Monday, August 23, 2010

Matchmaker, Matchmaker make me a match....

So earlier this week Aaron and I went down to Portland, OR to meet with 2 agencies and 1 attorney.

Needless to say, the interviews were exhausting (each was about 1 1/2 hours). Yes, there are the traditional questions, but then there are the intangibles. And how do you go about choosing a surro-yenta anyway? As yet, there hasn't been a musical about that! After meeting with the two agencies it wasn't really too difficult of a decision. We both felt that one of the agencies was, overall, good at both the "business" side of things (organized, appropriate spell-checked materials, referrals to attorneys and OBs in Portland, etc.) and the "interpersonal" side of things, and the other was not as high on the business side of things although also very good on the interpersonal side. Aside from this, the was one major differnce. Both agencies have very lengthy application processes and perform criminal background checks on surrogates. Eventually all surrogates need to have a medical evaluation, psychological evaluation and legal consultation. The agency we went with does the med, psych and legal consults all before you are presented with any surrogates. It's the only agency in Portland that does this. All the others present you with the surrogates, then after you select one, she has her med, psych and legal consult. Thus, if we had gone with the other agency we could have selected a surrogate and then she could have failed the med eval or another eval and we would have been back to square 1 with a surrogate. The agency we went with has a slightly higher cost because they do the screening ahead of time, but considering we would have to pay for it out of pocket for the other surrogate it's basically negligible.

The attorney was a really nice woman with a lot of experience in the field. She gave us a whole list of things to think about (Like, "were both of you to die before the baby was born, who would you name as guardian of your child?" You know, really easy ones like that!), but overall, she was very reassuring and reiterated that OR law favors heavily the IPs and that with a legal contract in place we have next to nothing to worry about.

With all those meetings out of the way, on Wednesday before heading back to Seattle we biked along the riverfront, and then explored Powell's Books. Ahhhhhhhh. A book lover's dream bookstore. Independent. Used. New. Multi-story. An Old Warehouse. Multi-Building. As hard as I tried to lose Aaron and camp overnight there he found me, and we came back to Seattle for the adventure of filling out the application. But I'll save that fun for another post. ;)

PS: With a 3 hour car ride in each direction, after sitting in traffic and getting a bit stir crazy, we continued to cast the movie we want to make with my friend Micheal who is also having a surrogacy experience. Thus, Aaron and I decided that Matthew Brodrick (with his hair dyed) should play Aaron. So, with my friend Michael, Neil Patrick Harris as another person in his story, Amy Adams as me and Matthew Broderick as Aaron we have an incredible musical shaping up! And I, of course, intend to choreograph it. :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010


You know when you ride a rollercoaster, and right before a big hill the rollercoaster attaches to a chain and as you get pulled up you hear, "Click....Click....Click....Click"? That's the sound I keep hearing in the back of my head right now. I know the rollercoaster metaphor is probably overused, but in this journey towards surrogacy it really applies. Aaron and I started wanting to have a child. We waited in line until it was "our turn," got in, and pulled down the safety bar. And then the coaster was like nothing we expected. We hit hairpin turns, corkscrews, and even some loop-de-loops. We bottomed out at those places where it feels like a volvo is sitting on your chest, and hit the top of hills where it feels like gravity doesn't apply and you float for several seconds. And now we're approaching another big

On Monday evening we're heading to Portland to meet with 2 agencies and a lawyer. We're really getting this process going, IN TWO DAYS!
I spoke with 4 agencies on the phone and we've narrowed it down to two. One of the agencies was very expensive, and they weren't comfortable with having the implantation take place in Seattle, they wanted everything done in Oregon. To do the IVF procedure I'm going to have to get a bunch of shots over a period of a bit more than a week and have ultrasounds nearly every day. I really don't want to take the time off from work to spend over a week in Portland doing that, Particularly because we've found a fertility clinic in Seattle we really like and I want to work with them. Another agency has been pretty slow to return phone calls and e-mails. I'm talking like 3-4 days, or never getting a response to an e-mail I sent. They seemed great on the phone, but if that's the return time for phone calls and e-mails now when we're not signed with them, then why should we think it would be any different if we signed with them? So that's two that have been crossed off the list, leaving 2 for us to meet with on Tuesday....Click....Click....Click....Click

I suppose I should mention that on Friday I had my first major meltdown of the surrogacy process. One of those throwing-pillows-screaming-into-pillows-refusing-kleenex-as-snot-runs-down-your-chin-damn-this-sucks-balled-up-on-the-couch meltdowns. I don't really know why. Well, I guess I do. This process is hard. It's weird. And at times it feels really lonely. Let's face it, 99.99% of the population doesn't have to have kids this way. And I'm jealous. Well, maybe not jealous, but I feel bad. I want to have kids the easy way, just like everyone else. And it hurts that we have to do it this way. We've accepted it, I'm ok with it, but it still really hurts at times. I get so mad that I've got this weird disease and how much it's changed my life. And usually I'm ok with it. I've gotten to a place of acceptance and okness with it. But then something like this comes up. And I feel broken all over again. I feel pissed off that I'm so different. I feel angry that I can't be fixed. And I feel horrible for how difficult this can make the simplest things for Aaron and for our marriage. Aaron is, of course, wonderful. He accepts me and loves me in whatever condition I am, and he wouldn't have it any other way. But it still sucks. And that little part of me that's angry that we have to go through all of this erupts every now and then. And it's a lot of stress. Talking to agencies, trying to figure out who is best to help you have a baby. For most couples it just happens. You don't have to think about the minutia. But on this road you examine every detail and look at every little thing, and feel responsible for every little thing. Oh I wish it were as easy as they made it sound in health class in high school.

My friend Michael may actually have a movie about his journey! He's been joking about it every since this started, and it turns out his surrogate has a friend who is a documentary film maker who wants to follow their journey! So I gues Neil Patrick Harris isn't going to play him since he'll be playing himself. I just think that's really cool. There's got to be something better than "Baby Mama" for people to know about surrogacy. Maybe we will still make a major motion picture after this and I will get Amy Adams to play me. I'll throw this out to the world now, if anyone wants to make a movie about our journey, I'm all for it, just give me a call!

So that's all the news for right now. We're just about at the crest of the hill for this part of our journey. Oh boy. Hang on. Sit tight. Keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times.!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Interviews...and prayers

So far I've interviewed 3 agencies and there are 4 on our list. Then we plan to narrow it down to 2 or 3 and go to Portland and talk to them in person. But how the heck do you pick one? They all sort of offer the same services. They all are around the same price, with one that is quite a bit more expensive...but that seems to be the most "polished" agency. It's run by a lawyer and I know she knows her stuff, contract-wise. And she has surrogate profiles available. The other agencies are smaller...but they are running by former surrogates and IPs. Maybe that's the way to go, with people who know what it's like for both parties? All of them have references we could talk to. Some are more established, in terms of length of time, that they have been around. But so far the person who I feel like I've connected the most with is the smallest, newest agency. That could be a risk, but she says she likes to keep her agency small so that she can give personal attention to her clients, and she, the director, is a 4 time surrogate herself. She started the agency because she had worked with 2 agencies as a surrogate and felt that she herself could do better. If we're having this much trouble choosing an agency, how are we ever going to choose a surrogate?

All I keep remembering is Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." And I know that future involves our child. And I keep meditating on Psalm 127, "Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."

Maybe I'm feel particularly drawn to these verses because it is Sunday. And, OK, so Aaron and I aren't exactly in our "youth," and our quiver is actually a house in Bellevue that may reach capacity after one, and considering the time in which this was written property was passed via male aires so the emphasis on sons, I think I can safely think of sons or daughters as belonging in this passage with equal emphasis. I guess what these verses mean to me is, A) Don't freak out because God already has a plan and an agency and a surrogate picked out for us and knows how all this is going to happen, and B)God likes children and knows the desire of our hearts and "has our backs," on this one. Of course, if one of my pastors reads this one he may totally disagree with my interpretation of this scripture. ;>

But I'm still kind of freaking out. Ah yes, my "humanness." Interestingly, there is a collegue Aaron works with at work who has been asking a lot of questions about surrogacy. Maybe she'll be interested in being our surrogate? Or maybe someone else will volunteer and we won't have to find an agency. Boy would it be amazing not to have to travel back and forth to Portland for the next year to be involved in the pregnancy.I just don't know. But God knows. Whew.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Surro-Wear! and Openess

Who knew there was a whole market for Surro-Friendly clothing? Check out this search:

I personally love the "I'm not the mom, just the stork!" gifts. Gonna have to get something with that for our surrogate.

Also, I just wanted to send a thank you to all of you who have been so supportive of this journey so far. I was really nervous about going live. Would Aaron and I be judged? Would people respect the choices we've made thus far? Would people think this was just too weird to grasp? We've received so many positive responses and prayer support. I can't believe it. Originally I had sent the link to a few select people, but based on the support I've been getting I'm going to take another step out in faith and post my blog in my Facebook status to open it up to all my Facebook friends.

You may be wondering why. Here's the thing, this blog is doing exactly what I wanted it to. It's getting support for Aaron and I on our journey. It's creating a record of our journey for our child. And, amazingly, one of the other things I've prayed for is happening, people are starting to talk about things not often talked about. I've heard from a friend who never mentioned that she and her husband considered a surrogacy journey. I've heard from 3 friends about their incredibly painful and challenging journies with infertility. Seems like everything these days is open for discussion, but infertility and difficulty starting families are still things rarely talked about. First off, it's painful for the people and families experiencing it. Another thought I had is that it can start to become a "values" or "family values" discussion and might become heated very quickly. But I've found a lot of support, and I want to continue to talk about our journey in the hopes that friends and family members who might also be facing challenges starting families of their own, and feeling that unique, raw pain that sears your heart when you see someone holding a new baby or talking about a child as being an "accident," would feel more open to talking about their experiences, or at least supporting Aaron and I and allowing us the blessing of supporting them.
And for people who have never faced difficulty starting a family I'd like to help them get a glimpse of what our experience has been. To have them pause before asking a couple who has been married for 2 years, "So, are you thinking about starting a family?" In our case the answer was some non-committal, "eventuallly," but my heart was breaking as I wanted to answer, "Yes! Yes Yes Yes! It seems like we're thinking of that all the time! And trying to figure out how! And banging out heads against the wall! And hurting...oh how we are hurting so much!" Or having friends understand why you may love them so much, but just can't attend another baby shower, and to please try to understand, instead of guilt you into coming, or feel that you don't care about their amazing, life changing experience, but are simply hurting too much at this point to share in the celebration.
With all that, since we are talking about the "Baby-Making Process" (beyond sex ed!)I wanted to let you know I'm going to be changing this blog to "adult content." The content will be staying the same as it is now, so please don't think I'm suddenly going to be adding petri-dish porn movies (Ooooooh, how exciting watching fertilization in a petri-dish!), but I am "friends" with some high schoolers I know from church and I want to be responsible with that, particularly since I am talking about things that some parents may not want their high school children to hear at this stage in their lives (although please, once you head off to college, come back and visit! ;>).

I don't know how the "followers" link works, if you get an e-mail when the blog is updated or what it means to be a "follower", but if you'd like an e-mail when I update, please drop me a message via Facebook at at my e-mail account. Otherwise, check back occassionally and hopefully there will be more random musings on not-so-random topics from my random brain. :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I Shall Testify!

So last year there was a bill in the Washington State Legislature that would have allowed for compensated surrogagies in cases of medical necessity in the state of WA. I think I forgot to mention, in most states that allow for surrogacy there has to be a reason that makes it medically necessary. It passed in the house, but got buried in the senate and never came up for a vote. We heard from a lawyer we met with in Seattle that the state Rep. is going to bring it up again for a vote this year. We don't want to wait that long for us, it could ultimately take a couple years, but I wrote the congressman an e-mail supporting his efforts. You know me, can't just do things quietly, but also have to work to make it better for others. Well, based on my e-mail he invited me to testify before the WA state senate and house! How cool is that? Here's my e-mail and his response below:

Dear Representative Pedersen,
My husband Aaron and I live in the 41st Legislative district, and the 8th Congressional district. I know you are in the 43rd district, however we are contacting you after speaking with Raegen Rasnic about surrogacy and the surrogacy laws in Washington state. I read with interest HB 2793, a bill you and 9 collegues sponsored. Looking at the history of the bill it seems like it got stuck in the Senate in committee.
I have a medical condition that makes it unsafe for me to carry a pregnancy, both for me, and for the developing fetus. My husband and I have been researching gestational surrogacy since January of this year, and after much prayer, discussion and thought have decided that gestational surrogacy is the way for us to become parents. Unfortunately, we do not have any family members or close friends who can carry a pregnancy for us. It is very much of a challenge and a hardship on us that Washington State does not allow compenstated gestational surrogacy. Right now we are searching for IVF clinics, surrogacy agencies and lawyers in the Portland area to assist us on our journey, however to do so from the Seattle area is very difficult. We will be making many trips to Oregon over the next several months to interview doctors, agencies and lawyers. Then we will make trips to meet with surrogates. Then when we find a surrogate I will need to spend more than a week in Portland to prepare my body for ovum retrieval. Then we will travel back and forth for doctors appointments with our surrogate. I'm not complaining; indeed I think any journey towards parentage rather through traditional means, adoption or surrogacy has it's share of twists, turns and adventures (personally, I think it's all to prepare people for the trials and tribulations of eventually living with teenagers ;>!). Nonetheless, Washington State could make our journey so much easier by removing the barrier to compensated gestational surrogates.
I think what has been hardest in this journey is first discovering my illness, then realizing that I would never get the joy of being pregnant myself. It was absolutely devestating for someone who always wanted to have a house full of children. And with the distance between here and Oregon, the opportunities for my husband and I to experience the beautiful process of a pregnancy with our child through another woman is going to be limited. We won't be able to be at every doctor's appointment. We won't get to see every ultrasound first hand. We won't get to see a pregnant belly slowly growing week by week. How many parents cry during the first ultrasound showing a beating heart, or anxiously wait for their weekly check-ups towards the end of pregnancy where doctors let them know everything is ok? How many could sit for hours with a hand placed on a pregnant belly, feeling the fluttering of the tiny growing child? If I could, I would visit the woman carrying our child as often as possible. I would take many pictures and write journal entries so that when my child is old enough to ask what it was like when they were growing in "another woman's tummy" I would have great stories for them and pictures to share. However, with the distance we will have to travel to visit our surrogate I don't know how much of that is going to be possible; certainly not enough to fill our desire to know our child and support our surrogate. Of course, besides the emotional impact and desire to bond, support and nuture both the growing child and the wonderful woman who will carry our child, there are also all of the concerns of the possibilities of emergencies during the pregnancy when we are hours away.
We heard from Raegen that you plan to reintroduce this bill during the coming legislative session. I know with the midterm elections there will be some changes in the make up of congress and more than likely changes in those in congress who have previously shown support for your legislation. I don't know if there's anything we can do to assist with the passage of this bill, but if you need people willing to go to capitol hill and talk to legislators or talk to committee members we would be more than happy to talk about our situation. Honestly it boils down to two people who desperately want to bring a child into the world to love, and want to use the medical advances available to them in a way that's legal in other states and currently isn't legal in this state. I don't know if our story would make a difference, but if it would, we would be happy to share.


Dear Ms. Sparks-Keeney –

Thank you so much for your message and for sharing your story with me. I hope that you will share it with your 41st district legislators as well before the start of the next legislative session. If you are available, I would love to have you come and testify on the bill next session. I’ll try to remember to check in with you in December, but if you haven’t heard from me, please don’t be bashful about contacting me. We’ll have a decent amount of notice about timing in the House, since I chair the relevant committee and get to schedule the bill (unless we lose the majority). The Senate will be dicier and the timing harder – but that is actually where we will need the help more. Anyway, thanks again for the offer of support. We will need it!

Best, Jamie

Representative Jamie Pedersen
43rd Legislative District

The State of affairs

One of the things Aaron and I quickly learned is that the State in which you live, in our case, Washington (Although we've been known to also exist in the state of bliss, confusion, chaos and other exciting places)matters a lot. As of right now there are no Federal laws regarding surrogacy. Thus some states are more "surro-friendly" than others. Some states have no laws at all, which can be a real challenge. In our case Washington has laws, but not exactly favorable ones for us.
In Washington one can use an "uncompensated" gestational surrogate. What that means is that usually a friend or relative agrees to carry the child for the couple, however, no money can be exchanged for actually carrying the child. You can pay for every other expense possible: medical care, housekeeping, lost wages, maternity clothes, groceries, childcare if needed for other children after birth, gas money, travel expenses, life insurance, legal fees, psychological counseling, even gym membership, etc. etc. etc. (to quote The King and I) Any expense as long as it's justifiable in a pregnancy. There just can't be a fee for simply agreeing to carry a child. Unfortunately, Aaron has no sisters, and my sister doesn't qualify because a person must have carried a child before she can be a surrogate, and we don't have anyone else to carry the child. Thus we have to look to a compensated surrogacy arrangement. Basically in that arrangement all of the above expenses are covered, plus a fee to carry the child, which is pretty expensive. There's also an agency fee involved for having an agency find your surrogate and then help both you and the surrogate through the process (all of the screenings, handling the money in escrow, etc. etc. etc.). In the end however, I think all the fees will be worth it. I shall look my darling newborn in the face, wipe a tear from the corner of my eye, and say in a gentle, soft voice, "Pumpkin, I love you so much, however I hope you didn't have your heart set on Harvard, or any other out of state school for that matter. The University of Washington or Washington State are both great institutions and all of your potential out of state tuition money was spent on getting you to this point...of course, there's always athletic scholarships, however with our gene pool...well, the U is a great option." ;> Seriously though, Aaron and I know that it will be worth it, and we will make it work.
So, since we're looking at a compensated surrogacy arrangement, we unfortunately have to look to a neighboring state. Oregon is what is known as a "surro-friendly" state. That means that it's laws about compensated surrogacy are well established and there are reputable agencies and attorneys we can work with. I'm really happy that there is an option, but 3+ hours away seems so far. I'd always dreamed of being pregnant. Sure, I wasn't looking forward to the morning sickness, or not being able to see my shoes, or things like that, but I wanted the experience. I wanted to share that experience with my child, to be able to tell them stories about what it was like when I was pregnant with them. Unfortunately, while in many surrogacy arrangements IPs do attend all of the doctor's/midwife's visits and whatnot, with our surrogate being at a minimum 3 hours away that's going to prevent us from being as involved in the pregnancy as we both want. I wanted to watch our surrogate's belly grow. I wanted to bring over healthy snack and some not so healthy but oh so good Ben and Jerry's. I wanted to see all the ultrasounds live and hear what the doctor has to say, but I guess that's not the be. Sometimes this story just feels like one loss after another. But again I hang my hat on resilience.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Babies, not furry creatures

I was just realizing as I was typing the address of the blog for some friends that when the URL is read quickly it could look like No Wombat and wanted to assure everyone that I am in fact referring to a Womb and NOT a Wombat. Just for any of you that were confused. Or wondering.

The "S" word

So when Aaron and I decided that we were ready to have kids, we consulted several doctors, particularly my cardiologist, the high risk OB center at the UW, and the lab at the UW that specializes in studying and maintaining a database on the teratogenic (Teratogen: a drug or other substance capable of interfering with the development of a fetus, causing birth defects...thanks!) effects of about every drug and substance out there. And from this research we realized that it really wouldn't be possible for me to carry our child. Thus, I was devastated. For over a year I couldn't be around friends who were pregnant or go to baby showers, it was just too hard. I know I lost some friends during that time, and I miss them dearly, but I just couldn't handle it, it was too sad.
When I finally emerged from that depression, we set about looking into adoption. Interestingly, this was something we had talked about before we even got married, and we had thought about adopting, even if we had our own biological kids. So once we were to a point emotionally to head down this road, we started looking into foreign adoption. And, there, we got smacked in the face again. You see, the vast majority of countries out there have the adoptive parents fill out a very detailed form, in addition to the forms adoption agencies have you fill out. And all of these forms ask for your medical history. Oops. Some are more detailed than others, asking for a list of all the medications you're taking, but they all ask for some medical information. Note to all of you out there ever thinking about adoption: having an undiagnosable neurological illness pretty much disqualifies you from most of the countries out there. I can understand their thinking, do they really want to put a child in a situation where the mother may become severely incapacitated, or even die? Will the child end up taking care of the mother? Etc. etc. etc. Thus we hit brick wall after brick wall after consulting with about 6 agencies. Now I know some of you will probably be thinking, "but did you look into this agency?" or, "Did you look at this country?" and the answer is, no we probably missed a few. But after spending the better part of a year looking and being rejected...well, you can only handle so much rejection. And let's face it, hearing all of these things really made me question whether or not I had the capability to be a parent. Maybe they were right. Maybe it would be "irresponsible" (one agency's words, not mine) to have a child. I tell ya, self doubt stinks, particularly when you are already struggling with an undiagnosed illness and wondering what exactly is going to happen to you. But Aaron and I made the choice that we can't know what will happen 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years from not. That's for God to know, not us (although I prayed long and hard for God to send me a burning bush!) Anyone could get hit by a truck and paralyzed. Anyone could develop multiple sclerosis. All we can do is go on the information we have today. And the information we have today says that I can care for a child, that we will be good parents. So then what do we do?
We spent some time looking into domestic adoption, but after praying about that and considering that we began other research and decided to take the road less travelled and certainly less talked about unless you're reading some dramatic article in the newspaper or 20/20...Gestational Surrogacy!
OK, I know alarm bells are going off for some of you, "What about this case?" or "What about that case?" Things have come a long way in the world of surrogacy. There are contracts that protect the IPs (intended parents) and the GS (gestational surrogates) and spell out just about everything. There's also the fact that through the magic of IVF the child will be biologically Aaron's and mine. That's the difference between a Gestational Surrogate (who nurtures a baby not biologically related to her in her womb)and a Traditional Surrogate (where the child is created with the surrogate's egg, and sperm either from the intended father or a sperm donor).
Thus began the journey of learning all about surrogacy and looking for a surrogate.

Time to go live....

Hi all,
So I've been debating with myself, do I want this to be a shared journey with friends able to read the drama, or is this just for Aaron, our child and I. There are pros and cons to both. But I've decided that beginning by sharing information is the first step to being open with our child about where s/he came from and how s/he was created, so here we go.
I've actually been writing a lot, but haven't been posting it here. So I think I'll post a bunch of my electronic journals about this today, so it will look like I did a lot of writing in one day, but know that this was actually over the last two weeks ;>.
Also, the friend who I previously mentioned has decided that this process is so complicated and adventurous that we should make a movie about our respective journeys (we're totally joking about this, but it's fun to look at it in that light). So, who do you all think should play me? Aaron suggested Sandra Bullock, and I think she rocks, but I also think at this point she might be a bit old. I like Kristin Bell, especially from her Veronica Mars days. Any other ideas? How about for Aaron? My other friend has decided Neil Patrick Harris should play him. On a random, but not so random tangent, a friend told me about the site You submit a writing sample, and then they compare it to a bunch of authors and tell you who you write like. I submitted my first blog entry and it said that I write like (drum roll)...Agatha Christie. So apparently this story will have drama and intrigue, preferably minus the murders. But my friend is right it does look like it would make for a good movie!