Samuel Yen’s Pioneering Research in Reproductive Endocrinology

I was at my elementary school reunion this weekend, visiting with friends I hadn’t seen for 43 and even 45 years. People came to Cleveland, Ohio from Illinois, New York, Southern California and even from Tokyo!

I got to visit with friends, who moved away to Fort Myers, Florida and La Jolla, California, when we were only 10. It was a fabulous weekend of bridging new connections, with old friends.

The most extraordinary thing happened, when I asked my friend Carol what branch of medicine her father had practiced. She told me he was an OB/GYN, and conducted all the pioneering research for IVF and Surrogacy. It knocked my socks off. I used to spend the night at her house and was in the mix with her Dad, the great Dr Yen.

This man with his 450 some studies and 40 book chapters on reproductive endocrinology changed the course of my life! Without him and his ground breaking work, I wouldn’t have my boys. Oh I want to thank him a thousand times, but he’s no longer with us. He died several years back in 2006.

I am in awe of him and the fact that I knew him as a little girl. But then again, the truth is he changed so many of our lives. This great science and technology brought me the most important of relationships in my life. He helped me to complete my life.

I’ve always wondered who figured this all out and how did they do it. All along it was him! Little did I know that when I was losing my childhood girlfriend to La Jolla, California, her father was going to a job to work in this exact area! Truly astounding!

Lisa J Lafave, PhD, MBA, ACC
The Surrogacy Coach at Surrogacy Rocks
CEO & Founder of Coaching Rocks, LLC
A Single Mom By Choice Raising Surrogacy Twin Boys
Written in My Little Brick in University Heights, Ohio

Traditional Surrogacy Vs Gestational Surrogacy

Traditional surrogacy came first, then the modified version called gestational surrogacy was developed. Traditional surrogacy occurs when the surrogate not only carriers the baby, but also provides her egg or her DNA to create the baby. This can be accomplished by inseminating the surrogate with the chosen sperm and then the surrogate carrying the baby to term and delivering the baby, after which she surrenders the baby to the intended parent.

In traditional surrogacy, there is no need to take drugs to sync cycles, and no need to grow the embryo outside the uterus in a Petri dish. It is far more akin to a regular pregnancy than gestational surrogacy. In both traditional surrogacy and a typical pregnancy millions of sperm race toward the egg which is making its way down the Fallopian tube or has made its way into the uterus. Once the egg is penetrated by the sperm, it becomes an embryo and begins to divide. It then attempts to implant in the uterine wall, which is filled with blood and ready to sustain the embryo. With luck the embryo will stick and become a fetus and then some nine or ten months later give rise to the birth of a baby.

Overtime, intended parents discovered that there were inherent legal risks to traditional surrogacy. Should the surrogate change her mind, the intended parent could be in quite a legal battle. Despite legal documents, courts have at times ruled in favor of the traditional surrogate. After all, she not only carried the baby but also provided her DNA to create the baby.

This is why gestational surrogacy was created. In gestational surrogacy, the intended parents choose an egg donor, a sperm donor and a surrogate. In this case, the cycles of the egg donor and surrogate are synced hormonally, such that when the eggs are released and ready for extraction from the egg donor, the surrogate’s uterine wall is lining up with blood and will be ready to receive the embryos 5 days later, after they have had a chance to mature a bit.

In gestational surrogacy, their is less risk of the surrogate successfully changing her mind and the courts opting in her favor to take the baby or babies away from the intended parents and give him, her or them to the surrogate. In gestational surrogacy, the court sees the DNA of both the egg and sperm, as belonging to the intended parents. This is why, more often then not, the court awards the baby or babies to the intended parents after a gestational surrogacy. However, there have been rare instances, in which the surrogate has changed her mind and won in court, even in the case of gestational surrogacy.

Most Lawyers today would advise you to engage in gestational surrogacy, but as you can imagine traditional surrogacy could be far less expensive. If you opt for traditional surrogacy, be aware of what you are forsaking.

Which option is right for you? Traditional surrogacy or gestational surrogacy? Make a case for why the option you chose is right for you. Commit those thoughts to writing.

Lisa J Lafave, PhD, MBA, ACC
The Surrogacy Coach at Surrogacy Rocks
CEO & Founder of Coaching Rocks, LLC
A Single Mom By Choice of Surrogacy Twin Boys
Written in My Little Brick in University Heights, Ohio

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Why Would You Let Genetics Stand In Your Way?

I once was invited to participate in a group with a bunch of women, who had trouble conceiving. What was interesting to me was that the women were far more distressed by their experience, than I was about mine and I had been struggling with the issue for far longer!

I wonder if the dynamic that set us apart was the fact that I was single! It seems to me that when you are coupled up, and both want a baby, that you must have either some sense of disappointing your partner, or feeling aggravated with your partner that together the two of you cannot make a baby. Either way, you have some complicated feelings to manage vis a vis your partner. If the problem does not reside clearly with you, you may feel your partner is blocking you from realizing your dream. Similarly, if the problem lies with you, you might feel you are failing your partner and keeping them from experiencing all the joys of parenthood. The sense I got from participating, briefly in this group, was that the very relationship was sometimes threatened, by the fact that the couple could not naturally, or with assistance produce a baby.

What has always been phenomenal to me was that what each of these women wanted more than anything was a baby and a family to fill the void in their lives, yet most of them were absolutely unwilling to try to attempt this process using genetic material, other than their own!

When I lived in New York City, I knew a couple who experienced a similar challenge. They were in love! Bogey were married! Bother had a novice home and a couple of cats and they wanted nothing more than a baby. They tried IVF seven times and failed. They never pursued adoption and it was too early for surrogacy, which might have been prohibitive given their financial resources. Quite frankly, even if they had the finances, they may have had a similar outcome, if they were still unwilling to use alternate DNA. You see, I was never privy to the exact nature of their problem.

Call me daft, but I fail to understand in what way the ladies in my group and the friends from New York City could not understand they could realize their greatest dream, if they simply created a baby that would be theirs, save the genetics. At the end of the day, any one of these folks would have either a bouncing baby boy, or a darling little girl. So what’s the difference how the child comes to be, if all you really want is a baby? The notion still makes me scratch my head.

What I do know, as a result of raising my own children, who do not come from my genetics, is they could not be more mine! People very commonly think they come from me, yet mistake me for their grandmother, owing to my advanced maternal age! The point is we look enough alike that people assume we are have the common genetic ties seen in most families.

The journey is what makes me their mother! The day to dayness of our relationship and all the things I do for them, big and small, is what makes me their mother. Having the honor to be with them through thick and thin, and the joy of watching them grow and change overtime is what makes me their mother. Sharing their laughter and their tears is what makes me their mother. Watching out for them and trying to make sure each day is filled with texture and an appropriate amount of stimulation is what makes me their mother.

My DNA is not the fiber of their being, but my heart is! They are my labor of love. They are my life’s work. Everything I am and all that I will become has everything to do with them. We are family and there is a purpose for all of our actions. Everyday, we are becoming more of who we are meant to be. To be sure, we three were meant to be together! We are bound by the ties of family. My life is richer and better now that they are in it. Although my children arrived when I was nearly fifty, I cannot imagine what it would have been like without them.

So what is holding you back? Are you allowing genetics to get in the way of fulfilling your dreams? What is truly at the root of that for you? What are you afraid of? What’s the bottom line on this one for you? Aren’t we all more alike than different, by the simple virtue of our humanness?

By now, you know the drill. Get out paper and pencil, or grab your mobile phone or iPad and please put your thoughts down in a more formal fashion. What keeps you from leaping forward and creating that baby? Surely, in the case of surrogacy, you can see you have more control over some of the aspects of the genetics your baby is likely to inherit, than is the case in adoption or foster care. What stops you in your tracks? Is it insurmountable? Can you work your way around it? Are you ready to dive in and create that family you have so desperately longed for?

Lisa J Lafave, PhD, MBA, ACC
The Surrogacy Coach at Surrogacy Rocks
CEO & Founder of Coaching Rocks, LLC
A Single Mom By Choice Raising Surrogacy Twin Boys
Written in My Little Brick In a University Heights, Ohio

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Embryo Donation/Adoption

So what do you do with those extra embryos? Inquiring minds want to know! There are several options. You can store them for later use. You can donate them anonymously or to a known recipient. Or you can donate them to science and leave them with the doctor or clinic, to do with, as they will.

I have been lucky enough to be able to donate my embryos to a known recipient. We are still in the process of taking care of the legal aspect of the donation/adoption.

This embryo donation process is more involved than I ever would have thought. We are putting the final touches on the contracts between me and the embryo recipient, as well as creating an amendment between me and the egg donor, in order to give the embryos to the embryo recipient. There is a lot to consider. Much more than one would anticipate, at first blush.

In retrospect, I am so grateful that I had four gorgeous embryos, and only four embryos, after the insemination of sperm into egg and the five day wait, while they divided in the petri dish. It was the perfect amount, not too many, not too few. It allowed me the opportunity to breathe and know I had two more waiting, if the first two didn’t take! It also allowed me to fantasize about using them myself, at a later date. Finally, it will prevent me from having to go through this process of speaking with lawyers and trying to donate the embryos more than once. Trust me once through this shoot is enough for me. For heaven sakes, what would I have done if I had 17 gorgeous embryos? And what would it have been like trying to donate a few less than gorgeous embryos?

I have found an embryo donation secret group on Facebook and it has been very illuminating to discover how much angst is involved in the embryo donation process. Much to my surprise, it has been a veritable emotional roller coaster for me. It has been good to see that others have been through much the same. Essentially by reading others’ posts I got the support I needed. I learned that having difficulty letting go of the “snowflakes” is just part of the process.

Thankfully, I am now on the better side of that roller coaster. It was rough there for awhile. So good to know my feelings about the embryo donation/adoption have smoothed out and I am completely secure in the fact that I am doing the right thing! So good to have arrived at this spot again.

Intended parents of children through surrogacy, just remember that embryo donation may be part of your future too!

Lisa J Lafave, PhD, MBA, ACC
The Surrogacy Coach at Surrogacy Rocks
CEO & Founder of Coaching Rocks
A Single Mom By Choice of Surrogacy Twin Boys
Written in my Little Brick in University Hts, Ohio

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The Relationship with Your Surrogate

Your relationship with your surrogate will be an interesting one to co-create. You will likely have several phone calls with her before, and during the pregnancy. You will want to bond with her to a certain extent, but you will have to be respectful of her desire or lack thereof for closeness with you.

It may not be immediately apparent why it is important for you to travel to the doctor’s office and be present for the transfer of the embryo(s) into the surrogate, but suffice it to say it is important.

Being present at the transfer is one way to connect with your surrogate. I suggest that you make the effort to meet your surrogate at the doctor’s office the day of the transfer. This is a way of showing support to the surrogate and acknowledging the doctor’s special contribution. However, it is also a very important experience for you! You will not want to miss it for any of the three reasons mentioned above. Just be sure to be present the day of the transfer. I cannot stress the importance of this day and your presence enough! It is of utmost importance that you be present at the transfer. Do not let it pass you by.

Initially, you will be waiting for news from the doctor to hear if the embryo implanted and pregnancy took place. Then you will be waiting to hear if the embryo stuck and if the pregnancy is viable. Once these things have taken place you will want information from the surrogate, from time to time, about how she is doing and about the status of your baby growing inside her, but you will also not want to crowd her. You will want her to be as comfortable, as possible, while she carries your baby.

It might be best to talk about how much communication you each would like to have and when and how that communication will take place. For example, who will initiate contact and how frequently will the contact occur? Obviously, you will want to hear news, as soon as possible, if something goes wrong, but generally speaking when all is well will contact occur every other week or only after she has seen the doctor? Together you can figure these details out regarding what system works for you. My point is it might be best to hammer out how and when you expect to have contact, so everyone’s needs are respectfully served through out the surrogacy process.

Your surrogate will play a significant role in your life. She will give you one of the most important gifts in your life. She will bring your baby to life. Quite possibly no one other than your own mother at the time of your own birth has given you a gift of this magnitude. A part of you will be forever in her debt.

Depending on your relationship with your surrogate and your surrogate herself, you may even be in the room, while she is in labor and possibly even in the delivery room, when the baby arrives. This is a special relationship indeed.

You will want to honor her in some special way and acknowledge the birth itself. After the birth, you may send her flowers or bring a small gift to commemorate the experience. Your thoughtfulness will touch her.

Since my surrogate chose not see the babies after giving birth, while she was in the hospital, I invited her and her family to visit us at the resort I was staying at. She welcomed the visit and we all spent about four hours together. I believe she felt it was safe to see the babies once she had passed the maternal torch to me and I was firmly on board as their mother. Approximately two and a half weeks had passed between the delivery and the visit, since my boys were in the NICU as healthy feeder growers for 18 days. It was nice to see my surrogate with her family and the twins. Her husband, her son and daughter, her brother and her mother all attended the visit. In addition, the director at SAI, Ann Miranda and her daughter joined us for the visit.

My surrogate’s little girl always wanted to hold the babies. That day, I made sure that little girl got her wish! I like to think everyone was comforted by the visit. The next day my family and I were bound for home via two airplanes and a limo! Don’t worry we did have a friend along for the ride who was very instrumental in assuring that we were safe and well taken care of every step of the way!

I have never forgotten my surrogate and the gift she bestowed upon my family and you will never forget yours. Spend as much time with her as you can. Do whatever you can to deepen your relationship with her. Opportunities present themselves 1) when you initially interview your surrogate, 2) the day of the transfer, 3) the day of the birth, 4) a visit in the hospital after the babies have been born, 5) a visit after the bab(ies) are released from the hospital. These experiences and later memories are important. They become part of your story regarding how you created your family. Enjoy them!

Lisa J Lafave, PhD, MBA, ACC
The Surrogacy Coach from Surrogacy Rocks
CEO & Founder of Coaching Rocks, LLC
A Single Mom By Choice of Surrogacy Twin Boys
Written in My Little Brick in University Heights, Ohio

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Why Surrogacy?

Reproductive science has advanced in the last 50 years beyond imagination! Infertility is no longer the obstacle it once was. Individuals and couples who would have remained childless in yesterday’s landscape are able to conceive and fulfill their dreams.

Today, as never before, there are many different ways to create a family. Surrogacy can save the day for any given individual or couple, with the financial means, who desires to have a baby and has not been successful with the more traditional methods.

Surrogacy can be an attractive option for older couples, or individuals, who missed the chance to conceive naturally when they were young. If you have the cash, surrogacy can put you in high gear toward the baby line, when your chances in that direction would have been slim to none.

Surrogacy provides a wonderful opportunity for parenthood for those who have some serious reproductive issues. It offers the chance for wholeness and the ability to move forward, as if nothing had been amiss.

When IVF between repeatedly fails, surrogacy may be the answer. If you have the financial wherewithal, many options within surrogacy become available. You may even be able to use your own genetics, but need the assistance of another womb. It maybe that one or both of you chooses to forsake your own genetics in order to use younger, heartier DNA to create your family and supplement with the addition of a surrogate mother to carry your baby.

Some gay men are opting these days to create their families with the help of an egg donor and a surrogate mother. This is clearly epic.

Surrogacy is a reasonable option, for those of means, to create a family, when other techniques have failed. Surrogacy offers a new solution for those struggling with fertility issues.

Lisa J Lafave, PhD, MBA, ACC
The Surrogacy Coach at Surrogacy Rocks
CEO & Founder of Coaching Rocks, LLC
A Single Mom By Choice of Surrogacy Twin Boys

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What’s Better Than A Contract?

You will have a contract written between you and you egg donor and between you and your surrogate.

The relationship people seem to worry the most about is the one between you’d and your surrogate. People will grill you about whether or not your surrogate will surrender the baby in the eleventh hour.

The truth is that the contract between you and your surrogate not entirely binding. When you present the contact to a judge in a court of law, he or she reviews it and signs off on it. Then it is entirely binding.

In my case this the judge signed off indicating that when my babies were gestating securely within the surrogate 5 months before their due date, they were legally mine, for better or worse.

This meant that the surrogate could not suddenly change her mind, nor could I. The babies developing in her body were mine to protect and care for. This was a relief not only to me but to all of my friends and family members who may have been worrying that a surrogacy nightmare might occur and I might be caught in the middle of it.

This was legally possible in the State of California. Find out if it is possible where you plan to have your child gestate. It is currently the greatest form of protection you can have legally speaking while creating a child through surrogacy.

Lisa J Lafave, PhD, MBA, ACC
The Surrogacy Coach at Surrogacy Rocks
CEO & Founder of Coaching Rocks, LLC
A Single Mom By Choice of Surrogacy Twin Boys
Written in My Little Brick in University Hts, Ohio

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The ABCs of Surrogacy

There are 3 essential people that you need to locate to help you create your child through surrogacy. First, you need a sperm donor. Second, you need an egg donor and third, you need a surrogate mother. In some cases you or your partner may be able to provide the DNA (egg and / or sperm). In other cases, you will need to locate all three of these people to help you with your journey.

Simply googling sperm donor, egg donor or surrogate will take you far in your search. Although you may gain access to sperm donor databases almost immediately, you will not find your egg donor, nor surrogate immediately. For these two, you will need to complete an intended parent application. So there may be a day or two between completing the application and gaining access to the information about the egg donors and surrogate.

As you narrow the field and determine which company you are working with, you will no doubt find people there who are guiding and directing you. These people will play a significant role in your process.

Generally speaking, you will look for your people in the order suggested above. First you’ll find your sperm donor, then your egg donor and finally your surrogate. And there are good reasons for this. Your sperm is generally on ice, so it can wait while you find the rest of your team. No need courting a surrogate, until you already have your egg donor in place. Remember once you have your egg donor, you want to find that surrogate pretty quickly thereafter, so as not to gobble up your egg donor’s time. This is after all, business for them and time is money!

In addition to these three essential people, you will also need an IVF doctor to handle the medical issues and a lawyer to handle the legal matters associated with your surrogacy arrangement.

Once you have selected your egg donor and surrogate, your doctor will screen them to be sure they are suitable for your needs. Don’t be surprised if you have to go back to the drawing board and review the databases again to select a new egg donor or surrogate.

You will need a lawyer to represent your interests in the writing of your contracts with both the egg donor and the surrogate, should there be a dispute in the future. In fact, you will also have to pay for your egg donor and your surrogate to have their own separate lawyer to represent them in the preparation and final signing of these same contracts.

All of that said, of course you will also need the doctor, or clinic, mentioned above, who will handle the clearance of the egg donor and surrogate, as well as the syncing of their cycles, the egg removal, fertilization of the egg with the sperm, observation of the embryos as they divide, and the transfer of the embryos into the surrogate.

Later on you will interface with the hospital staff where your baby is born. This location is generally up to the discretion of the surrogate herself. Of course, the hospital has something to do with the surrogate’s insurance. If she is uninsured, you can purchase insurance for her for this purpose. Then the insurance that you purchase will have some bearing on which hospital the baby is born in.

One word of caution, if your baby or babies as the case may be end up in the NICU you will have a significant bill that you can look forward to paying for. If there is anyway you can manage having the baby born in a hospital that is within network for your insurance you can significantly reduce that bill. It is worth it to consider this issue upfront.

So to sum up, the people that you will be looking for include your sperm donor, your egg donor and your surrogate, as well as your IVF doctor and your reproductive law lawyer.

So have at it! Those babies won’t make themselves! Go great guns in your search! Happy hunting!

Lisa J Lafave, PhD, MBA, ACC
The Surrogacy Coach at Surrogacy Rocks
CEO & Founder of Coaching Rocks, LLC
A Single Mom By Choice Raising Surrogacy Twin Boys
Written in My Little Brick in Univeristy Heights, Ohio

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Hold on to Your Hats

Not so fast, that was just the retainer that I signed the other day!

These embryo donation / adoption agreements are boiler plated and sound a bit crazy given our particular circumstances. We want an open agreement and these have a gag rule, in which, if you talk openly to the newspapers, etc., you can be sued. Yikes!

Doesn’t make sense to me to be sued just telling your story, to whomever! Fortunately, my recipient and I are on the same page.

We are in the process of hammering out the details. Within a week or two everything will be signed sealed and delivered.

I am feeling so much better now about giving my snowflakes away. So glad peace and tranquility has arrived.

Lisa J Lafave, PhD, MBA, ACC
The Surrogacy Coach from Surrogacy Rocks
CEO & Founder of Coaching Rocks, LLC
A Single Mom By Choice Raising Surrogacy Twin Boys
Written at Lake Morey Resort in New Hampshire