“Enjoy the Journey”

I’d like to start this blog the same way I start all of them, and thank each and every one of you that reads this, shares it, identifies with it, and grows from it. I genuinely feel like our big experiences in life define us, and everyone can learn or take away something from them… even if they aren’t directly affiliated. I appreciate the inquiries, the well wishes, the text messages, and even the random friend requests of those eager to know more, I appreciate the support. I also want to apologize, as this blog is very content filled. Even as I sit here with only the paragraph above set in stone, I know it will be a piece that has you laughing, and a piece that has you in tears. I said from the beginning that I would share every bit of my journey, and while I plan to keep that promise, there are some parts that are darker than others. Enjoy your reading, and thank you for your support.

Make it a double.

Casey planned a wonderful date night for us in mid-June; it was to be our last “big” outing before I would begin IVF treatments for the surro-babes. We headed up to Blackhawk one Tuesday night, eager to enjoy the uninterrupted peace that comes from being in each other’s company. Once we arrived, we realized we had probably made a mistake in hotel choices, laughed about it, and pressed on with lots of drinking, and a little bit of gambling. At about 10:00pm on our blissful night out, my mom-clock began chiming so loudly from within, that I swear only the sounds of various slot machines around us drowned it out from everyone else’s ears. “WHY ARE YOU AWAKE?!” The clock chimed loudly, and so I told Casey that despite the rare and wonderful situation we were in, I felt it might be time to go back to our $215 hotel room with burn marks ALL over the carpet, and call it a night. I of course woke up at 5:30, well before even the sun forced its way through the curtains, and laid there thinking, “so much for last hurrah, I feel tired, and hung-over, and ready for the biggest cup of coffee I can get my hands around.” Despite myself, I decided to let Casey sleep until 9:00, even though it felt like 2:00pm by the time he had woken up. We headed out to get breakfast and return to our babes, and just like that, the “big night” was history.

I firmly believe that intimacy is important in a relationship. For some, it is more physical. For others, it is more emotional. For the rest its allegedly a 50/50 mixture of the two. I tend to be more emotionally intimate, which is something not many people can or would willingly admit to. I know that there is a calendar steadily running out of days before it announces in bold letters BEGIN ABSTINENCE, but given what I have just said, that really isn’t as daunting to me as it would be for some. Casey and I have been together almost ten years. At this point in our relationship, we know all the little details that make the bigger picture when it comes to one and other, and we have also gotten really good at growing that emotional intimacy within our relationship. So though this trip we’d just taken was at once a last “getaway” as  a couple, it was also a refocus for both of us in terms of the hard transitions we were about to endure emotionally and physically, together and individually. Casey and I were ready to take it all on.

What are you worth?

Due to the nature of the “services” (this is how the life insurance agent phrased it, it is very P.C. but also, kinda reminded me of Pretty Woman)  being provided between myself, J, and M, I had to get a life insurance policy, or in this case, a worst case scenario-just in case fund. People do die during childbirth, even today. I’m not down playing the severity of that, but it did get the wheels turning as far as how important my physical presence is in this world in terms of dollars and cents. “Ms. McKenna, how much would you say you’re worth right now?” “Well, if you ask my kids, I’m worth a lot! In reality I have a house that is a positive asset, a little bit of a savings, and two cars, dogs, and weekly grocery bills that make sure I’m not worth much monetarily speaking.” Of course, this question wasn’t formulated for answers like mine, so the agent quickly worked to add up some type of number to soothe what she misread as defeat in my voice. I was being a smartass, but an honest smartass. I’d never been asked that question, and when you have two kids, cars, animals, and a household that constantly need the attention of Mr. Greenback, you tend to feel less like something that is a worthwhile “investment” and more like something that needs a TON of investing. We figured out what I was worth, and moved onto scheduling my nurses visit.

My nurses visit took place at the well-rested, not chaotic in a house of babies, hour of 6:00am. Of course Charlie sensed that breakfast could be delayed that morning, and so he woke up at fifteen after five with enough time budgeted to at least eat a banana. My nurse arrived with a punctual-I get enough sleep and still manage to be a part of the world this early, smile and I invited her inside. Immediately, I apologized for the impromptu karaoke session in my living room as Charlie shamelessly (and inaudibly) belted out a song playing in Moana. “It’s better than crying, it’s like they know I have a sharps container on me when I walk in the door sometimes!” Oh yea, I forgot to mention… in addition to starting the self-loathing early with a weigh in, I got to get my blood drawn and give a SMALL urine sample from my bladder that had been bursting long before Charlie called out “Momma!” over the baby monitor. “How much do you think you weigh, and how tall do you think that you are?” She asked me. I thought it a strange way to preface the question. I have never been asked how tall I “think” I am before, as that number is pretty much concrete at an earlier age. I replied with the truth, reluctantly telling her that I’d never actually made it to 5’5, but most doctors willingly gave me that last little bit without much more than an eye roll. “Actually, you’re 5’5. And you weigh less than what you thought!” I told her that I was shocked, and confessed that I’d weighed myself on every different surface in the house before she’d arrived. “Well, what they don’t tell you is that digital scales are usually higher. Now you know.” MIND BLOWN. That is right ladies and gentlemen, technology does not always supersede the old-fashioned way! After she’d drawn my blood and tested my urine sample (albeit, on a towel) on the very table I was about to serve my children breakfast from, she told me she was amazed and proud of my heart for taking on the journey that led me to this strange examination in the first place. “Good luck to you, I hope this experience is great for all involved. You’ll only hear from me if you forgot that you did drugs and it shows up in your lab work, otherwise that’s it!” An odd encounter and experience from start to finish, but I found myself filled with joy checking off another item on my list.

“Enjoy the Journey”

On June 24th, the surrogacy center held a “surrogate appreciation” lunch at a cute little restaurant in the Sloan’s Lake area. I was very excited to meet other surrogates that were on the same track as I, and I was excited about meeting with our Case manager, C, in person. Once inside, we walked over to a table filled with the shirts I had wanted for months, and The Little Golden book version of the story “Brave.” “Take however many you’d like, and please go grab one of our Brave boxes from the table by the window.” My mom who so graciously joined me that afternoon found us a seat right next to C, and we began visiting with her about where we were at so far. C wrapped me into a tight, strong, hug like the kind you would get from an old friend, and informed me that we could order drinks whenever the server came back around. So there we were, my mom, Sangria, and I, sitting amongst a group of people celebrating surrogacy… it was wonderful! I met several other women and their spouses, and even got a chance to meet the surrogacy center’s own celebrity… the triplet momma! The triplet momma was what you think of when you hear the phrase “she’s glowing.” At twenty weeks pregnant, she looked like I did right after I had gotten a positive pregnancy test with Charlie. The perfect little bump that I learned was housing three baby boys wore no sign of any meals she had eaten that day, and she did not seem the slightest bit phased as she spoke of what it was like to be a literal baby house. I asked her as much as I could, given that a triplet pregnancy could happen in my case (only a 4% possibility) should one of my surro-babe embryos decide to push the odds. I learned that the triplet boys belonged to a single father in another country, a detail I made sure I committed to memory so that I could tell J and M how great they had it by comparison.

Another mom that I had the pleasure of chatting with was just out of her first trimester with a single baby, also for an international single parent. I feel like the women that can commit to international families deserve a monument erected in their honor. I listened to her describe the challenges they’d had based purely on time difference, and noted how much more calculated and precise things had to be in order to accommodate the presence of an international parent at the time of the birth. The surrogacy center does not push you into scheduling an induction, that is something that is between you and your OB, with that said, I could not imagine NOT being there for the birth of my child. The mom with the single baby described scheduling her induction and my uterus told my brain to replay Pitocin contractions on repeat until the thought of perhaps scheduling things with my surro-babes no longer seemed appealing.

All of these women were of course mothers of their own, hardworking, and devoted to not only their families, but that of their intended families as well. To sit in a room with other women that felt the same conviction within their hearts was beautiful and it was empowering. To speak candidly about IVF shots, suppositories, embryo transfers, and all of the evaluations that’d we’d all been through felt extremely comforting. The suppository conversation was pretty hilarious, as its not exactly table conversation. Unless of course you find yourself in this EXACT setting, then it becomes okay to talk about while people are at various stages of their meal. I also had the pleasure of meeting with the two founders of NWSC, John and Sandra. (I felt okay putting their names in here only because you can google the center and read about them should you feel so inclined) John asked my mom what her reaction was as a parent, and I watched my mom fill with pride as she described her surprised, yet joyful reaction when I told her that I wanted to pursue this. John and Sandra were extremely down to earth; a quality that warmed me given the fact that their business was what afforded me and so many others, the opportunity of a lifetime. My mom and I decided to get into the box that they had given as a gift to all the surrogates. Immediately upon opening it, I felt the warm rush of tears fill my eyes as I read a bracelet engraved with “enjoy the journey.” A truer statement does not exist in this situation, as so much of this process is just that… a journey. We finished our drinks and visiting with the small circle we’d immersed ourselves in and headed back home. As we left, I told C, “I’m sure I’ll be calling you next week sometime to let you know I’m ready for travel!” C smiled at me and offered a very genuine farewell hug. “Talk to you next week! I can’t wait!” she said as we exited the restaurant.

 

“Welcome to ORM”

By far one of the most anticipated moments of this journey so far, was getting an email from the reproductive clinic to inform me of our next steps. Not long after this nurses visit, the two women I had met via email from the reproductive clinic sent me an email to inform me of what was coming next. I had to switch my birth control pills to one of their preferred pill packs, something that my coordinator managed to have filled at a nearby pharmacy in RECORD time, despite being unfamiliar with Colorado. I was to finish my birth control pills on a Saturday, and start the new pills the following Friday, and somewhere in that time frame, I was to have a period and let EVERYONE know with elation when I’d gotten “it.” I’ve never looked forward to a period like, EVER, in my whole life. I’d never finished my last active pill and thought “Oh my god! I can’t wait!” But then I did, and let me tell you, its a strange association to have. J and M texted me the Tuesday before I was to start the new pills and asked what we were doing next in the process. I thought for sure the reproductive clinic would’ve explained this part of the process (stop. go. wait. do this.) in depth with their intended parents, as there is a great deal of excitement at this point, but alas they were in the dark. “well, we’re waiting for me. I can’t schedule my visit with the clinic until the first day of my period. I would imagine we’ll know when my trip out there will be within the next day or so.” I told J, trying to pretend I wasn’t talking about my period so candidly with a man. The guest of honor arrived within 24 hours, and I found myself texting J and M letting them know “I got my period, YAY!” and what day and time our trip to the reproductive clinic would be. J responded with elation as well, something that still makes me laugh and probably always will. I texted my mom, because everyone wanted to know when the town celebrity arrived, and told her “I just texted two men and told them I started my period, we are all so excited. “Whose life am I living?” Period talk aside, this meant that we could plan a trip that would serve as our first meeting in person, and a trip that would provide a calendar for what would hopefully be a very exciting future.

I picked up my birth control pills from the pharmacy, and scheduled my visit to the clinic. I, of course, took the earliest offered day, as my visit had to fall between days 6-10 of my cycle. Everything fell beautifully into place, and on the fourth of July, the day before my big trip, I found myself wandering through my day like a love-struck Cinderella. I cooked with my family, and enjoyed the time spent with all of the kids playing and visiting. I indulged in a big ass drink with my mom, something that tuned out my “oh my god I’m traveling to a new state, away from my babies for a whole day!” fears. I watched excitement and wonder fill the sweet rosie cheeks of my baby girl as we waited for the firework show to start. I enjoyed every moment that day ten times more because I was high on an idea of what my trip might be like. My alarm went off at 4:00am and I jolted awake, overeager to start my jam packed day. I was so excited that I completely blew off taking the hot rollers out of my hair, a little detail I’d all but forgotten until I pulled up at a light and was met with an awkward glance from the car next to me. Once I had put the car in park, the nerves set in. I’m not a big traveler, especially via airplane. I’ve become ridiculously motion sick over the years, such that I can’t even really swing at the park anymore, coupled with general anxiety and excitement for what may unfold throughout my day… I felt like shit. I swallowed a Dramamine and navigated my way through security to my gate. I am always early, but because of what was at stake, I now sat my always-early ass in an uncomfortable chair next to at least ten people blissfully snoring away… OVER AN HOUR before boarding would even begin.

Boarding for my flight began at 7:35 am, and I eagerly took my place within the queue marked “4.” Of course, my seat was at the back of the plane and in the middle of a man that insisted on listening to his Rosetta Stone on the highest volume as he snoozed away, and on the other side, an elderly woman sat, pissed off at her husband for forgetting the travel pillows. I had just the day before, purchased two books in preparation for my five and half hours of flying, so despite my less than desirable circumstances, I was excited to do something I hadn’t done in at least three years… READ IN PEACE. I purchased a Tina Fey book, and a book about the Ariel Castro kidnappings from a few years earlier. Odd combo, sure, but I justified it as the salty and sweet that didn’t have to be shared with anyone else… BLISS! I read and pretended to ignore my nauseated stomach, and time flew (literally) by. As I exited the plane in an airport I knew NOTHING about, my nerves settled back in. I had just shy of an hour before J and M’s flight would be landing, and I was determined to find my way to their gate. The employees of the Portland airport were SO NICE and went so far out of their way to be helpful that I was amazed! A really nice TSA agent gestured me in the direction of J and M’s gate, and pointed to an odd spot off to the side telling with a bright smile “that’s like the only working outlet nearby, go charge your phone!” I went into a little shop and bought water and some gum and settled in with my phone charging away on the best-kept secret in PDX.

“You had me at D9”

You know in the movies when people are reunited with loved ones immediately upon exiting the airplane? The big moment we all secretly wish we get to experience in life was about to be mine. From gate D9 emerged two cheerful, handsome, smiling men that made their way towards me with open arms. We all wore the same mile wide smile as we navigated our way out of the airport discussing our flights and the day ahead. “We want to take you to a place called Mothers for brunch.” announced M. “How perfectly ironic!” I responded as we opened the doors and found ourselves on an island of sorts waiting for our Lyft driver to arrive. “I think that because this is the first opportunity and probably the last for a very long time, that we should celebrate this day together by having a cocktail!” I said with a hopeful smile. “Absolutely!” they both agreed, as we sat down inside of our newly arrived Lyft. J and M are both very busy professionals, and so given that our appointment came the day after a major holiday, M had to make some business calls as we drove to Mothers. J and I talked about the babies, both of us speaking of them as if they already existed… talking of their future, their names, and just process in general. I asked J if I could see a picture of their egg donor, a curiosity that I’ve had from day one, and he excitedly began scrolling through his photos. “This is her!” J said as he handed me his phone. Of course, she was beautiful! The donor had such striking, unique eyes, and this beautiful hair that would leave anyone envious, she was perfect, down to the pictures she’d provided from childhood… perfect.

M had called ahead to see if there was a wait while we waited for our Lyft back at the airport and at that point there wasn’t one, a far different scene than the bustling restaurant we now stood waiting outside of. It was a beautiful day in Portland, blue skies, warm sunshine, and of course, the company I found myself in. We talked about paternity leave, we talked about mini vans, we talked about the impending sleepless nights, and we talked about everything baby centered, almost as if the twins were already within my womb. J and M were ready to be parents, even if they openly (and wisely) admitted their reservations/hesitations regarding the future with the two babies, they were ready because their hearts were undoubtedly in the right place. As I listened to them squabble over the pros and cons of a minivan, I thought to myself “they sound JUST like Casey and I!” Ultimately, I side with J on this argument… NO EFF-ING mini vans!

About 20 minutes after we arrived at “Mothers” we were gestured to a cute table in the corner of the restaurant. Old architecture, coupled with loud wallpaper, and the perfect visual blend of light to dark, and new to old fulfilled every sort of “I’m in a different city” vibe I never knew I was after. “You know, this place is kind of, as my generation cleverly revived the word, boujee!” I announced to J and M. “Totally boujee!” J responded back with a laugh. In a mere hour since my arrival, we’d discussed things like the political world at hand, their egg donor, their trepidations about parenthood, mini-vans, and now, we’d managed to use boujee in context. If you don’t know what this lovely word means, I invite you to google it and refer to the third definition on Urban dictionary. I scanned the menu and noticed zero brunch appropriate adult beverages, and so when the waitress arrived and I asked for iced tea, my words were immediately repeated back at me with shock as I defended my choice by stating I didn’t see anything in the menu that reflected a brunch alcohol menu. “We have mimosas and Bloody Mary’s!” Offered the waitress with a sweet smile. J and M each ordered a bloody mary, while I indulged in a mimosa. As we talked about a baby shower and do’s and don’ts’s in that realm, M’s face softened as he said, “I don’t know anything about baby showers, except for what I’ve seen on Sex and the City.” Oh, my heart. At our little corner table, in this little boujee restaurant, in this beautiful unfamiliar city, I felt the strongest sense of belonging and ultimately, love for J and M.

Here is where it all starts…

After our lovely brunch together, we decided to walk over to the reproductive clinic since we had some time to spare. It was about 90 degrees of pure perfect day outside, a temperature I was grateful for given the triple digits I’d left behind in Denver. As we walked we talked about their two cute dogs, and we talked about the old architecture and beauty of a downtown that felt like Denver ten years ago. J shared with me that M had actually proposed to him in Denver while they were there doing some political work, a fact that I reminded them was just “one more tie they’d have to my hometown” besides that it would be the birthplace of their babies. We walked for about twenty minutes until we arrived in front of Oregon Reproductive Medicine. Of course, after walking twenty minutes in 90-degree heat, I suggested we take our first picture as a trio together. You know, nothing makes a picture look special quite like beads of sweat across everyone’s forehead… that’s why it is in black and white!

We headed inside to a little reception desk where we checked in and were told to head upstairs for our appointment. J and M grabbed a complimentary bottle of water and offered me one as we headed out of the reception area. I was told in my instruction packet to “drink three glasses of water slowly one hour prior to uterine evaluation” a detail that I scoffed at thinking, “I have had two babies, if I even think about sneezing, or laughing, my bladder is suddenly so full it literally cannot contain the contents!” If I drank three glasses of water like they asked, I would’ve literally peed (with minimal shame) all over the ultra sound tech. Once upstairs, we were directed to a rather large, serene, waiting room. The waiting room was quite an interesting mix of people. Some were old, some were young. Some were speaking English, others were not. Interestingly enough, we were (by appearance only) the only surrogate situation (I rather like that wording) in the mix, and we looked the most comfortable out of everyone in there, which was perhaps blissful ignorance. “Claire” called out a petite blonde woman with bitchin frames. I stood up and immediately asked “can they come with?” gesturing to J and M. “Of course!” she said as she directed us down the hallway. As we walked two nurses met my gaze and complimented my dress, a detail I’d agonized over for days leading up to this moment, despite the fact that I was the only one that cared what I wore that day. “We’re just going to borrow Dr.B’s office because he’s not here right now.” she said as she gestured us into a simple, yet beautiful corner office.

J, M, and I took our seats on the couch and settled in waiting for our coordinator, H, to take a seat amongst us. We noticed immediately a white container that housed needles of various sizes, and vials of at least three different medications. “Okay guys, because you are so early, we’re going to do things a little backwards. We are going to do the instructions for the injections now, and then Claire will go for her evaluation once my medical assistant is free. After that, K will come in and you will go over the Gestational Carrier packet in depth. If everything goes fine, which I’m sure it will, you will also set up a calendar similar to this sample version here.” H then opened the white container which had become quite disheveled (from what I assumed was multiple demos), an appearance she apologized for multiple times. “If we are looking at the sample calendar, it clearly says which injections you will do on which days, the dosage, and the frequency. You’ll notice that you will never be on more than two injections in a given day, and you will start the process by using Lupron. Lupron reduces your estrogen, which is what we want given that the first two weeks of the calendar we are essentially putting your body into menopause to prevent the production of your eggs. Once you have completed the Lupron, you will take a blood test to see if your estrogen levels have done what we want them to do. You will need to do all testing of this nature at a lab that can provide rapid results, as I will need access to all results along the way same-day.” In addition to the Lupron injection, I will also be taking the clinic prescribed birth control pills, a prenatal vitamin, doxycycline, and an aspirin pill to maintain blood flow to my uterus. If that hasn’t scared you off, then holy shit you should see the needles for the delestrogen injection that follows my two weeks of Lupron. “I always tell people Pink for pain, blue for injection.” H announced as she showed us the rather involved way of preforming this injection. “You’re going to want to pull the plunger down to your desired dose of medication, and then insert the pink needle into the vile to remove the liquid. The needle is thick because it has to be in order to extract the medication. (Or, it is thick to scare the shit out of future surrogates, but who am I to judge) Push the air into the vile, and then begin to extract the liquid into the syringe. Always take out more than you need, and push the remainder out until all air bubbles are removed, and the medication begins to come out of the needle. At this point, you will change the needle to the blue to perform the injection. The skin on your love handle area will need to be taut, and you will inject into the muscle area. It is important to note this is only a Monday/Friday injection, NOT a daily one.” Oh thank god, I thought as she offered to let me practice doing the injection on a sample tissue. It was much thicker than the nice, kind, your skin doesn’t have to be taut, Lupron injection, thus I’m sure it felt “different” too. Once we received the demo and preformed the practice injection for the final injection, progesterone, I’m fairly certain that “F**K!!!!!” could be heard on some really high enough frequency from J, M, and I’s internal monologue. I knew this shot was the least favored shot by all those that had been down this road  (I’d been googling for weeks) but I didn’t realize just how THICK it was in terms of how quickly (or not) it dispensed. “I’m going to go see if my medical assistant is ready for you now, Claire,” said H excusing herself. The minute she left, J, M, and I all discussed how intense our little “injection therapy session” was, and J immediately offered up an “I’m so sorry!” I laughed as I responded, “I knew what I was getting myself into. I researched it, I have talked to friends that have gone through IVF, the only thing I did not know I learned today, and that was what a tentative injection calendar looked like. ” “Claire, how’s your bladder?” asked H through a slight crack in the door. “Um its good? Not about to burst, but full enough, I think!” I replied. “Great, come with me!” As I walked out of the room, J and M offered me their best “sorry you’re about to be uncomfortable for twenty minutes” face and wished me well.

I was gestured into a small exam room that proudly displayed a very “versatile” ultrasound machine. After I got ready for my exam, another new face greeted me, this time the nurse practitioner who would be preforming my uterine evaluation. “I’m going to pass this catheter through to simulate what the actual transfer will be like. After I do this, you can go empty your bladder, and return for the uterine evaluation.” I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I finally get to leave the room after a blessed pelvic exam I practically run my ass down the hall, in an excited hurry, to get as far away from that experience as possible. Knowing that I was granted temporary reprieve to empty my bladder was sadly not enough for what was to come next. I re-entered my interesting ceiling tile-less room and climbed back onto the exam table, awaiting the return of the nurse and medical assistant. Once they returned, the catheter process was repeated, only this time a small amount of saline was passed through in order to inflate my uterus for examination purposes. Through the help of a trans-vaginal ultrasound, the nurse was able to view my uterus clearly, a process necessary to rule out anything that could be problematic for embryo transfer. The process itself was not painful at all, but the silence was deafening as she continued to view various angles of my uterus. I remember sharing with you all the hardest moment from my pregnancy with Charlie. The moment where I went for my first ultrasound with Charlie and there was no heartbeat. I was told it was probably just too early, and scheduled a follow up ultra sound two weeks later. I will never forget not hearing that sound, I knew something was wrong immediately, before my brain had time to process it, my heart already began aching for what I feared was lost. Back to present day, I watched as the nurse practitioner zoomed in as if to measure something, and I finally asked what was going on. “Well, you have uterine polyps, which are just growths that occur from raised levels of estrogen. You’ll need to have these removed before you can move forward in this process.” she responded to my desperate “is everything okay?” question. All along, this was my greatest fear, that something would be wrong with me. That I would get all the way to this very point, get attached to a family, and get attached to a journey I’d not yet embarked on. My heart was broken. “This does happen. While I’m sure it wasn’t the news you wanted or expected, it is better that something came up now rather than later in the process.” A truth that could not be denied, yet I found myself overcome with sadness. I had trained my eyes not to let me down in moments like this, and held back my sadness and frustration as I went through the motions of having my vitals completed. My whole world just changed, a major timeline gone, and now I was about to have to sit with J and M as they heard the same news. I knew it would sting SO much worse having to be in the same room with them as we listened to K tell us we would not be getting a calendar today, and that I’d have to return to Portland to have the mock transfer completed again once I had the polyps removed. “Usually, the longest part of the process now is getting your provider to schedule the procedure. Once it is done, we will bring you back here to perform the mock transfer again, and to make sure everything was removed successfully. Rarely, we have to send people back to have the procedure performed again, but that almost never happens.” So that was it, we weren’t getting a calendar today, we were leaving here more knowledgeable regarding the injections, but we were leaving here shot-less, which in my case felt worse than any amount of pain those progesterone shots could cause. I’m extremely type A, extremely time oriented, and I love to have a sprawling calendar of dates as a reminder of the good things that are to come… I’ve always been this way. In saying that, I am trying to justify my sadness and generally, the slight sense of defeat I’d just encountered with the news of a setback that was due to my own body. Ironic, I thought, that here I am trying so hard to have babies for someone else, something I had done seamlessly when it came to my own family, and I am having issues that some women have when they are battling infertility struggles. Perspective is what you make it, and perspective can often dictate a large portion of your experience, so while I have expressed my above frustrations, I knew even in that moment that I would only allow myself a very limited time to feel “this way” before I forced myself back to the bright side. Negativity isn’t going to remove what already exists, and negativity isn’t going to get me to my end goal of growing these babes for J and M, and thus, there really isn’t room for it long-term.

When I see you again.

As we opened the doors to exit Oregon Reproductive Medicine, we were welcomed once more by the warmth of a perfect summer’s day. I told J and M that I was slightly bummed at just the setback, but that I was still so excited. We all expressed our gratitude that something had come up NOW rather than later in the process, when it could potentially mean harder “hardships.” J and M still looked at me with the same loving, awed expression as they expressed their gratitude for the journey we would soon be taking together. “There’s just no way to thank you for all of this.” M said to me sincerely. “I know it seems like a lot, and it absolutely is, but I promise the return on this investment, your babies, will make all of this seem worth it. The shots are just a wrinkle in time; the babies are your forever. I absolutely cannot wait!” I said to them lovingly. After all, polyps, setbacks, delays, or anything else we may encounter will only make us appreciate these babies more once they are here! M had helped me install and figure out Lyft, something that prior to a few hours ago, I had NEVER used. As we waited for my Lyft driver to arrive, we hugged a few times, exchanged “I love you’s'” and talked about our next meeting, one that would hopefully occur in September. I got into a little white Hyundai sonata and watched J and M until they were out of my view, “Okay” I thought as I took a deep breath, “soon we will begin again.”

I got to PDX much earlier than I’d anticipated and found myself on the phone with Steph, going through the whole jam packed day in great detail, as she cut up dinner for my “eager to talk to momma” babies in the background. The thing about Steph that I love and appreciate most is that she absolutely does not let me dwell. Steph and I are so freakishly close, that she likely felt the same lump in her throat and tears burning at her eyes that I did as I told her about the uninvited guests that would have to be removed from the party. Steph is also a master director of conversations like these, never letting me get stuck too long on anything negative, choosing instead to ask positive-whats-going-on-moving-forward questions. I really appreciate this from her, so much so that she was the only one I could bring myself to actually speak on the phone with at the airport. My phone had about 20% battery, and with no outlets in sight, I knew I couldn’t sit just anywhere and talk to my mom or Casey, because I’d of been a crying mess. I think that taking news like that, in a new city, several hours from home, also played into the “poor me” factor. I didn’t have my mom or Casey, or Steph there to reassure my troubled heart. I had to be the reassure-er, a role I’d only recently taken on when I entered into motherhood a mere three years ago. I didn’t want to cry, or be too dramatic about it, I wanted to process it on my own terms, and not drag anyone (namely J and M) through my emotional mud puddles as they formed and dried. As boarding began for my flight, I tried to be positive about my day, and reminded myself just how much I’d gotten out of spending the time with J and M, even if nothing else went “according to plan.” The next time I would see them, we’d have some sort of direction to travel, and that was cause enough to put a smile on my face, if even for a little while.

Surgery, then shots.

The Friday after I’d returned home, I got a call from my OB’s office to schedule my procedure. “We’ll need to schedule a pre-op appointment, then the actual surgery,” said the receptionist. We scheduled both, the pre-op for the 31st, and the surgery for August 8th. “The surgery takes a little over an hour, you will be knocked out for it, and you’ll need to take it easy afterwards and bring a driver with you.” “Oh, I’m put under for this?” Back at the reproductive clinic, they talked so lightly about this procedure, that it sounded like an office visit type of thing, NOT a hospital style, operating room, situation. “Yes, some providers do them awake, but because of the length of time, its better for all if you are put under.” Hear that guys? It’s that quartet from the last scene in Titanic, you know, the one before the boat sinks. They are playing that beautiful, sadness evoking music just for me! Surgery like this was a much bigger deal than I had allowed myself to google. I felt now afraid of the surgery, the outcome reproductively speaking, and the recovery time since I willingly take on a lot of role in our household. I like to be active; I like to be hands on, all things that this will complicate. I felt the lump grow bigger within my throat as I was given the time for my SURGERY on August the 8th, 7:30 am. Here we go.

After my call with my OB’s office, I called J, M, and I’s case manager, C, to discuss all of the recent activity within our particular “case.” I told C that I was bummed, a detail she did not let me dwell on as she announced, “Oh yea, this happens. About 20% of our surrogates have had this. Guess what though? ALL OF THEM HAVE GONE ON TO HAVE SUCCESSFUL PREGNANCIES.” I couldn’t even be sad for another second upon hearing this. Not only was I not the only one to experience this, but I had a brighter prognosis for my future to look forward to. I asked C, “Because this was likely a pre-existing condition, do you want me to have this surgery under my insurance, or the insurance provided to me by J and M?” C said that was not a “stupid question,” but reminded me that in the grand scheme of things, this “little surgery and the expense associated with it, were all just a drop in the bucket” in terms of paying towards a deductible. “You likely NEVER would have known these polyps exist had we not of done this evaluation, so please, do not feel uneasy, or guilty, or responsible for any of it.” Have I told you lately that I love C? I needed so badly to hear concrete, “this shit happens” type of statistics, and hearing it from her lifted the last of the bricks off of my chest.

I would like to close this blog post with a thank you again, to you my readers. I would also like to say a huge thank you to my mom and to my mother in law, for their constant reassurance and love is something I am so grateful for. A thank you to my Casey, you have to go through all of this with me, especially the emotional parts, thank you for remaining a strong pillar to lean on. A thank you to Steph, you really get me, like, down to the fiber of my being. I love you dearly. A thank you to my other wonderful sister in law, Kaley, for always being positive, and always offering to help me in any way you physically can. A thank you to my close girlfriends, Ashley, Lauren, and Missy… thanks for listening. Whether it was at 3:00am, between clients, or at the very end of your day, thank you. Finally, a HUGE thank you to J and M. If you guys were at all discouraged by our slight setback, you NEVER faltered. The gratitude you expressed towards me is equally felt in reverse order, and because of that, I know we are a perfect match. I remain, faithfully “yours”, hopeful and optimistic, and full to my brim with excitement. I am still just as excited for what is to come, and eager to have these hurdles behind me. I knew that when I started this journey, I had the potential to be matched with people that would change my life, and now that I have met you and gotten to know you, I feel like I can safely say that I know that will happen. Even as I sit here writing this, with acne all over my once pristine skin, (thank you new birth control), I can say (and believe) that it is not all bad. Stemming from this set of “setbacks,” comes the likelihood that I will be enormously pregnant over the summer… a thought that is a little bit daunting, but then… tee shirt dresses, pools, and flip flops… I’ll be alright after all. Thanks for reading, loving and supporting.

 

 

 

In the waiting line.

Hello again, you loyal bunch of readers! Thank you for allowing me the pleasure of sharing this wonderful journey with each and every one of you. I have to say, as time goes on, I am more and more thrilled with each new interaction I have along this journey. The people, both new and familiar that I have encountered throughout my process as of late, have been for the most part, wonderful.  Please enjoy the next installment of my journey, and feel free to like, comment, and share with any and every one! Please be respectful and open minded as you read, and of course…enjoy.

Home Check.

In my last blog, I discussed that I would have to go through a home check in addition to all of my physical wellness screenings before I could proceed to the next “next steps.” I wasn’t too nervous the morning of our home visit, but even still, I found myself looking at my house with eagle eyes, with every intention of finding something I could clean or rearrange “better.” I kept Charlie awake hoping our evaluator would arrive at the earlier end of our allotted time frame, rather than later. I paced the halls with my fussy, woke up before the sun, baby boy, eagerly checking the windows to see if an unfamiliar car had parked out front. 9:35… 9:41… 9:56… “Just put him down, screw it. I’m sure she’ll understand.” Said an overly calm Casey, as I checked outside once more. “yea, if she isn’t here in ten minutes or so, Charlie has got…” I didn’t even finish my sentence before I heard it, the sound of a car pulling up out front! I did a onceover of the house one last time, and unlocked the front door. Our evaluator drove a really nice car, so nice in fact, that I’d never seen or heard of it before. I always tell Casey when we are driving in areas we don’t often go to (Cherry Creek, Winter Park, etc..) that I can tell we are out of place based on the number of unfamiliar cars that surround us on the road. Maybe it is strange, but there is a certain level of comfort I get when I’m driving around and see 900 other grey colored Kia Sorento’s, just like mine, out running errands, just like I am. It feels like home knowing I will pull up at an intersection and see one or two of those orange and white circular bumper stickers advertising a large church not far from my home.  We live in a suburb of Denver, roughly 20 minutes outside of the “big city”, but man, home is another world by comparison these days. “Are you afraid of dogs?” I call out to the slight brunette woman walking up my driveway. Damnit! I forgot to weed the rock bed in front of the house. “No, not at all.” She responds with a friendly laugh. I invite her inside and notice how immediately she grows 500 eyes, eyes that are taking in every corner of our “humble home.” We don’t have a big house, its about 1800 square feet with 4 adults, 3 littles, and 2 dogs that call it home. It was never in the plan, bringing babies here, but then life happened, and here we are today… standing in a living room with a woman that has said twice in the fifteen minutes that she has been here “that’s a lot of people under one roof!” Is it? If you consider the cost of living here these days, maybe it doesn’t seem so inconceivable. If you take heart to the phrase, “It takes a village” perhaps you can understand and see the benefit from our temporary, but present, living situation. “Sure, it is a lot of people, but we really aren’t all right on top of each other like you would think.” I found myself telling her. It was truth after all, we all had our separate spaces to retire to, and two communal living spaces where we could hangout with the kids, or watch television, there were two small bathrooms and a tiny kitchen, but we had made the most of our space. After I was done dismantling the belief that our household was in likeness with a traveling circus, I began walking her through the upstairs for the “grand” tour. I turned to lead her into the hallway, and promptly slid ten feet on a rogue Christmas book. “GREAT!” I thought to myself. Not even five minutes into this home check and I’ve already shown her just how treacherous the conditions can be when your homestead is ruled by pint sized dictators. I recovered gracefully and managed a cool smile instead of saying a sentence enhancer, that’s 10 points for Claire!

“I’m sorry for the mess, we are in the middle of a very long lasting DIY kitchen remodel.” I say as we walk through our tiny, table-less, kitchen. I wonder if she notices that the screws are too big on the new cabinet knobs I picked out in a hurry at Home Depot. I’m sure she does, this woman sees everything, even the nothing I have to hide. “who does a majority of the cleaning around here?” She asks as we finish our walk-through and sit back down in the living room. I exchange a devilish grin with Casey and reply, “I do. I’m way too much of a control freak and am not ashamed to say I like things cleaned and organized in a certain way. My way.” We all laugh a little, which proved to be too slight a distraction for my eyes wandered just enough to see the paper she’d been asking questions from and writing down answers on. There were so many questions! I was honestly a bit taken aback. I felt like at this point, I had proven my intentions were good through a psychological evaluation, and given them my medical records to indicate the rest of me was up for the journey as well. “Do you drink caffeine?” She asked me. I didn’t tell her that diet coke and coffee are my drug of choice, even though I only have ONE diet and one or two cups of coffee per day…I am in a very serious relationship with both. To those of you reading this saying to yourselves “diet coke is so bad for you, chemicals, toxins, cancer…” SHUT UP. Who asked you? Not me! I will take my chemical bomb over ice, or out of a warm can, thank you very much! “yes, I do drink caffeine. Not a ton, but definitely daily.” I say back to her. “would you be willing to stop during this pregnancy?” My irritation with this silly question surprises even me. “Of course.” I say back. I think it irritated me because it seemed like such a ridiculous thing to ask. I will follow the advice of the medical professionals and the wishes of my intended family 100%, a promise I’ve already issued several times throughout this process. I am putting a lot more serious things on “hold” like getting back in shape, or even moving out of state with my family,  in order to have the honor of carrying this pregnancy. I want this with everything that I am. I certainly wouldn’t let something ridiculous like caffeine derail my train at this point… though I will longingly admire Starbucks and fountain diet coke from afar, always. Once she was finished asking her questions, she announced that everything “looked okay” and she let me know our case manager, C, would get our results by mid week. It is kind of a deflating feeling to know that people are looking at you inquisitively  under a microscope. I don’t have anything to hide, I am who I am. I am proud of my home, my family, and my life. I just wish that I could turn down the feels when people give me a puzzled stare, or say things in a shocked tone about the number of occupants in our house, or about my occupation as a quote “career waitress.” I am being 100% transparent about this particular visit, and while I don’t mean for any of it to be interpreted negatively, I do want to freely express my feelings or perhaps insecurities would be a better word, even if they are silly.

One scale. No carbs. Angry.

I have never been a person that counts carbs or calories. I am mindful of things that I eat, but for the most part, I do not limit myself to certain categories of food. I am here to tell you all the story of a very sad, very hungry, and very mean woman named Claire. Claire decided that she would “cut out carbs” in an effort to lower the number on the scale. Claire decided that this would be a good approach. Claire was stupid. Claire was hungry. Claire was mean. In all seriousness, have you ever tried to eliminate something like sugar or carbs? I have never been addicted to anything, but the hell that I went through trying to cut down my carb consumption was brutal. I became a woman possessed. I sat on pinterest during nap time furiously searching through carb-free recipes that would make me feel whole again… like the blueberry bagels I’d fed to Natasha instead of myself every morning until they were gone. I turned off Keeping up with the Kardashian’s and stood in the kitchen with alien ingredients laying before me on the counter top, taunting me. “A bag of possibilities!” I read on the side of the Chia seeds I’d just begrudgingly purchased at the grocery store.  “A bag of possibilities for who? A squirrel?” I thought to myself as I mixed a concoction inside a mason jar. The other thing about this “healthy thing” they don’t tell you about, is that you will soon find dislike from simply looking at the mason jars you just had to buy back in your carb days. They represent portion sizes that wouldn’t even come close to filling the belly of my one year old son. They represent a certain creativity in the kitchen, chia seeds, and an expensive grocery bill. Mason jars have been improperly represented all along, and now, I have set the truth free to all of you… you’re welcome.

I made it through the first week of carb cutting, and while I was starting to feel a little better, I began to notice my family slowly emerging from the shadows they’d sought shelter within while I was off the carbs… god bless them all. I did learn a lot about myself through this little experiment. I learned that I probably am addicted to carbs and sugar, and that I am not a good quitter. I learned some new recipes that really weren’t all that bad, and even created some of my own along the way. In addition to this crazy diet thing, I had begun working out five days a week with Stephanie commiserating lovingly by my side. We got up every morning at 3:30 and headed out in the darkness to the gym where we could be amongst the ten or so others that were dedicated to this fitness cause. We learned the t.v. schedule, and looked forward to watching the crime channel every morning at four while we struggled to stay upright on the elliptical. We locked eyes every morning as the too friendly gym attendant attempted to strike up meaningful conversation with us as we wiped sleep from our eyes. We laughed hysterically to ourselves upon my realization that I’d forgotten to put a bra on not once, but TWICE. If you just read that and thought “How could you forget? I could never forget that!” It will probably happen to you next. I have never run out of gas because of that same thought process, but I’m sure now that I’ve managed to forget my bra twice, running out of gas won’t be far behind. I’ve always enjoyed working out, and since I’d been either growing a human or nourishing one for the past three years, I’d not found the want or time to spare within myself, for myself. It is very funny to me, this concept of getting in better shape, given that I will likely gain 40 or so pounds during my pregnancy with the twins. I really want to be a good “starter home” for them, though. I look at this like the remodel project going on in my own home. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money, I wanted to be almost entirely hands on throughout the renovation process, and I wanted to stand back at the end of it and say “it is NOT perfect, but I am PROUD of it!” I can’t do much to change some of my physical flaws like stretch marks, or a bust that had indeed gone bust, but I can be proactive with things like diet and exercise in an effort to learn to love myself in a healthier way.

Another silly thing I did was to purchase a scale. I did this because I didn’t want that cold, depressed chill to course through my entire body when I went for all of my lab work with my new OB. The chill that I am describing was particularly icy, especially since I’d stepped on with all the confidence of a newly minted gym rat that had been “food conscious” for two weeks at this point. Three little numbers. 1. 2. 3. that’s it, but that’s all it takes. I stood on the scale disappointed with the black numbers that wavered slightly before my eyes. After all of my hard work, I’d not managed to lose one EFFING pound. NOT ONE. My heart sank in disappointment. “This is why I did not want one of these in my house!” I announced to the dogs, children, god, and the teddy gram box that was still out from Lucy’s snack earlier that afternoon. I put the scale away, along with my disappointment, and vowed to continue my healthy lifestyle change, but to not be as strict with the food, simply because I didn’t like who I was anymore. I honestly don’t know how people do it, dedicate themselves mind body and soul to good food choices AND a good exercise regiment ALL the time. After 10 days of dieting and exercising together, I was EXHAUSTED. I couldn’t eat one more bowl of carrots and broccoli. Healthy chia seed pudding? You mean healthy chia seed PUKE? It made me feel very low and down on myself, I was in a place I don’t want to be in mentally. Physically of course I’d love to be thinner, roll-less, and perky, but I needed to set my sights on realistic goals, and that’s exactly what I have done and will continue doing. We’ve hit the gym five days a week for a little over six weeks now, and while I’m not where I’d like to be in terms of seeing results, I told Steph that I am at least confident in my ability to run should my “thick” ass find itself being chased by a monster. Bagels, guys…. I mean… baby steps.

Will you be my baby doctor?

The weeks seemed to fly by the entire month of May as I painstakingly awaited an email letting me know my Gestational Carrier Agreement, or legal contract, had been finalized. I refreshed my email eagerly every couple of hours in search of so much more than an email from Carters or Kohls. Alas, nothing came of it. I nervously chattered to anyone that would listen about my trepidation regarding my upcoming appointment with who would hopefully be my OB for the duration of my pregnancy. “What if she tells me something awful, something that disqualifies me?” I nervously asked Steph for the hundredth time. “Dude, CHILL. You have had model pregnancies and deliveries, what have you got to worry about?” Steph would lovingly say each and every time I asked her this question. I think maybe it was my short conversation with that former surrogate I mentioned in my last blog, because prior to my conversation with her, I lived blissfully unaware that something could come up at the 11th hour. “They find out some pretty interesting things when you go through all of those health screenings” she’d said to me. Interesting? I have been very healthy throughout my life, I have gone to all appropriate preventative appointments, and I have taken necessary steps to ensure my health stays good. I should have nothing to fear, but then of course, the day of the appointment came and there we were, me and fear, chilling in the waiting room. A very cheerful young woman called out my name and invited me back to the exam room. “We’ll get your weight, and a urine sample, then we’ll head back to meet Dr. B.” I stepped on the scale and to my surprise, I was DOWN  a couple of pounds. “Oh thank god!” I said to her as we walked back to the office. “I’ve never paid much attention to the number on the scale until recently, and it is ruining my life.” We both laughed as she gestured to a chair for me to have a seat in. “So it looks like you are here because you want to be a surrogate?” she asked excitedly. “yes, I do. I already have a match made and I just need the testing and exam to provide that last bit of clearance.” “I think that is AWESOME! I hated being pregnant, so I could never do something like that!” She announced. “Well, Dr. B will be along shortly, if you could just remove your clothing and slip into the gown on the table.” As she exited the room I took a deep breath and sized up my new gown. Of course I’d worn a dress that had an impossible back closure, one that I’d needed Steph to fasten all the way because I couldn’t even come close to reaching it. I got it off in record speed and sat up on the table, trying to pick out an interesting ceiling tile to stare at for the duration of my exam.

“Knock, Knock!” said a friendly voice as the door opened. “I am Dr. B, I am so excited to meet you!” We ran through my medical record, and highlights of my both of my pregnancies and deliveries. “I have told patients before, some people are just built to have babies, I wasn’t at either of your deliveries, but those are some really large babies to have delivered, you should be proud of that!” I never know what to say to people when they make comments like that. I know of course that it is intended to be complimentary, but what do I say in return? About an hour after I’d given birth to Charlie, the nurse doing his measurements announced to the whole room “That’s the biggest head I’ve ever measured on a newborn!” Do I say “yes, I know I just delivered it!” or do I just say thank you and move on?  I had a woman at the zoo notice Charlie in my arms a few weeks ago, she said to me “My god he is ENORMOUS! Did you deliver him vaginally?” I laughed as I told her that I did, and that I had really great drugs before and after. Dr. B went on to tell me that she has worked with surrogates before, and it is an endeavor that she always enjoys being part of. ” I think that based on your history, you could absolutely deliver these babies vaginally, so long as baby A is in position, and so long as that is what you would like to do.” she said to me with a smile. “That’s great! I am a little afraid of a C section, of course that’s only because I’ve never had one. If I don’t have to have one, I will be thrilled!” Realistically, the babies will be delivered the safest way possible regardless of my fears or preferences. I don’t want a C section because I know that the recovery time is significantly longer, and at the end of this delivery, I will still have two children to tend to once I get home. We finished our conversation and moved on to the exam, where she used every OBGYN’s favorite catch phrase, “scoot down.” It was over and done with, and we both laughed as I told her that I’d rather go to these appointments than the dentist, ANY TIME. I fulfilled my blood test requirements, then headed home to be with my kiddos. I was told as I left that it would take “one to two weeks” to get my results via mail.

As I drove home, I reflected on what an odd feeling it was to have just selected the doctor that will oversee my health and that of these precious surro-babes with absolutely no input from my “intended parents.” Our contract had not been finalized, thus, our contact information had yet to be exchanged. I wanted to call them. I wanted to tell them with great excitement that I’d found “the one”, I wanted to reassure them that we would be in great hands, and that the provider I’d selected was knowledgeable and experienced with Gestational carriers. I wanted so badly to tell them all of these things, and knowing that I could not just took the wind out of my sails. I mean I saw M’s last name flash on my screen with our first intial Skype conversation, this particular part of the process might just be worthy of breaking all the rules, looking like a total creep, and finding them on Facebook to share the good news. After every prenatal appointment I’d ever had, I could always count on a joyous “after” phone call with either Casey, or my mom to discuss with joy, the progress of the baby. Here I was, not even pregnant, but feeling like I’d left out a huge piece of this puzzle. I don’t necessarily know what J and M’s response to this news would’ve been, but I felt like my happiness and excitement was dimmed slightly because it could not be shared with the two of them. I called our case manager, “C” on my way home from the doctors office and let her know that I’d fulfilled my requirements. C told me that we were just waiting to hear back from J and M’s attorney at this point, and that we’d probably be communicating with each other by weeks end. I was thrilled to hear this, and so I waited.

New friend request.

Days passed by and then came the next week, NOTHING. I stopped checking my emails on Monday using the “a watched pot never boils” logic. To my surprise and excitement, there were two emails greeting me on the Tuesday the 30th. One email was from C, she was letting me know the contract was finalized and providing me with J and M’s contact info, and the other from J. I cried such happy tears as I read his email and wrote a quick response, FINALLY, I thought! I am new to this world of contracts and legal processes. I have learned both from purchasing a home, and going through this process, that anytime there is any sort of legal or contractual process involved, there can, and likely will be delays. Nearly three weeks had passed us by since the proposed date of finalization for the contract, during this time I felt myself wondering if J and M were as antsy, and silently impatient, as I was. Then, there it was… I had run a marathon bigger than the map had displayed, and I was finally at the finish line with my co-racers. I was at last, able to look back on my short, but winding road and be proud to have made it to at least the middle. J and I exchanged some back and fourth conversation via email, and decided that we would set up a time to Skype or facetime on Sunday June 11th. I could wait 12 short days, I told myself, but offered to let them be a part of my Facebook or instagram profile in the mean time. Minutes later, I had a friend request from J. I wonder if he could see the overeager-ness hanging on the words in my email, or if he too felt the same way. Later in the day, I got another friend request, this time from M. I don’t really post anything controversial, I don’t dabble in politics or fighting on Facebook, but I found myself worried that they’d see something they didn’t like. I’d told them when we met that I was very public about this journey, that I was writing a blog, and that I’d had the support of all of my friends and family, all true things. I still wondered if when faced with my postings about the surrogacy process itself, they’d feel a level of discomfort reading about how I interpreted what was largely THEIR journey on my Facebook page. By becoming friends with them on social media, we were mutually allowing each other to begin the discovery process about the person we’d just signed a legal contract with. A little backwards perhaps, but exciting no less. We had access to photos, status updates, check in’s, both old and new… its like viewing the photo albums of a family you’ve only barely met. I told Steph “I don’t want to over-like their things because I don’t want them to think that I am sitting here stalking them… I don’t know what the rules are here, I’ve never played this game!” It was true, I hadn’t. I equate this feeling to that of having a new crush when you are younger. ” I know he likes me, and I like him, too, but I’m still going to play hard to get.” I wouldn’t post the typical nine million pictures of my children, I’d cut that down to just six or seven million. I wouldn’t like everything they posted, just “some of it.” Finally, I’d heed Steph’s advice, and not “like” anything that was too far back for fear it would make me look stalker-esque. At this point, I am very ready to talk to them, very ready to get to know them without there being an interview agenda, and very ready to begin building what I hope is a forever relationship with them. J, M, Casey, and I are set to have a chat on Sunday the 11th, and I am counting down the days, writing down the questions I have to ask them, and thinking of what they could have to ask us in return. All of the waiting we’ve had to do will be made worth it once I see their bright, eager, smiles fill the screen as we chat away. I’m not even worried about awkward silences, or what I’ll wear like I typically would be in circumstances like this. I got the impression that J and I could talk for hours like old friends when we’d only first met. I feel like M and Casey have enough in common personality wise that perhaps they will have many things to talk about, too. Of course, there is always the future to discuss if we run out of content in the “getting to know you” category.

Testing. Testing.

At this phase of our journey, I am coming closer to facing the less desirable parts of this journey…. namely, the IVF injection cycle. I received a welcome email from the doctors and staff members at Oregon Reproductive Medicine that will oversee J, M, and I through this process. I had a phone call with “H” one of our coordinators, and we discussed what the next steps will be from here. I think in my mind I got too attached to the idea of an August embryo transfer, and thus, my disappointment when I confirmed with H that the transfer would need to be pushed back by at least a month or so. It is amazing, these babies are not “here” in terms of being in utero, but I am already so excited for them to exist within this world, that I felt a sadness in that being put off. Uh-o! I’m showing emotions… I care about these babies and their daddy’s emotions…  but, of course I do. I am eager to see the process through so that I can see the process begin in terms of J and M’s new little family. I’m not sad for me that the transfer is delayed, I’m just a bit bummed for them that they will be waiting even longer for something that I’m sure has already felt like forever. I will travel to Portland around the first week of July for a “uterine evaluation” at Oregon Reproductive Medicine. It is a quick procedure where the uterus is visualized and evaluated to make sure that it is strong enough, and safe enough to withstand a pregnancy. At this appointment, I will meet the reproductive doctor and his team that I will be working with through my first trimester. I will learn how to give myself the required injections, and I will be given a list of very time sensitive dates and instructions for completing each step of this process. I went through the packet sent to me by H, it was 21 pages long, very detailed, and lets just say I am grateful we will be going over it at length on my first visit with the clinic. I am hopeful to take my brother Evan with me for this quick day trip, just as support, and a great source of comedic relief from what I’m sure will be an information packed day. It feels great to have an idea of when I will be traveling to start this next phase, as it is also a date where I must cease fire on many other things. The directions said “only one 12 ounce serving of caffeine is permitted. Sexual activity with your partner must cease on the date of your last active birth control pill. No alcoholic beverages may be consumed. Only Tylenol may be used for pain relief.” I am only paraphrasing, as it said those things and then some in much greater detail. As I read about this process, I felt like I was reading a list of can and “cannot-s” for the early weeks of pregnancy. I can do all of these things no problem, its just another new adjustment period in this journey. Admittedly, the only thing I am sad to see again, is that Tylenol will have to be my primary source for any sort of pain/fever relief. I got a really nasty cold about two weeks before I had Lucy. I pleaded with my OBGYN for some kind of miracle relief, only to have her laugh at me and say “well, you can take Tylenol, or you can take two of these M&M’s I have on my desk and pretend they are something better. Either way, there really isn’t much I can do for you, dear.” Tylenol sucks, so naturally, I took the M&M’s… red ones, and pretended they were ibuprofen. I am sure as I go through the packet with the reproductive center things will not seem so daunting. I have a very real, very deep respect for women that have to go through this process because of infertility. I cannot even imagine having to go through this process like so many women before me, knowing that my body has been unwilling to carry a pregnancy, and knowing what loss feels like. I think any sort of fertility struggle is painful and sad, but one that carries such great expense both literally and emotionally, weighs that much more, I imagine. I hope that I only have to go through one cycle, and that our transfer is successful the first time, but I know that it doesn’t always work that way. I too have to come to terms with some ugly Martha’s parading around in their “what if” sweaters. I vow here and now to remain positive, even when shots suck and my belly and butt wear the bruises of my efforts. Even when I experience mood swings or hot flashes… unless its on a day where the AC isn’t functioning at work, then forget the positivity. I know there are a lot of unknowns coming my way, but I’m ready. I think between J, M, Casey, and I we are up for the challenges that we may encounter on this winding road ahead of us.

Hello Again.

M’s name lit up my phone screen and sent my heart into a rapid percussion of excited beating. It had been two months since our last “face to face”, I felt like I’d been waiting for this moment for forever. Have you ever noticed that with people that are truly comfortable in their own skin,  and firmly footed in their lives and convictions, that there is a certain beauty about them? Call it an aura, call it whatever you’d like, but it is there with these kind of people. J and M filled my iPhone screen, and in an instant I was distracted by this aura. J and M sat comfortable in their home, eager, and delighted to be talking with Casey and I. The smile of a person that has this aura, or quality cannot be described in any other way other than to say it is the essence of joy. My heart sang with delight before more than a “hello” was exchanged between us. We not only made the right choice, we made the BEST choice.

Our conversation was flawless like it would be between old friends. We of course discussed these babies and our future engagements, but we also discussed ours fears, how this journey could stand to impact the LGBT community, and of course, we discussed sports. Another bridge was crossed, and I am so glad that we all, (J, M, Casey and I) met at the end of said bridge, and did a perfectly choreographed dance (think the thriller scene in 13 going on 30 my fellow chick flick watchers)… BAD WORDS. One of my lovely intended daddy’s felt so comfortable being himself with us, that he slipped my favorite four letter word. Yes, the F word and I are like star crossed lovers being reunited after an eternity apart, more important than the usage of this word, was the fact that these two are human beings, just like Casey and I. I think it was Miranda Lambert that once sang “I’ve got a mouth like a sailor and yours is more like a hallmark card”… well, I am glad that J, M, Casey and I all share in the beautiful duplicity that is being the sailor writing the damn hallmark cards. I hope that if J or M read this later they can laugh, I mean I’m not suggesting we write this shit down in a baby book, but it is such a silly memory that will always put a smile on my effing face. J and M are going to come to Oregon Reproductive Medicine for my initial meeting, something I was told by our coordinator “is not usually attended by intended parents.” I was thrilled that they immediately said they’d be there as I didn’t really want our first in person meeting to be the day their embryos were transferred into my womb. M made a comment during our call that while they are beyond excited, they are at the juncture where every new parent sits in the beginning… excited from afar. J and M also told me they will hang around for most of my three day stay in Portland when the time of the embryo transfer is upon us. I really did strike gold with these two. J and M are by their own admission, traveling down this path with very little knowledge or experience with “all things baby” nevertheless, they are both extremely agreeable students. I cannot wait to teach them what I know, and to learn some things with them, as this experience will probably serve us all a large portion of new found knowledge.

I discussed some other important things with J and M, things that I feel will impact this experience positively. First, I discussed the importance of having them here for the anomaly/gender reveal scan at 20 weeks. To my delight, J informed me that they already know the genders of these babies… drum roll please… ITS A SECRET! Of course if J and M decide to share the gender of their babes, then I will share with all of you, but until that happens… my lips are sealed! I am really, really, excited to carry these babies regardless, but now that I know what I will be carrying, I am even more excited to SHOP! J and M shared some name ideas with us, and because I feel I’ve already shared too much in sharing their genders, I will say the names they shared had to of been the universes way of winking at me… they are names very dear to my own heart, and if that is what they decide on, I will be lucky to share that in common with them also. I told them I think that the 20 week scan is important to attend because it is the first ultra sound you have during pregnancy where you have the profound visual experience of the miracle growing from within you. I’ll never forget watching the tech light up various areas on the baby and telling me that she was watching the “blood flow”, or watching a heart beat in real time, or the obvious best part… watching the break dance going on inside. I am sure this ultra sound will be my favorite also, as there will be two babies and a very excited audience watching them grow in real time.

Another very important visit on my checklist requires me to travel to J and M. I think that feeling a baby move from the outside is honestly the coolest thing, second only to feeling them move from inside. I think that bonding with the babies in that way is particularly important for J and M because we do not live a quick drive from each other, thus, interactions like these will be very limited. I want to travel to them because a large portion of their family resides in the same state they do, their work, their pleasure, and their life is there. I want J and M to connect with these babies in the same way I watched Casey do with our children. I want them to feel the dancing of their little ballerina or the kick boxing of their future athletic star. I want to afford them every opportunity I can, including the little ones that are often taken for granted. I will try my hardest to make them forget the distance between us by celebrating the quality in our relationship moving forward. J and M both told me how grateful and appreciative they are of this “gift” I’m giving to them, it is my hope that they also see the gift they’ve given to me once this process is completed. I could never repay them for the peace they are bringing to my being by allowing my to be a part of this with them, I am the one that is truly the luckiest.

No turbulence.

The next steps for all of us will be my day trip to Oregon Reproductive Medicine where I will get my calendar of dates and events for happenings with these surro-babes. I will get to meet J and M, and finally have a forecast for the weeks ahead. As our conversation ended tonight (6/11/17) I told J and M that I loved them. I know those three little words carry a lot of weight behind them, but I also know that when you truly feel it, you should say it. I said it and it felt perfect. I knew the first time I spoke to them that they were it for me, a feeling that was so powerful, it consumed me with delight for days. Casey always does a great job of telling me “why” he loves me, and not just saying the words out of habit. With that in mind, I love their hearts, I love their chemistry as a couple, I love their individual and joint journeys in life, and I love their joy. I said it earlier, people like them just have that special something. In the beginning it was J’s southern accent and M’s kind smile, but in the span of just two phone calls, it has become a far more detailed picture… think the Mona Lisa. I don’t have anything else to share now except tears of elation if you catch me in person and bring this up. I will be back to share more next month, but until then, think happy thoughts, say a prayer, and send us any and all of your positive vibes. Thank you J, Thank you M, and thank you all that are supporting us as we go. We are officially cleared for take off, and we are hopeful for nothing but blue skies until we reach our final destination.

Under contract on a one womb house.

Hi there readers! As promised, my blog posting frequency has become just that, frequent! I find that once I publish a post, I feel the overwhelming urge to sit down and write once more. I had my brother ask “How long does it take you to write a post?” The answer is days, weeks, and many hours. I probably spend roughly 5-8 hours per posting, and still I feel a bit “incomplete” after the blog is posted for viewing. Today is April 11th, and I am starting my next post with eager joy and excitement as I continue sharing my journey with you all. I will post at the bottom what day I complete my writing, just for perspective purposes. As always, thank you for reading, supporting and sharing. Every time I see that my post was “shared” or get an email that describes my stats on wordpress as “booming” I find myself overjoyed that someone actually thinks my writing is interesting enough to not only read through an entire posting, but to share it with their friends.

I made an error on my last post, I accidentally posted the full name of one of my intended parents. I noticed right away, but had trouble getting my corrections to save. I appreciate those that brought it to my attention, and ask that you always do so for errors of that magnitude. I would prefer a private message, rather than a comment where everyone can see and then subsequently, go look for themselves. I am sure this will not be the first error I make in that regard, as it is very hard to train your brain to switch back and forth from full name to first initial. After all, these dads are not Voldemort in my household, we use their full names every time we speak of them, but I am working with my mind to use the correct first initial context when speaking of “those who must not be named.” Enjoy your reading, ask questions, and share away. It was never my intention for this to be anything more than a documentation for myself, but I am so glad that based on the commentary I’ve received, that it holds the same regard for all of you.

Congrats Ms. McKenna, your womb is under contract!

I remember when I officially went under contract on my first house in 2013. I was barely 23 years old, and the entire process felt like a whirlwind. Steph and I went house hunting with our family realtor, and fell in love with the second house we saw. It had four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a huge corner lot… we were smitten. So smitten, that my mind deliberately blocked out the god awful, as my father would say, “period piece” kitchen we’d just accepted as our own. I saved every dime I could throughout the process. I skipped going out with friends in favor of saving for knick knacks for the beautiful “sparrow” shade of gray living room I’d envisioned. I had truly never felt more proud of myself then I had upon hearing my realtors voice beam with excitement as he said “Congrats Ms. McKenna, you are officially under contract on your first home!” We closed on our house on November 5th 2013, at our closing, the disgruntled asshole (honestly I can think of even more colorful adjectives to describe this lovely human being) former owner told my dad and I, “well good luck with the house. I never had anything positive happen there. Two failed marriages, zero children, I’ll be happy to be rid of the place.” How could this DA (disgruntled asshole) say such negative things about my pride and joy? Obviously he couldn’t see the oversized black floral clock hanging perfectly centered on the wall above the brand new sectional I’d convinced myself I NEEDED. Clearly, this man was more apt to misery than to happiness, I truly feel sorry for people like this. I do remember thinking after Mr. DA made his proclamation, “we will make this a happy home for our first few years of marriage, then when the time is right, we will get a bigger place more suited to growing a family.” Life is funny, I sat there in that hot dungeon room signing my life away and envisioning my life as a newlywed, the only thing in my stomach was a diet coke and about 900 tums I’d eaten throughout the day as my nerves set in. I never once thought I’d bring babies to this house, never once did I think this would be where such a big piece of my story started, but of course, God or fate, I don’t know which, is a comedian, and a mere three weeks later, I was pregnant with Lucy.

A womb with a view.

As big as the moment was for me to hear “you’re officially under contract on your first home”, hearing that J and M were also willing to commit to Casey and I was definitely the biggest, proudest, and most defining moment in my adult life. After we went under contract for our house, I drove by at stalker-like intervals every night. I was so eager to see “under contract” plastered across the for sale sign, that I became a woman possessed. I wonder if J and M felt this way after they heard that I wanted to be their surrogate. Did they immediately pull up facebook and stalk like crazy till they found my page? Did they look up my  blog on here, determined to locate something they’d never even heard the name of? I know how curious I am about things that are equal parts exciting as they are mysterious… I can’t control myself! I’m sure many of you can identify with this type of undercover detective mentality as well. I won’t get a felony stalking charge, or anything crazy like that, but damnit, the urge sits in the center of my brain, taunting me like the kids do when they BOTH sleep through the night, one whole night in a row. It is my hope that if J and M are reading this, they find themselves laughing, and not looking into a restraining order. I think we are all afraid to publicly admit to moments when our “human being is showing”, but I am trying with everything I am, to NOT be that way, simply because having to turn autocorrect on all the time for myself would be ducking maddening. I am excited, I have so many questions to ask them, the urge to hear their voices or embrace them in my arms to tame my excitement monster is HUGE.

I often times picture moments of our relationship at various stages of this process. Will J and M want to know the gender of these babies, or be surprised? Would J and M fly in for the anatomy/ anomaly scan, or could I concoct a clever way to reveal the genders of the twins to them from 1,000 miles away? Do J and M have any preference in gender for their babes, or will they give the totally acceptable answer of “we don’t care, as long as they are healthy.” I imagine that they feel that way, after all, the rollercoaster leading up to bringing the twins into this world has such a steep incline to overcome, things like gender are probably entirely trivial to the both of them. I think about things like J and M scanning the aisles of Babies R Us or Target, fulfilling their registry with eager, blissfully unaware of the freight train headed their way (maybe baby bulldozer is more accurate in this instance). Will J and M have a baby shower filled with silly, overpriced streamers and decorations, attended by  family and friends, with hundreds of dollars worth of 0-3 month clothing that their precious babies will likely never even wear once, let alone twice? I hope so. I hope with all my heart that they are spared no excitement on this journey into parenthood, even though the impeding arrival of their twins will not be overtly present for them like it will be for me. I hope J and M buy into the myth that is gripe water. I hope they buy that silly $60 spa bathtub thinking it will somehow make a difference in bathing their children. I hope that they research bottles and pacifiers, even though MAM binks are in my opinion, are the only bink that matters at all. I hope they ask me questions about bassinets, and listen to me when I tell them a rock n play, or “buzzy” is their only prayer for sleep, EVER AGAIN. I hope they register for the $150 crib in a  bag we all convince ourselves we “need”, even though most of us wouldn’t spend that kind of money on ourselves, let alone on something that will inevitably be puked, and pooped on. I hope J and M have a “mom” or two that will shelter them like an umbrella as they navigate their way home through the hail storm with gale force winds that is becoming a brand new parent to one, let alone two new babies. I cannot say enough how important the role of my own mother was to me as I experienced all the emotions of becoming a first time parent to my brand new baby girl. My mother was seamless, experienced, beautiful and refined in her wisdom… my mother was not afraid of anything, including the 8 pound 9 ounce baby girl Casey and I couldn’t even properly hand off to each other. My mom was essential to me in the way I was essential to my newborn. I am not at all saying these two dads will be incapable because of their gender, I am saying that they will be incapable because they’ve never experienced this before; parenthood is a ship that needs navigating… regardless of your experience in open water. If you don’t have this type of “mom” in your life J and M, mine is totally on loan, and a plus? She cooks really well, is pretty damn funny, and knows about 9,563 ways to soothe a crying baby, or crying adult, that they will not teach you in your baby prep classes.

I also wonder if J and M will feel the same “what the f**k were we thinking” emotions on about the third or fourth sleepless night in. I remember my girlfriend telling me after she’d had her little one “Don’t get me wrong, I love her with all of my heart…BUT, I might have thought to myself WHAT THE F**K was I thinking about 500 times last night alone.” I’m sure many of you can relate to this feeling exactly, even if the F word is not your preferred sentence enhancer. J and M will experience the newborn thing on a larger scale than most of us ever do simply because there will be two babies involved. Can you for a moment, imagine yourself getting on a flight with your precious, fragile, days old newborns to head back home? Can you imagine doing this when you’ve only become a parent a few days beforehand, and have absolutely no freaking clue as to what you’re doing from one second to the next? Around four days postpartum with Lucy, my mom looked at me and announced with a reassuring smile, “we are going to lunch today. Take a shower, fix your hair, do whatever it takes to makes yourself feel like the old you, but we are going.” I thought she was crazy, but I obliged. I curled my hair and put on my favorite nursing  bra and tank top, ready to conquer the world! We stayed close, and headed to an Olive Garden. Lucy made not one sound through the entire meal, I don’t even think she readjusted for comfort in her car seat as I sat there filling my fragile soul with the devils carbs (damn those breadsticks!). I was a nervous mom though, so of course I interpreted a scrunchy, what I would now know as a poop face, to be the signal of the beginning of the end. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Lucy all but told me with her little red scrunched up face “you better put the carbs down, and get to unsnapping them straps, milk lady!” My mom never made a single comment, she just let me go through the little bit of troubleshooting resource I had as a four day old parent, and figure it out on my own. The thought of the above described, airplane scenario sends my nerves into a tailspin. If it were me in that situation, (and with two children under my belt already) well, I’d just revert to a babies greatest source of comfort, and breastfeed my babies until they were in such a milk drunk stupor, they couldn’t manage more than a deep sigh.  J and M will not have this as an option for them. I can just see one set of nervous hands juggling a bottle, while the other set works to thaw a baggie of breast milk. A task that will have to be completed not once, but twice, and with near seamlessness as newborns always arrive with very little patience at the dinner table. It is true J and M have a long road ahead of them just to get to these trying, scary, joyous, and often times humorous moments, and the race that they are running to get from one hurdle to the next would be exhausting to even the superhuman. I applaud their bravery, whether it comes from blissfully unaware land or not, there is no greater testament to their love for their children than their endurance in leg one of this marathon race.

Law abiding citizens…and embryos.

I got a call a few days ago from a different case manager that works with NWSC, her name is “HM” (we already have one H, and thus, the M). “HM” informed me that we were to the point in the process where attorneys that represent both J and M, and Casey and I were going to enter the picture in a big way. We were officially under contract on this whole process, which makes it as close to real as it has felt so far, and admittedly, is a bit intimidating. I received a 26 page draft contract from “HM” later that day, as well as a referral for an attorney based out of Colorado to represent just Casey and I during this process. It took me about thirty minutes to actually read through the contract, of which I understood about 99% of, thank goodness!

The contract covered every single base, even the ones that were not directly at the forefront of my mind. Although I knew from my first meeting with “H” almost a year ago that I’d be taken care of, it was still very reassuring to read just how well taken care of I’d be. In the event that I lose my ability to have children, if this goes wrong, or that, the compensation factor would be upheld to certain degrees, and that there was counseling available for me throughout this process, should I seek it. 

The next day, I contacted the referral attorney’s office and spoke to “E” who would be representing us throughout this process. I have never dealt with an attorney before, but E was kind, funny, relatable, and most of all, E was excited to represent me on this journey. E and I discussed the draft contract, and that once I signed my intent to engage form, the new contract would be much more specific to the laws in place by the state of Colorado. E asked me if I wanted to negotiate anything, or if the base prices seemed fair enough to sign off on. I had been thinking from the start of this process how astronomically high the price tag was on breast milk. If my intended parents were to want my milk, I was more than willing to jump on that boat, but certainly not for hundreds of dollars a week! I know breast milk is “liquid gold”, but what good is a bunch of gold if its too valuable to wear out? In the event that my intended parents did not want my breast milk, I would have just donated it, which is a service that renders no paycheck. J and M wanted my milk though, and so began the thought process of “lets change the way we do business.” I told E that I wanted to negotiate the cost of my milk, and either do it entirely for free, or for a fraction of the cost. E was not like the big, intimidating attorney I’d concocted in my head. E was a woman speaking to a woman on real, heartfelt matters that would represent the best interest for both parties involved. E and I discussed the minor inconvenience factor that is pumping in the work place, and because I make my money by working for tips, my 30-45 minutes breaks to pump mid shift, are ultimately “loosing” me money. E did not push me to a dollar amount, but rather had me think for a second about how that would effect me monetarily. I told E that I did see the value in that thought process, and because of that, I felt that $100 a week was MUCH more reasonable a price tag for my milk. I broke it down into a loss of $50 a shift, and justified it based on the feeling that I could take that money from J and M without feeling like I am price gouging them for something my body created because of THEIR babies. E’s kind demeanor softened even further as she told me “I don’t think any intended parent would argue a smaller negotiation fee for something like this. You are a dream client to have.” E and I also discussed that compensation for childcare will not be accepted in my family. You see, when you have more than one baby, yours or otherwise, your children still need supervision. I have never used a sitter, the only people that have ever watched my children are family, and that is for good reason. Casey and I’s time as a couple has taken a hit as a result of this choice, but it wont always be this way, and for now, it is the ONLY way for us. I was asked what I would pay a date night sitter and I said “well, I think around $14, as both of my children would likely be asleep if I ever used a sitter.” E said that was the lowest number she could put down, and that that would be the compensation available to my mother or whatever family member ended up watching my children while I am out of commission. I told her once again, that we want zero compensation for childcare, or for lost wages for Casey and I in the likely event that at some point in this pregnancy we are required to miss out on wages due to appointments. For me, this is not a get rich quick scheme, and talking about all the money that is allocated for things that I cannot reasonably see fit to take is difficult. I knew when I signed on for this I would miss work, moments with my kids, intimacy with my partner, and a variety of other things. I knew IVF would be my least favorite part of this process, and that I would be worried post embryo transfer until around the 12 week mark. I knew all of these things. I have mentally prepared, I have “what if’d” myself to death, and here I am with a parachute and a very experienced instruction crew… all that I have left to do is jump. And jump I will.

The “honeymoon phase.”

Have you ever seen a couple that is just so immersed  within themselves that the world could literally crumble around them and they would never even notice? I by myself, am that couple… I simultaneously play both roles in the relationship. I am happy, I am nervous, I am brave, I am a chicken shit. I am the shot giver, I am the shot receiver. I am hopelessly positive, I am research induced negative. I do not ever want to play less of one role than the other, for they are both equally important in this journey. I read about other surrogates journey’s and cringe when I read “I lost the baby after a successful embryo transfer” or “the transfer didn’t take.” I know in my head that J and M have three embryo’s, and that should this transfer NOT take, they are down to one. I have to hope, pray, and shush the voice of fear within myself, and when I hear it in others. I will be successful, I will give J and M the gift of being parents, and god willing, it is a gift that comes without a hefty emotional price tag for us all. I am afraid of failure, but I know that to overcome any failure in life, you have to remain optimistic, and stay steadfast in pursuit of success. It is a difficult place to sit emotionally, having to remove myself from the potential fears of failure. I have to remind myself that J, M, and myself have done everything we can physically and mentally do to prepare for a successful incubation period. If “failures” arise, though it will be difficult to keep that perspective, I hope that we are all able to arrive there eventually.

I have been approached with offers by several friends and even family to be connected to someone they know that has walked the same road I am on now. I have always declined, as this is my journey, and I do not want to lose sight of my desired end result. I don’t want to think about shots, I would rather instead think about hearing the chorus of heartbeats from two new lives fill an exam room. I don’t want to think about failed embryo transfer, I want to think about feeling the movements and wiggles from the babies as they fill my physical and mental being with the greatest joy and gratitude this world has to offer. I don’t want to think about a possible C section, I want to think about seeing J and M hold their babies for the first time as I get to be a most delighted viewer.

Recently, I said “sure!” when I was approached by a wonderful old friend of mine regarding connecting with her friend who had literally just days before, finished her surrogacy journey. Our conversation started off okay, this particular woman had not had the most pleasant experience in her journey, and had just delivered the baby a few days beforehand. The conversation was very short, but she shared some of the struggles and hardships in a very brief manner, and offered to answer any questions I had thereafter. Well, since I decided to go “there” and take a chance talking to someone else who had been through this, I decided to ask my questions. I wasn’t rude, I wasn’t invasive, but I was curious as to what contributed to her less than stellar experience. I asked my questions and she never replied. I am not angry or bitter that she didn’t respond, I am just confused as to why she’d “agreed” to speak to me in the first place. I think perhaps a little more time removed from her experience may of yielded a very different result, but its not something I will ever revisit with her, or any other former surrogate. I cannot stand when people make less of someone’s happiness, and when I read “oh so you’re still in the honeymoon phase?” after sharing what stage of my journey I was in, I knew that I had shut out any further conversation. Yes, I am 110% still in the honeymoon phase, and truthfully, I hope I never leave it. I don’t need any rainclouds, just sunshine please. I am not sharing this to make anyone involved feel bad, but rather, to explain why I do not want to be connected to others that have been through this. Every experience is unique, but I know I felt the instant charge or draw when I met J and M via “Zoom”, and I have all the faith and hope in the world that together we will do something wonderful.

Life at a glance.

Recently, we took a family road trip to Wisconsin to see Casey’s Grandma. Our meeting with her was particularly special because she’d never met Casey and I’s children, or Steph’s son, all three are her great grandchildren. The road trip itself was about as wonderful as you can imagine an 18 hour car ride with three little ones to be. Low quiet whispers, the sound of bugs meeting their fate every 3 seconds as we drove through the lovely state of Nebraska, thoughts of drugging them with Benadryl purely to put them out of the misery that is trying to get comfortable in a car seat. After all of that, we finally made it to Wisconsin, and within a few short hours we headed to the assisted living facility to see the one woman worth an 18 hour drive. It was unlike I’d thought it would be… it was free of “smell” that I’ve often been told is common within these types of living situations. It was warm, welcoming, and displayed personal touches of all of the residents throughout little cutouts in the hallways. It was also an experience that touched me profoundly, and in ways I never expected. My journey is ultimately an effort to bring life into this world, while jumping some major hurdles to assure that it happens safely. An assisted living community is a place that one goes to towards the last leg of their race, be it short or long, to see to it that their race is finished with grace and safety. It is a weighty feeling to stand at once before this fork in the road. The tears burn at your eyes, they aren’t happy, they aren’t sad, but they are there… they are undeniably and unidentifiably THERE. I never knew my grandparents, and so my feeling of appreciation that this moment was afforded to both Casey and Stephanie, but also to our children was HUGE. Lucy had moments with this woman that they both will likely never remember, but I always will. I will remember her sweet voice singing in excitement to Lucy as we all sat at a table sharing Klondike bars. Charlie laughed as she tickled the bottoms of his feet, her ears drank in the description of the baby before her, as told by Casey. Benjamin made her laugh with excitement as she watched him be at home within the strange place we all found ourselves standing in. Tears rushed forward, and tears dried themselves as my eyes watched this truly special, one of a kind moment. We enjoyed three days in Wisconsin surrounded by the love and kindness of family. It was a special vacation for so many reasons, but especially because of our time with “her.” To be clear, nothing is ailing her to the point of anything being “immediate.” Its incredible to see someone fresh from their race, while here I stand eager to bring two more “someone’s” to the starting line. Life is beautiful, life is complicated, and life is short. I listened to stories of days gone by, shared by nearly every family member. Stories of a strong woman, a force, a presence, and a ray of sunshine. Stories of a woman with a quick tongue, and a love for her children that was so profound, she probably DID move mountains at some point. The woman we saw before us was still all of those things, but life had forced her at this point, to become a spectator. I think to myself after this experience, how lucky I truly am to get to see the miracle of life through not only my own eyes, but also through the lives of J, M, and anyone else following this journey. I will never take for granted the experience I am being given in doing this, because I will always have this vacation to remind me of just how miraculous life is… no matter what phase it is in.

Next.

Hopefully, the contract between J, M, Casey and I will be finalized on May 11th. Leading up to this date, I have my home visit on April 26th. I have my health screening scheduled for the end of May, and assuming all goes well, I will begin IVF injections in June. I am ready to have the little pieces become one, and to take my place at the starting line. I know two months from now I will likely want to smack my bruised-belly, injection novice- self, but right now, I’m ready. Bring it on shots. I’ve begun sitting on a thumbtack and periodically putting one into my stomach for practice, I think I’m ready! Totally kidding, I’d never do that… I still don’t look when they draw my blood. I talk too much and think about when I was 10 and the phlebotomist took the needle out prematurely and an old faithful-like spray of blood ruined my clothes. I know the shots are going to suck, but I’m going to try and keep it all in perspective, as the injection phase is but a wrinkle in time. I will have my next blog post up towards the end of May, I’m sure it will be a VERY long post, and hopefully, a post that announces that I am on injection row, yay! Thank you for reading. Thank you for following. Please share if you feel so inclined. See you all next month! Finish date, April 22nd.

 

Daddy’s, diapers, and details.

Thank you for reading my blog about my surrogacy journey. I truly appreciate every view, every comment, every inquiry. For the duration of my blog, and out of respect for my intended family and those involved on this journey, I will be using first initials ONLY when I discuss either of the parents, or anyone involved in this process. Please enjoy your reading, ask questions if you have them, and think happy thoughts for my intended family and myself.

My phone rang at about 12:30 last Tuesday, an unfamiliar number lighting up screen. I was in the trenches of peanut butter and jelly scraps and soap suds, so I answered, already annoyed with the likelihood that I’d be greeted by a telemarketer. “Hello, Claire? This is “H” from Northwest Surrogacy Center. I’m reaching out because I have some really exciting news, do you have a few minutes?” I had just a few days prior gotten the confirmation that my psychological evaluation came back issue free, so I was definitely taken aback to be getting a call regarding other “really exciting news.” H’s voice filled my ears, my heart, and my mind as she began telling me that they had an intended family profile for Casey and I to go over. “We’ve been doing some behind the scenes work here, and we think we may have a couple for you guys! The intended family live in the states, they are a gay couple, and they are interested in speaking to you further based on your surrogate profile.” I could feel the swell of tears rising in my eyes as she described “J” and “M” and though I tried to hold them back, by the end of “H’s” detailing I felt the rush of big, warm, happy tears, spill down my face. “Of course I’m interested in seeing their profile, they sound wonderful!” I managed to squeak out between the happy tears. “Well, then I will send that profile right over for you and Casey to look at, and if you’re interested from there, then you just say the word!” H’s excitement was infectious, I was so excited that I refreshed my mail every 10 seconds until I saw the email I’d been waiting for.

When I very first started on this journey over a year ago, I had to write a letter to my intended family. My intended family wrote a similar letter to their intended surrogate, this was what greeted me when I first opened J and M’s PDF file. Reading the words “Dear potential surrogate” sent chills down my spine, and tears streaming down my face. The letter they wrote was beautiful. J and M shared highlights of their personal and professional life, and included why they want children. I think after reading about them, anyone would want to be involved in helping create their family. J and M are both educated, lead very strong and important professional lives, and J and M share a beautiful love story, who isn’t a sucker for those? I immediately tried to remember what all I’d written for my letter, and wondered what I could’ve said that caught their eye. I know they received a redacted form of all the questionnaires I filled out, but I wondered how redacted? Did J and M know that I had dropped out of high school, and had a GED? Did J and M know that I am just a waitress? Did J and M know that I never finished college?  If they did know all of these things, I wonder what made them say “she’s the one we’re interested in.” I hope that someday I will be able to have an answer to that question. I fell immediately in love with them, and that was all based on just a retelling of their story and journey, all before I’d ever scrolled to the bottom and seen the pictures they’d sent of themselves, their home, and their fur babies. I have been told I write well, I wonder if they felt a connection based just upon that, or if it was the pictures of me at various stages in each of my pregnancies that piqued their interest?

The more the merrier

J and M’s wants and desires to have a family come with a unique circumstance to whomever their future (Pick me! Pick Me! Pick me!) surrogate may be. J and M want to do a two embryo transfer, meaning… TWINS! I initially said when I started this, that I would love to carry a twin pregnancy. I truly never thought it would be something I had the opportunity to encounter on this already larger than life journey, but here I am standing in the same room with this huge opportunity. J and M have a total of 3 embryos, two of which we will be using for my pregnancy. The eggs are donor eggs, and interestingly enough, one embryo will be biologically J’s child, while the other will be biologically M’s child. If the science of this isn’t blowing your mind, please take a moment to realize the magnitude of what the love that this couple has is capable of creating. For two gay males, there is not much in the way of option regarding have biological children. Surrogacy is an incredible endeavor for all involved, but it comes at a significant cost to the intended parents. Many people that have children just come to the decision they are ready, and usually it is so relatively quickly. J and M have had to financially, emotionally, and physically go down a road most of us will never know, all in the name of having their own children. I cannot imagine the strength, fear, financial weight, or the worry that must be associated on their end of this story.

I am extremely excited to be considered for carrying a twin pregnancy. As a twin myself, it is something that I have always found so deeply fascinating. My mother carried my brother and I to full term, and delivered us naturally, each of us weighing in at six pounds five ounces… that’s a lot of baby! My mom is the ultimate example of what a strong, loving mother is, and I think that carrying this twin pregnancy will make me love and respect her even more than I already do. I mean, as much as I love and respect the woman, I am still very bitter that at almost 60 years of age, my mom looks better than I do in a swimsuit, has the patience of a monk,  she has the love of fifty moms, and the woman has zero stretch marks… she’s obviously superhuman. I am also shamelessly admitting, that while I am really excited to carry this twin pregnancy, I am equally as excited that I will not be the one on the two newborn autobahn. Sleepless nights have turned into sleepless years, and while I am grateful to be a part of this experience with J and M, I am SO looking forward to sleeping again… someday. Sorry J and M, if you’re reading this, they sleep through the night at 8 weeks, I promise!

Fully informed, yet full of fear.

Admittedly, I am terrified of having a C section. I watched with eager eyes as Stephanie underwent hers, it was truly miraculous. Beautiful as it was, I also felt her fears as they took her alone into a cold operating room for the spinal block, and made her wait there without me, for what felt like hours. I had sweat dripping all over my clothes and scrubs as I paced the hallways waiting for the doctors to call me back to her. I was breathing heavily, having to remind myself to be strong so I could be there for her when she needed me most. If I was feeling all of those things, I cant imagine what her thought process was.  Once I was in the OR, I talked loudly about various funny things, anything to shift her focus from the dramatic movements her body was making as the doctors worked to birth Benjamin. The entire process was fast, precise, and eliminated my fears about a C section… Or so I thought, until I was faced with potentially the same outcome. Childbirth of any nature is intense, it reminds me of landing a plane. It is a crash, but it is usually a controlled enough crash that everyone makes out okay in the end. I know in my heart that if I end up having a C section with these twins, that I will be in the best possible hands for my care, and that of these babies. It is my hope that J and M will be able to attend the birth of their twins with a bit more ease if a C section does end up being the safest route. If you’ve ever attended a birth, you know the magic that is watching a family fall into place right before you very eyes. For J and M, this will likely be the first large connection they have to these children, since they cannot physically bond with them in the way that most couples do while the babies are in utero.

I’ll be pregnant in a few months, but first, birth control pills..

I dragged my feet for over a month when it came time to switch my birth control pills back to regular, and not nursing, pills. I finally called Kaiser to obtain new contraceptive, and began running through the list of options with a very pleasant nurse, “B.” B suggested that I take a pill that would only suffer me four lousy periods a year, ladies, doesn’t that just sound like a margarita on the beach? After going over some standard history/questions, I informed B that I would need to have aforementioned lousy period for tracking purposes since I was planning on becoming pregnant with a surrogate baby by years end. B excitedly exclaimed that she knew me through our wonderful friend, Missy, and that she has read my blog! I shared the few new details I’d not yet shared via blog post with a very excited, supportive B before we ordered my prescription and ended our call. Honestly, it was a very proud moment, based on tiny details, B knew who I was, and was supportive like an old friend would be. Best call for birth control EVER!

The empowerment that is birth

I had the pleasure of attending my nieces birth on March 23rd. I have seen a C section, watched my own children being born, but never have I experienced someone else’s vaginal birth. It really is the most beautiful moment in a woman’s life, working to give life to another human being. I watched in awe as my strong sister in law, Kaley, gave birth effortlessly and beautifully to my darling “little bit” (she was anything but a “little bit” at 8 lbs 15 ounces). Kaley was strong during her labor, never wavering in her strength and conviction to birth her baby girl, despite a very trying and exhausting admission process. Little bit was born with some meconium aspiration, and thus needed some help “pinking up” and raising her oxygen level. Kaley lay a mere fifteen feet away watching as her daughter received oxygen through a mask, even from feet away, you could feel her loving embrace enveloping sweet Lila as she lay there getting poked and prodded at. I stood next to my very quiet twin brother and watched as two tears traced down the sides of his face as he watched with a concerned eye over his brand new baby girl. Fear? perhaps. Love? most definitely. Lila ended up doing just fine relatively quickly, and I excused myself to allow time for Evan and Kaley to bond with their new sweetheart. I drove home with a smile that must’ve been a mile wide, love really is incredible, especially the brand new, knock you on your ass love that you feel for your brand new baby. As I left the hospital, I lovingly looked at my brother and said “I’m so glad its you and not ME!” We laughed, knowing it would always be all of us in this together, and though one of us would be more exhausted than the other… it wouldn’t be ME!

Lights, Camera, technical failure.

The morning of our Skype call came so quickly, my body didn’t have time to catch up. Between watching my niece be born, celebrating my sons birthday, a grueling psychological evaluation, and a disgusting stomach flu that rendered our entire household out of commission, I found myself anxious and suffering through what I told myself had to be a lingering side effect of aforementioned stomach bug. 11:00am came, and a Skype call request lit up my little laptop. The faces of my intended fathers and our case manager filled the screen, their happiness and excitement broke a smile across my face instantly. THEY COULD NOT HEAR US! I am not tech savvy, not even slightly, and this was a big slap in my “I ditched computer class, A LOT” face! The night before, I played with the app to ensure that it would work, I found myself immediately worried when I couldn’t get the damn moon and bridge frame to go away, but at least I had SOUND! Surely J and M would’ve seen the humor in a silly frame, right? We tried for ten minutes before our case manager, “C” came up with option two, a “zoom” call. The zoom call worked, and soon I had a voice to match to the sweet, eager, smiles that starred at me in wonder.

Our call started out with the typical ice breakers, “where were you born”, “what do you do” ” why surrogacy.” We all took turns answering, and when I answered why I wanted to be a surrogate, my answer immediately generated smiles across the board, our case manager, “C” said that may have been the best answer she has ever heard. YES! It wasn’t even rehearsed, of course I’d thought of how I’d answer this question, but when my time came, I’m glad the truth shined from within me like a lighthouse over the Atlantic. I said that pregnancy has been my very favorite season of life so far, and that I have never felt more beautiful or empowered as a woman than I have when I am pregnant. I truly feel bad for people that don’t have this same feeling. I mean not sucking in, wearing tee shirt dresses without looking like a lumpy bowl of Jell-O, the gorgeous strong hair and nails, what’s not to love? I have no problem trading a few weeks of my life for morning sickness if I in turn can feel like a pregnant goddess for months, I truly LOVE IT.

The conversation went to the dark corners of potential outcomes that most of us don’t allow ourselves to think about. In a pregnancy with multiples, there is always the potential for the multiples to multiply. That is to say, that one of the implanted embryos could split, and thus form a triplet pregnancy. The issue with a triplet pregnancy, is that the health risks for both the carrier and the babies skyrockets. The agency leaves the choice of selective reduction to the intended parents and the surrogate, a choice we must both unanimously agree upon…should it ever come to that. J and M said yes, and Casey and I followed suit. We all want healthy babies, and for that to be possible, we must be informed and intelligent about any and all decisions and measures it takes to ensure that outcome. Once we’d established that we all had the same set of realistic goals, I watched as J answered the emotional question “if something goes awry with this embryo transfer, would it be your wish to implant your remaining embryo?” J paused, and for the first time the light from his face dimmed. “Yes, we probably would if we had to go there. This process is very expensive, and likely not something we could afford to do again should things not happen.” I swallowed the lump in my throat, and assured J that I am an excellent greenhouse, which is true, but god I hope and pray that we have fate on our side with these babies… J and M deserve this more than anyone, I desperately want to be the one that gives this to them.

Within you I see myself.

Call it strange, but when we ended our call with J and M, the connection I felt was so strong I felt as if I’d known them for years. J appeared to be the more outgoing, spunky, definitely a free spirit type, hell, J even had the same cheeky smile that I myself wear when I am truly at my happiest. J also had a southern accent, something that I am a sucker for, BIG TIME!  M was regal, thoughtful, and just a very interesting personality to me. M reminded me a great deal of my Casey, in that he seemed like he is always extremely calm and soft. I watched as his strong, masculine facial features melted away like butter as he discussed the future of these babies. I wonder if J and M could see themselves within Casey and I as well? Casey said immediately after our call, “I knew that there was little that could be done to blow this meeting once you heard J’s accent and shared a few laughs with him, it was over the first five minutes in!” Casey also said, “I feel like it’ll be you and J, and M and I. We have so much in common personality wise, it is crazy how much their couple chemistry is like our own.” I got the answer to my question, “what made you pick me?” J answered immediately, “your profile was wonderful, everything about it. Your family is just beautiful and darling.” I knew it was the pictures, after all, who doesn’t love a beautiful pregnant woman wearing a Texas sized smile?

As our call continued, our sweet son made an appearance. Charlie, “Kitty” , is a giant puddle of love, I swooned as I heard them “oooh” and “awww” at one of my most prized gifts in the world. J then informed me that while they were discussing my children the night before the call, they realized that their combined weights at birth were equivalent to one of my babies. “I was only 2 pounds at birth, I was very premature. M was 8 pounds, so together we are one of your babies!” J announced with a laugh. I told them breast milk definitely agrees with my children, and then I told them that I could commit to six months of pumped and shipped breast milk for the twins if it was their wish. Our case manager, C, inquired about my nursing journey. I laughed as I answered, “well, lets just say with my single babies I produced enough milk that I could have ended hunger in several third world countries.” We all shared a laugh, things felt less like an interview, and more like dinner with old friends playing catch up. We discussed whether or not I had an epidural, and when I told them yes, I was pleased that they were not turned off by my decision. I don’t do the nut job in labor, screaming at everyone, writhing in agony-thing. I’m not saying every un-medicated birth is this way,  but I know that deep within myself lives this “crazy bitch in labor”… I’m not a pretty crier… I get double chins, sweaty, and just can’t hang. Epidural Claire was laughing, having a good time, not saying the F word, and just the same happy, funny, loon she always is. I don’t know yet how this delivery will go, but I’d like to keep things light hearted and fun.

Goodbye maybe, hello YES!

After our call ended, I informed C that we did not need to sleep on our decision regarding J and M, that we were a definite YES! I knew J and M would likely need their time to discuss such a big decision, but the 22 hours of wait time between the end of that call and the ding of my iphone as I received their answer was agonizing. I went to work and tried to keep it casual and collected. My morning felt like an out of body experience. I always make killer money, but today was exceptionally different. Work was slow, the morning dragged, and waiting for their response made me so aware of how slowly time was passing. I don’t know if it was my super cute, sparkly headband and bitchin hairdo, or the smile that I couldn’t wipe off of my face, but people kept complimenting me on my service, my smile, and my warmth. I got three $20 tips, and made roughly 40% for my lousy daily sales. I finally got the email, I opened it and felt the burn of tears rush to my eyes as I read “We are a yes!” Surely, this must be what a textbook perfect moment felt like. J and M felt it, too! Casey and I shared our hearts, and they theirs, and fate decided we could take this journey on together, isn’t that just beautiful?

From here, we start the road to their forever.

Folks, I am looking at an August embryo transfer of these precious surro-babes! I’m happy to report that the tradition of someone always being pregnant for Lucy’s birthday shall live on another year! The twins will be here around April of next year, and J and M can begin writing their story without any of this fertility, surrogacy, embryo, stuff being their co-author. Someone’s forever will begin where my story with them ends (figuratively, not literally), it is truly magical. I have to schedule a home check, and get some blood work and testing done with my new OBGYN to make sure I can safely sustain this pregnancy, and then we will begin the IVF treatments, and start on the road to welcoming these babies home.

For you, from me.

My gift to you, J and M, is not just the growing of your babies, but my forever promise to be an ear, an open heart, hands to hold your own and your precious children, and a vessel to safeguard their miraculous and wonderful little lives until they are physically able to be in the arms they’ve always belonged in. Thank you for picking me to be yours.

It’s not goodbye, it is see you later.

Thank you again for reading, sharing, and supporting. Please keep J, M, Casey, myself, and these wonderful embryo’s in your thoughts and prayers in the coming months. My posts will be much more frequent now, so please be on the look out for what happens next!

 

 

Anxiety, boobs, and the perfect match.

Hello to you all, my faithful readers! As always, thank you for your interest, and more importantly, thank you for your support. I find myself in the thick of things lately, not just with surrogacy, but with motherhood as well. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about my life experiences! Please feel free to share, provide feedback, or ask any questions you may have in the comment section.

The end of an era.

On February 8th, I nursed Charlie for the very last time. Truthfully, I saw the writing on the wall long before I found myself willing to accept it. I started to notice Charlie getting frustrated with me while he was waiting anywhere from 1-5 minutes for my milk to let down. I became overcome with exhaustion from being woken up anywhere from 3-6 times a night with a ravenous baby. I knew in my head that it was a sign from my baby that we needed to be done nursing, and switch to formula for the remaining month before his first birthday. Almost immediately, I had a baby that was sleeping 10-12 hours a night, a baby that never had to get completely frustrated before his food was delivered, and a baby that finally seemed content after eating. I knew in my heart that because of my choice to stop nursing, I would be sad, disappointed, and feel the longing ache deep within myself to just go back a few months so I could appreciate it “better.” I always did appreciate it though,  this wasn’t my first rodeo. I told myself in the hospital when I was in the throws of having a newborn once again, “enjoy these sleepless hours, for they will soon be something you long for.” Oh, were they ever. I could look back with fondness in my heart remembering the second night Charlie was alive, a night where I got not even fifteen minutes of sleep because I was being used as a straw by my chunky, hungry, boy. The next morning when the nurses came in to weigh him before we were discharged, they all marveled at the fact that he had actually gained an ounce after birth, something I guess is not all too common. I could remember laughing with my family when Charlie would choke from the flood of milk filling him faster than he could swallow, he never would let go, instead, “choke and rally, kitty!” was a phrase heard daily within my house. I could appreciate the hard moments, too,  through the eyes of experience. I can recall telling the nurse that came to do an in home visit “I only have 7 weeks and 3 days until it doesn’t make me wince anymore.” when she inquired about any pain or tenderness I was having from nursing. People that tell you “it shouldn’t hurt at all” are liars, probably math test cheaters, and bad to have in your circle. Cracked, bleeding, raw, new momma nipples are by no means a picnic in the park. Maybe if I use the world “unfamiliar” to describe what newly nursing nipples feel like, I will appease even the liars. The point is, perspective has a funny way of influencing your experience, and because Charlie was my second baby, I found myself enjoying every second of this part of our journey.

 If you love and appreciate something with all of your heart, it becomes much harder to “let it go.” I felt no pain when I stopped nursing Charlie. I never became engorged, hot, or uncomfortable, which is often the case when you decide to stop cold turkey. I never felt anything. It was as if my body was validating my choice, and not punishing me physically because my heart was doing enough of that. Charlie took to formula seamlessly, but we both had to learn to adjust to our new normal gradually. I had to remind myself in my sleepy daze not to go in and nurse him when he awoke at 4 or 5 am. Charlie had to learn that despite his best efforts to get what he wanted when I came home from work or being away for a couple of hours, the kitchen was closed permanently. Even a month later, we both are still adjusting to this new normal. I am very glad that his first birthday is upon us, because soon the bottle chapter can be buried along with any of the remaining sadness I have left about not making it a full year. I accomplished a lot, though. Charlie is a beautiful, healthy, emotionally engaging, sweetheart, 29 pound baby boy. I have nursing to thank for that. My son has always been a momma’s boy, from day one. I could feel the gratitude oozing from every fiber of his being when he would have a great feeding. I could feel his love, need, and want for me the second his eyes would meet mine after a long day of work. Nursing was a great support beam in the early days of our new relationship, and I am eternally grateful for every day we made it.

My cup no longer runneth over

To celebrate the end of my nursing days, I decided to treat myself to some new clip free, maybe even cute? new bras. I went into the store with all the confidence of my sixteen year old self, eager to take something home that would heal my hurt feelings. I got a measure, and a handful of some modest, and some ridiculous bras and eagerly ran to the fitting room. Overshare, maybe? to my shock, and horror, my confidence was instantly deflated. WHERE DID MY GIRLS GO? I was left there, feeling like the weird girl that sat by herself at lunch. The one thing I always “had” before I had kids, was a cute figure. A far cry from the woman that stood before me, in jeans that had a diaper butt from being too saggy, peanut butter in her hair, and a bra that could’ve been stuffed with twenty socks and still wouldn’t be filled out. Surely, that lady misread the measuring tape. After I let things sink in, I decided to accept my fate, and proceeded to the register to pay for my grandma bras, because after all, isn’t that what you wear when you no longer have aforementioned “cute figure?” The moment that sealed the deal was when the cashier announced “that’ll be $160.” Um, NO! I immediately handed them back saying ” that’s a weeks worth of groceries if we eat cheap! I’m not about to spend that kind of money to feel frumpy.” I went home, wrote a letter to the company expressing my frustration about the lack of availability in my cup size, (it was a damn good, collegiate educated type of letter). Guess what? A MAN wrote me back the most uncompassionate, didn’t read a damn thing I wrote email, and told me “shop online.” Of course he could give this response, he was still sitting at the cool kid table, not the newly castaway from all of your friends table. It is because of this experience, and the sagely advice from a man that knows all too well about being large chested, that I begrudgingly went back and bought two bras that I don’t love, and additionally, decided to work on my personality, since I could no longer rely on my girls to make me appealing… those bitches!

I know I just referred to my breasts as “those bitches” but I’m not crazy… I think.

This psychological evaluation has been eating at me since I made the appointment. I know I’m not crazy, but I know all too well, that I can be too honest. I have learned over the last few years to filter out some of the mean and even, outlandish, things my brain concocts before it ever reaches my lips. I usually reserve those horrible things for my time with Stephanie, because she always laughs and lights up with excitement when I start a sentence with “okay, so don’t judge me BUT…” I am a strong personality, a bit like a double espresso, or even a shot of ever clear. I wrote my email to schedule the appointment, and was then instructed to call the woman who will be conducting my evaluation. “Arrive at my office by 1pm, when you get inside, there will be a clipboard with 550 true or false questions in the waiting room. Once you’ve filled that out, and it will be at least an hour, I will come out to get you and Casey to further our discussion.” I laughed a little and said “oh, only 550 questions?” Not picking up on my perhaps inappropriate sarcasm, she proceeded to explain that I was not to spend “more than 30 seconds on each question.” and the importance of the questionnaire itself. I find it a little strange that I will be walking into an unfamiliar business, sitting in an uncomfortable waiting room, and filling out questions that analyze my psyche, only to turn it in to a woman I’ve never met face to face. I can see the reason behind the evaluation, but I hope that if I answer “are you overcome with anxiety daily?” truthfully, I will not be disqualified. I mean really, if you are a parent can you honestly say that you ARE NOT overcome with some type of nerves on a daily basis? If I hear my kids wake up at 5, AXIETY. If one of my kids gets sick with something, ANXIETY. When bedtime rolls around and the fear of the unknown, my sleep-fate for the night, sets in… ANXIETY. I am not June Cleaver, I am a mid twenty something, exhausted, doing the best I fricken can, mom. I feel every range of my emotions when I go grocery shopping with the kids and Lucy insists she’s “gotta walk, no cart, momma.”  I go from 0-60 in about two seconds, and I think a lot of exhausted parents everywhere can relate to that. I’m nervous for Casey, too. Obviously because he is going, they are going to go for the gold with him, too. Although Casey will not have to go through the 550 getting to know you questions like I will, they are going to be analyzing his psyche, too. Casey is pretty damn level headed. Casey has ALWAYS been my soft place to land… he is thoughtful, kind hearted, and not at all quick to anger or frustration. Casey must be crazy though, after all, he is willingly subjecting himself to this process all because his partner wants it. Crazy, or selfless, I guess we shall let our evaluator decide.

It was really 567 questions, not 550.

Our day for the evaluation came, and Casey and I found ourselves driving down I25 arguing about traffic, and role playing questions… a completely healthy combo. I asked Casey, “so what if she asks you what my weakness is as a person? What are you going to say.” I felt his nervous side eye take a glance at me, and heard the deep swallow of a smart ass remark being sucked back down. “I don’t know, you really don’t have any.” Commence uproar of laughter from us both. You see, when you’ve been with someone as long as we have been together, you have to look past weakness and simply be strong when and where it is present. I can tell you right now, my biggest weakness/poor character quality is that I do not like to take help from people because I am a bit of a perfectionist-control freak-psycho. I’d love for Casey to do things I often bitch about him not doing, but I am guilty of being critical instead of just accepting that he does them differently than I do. No Casey, that does NOT give you a hall pass on  cleaning up the bomb that goes off approximately 1,000 times a day in this house while I am at work, sorry. Casey works his ass off for our family. I wanted another baby, Casey immediately found a better paying job to accommodate an increase in our budget. I wanted a new car to fit the needs of our growing family, Casey signed the dotted line and never threw an ounce of grief my way over it. Casey is good man, a great father, and I am lucky to have found him at a young age, because I know it will just get better to be his as our stresses become fewer on this journey of life.

We arrived early, and I marveled at his ability to parallel park in the most ridiculously impossible of spaces. We walked inside and held hands tightly as we walked the halls to suite 512 where our afternoon awaited us. Once inside, our evaluator handed me a booklet with a questionnaire, three pencils, and a portable table. A tiny waiting room with three chairs is where I was to sit and complete this task, while Casey was set free for the next hour. My hands were already sweating after the first five questions. It started out innocent enough “I enjoy mechanics magazines, true or false”, but after the first fifty or so questions, I was met with “I hear voices” and “I have thought about killing myself.” The content of this assessment is bizarre to say the least, and I honestly feel like it does little to tell you about the person being assessed. One question read, “I like to use swear words”, well if you know me, you know that when I read that I laughed and said to myself SO f**king TRUE! It is strange though, to have to answer things honestly that could perhaps put you in a negative light. True I love swear words, True I have done things I’m NOT proud of, True I laugh at sexually explicit jokes. Some of the questions were worded so poorly, I found myself reading them out loud multiple times, wondering if perhaps a comma would’ve made a difference in the way that I answered.

After I finished the 550 questions, I noticed that there were still 17 more that needed answering. I asked our evaluator, she said “oh, I didn’t know there were 567, but yes, answer all of them.” It took me but 2 minutes to complete, but made me a little uneasy that she didn’t know there were that many questions. I felt like “well how important can this really be? If she doesn’t know the number of questions, how invested in this test is she?” Definitely overthinking things, but that’s what I do… I mean FALSE… I am not an overthinker. Once the test was complete, we were invited into her office and gestured to sit on a couch. I’ve never been in any type of therapy or counseling, but her office was exactly what I thought it would be. It was comfortable, there was a bookcase filled with various books about this and that, and a sculpture? I don’t know what you’d call it, of a man holding onto a rope, scaling the pillar in the west corner of her office. Cool, Over coming obstacles, I dig it.

Once we were settled, there was zero mention of the test, instead she turned her attention to basic, getting to know you, type of stuff. “Where did you grow up?” “how much schooling have you completed?” Everything was great until she asked Casey, “Are you the father of both of her children?” It was off-putting, but so damn funny, I had to will myself to look away from Casey. I knew if we looked at each other we’d of both yelled “That’s what I’ve been told, SO I HOPE SO!” We got through the getting to know you stuff, and she began asking how our friends and family were taking the news. We explained that we’ve not been met with a single negative reaction, told her about this blog, and expressed our own excitement. Again, having never been in this type of situation, I don’t know if saying “okay”is customary every few moments into an answer, but she did this anytime we answered more than a few sentences… think the Oscar music playing over an acceptance speech. I really didn’t know how to feel, or what to think, so I listened more and spoke less. I was asked the basic, yet profound question of “why do you want to be a surrogate?” I answered eagerly, telling her that many pre children years ago, I met a friend of a friend for drinks. We had a great, lighthearted evening the three of us, when the conversation suddenly shifted to marriage and children. Jenny (the friend of a friend) shared her own struggles with infertility so freely and honestly with me that it struck a cord deep within me. I remember leaving the bar that night and telling my friend Ashley, “I’ve never been pregnant, but I would without hesitation, carry a baby for her… she wants it so bad, even though I just met her, it kills me to see someone struggle for something like a child.” The “okay, okay, okay” music didn’t play once during my story this time, not once. I had a hard time stifling my “are you freakin kidding me” face when she asked about appropriate contact between my intended parents and I. “Are the intended parents welcome at OB appointments? What about in the delivery room? Can they touch your belly? What is an appropriate level of communication via phone? If they attend an OB appointment would you prefer their placement be at your head?” Of Course they can attend any and all appointments. Absolutely they are welcome to the birth of their child. Sure they can touch my belly. I’d say three or four texts per week, maybe a phone call, and always updates after appointments of major “I just felt a kick” moments. The face came with that last question… “if they attend an OB appointment, would you prefer their placement be at your head?” I answered “Yes, I would prefer that” immediately, and I was surprised my mouth didn’t throw away this whole opportunity for me before my brain managed to think through a polite response. I felt myself choking down the urge to expand on my response when she replied, “some people are just more modest than others.” I wouldn’t say I’m modest, I would tell anyone anything about my birth experiences if they asked… the good the bad and the ugly. However, just because I’ve had two children does NOT mean I run enthusiastically to the gynecologist, throw my feet in stir ups, and welcome anyone who is curious to come see my show. Unless the baby is coming out, its a private show, only. “You will get negative reactions, be sure of that. If you approach things too enthusiastically when people inquire or prod, it will appear as if you are telling people you don’t want to hear ANY negative commentary, and that it is simply not open for discussion.” I didn’t know how to take that, either. Truthfully, I don’t give a damn if people think this is weird, or if they have anything negative to say. My decisions DO NOT make a difference in anyone’s lives EXCEPT the people in the front row (me, the baby, the intended family, and my family). I am happy to answer questions, but I am not willing to subject myself to any length of negative commentary, PERIOD.

We did learn some effective tools for speaking to our daughter and son about the pregnancy. Not that I would have ever referred to the baby as “mommy’s baby” or your “little brother/sister”, we learned that instead we should say, “do you want to feel Bill and Larry’s baby move?” The use of that type of language is supposed to be more effective when dealing with children, and frankly I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt for me to say those things, too. Of course, Lucy will only be three, and Charlie will only be one, so the comprehension end of things will likely not be all there when this pregnancy takes place. I know Lucy will be excited about “the baby”, she was thrilled when I was pregnant with Charlie! I am sure that post delivery, our conversations will have to continue about where the baby went, and why the baby isn’t here with us, but these are all things I am prepared to address when the time comes.

Match maker, match maker, make me a match!

I will hear more about my results in the coming weeks, then after that, the matching game begins! I will get to meet the people my heart already loves so profoundly. I will get to wish and dream for the happiness of two people, and be a part of creating that magic for them. I also have a home visit, and contract negotiation to look forward to as well. I think that if we have successfully passed the psychological evaluation, the rest will be a walk in the park. I will have to go get some non gmo, dye free goldfish, and rent someone’s nice dogs on the day of the home visit. I hope that when my home check happens, our evaluator doesn’t leave covered in dog hair, doesn’t linger for an excessive amount of time, and doesn’t judge me if my two year old opens the door and exclaims “lets do this shit!” like she once did upon entrance to a Target a few weeks ago. I think its safe to say that not even a major two year old meltdown over watching Minnie-rella for the 9,034th time will get us disqualified… but just incase, I wont delete it from the DVR just yet.

Up, Up, and Away.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about what has been taking place on this journey. As I have said, things are in hyper speed now, and it wont be long before I am announcing that we (my intended family) and I, have found each other. Stay tuned, ask questions if you have them, share this story if you feel compelled, and finally, THANK YOU. Until next time…

The art of overthinking.

It has been awhile, hasn’t it? I’ve had a lot of time to think things through, roughly every night for hours when I should be trying to fall asleep. In the moments where I struggle to juggle two children, and even in my moments of success… my mind finds a way to remind me of what is to come. The long and curvy road I once had ahead of me has become smaller, and yet more profound as the mile markers let me know I’m closer to my destination. My blog posts before have been more informative, this one is really a glimpse into my mind and heart. As always, thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, and thank you for supporting. Please enjoy as you read, and feel free to comment or question, I’ve got answers.

I decided I truly wanted to be a surrogate one morning while I was nursing Charlie on the couch and watching Frozen with Lucy. In that moment, I felt the weight of raising two children come off of my shoulders, I felt like I had it down. I remember researching agencies, laws, and statistics on surrogate pregnancy. I remember how my heart raced and the excitement in my being when I hit submit on my intake form with Northwest Surrogacy Center. I honestly thought, “well, they’ll tell me I weigh too much, or that I had my kids to close together, or maybe they don’t want brown eyed surrogates? Surely there is something that will disqualify me.” And then, there wasn’t. I got a phone call about four hours after I submitted my intake form. Turns out, I didn’t weigh too much, they couldn’t care less that I had pregnancies so close together, and interestingly enough, they preferred brown eyes over blue (ha-ha).  At this point in my journey, I’d not shared anything with anyone. I wondered if perhaps I was crazy, or what the world would think of my seemingly wild decision. One of my best girlfriends had come over to cut mine and Steph’s hair when I got the phone call to further question my motives and sincerity regarding surrogacy. After I took the call, I watched as my best friends faces lit up with joy; their eager ears drinking in everything I had to say. I knew I’d do it if all the other pieces fell into my lap, and one by one they did.

Fear not the unknown.

As politically charged as our world is right now, I feel grateful to be able to pursue such a large endeavor. If you watch the news, get on facebook, or even look outside, there is evidence of a change in our world in every corner. It is a tumultuous time for our country as the tides change, and as people everywhere use their voices and actions to stand firm in what they believe. I hate assigning democrat or republican titles to myself; I am a free thinker. Reproductive rights are something I believe to be hugely important, no matter what side of the ugly crooked line you fall on. I won’t ever assert my political views into this blog, but I would like to express my gratitude that I live in a state (not country; it is not legal in every state) that allows me to pursue this dream. Of course things can change, we see it all of the time. The world right now is a lot like fighting with a two year old about having more then just goldfish for dinner. “Yes, of course you can have goldfish, but you also need to eat this delicious meal that I scoured pinterest for, dumped half of the ingredients in the floor twice, and had to go back to the store six times before I finally had everything.” My point is, it is useless to fight with people that aren’t willing to hear you, and people that don’t understand the struggle and work you’ve put into something. And…sometimes its okay to lose your shit, cut your losses, and just have the damn goldfish for dinner. Before you read further, please be mindful that the concern I am about to express is legitimate in my life right now, and if you cannot relate to it or see it from my perspective, that is completely fine!  As I have said, I am grateful to have the option of surrogacy before me, but at times, and more so recently, I worry that I will end up like the two year old trying to have goldfish for dinner; my voice will not be heard. I worry that if I have to have an abortion because the baby is not fit to survive outside of the womb, or something in that lot of awfulness, I may face an uphill battle. I worry about the rights of my intended family  as well, because of course if ever that type of decision were to be made, it would be THEIR choice, not yours, not MINE, not the GOVERNMENT. People that mock the women that marched for their rights, unless you know personally what that march meant to them, then is it really your place to say they were throwing a “temper tantrum” or acting foolish? I can’t say that I would march or protest, its just not in my nature. However, what I have seen on social media leads me to believe I would face more scrutiny than support if something like this were to arise. Would you, my readers, my friends, people that have somehow had a positive connection with me at one point or another turn your backs on me? Would you type-cast me, and throw the blanket of sweeping generalization over my back as you have other women? Would you think of me as an accessory to crime, to MURDER, if this choice had to be made? It is very easy to post a meme you feel connected to, or articulate your feelings regarding abortion, but how many of you have walked down that path? I hope and pray that none of you have or ever have to be faced with such a devastating decision, but if you were faced with that beast, I would offer my body as a shield to your heart… would you do the same for me? I have invited all of you to experience this with me, regardless of who you are, what you believe, or how you feel. I have shared my life so freely on social media that I’m fairly certain most of you could navigate my living room, floor bombs and all, in the dark with your eyes closed. I have done this because I am proud of my life and my children, and my happiness is so great that I can’t help but share it. If my despair and trying times were ever as large as my happiness, it would be my hope that I would be met with empathy and love from all of you; straight, gay, black, white, democrat, republican. I can say that I believe in equal rights in every facet of the word because while it is not my fight now, it could be someday. It is okay to disagree with me, we can each have a bite of the failed pinterest dinner and sit down to a bowl of goldfish when we are hungry in two hours. All I ask is that you consider what you just read, afterall, you’re reading this because you want to know about my journey. I hope the tough decisions never become a reality I am faced with, but the fear of the unknown weighs more than a screaming two year old that doesn’t want to go grocery shopping.

I have also had to learn to accept how others view my decision. Most of the time, I am met with shock, followed by disbelief, followed by joy. I’ve had to learn to choke back the vomit when I hear when people tell me I’m amazing, selfless, or even a “hero.” Hero is the one I’ve had the hardest time accepting. I was having a conversation with Stephanie (my sister in law who will be referenced repeatedly) about just how profound this experience will be for not only myself, but for my intended family. Stephanie said to me “you know, you’re going to have to accept that word. Even if you don’t like it, think about, you are just that for whatever family you end up with.” Hero still seems a little far off, but I am getting better at accepting praise for what is to come, even if it leaves me feeling like I’ve just gotten an awkward side hug. I have also had to learn to respond to people that think this is weird, even my own family. I was talking to my older brother about this, he met me with a wild eye and just said he felt like it was kind of “strange.” It is STRANGE, but that’s what keeps life interesting.

Recently I’ve also had to come to terms with how this will change my professional life. I obviously cant and wont tell every table (since I’m doomed to be a waitress forever) about this journey, but I think using myself as a physical platform for being giving is pretty damn cool. I have just begun to get my feet wet and venture into the pool of perhaps finding a potential career. I love waiting tables, its fast, its a workout, its very social, and the money is damn good almost every shift. All those things aside, I feel like I am wasting my life waiting tables two days a week when there are so many more lions I’ve yet to tame within myself. Lions that don’t involve runny egg whites, or a steak cooked between medium and medium well (that temperature doesn’t exist, folks!!!)  I very recently applied for a job as a communications specialist, ( a 911 dispatcher), and while I am truly excited at the prospect, I know that this surrogacy journey may be too difficult for a potential employer to wrap their mind around.

The pregnancy itself will not leave me bedridden (I hope), so while I’d still be able to work, I would require a bit more than a childless Susie Smith. I would be facing time off for the embryo transfer, potential scheduling conflicts with prenatal appointments, and then of course, leave time for after the baby is born. It is an odd thing to think about, taking six weeks off WITHOUT the responsibility of having a newborn to care for. After Lucy’s birth, the shock and physical healing took about three weeks to overcome. After Charlie’s birth I had about five minutes to get over myself and any physical pain I was in, because Lucy still needed her momma, too. I couldn’t take the pain killers they’d given me after Charlie was born, for fear I’d become too nauseated or drowsy to care for Lucy. I just had to pull up my big girl mesh panties, take some ibuprofen and pray for an easy day. Easy, HAHA!

Clarification.

I discussed earlier how surrogacy pertains to me socially, and recently I have found that people have a very ridiculous notion of what this really is. I took Stephanie to a nice dinner for her birthday, childfree THANK THE LORD ( and my mom, you da real MVP!) After our blissful dinner of which not one puff or yogurt melt were apart of, we decided to go to a little dive bar for one of Casey’s coworkers “send off.” Upon entering said bar, we were greeted by a few wonderful familiar faces, even better because they were slightly tipsy, and just so happy to see us! It didn’t take long before the conversation shifted to my surrogacy journey, a topic I found so comical given the setting we found ourselves in. I answered questions and listened to the commentary as bad country music, (and even worse line dancing) went on around us, and truthfully, I couldn’t believe some of the things I’d heard! “You’re going to be a surrogate? Why the hell would you do that, I HATED being pregnant!” “I bet that pays BANK! Shit I’d do that for $40,000!” “So when are they inseminating you? Soon?” Ladies and gentlemen, to put things into perspective for you, $40,000 is not exactly a goldmine. If you live in Colorado, you know that a $40,000 wont pay for an entire mortgage, all the bills associated with a house, the groceries you need, or anything else that might come up in a years time. The money is a plus of doing this, but by no means is it an alternative wage source. Casey and I are not rich, and while we probably never will be, we have everything we need, some of what we want, and dreams to keep chasing after. I am still extremely budget conscious, but $40,000 wont fund all of our needs, wants and desires…not even close. Second, I am NOT BEING INSEMINATED! Typing or saying that word, “inseminated”, makes me die a little inside every time. It sounds DISGUSTING. The type of surrogacy I am pursuing is BYOE, Bring your own embryo. The embryo will already be fertilized, ( “Fertilized”…another word that sits like rotten milk in my mouth), by the time it gets to me. The embryo will likely be around 2-6 weeks of development, and thus, no insemi-grossness necessary! The embryo will be inserted via catheter, with an ultra sound serving as a guide, the cool part? I get to watch that happen! To witness the exact second a miracle is taking place sits at about number 2 on my bucket list… right behind checking into a hotel room by myself for two nights of uninterrupted peace. Just kidding, I think the miracle thing is number 1 for sure!

Developments worth mentioning.

People that work in labor and delivery are in fact, closer to god than the rest of us. The men and women that have made birthing babies their lifework, are truly something to be marveled at. I know not everyone has a positive birth experience, but surely all of you mommas can think of one interaction, big or small, with a person from your birth experience that made the experience better just with their presence. Enter Kathy, the nurse I had for Lucy’s delivery. Kathy upon first impression, is  beautiful, sweet, and genuinely caring. Kathy’s work during the days leading up to Lucy’s birth are part of the reason I had Charlie so close behind..I actually enjoyed the hardest part of the pregnancy because of this woman. I didn’t like the purple popsicles, so she found me a stash of the blue. I asked Kathy in a moment of weakness “what if I poop though?! I don’t want to!” Kathy laughed, and replied with a smile, “everyone is nervous about that, but I promise you wont even notice, after all there will be a lot more important things going on in this room.” I didn’t like the doctor that insisted I have a C section due to a “long labor”, so she dried my tears of frustration and told me “I will help you get this baby out, don’t you worry one bit about a C section.” Kathy respected my nervousness and desire for modesty, too. You see, when you have your first baby, all of the nakedness and hands of strangers isn’t exactly the most comfortable thing in the entire world. Fear not, will-be momma’s, when I had Charlie, all of that shit was out the window. I could’ve literally given birth in front of the Pope, nakedness and parts became simply just that the second time around.  I was afraid and she reassured me. I needed to ask the embarrassing questions and tell someone my fears, she laughed and answered them with the love of a mother. I bonded with her because she never faltered; she held my hand as tight as she could through all the fear, love, and change. Good Samaritan, like many hospitals, moves you to a smaller room once you’ve had a few hours of downtime after delivery. The day that Lucy was born, Good Sam was in divert, meaning they were at capacity in labor and delivery. Kathy willingly offered to stay with me well past her shift, insisting that she “see things through.” After Lucy was born, I enjoyed just a few minutes of downtime before my family and Kathy raced to collect my belongings in an effort to free up the room. It was a shit show, that somehow through my bloodshot, swollen eyes, I saw humor in. Once we were moved and settled, Kathy returned to say goodbye to us. Kathy hugged me and told me she’d see me again, and was certain it wouldn’t be too long (she’s got psychic ability too, apparently), annnnnnd just 18 months later I was back again! The reason I mention Kathy in such detail, is because Kathy has granted me a great honor… Kathy has agreed (assuming its okay with the intended family) to be there for me during the delivery of this baby. I sent Kathy a message asking her if she’d think about it, and she didn’t miss a beat! Kathy replied with the same joyful, excited, genuinely caring, heart she’d had the day I had Lucy. I couldn’t be any more thrilled or blessed to have this wonderful woman by my side, not to work, but simply to be my cheerleader as I go through one of the most defining moments in my life. This has been a HUGE source of happiness for me the further I go, Kathy if you’re reading this, sorry if I fangirl’d too hard, #youdabest, but you deserve much more than my words can offer!

Big Steps.

Getting insurance for this process has been a very surreal experience. I easily obtained a policy, but having to explain my unique situation to the customer service agent was interesting. Given that I have to carry this policy in addition to my own, I had to make certain I wouldn’t jeopardize my current insurance plan. I told the lady three or four times before it was clear, “I am going to be a surrogate mother, this child will have zero biological connection to me, I am literally just the greenhouse.” Once we established that and got everything taken care of, I began the process of calling Doctors offices to see if they would take on my situation. The first two places I called were very taken aback, and told me “we’re not sure we can accommodate your special needs here, due to the legal aspect of things.” My entire pregnancy will be dealt with and handled with the utmost attention to the legal details… the surrogacy agency will provide me with an attorney that specializes in surrogacy, no lines will be crossed, no i’s will be without a dot. I think because this process is so unique, it scares the shit out of a doctors office. I’m sure the people I was speaking to immediately thought of the “what if something goes wrong under our care? LAWSUIT, LAWSUIT, LAWSUIT.” I still haven’t ultimately selected my place of care, and I have to have faith that the right place for me will soon make itself evident. I am not trying to get anything more then prenatal care for myself and a baby, the fact that this  baby wont share a bloodline with me shouldn’t matter to anyone. A greenhouse without a gardener will not thrive on its own.

As far as what is to come, I will undergo the psychological evaluation likely just before the end of spring, then I will be matched to my family. It is bittersweet knowing that I will soon be closing the chapter of nursing Charlie. I am sad that I will no longer have that connection, and that I will soon have to settle into my life with two toddlers, and no more babies. However, once the final chapter has been written with my little sweet baby Charlie, I will get to truly start the more involved work. I will begin the IVF cycle of injections to strengthen my uterus in order to ensure a safe pregnancy. Once I have completed these injections, I will travel to Portland for the embryo transfer. I would love to have my mom, or Stephanie join me for such a momentous occasion, but life is something that doesn’t stop for anyone these days. I have asked my dear friend Misty to join me, because I know she has plenty of help with her two children, and getting away for a weekend to sit in a hotel room in silence with takeout and pay per view movies would be appreciated by her more than anyone else on this planet. Misty is excited to join me, which makes what will likely be an uncomfortable few days truly something to look forward to. I mean, watching an embryo transfer is cool and all, but not hearing “mom!” or “I need this!” five hundred times in one day is really freaking exciting, not just for me, but for her, too!

Buckle up.

That is all I have to share for now, and it is my hope you’ve truly enjoyed what I’ve shared with you, as this has been the most raw and emotionally charged post I’ve shared. My journey is moving fast, so my writing hiatus will be short this next time around. Please, stay tuned, and keep me and my prospective family in your thoughts and hearts. I know that they are out there… I’ve never been more excited to meet perfect strangers in all of my life.

Hurry up and wait.

Hello again! I have to start by saying how flattering, and admittedly, a bit shocking it is to have people acknowledge this blog to me in person. A few of you, my readers, have even reached out and shared your own stories with me. A young lady I work with shared that because of this, she had set up an appointment with an egg donation service. An old schoolmate shared with me that she had gone through the egg donation process. I cant tell you how valuable your stories are to me, it makes me feel less alone in this process. Lately, I have received more “What’s going on?!” I know it has been because I haven’t posted in awhile, but I have enough to talk about to keep your attention, so get comfortable!

The answers

In my last post, I wrote about the three questions I had to answer as a part of my surrogate profile. The questions I initially thought would be a breeze to answer became seemingly more challenging once the weight of what they were to represent settled on my chest. My surrogate profile is supposed to make me appealing to a prospective family, I wanted to keep it real, and be short enough to make me appear to be the someone you would want to know more about.

Three interesting things about me:

1.I have a huge fear of water and horses. Both of these fears are completely irrational, as I have never had a negative experience with either one of them. I used to ride horses often as a kid, I absolutely loved it! The older I got, the more I realized just how powerful a horse is. I know they are gentle giants, but they are capable of so much. (Think the old bombs Gru uses as beds for the little girls in Despicable Me. Awesome, but still a bomb.) My fear of water is along those same lines. I can swim, pretty well even, but I don’t like vast bodies of water, or even dark water. The peace that the open sea brings some people does just the opposite for me… I get crippling anxiety even thinking about it.

2. I only attended one full year of high school before I was physically unable to attend due to an unexplained illness. I gained tons of weight and watched my grades plummet before doctors finally figured out my gall bladder was bad, really bad! I dropped out to avoid failure, and ended up getting my GED which felt like an even bigger failure. Despite only attending one year of high school, I passed my GED in 3 hours and I went on to attend college where I maintained a 4.0 GPA and was invited to be a member of National Honor Society.

3. About a week after I found out I was pregnant with my son, I had a surprisingly realistic dream about his delivery. I brushed it off, but throughout my pregnancy I continued to have the same dream, at least 4 more times. In this dream, Charlie was born at 3:46pm on a snowy day. My water broke on Charlie’s due date, March 18th. It was snowy and cold, not usual for March in Colorado, but what was unusual, was that Charlie was born at 3:45 and 38 seconds… I was literally 22 seconds off! Throughout the wonderful photos our birth photographer captured that day, there are several pictures of the clock in the room. I had told everyone I could about the dream, I probably seemed crazy. Looking  back on that day I feel such a connection to my birth because of what I thought was just a silly dream. My heart knew all along the very moment it would be stolen by my son.

The answer for the answers.

I had a really hard time coming up with even one interesting thing about myself. At this point in my life, I haven’t done anything I would consider “interesting.” Of course,  “I am a stay at home mom that waits tables two days a week” doesn’t really grab anyone’s attention. I genuinely felt like my answers showcased big parts of my personality, even if they seem silly. I shared the first answer about the water and the horses to be funny (even though its true, NO horseback riding, please!) and relatable. How many of you have a silly fear or compulsion? All of you, we’re human after all. I, of course, left out the part where I attempted to “bond with the ocean”… I paid $60 and spent three hours sharing a giant trash can with the most hilarious seven year old narrating our every stomach churning second together. Deep sea fishing was in fact, deep sea puking. I shared the second point to illustrate my ability to overcome obstacles. The Claire pre dropout, had a hunger for learning, and a desire to have a profession where I would be helping someone else. I wanted to teach, I wanted to be a nurse, hell for awhile I wanted to be a police officer. The day I got my GED I was devastated. I spent about a year feeling sorry for myself before enrolling in community college, a choice that I think was the best one I have ever made. College was challenging largely because I hadn’t been in an academic environment for so many years, and on top of that, I was now an adult with a full time job and bills to pay. Once I saw how great I could preform academically in my new surroundings, I found myself again. The dropout stigma is something that will bother me for the rest of my life, but the college experience proved me wrong, to even myself; it was redemption at last. I shared the third answer because while it may not be relatable to everyone, it is relevant to the circumstance. I am not some psychic, or weirdo that thinks dreams are some kind of “what’s to come” message, but I think my particular experience was pretty damn cool!

What’s the plan, Stan?

Many people have asked me what the next steps are, and where I am currently at in the process. As of today, everything is on a temporary hold. I am still nursing Charlie, something neither he, nor I, are ready to be through with. I don’t plan on nursing Charlie past a year, and frankly every day we add to our “nursing record” feels like success to me. Charlie lights up when I come home from work, his whole body oozes with delight until I scoop him up. Charlie has never missed a meal, or even snack opportunity, even if he has just eaten a bottle a mere hour before my return home, he whines and nuzzles me until I cave and feed him again. Its not for the caloric intake, its purely for the closeness. If I so much as look at him for once second during these “snack feedings” milk pours from the sides of his mouth, and laughter erupts from his burgeoning belly. It melts my heart every time, and for that reason alone, we’re not ready to be done yet. “When are you going to be done?” is often a question I get asked, and while I don’t give that answer every time, the answer in short is “when he decides we’re done.”

Another great part of this process being on hold is that it gives me plenty of time to do things I really want to do… like eat egg whites and quinoa, or getting up at 4am to go run with the dog. The realization that I probably need to lose a little weight before I start this process is a truth that is almost comical. “I gotta lose some pounds before I gain some pounds.”  I am within the BMI requirements to be a surrogate, but its close, too close for me to be comfortable with. I have struggled really hard with body image issues after having Charlie, its a demon that greets me every morning… like the faithful sun rising in the east. I have never been a girl that does the starving thing. I like food, a lot. I love to bake, I love to cook, I love to go out. That said, my body just doesn’t handle my love with such ease anymore. I have lost all of the weight I gained with Charlie, a lousy 18 pounds, but I look somewhat like a deflated balloon. The body I ridiculed and bitched about freely years ago is a body I would kill to have today. To be what is considered healthy, I would need to weigh the number I convincingly lied about on my drivers license. I haven’t been that number since I was probably sixteen, and really don’t have a desire to be that ever again. I would like to be healthy without being extreme. I’m not giving up cheese, all chocolate, and I damn sure am not giving up my one, chemically loaded, 12 ounces of bliss, Diet Coke, either. I could probably cut down the carbs, and I dunno, maybe once in a while lift the 5 pound arm weights I HAD to have, or do sit-ups AFTER I eat an entire bag of baked (hey, its healthier, right?) lays. I also have to consider what the hell I am going to do about a certain tattoo on my left hip. It doesn’t have the lettering, but it definitely says “I was a shithead seventeen year old that should’ve listened to my mom.” Its a hello kitty, or well, it used to be. I’m more self conscious about a set of unfamiliar people laying eyes on that then I am about anything else. God willing, my intended family wont attend an ultra sound until I’m so big that the feral f**king cat mistake is hidden under a new set of hideous stretch marks. The tattoo, the diet, all things I have to start working on, not just for the surrogacy, but for myself, too.

Baby business

After I am done nursing Charlie, and once I’ve hit a more acceptable weight for myself, I will then go through a psychological evaluation. I could very well screw this part up all on my own, but to add to the ship sinking factor, Casey will also go through this with me. Casey has been honest about the way he feels, as have I, but none of our feelings have ever been picked apart with a knife and fork in an effort to seek some mystery ingredient. I do worry. I worry that when they ask about selective reduction, that I’ll be viewed as an undesirable candidate if I answer honestly. I worry that Casey and I won’t be such a convincing team once we are separately questioned. I worry a lot about things that are entirely out of my control, and its because I want this so badly.

I wonder what people will think when they look at me when I’m a week postpartum, sporting bags under my eyes, an even larger deflated balloon like belly, and a panty line you could see from New York as I casually stroll through the aisles of Target with my children. My children who will likely be 18 months, and just shy of 3. Will they think, “God she doesn’t know when to say no!” Will they pity me for having clearly become another person who blames their body on “the baby” (even if that baby is speaking full sentences) Will I still cut off 10 inches of my flowing locks and claim that I “just don’t have the energy to fool with it” like I have in the past with my own babies? Will people that know me, my co-workers and family members, grow irritated or perhaps be less considerate if I decide to incorporate pumping breast milk into my already jam packed routine, all for a baby or babies that aren’t even mine?

When I go out with my kids and see an adorably well rested couple, lovingly  browsing the baby section, not an ounce of fatigue or battle scar from the nitty gritty days (and nights) of trying to survive with an infant, I picture in my brain a very large freight train. A freight train that is hauling ass, doesn’t have breaks, and will crash into you with such a force that you simply become one with it. I always tell my mom, Casey, or my soul mate sister in law, “They don’t know!” We laugh, and exchange a quick  thank god we’re past THAT stage smile. Inside, I hear the train whistle scream out loud once more! Children and babies are such a gift, my above illustration aside. Everyone loves a pregnant woman in our society, but not everyone shows the same kindness to a newly postpartum woman. I have made that my goal, to be a tool and beacon of light for my friends that have just hopped aboard the crazy train. I try to be honest, share my experiences, both good and bad, and just be a listener. I worry that there wont be anyone that can understand how I will feel once this process is over. I don’t believe there is anyway to NOT get a little attached to the baby or family that I will be a centerpiece of for about a year, I think its impossible.

Everyone experiences some degree of postpartum depression (I hate that word, it feels so heavy), in my experience it usually comes on day 3 or 4, the first day home with baby. My mom warned me, so did the hospital nurses, it completely blindsides you. On Lucy’s fourth day of life when my milk came in, so did the hormones. God it was awful, I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t even eat, much less form a sentence without tears. My mom was my angel through those tough days. My favorite moment with my mom throughout both of my labor/delivery postpartum moments was when she helped me wash my hair the day after Lucy was born. My body ached in ways I never knew possible, the tears washed over me, almost drowning me as they fell, my mom never faltered. As she rubbed conditioner into my hair she told me through tears and a broken smile “I haven’t washed your hair since you were a little girl!” I wont ever forget that moment, it was the lifesaver being thrown to save me from the hormone tide. After Charlie was born I knew a bit better what to expect. Even though I knew better, I still went through the uncontrollable crying every time Casey left for work, or when my mom told me she had to go back to work. I spent hours in the morning separating clementines and cubing cheese into perfect sandwich bag portions for Lucy to snack on throughout the day. I would be damned if I was going to be smothered by those hormones! I went on like this mad woman, determined to be the best mom I could be to my duo, then eventually things fell into place, it became easy once more. My fear with this situation is what will be my new normal? I am okay with everything in this process, but if you’ve ever had a child, you know that all that build up during pregnancy seems so small once the baby finally arrives. Life has a funny way of beginning again several times, despite how difficult it feels sometimes. I want to be honest about my emotions throughout this process, perhaps that’s why I’m writing this blog… as a timecapsule. Just like when I look back on the clementine days, or at newly expecting parents and laugh to myself, maybe once I’m past this whole thing I will read this and think “you damn crybaby, look at you, you’ve done it!” Be kind to me world, my heart is made of glass.

My non plan-birth plan.

In my previous two births, I never made a birth plan. Please don’t take offense if this strikes a cord with you, but I found them to be so silly. I didn’t want to get my heart set on a birth that may not happen. I’m a control freak, if you know me at all, you know that. I didn’t want to build a wall of perfection around a situation that has more force than a category five hurricane. I thought, “if I need an epidural, I’ll get one. This isn’t a strong woman contest.” I made it pretty far with Lucy before my amazing L&D nurse talked to me about my options and we decided together an epidural would be great if for no other reason, other then for me to relax a bit. With Charlie I made it further, the nurse told me to quit being so polite through contractions, and assured me it was okay if I cried or said bad words, because its hard, unfamiliar, and yes… painful work. I got an epidural with Charlie, too. Both of my birth stories are perfect to me in every way, but I want so desperately for this one to be different. I want to deliver this baby at Baby and CO in Wheat Ridge, or somewhere of the like. I want to have a peaceful, homebirth setting, without it actually being in my house. I mean, nothing says peaceful and serene like a German shepherd jumping into a birth tub, right? EW! I want to experience labor and delivery completely drug free, I want to find peace within the chaos. I want to connect with my body and this baby in a way I didn’t do with my own children. I know this sounds crazy, I want a boutique birth for a baby that isn’t mine, but I just want it to be something I never forget, even if what I don’t forget is hard for me to get through. I want this experience to be special for me, and extremely special for the parents of this baby. I want them to feel like they are connected through the whole process, my body is no longer some private property with a keep out sign. I feel like if you are willing to go through this process, you are also willing to lose that embarrassment/privacy factor. I have contacted a couple of places, I have been invited to have this child there, to attend classes, and even to share my experience as I go through it. The great part about the surrogacy center is that they really try their best to make this entire situation as comfortable for me as they do the intended family. I think having the choice of where I deliver is huge, its an option you don’t even have with health insurance you pay for, what a huge opportunity to experience the same story a different way.

Stamp of approval

After I pass the psych evaluation, matching begins! I am so excited for this process, it doesn’t yet feel real, and I know once I’m meeting families everything will fall into place so quickly. Casey and I will have to spend a few days away from our babies and travel to Oregon for the implantation of the embryos, and from there I become a resident (not really, but may as well be) at the fertility clinic throughout the first trimester of my pregnancy. Once the pregnancy is confirmed, and we are past the first trimester, I can begin seeing my own physician for prenatal care. I know this season of the process will likely leave me feeling very worn out, I remember being tired when I was pregnant with Charlie and running after Lucy. I imagine this form of tired will be amplified by about a million. I am chemically forcing my body to do something it has done with ease twice before, in addition to chasing after my own two monkey children. I will still continue to wait tables throughout this pregnancy, it keeps my weight down, and it keeps my sanity strong… even when I hate it. Casey and I have talked about what we want to do with the money, and because we haven’t yet, and probably should eventually ( ;] ) I think we will get married. Casey wants the wedding we never had, and while I’m not quite on the same page with that, I feel like I owe it to him. After all of this is through, I will still have him standing faithfully at my deflated balloon side. Casey’s acceptance of this has been monumental to our relationship, I think the man deserves a wedding.

Wait for me.

Even if I take a few month hiatus, please don’t think I’m through here. I intend to see this dream through, I hope to be pregnant by mid year of 2017, which means lots more writing is to come. Please leave your questions in the comments, they help me write, they help me think. As always, thanks for reading and being apart of this journey with me. Share it, comment on it, drink it in. This is not a journey that is done alone.