Ep 74: Parijat’s Birth Story – IVF, Surrogacy, Pregnancy Loss and Mindful Pregnancy

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You all know that I love every birth story episode of the podcast, but some of them stand out a little bit extra in my mind. Today's episode is one of those particularly inspiring stories that illustrates the incredible strength parents have and everything it takes to bring a baby into the world.

Today we're joined by Parijat Deshpande, a high-risk pregnancy expert, mind-body health specialist, author, speaker, and advocate for moms with high-risk pregnancies and pre-term birth. Parijat's own experiences have hugely influenced her work and her passion for helping other moms handle some of life's most difficult decisions. 

Parijat and I talk about the journey to the births of her son and daughter, including the fertility challenges she and her husband knew they were going to face, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), pregnancy complications, and giving birth to her son at 24 weeks. She also talks about navigating the NICU and some of the healing she and her husband went through to get to a place where they felt ready for a second baby.

Then Parijat shares the thought process she and her husband went through as they decided to work with a surrogate (AKA gestational carrier) and how they navigated several pregnancy losses with her. We also talk about the birth of her daughter, how Parijat has used her background in therapy to consciously choose joy while navigating the grief around this journey, and how these experiences have transformed her professional life, too.

In this Episode, You’ll Learn About:

  • How Parijat's pregnancy journey began with fertility treatments and an ectopic pregnancy
  • Why it is so important to trust your instincts when it comes to your pregnancy and your baby
  • How Parijat and her husband navigated the birth and NICU stay of their son when he arrived at about 24 weeks
  • What they had to do to heal from the first part of their pregnancy journey so they could think about growing their family
  • What Parijat and her husband considered with their medical team before choosing to work with a gestational carrier
  • Some of the challenges they faced with their gestational carrier, including pregnancy loss and losing their additional embryos
  • How Parijat and her husband made an intentional choice to feel joy rather than fear during their final pregnancy

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Speaker 1: This is a really difficult, but incredibly inspiring birth story involving pregnancy loss in vitro fertilization, pregnancy complications, a NICU baby, and then surrogacy.

Speaker 2: Welcome to the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast. I'm Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins, a practicing board certified OB GYN who's had the privilege of helping hundreds of moms bring their babies into this world. I'm here to help you be knowledgeable, prepared, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Quick note, this podcast is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Check out the full disclaimer at www.ncrcoaching.com/disclaimer. Now let's get to it.

Speaker 1: Hello. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 74. Thank you for being here with me today. With this episode of the podcast, I have a birth story from Parijat Deshpande. Parijat is a leading mind body health specialist, a trauma professional, a speaker, an author who teaches women how to deactivate their stress response before, during and after a high risk pregnancy so that they can give their baby a strong start to life. Her unique approach has served hundreds of women to help them manage pregnancy complications and reclaim a safety and trust in their bodies that they thought had been eroded. Parijat is the author of a best selling a book called Pregnancy Brain, a mind body approach to stress management during a high risk pregnancy. And part of the reason that she is so well qualified to do this work is because of her own experiences.

Speaker 1: And that is what she is sharing with us on the podcast today, she is going to talk about how she got pregnant with her son after infertility and loss. She had complications, extended bedrest. Her son was born at 24 and a half weeks. She then went on to have a daughter born via gestational carrier at 39 weeks. Her story I'll have to admit was a bit hard for me to hear, because honestly it felt a little bit unfair that one person had to go through so much, but she is such an incredible testament to the strength of women and what we can do. And her warm, positive energy really shines through in her voice, in the conversation. So I know you're going to enjoy her story, and although it's challenging, you will feel inspired after listening. Now, of course, Parijat gives you information and resources that help you if you have a high risk pregnancy. And I definitely encourage you to check her out.

: Well, I of course have some resources that are beneficial for all women during pregnancy. And I want you to head on over to my website at www.ncrcoaching.com and check those out there. You can register for my free class on how to make a birth plan that works. Women really love this class. It's crucial information you need before you write a single word of your birth plan. You can learn about my online childbirth education class, The Birth Preparation Course. It is just what women have needed in these times where hospitals are not offering in person classes. And it is what you need to get knowledgeable, prepared, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful birth. So you can check that out as well. And then I have a free guide to pain management in labor. You can download warning signs to look out for after birth. So again, head to my website, www.ncrcoaching.com, check out all of the additional resources that I have for you there. All right. Without further ado, let's get into the episode with Parijat.

: Nicole: Thank you Parijat for coming onto the podcast. This is our second time trying to do this. I know the first time was a little bit crazy, so I appreciate you coming on.

Speaker 3: Parijat: Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Yeah. So how about we start off by having you tell us a bit about you and your family.

Speaker 3: Parijat: Yeah, absolutely. So I'm a mom of two living on earth, have got two little kiddos. One is seven and the other is 16 months. And, we've got several angels that we hold in our heart. And it was that family building journey with lots of ups and downs that really inspired the work that I do, working with women before, during, and after a high risk pregnancy to help them prepare their bodies for pregnancy, stay pregnant and then heal after baby comes home or doesn't come home. Cause sometimes we know that's the reality too.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Yeah, unfortunately that is the reality. So why don't we have you start off about telling us a little bit about your struggle with infertility before your first earth side baby came?

Speaker 3: Parijat: Sure. So we actually were one of the couples that knew we would have fertility challenges beforehand. So we don't have that typical experience if we were trying and trying and trying and nothing was happening and we were young and we didn't understand why, we were young and we knew that it was going to be a challenge for us. And so I was in my twenties when I went to see a fertility specialist for the first time. And I still remember, I'm friends with him now and you know, we've been through so much together, but I remember the first time I met him and he just kind of looked at me when, you realize you're very young. You realize, I typically don't see patients as young, like look at the whole chart. You'll see why. And so we dove right in, you know, we got a lot of the information ahead of time.

Speaker 3: Parijat: It was overwhelming to know kind of what we were up against, but we felt comfortable with him and the plan that he laid out, we took some time, we went on a couple of vacations, you know, we were really early in our marriage. And so we thought, okay, let's really just kind of enjoy the time that we've got before we dive into what seems to be a really big project. And, when we first began, our first attempt was we did an IUI. And that ended as a ruptured ectopic, which was really shocking to both of us because I think we had prepared ourselves to go, okay, we know enough stories and enough of the data to know it's very likely the first day or so for several tries, may not result in anything. And we also knew some of the data and stories of our friends have miscarriages.

Speaker 3: Parijat: And so we were kind of aware of both of those options, but we were not at all aware that me trying to get pregnant would be dangerous to me. And that aspect of it was something that we were not at all prepared for. And there was a whole full body experience for both of us, me and my husband of, Oh my goodness, this is way more complicated than we were ever prepared for. And this is terrifying. And so, you know, being wheeled into kind of having him look at me and watch me as I just kind of deteriorated with the blood loss before I was rushed to the hospital and then having him watch me go into the OR, waiting for me and waiting for the results of what's going to happen. And then from my end, just kind of coming out of it on the other side, having to make sense of, okay, I did get pregnant, but we lost the baby and I almost died, was just a lot. It was a lot to really wrap our heads around. So it took quite a few months for us to get comfortable at all of saying situate, try again.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Right. Right. And let me just say really quick for the listeners guys, erupted ectopic is when a pregnancy happens in the fallopian tubes and it burst through the tubes and it causes life threatening bleeding. It's actually the number one cause of death in the first trimester of pregnancy for women. So it is legitimately like life threatening. And the description of watching how you deteriorated, I've seen that in front of my own eyes. It can happen very quickly. The amount of bleeding. Yeah. And when you're in, I can imagine it was crazy because you're like, like you said, you're prepared for the other things, but this wasn't even on your radar.

Speaker 3: Parijat: No, it's not even anywhere on our radar that this would be something we would go through.

: Nicole: Well, thankfully you made it through that. But then you're like, well, now what?

: Parijat: Yeah. And you know, I'll add here too, that the surgeon who performed my surgery was not my fertility specialist as the on call OB at the hospital who I am now also friends with. I became very good friends with my medical team. I got to know them very well. So she actually said something to my husband that he told me days later that, when I was in recovery, she came out and talked to him and my parents and she said, she's, you know, she's gonna be fine. You know, everything's okay. This is going to hit her in three to five days. So you need to be there for her because the hormones start coming down and she's coming out of recovery and she's coming out of the anesthesia and all of this is kind of settling back down.

Speaker 3: Parijat: It's going to hit her very hard. Your job is to be there for her. And I appreciated that because obviously neither one of us knew what to expect. And certainly my husband was just in such shock of what had just happened. That coaching for him gave him a lot of great context about what could be happening to me when I couldn't even necessarily articulate it myself. And so I remember in those early days of recovery, it did hit me. And I didn't understand that, he hadn't told me this at the time he told me later, and he was just such a tremendously supportive partner in, he didn't know what to say. He didn't know what to do, but he understood that this is not anything other than me realizing what had just happened. And the whole body shock was kind of settling and kind of coming out and releasing.

Speaker 3: Parijat: So, you know, we took the time, we took our time, I mentioned we were both in agreement that we, I wanted to physically heal. And my fertility specialist had given us about a timeline. We're not even gonna consider this for two months, at least, you know, you need to replenish your blood supply. You've got to really get stronger. Again, everything just needs to settle down. And I also wanted to be more emotionally prepared. Cause if this could happen once who knows what could happen anymore, that's kind of the impression that we had at this point of now, we want to be very careful. So we took several months off actually to allow for both of us to feel safe, to go back into that conversation with my fertility specialist and say, okay, we're not committing to anything yet. Well, what's our option.

Speaker 3: Parijat: If we were ready to try again at some, right? And so we discussed those options and it turned out that IVF was the safest route. If we did want to try again when, and if we wanted to. And so several months down the road, when we both felt ready, that is, that was kind of the next jump is right into IVF.

: Nicole: And then how did that go?

: Parijat: Well, it's, I'm very lucky that I got pregnant immediately, on our first try, ended up with 10 embryos. And we transferred one. This was done at the time when we were still doing fresh transfers pretty often. So we did the egg retrieval and out of all the eggs that they retrieved, we had 10 embryos and we transferred one on day three. And, I actually didn't know I was pregnant right away because I developed my first complication before I found out I was pregnant.

Speaker 3: Nicole: Oh my goodness.

: Parijat: I ended up with what's called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and a very pretty severe case of it actually. So I was very sick. And so prior to being able to do the pregnancy test, my belly had swelled up. So I was looking about six, seven months pregnant. And I didn't understand why. And I felt so sick and I just felt like something was really wrong. And so we went into the doctor multiple times, like, well, what's happening? What is this? And finally we were pretty close to the time that we could have tested. It was very early for testing. But since we were there, we realized that I needed to do what's called a paracentesis. All the fluid that had come into my belly needed to be relieved and taken out. And at the same time, he said, well, why don't we want a pregnancy test anyway, just in case. And I was recovering from this procedure. I can still picture her sitting on the chair and the doctor pops his head in to the exam room. He goes congratulations. You're pregnant. Just looked at him like, what are you kidding? Why is this happening? And that's how we found out that we were pregnant with my son.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Oh my goodness. Wow.

Speaker 3: Parijat: Yeah. And it was the beginning of a very complicated, very complicated journey to bringing him into this world. But that moment was certainly, again, not what we had expected. We thought there would be a moment, you know, at home just waiting.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Right, right. But no, you're in the midst of being sick. And that, it's hard to explain what ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is. Exactly. But essentially it's from some of the medications that are used in the ovaries get like hyperactive in a way. And they, you get all this fluid that accumulates in your belly. If it gets really bad, it can affect the lungs and you can have fluid or it affects your fluid overload. Sometimes women can be hospitalized for it and you just feel awful.

Speaker 3: Parijat: You do. Yeah. I was hospitalized for it. So I ended up with four paracenteses over the course of, I want to say four or five weeks.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Okay. And guys, that's sticking a needle in your belly and draining fluid.

Speaker 3: Parijat: Yeah. It's, it's as pleasant as that sounds. I used to, I do remember the very first one and looking at that needle and going, you're going to do what with that? I mean, okay. I also feel miserable, so, okay, please go ahead. But what is happening right now? It's one of experiences where you're desperate for relief. And this is really the only way that we know how I think at this point to do that.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Okay. So you get through that and you realize that your pregnant, and then let's talk about how that pregnancy went. So how did, how did things go?

Speaker 3: Parijat: So over the course of the first kind of four ish, four or five weeks, I was constantly going in for blood work and checking my blood levels because I've have the OHSS, you know, my liver enzymes, my kidney function, all of, all of that gets impacted. So we're watching that very carefully. I ended up, I think it was every two days or so. I was getting blood work done, which was really hard because when you have all this fluid in your belly, it's really hard to get the blood to come out. So people got to know me at the lab very well, and we were going constantly checking things, constantly checking the HCG levels to make sure the pregnancy's progressing the way that it should be an in there. I ended up hospitalized because I was getting so sick from the OHSS and just as it was starting to stabilize a little bit, and I was getting ready for discharge from the hospital.

Speaker 3: Parijat: I started bleeding and it ended up being a sub chorionic hemorrhage, which is pretty common early on, especially in IVF pregnancies. Sometimes it does cause complications going forward, which is what it did for me. And so my fertility specialist put me on modified activity restrictions at home. He said, you know, just put your feet up. Like your body's been through a lot. See if you can cut back on work for a little while and just slow down and let's see let's most of the time it'll pass and everything will be okay. And by the second trimester, everything should just resolve itself. The OHSS automatically resolves itself, as the placenta kicks in and sub chorionic hemorrhage usually resolves itself at the end of the first trimester. I think we'll be okay, let's just hang tight. And that's kind of how we proceeded. And we saw that second trimester as the kind of the beacon of hope of, okay, just kind of make it there and then it'll get better.

Speaker 3: Parijat: And in my case, unfortunately, that was not what happened. I ended up developing three more complications over the course of the second trimester. And by 18, 19 weeks, I was already having term contractions. I was seeing my maternal fetal medicine specialist on a weekly basis by that point. And the pregnancy was just very touch and go. And as the pregnancy was progressing, I was getting feedback from my physicians of maybe cut back more on your activity, maybe cut back even more. And by 18, 19 weeks, my MFM was just kind of saying, try to be more of a couch potato, try not to do things, try not to get up and go up and down the stairs as much. And it was just more and more restrictions on what was safe to do to help me stay pregnant. And it was at 22 weeks and four days when that night, we had finished watching some show or getting ready to go to bed.

Speaker 3: Parijat: And I just, something's not right. Something does not feel right. And I couldn't quite pinpoint what it was, but it was different than all the awful feelings that I'd been having up until that point. So we called labor and delivery. The OB on call said, well, maybe hang out, just, you know, maybe up your progesterone for tonight, call your doctor tomorrow. Maybe it'll be okay. And there was something that night that just said, nope, that doesn't feel like the right thing to do. I think I need to go in. And so we rushed over to labor and delivery. It was about 11:30 at night, and I still remember the freeway we were on. It was very empty. So dark as we're pulling into labor and delivery. I had actually at that moment, I was thinking, well, I'm so glad I researched this hospital because they had a video on their website of where you go after hours for labor and delivery.

Speaker 3: Parijat: So I was able to guide my husband around the back of the building. And I remember walking into this really unfamiliar place. It was nighttime. So relatively quiet. The nurses were all at the station. I'm trying to get people's attention. And I'm only 22 weeks pregnant. I don't really look very pregnant at all by this. And so I remember seeing the looks from the nurses and like, what what's this person doing? Walking like that, just walking so gingerly and like, something's not right. And they got me settled. Eventually the on call made it over to my room. She checked me out and I was already three centimeters dilated. And she said, okay, you're not going anywhere, you're going to hang out here for a while, we're going to get you on some medications. We're going to stop these contractions and tomorrow your doctors will come see you and we'll figure out what to do next.

Speaker 3: Nicole: And you said that was 22 weeks?

: Parijat: 22 weeks and four days.

: Nicole: Okay. Okay. Yep. So then I presume that was magnesium and then you're kind of hanging out in the hospital initially?

: Parijat: Initially it was not magnesium. They put me on something else lighter. I was on that for the 72 hour course. And the next day, my MFM and my OB came in and they just, I had never seen them look so grim. My OB had tears in her eyes and my MFM who's normally such a lively, you know, when she's one of those faces that just beams with love and light, there was none of that that morning. And it was so shocking to see as they sat there and they, we did an ultrasound and they talked to me about some of the hardest things my husband and I have ever heard with regards to pregnancy and loss and the awful decisions that we probably had to make in the coming days.

Speaker 3: Parijat: And they were so certain, we were not going to make it and that my son was not going to survive. Everything had gone so wrong up until that point, there were so many complications that they were really bracing us for. This is going to be the end.

: Nicole: Right. Right. Oh my gosh, that, that gestational age is like right on the border of viability. And it's very tough, very tough. So you eventually went on to deliver early. So how, how did that, that go?

: Parijat: I did. So it was actually after that conversation that I realized there was actually a pattern to my contractions in that if I was terrified, anxious, stressed, worried, anything like that happen, my body would tighten up and without fail, I would be having contractions. And if I kept my body tension free, the contractions would stop. And that's whether I was on medication or not.

Speaker 3: Parijat: And so I made it my mission at that point. I said, okay, we're gonna do all the hard things, make all the hard decisions. We're gonna accept all the medical treatment that we can throw at me at this time. And this is my job. My job is going to be, to keep my body as tension free as possible. And I'm handing everything off to everybody else. So when people were asking about sending food or flowers or this or that, I handed it to my husband, I'd sent it to my mom or my best friend. I said, you guys handle all that, that I'm not doing it. I got to focus on this here. And in doing that in combination with the medical treatment that I was so lucky to have, we were able to extend the pregnancy by 15 days.

Speaker 3: Parijat: And it was nothing anybody could explain. Everybody was shocked and in a wonderful way, of course, you know, everybody was cheering for us and we stuck it out in the hospital. And by then all the L and D nurses knew us and all the doctors and the group practice knew us and the NICU team knew. And they were just, every day was just a celebration across the board for everyone, like, yeah, you made it. And it became such a huge, such a huge thing. And it was really lovely to create that community, even within those four walls of people really rooting for us.

: Nicole: That's awesome. That's awesome.

: Parijat: It was amazing. And we needed it because over those 15 days, it was not easy by any means. My water broke at 23 plus two, and it was, we were just watching the clock by that point. And by the time we made it to the day my son was born, it was very clear that this needed to happen now. Like I was contracting through the magnesium, there was nothing I was doing that was helping. It was just my, I could feel it, it was different. And it was almost like my body was saying, okay, we've done everything. We can, we really need to do this now.

: Nicole: Gotcha. And then how was his actual birth for you?

: Parijat: It was surreal, it was very fast. So from the time I felt my first contraction to the time he was born, it was 12 minutes.

: Nicole: Oh, okay.

: Parijat: So, and apparently it was a busy day on L and D that day. So poor OB, who was actually the admitting OB when I first landed in the hospital, delivered him and she was, poor thing was running around like crazy all day. It's like, wait, ah, she made it, she made a just-in-time, uh, the NICU team wasn't ready. So we found out later that the head neonatologist had to wrap him and bag him and run to the NICU. Cause they couldn't stabilize him in the room.

: Nicole: Oh my gosh.

: Parijat: It was, it was surreal. It was surreal. My husband wasn't there for it, which was a huge bummer. He, it was the one day in those 15 days, he said, okay, well maybe I'll go to work and I'll wrap things up and then come back. And in that, however long it was maybe an hour or so that he was gone is when the baby came.

: Nicole: Wow. Okay. I'm just like, you've already been through so much. And then, we have like, even more to get to. So it just keeps going. So then you have a very early baby in the NICU. I had a NICU baby, but much further along, she was 32 weeks. So, but still like when, especially those early, early babies, it's very tough.

Speaker 3: Parijat: Yeah. That was terrifying.

: Nicole: How long was he in the NICU?

: Parijat: He was there for 109 days. So he came home the day after his due date, which is actually really early for a 24 weeker. We were very, very lucky with him. He just breezed through the NICU relatively, for what you would expect for a baby born that early. He just, he just did so well. That's not to say we didn't have difficult days. I mean, there were a couple of times where we thought we were going to lose him and you know, he, there was just so many hard decisions to make about his care and his team and so much of that. And there's such a sense of helplessness watching your baby being kept alive, really with medical interventions, hoping that he will become strong enough to come home someday. There is such a sense of helplessness in that.

Speaker 3: Parijat: And you know, you, we found our footing and really just believing that, reading to him, singing to him, talking to him on the days that we couldn't hold him was making any ounce of difference. There were some days when I would get very frustrated and go, I don't know that this is doing anything, but I'm going to do it anyway. But you just kind of create your own reality to get yourself through the time. And I wouldn't even say it's day by day. And especially in the first baby couple of months, it was hour by hour. Sometimes minute by minute. And celebration truly was, Oh my gosh, it's 10:00 AM. Fantastic. We made it to 10:00 AM,

Speaker 1: Nicole: Right? Oh yeah. And the NICU is, I mean, obviously I shout out to neonatologists. They're great doctors, but NICU nurses. Oh my goodness. Yes.

Speaker 3: Parijat: They are angels on earth. I'm convinced of that.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Absolutely. I mean, they are the ones who help get you through those really tough times.

Speaker 3: Parijat: Absolutely. Absolutely. They were wonderful. I really credit, there's several of them in particular, that we're still in touch with. I just like you, I tell them this every year you are the ones who made us parents. You taught us how to be parents. You were the ones who taught us how to like, my husband and I had never changed a diaper before. And then we had to change it around leads and wires and tubes and on this tiny little person, and you gave us the confidence to know how to do that. And you gave us the confidence to know how to give a bath to a baby. When we thought we were going to like drop him in the water. And you knew we weren't, even though we weren't sure of that, you know, they're yes, absolutely. They're just such wonderful human beings.

Speaker 1: Nicole: So you were able, he finally came home and then, you know, we can go into the long story of having a well, I don't, there's a long story there about like having a child and all that, who was a preemie and then all of the catch up stuff. And, we could save that for a whole nother episode, what that's like, but I do want to go to, you said you have two children, so there came to a point in time that you thought you wanted to have another baby obviously. So what went into that thought process?

Speaker 3: Parijat: Yeah. Well, as you can imagine for the first, I would say couple of years we went, nope.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Cause it's it's appointment. It's our, is this child going to be okay? Is a shadow going to have longterm problems? It's it's a lot. Yeah, exactly.

Speaker 3: Parijat: There's just so much to consider. So once we, both of us had always wanted a big family and that was always the dream was to have a lot of children and we have the embryos, we had nine embryos sitting in the freezer. When we would joke about, oh my gosh, we wanted a big family. We never thought it would be 10 kids. You know, just kind of bantering back and forth a little bit about that. And when it finally got to a point where my son's health was stabilizing, you know the number of appointments was dropping down to every couple of weeks or maybe once a month. And we had less specialists on his team. We sat down and we said, okay, should we, at the very least just get some information on what our options are. And it was very reminiscent of the conversation we had with my fertility specialist after the ectopic pregnancy that we're not committing to anything.

Speaker 3: Parijat: We just want to gather some information first and see how we feel about it. So we spoke, I had two MFMs during my pregnancy. I spoke with both of them, spoke with my OB. We spoke with my fertility specialist and all of them said, we don't really know what happened. This is quite unusual. We're not quite sure whether this is a great idea going forward. You know, nobody was saying specifically, do not get pregnant again. I'm not sure that they could have even said that necessarily. Maybe they could have been a little stronger about it, but truly it's up to us, but really the message we were getting was you really, really, really should reconsider, you know, we will support you in having children some other way, but we really don't recommend you doing this again. And that was a really big thing to hear.

Speaker 3: Parijat: And also it was very familiar because prior to us doing IVF for my son's cycle, I actually sat my husband down one day and said, I'm not confident my body can carry a pregnancy. I'm not confident about this. Should we look into surrogacy?

: Nicole: Interesting.

: Parijat: Isn't that interesting? And at the time it was, well, that's such a big leap. We have no reason to believe that.

: Nicole: Like where did that thought come from? Right.

: Parijat: There was some intuitive feeling about my body that just, I don't know about this. It just doesn't feel. And so now here we were, again, that it was part of, it was validating to go, huh? There was something to that feeling. And also a wow. We're like really here now that we really need to start thinking about how much do we want to have more children? Is this the path we want to take?

Speaker 3: Parijat: So we spoke with actually several more doctors who had nothing to do with my care during my pregnancy to get completely unbiased views, given what they saw in the medical chart. And they all came to the same conclusion, fertility specialists MFMs and OBs around the country. They said, yeah, you know, maybe not. And so we, that's kind of where we were. And we looked at each other one day and said, yes, we do want to try for more. Yes. We would like to have more children. If this is the safe way to do it, then this might be it.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Okay. Okay. So then you decide you're going to go the route of having a gestational carrier that's right? Okay. So then how do you go about finding someone and what is that process? What was that process like for you?

Speaker 3: Parijat: So we actually, I knew of a couple of women who had gone this route. And so I spoke with them with exactly that question of, so how do you do this? Like where does, where does this start? And so they gave me the names of some agencies that they had used and we started interviewing agencies and we decided we wanted to go the agency route to have it be a more protected experience for us and for her. And we just felt more comfortable with doing it that way. So we interviewed several agencies. We spoke with people, we spoke with intended parents who had used the agencies just to get a full grasp of what their experience was like. And then we chose one and through that, we were matched with one gestational carrier and it didn't work out with her. And so the timeline was pushed out a little bit longer than we had wanted, but by the time we met our gestational carrier, it was the most interesting experience.

Speaker 3: Parijat: So she fills out an application, we submit an entire profile of who we are, story about us, pictures of us, our journey, our hopes for the future, all of that. And it was so fascinating that as soon as I saw her profile and saw her pictures and pictures of her family, there was this instant connection just somehow on the screen of a laptop, something about her just went, oh, she's perfect. And then we got to talk to her, you know, we have, we have to agree from both sides that we're both ready for this, of course. And there's a lot of procedures that the agencies take to walk us through all that. And we just hit it off. We completely hit it off. And they're one of those people that had we met outside of this circumstance. We probably would still be friends with them.

Speaker 3: Parijat: Like there was just so much connective, such a deep connection with her and her entire family.

: Nicole: Okay. So how long did that whole process take from?

: Parijat: It was a long time. I think it was about 18 months.

: Nicole: Oh my goodness.

: Parijat: It took a long time.

: Nicole: Yeah. Wow. Okay. That is a long time. And then do you work out ahead of time? You're in the West coast, right, California. Do you have to work out some legal stuff ahead of time?

: Parijat: We do. Yes. So before any medical treatment can begin, she has to go through a medical exam herself and then both sides have to do legal. So there's a gigantic contract that the agency sends that we have to review and read and sign with our lawyers and then similar on her side.

Speaker 3: Parijat: And it just goes through every possible iteration of anything that could happen and, and go through that. And then we also, as intended parents needed to do, what's called a reproductive estate plan. So in the case that we're in the middle of a cycle and something happens to one or both of us in case we get divorced in case, you know, one of us is incapacitated. What do we do with the embryos? What do we do with the cycle? What happens to the pregnancy if she's already pregnant? And so we had to really look at every possible angle of things that could go wrong and have an answer for it before we ever started any cycle with her.

: Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. I mean, that's hard, but it makes sense. It makes sense. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So then did she get pregnant right away, or how long did it take for her to get pregnant?

Speaker 3: Parijat: So this is where our journey again goes wild differently than we had expected. We ended up doing several cycles with her because we unfortunately had four miscarriages with her and we lost all the rest of the nine embryos that we had. And so we had to make the decision, do I do another retrieval? Because by the time that that ended, we were so heartbroken and it had happened so quickly. And so unexpectedly that we had the really difficult decision of, we'd always said, we're never doing another egg retrieval, but now that we suddenly lost all of our embryos in the course of, I want to say seven, eight months, we went from nine to zero. Do we want to give it one more shot? And that was a really difficult decision to make because we knew what happened the last time I did an egg retrieval.

Speaker 3: Parijat: And so we talked to a lot of different doctors again and came up with a new protocol and we decided to go forward with it because it felt truly what ended up happening is it felt like this wasn't a choice that we had made to stop. It felt like it was imposed on us because of circumstances that were out of everybody's control. And I knew for myself and my husband agreed when I was able to articulate it to him for himself, that it would be very hard to find closure for us. If we just stopped at that point, there was just something there that just said, try it one more time. So we did it again. We were very careful. My reproductive endocrinologist was very aware and we were in very close contact to make sure that I was still safe and healthy the whole time through.

Speaker 3: Parijat: We ended up with two embryos that tested chromosomally normal. And we, my husband and I were both at peace with it to say, if neither one of them work then we're okay, we will walk away and we will be done. And we will be at peace with that. And, she miscarried the first one. And at that point I had given up all hope completely. We were going to do the final cycle, just so we wouldn't have an embryo in the freezer to decide what to do with later. And so we went through the cycle, we did, you know, it became so familiar. We had gone through the procedures over and over and over, and we did it one more time and we were just, we had lost all hope. It was.

: Nicole: I mean, how could you have any hope at that point?

Speaker 3: Parijat: Yeah, it was devastating to be there. And to know this last time we're walking down this hall and this is the last time we're going into this. And we had decided that the weekend that she was going to take her pregnancy test, we, the three of us were going to go away somewhere. We were going to go on some weekend trip and just try to nurture ourselves for what we were bracing ourselves to be was, going to be bad news again. And that Friday I got the call from the clinic coordinator, the cycle coordinator, she started the call the exact same way she started every other call and I was bracing myself for it. And I was really at peace. It's really strange, strange place to be where it wasn't actually bracing myself for bad news it's I was expecting it.

Speaker 3: Parijat: And so there was a sense of peace in that. I just need to hear the words and then we're going to go on our weekend away and we're going to start healing. And I stepped outside my house, just outside the front doors. I didn't want anybody in the house to hear. And she said, I am just calling to let you know, congratulations. She's pregnant.

: Nicole: Oh my goodness.

: Parijat: And I didn't say anything. And she's like, hello, are you there? And literally the next thing out of my mouth was, are you sure you're looking at the right chart? It's just that I was not expecting, I was not ready for it. I was not expecting her to say that,

Speaker 1: Nicole: Oh, I can't even like, my mouth is hanging open. I can't even wrap my mind around this. So you get the surrogate or the gestational carrier. And then she goes through one, two, three, four, five miscarriages. Is that right?

: Parijat: We lost the rest of the embryos.

: Nicole: And then you lost the embryo and you're probably thinking, Oh, we have plenty of, you know, we got a good number of embryos. We should, you know, this should be good. Like we should be good. So you have to deal with that whole thing. Then you have to go through, do I do this stimulation again? Because last time I ended up in the hospital and then you like get to be at peace. And then the very last chance is when she gets pregnant. Wow. Yeah. Okay. So then how, I mean, how are you feeling?

: Parijat: I just, that's just such an emotional, just emotional period. Yeah. It really felt like emotional whiplash. Yeah. Thank you. I couldn't think of the term for it, but yes, yes, yes. Yeah. It's, it's truly not anything we were preparing for. We were, we had made financial decisions to buy a new house, assuming it was going to be just the three of us. We had started looking for homes and we actually found a really cute one that we totally fell in love with. That was perfect for a family of three. We had started making plans. We were ready to close this door. And of course we were heartbroken and devastated that we would not have this big family that we had imagined, but we were coming to terms with and finding peace in that. And then to hear this and go, wait, what? And so our, once the shock wore off my husband and I both agreed, we are going to enjoy every moment of this. She could still miscarry later in the pregnancy. We know anything could happen in the second trimester. We lived through that. Like we know that there was no actual safe point and we didn't want the fear to color our experience of this because even if she miscarried next week or the next day, we wanted to have memories of joy that we did not have when I was pregnant with my son.

Speaker 1: Nicole: I think that is so amazing, and not as easy as people, you know, someone may think that is to choose, to choose joy over fear. Absolutely. Yeah. And you can't help, but think that that helped in terms of how things went and just making it just a much more pleasurable experience overall.

Speaker 3: Parijat: Exactly.

Speaker 1: Nicole: And I'm sure there were moments when, you know, of course you probably still had moments where you got concerned or worried, but I just, I think that's just so awesome that you chose and you were very intentional about being joyful about the experience.

Speaker 3: Parijat: Yeah. Yeah. And I think what it did was it gave us permission to be happy. And it also gave us permission that when we had those moments of fear or sadness or anxiety or whatever, it might be that we allowed for that to happen too. And so it was a very kind of flowy experience. I don't know if that makes any sense, you know, we just, we just allowed for what was to be.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Yeah. And you were in the moment, like you were living in the moment.

: Parijat: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah.

: Nicole: So then what was the pregnancy like? How involved were you in with the carrier and like prenatal appointments and those kinds of things.

Speaker 3: Parijat: We went to all the big appointments, so she was not local to us. So we went to all the big appointments. We did the first heartbeat appointment. We were there for, uh, cried through the entire thing. It was unbelievable. And then we went to, I think, a couple of others early on. And then we went to the anatomy scan and I think that was it. And every other appointment that she had, she would make an audio recording of the Doppler and send that to me. And if the doctor had anything to add or share, she would record that and then send me the audio recording so I could hear it. And so there are many moments I'd be, would have dropped my son off at school and I'd get this text message. And I just pull over on the side of the road and just listen to that heartbeat and just cry in my car. Oh my gosh. She's here. She's really here.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Right, right, right. Oh, that's so cool. And then how involved were you in the birth?

Speaker 3: Parijat: Well, true to our story. It didn't go the way we'd planned. Our plan was for me to be very involved. My husband is going to cut the cord. I was going to be right there to catch the baby and grab her and put her skin to skin immediately. But she wanted to be like her big brother. And she came into the world faster than the teams were ready for. So we actually missed the birth.

: Nicole: Okay. Okay. All right. So how soon were you able to get there afterward?

: Parijat: We were there about 20 minutes, 15, 20 minutes after she was born.

: Nicole: Oh, okay. So not like terrible, crazy.

: Parijat: It was sooner than I got to see her, sooner than I got to see my son. So she was certainly the freshest baby I've ever seen for sure.

Speaker 3: Nicole: And then I guess, had your carrier, has she done this before?

: Parijat: No, we were her first intended parents that she worked with.

: Nicole: Oh, wow. Okay. But did she have other children?

: Parijat: Yeah. That is one of the requirements of being a gestational carrier. You have a history.

: Nicole: It makes sense. Yeah. Healthy, long term pregnancy. That makes sense. Was there ever any tension or difficulties or downsides to having a relationship with the gestational carrier?

: Parijat: Not with her. We, I mean, we were, I mean, we're still in touch consistently. She came to our daughter's first birthday. It's where we are. We have a really good relationship. I think the downside, I would say is truly personal of just having to reconcile the deep, intense emotions of not being able to carry my own child.

: Nicole: I was going to ask, did you feel guilt?

: Parijat: Or if I did not feel guilt, I knew that this was the only way to bring this child into the world safely was for me to not carry her. What I did feel was intense grief, just the tremendous loss of not knowing what it is like to carry a child safely into this world to be the person who knows that child. Well, before the baby's born to, you know, all the language around pregnancy about, Hey, you're growing the baby, you're nourishing the baby, you brought this into the world. And it just didn't feel like it applied. And it made me feel terrible. Like, am I, am I actually the mother, even though yes, she has my DNA, but if I didn't bring her into the world physically. Am I actually her mother? And that was something that I really grappled with for awhile.

: Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. Did you have any trouble connecting after she was born?

: Parijat: I did. I did. There was an instant physiological bond, which I found very interesting cause I felt, uh, I felt cramping when I was skin to skin with her, which I was not expecting at all. And I said, okay, well my body recognizes her. Clearly. The bond was impacted by my own grief of just feeling so sad that I got to know her for the first time when she was born and not before that. And so it was in my needing to really heal from that loss that made a tremendous difference in me being able to really see her and, and allow myself to feel like, yes, I am her mother.

: Nicole: Right. How did you go about doing that? I mean, I know you're a trained therapist, so how did you go about healing and reconciling that?

: Parijat: Yeah. You know, so much of it is just outside of our conscious awareness. It's not even things we can put words to. And so a lot of it was just allowing my body to recognize when the grief was bubbling up to give myself the space to feel it. And it feels awful and horrible and we don't like it, but we have to feel it to release it. And so there were a lot of moments when she was home that I had sitting in my room or in her room and I'm crying and it's not because I'm sad. It's because I can feel that all this grief needs to come out. It's been sitting there for so long as we were going from cycle to cycle to cycle and making decisions and plans. And now she was here and it was safe for me to do that.

: Nicole: Gotcha. So did all of this contribute to your work now or had you been doing work with high risk pregnancy before all of this happened?

: Parijat: No, I wasn't. Like you had mentioned, I was working as a therapist. I was doing child and family therapy. It was teaching at the local university. I was fully in the mental health field and completely unaware that, that my life and career was about to change. So the first shift came when I was pregnant with my son and it was a couple days before he was born when I realized, and I sent this to him out loud, actually that if we survive this and we get to go home and be together as a family, I have to come back and help women going through a high risk pregnancy because nobody's teaching them the power that they have to influence their health and their pregnancy outcomes.

Speaker 1: Parijat: And that is where my initial work began. That's actually a lot of my story of the pregnancy, about half a little more than half is in my book, Pregnancy Brain, along with the work that I do with my clients of how important it is to train your body, to release the tension release, the tightness release that stress that we think is in our head. It's actually not in our heads. It's fully in our bodies and our nervous system retraining our bodies to improve our pregnancy outcomes. And I was very happy with that. I was working with amazing clients. I had the book, it had come out actually while we were waiting for our daughter to arrive. And it was in her arrival and in my experience with parenting her and adjusting my identity to being a parent of two that I added a new element to the work that I do, which is trauma release and grief and traumatic loss release, and just healing around all the trauma and the loss that comes with infertility, a high risk pregnancy and birth trauma, preterm delivery and all of that. So they both kind of contributed in different ways to the work that I do today.

: Nicole: Yes. Yes. And of course, guys, we'll link to your website and all that stuff in the show notes. I do want to end with, if you had to think of your best piece of advice that you would give to a woman, I'm trying to even think, like, I guess you could say facing infertility or facing high risk pregnancy or facing, you know, having to make the choice with the gestational carrier, like, what is your favorite piece of advice to women in this situation?

Speaker 3: Parijat: I think it would be trust your instincts, you know, your body, you know, your dreams, you know, your heart, you know, what you want, you know, when you feel safe around somebody, you know, when you don't, you know, when something feels right, you know, when something doesn't, you don't have to know what that is. That's why we have a team of people that are on our, that are in our village really with their own specialties, guiding us through the specifics. All you have to do is speak up and say, something's not.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Right. Excellent advice. Listen to that voice that we're all given when it speaks to you. So tell us a little bit more about your work and what you do now and your website and what resources you have, social media, how people can find you all that stuff.

Speaker 3: Parijat: Absolutely. So I left the field of psychotherapy after all of this, and I focus on very body-based work. I found, you know, just through my own experience, that it's such a physically demanding experience to try to conceive, to be pregnant. And then afterwards with all the healing, there's so much that gets encoded in our nervous system that is beyond what we can actually talk ourselves through. And so my work is really on restoring nervous system health before, during and after a high risk pregnancy. And you can learn more about that on my website. I have a lot of tools and resources in my book, Pregnancy Brain, perfect for women who are currently pregnant or who are trying to conceive after infertility loss or a previous high risk pregnancy with a lot of exercises in the back, that you can try yourself as well as many one-on-one programs that, where we can work together and actually help you affect your health and actually improve the health of your nervous system, your reproductive system, and all that as you're trying to conceive and when you're pregnant.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Gotcha. And don't, you have a podcast also? Do tell us about your podcast.

Speaker 3: Parijat: I actually just wrapped it up, but it's still available to listen to it's called Delivering Miracles. And it's all about infertility loss, high risk pregnancy, prematurity, bedrest, and all the parts of family building that we don't like to talk about, but so many of us go through.

Speaker 1: Nicole: Gotcha. I'm sure if, so you're not doing new episodes anymore.

: Parijat: No.

: Nicole: I totally understand, but I'm sure a lot of it is, you know, timely regardless. So for sure we will link to it in the show notes as well. Well, thank you so much for coming on to the podcast and bearing with me. We got this rescheduled worked out.

: Parijat: Great. Thank you.

: Nicole: Yes. I mean, you have a very interesting story. I mean, you, I mean the saying is you don't get more than you can bear, but at some point were you like, come on, I mean, you just went through so much and it's just so incredibly admirable that you were able to turn all of these things into positive experiences and then turn around and help other women through it as well. So I really appreciate you sharing your story.

: Parijat: Thank you so much.

Speaker 1: Okay. Wasn't that something? Oh man. She went through a lot with her pregnancy and birth and experience and journey to motherhood. I definitely encourage you to check out her website resources or social media, her book. She just has lots of great information. So much of it built on experience. So for sure, if you have a high risk pregnancy, do check her out. Now after every episode where I have a guest on, I like to do something called Nicole's notes. That is my top three or four takeaways from the episode. So here are Nicole's notes with my episode with Parijat.

: Number one, this is going to sound like a small thing, but it's actually pretty important. You need to know where to go in the hospital so that if you have an emergency, you can get to the place quickly. She talked about how she had seen the video of the hospital on the website. So she knew exactly where to go. You really don't want to be struggling to figure out where to go. And this is especially the case if your hospital happens to be like in a big area or it's a big hospital complex, you don't want to be driving around lost trying to figure out where to go. So do a test drive to figure out where things are before it's time for you to go in labor. It may be in the middle of the night that you have to go to the hospital. You won't don't want to be struggling then. So definitely before your birth, no, where to go in the hospital.

: Number two, get in the habit and get comfortable with listening to your inner voice and trusting your instincts that will almost never, ever lead you wrong. Parijat knew that something didn't feel quite right. So she went into the hospital. That's where she learned she was already dilated with her baby. She also felt like interestingly, even before IVF, she was wondering whether or not her body was going to be able to carry a pregnancy. And that probably made her decision easier to have a surrogate for her second child. And then she also talked about how she clicked with her surrogate and she just felt that immediate sort of connection. So get in the habit of being comfortable, trusting your instincts, tuning into that inner voice and listening to it when you hear those small whispers. And then the third thing, which I really, really love is how she talked about being intentional about choosing joy over fear for that surrogate pregnancy. She most certainly could have been nervous the entire time anxious the entire time based on what she had gone through in the past.

Speaker 1: So the fact that she was able to find joy in the moment live in the present moment is so, so important and just really a testament to how that can help transform the energy around a situation. Now, I know that that can be hard. It is not necessarily easy to choose joy over fear, and it's something that you have to practice and it's something that you have to get good at, but the more in your day to day life, when you see those small things that pop up when you're stuck in traffic, for instance, and instead of being angry, that you're going to be late somewhere. You turn up the radio and listen to your favorite song. Instead, the more you are intentional in your life about choosing joy, over fear or over anger, the better it will be for your health and your wellbeing that I can guarantee you.

Speaker 1: All right, so that is it for this episode of the podcast, be sure to subscribe to the podcast in Apple podcast or wherever you are listening to me right now, Spotify, Google Play. And of course I would love it if you leave me a review in Apple podcast, that is really important to help the show grow, to help other women find the show. And, you know, I give shout outs on episodes from those reviews. So if you feel so inclined, please leave me an honest review in Apple podcasts. I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.

: Also, don't forget to head over to my website and check out those resources for you. There that's www.ncrcoaching.com. It's got that free birth plan class, those guides that you can download my online childbirth education class. Check that out for you. It's all ready and waiting for you there. Now next week on the podcast, I am talking about a somewhat controversial topic and that is male circumcision. So do come on back next week. And until then, I wish you a beautiful pregnancy and birth.

: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the all about pregnancy and birth podcast, head to my website at www.ncrcoaching.com to get even more great info, including free downloadable resources on how to manage pain and labor and warning signs to look out for after birth. You'll also find information on my free online class, on how to make a birth plan, as well as everything you need to know about The Birth Preparation Course. Again, that's www.ncrcoaching.com and I will see you next week.