing up as vets and caring for sick "animals" while the adults looked on.  We ended our day with dinner in the parking lot of our fav hotdog stand.

"G" (coyote), Lauren, Izzy (swan) & Chloe
I had really hoped IM/IF would have the opportunity to feel babies move - they are so wiggly these days -  but we just never really had a good quiet moment.  Hopefully there will be a next time soon. As we said our goodbyes "G" gave his new friends hugs.  IM pointed out to him that his new babies were growing in my belly but, he wasn't quite sure what to make of that. He's got a little time to warm up to the idea. LOL

Friday, July 31, 2015

21 Weeks

I wish I could say time was just flying by, but in reality I have no idea how I am going to do this another 3 1/2 months.  Yikes!  I'm already feeling cumbersome and all the side effects I've come to be familiar with over my last pregnancies are happening all that much sooner this time around.  I try not to complain because honestly, I know it's only gonna get worse and because I still am more than happy to make this happen for my IPs, but I think I can say without a doubt that these lil ones will be the final babies I will ever carry.

Just look at these two side by side pics.  I'm obviously bigger than I was with the last set of twins at this point, and I feel that I got HUGE with them by the end.  J&G gave me some big babies to grow. LOL  I'll do my best!!!

ETA: I went back to my blog post from when the first twin pic was taken and my OB had done a fundal height check at that appointment and I was measuring 28wks then ... Gulp.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Anatomy Scan

Yesterday we made our way to MFM for the "big" 20 week fetal anatomy scan. It's hard to believe that we are already more than half way through this twin pregnancy.  Wow!!   IM and I spent more than two hours getting glimpses of Baby A and Baby B who were very active and putting on a show. Baby B was being a bit stubborn and was giving the tech a hard time but, based on all the measurements everything looks perfect.

Baby A
Baby A had a heart rate of 143 and is measuring approximately a week ahead, Baby B had a heart rate of 148 and measurements are very similar.  Babies are both measuring in the 70th percentile so it's no wonder I feel very pregnant already!  They had best slow down or I'll be carrying 16 lbs of baby by the end. LOL  Baby A is laying low and transverse along the bottom of my uterus with legs stretched out to the left and Baby B is breech along my right side .... which puts them in kind of in a Ying & Yang position - at least for now while they still have room to stretch out.

Baby B
IM held strong and looked away so she would not catch a glimpse of either babies gender.  IPs have decided to hold out as long as they can. LOL  I myself know but, I'm not sharing with anyone so DON'T EVEN ASK!! No really, I'm so afraid to tell even just one person so my lips are sealed until J&G decide they want to know for themselves.

I'm overall doing well.  Cervix is long and closed and the previous partial placenta previa that caused some bleeding around week 14 has resolved.  Weight gain slowed down this month (thank goodness), BP and urine were fine.  The sickies from the 1st trimester are a thing of the past but, nasty heartburn has begun so I'm going to start meds daily to hopefully keep it at bay and I'm also already experiencing some early signs of circulation restriction in my legs so the OB has me taking once a day baby aspirin.  I'm starting to get uncomfortable but just chugging along for now because I know this is just the beginning.  Everything is happening even just a bit earlier than my last twin pregnancy, I think my body knows what it's in store for. I'm starting to feel lots of movement and they are getting stronger each day.  I can't wait for mom and dad to feel the first baby kicks for themselves. 

My IPs made their news FB official a few weeks back and they had an overwhelmingly positive response to the announcement.  I feel so honored that they have entrusted me with these two lil miracles and I can't wait until they are safely in J&G's arms and they can begin their life as a family of five.

Twins coming November 2015
We are excited to announce that after 3 long years of IVF, and with the help of our amazing friend and gestational carrier, our family is growing.  Someday we will be brave enough to share why this was the only option for us but, for now we just want to be like any other normal pregnant family and share our good news.
photo credit: Robert X. Fogarty

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Latest on Journey #3

No, you didn't miss a blog update and I apologize for the unusual silence over the last couple of months.  I've been slow to share the news because IPs are still waiting to make an official announcement of their own, and although most of you aren't privy to who they are, I certainly didn't want to take away from their moment.  However, as the weeks go on the harder it is to hide the status of our journey so, with their permission, I think it's time to let you all in on the latest.

Coming late 2015, IPs will be adding to their family x 2 ! 

First Glimpse @ 5w6d
Baby A and Baby B have been growing bigger and stronger each day and now at 16 weeks we have welcomed the security of the second trimester. Our official due date is December 11th (40 wks) but, I carried my last set of surrotwins to 36 weeks 4 days so if this pregnancy follows suit we're looking at mid November.

Things seem to be a little harder this time around.  I chalk it up to being just that much older and it might have something to do with this being pregnancy #7 and babies 8 & 9.  I really can't complain because I usually only experience queasiness and not full on nausea but, I will admit that the typical slowed digestion I experience in the first trimester was pretty rough for a number of weeks.  I went through a good two months of limiting my meals to snacks or I'd be miserable for hours - yet I've still managed to put on twelve pounds.  Gulp.  Just recently I've turned a corner and can sit down to dinner without fear of feeling awful afterwards.  Finally.

I have a very obvious bump now and have moved into almost all maternity clothes.  Along with the growing babies comes stronger babies and I've begun to feel subtle movements which is always an exciting milestone.  Each doctors visit brings us a little more reassurance and things seem to be progressing as they should.  We had a peek at babies again just last week and they are both measuring ahead by several days and had equal heart rates of 143 bpm.

Thank you again to everyone for supporting me in this journey.  I look forward to updating more as the weeks pass and anticipate my IPs will be sharing their news soon.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

Perfectly Positive

Several weeks have gone by since our transfer yet all has been quiet here on the blog, unusual for me I know.  My IPs weren't quite ready to share as we were all being cautious until an ultrasound but I'm thrilled to finally let you all in on our excitement.

We've had several betas to confirm and each has been perfectly positive, with a strong and steady rise.  Continue to keep us in your thoughts as we make our way through the 1st trimester.

Here's to a Happy & Healthy 9 Months !!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Transfer Day

Two beautiful 5d blasts were transferred today for my safe keeping.  They both looked good great  EXCELLENT and we couldn't be more excited about the potential this forth - and hopefully final - attempt holds. Praying for a positive!

Fresh Blastocyst rated -
  4AB+ and 4B+B 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Just Days Away ...

... from being PUPO (Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise).   A new protocol has resulted in a number of promising embryos that will hopefully bring us the long awaited outcome of a successful pregnancy. We are scheduled to transfer this upcoming Wednesday (3/25) and things are looking very good.  We've discussed transferring two lil maybe-babies and are keeping fingers crossed!!! Please send us all the positive thoughts you can!

In other surrogacy news.  I attended a taping of the Steve Harvey show at NBC Towers in Chicago this past week with a few surro friends.  The opportunity came up when EMS, the agency that I do some consulting for, offered tickets to anyone in the area that wanted to attend.  The show was doing a segment on surrogacy and the guests were a Surrogacy Together couple, Kathryn and  Jordan and their surrogate Kasey.

As with most media coverage of surrogacy, one has to be very careful that the story isn't portrayed negatively.  Yes, there are horror stories - on both sides - but overall surrogacy is an amazing experience full of emotional rewards, friendship and love.  Kathryn, Jordan and Kasey did a wonderful job describing their experience and the blessing that it was to both parties.  The "experts" that were brought in, a psychologist and lawyer, left something to be desired however.  They made a couple of comments that left me frustrated but, hopefully since our lil group of surros was seated directly behind them, our reactions complete with eye rolls and looks of consternation, will leave them no choice but to edit that part of the interview out. LOL  Overall it was a great experience though and I'm very happy I got to be a part of it.

Here is a pic of all of us following the taping in the Green Room.
(L-R) Jodi, Tiffany, Kathryn, Meredith, Kasey, Jordan, Daisy

You can find out more about the Surrogacy Together campaign or Expect Miracles Surrogacy by following the links below.

Expect Miracles Surrogacy -

Surrogacy Together -

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Poem of Hope

I stumbled across this poem today and while reading it, my eyes welled up and my heart swelled.  I've been so blessed to have been part of making my former Intend Parent's dreams come true and I cherish that we have stayed close and continue to share a relationship.  My hope is that this journey will end with the same feelings of love and friendship.  Being just weeks away from our next transfer, our anticipation escalates ... praying this will be the one.

A Surrogate Mother’s Poem of Hope

By Christa Lynch, 3 time gestational surrogate mother
Let me bring you peace and joy
Be this baby girl or boy

Your dream to sing sweet lullaby
Your precious babies healthy cry

Let me help you see the day
A child’s love takes your breath away

Reaching milestones like they do
Seeing the world through eyes so new

You’ve tried so hard, your journey long
My heart for service, my body strong

When your faith in miracles is feeling weak
I am that angel that you seek

Restoring hope inside of you
That wishes really do come true

As your baby develops and grows
Dissolving sorrows and healing your woes

Whose blessing is greater, we cannot be sure
We each had trials we had to endure

Replacing sadness with thanks and praise
A humble appreciation for those hard days

For once your baby is finally here
Your thoughts of me will always be dear

Whether time or distance should send us apart
You and your child will remain in my heart

A surrogate mother will always be
A cherished branch in your family tree

Saturday, February 7, 2015

It's that time again ...

I added these lovelies to my medicine cabinet today.  I start Lurpon on Friday (2/13) and we are anticipating transfer to be the last week of March.  I'll update as this cycle comes together, but we are very optimistic that the new protocol, for this fourth and hopefully final attempt, will bring success and an exciting end to 2015.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Helping One Family at a Time

Since the New Year is here I figured it was time for an update.

The last several weeks have been busy for our family and my IPs as well, but that hasn't stopped us in moving forward with a new plan.  Things are in the works and we will hopefully have some dates and another transfer to look forward to just before Spring.  Since a year has lapsed since we first started this journey and finalized contracts, we have a few things to check off the list before we can cycle again but hopefully all those tasks will be completed soon.  We are looking at the year ahead with renewed hope and faith that a successful pregnancy will be achieved, and maybe even a new addition to J&G's family before the end of 2015.

In the meantime, I'd like to share with you an article,
that recently was published in the TEAM SURROGACY
magazine highlighting my previous journeys.  I am so passionate about this amazing experience that makes dreams into families and I'm very honored to have the opportunity to help others - potential surrogates and intended parents alike - explore this wonderful family building process.