Tara Schamel works in the Adoption STAR Ohio office, providing Administrative Support and Outreach. She and her sister, Cassie, recently went through an incredible journey, where they both gave birth through surrogacy to their sister’s (Tanya) and her husband’s (Dan) children. Tara has written several blog posts about this journey, and has included photos of the experience. Please stay tuned every Wednesday for each excerpt of this remarkable journey. Tara and her family recently shared their story on NBC’s “The Today Show” which you can watch at the bottom of the post.
To read the first installment of Tara’s blog series, please click here.
Tanya wrote in her journal “At 6:13 this morning, my phone rang with the news that today, 8/9/11, would be our transfer day! I called Tara and Cassie with the news and continued to lie in bed with the massive stomach ache I’d been fighting since 2:00am- the result of a lot of nerves!” Tanya and her husband Dan changed into scrubs, Cassie and I into gowns. To calm our nerves we goofed off in the surgery suite as we waited for the fertility doctor and embryologist.
Once settled, we learned that embryos are graded on several different factors that indicate the likelihood that the embryo will implant and result in a pregnancy. Somberly, we learned that their embryos had a very poor chance of resulting in a pregnancy, about a 5%-7% chance. We clung to the knowledge that miracles can and do happen every day as the doctor carefully transferred Tanya and Dan’s precious embryos into Cassie and I’s uterus. They gave us pictures of the “snow babies” as we were discharged to go home. Now the waiting game began. Blood work to test for pregnancy was 2 weeks from that day…unless someone took a home pregnancy test and cheated first.
Tanya wrote in her journal “Tara, our little sneak, woke up the day before our scheduled blood work and decided to take a home pregnancy test. She was so surprised that it was actually positive- our one little eight cell, poor-quality embryo wanted to stick around! So she took another home pregnancy test. Still positive!! She called our fertility clinic and asked to come in a day early so she had the blood work done…and then waited. This was all unbeknownst to Dan and myself.”
After my blood work confirmed the pregnancy, I drove in what felt like bumper to bumper nasty traffic, but what was, in all actuality, a breezy 20 minute drive to Tanya and Dan’s house to tell them the news…that I…I mean we, were pregnant!
Cassie also tested, but her pregnancy test was negative. Cassie’s self-proclaimed stubbornness was an incredible asset. She went through two more treatment cycles and transfers, using every single embryo until none remained and became pregnant with the very last embryo! So Tanya and Dan would now be expectant parents to two babies!
The incredible excitement and joy made the next 11 weeks of intramuscular injections in the rear end to support the pregnancy through the 1st Trimester more than bearable! One of my favorite memories of this surrogacy journey was on a camping trip to Hocking Hills that my husband and our three daughters took along with Adoption STAR’s Ohio Director, Angela Laman, and her family. She was aware that my shots needed to be done at very specific times, regardless what was going on at the time. She ran out to the campfire and entertained my children and hers, as her husband found additional lanterns for me to use. There, inside our dark, but lantern lit tipi, I crossed my fingers that my husband would be accurate as he plunged the needle into the large bulls eye that the IVF nurse drew on my skin, on the side of my rear end, in permanent marker. Isn’t this how they did it in the pioneer days?
As the first trimester came and went, unfortunately the same could not be said for morning sickness as it decided to stay for much longer. It was also time for my husband and I to tell our three daughters. We had a code name for this talk we were going to give: “The Bird & The Bees: Extreme Edition”. I was nervous. I made brownies and hot cocoa and sat them around the dining room table. I didn’t know how much they would understand. Much to my surprise, they understood a lot more about biology that I initially thought! Their response was essentially this – “Cool!! So we are going to have a new cousin. That’s awesome! Can I have another brownie?!” Although one daughter was concerned that I might get a condition that she had heard about during a Spanx commercial, a very serious condition called a “muffin top”.
During the second trimester we learned that the baby I was carrying was a girl! Tanya and Dan were thrilled that their baby appeared healthy and strong on the ultrasound. They decided to name her Lucy.
Whenever I would see Tanya and Dan they would gently press their hands against my belly to feel their daughter kick. They shopped for little girl clothes and excitedly painted and decorated a nursery. Christmas came and we had much to be thankful for. They also learned that the baby Cassie was carrying, who would be 11 weeks younger than the baby I was carrying, was a boy. Connor would be his name. My daughters starting telling their classmates and friends and I became concerned how they might be sharing the story, i.e. were they getting all the facts straight? That is, until I saw a paper come home in my 1st graders backpack; yep, she’s got it all right. No need to worry. Other than the fact that we might need to work on her spelling a little bit.
In February, we decided to share our story with NBC’s The Today Show in hopes of providing inspiration to others and to help remove the secrecy and shame that infertility often brings. There were many times during the early days of Tanya’s infertility struggle that she felt very alone in her battle, so she wanted to let others know they weren’t alone. Cassie and I left our children at home with our families and we all headed up to New York for the taping of The Today Show.
Stay tuned next Wednesday for the third part in Tara’s journey.