Monday, September 10, 2012

Food for thought...

Today on facebook, I "liked" the page for the blog over at A Belly For Me, A Baby For You. They were recently featured on CNN. The basic story is that they are filming a documentary of a surrogate pregnancy. The surrogate happens to be the sister of the intended father. The twins she is carrying are biologically those of her brother and sister-in-law. They've had a lot of controversial, and uncalled for, comments.

This afternoon she asked:  Let's reverse the question, would you be able to let another woman carry your baby/babies via surrogacy? Do you already have someone in mind? What do you think the hardest part about it would be?

Being that I have and am again let another woman carry my baby, this question peaked my interest and reading the comments really got me thinking. It's something friends and family have asked me in a round about way. It's usually something like "How are you doing? Is it strange having someone else pregnant with your baby?" The short answer to this is, yes, it is strange. As a woman, it is not a natural thing to have another woman pregnant with your child. The comments on this particular question were mostly positive. There were a few that said they could not do it or the answer I can't stand...if you can't have children, then you aren't meant to *gag*. But most said they would if they were in a position to do it financially and had a need.

The recurring answer to the hardest part was a lack of control and giving up feeling your child grow inside of you. Of course, giving up all that is involved in pregnancy is hard. I have been blessed to have experienced pregnancy and birth twice with Aubrey and Blaine. Although I was not the glowy, happy pregnant woman and was pretty much miserable 6 months out of 9, I would still love to be able to experience it again. It's the way it's supposed to be. I can't explain what it's like to wait for another woman to find out she's pregnant and tell you that you will be a mother. I can't explain what it's like to listen to her talk about your baby in a way only she knows him or have others come up and congratulate her on her pregnancy while you're together and want with every fiber of your being to shout out that it's your baby. It is just hard. And even thought it's hard, you are so grateful for every detail she's willing to share and every moment you are expecting, even if no one can see the physical signs. As an intended mother, you have to be able to tell those feelings of hurt, grief, and, yes, even resentment where to go. They don't belong in a surrogacy journey. You have to be able to focus on the miracle it is that another woman can and would do be willing to experience those things for you and share those things with you. Sure, there are times those feelings have and I'm sure will again get away from me and I retreat to my room to cry. I think that's natural. You don't all of a sudden stop hurting for what you've lost because someone is kind enough to give it to you another way.

There were also lots of "only if my sister did it" or "yes, my best friend would". That is a beautiful sentiment and amazing when it works. My first thoughts of surrogacy (way back in 2005) included a family member doing it for us. The truth is that when the rubber meets the road, not everyone is cut out to do this and that is perfectly okay. I don't want anyone who is not comfortable with it to do it for me! I like to think I would do it for any one of my family members that needed, if I were able. Truth is, that's something I will never know for sure. It's much easier having been the recipient of such an extraordinary gift to think I could give it if the roles were reversed.

As for the control aspect, that is what makes it of paramount importance to chose someone you trust with...well, your child's life. No one will be happy in a surrogacy relationship where a pregnancy is being micromanaged. It just doesn't work. I needed someone who I felt would treat my baby the way I would. I have been blessed with two of those women. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The longing for more...

Brandon and I have always wanted a large family. When we were dating, he used to joke that we'd keep having children until we had two girls, whenever that may be, because he didn't think he could handle three girls :) In 2004, with the news that my uterus needed to be chunked in the biohazard bin, that dream all but died. It's hard to describe knowing that something is impossible yet wanting it more than you can handle. We looked into different ways to expand our family but none felt right. Then in 2006, I found gestational surrogacy and the idea that we could still have biological children with the help of someone exceptional. There were lots of roadblocks in the way of that dream but we spent the next three years pursuing it and November 29, 2009, Abram was born after a nearly flawless journey from IVF cycle to birth. (If you want more on that check out my posts from March 2009-December 2009. I recently did and was moved emotionally back to that incredible place.)

With Abram, we made the decision to be open books about surrogacy and our struggle to become parents for a third time. I chronicled the whole thing here and for our facebook friends and family. There really was nothing hidden and I felt great about that. I wanted to be an avenue for information to anyone curious about surrogacy and a champion for "normal" couples everywhere that needed reproductive help. Our surrogate, Dawn, got pregnant the first try. We had no embryos left from that IVF cycle and felt that was our answer to whether we'd ever pursue a fourth child. But again, the thought of one more time was never far from our minds.

After getting the all clear on my health at the beginning of the year, we began to entertain the idea of another journey. Dawn is happily retired and the thought of not only having to do IVF again, but also finding another surrogate to help us was daunting. Could we be so fortunate again? Over the past few years, I have developed many relationships with surrogates and intended parents from across the nation. I quietly spread the word within the surrogacy community that we were contemplating a second journey. In May, I found out my friend, Ivy, was also looking to match. We've known each other for a while and I instantly felt this could work. After some wonderful chats, we officially matched. We were all very excited but something about this time felt very different to me. For reasons I don't even know myself, we decided to keep it private. With surrogacy, I don't get that moment of finding out I'm pregnant and sharing that with my husband. We share it with another couple and although it is still special and intimate in its own way, it's different. I felt like I wanted it to be between us and no one else. So, that's what we did.

We began to cycle at the beginning of July. I had egg retrieval the beginning of August and we transferred our only two surviving embryos three days later. The next two weeks waiting for the blood test were pure torture. I was sick as a dog from retrieval and home pregnancy tests can be the devil. I can't even put in to words the emotional ups and downs we all went through those weeks. One thing I can say, I am forever grateful to Ivy for putting herself in a position of heartbreak for Brandon and me. It's amazing to me that anyone would willingly sign up for such pain for someone else. I mean, you sign up knowing bad things may happen, but really you sign up to get pregnant and deliver a baby, trying all on its own, you don't really expect to have your heart ripped out and trampled on or a crazy up and down ride through fire.

All that to say, it didn't work. I thought I had been through it all. I thought I knew what it was like to receive that news, but I didn't and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I cried more than I have cried in memory. In that time of gut wrenching heartache, I realized that I didn't feel like I could really vent those feelings because we had chosen to keep the experience private, for the most part. I'm one of those crazy people who want my experiences to have meaning. I want to feel like the things I go through have a purpose. Being quiet about this made it feel like that couldn't happen, like not sharing it was acting like it didn't happen at all. It did happen and I need to honor that.

So, here I am, coming out, so to speak. We long for more children, something a lot of people don't understand. We can't make that happen by ourselves and there is NO shame in that. We don't have to accept the hand that infertility dealt us. We're grieving what could have been in the form of two embryos that, for whatever reason, were not meant to become little humans we'd hold in our arms. And, ready or not, I'm taking you all along for the rest of this ride. We plan to try again in October. This time, we expect Ivy's in for a long, pregnant nine months carrying our precious cargo and we'll all be grateful for every minute!