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.
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.