How it all began....

Paul and I were married in July of 2005 and every day since then has been a complete joy! We moved to Central Florida and found an amazing church home at Family Bible Church ( There we met so many life-long friends. In August of 2007, we had our precious baby girl. Her name is McKenzie Renae. She was so beautiful when I saw her for the first time! After the delivery, we had a couple hours to talk and laugh with friends and family before something went terribly wrong. The next thing I knew I was being sent into emergency surgery. The doctor tried everything, but my uterus continued to bleed. So, after I was given 3 units of blood, her only option was to remove my uterus in order to save my life. Although I would have liked for things to turn out differently, I am so thankful that I am able to be with my family and friends. Of course, everyday wasn't all roses as I coped with the idea of not being able to have any more children. Paul and I had always thought we would have four children. After our McKenzie turned one I started to research other options for growing our family. It was solely a God-thing that caused all the pieces to fall into place.

One morning Kari called me up to ask if McKenzie and I wanted to go play at the park with her and Joselyn. It was there that Kari first expressed to me that she and Jon were interested in becoming a surrogate for Paul and me. I was blown away!! I let a few months go by and started to convince myself that it was a nice gesture, but she probably wasn't serious. Little did I know that she would be the "kick in the hind-quarters" that I needed to turn this dream of having more children into a reality! After those couple of emotionally low months, I was given the inspiration I needed to dive into the web of IVF. She assured me that this was something that God had placed into their hearts and they were the people for the job! Kari and Jon continue to amaze us with their eagerness to be a part of this adventure. As a matter of fact, one of the things Kari told me to get me out of my slump was, "We can do this together. This can be our little adventure!". So that is exactly what it has become! I can't wait to see what the future holds; and I hope it holds a new little baby...possibly two...Kari says three would be pushing it! hahaha

How I became "Kari the Carrier"

I remember exactly where I was standing when I was told that Andrea had a few complications post delivery and that her uterus had to be removed in order to save her life. The shock wave hit me like a ton of bricks. I was standing outside the church after a Wednesday night service when Jill broke the news to me. I immediately welled up and started crying, feeling broken-hearted for them. I couldn’t imagine the possibility of not having another child again. Over the next several months, every time I sat next to Andrea in church, a strong compassion would rise up inside of me. I felt like I wanted to help her in any way that I could, and that is when the surrogacy seed was planted in my heart. I never said a word about the idea to either her or my husband Jon, but the seed continued to grow week after week. I believe with all my heart that the supernatural compassion I felt in those moments was from God, preparing my heart for something special.

I decided to ask my husband about what he thought about me becoming a surrogate for Paul and Andrea; his response was an immediate “yes!!!” He was completely supportive and even encouraged me to speak to Andrea about it right away.

A few months later, I was at home with my daughter, Joselyn, and was thinking about going to the park. I called Andrea up and asked if she wanted to bring her daughter, McKenzie, to play with Jos. As the girls were playing, I asked Andrea how things were going and about their plans for future children. She began to tell me about a possible carrier she had in mind and a second person as another possibility sometime in the future, but nothing was definite. The next thing I know, I had said to Andrea, “Keep me in the back of your mind for a possible candidate to be your surrogate too.” I had not planned to turn that play date into a lifelong friendship, but that is what it has turned out to be. The moment I realized that my offer was a real possibility, my first feeling was kind of a “reality check.” However, soon after, and I believe it was by the grace and peace of God, I began to become more and more excited about the idea. I knew that I would never have offered if I wasn’t ready to follow through, so the decision was solidified in my heart. I left for the month of December to visit my family in Montana for Christmas, and during that time I was telling everyone my plans. I was already 6 months pregnant with my son, so I got some pretty funny looks as I talked about being pregnant again so soon. By the time I came back home, I had talked about being a surrogate carrier so much, it was already a done deal for Jon and me. The next time I saw Andrea, I asked when we were going to get this thing going; tears fell and the rest is history in the making.

I believe with my whole heart that this is a God-inspired bond between our families. I have an overwhelming sense of peace and knowing that this whole process will go quickly and smoothly, and I am looking forward to telling you all about our journey together. I am also more and more confident every day that God is a good God and he WILL provide for us. The hard parts are all done, now it is just a matter of walking through the steps and trusting Him…can’t wait to meet the new Miller(s)!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Video of Andrea's egg retrieval - post 28

The following link is the video of Andrea's retrieval. This is the view that Paul had during the actual procedure. The monitor on the left is an ultrasound view of the needle actually extracting the eggs from Andrea's ovaries. The monitor on the right is the microscopic view that the embryologist had as he was sorting through the retrived specimen. Notice the digital counter in the center of the two monitors as it increases with each egg accounted for.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Transfer done and now we wait... - post 27

I’m sorry about the delay of information. To tell you the truth, I didn’t feel much like recapping Monday’s events right after it was finished. I had some strange emotions come over me and I had a hard time getting past them. I thought for sure after the retrieval was over that I would have a sense of relief come over me, but for some reason my mind went to a place of uneasiness. Instead of sharing in the overwhelming excitement that Kari, Jon and Paul had about the baby in her belly, I felt distant and even somewhat scared. I don’t really know why, because I know the plans that God has for us are good. My worrying isn’t going to change the outcome, but simply cause me unneeded stress! It is Wednesday (2/10/10) now and I am feeling much better today. I actually feel like my baby is growing and becoming acquainted with its new home inside of Kari. Two days down, only 12 to go! Now to catch you up on Monday:

Like I stated in my previous post, an hour before we showed up to the transfer, David called to tell me we were down to only one embryo and that he thought we might want to consider “assisted hatching.” Assisted Hatching is a process which uses a laser to make a small opening in the “shell” of the egg to help the embryo hatch out of its protective layering and implant into the uterus more easily. Again, this process is typically used in patients that are older than 35, but because of the way that my options for embryos dwindled each day, he wanted to “pull out all the stops” to give the one embryo the best chance at survival. He gave us this option and told us to talk about it before we got there with our decision. That part was tough to swallow, so again….tears, tears….dried up by a strong, faithful and encouraging husband (As a little side note: Most guys don’t know what to do/say when a woman is crying her eyes out, but my husband always knows exactly what to say and when to say it. I love him!)

So, we dropped our kids off and all four of us jumped in our car to head out to the clinic. The nurse called us back and told Kari to put her hospital gown on and sign some papers. There was so much joy between the four of us in that room that you would have never been able to tell the weight of the situation. This is exactly why I love all of them so much. After we signed our lives away (haha) the embryologist came in to talk with us about what was ahead. It was then that he took out a picture of our baby! It had divided into 7 cells by that morning. How many people can say they have a photo of their baby a little over 2 days after conception?! Absolute craziness! After we asked all of our questions (some comical, some not so much), I was handed my “marshmallow suit.” I didn’t realize that I was going to get to go back with her. Kari and I were escorted to the operation room where the nurse prepped the station for the doctor. She walked us through as the doctor did a test run putting the catheter in her uterus before the actual transfer. We were able to see a white line go across the screen and then back. The doctor has to play like the game “operation” when he puts the catheter in because if he touches any of the sides of her uterus it could cause her to start cramping, which is not a good environment for an embryo to enter in to. The boys were escorted to their waiting room with the monitors. One showed the microscopic view of the embryo seconds before it was transferred and the other monitor showed the ultrasound of the uterus as he placed the embryo in. If that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what would! After the practice run, the doctor called for David, who was in the lab adjacent to the operating room placing the embryo with some fluid into the rubber tubing. He walked over to the doctor, repeated both my name and Paul’s (I’m sure to prevent any embryo mix-up…eeek) and we got to see the white line again, but this time a flash of white came out of the end of the tubing at the back of her uterus. That was it! It’s insane how much life can change in a matter of minutes!

After the procedure, she was wheeled out to the big room where the boys met up with us again. I was in a fog, the guys were excited about what they had seen on the monitors and Kari had the biggest grin you can imagine. 30 minutes later, she got to use the restroom and get dressed to go home. We scheduled our beta test (pregnancy test) appointment for February, 22 at 10am. So, that is the official day to find out if our future holds another tiny baby.

I am trying my best to fill up every day of my calendar for the next two weeks! So, anyone that is looking to hang out or wants to drop their kids off at my place feel free!

Transfer? Easy as Pie! - post 26

I was sitting in church when my phone rang. It was a call from the fertility clinic! I ran out into the hallway and answered the phone, it was the embryologist. He said he was calling to confirm the time that I was to be there on Monday. He told me to be there at noon and come with a partially full bladder. I couldn't’t believe it! I thought it was going to be Wednesday, how exciting! Monday morning, Jon stayed and did his work from home for the first part of the morning while I got myself and the kids ready to go. And of course, before I knew it, it was time to leave and I was running behind. I joked to Jon that I can’t even make it on time to my own pregnancy! We dropped of Kaden with Lisa Coffman (thank you soooo much!) and then to Paul’s mom’s house to drop Jos (Y'vonne is such a blessing!) Soon enough we were all on our way to Orlando. At 11:45 I had to take a Valium so that my muscles would be completely relaxed during the transfer. Let me tell you…I was sure relaxed! At the clinic, they took me through the same secret door that Andrea had gone before and I got dressed up in my awesome fashion-ista gown, hairnet, and booties. Pre-yow! David joined us and showed us a picture of the “little embryo that could.” It was so amazing to see that little grouping of cells and knowing that this little thing, less than the size of the period at the end of this sentence, would grow into a beautiful baby in only 9 months.

The boys went into the waiting room and were able to watch the whole procedure on the monitors while Andrea and I went into the “operation room.” I laid on the gurney (which was surprisingly very comfortable) and the nurse started the external sonogram so we could see what was happening on the inside during the transfer. They inserted a practice run and we got to see the “white line” enter my uterus and then back out. Finally David came out with the real deal and we were able to watch the sonogram and see the tube actually leaving a little white dot at the top of my uterus and back out. Amazing. There are no words to describe seeing this miracle happen and watching this little baby getting to know its new home. Another great part is that there was absolutely no pain and very little discomfort. Afterward, I had to lie down for 30 minutes, and then was able to get dressed and go home. Easy as pie! I am supposed to have bed rest for a few days and then light activity the following days. Andrea and Paul had both our kids stay the night with them for TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW!!! I can’t tell you how wonderfully rested and relaxed I've been for the past two days, I love you guys!

So now the wait begins. Two full weeks until I get to have a blood test that will confirm the baby found a good place to burrow in and decided to stay awhile. I am still putting the estrogen patches on every other day and taking progesterone (OMG shot) in my butt every night. A small price to pay for such an amazing miracle from God.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I think this emotional roller coaster is going to make me puke! - post 25

Post retrieval-

Well, since Friday (2/5/10) was the retrieval, David, the embryologist, said he would stay in touch with us over the weekend with the progress of my eggs and our embryos. I was so excited and nervous that I could hardly fall asleep, and when I finally did, my mind would wake me up every so often thinking of every possible scenario. Finally (after what seemed like forever), I got a call from David the next morning at 9am-just like he promised!

We were under the impression that we were going to have 12 eggs to work with, but apparently when he measured them there were only 8 that were “genetically mature” (meaning they were large enough to make an embryo). Those 8 were then combined with Paul’s sperm using a process called ICSI (ICSI is a procedure that uses a needle the size of one sperm to inject one sperm into one egg. Bare with me for the next bit of details if you are not planning on using IVF in the future…..ICSI is usually a process reserved especially for men with fertility problems-which Paul did not have. However, since we thought we could save some money by skipping out on an extra FDA screening on Paul we decided to freeze Paul’s specimen. We were not informed that simply freezing a specimen would pretty much guarantee the use of the procedure. So, instead of paying another $200 or so for a second blood test, we paid $350 to freeze his semen, $200 for blood work, and $1650 for ICSI. I guess this is where the phrase “hind site is 20/20” can be inserted.) As I talked with David I got more and more nervous because the 8 eggs that I thought we had was now decreased to only 3 fertilized eggs and 2 “possibly fertilized” eggs. He said that he would know by Sunday (2/7/10) whether or not the other two were going to show any more of the signs of true fertilization. This conversation was so crazy for me. In one way I was excited because we had three fertilized eggs to work with, but on the other hand I couldn’t help but think why did the other ones not work? 12 to 3 is a big difference….

When David called on Sunday I learned that the other two did not make it. They were no longer showing signs of progression. This hit me like a ton of bricks, but I was encouraged by everyone around me that at least we had three more to work with! On this same Sunday morning call, he also informed me that instead of a Wednesday transfer, we were going to have the transfer on MONDAY (2/8/10)!!! WHAT?! Monday? Ok, so that was pretty exciting, but once again I got knocked backwards…the three fertilized eggs that I thought were certain were not so certain any more. Only one of the three was showing signs of division. Revert back to your high school biology class for a minute. The fertilized egg is only that. It must start cleaving or dividing to show that it is a thriving organism. 1 of the 3 was already a 2 celled organism on Sunday, so if the other 2 were going to divide they would have to do it before Monday morning. He gave me a glimmer of hope that they might still come around, but come Monday morning at around 11am (one hour before we were to arrive at the clinic for the transfer) he called to tell me that the other two did not make it. I lost it. I cried and cried…Now, not only do we not have any embryos to freeze for the future or for another round of IVF if this round doesn’t work, but now we only have one chance at a pregnancy. We were planning on transferring 2 embryos into Kari’s uterus because we weighed out all the pros and cons of 1 vs.2 embryos implanted and decided that 2 embryos matched all of our desires/concerns better. If you were able to understand and keep up with everything in this post, now do you see why this process could make someone crazy??

2/5/10- Andrea’s Retrieval: 12 eggs retrieved
2/6/10- Only 8 genetically mature, only 3 fertilized, 2 "possibly fertilized"
2/7/10- "Possibly fertilized" did not make it, only 1 fertilized egg has divided, waiting on other 2
2/8/10- Kari’s Transfer: Only left with one 7-celled embryo to transfer

This embryo was affectionately referred to as “The Little Embryo that could!”

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Retrieval finished! - post 24

Our Friday (2/5/10) morning started at 5:15am. We got showers and got out the door since we have about an hour commute to the clinic. I thought we were going to be late, but we got there a few minutes early. Whew! We were called back by a nurse named Angela who led us to a whole different side of the fertility clinic that we had never seen. There was such a joyful atmosphere the moment we opened the door to the room. One of the other nurses even greeted me with an excitable, “Hey Andrea!” That may not seem like much for some people, but this means the world to me. I got into my hospital gown and signed a few release forms while they checked my vitals. Shortly after the prep work I met the anesthesiologist who was so nice. I got to learn a lot about the team of people that were going to see me through the operation. It was obvious that my nurse, Angela, was pregnant and turns out she is due in April. The cool thing about that fact is that she is actually a gestational carrier (like Kari) for another couple that has the same situation as Paul and I (they had an emergency partial hysterectomy directly after the birth of their son, who happens to be the same age as McKenzie)! Angela was so excited to meet us because she knew that their situation was pretty uncommon and to meet another couple in her clinic involved in the same thing was very exciting. She gave us her email address and phone number and told me to tell Kari if she ever had any questions or just wanted to talk she would be there for her. How awesome is that?

After I got my IV in and was ready to go, Dr. Trolice poked his head around the corner and said, “Are we ready? Let’s go!” I kissed my husband and was wheeled off to the operation room. I was fine all morning, but just like my last retrieval, as soon as I got on the operating table in that freezing cold room that reeked of alcohol, my heart began to pound. It wasn’t long after that happened that I saw the anesthesiologist injecting my IV with a white liquid that made me drift away to la-la land. Next thing I knew I was waking up to the anesthesiologist handing me his fancy phone to show me a picture of his 5 year old daughter that they conceived through IVF too. I was glad to “see” it (my eyes were so blurry I couldn’t even tell you what she looked like), but I remember dropping his phone twice! Oops! Guess I had an excuse? I ate a few crackers, drank some juice and laughed so hard at the embryologist, David. He is such a funny guy! You can tell he loves what he does. He has been doing it for 24 years! They sent me home and just told me to take is easy for a little while. I had some slight cramping, but nothing worse than a menstrual cycle. We should expect a call sometime Saturday morning with news on how the eggs/embryos are doing.

While I was in surgery Paul was able to watch everything on two monitors in a waiting room. One monitor showed an ultrasound view of my ovaries with the needle and probe, while the other monitor showed a microscopic view of the eggs as they were retrieved. As each was taken out he was able to watch the digital counter increase. They were able to retrieve 12 eggs. It’s not as many as we were hoping for, but you only need on good one. Check out the pictures and video (if I can get it uploaded...)!

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