Monday, May 26, 2014

Psyching Me Out

So I haven't gotten my calendar yet, but I do have my first appointment scheduled with the fertility clinic. It is the initial consult with the doctor, and the nurse said they might even do an ultrasound to check out my uterus and take some blood. 

I'm a little nervous because this is kind of the threshold. If they find out that my uterus is shaped like Italy or something I could be totally out of this surrogacy game. 

But if all goes well at this appointment then Hubs and I are on to our psych evaluations. Apparently it's a bunch of totally bizarre questions to check and see if I'm crazy. My surro case manager lady said basically if you aren't crazy before the eval then you definitely will be after. 

So I'm just preparing for insanity. 

I'm not sure what they'll ask Hubs at his evaluation, but I assume it'll be something like: How will you handle it when the fertility hormones render your wife bat sh*t crazy and she hovers over you menacingly in your sleep?

It's a known fact that hormones can really eff with my emotions, but I think just being aware that I'm going to be hormonally imbalanced and there's a reason I'll be off my rocker should help. Not saying that part will be a breeze by any stretch. 

I remember taking birth control and thinking in my head "Why are you saying that? You're really being mean. Just stop...ok...ok you just glared at him for asking if you wanted a Reese's Pieces... you're just being irrational now." 

Hormones make me cray cray deluxe, so I'm sure hubs is extra excited about that part. But he's so incredibly supportive of this whole journey, so I'm sure he'll just tell them "Her mom lives down the street. I can ship her off for pedicures if it gets too intense."
Wish me luck at my appointment on the 6th!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Which Came First? The Surrogate or The Egg?

Aside from wondering how I'm going to "give up" the baby once he or she is born, people also wonder how I'm going to explain things to Sunshine and Sweet Pea. They're not quite sure how my kids will understand that I'm going to be pregnant for all this time and not bring the baby home. 

What's funny is how accepting and understanding Sunshine already is. This isn't her first rodeo with me being pregnant. But I'm pretty sure when I brought Sweet Pea home she didn't really understand that this little squirmy thing was actually the reason I was so fat for all those months. 

Also I'm not sure she was sold on the idea of Sweet Pea living with us for an indefinite amount of time. I'm actually still not sure she's sold on the idea, and it's been two years. Sweet Pea is still in a trial period as far as Sunshine is concerned.

And while I wanted to give her enough information, I didn't want to overwhelm her with tales of fertility treatments and the logistics of birth certificates and DNA. So I got down to her 4-year-old level and explained it in Magic School Bus terms.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Magic School Bus series let me first express my condolences. Miss Frizzle is basically the coolest teacher/scientist/role model/fashionista on the planet. Then let me direct you here so you can get caught up to speed.

Sunshine is totally obsessed with the Magic School Bus, and one of her favorite episodes is the one where The Friz takes the kids to a farm to see how chickens are hatched. There is one pen with only hens, which Dorothy Ann (Sunshine's favorite character who loves to read and is just a fountain of knowledge) discovers that eggs laid in that pen will never grow into baby chicks. These are the eggs we buy at the store and eat. 

These kids are on a mission to find a baby chick to replace their principal's chicken who escaped from their care. So they venture to the pen marked with a hen and a rooster. They learn (by going inside of a chicken) that in order for a baby chick to develop inside of an egg, the egg has to come from the pen with both boy and girl chickens. 

It's a pretty gnarly episode when the kids slide down the chicken's gooey reproductive system, but it's definitely the best "sex talk" I've ever seen in the form of a cartoon. 

So she's up to speed on how to make a baby so to speak. Now to explain the surrogacy. 

Her seriously fabulous preschool helped out here because each year they get a few dozen fertilized chicken eggs, and the children watch the eggs for 21 days in the incubator. They have some models so the kids can see what is developing each day in the egg, and like clockwork on day 21 the eggs begin to hatch and the kids get to witness the miracle of life. 

I explained to Sunshine that sometimes momma chickens will sit on their own eggs until they hatch. But sometimes momma chickens can't sit on their own eggs, so the eggs have to go in an incubator, and people like Miss Jennifer care for them and look after them until they hatch. Then once the baby chick comes out, Miss Jennifer sends it back to the farm to be with its momma. 

Now for the human part. I told her that there are women who want to be mommies so very badly, but they can't carry babies in their tummies. I asked how she thought those women feel.

She looked concerned and said she thought they would be so sad that they can't have babies. So I asked what she thought about me taking that mommy's egg and putting it in my tummy until it was ready to hatch. Just like Miss Jennifer does with the chicken eggs.
She lit up and said "That will make the mommy so happy!" followed by "Oh but do you have to eat the egg? Because you have to be careful not to crack it."

Got it champ. 

I explained that I didn't have to eat it, but a doctor will help put it in my belly. She was on board but warned that it takes 21 days to hatch, so I have to be patient. 

I composed myself and told her that human babies actually take about 9 months, so we would all have to be patient. And with surrogacy I'm finding out that patience is the name of the game. 

But that was it. I asked if she had any more questions, but nope. It was pretty cut and dry. There were mommies who couldn't hatch their own eggs. I have a decent incubator. Badabing bada boom.
I told her I would be meeting with a mommy who needed hatching help on Sunday, and asked if that was okay. She said it was fine and asked if we could go to the park now.

As I basked in the warm sunshine that day I watched my sweet girl light up as she soared on the swing set. Children are so accepting and honest. Of course there are many challenges with surrogacy that I didn't feel compelled to discuss with my 4-year-old. But they can just see this for what it is. It's a way for one mother to help another. 

That Saturday as we were driving to the garden center she piped up from the backseat and told my Hubs that she'd like for him to take her and her sister to the zoo on Sunday. I asked why I wasn't included, and she said "Mom. You have an egg to hatch. You can go next time."

Thanks babe. I'd love to go next time.

Friday, May 23, 2014

I Found My Why


I’ve always been the crazy lady who loved being pregnant. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I never had morning sickness. I can remember filling my boss’s trash can the morning I found out I was pregnant for the very first time. And I had the usual aches and pains that come with putting on a good 40 pounds. But the entire idea of growing a human being is completely magical and fascinating to me.

I got baby fever walking down the aisle at my wedding, but since we were poor college kids we waited four years before trying. I’ll never forget how nervous I was looking down at that little stick and imagining that I saw a little pink line. 

But it wasn’t my imagination. That little pink line started to darken and with it came an adrenaline rush that almost sent me flying through the roof. I was thrilled, and sick, and overjoyed, and sick and eww I was really sick, and so excited to start my journey to motherhood. 

The Hub's face was pretty awesome when I slammed that pee stick down on the table at lunch. We were going to be parents!


But 10 weeks later I was laying on an operating table tears streaming down my face. 

I went in for a routine exam to hear my baby’s heart beat for the first time. After a few silent minutes of poking and prodding with the Doppler, my doctor sent me down for an ultrasound.

 I was stoked because I thought I was only going to HEAR my baby that day. I was pumped to get a sneak peek.

My husband held the video camera steady as my uterus appeared on the screen. The first thing I noticed is that there were two sacs. 

Twins. 

The second thing I noticed is that they were way smaller than they were supposed to be. At this stage in the game they should have at least resembled tiny babies. But they just looked like still, silent little nuggets. 

The ultrasound tech told me not to fret and that she was still looking for heartbeats. I turned my head and my husband shut off the camera. I knew there would be no heartbeats. I knew the date and probably the hour of conception.

After measurements and calculations they determined that one baby died at 10 weeks 2 days and one died at 9 weeks 4 days. That was weeks ago. 

My babies didn’t make it, but my body didn’t get the memo. I opted to wait for the longest seven days of my life until we could do one more ultrasound. At the second ultrasound the babies measured even smaller and still had no heartbeats. I was given the worst batch of choices a mother should ever have to make – how to end my pregnancy. 

One choice was to wait to miscarry, which could be several months, meanwhile I have morning sickness and have already started looking pregnant. 

The other two choices were to either take a pill to kickoff a mass exodus of my uterus or have a procedure called a D&C to “clean out” the “products of conception”. Those products were my children. They were my hopes and dreams, and on April Fools’ Day I lay on an operating table in tears waiting for them to be sucked out like dust bunnies.

After I got home and out of the fog of anesthesia, my hubs informed me that the doc said I was two drops away from needing a blood transfusion. So I guess my D&C decision was the right one. But all I wanted to know was why. 

Why didn’t my babies make it? Why me? Why them? 

I had some pretty well-meaning but insufferably annoying people tell me it was God’s will. It was all part of some sick plan apparently. I was supposed to feel the elation of knowing I would be a mother only to have my hopes dashed to bits. That just didn’t seem legit. I wanted answers dangit. 

They threw out my ultrasound pictures along with my products of conception. My husband deleted the video of the ultrasound because he thought it would be best, but I needed a way to memorialize the babies that I had already begun to love.

I got the okay to try to get pregnant right away, and I jumped right in. But it didn’t happen the first month. Or the second. Or the third or fourth. By the fifth month a good friend of mine called to tell me she was pregnant. I held it together on the phone. I took the punch in the gut when she said "Girl you better hurry up and get pregnant!" 

I held it together okay the next month when another good friend cautiously told me she was pregnant as well. She was so amazingly sweet and mindful of my feelings, but as soon as she got out of the car I melted down into a puddle of tears and despair.

For a brief period of time we were faced with the thought that we might never have our own biological child. We talked about adoption, but I wasn't ready to accept that. Just like it takes a special person to be a teacher or a nurse. It takes a very very special person to handle all the challenges that adoption brings. 

I am so incredibly glad there are people out there who do because there are very deserving children in need of homes. But ask any parent with a biological child why they didn't adopt instead. Because given the option, many mommas just want to pass on their genes.

I remember vowing that if I was able to have a biological child I would find a way to show my gratitude, and I feel I found that through surrogacy.

Years ago I laid in a hospital bed clutching my empty belly asking Why? What sort of plan would include so much heartache?

And Sunday I got my why.

Sunday I met a woman who has endured more heartache than I can imagine. Cancer stole the most primal right that we as women are given.

My Hubs had been pretty nonchalant about the surrogacy stuff. He was kind of like whatevs. Your body/Your choice... that whole bit. Until he met the couple who needed my help.

He couldn't shake the sadness in her beautiful blue eyes. Or the way the husband lit up when he talked about becoming a father.

This couple is my why. Why did I have to lose my babies? Why didn't I get pregnant right away?

Because I needed the perspective of loss and knowing what it means to not know if you'll ever see your mother's almond eyes staring back at you through the sweet chubby cheeks of your toddler. 

Because I needed to fully appreciate what a gift each child is. Because I would one day meet a couple who experienced more loss than I had.

Surrogacy isn't about buying babies, or glamorous women being too vain to be bothered with stretch marks. It's about making families.

And it's my Why.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Journey Begins

I think my love of pregnancy stems from my mother. She always talked about her pregnancy with me as the most beautiful time in her life. She was always so positive and uplifting when describing her pregnancies that I think she partially brainwashed me into thinking pregnancy was magical and wonderful. 

My own pregnancies were every bit as amazing as I imagined they would be. I was plagued with morning sickness before I even got my first positive pregnancy test. I had severe backaches and my cankles were glorious. My acne flared up, and my hair got so thick it seemed greasy. People kindly told me I was "all belly", but I think they actually meant that my entire body looked like a swollen gut.

But none of it distracted me from the fascination I felt the first time I took a foot to the ribcage. The entire process of growing a human being inside my body completely blows my mind to this day. 

I was the crazy pregnant lady who knew what day my baby would grow fingernails or when she would be making her fingerprints (which by the way are made by swirling unique patterns into those new little forming fingers with amniotic fluid. It's why identical twins don't have identical fingerprints. Look it up.). 

So I expected to be every bit as obsessive once that baby was out and in the world. But as my ankles swelled and my due date closed in I remember feeling a little sad as I sat in my quiet living room watching my baby roll around and karate chop my bladder. I wanted to keep her in there not because I wasn't excited to meet her, but because I was just that fascinated with pregnancy. It's like when some girls get so wrapped up with the wedding they don't give much thought to the marriage. I wasn't that Bridezilla, but I was Pregzilla.

I went into labor on Father's Day that year, and just two Father's Days later I conceived my second baby in what I can only call an immaculate conception. How do I know what day I conceived? We had a co-sleeping toddler. My hub's birthday is in March. There are basically two days a year that poor guy was guaranteed conception-based activities. I knew.

And although I could not ask for a more beautiful, funny or amazing child as my little Sweet Pea, I was a little sad to be pregnant so soon. I wanted to wait a good 5 years or so before trying again simply because I loved being pregnant so much. I wanted to savor that last time.

See I'm just not a newborn person. Don't get the firing squad. I looooove my children with all my heart and soul. And when they were born I loved them because they were mine. However the reality of newborns for me is that they are just awful people. 

They keep you up all night, poop on you, all but chew your nips off nursing, poop on you again, they won't tell you what the heck they want. They're just rude. And mine aren't these mythical babies you hear about who do that whole "sleeping" thing.

"Feed them. Change them, then put them down in their bed while they're sleepy and let them drift off to sleep," our pediatrician said. 

In what effing world? Mine take to the boob like a leech and will scream bloody murder if so help me Jesus I break the latch once they're asleep so that I can just empty 3 to 6 ounces of pee that my 36 ounce bladder has been holding for five hours. 

I remember when Sweet Pea was a newborn I was sitting in my bath robe, rocking in the recliner and watching my toddler gleefully jump up and down in a pee puddle she made on my couch cushion. 

Flooded with hormones and feelings of inadequacy and jealousy for all my friends with sleeping children I started chanting aloud "Someday she'll be 2. Someday she'll be 2." Because although Sunshine was splashing urine all over my rug, toddlers are better people than newborns to me. They can use the king's English for starters.

I was so busy with Sunshine that I don't even remember my pregnancy with Sweet Pea, and I felt a little robbed. It was my last shot, and it was just a foggy blur.

A few months ago Sweet Pea turned 2. Someday came so much sooner than I thought it would, and as I began to wean her I started thinking about the fact that I got pregnant with her just 2 seconds after weaning Sunshine.

I knew 100% that I was done having babies. The hubs and I have always been on the same page with that. We both wanted two human children. People ask us all the time if we want to "try" for a boy. As if this is 18th century China. And as if we just forgot the right mating dance required to end in a male offspring. Nope. We are so exceptionally pleased with the two beautiful girls we have. 

So pleased in fact... that I thought about how nice it would be to give that to someone else. 

I've experienced for a brief moment the agony that comes with not knowing if you'll ever have a biological child. But that's another blog for another day. 

During that season of my life I made a vow. I swore that if I could have my own biological child I would find a way to show my appreciation and gratitude. My heart is so full because of the two greatest gifts I've ever received. And now it is my turn to give that gift to someone else. 

As Sweet Pea weaned and I closed that chapter in our lives, I opened a new one by applying to be a gestational surrogate.
It's not a decision I made overnight. And it's not one I made alone. I have thought about it for years, and I just finally decided it was the right time.

My application was accepted in April, and last week I met the couple who I intend to help realize their dreams of parenthood. The IM (intended mother) is an incredibly sweet woman with the most beautiful blue eyes, but because of cancer she can't carry her own babies. They did three rounds of egg retrievals, and they came up with 10 embryos. But out of those 10, only one was viable. So they are quite literally putting all their eggs in my basket. 

I am so thrilled to begin this journey, and I am so excited at the thought of bringing this kind of joy to a couple who can't do it on their own. 

For some of my close family members this decision is too hard to understand or accept. And I am so grateful to have people who care so much about me that they wouldn't have me risk my life for someone I don't even know. 

But the IF (intended father) is in the military, so I guess we could ask him the same thing. Why would you put your life on the line for people you don't even know? 

So my answer is that it's something I feel called to do. I don't have too many talents. I'm not saying I'm not a super cool person, but I don't have many natural gifts. I'm a loving mama to my girls, a decent enough writer to get some paid gigs, I'm almost indestructible at Pictionary, and I'm fairly good at birthing babies. I just want to share that gift in a profound way. If there was a way to make the Pictionary thing pan out I would. But so far no luck.

I should be clear that the role of a gestational surrogate is like an embryo nanny. This baby will in no way be genetically related to me. It's their egg, my basket. Their bun, my oven. I'm the kangaroo, but it's their joey. Comprende?

The biggest question I get is how am I going to give this baby up? How could I grow this child in my womb and then give it up without any attachment. Well I'm not really giving it up so much as giving it back. 

They've already made the baby and it's sitting there like a Popsicle waiting for a warm cozy spot to rest in for a while. And I don't intend to part ways without any attachment. I do think I will be very vested in the well-being of this child, just like you would any child you babysat for 9 months. I will love this baby for what it will bring to the IF (Intended Family). 

I kind of equate it with the love you have for a best friend's baby or a niece or nephew. I will absolutely care about this child, but my end goal is to bring this joy to the parents. 

It's like when you buy someone the best Christmas present ever on sale over the summer. The sheer anticipation of giving it to them is almost too much! I just can't wait until Christmas morning when they hold their baby for the first time. I can't wait because I've already had it twice.

I have so much support from my Hubs and my brother and my mom, not to mention a whole group fabulous friends. So I'm just a very lucky lady to be able to do this. It's going to take a ton of support from everyone, and I'm sure we'll hit some bumps, but I am overjoyed to be able to do it. 

So just follow along as I begin my surrogate journey!