Friday, December 7, 2012

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today we stepped out of the surrogacy world and into the world of parenthood. Of course, you never really leave surrogacy behind. True once the baby is born, she's all your child, but surrogacy is a part of both of your life stories, and something that stays close to your heart.

One year ago today a beautiful little girl was born in Portland, Oregon, 4 hours away from our home in Washington because Washington does not allow compensated surrogacy. Unfortunately that has not changed.

One year ago today I gained a new title, "Mommy". The only title change I've ever had that might possibly compare with that was gaining the title of "Wife".

One year ago today Aaron and I went from knowing that there would be challenges in the first year to living those challenges entering a 6 month whirlwind of sleep deprivation, relationship stress, jaundice, croup, expenses, childcare, and more.

One year ago today Aaron and I went from knowing that there would be amazing moments in the first year to living those moments with the first smile, baby cuddles, crawling and walking, sloppy kisses, dancing stuffed animals, vacations and more.

One year ago today I thought that 8 pounds was a really heavy load to carry in my arms. Today I pick up 22 pounds with ease.

One year ago today I was secretly worried that my physical challenges would keep me from being a good parent. Today I know that being a good parent involves a lot more than perfect balance and typical muscle tone, that there are always ways to work around my differences, that the way most people do things doesn't necessarily make them the best way to do things, and that laughter and help from friends and family can overcome any shortcomings I may have physically.

One year ago today I dreamed of what my baby's personality might be. Today I see a spunky, determined toddler. She's a girl that loves to move move move, running, bouncing, climbing over and under, letting nothing stop her. She's got the healthiest appetite I've ever seen in a child her age, consuming her entire smash cake this evening. She possesses a deep belly laugh that is most easily triggered by her father or her puppy. Her curious mind has her scanning rooms and crowds intently, picking up every detail.

One year ago today I thought that there would be some surprises with having a baby, but that I was well prepared. In the last year I have had scores of people rolling with laughter at my "mommy lessons"- status updates on Facebook archiving times when I the surprises were...well...very surprising.

One year ago today I swore I would never smell my daughter's bottom through her clothing, never say some things my mother said, and not let having a baby make me late to places. At this point I have done all of those things many, many, many times, and quite a few other things I swore I would never do.

One year ago today I never thought I would have a perfectly natural conversation about the bowel habits of our children over lunch. Yup. That happened too.

One year ago today I really thought we would never consider doing another surrogacy. Now we are seriously looking at it again.

One year ago today I didn't really didn't have any concept of the phrase "time flies". As I look at my one year old, I could swear that just yesterday she was a newborn. How can it be that she is one year old? I guess time flies.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The End and the Beginning

When I started blogging I think I posted that I was inspired to blog by my friend Michael. He had begun blogging about his surrogacy journey, and, because of his blog, I decided to start my own blog. I'm SO thrilled to share that Michael's twins were born this morning at 3:37 and 3:41 in the SAME hospital where I was born. Yet another meeting point on our unique journey of meeting and re-meeting and re-meeting each other. I have to admit, when we got pregnant, after our second transfer, with our daughter my heart ached for Michael. He had already have 2 transfers (I think 2) at that point, and hadn't gotten pregnant. And he had started his journey several months before ours. It just didn't seem fair. Then again, in the world of fertility treatment, nothing is fair. I was actually a bit hesitant to tell him that we were pregnant. And yet, when I did, he was nothing but overjoyed for us. He was so gracious and excited. And a couple months later, his surrogate was pregnant with twins. We've shared so much of this journey together, tears over testing, frustrations and confusions over contract law, worries about how our babies are doing, joy at good news, and now thrills over the births of our children.
So this is the end of our surrogacy journey together. But it is the beginning of our journey as parents together. God knew exactly what I needed to make it through this process, a friend who could intimately understand everything I was going through, as he was going through the same things. And as He always does, the Lord provided my amazing friend Michael. I'm am so happy and excited for him! I know he is going to be a fabulous daddy. And, considering he had two sons, who knows, maybe our daughter may find a life long partner in one of them. Now wouldn't that be a crazy ending to this crazy journey?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The thing Nobody Talks About

I started Nobody Talks About with capital letters because I have always appreciated how A. A. Milne (author of the Winnie the Pooh books) capitalizes certain words in the middle of sentences when Pooh, or another character finds them especially meaningful. For example:
“When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.” Winnie the Pooh

One of the reasons I started this blog is because fertility challenges are among those things that Nobody Talks About. And I've always been an open-communication-type person, of course, at the appropriate time. But some of the most important things in our lives, things that shape us, things that we need support around, things that are really tough to handle on our own are things Nobody Talks About. Death. Feeling depressed. Feeling alone. And not being able to have children the typical way. And sometimes the oppressive feeling that comes from not being able to talk about it is almost as awful as the thing itself. And the funny thing is, when you do talk about it, inevitably you find someone else who can relate and empathize or sympathize. And then the thing that felt So Huge and Burdensome is a bit easier to bear because someone else is bearing the load with you. Immediately after starting my blog I had 2 friends contact me who were dealing with their own fertility struggles. They'd never talked to anyone about it because it was one of those things Nobody Talks About.

The interesting thing is, this even happens in churches. And one would think that in church we should feel free to Let It All Hang Out. But we don't often. And for people struggling to have children, church can sometimes be a sad and lonely place. You look around and see so many happy families and pregnant women. And often times in pre-marriage counseling they remind you that one of the reasons God created marriage was for reproduction and Psalm 127:4-5 "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." And you're walking around with an empty quiver wondering why. And, after you've been married for about 3 years, well meaning people start asking things like, "So...are you thinking about starting a family?" And honestly you kind of want to slap them or scream at the top of your lungs, "YES! That's ALL we think about!" But you aren't supposed to do that, particularly in church, so you paste on a smile and say something non-committal like, "All in God's time." The interesting thing is, the bible talks about several "barren" women who longed for children, Hannah, Sarah, Rachel. But I've rarely heard a sermon about what it must have been like for those women to not be able to reproduce.

Today, Aaron and I went to a service dedicated to couples dealing with the challenges of infertility at Cedar Park Church, Presentation Sunday. Says their website:
In commemoration of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Mary and Joseph 40 days after His birth, we have designated the last Sunday in January as Presentation Sunday. On that day, along with other churches around the world, we will be praying for couples who are desiring to have children, but have encountered difficulty in doing so.

As a couple who has struggled with having children for years, it was an amazing service to be at. Here were hundreds of couples willing to step forward and say, "Yes, we're struggling." And here was a church willing to acknowledge the pain of that struggle and come along side them. One of the things I appreciated was that there were no "promises." Yes, they said hundreds of babies had been born since they began having these services over 20+ years ago. And they had testimonies of people who had conceived after attending the service a previous year. But they acknowledged that there was no "one size fits all" solution. Some of the couples who shared testimonies talked about how they succeeded through embryo adoption, some through IVF, some through the "old-fashioned" way. They also welcomed people of all faiths, sharing that God blesses all. They also took away the stigma, shame and, of all the crazy things, guilt one can feel when they can't have children. Sometimes I know I felt like I had done everything in my power, and that maybe God was mad at me, or if I would just learn the lesson He wanted me to, then we would have a child. Those thoughts weren't from God, or things He would do. The church acknowledged that this is a far greater challenge, with up to 1 in 4 couples struggling to have children, than one might think.

Perhaps the best part was that they also "walked the walk." The church has its own Embryo Adoption Ministry where they match families who have embryos remaining after an IVF cycle with families who would like to adopt those embryos to start their own family. They also have a Foster Care ministry to help children who desperately need homes find them. And every summer the church sponsors and runs a week long camp called "Royal Family Kids Camp" for foster children with only a $25 registration fee, which can be waived.

Thank you Cedar Park, for spending an entire Sunday on the thing Nobody Talks About.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Announcing the Arrival.....

Making her grand debut fashionably late (4 days), Amelia Faith Yokoyama Keeney. Amelia because we like it, and there are so many fun nicknames for it, Faith for the faith required on this journey, Yokoyama for my Grandmother and her 3 sisters, and Keeney because Aaron insisted on it (I tried to go for Speeney, but I was outvoted ;>) and Sparks-Keeney, in addition to 2 middle names, would have been way to many bubbles for her to have to try and fill in every time she took a standardized test.

Mia was born at 6:25 pm on 12/6/11, weighing in at 8 lbs, 1 oz, and 20 1/1". Unfortunately, due to "Lisa" having a "negative" blood type, and Mia having a "positive" blood type (A+ in fact. Ha! She's already starting off as an A+ student!), she has what they call Rh related jaundice. It's beginning to clear up, but she's going to be in the hospital for a few days, comfortably sun tanning under bililights.

The story of her birth is amazing and I can't wait to write about it, however since I'm now going on 30 hours without sleep I'm going to wait until I can type an intelligible sentence!

Welcome to the world little one!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Love Letter to my Daughter

It has been said, "There are two lasting bequeaths we can give our children, one is roots, the other this wings." -Unknown

Here then, is something to fertilize her roots. May she always plant her feet in rich soil!

Welcome to the world little one....

You are the first born daughter, of the first of two daughters, who was born to an only daughter, who was born the the second of four daughters, who was born to the second of four daughters. You are the fifth generation in an unbroken line of powerful, wonderful, adventerous women. May the stories of your ancestors encourage you and strengthen you.

You are the great, great granddaughter of a man who ventured across the sea to seek his fortune as a laborer in a foregin land only returning to his nation of birth to marry, and then returned to his adopted nation for the remainder of his life.

You are the great, great granddaughter of woman who completed two years of college before the year 1900 and then journeyed across the vast Pacific Ocean, with a man whom she only met the day of their wedding, to a country whose language she didn't speak. In this land she would raise four daughters.

You are the great granddaughter of a woman who grew up nisei, born to parents from Japan, but American by birthright. This woman's country of birth, the only country she ever knew, would imprison her and her relatives during World War II for the "safety of the nation." When she and her husband left internment to farm for the government, she would cook extra food at lunchtime to feed the farm hands provided by the government, German POWs, believing that the meager rations the government provided the workers were not nearly enough.

You are the great grandaughter of a "country boy" who asked the "city girl" to marry him once a year, for 5 years, until she finally agreed. This country boy wished to leave internment so much that he agreed to move inland and farm for the government. The country boy learned the trade so well that when the war was over, he continued to farm, eventually becoming very successful. More than that, he shared his success with his community, allowing the community to buy stock in "Pronto Produce" that increased in value so much that many in the small town were able to send their children to college on that stock. This country boy believed passionately in education and was so generous in his contributions to the local community college that the campus conference center was eventually named after him.

You are the great granddaughter of a woman whose ancestory hailed from the Great Smokey Mountains, but raised her two children on an indian reservation in eastern Washington. Though impoverished, this woman invested love in her children and stretched a dollar far enough so that their bellies never went empty.

You are the great graddaughter of a man who spent a lifetime working the coal mines in eastern Washington. Although this man engaged in hard labor during the day, he loved to take his wife to the grange for weekly dances where he would sweep her into his arms, grasp her dainty hands in his rough, calloused palms and spin her 'round and 'round.

You are the great granddaughter of a woman who raised 8 children on her own, and then went on to assist and help raise their children when needed. This woman would learn computers very early on and go on to head a computer department at a community college well into her 80s.

You are the great granddaughter of a man who fought for the allies during World War II, hopping from island to island in the pacific arena, setting up radio towers as the US pushed forward. This man would go on to be known for the quirky inventions he created the rest of his life.

You are the great granddaughter of a woman who who met her husband while working as a cigarette girl at the Officers' Club in Spokane. This woman was known for making friends out of anyone, and her generosity towards those friends and her family. Christmases at her house were always a special occassion.

You are the granddaughter of a woman who was born while the government imprisoned all people of her ancestory on the West Coast and lived, as a baby, on a dirt floor. This woman became a teacher and could silence a class of 8th grader with just one look, which later also proved to be effective for motherhood. This woman is a connector of people; at your baby shower she had a friend she had known since 4th gradee, a friend from her freshman year in college, and many friend whom she had known for 30 years.

You are the granddaughter of a woman who met the man she married by asking coyly from the shore of a lake, "How's the water?" as he stood chest deep. This woman raised 3 boys while facing challenges in her own life. She overcame these challenges with bravery and tenacity, and discovered her amazing gift with dogs.

You are the granddaughter of a man who grew up on an indian reservation and was the only white child in his grade school. This man claims the didn't even really realize he was different for many years and wondered "why, when played cowboys and indians always had to be a cowboy." This man overcame an incredibly impoverished childhood to earn scholarships for college, becoming the first in his family to receive a college degree. He then went on for several more degrees. His compassion, kindness and love of family shines in all he does.

You are the granddaughter of a man who grew up as one of eight children, to a single mom. This man worked hard to support his family and became a skilled technitian. This man adores his current granddaughter and will adore you too.

You are the daughter of a man who became the first in his family to go to college. This kind man then went on to spend a year with little pay, working with the homeless in Los Angeles. His playful spirit, brilliant mind, and devotion to his family will make him an amazing father to you.

You are the daughter of a woman who danced at the happiest place on earth and across the ocean. This woman is known for bursting into joyful song at random moments, and drawing children and animals to her with just a smile.

Most of all, you are a daughter of the Lord God, who sent His son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for you. When none of your relatives can be near you, His loving spirit will be with you always. May His presence, and the stories of the generations before you, give you strength when you feel weak, courage when you feel afraid, the spirit of boldness when you feel timid, and a blanket of love when you feel alone.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

No News is Good News

I know it's been quite some time since I've blogged. Aaron and I have been traveling frequently this month and with the end of the semester I've had a lot of papers to grade and tests to score. Wanted to let everyone know our little girl is happy and healthy. At this point, as we get closer to the date, finding time to blog and chase down all my thoughts is getting increasingly difficult. However, I know people tend to get a bit worried without an update every now and then. Thus, so no one worries, I'm letting you all know I'm going to take a break from blogging for right now. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to it before she is born, but in the meantime, I'll be sending out e-mail updates. If you'd like to continue to receive e-mail updates, drop me an e-mail and I'll include you on short e-mails. :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ergonomics of Baby Care

As all of you know, we're doing surrogacy because of my medical issues. And once the pregnancy got started, my medical challenges went on the back burner since I'm pretty stable. Yet now, as we're working on getting baby supplies and furniture and the like, challenges are starting to appear again. Not challenges with my body, mind you, but challenges with the world.

After our first foray into the world of baby gear, we've had a chance to catch our breath, regroup from the shock, and head out again. And the things I've found are pretty surprising.

It's actually fascinating to me, as I've begun to explore this, how few options there are for baby equipment and furniture for for parents with disabilities. I mean, I'm an Occupational Therapist. I should know how to find adaptive equipment and things to help people with differences in their daily activities, and, frankly, in some situations I'm stumped! I've searched internet sites for hours on end, and I'm really surprised that no company out there has designed products with accessibility in mind.

For me, a big challenge is weight. My spasticity and dystonia is triggered by weight. Now, there's not much I can do about the weight of our kiddo. Hopefully, as our daughter grows, so will my work capacity! But I am quite surprised at the weight of baby items out there, particularly car seats and strollers. Now, obviously car seats need to be structurally sound to keep a baby safe. Frankly, I'd use one made out of steel if it was the safest! But, one of the items that's quite popular today is the "travel system" type car seat and stroller. The idea is that you can leave the base of the car seat in your car, unhook the "seat part" of the car seat that the baby is sitting in, and place it in your stroller. It's a great idea, however, I believe one pays for the convenience with their bodies!

The car seat parts we've looked at, that come out of the base, weight between about 7.5 pounds up to 12 pounds. That doesn't seem too heavy, but then imagine automatically doubling the weight of them by placing a baby in the seat- and that's when the baby is small! If it were a weight, like a box or something, that people just picked up off the floor and put in a car trunk that might not be too bad. But have you seen the designs of baby carriers? They aren't simply "not ergonomic," they're a major health hazard to anyone who has to carry a child in one, whether the person has a physical challenge or not! There should be a warning labels- "Like your back? Enjoy using your hands? Then Flee from this product!" The handles are awkward and put strain on your wrists and there's no way the weight be centered against your body without carrying it sideways, potentially tossing the child out, which although designed restrain a child, I'm not about to test this. Thus every parent you see who carries one of these with a child in it is either hoisting it with both hands and leaning backwards so that their lumbar spines cry out for help, or holding it away from their bodies so that their arms and wrists beg for mercy. And while it may be difficult to put a baby in a car seat, babies and children are at least bendy and can be positioned to put the least amount of stress on a parent's body when being placed in a car seat. These convertible car carrier/seat things, however, are not bendy (which, as mentioned above, they shouldn't be) but the lack of pliability means that the parent needs to bend his or her body like a vehicular contortionist to place the seat in the base appropriately, particularly if it is placed in the center of the back seats, the safest place for it to be located. I challenge you, if you'd like to see bad body mechanics in action (and a bit of comedy!) pause the next time you are at a shopping mall and watch a mother or father attempt the famed "Single Armed, 45 degree, Baby Carrier Lift, with a Twist." It's a maneuver guaranteed to get at least a 8.5 from the Russian Judge. To get a perfect 10 watch for the same manuaver while adding in the daring "Trying to Corral the 3 year old Sibling and Prevent Him or Her From Running Out Into Traffic and Certain Death" element.

So all of my OT friends out there, I challenge you to find, design or adapt the baby products on the market. And if that doesn't work, I guess I'll just have to find them myself and open my own store.