By Alissa Butterfass
15 Jul

A Story of Surrogacy, Part 1

Friday, July 15, 2011

As a woman born with Transposition of the Great Vessel, I have many memories of my annual check-up at my cardiologists. And, if memory serves correctly, each check-up ended the same way, with my mother asking the same question: Will Alissa be able to have children? Dr. H repeated the same answer, nearly word for word, each year. “I see no reason why not, but we’ll have to see when the time comes.” At the time, when I was only five or six or seven that question, which was so important to my mother, barely registered with me. My mother never stopped asking the question each year, and Dr. H never wavered from his standard answer.

As I got older, my mother’s question about my ability to have children gradually became mine as well. In my late 20s, I switched to a practice that specialized in adults born with CHDs and from the first meeting with my new cardiologist, it was me who was asking that question, not Mom. Still, the answer was practically identical. “When the time comes, we’ll see.”

Not longer after, I met the man who would become my husband, known here as “Hubby.” Sometime around the third or fourth date, I shared my cardiac history with him. He was completely unfazed (as was every man I ever dated, so kudos to all of them!). After a year of dating we were engaged, within a year after that we were married, and a year later we decided we were ready to have kids. “The time” had come.

Together we went to see Dr. G, and asking if I could have kids went from a hypothetical query to a real and immediate concern. After several rounds of testing ranging from stress tests to an MRI, as well as the placement of two stents, Dr. G considered me an excellent candidate for pregnancy, so off went Hubby and I to make a baby (the fun part of this story!). In July 2005, I test positive for pregnancy. We were thrilled—a little nervous—but thrilled. At first everything seemed to be going well, but twice during my pregnancy I experienced cardiac complications and was hospitalized. I owe many thanks to the well-coordinated care of my cardiac and obstetric teams for getting me through it all. My son M. was born in March 2006 at 3:04 a.m. after 18 hours of labor and a C-section. The next day I quipped to Dr. G that maybe I should outsource the next one.

But, as M. turned a year old and Hubby and I considered another child, we still preferred to try for another pregnancy if Dr. G thought it would be OK. Again, together we visited Dr. G, hoping that we’d get the go-ahead. She was surprised I wanted to go through another pregnancy after my last experience.

I underwent a new round of tests. Even knowing that I was willing to go through it all again, she recommended against it. As she put it, it was not a morbidity issue, as she thought she could get me through another pregnancy, but an issue of potential impact to my heart function in the long term. There had been some slight worsening of function from carrying M. and she was scared that an additional pregnancy would cause exponentially worse damage and potentially shorten my life expectancy.

Graciously, Dr. G suggested that Hubby and I get other opinions, but we both felt that we trusted her, and knew that even if we found a doctor who would tell us what we wanted to hear—that I could go through another pregnancy—just knowing how risky Dr. G deemed it, was enough for us to dismiss that option.

And from there we started our two year journey into the world of gestational surrogacy.

Visit the ACHA blog on Monday for the second part of Alissa's story.

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