Surrogacy Bumpdate: 21 Weeks!

As of yesterday I am 21 weeks! We are now officially closer to the end than the beginning! Wahoo! I love getting closer and closer to Baby Knox joining the Berry family – I’m just so excited for them!

How far along: 21 weeks

Size of baby: Baby Knox now weighs about three-quarters of a pound and is approximately 10 1/2 inches long – about the length of a carrot.

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Stretch marks: None yet!

Morning Sickness: All gone! Feeling great now!!

Gender: It’s a sweet baby BOY!!

Movement: I feel more and more movement each day. You can now see and feel Baby Knox’s kicks from the outside which is fun! He’s a little soccer player!

Sleep: Not able to sleep in (not that my kids give me the option anyways!) and I wake up a couple times to go to the bathroom but can’t complain yet. Still sleeping well for now!

Cravings: No cravings really. I didn’t really crave much with my first two pregnancies either though so I’m not surprised. I did want more sweet things in the beginning with Olive and more salty/carby things with Isaiah and now Knox but after that first trimester passes and I start to feel better it’s usually just back to normal eating for me!

Symptoms: Just cruising along in the second trimester. No big belly yet to get in the way and I’ve got so much energy. Loving it!!

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21 Weeks!
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Surrogacy Update: It’s a…!

I can’t believe I’m 20 weeks today! Half way there! Wahoo!

Last week Ben and Kristen came down for our 19 week ultrasound and we were able to find out the gender of Baby Berry!

Can you guess what it is?

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IT’S A BOY!!!!

 

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Ben and Kristen have named the baby Knox which I think is the most adorable name ever. I am so thrilled for Baby Knox to join Ben and Kristen’s family in February! He has the sweetest big brother waiting for him at home and all 4 of them are going to make the cutest family. Please pray with us for a healthy baby and a smooth rest of this pregnancy! February is going to be here before we know it! ❤

2016 Family Pictures

We had the privilege of working with sweet Madeline from Infinite Focus Photography to get our family pictures done this year! Madeline’s daughter was in Isaiah’s VPK class last year so we got to know her through that. She did a great job and had so much patience!

The kids did so well this year (read: last year they did NOT).  They were all in good moods, well behaved, and actually smiled! It was a miracle!! (It might have had something to do with the promise of milkshakes afterwards if they behaved….milkshakes can solve anything.)

We decided when we first had Isaiah to get family photos done each year. Sometimes it can be stressful and some years the kids aren’t in good moods and sometimes the photos just don’t turn out how I had hoped! But I try not to stress too much about everything being perfect… if they don’t turn out one year I know we’ll be getting more done the next. And no matter how the photos turn out I never regret it! Because you can’t ever go back and get those memories again! The kids are only getting older and changing so quickly! Sure I take lots of photos on my iPhone but there’s just something about professional photos. I love having them and looking back on them over the years! ❤

So, without further ado…. our 2016 family photos!

 

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Surrogacy Bump Date: 18 Weeks

Wahoo! We are cruising right along! 18 weeks today! Baby Berry is growing and growing and we are thankful for a healthy and uneventful pregnancy so far!

How far along: 18 weeks

Size of baby: Head to rump, baby is about 5 1/2 inches long, and weighs almost 7 ounces (about the size of a sweet potato).

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Stretch marks: None yet!

Morning Sickness: I stopped wearing my sea bands about a week ago and and am feeling pretty good without them! Still on Diclegis but am hoping to stop that soon too. It feels good to be feeling better and have more energy now!

Gender: We don’t know yet! =) Ben and Kristen are coming down for our 19 week ultrasound next week where we will (if baby cooperates) be able to find out if Baby Berry is a boy or a girl!

Movement: I am feeling lots of wiggles and kicks. I haven’t been able to feel them from the outside yet but probably will be able to soon!

Sleep: Sleeping pretty well for now! I usually struggle with mild insomnia when I’m pregnant but the Diclegis makes me sleepy so for now I am sleeping well. We’ll see how it goes when I go off of it!

Cravings: No notable cravings right now. Just feeling pretty normal and enjoying the fact that I can eat normally again and not feel nauseous all day!

What I am looking forward to: Ben and Kristen are coming down next week for our 19 week appointment where we will have the anatomy scan ultrasound. Hoping and praying all looks good with baby! I’m looking forward to seeing them and the ultrasound!!

Symptoms: My belly is starting to pop out more and more! I’m still wearing regular clothes and my belly is still hidden underneath most things that I wear. But it won’t be long before I have to pull out the maternity clothes I’m sure!

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18 Weeks!

Surrogacy Bump Date: 15 Weeks

Fifteen weeks! Wahoo! It feels so good to be in the second trimester where I have more energy and am starting to feel less morning sickness.

In some ways it feels like I have been pregnant forever! I think it is because I’ve never before experienced a pregnancy through IVF where you know several weeks beforehand when the transfer will be, you know exactly how old the embryo is and exactly what day you became pregnant. You also get a blood test done to confirm pregnancy at around 9 days past the transfer so you don’t have to wait long (though it feels like forever!) to find out! It’s a new experience for me as I always had to do things the slow, agonizing way and wait to confirm pregnancy when it would show up on an at home pregnancy test!

But in other ways it feels like time is flying by and I can’t believe I’m already 4 months pregnant! Things have been so busy the last few weeks with the kids starting school and I have been preoccupied. I had to look down at my planner to make sure I really did turn 15 weeks on Thursday! =)

How far along: 15 weeks

Size of baby: Baby now measures about 4 inches long, crown to rump, and weighs in at about 2 1/2 ounces (about the size of an apple).

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Stretch marks: None yet!

Morning Sickness: I was very nauseous during the first trimester. I only threw up once but was always feeling like I was going to. It’s really so awful!! The last few days I have been feeling much better and I hope that I continue to feel better and better each day. I am on an anti-nausea medicine that hopefully I’ll be feeling well enough to stop soon. I’ve also been wearing sea bands constantly for the past few months and I really do think they have helped a lot!

Gender: We don’t know yet! =) Ben and Kristen are coming down for our 19 week ultrasound where we will (if baby cooperates) be able to find out if Baby Berry is a boy or a girl!

Movement: Started feeling little wiggles around 13 weeks and now at 15 weeks I am feeling bigger/stronger kicks.

Sleep: Sleeping just fine now. It’s waking up that’s the problem. 😉 Diclegis, the medicine that I’m on for morning sickness, is basically the equivalent of vitamin b6 and Unisom. I take it at night before I go to bed and it makes me very sleepy and it’s hard to wake up in the morning. But hey, it helps me feel less nausea throughout the day so it’s worth it!

Cravings: The first trimester found me craving carbs and salty snacks because that is what helped my morning sickness. Baked potatoes, homemade macaroni and cheese, pickles, pretzels….you get the idea. Also pretty much anything that I did not cook sounded good to me. I had a hard time cooking dinner for the family and we ate out or ordered in a lot! Now that I am feeling better and can actually cook healthy meals I’m eating a much more well balanced diet. I actually feel like eating fruits and vegetables again so I’m grateful for that. It’s so hard to eat healthy when almost everything healthy makes you want to vomit!

What I miss: Nothing yet…. Just enjoying this journey through the miracle of surrogacy!! So excited for this baby to join Ben and Kristen and Big Brother in their loving home. I love helping this dream come true for them!

Symptoms: No terrible symptoms to speak of yet. Just the morning sickness which seems to be fading. Not showing too much yet, my clothes are still pretty much hiding the little bump I have! =)

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15 weeks!

Surrogacy Update!

Hey everyone! So glad you’ve stopped by. I have THREE very special people I’d like to introduce on the blog today. But first I need to give you a little update on my surrogacy journey.

In case you missed my announcement back in April, after several years of thought, research, and prayer I have decided to become a gestational surrogate! The process has taken several months and the last time I updated here on the blog we finally had a transfer date in sight! Let me fill you in on what has happened since then.

The embryo transfer was in early June. The intended parents have their embryos stored in their home state so Drew and I traveled there for the transfer (We counted it as a mini-vacation. No kids! Woot! Woot!). Everything went perfectly. We transferred one embryo and the transfer went smooth with no issues. We had a good visit with the intended parents and we even had time to explore a little bit of their home state. We left feeling cautiously optimistic about the outcome!!

During the week after the transfer, I resisted the urge to take an at home pregnancy test although I was dying to know if the transfer had worked or not. Failed transfers are not uncommon in IVF and we knew that there was a chance we would have to try for a second or even third transfer. But I didn’t want to get a false positive or negative from an at home pregnancy test so I waited for my first beta draw. Nine days after the transfer was my first blood test. I was feeling like I was pregnant (no symptoms to speak of, just a gut feeling!) and I was pretty positive that the blood test would come back with good news! I had my blood drawn at 8:30 in the morning and the nurse didn’t call me until almost 3 in the afternoon with the results. Torture!! But the results were worth the wait. I’M PREGNANT!!! Second beta levels a few days later also looked good as my levels continued to rise appropriately. The intended parents were thrilled and we all rejoiced at the good news!!

I had my first ultrasound at almost 7 weeks. Although the parents were not able to be at it, I was able to facetime the appointment with the intended mother which helped! At that ultrasound we saw one perfect little heart beating away!! Wahoo!!

I was able to stop my progesterone injections at exactly 9 weeks! Although I was getting used to them and getting pretty good at minimizing the soreness afterwards (and Drew was getting to be a pro at giving them to me!) it was very nice not to have to worry about those shots any more. =) I was able to stop my oral/vaginal meds a week later, so by 10 weeks I was med free!!

I was released from the fertility clinic that had been monitoring me thus far and at 9 weeks I had my first OB appointment. There was another ultrasound  at this appointment and again everything looked great and we saw a healthy baby with a strong heart beat!!

I am now 13 weeks pregnant and yesterday my sweet intended parents were able to come to my OB appointment with me!! They were able to see their little peanut on an ultrasound in person for the first time which was so special for them. The appointment went great, baby is looking perfect in every way, and so far all is going well. =)

We had such a great time visiting with the intended parents and they have given me permission to introduce them to you on my blog! Their names are Ben and Kristen and they are the sweetest couple! Here are a few pictures of us from yesterday:

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Believe it or not, this was the first and ONLY picture we took of all of us (not counting our goofy pose)! Everyone was looking and smiling and looked good after just one shot! What are the odds? I’m feeling some hope for our family pictures that we’re getting done next month… Maybe they’ll turn out after all! 
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Isaiah requested a silly face shot and Ben and Kristen got to see the true side of our crazy family!
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No, we are not sisters but I love how we look like we could be! 

There is also one more person I’d like to introduce you to…This little person is the star of the show! Drum roll please………..Meet Baby Berry!!

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Look how relaxed he/she looks in there! All comfy and cozy without a care in the world! Our hope and prayer is that this little peanut will continue to stay safe and sound in my belly for the next 6 months until he/she is big enough to go home with his/her Mommy and Daddy! ❤ We would love for you to pray with us for a continued healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby!

Our next big appointment is our 19 week appointment where we will find out if baby is a boy or a girl! Stayed tuned! =)

Walmart Grocery – My New Found Love

Last week I tried the new grocery service offered by Walmart called Walmart Grocery. Oh my goodness, I think it is a match made in heaven!  (P.S. that link right there contains a coupon for $10 off your first order if you want to try it too!)

Here is how Walmart Grocery works:

  • Go here, sign up for an account and add items to your cart. With Walmart Grocery you don’t only have to buy groceries! School supplies, beauty products and more are options too!
  • Check out and choose a designated pick-up time (there will be time slots such as 2-3 pm). They offer delivery (for a fee) in some areas but not in my area yet.
  • On the day/time you’ve chosen head to your Walmart and park in the designated spots for grocery pickup (located on the right hand side of most stores).unnamed
  • When you arrive call them (you’ll be given the number of your store’s grocery pickup line at checkout) and they’ll be out with your groceries in just a few minutes! There is no fee for the service and no tipping allowed. There is also no monthly or annual subscription fees and they do not charge any markups on their items! Just like that you’ve done your grocery shopping and can head back home!

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This employee came out with my groceries in this cart just minutes after I arrived and loaded them into my car for me before heading back in! I would call that good customer service!

Three things I love about Walmart Grocery:

  1. If you have young children you know how stressful it is to grocery shop with them in tow! My kids are often either complaining, running around the store, or whining for me to buy them a certain something whenever I go shopping. With Walmart Grocery I can order online the night before and then, while I’m out running errands the next day just stop by Walmart to pickup my groceries on the way home. Doesn’t matter if I have the kids with me or not because they’ll all stay in the car anyways. Avoid dragging them into the store with me and still get my grocery shopping done? Yes please!
  2.  Ummmm, hello? Shopping online in the peace and quiet of my own home while my kids are sleeping and I’m in my pjs. Sounds heavenly to me! Shopping online without kids hanging all over me allows me to actually focus on the items I’m trying to buy and figure out what is the best deal for the amount and what I actually need. When the kids are with me I usually just throw in the cart whatever I see first to try and make the trip as short as possible. For instance, when I put together my order last week I ordered basil leaves. When I searched for basil leaves all the different brands came up on the page allowing me to quickly see what was the cheapest/best deal and add it to my cart. It took like a minute. Have you ever been able to find the cheapest spices at Walmart that quickly?!? Usually I’m standing for several minutes in the spice aisle before I even find the spice I’m looking for, let alone figure out which one is the best deal!
  3. Ordering online allowed me to buy ONLY what I needed and keep an eye on my final bill. If you’re trying to stick to a budget it’s hard to add up your groceries as you go when shopping in store (especially with kids!). With this service, I knew what my final bill was going to be before I even checked out, allowing me to put back or add items as needed. Also, by shopping online I avoided adding enticing looking items to my cart on the whim as I am prone to do. 😉

Oh, and because it was my first time using the service they even gave me a goodie bag as a thank you! How cool is that!?

I had a great experience with the service and will definitely be using it again and again. I’m hooked! I actually do a lot of my shopping at Aldi because they have great prices on fruits and veggies but I can’t get everything I need there so I also have to make a weekly trip to Walmart – and this is definitely how I’ll be doing it from now on!

If you’d like to try it out for yourself and see if you love it as much as I do here’s a code that will give you $10 off your first order: $10 off!  Try it out and come back and let me know what you think!!

Medicine, Injections and a Transfer Date!

I have some exciting news! I have started my medications and am one step further in my surrogacy journey!

If any of you have gone through the IVF process before you know that it almost always requires medication. Lots of medication. Many pills and many injections.

Last week I started the pills part of the medication protocol. Pretty easy to remember to take a handful of pills every day so that part is not so bad. But yesterday evening I started my progesterone …. And progesterone needs to be injected. In my butt.

Progesterone is in oil so it’s thick and the needle for it is on the larger side. Oh, and did I mention that my husband has a great fear of needles (and is rarely home at my injection time) and that I’ll be doing most of these myself? Sounds like fun, right? 😉

Progesterone needs to be administered into your deep muscle tissue so the needle needs to go all the way in. The best place to administer it is in the upper, outer quadrant of the butt/hip. The process I followed was ice the spot, don’t think about what I am about to do, try to control my shaking hand, try not to think about what I’m about to do, jab it in without thinking about what I am doing to myself, slowly push the medication into my body (remember it’s in oil so this stuff moves slowly!), remove the needle, try not to think about what I just did, heat the spot with a heating pad, sit down, and finally try not to think about the fact that I have to do it all again tomorrow. 🙂

I will have to be on this medication for several weeks so I had better get used to it! The spot I put it in yesterday evening is pretty sore so tonight I may experiment with different icing/heating techniques and see what works and also try a slightly different spot on my butt to see if I can find a spot that’s higher up and less painful afterwards. It really didn’t hurt too bad going in, it’s just sore now!

Although the medication is not too fun, we do have something fun coming up in the future… we have a transfer date! Next week is transfer week! Drew will be flying with me to the state where the intended parents live and Drew’s parents will be watching the kids for us while we’re gone. I would love for you all to pray with me that this first transfer would be successful and that we would soon find out a little baby is on the way for this sweet couple. ❤

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Here’s my medication and the needles I need to draw up and administer it. Progesterone is an intramuscular medication which means the needle needs to be inserted ALL the way in so that the medicine can get down into the deep muscle tissue.
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Don’t worry. This big honker is just the needle used to draw up the medication out of the vile. The needle to administer it is (slightly) smaller.
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The needle used to administer the progesterone.

The Process of Becoming a Surrogate

Many women who have been considering becoming a surrogate don’t know where to start. I spent over 5 years contemplating and praying about becoming a surrogate and did a little research here and there along the way and I still felt unsure and overwhelmed when I finally made the decision to become a surrogate!

The surrogacy process is not a quick one. Although my process has gone smoothly it has still been 7 months since I applied and I am just now at the Medications/Calendar stage. It’s a “hurry up and wait” process, which I’m familiar with from our adoption! =)

Below I’ve listed out the steps in the process per my particular agency. Each agency will vary a little bit on procedures but this is generally how the process goes for a surrogate using an agency.

Initial Application

The first step to being considered as a surrogate candidate is to complete the initial screening application. You will receive an e-mail response in 1-2 business days whether you are approved or denied. This first step is to weed out people that the agency knows would not be allowed to be surrogates because of medical reasons or other life circumstances.

Surrogate Profile

Once your initial application is approved you need to complete a full surrogate profile and submit photos. This is a long, detailed application where you have to answer many questions and can even write a letter to prospective intended parents. This is the part of the process where you have to make decisions such as whether or not you would be willing to carry a baby for a gay couple, an out of state couple, a singe person, etc. You also need to make decisions about whether or not you are willing to carry multiples and how you feel about termination/reduction. Being open, honest and detailed with your profile responses is very important. The agency takes great pride in matching surrogates with intended parents that have similar responses. As a pro-life Christian I obviously had some preferences in these areas and the agency was very great at not questioning my choices and not pushing me to change. And I was able to be matched with a family who shares my convictions!

Phone Consultation

After your profile is reviewed, your Surrogate Case Manager will have a brief phone meeting with you to go over your profile and answer any questions you have regarding the process. She will also ask you to get in touch with your OB’s office to have copies of your prenatal, delivery and postpartum records as well as a recent Pap sent to the agency.

OB Records

Once the agency receives your prenatal, delivery, and postpartum records for each pregnancy their staff nurses will review and approve them. This is an important piece of the puzzle because the fertility clinics base their approval or denial of a candidate on these records. Some women may not be able to be a surrogate because of history of repeat miscarriages, gestational diabetes, or other pregnancy related health issues. Questions about any pregnancy related health issues will be asked in the initial application to help you know from the beginning whether or not you will be able to continue in the process. So, if you have been honest, OB records at this point shouldn’t cause any problems.

In-Home Consultation

Once your OB records have been approved the agency will send a social worker to your home for a casual meeting with you and your spouse to go over the paperwork. Since we live in a different State than my agency we were able to do a Skype interview. Topics to be discussed are: commitment, medication, finances, support, your concerns, travel, meetings, and what is expected of you and your intended parents.

Criminal Clearance

The agency will run a criminal background check for both you and your spouse, if applicable. The reporting covers the last 7 years.

Psychological Screening

A comprehensive evaluation of you and your spouse will be scheduled with a licensed psychologist to determine if you’re a good candidate for surrogacy. Personality testing will also be done at this time. The psychologist will give his/her recommendation to the agency about whether or not you should be allowed to continue the process.

Insurance Review

Your insurance policy will be reviewed by a licensed insurance agent to determine if surrogacy is covered within your medical benefits. If there is an exclusion, the insurance agent will schedule a consultation with you to set up a new medical policy that will cover a surrogate pregnancy.

Available Surrogate Roster

Once the agency receives criminal and psychological clearance and has completed the insurance review you are officially screened and able to be matched! Your profile, with limited information, will be added to the available surrogate roster. This means that your profile will be available for intended parents to search and decide if they would like to meet you!

Match Meeting

When intended parents show an interest in your profile you will be contacted by your case manager and have an opportunity to review the intended parents’ profile before you decide to meet with them. You will always have the choice to select the intended parents you wish to help. The case manager will schedule and facilitate the match meeting between you and the intended parents. Many matches are made with couples who live in another state so the meeting is over the phone. When the meeting is over, the case manager will ask you to notify her of your decision within 24 hours. If all parties agree to move forward, the match is made and the journey begins!

Medical Screening

A comprehensive physical evaluation, including toxicology screen, infectious disease testing and ultrasound will be performed at the intended parents’ fertility clinic. If their clinic is out of state all travel expenses will be paid for. Your spouse will also be required to have blood tests done.

Legal Consultation

Once the match is made the agency will assign you a lawyer and the intended parents will also hire a lawyer. The attorney will go over your legal contract with you and advise you of your contractual rights and obligations. A contract is important to make sure that all parties are comfortable with what is expected and are protected. As soon as the contract is finalized you can begin medication!

Medications/Calendar

You will be put on a cycle calendar to start birth control pills and then hormone injections to prepare your body for the upcoming embryo transfer. Medication protocols may vary depending on the clinic you are working with. It is extremely important that the medications be taken exactly as instructed and on the appropriate days or it may disrupt the entire cycle! You will be instructed by your nurse exactly how to administer your injections. If you have a family member who will be giving you injections, they should also attend the injection training. If you are squeamish about shots this may not be the best for you! The medication part of the process requires you to give yourself a shot in the butt every day for up to 8 weeks depending on the fertility clinic! You will have multiple appointments for blood work and ultrasounds leading up to and following the embryo transfer. This is to ensure that your body is responding appropriately to the hormones necessary to support the pregnancy. These appointments will take place at a fertility clinic near you so you won’t have to travel to the intended parents’ fertility clinic.

Embryo Transfer

You will have the embryo transfer at the intended parents’ fertility clinic. The procedure is very simple and not painful. A few days of rest or mild activity afterwards is requested to give the embryo adequate opportunity to implant itself and start to grow.

Pregnancy Testing and Confirmation

About 7 days after transfer you will need to go to the local lab approved by the fertility clinic to have blood drawn. The clinic will inform you and your case manager of your hormone levels which indicate pregnancy. This is the day everyone has been waiting for! You will have repeat blood tests done at 9 days and sometimes again at 11 days after the transfer. The fertility clinic wants to see the hormone levels increasing with each test. If the numbers continue to rise, you will have an ultrasound to confirm a fetal heartbeat. You will have several monitoring ultrasounds at the clinic near you up until around 10 weeks of pregnancy. At that point, you will be released to visit your own OB for the duration of the pregnancy and several months later will hopefully deliver a healthy newborn baby for your intended parents. Your job as a surrogate is now done!

I’m Going To Be A Surrogate

I’ve never wanted to live an ordinary life. I was born in Michigan but lived most of my life in Africa where I was a missionary kid. I met and married my husband in less than a year. It was quick but it was the second best decision of my life (the first, of course, being the decision to give my life to Jesus!). My husband and I packed up everything to live in Uganda to serve with International Justice Mission for a year after we got married. I induced lactation to breast feed my adopted baby. I have lived on 2 different continents, in 6 different countries, 3 different States and in more than 20 houses since I was born. And I honest to goodness really love brussel sprouts.

And so it shouldn’t surprise most people that I am embarking on another “out of the ordinary” adventure. This adventure started as something that God placed on my heart over 5 years ago. Shortly after my first child was born God placed in me the desire to become a SURROGATE.

A surrogate or gestational carrier is: “a woman who becomes pregnant usually by artificial insemination or surgical implantation of a fertilized egg for the purpose of carrying the fetus to term for another woman” – Merriam Webster Dictionary

When God first placed the desire on my heart I knew it wasn’t the right time. I was having my own babies and we were moving here, there, and everywhere, adopting and living overseas. But the desire kept growing. Now and then I would think about it and do a little research. And then I’d set it aside. I wouldn’t think about it for some time and then God would bring it up again in some form and I’d think again, “is this the time?”. But nope, it never was and so I just kept praying and thinking about it.

And then we moved to Florida and God placed in my life a women in the process of becoming a surrogate. I was able to watch her process from start to finish, ask her questions, and see how things went for her. It eased alot of my fears and made me more interested than ever in becoming a surrogate. I prayed and asked God to give me peace if now was the time to move ahead. And He did! Last fall I applied with an agency to become a surrogate.

Once I applied I had to complete a mountain of paperwork, be interviewed, have a psychological evaluation, and have my OB records reviewed. Once I passed all the “tests” I was put on a roster of available surrogates and waited for a set of Intended Parents to show interest in talking with me.

To make a long story short, in January I was matched with a sweet Christian family and over the last several months we have been completing the steps necessary for me to become their gestational carrier! I am so excited about the journey ahead!

I hope you’ll all follow along with me as I share with you my journey as a surrogate! ❤