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My Birth Story: Samantha Wasser

Samantha Wasser is Founder of by CHLOE, a global, vegan sensation that has the best guac burger known to mankind. In addition to arguably having the coolest nails at all times in the Tri-State area, Wasser is the proud mom to the adorable James Wasser (just over one-year-old) and dog-mom to two gorgeous pups.

We started trying probably four years before we ended up having James. I never thought that I would have an issue getting pregnant. I was one of the first out of my core group of friends to get married and was one of the first that was even trying to get pregnant. Now I feel like it's very different--maybe I'm just more involved with people talking about it than I was then.

We were trying very privately and were so ignorant when it comes to any “issues” that could effect us. A few of my husband's friends had struggled to get pregnant, but I never thought that was going to be me. The entire process was just so foreign to me.

I knew what a miscarriage was. I knew what IVF was. But I never understood really what it actually takes to go through those things. I just thought that if it doesn't work the first time, you try again. We decided that I’d go off birth control and just have fun, but the second you see that first negative pregnancy test you're like, "Let's go get that ovulation stick!" You start being more systematic about it.

We didn't get pregnant until five or six months into trying. I felt different and took a pregnancy test. It was positive, I went to my gynecologist, and everything was fine. My doctor at the time made me wait in the office for like an hour. I remember thinking, "If I'm going to be pregnant, I'm going to be here all the time! I don't have all this time to wait!" That led me to switch doctors.

When I went to see the new doctor for the first time for a scan, she was very silent. I wondered if maybe that was just her style; how she did stuff. But she kept looking and looking and the heartbeat that we had seen previously wasn't there anymore.

My husband and I were both hysterical. I looked at her and immediately asked what I did wrong. I couldn't understand how, if I had done everything right, this could happen. I hadn’t dyed my hair. I didn’t drink juices that were freshly made...I was going to the extreme with all of these things. But that was the first thing that I said: "What did I do wrong?" I remember in that moment thinking, “This is why no one talks about these things.” You feel like you did something wrong.

The doctor sent us to a more advanced screening facility so that they could basically deliver us the same information. I remember my doctor saying how common this was and that usually if you miscarry the first time, odds are it won’t happen again the next time around.

 

I had been eleven or so weeks pregnant, so we had to do a D&C. After that, I bled for a really long time. At that point, they had tested the embryo and it came back and it was chromosomally abnormal. The doctor was confident that the chance of it happening again was very small. So, we were feeling optimistic. 

We started trying again as soon as we could and got pregnant again at the end of December. I was so terrified when we went back to the doctor. At that point, I never had a positive scan, really. I remember thinking, "How am I going to go back to that place again with all those photos and holiday cards and birth announcements all over the walls?”

When I saw the doctor, she was so silent again. She didn't see anything. It turned out that my sac was empty. The embryo had never actually developed. She felt it was indicative of a second chromosomal event.

At this point, we started considering that maybe I just needed assistance with fertility because when the egg and sperm are meeting, natural selection is just not working. She didn't want to do another D&C and risk more scar tissue, so she told me to go do it at home using medication.

  

I took the pill and I blacked out. It was horrible. I was covered in chills and sweating. My husband had to bring a pillow into the bathroom because I was in agony, screaming on the bathroom floor. I passed out because I was in so much pain.

I called the fertility specialist the next day. I needed a plan. I needed to feel like I was working towards something.

I had literally looked up this specialist on Facebook, saw we had a friend in common, called that friend to tell her to put in a good word for me, which thank God she did, because me and this doctor ended up texting all the time. I found that going through this, I just needed that relationship. That was really helpful for me. 

When I first went to see the specialist, she told us we couldn't start trying for a really long time because I was still bleeding from second failed pregnancy. It was shortly after that when I started telling people that we miscarried twice. The only time I was truly able to understand what I was going through was when I started to talk to people that had been through it too. It wasn't so helpful when I was talking to my friends about it, they just couldn’t understand.  Needed to be people who felt the same sense of loss.

The pain is very different than any other sort of emotional pain I had ever experienced. It can't be compared to anything else. There's no textbook that tells you what helped other women grieve. A lot of people's help is, "I finally got pregnant and I had my baby." But what about this in between phase where you don't know if you're ever going to have a baby?

The doctors couldn't tell me anything. It was years of unknowns. Not to mention, your hormones are fluctuating, your weight is fluctuating, you're depressed, you're upset, and no one can give you answers.

 

I finally learned my problem was with my eggs and that I have quantity, not quality. When I did my first retrieval, I had 27 eggs, which is a lot, but embryo wise, we only got four. At that point, my doctor literally cried for me. She told me I was so textbook. My lining was perfect. The embryos were perfect. Everything was always what it should be--on paper. Transferring should have been the answer to our problems because I had been able to naturally get pregnant before. And now, I was being assisted with this “golden egg.” But even when I was given healthy embryos, my body rejected it. It didn't make any sense.

 

I started IVIG which is a blood medication that is used to boost your immunity before each transfer. I went to an allergist and got tested for every allergy. I thought, “I'll eliminate anything I need to!” It really made me rethink my body.

I was essentially pregnant for over three years without being pregnant. I was always gearing up for something, whether it was a transfer or more retrievals. I was in this constant state of wanting my body to be in pristine condition.

To prepare for my third transfer, I took a pill called Letrozole for 30 days. Letrozole is a medicine doctors give to breast cancer patients because it stops your body from producing estrogen, which leads to inflammation. Your body is just going out of control. You feel crazy and you don't even know if it's going to work.

 

We put in two embryos that time. That transfer ended up sticking. But a week later, my hormone levels plateaued. I was told I was going to miscarry again.

I geared up for another retrieval and this time, they got 36 eggs--seven embryos, which was a big improvement from the first time. I thought, "Maybe this has to do with me going to the allergist! Or my diet!" I had done so much in that time. 

I kept saying to my husband, "What happens if one day we go into the office and they turn to me and say, "We think it's your eggs." I am not prepared to hear that and the only way I'll know if my egg and your sperm are okay is if we put it in a different oven.  

When I failed my third transfer, I called my doctor and asked her to send me the surrogate agent's number immediately. I just wanted to find out what the process was. I was at rock bottom and time is the worst thing in all this; the thing you can't control, you can't stop, you can't slow down. I was trying to understand what surrogacy meant in terms of timing.

We had been working with the surrogate agency, Concieveabilities, which matches intended parents (like myself and my husband) with a potential surrogate. The process begins with a Match Matters meeting during which you review what type of surrogacy arrangement best suits you and any preferences you may have like how far away the surrogate lives or any sort of  lifestyle choices.

Our biggest priority was finding a loving surrogate and family that we connected with and trusted to carry our baby. We were open to finding someone located states away if it meant our baby would be surrounded by a lot of love and support. 

The two preferences we specified were, first, around termination or reduction of the pregnancy if a medical issue arose. This was a very hard topic to talk about but one that was essential for us if, God forbid, something unspeakable occured during the journey together. 

The other preference was finding a repeat surrogate, which was important to me from an emotional perspective. The whole process is so emotionally taxing on both sides and I really wanted someone who had been through the experience successfully before.

After the Matching Matters meeting, Concieveabilities works to pre-screen a surrogate candidate who meet our needs and the medical requirements provided by our IVF doctors. This was in August. We didn't end up finding our surrogate until in January.

In anticipation of this transfer, they put me on Depralupron, which is a shot they give you for an entire month and it puts you into menopause. They suggested I do that for two months to make sure my body was calm and then they'd implant me.

I remember talking to two people that had done it that told me it had been the worst thing they've ever done. I was like, "Cool! I'm going to do it!" 

And in fact, it was actually one of the worst things I had to do. You are physically having major heat flashes. I would be in meetings and I'd have to walk out because I would get so visibly red and so hot that I had to go to bathroom and take off my clothes.

My job wasn't aware of every single thing I was doing. All of this stuff, I'm basically hiding from everyone, spending so much time in the doctor's office -- it just messes you up.

While I was gearing up for another transfer, I remember feeling like I just needed something different in my life. I just needed something to change. It was right before New Year's and I turned to my husband and told him we were going to adopt a dog.

He thought I had lost my mind, but we went and adopted our dog. That same day we got a call from the agency that they found our surrogate.

We had only met our surrogate over FaceTime when we flew down to meet her in person in Texas, where she lives. We went to dinner before the transfer. It was so crazy. She was and is a true angel. She has this contagious laugh. I was so nervous before meeting her in person, but off the bat it was totally fine.

I read this study that was done that said after your transfers you should try to laugh, because when you're trying to implant, it's like the embryo is bouncing around and laughter can actually help it stick. This study said that women that had a medical clown in their room after transfers had a greater percentage of successful implantations.

 

 

 

I joked around with my husband that we were going to get a medical clown for me and he actually surprised me with one in L.A. It was one of the best things ever because it was after the transfer and I was so nervous.  We were all in this room and there's this clown in short overalls. It was actually ridiculous. This clown is yanking noses and we're laughing and laughing.

We ended up implanting two embryos and one of them worked.

I think what surprised me the most about surrogacy was the emotional toll the process took on me. After having endured 3+ years of emotional and physical pain where I felt completely out of control I thought I was ready for a new path to starting our family but I never anticipated how much more out of control I would feel. 

Intended parents have very little rights from a medical perspective. If I wanted more scans to ensure all was okay with my baby, those requests were not granted. Some nurses or imaging centers would not allow me to be FaceTimed into appointments. If I wanted to speak with the doctor following an appointment, I sometimes would wait days for a call back because I was "not the patient." 

I did not have the reassurances a "normal" pregnant woman would have, like a growing belly, morning sickness, or a belly kick. I counted down the days and minutes until we had a scan so I could see that everything was ok. It was exhausting. Being my son’s only advocate but not having the rights to actually advocate for him was excruciating. My husband and I are not overly spiritual or religious people but we found ourselves praying daily just hoping all would be ok. We were forced to put our faith in our surrogate to make the best choices for our baby.

When James was going to be born, we went to Texas for her to be induced early in the morning at around 4:00 a.m. There were no vacancies available, so we were waiting there for so many hours just waiting for her to get induced. The doctors told us that when she did get induced, the baby would probably come fast. The thing that was challenging was that the nurses weren't coming to find me and give me updates...and I didn't want to sit on top of her for five hours.

James ended up coming out literally after three pushes. I was holding our surrogate’s hand and looking at the monitor, making sure the heart rate wasn’t not going down. My husband had to remind me that I wasn't actually a doctor. Just because they showed me how to understand the monitor for three minutes does not mean I had been to medical school.

 

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This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, a cause I hold close to my heart. One in eight will suffer from infertility. Some reasons for this can be explained but for many like myself, there is no explanation. I still struggle with understanding WHY I will never feel my baby kick inside my growing belly, breastfeed my newborn or birth my child. Without an explanation how do you move on? How do you plan for the future? Why do I exist if I have failed at fulfilling my job as a woman? You are left replaying a bad soundtrack of gut wrenching questions...Will I feel connected to my child if I am unable to carry? Will I be able to provide for my child? Am I cheating by seeking alternative options? Did I try my hardest? Am I playing god? WHY ME? WHAT DID I DO? WHAT CAN I DO? and the one that kept me up at night for the last 4 years... WILL I EVER HAVE A BABY? As I look back on my own journey, I wish I knew more about my own fertility options and felt strong enough to speak up sooner because once I did I was able to find a community of loving, supporting and inspiring women who are the reason I am able to fully breathe again today. Fertility is still a taboo subject - but why? Who are we offending by speaking up? Why is it shameful to embrace your own journey and share, learn and rely on one another? What do we gain from keeping it a secret? Who are we helping? The answer is NO ONE. We need to come together and change the conversation. May was truly one of the hardest months for me, suffering in silence year after year. This year, May is a bit brighter for me with baby James’ arrival but I still grieve for the babies I’ll never have the chance to meet…more in comments below +link in bio👇🏻

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When he was born, the entire room was crying to the point that when I asked how much he weight, the nurse confessed she'd forgotten to even weigh him! She was so caught up in the emotion of it all. 

The hospital was amazing. They were able to give us two rooms next door to each other. Like I said, she has three boys and a little girl and because she had done the surrogacy twice before that, her kids really understood what was going on. And what an incredible role model for her daughter to to see her mother do this for families and to understand that from such a young age.

We had gone over to their house the night before she gave birth and she was showing me these photos that she had taken of her daughter with the other two surrogate babies. And she loved those photos. I knew how important those photos were, so we had a photographer come back the next day after the delivery and arranged for them to take a photo of James with her and her family. 

Now, we text with them all the time. On James's birthday, the whole family sent us a text message singing Happy Birthday. In the beginning, you're talking a lot more. You're sending photos all the time. But at some point you're kind of just like, "now it's time to live." It's really nice to hear from her, especially with things that are just normal.

 

 

 

Aside from the emotional rollercoaster of the physical pregnancy, after bringing James home, I struggled a lot with emotions around if I deserved to be a mom. I pushed myself to work harder and longer hours once my son arrived because I thought I didn't deserve to take maternity leave. I struggled with fitting in. I wasn't welcomed at prenatal classes around the city during the time my surrogate was pregnant. Going to any new mama meetups, I felt like a complete fraud and outsider. Did I deserve to be there? Do they think I took the easy route? I had nothing to contribute to the conversation of breastfeeding. I couldn't relate to their struggles but was too ashamed to talk about mine. I would feed James at off hours because I was so scared of being judged for bottle feeding him when I had no other choice. I would go home and cry just feeling so alone and inadequate as a mother. I was unable to provide him with the "best" nutrients, I deprived him of the emotional bond a mother and child develop during the act of breastfeeding, childbirth and pregnancy. That was very difficult.

Now, James is 14 months and he’s into everything. He's obsessed with bubbles and randomly decided to say it the other day. I couldn't believe he knew that word! You know what a bubble is?! He's a little more like me. He's kind of crazy. He's calm in some senses but then all the sudden he'll screech and I'm like, "Yep! That's me!"

Interviews and stories on hillhousehome.com are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.