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.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Who's on first? What's on second?

There's an old Abbott and Costello routine in which Abbott is talking about players on his baseball team, and Costello is having a hard time understanding him:

Costello: Look Abbott, if you’re the coach, you must know all the players.
Abbott: Right, certainly do.
Costello: Well, I never met the guys, so you’ll have to tell me their names, and
then I’ll know who’s playing on the team.
Abbott: Oh, I’ll tell you their names, but you know strange as it may seem, they
give these ball players now a days, very peculiar names.
Abbott: Well let’s see, we have on the bags, we have Who’s on first, What’s on
second, and I Don’t Know is on third.
Costello: That’s what I want to find out.

This goes on for quite some time, because the joke is that the name of the guy on first is "Who," the name of the guy on second is "What," and the name of the guy on third is "I don't know."

Much funnier to see/hear than read:
Here's a link on YouTube

I'm often reminded of this when we go to doctor's appointments with our surrogate. (As a tangent, those rooms are designed for 2-3 people, pregnant person, partner, and midwife or doctor. Imagine cramming our motley crew of 5 in one of them!) Our midwifery service has 9 midwives, so thus far we often have a new midwife. Imagine being the midwife walking into a situation with 2 women, 1 of whom is pregnant, and 2 men in the room. You can see the gears turning in their heads before they read the chart notes. They're trying to be polite, not ask outright, but I can see it cross their faces: Who's the mother? Which is the father? I don't know...oh, she's in the womb!

This got very tricky with something they call the "quad screen," which asks for all sorts of genetic information about the mother and father. But of course, in our case, this isn't the woman who is pregnant's genetic information, but our information. It's a good thing I was sitting next to the surrogate to help her out as she was filling out the paperwork as it is asking things like, "Is there a history of neural tube defects on the mother's side of the family? On the father's side?" and "Are their any genetic conditions on the mother's side of the family? On the father's side?" Naturally the paperwork assumes that the person who is pregnant is the mother. At one point I was glad I asked a question, "How is the risk factor for Down Syndrome and neural tube defects calculated from the information you collect?" Our midwife explained that it was based on the level of various proteins in the mother's blood (ummmm, hold on, no one took my blood, they took "Lisa's" blood), the results of the ultrasound, and the mother's age. Ok, time to do some sorting out. Is it the protein's the the person who's pregnant's blood, or the genetic mother? Turns out it's the person who is pregnant. OK then, is it the age of the person who is pregnant, or the age of the egg. Turns out it's the age of the egg. But there's no way in their computer system to explain that the age of the egg is different than the age of the person who is pregnant since it is assumed that the egg is the same age as the person who is pregnant. So calls were made to the lab and numbers recalculated. It didn't change much, but it reminds me that we can't take for granted that people who work with us in the hospital know our situation, and have taken that into account for every test. We have to think through every step to see if there's something that needs to be clarified.

Pretty soon we need to meet with our attorney to file a "judgement pro tem" explaining to the hospital and everyone who would possibly care that when the baby is born is is our child, not "Lisa's". Of course, from day 1, we've known this, and Lisa and "Linus" have known this, but the powers that be at the hospital don't legally know this, although by now our midwifery team does. We've got to have that piece of paper for when the child is born because otherwise the hospital assumes that the woman who gives birth to the child is the child's "mother," will make all decisions for the child, and will have the child go home with her. In our case, that's not true, but that's what the hospital will legally assume. And we all know what happens when you "ASSUME" something! ;)

This also changes rooming arrangements. Lisa can leave the hospital perhaps as early as 6 hours after the delivery, but particularly because we're going to be traveling to Seattle after the baby is born, the baby will stay a day or two. Which means that we'll have a postpartum room for the baby, even though I'm not postpartum. They usually keep the woman who has given birth and the baby in the labor and delivery room for about 2 hours and then go to the postpartum floor. In our case we may get 2 postpartum rooms, or they may keep Lisa in L&D a little bit longer and she can be discharged from there.

And, of course, the wonderful bureaucracy known as insurance is sure to be utterly stumped since they can't even seem to bill a standard primary care physician's visit correctly. Up until now, Lisa's insurance has covered the pregnancy, and will cover the delivery expenses and her care after delivery. But when the baby is born everything that she needs will be transferred to our insurance. Usually not a problem because the insurance company has seen all of the pregnancy bills and the delivery bills and it sorts itself out a week or so later when the baby gets her own insurance card. But what happens when we aren't even in the hospital's database system with our insurance information???

No matter how much prior preparation and planning we do, I'm pretty sure there's a bunch of things I haven't even thought of yet. And I'm the mother...but I'm not the pregnant person...but the egg is the same age as me...but the blood proteins are found in Lisa's blood....and now I'm totally confused. Oh yes:

Who's the mother. Which is the father. I don't know, she's in the womb.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The verdict is in.....

And it seems that I will have a lot more time to mull over gender roles and the shaping of gender identity and expectations by cultural influences because we are going to have....a girl!

The ultrasound was just beautiful. It's so intricate. The details of the anatomy: the perfect spinal column, all 4 chambers of the heart working with the valves, the individual metacarpals, metatarsals and phalanges. The mouth opening and closing as if to say, "Hi! Here I am!". The little hand waving back and forth and opening and closing. Truly amazing.

I, personally, am thrilled. My daughter comes from an amazing heritage of brave, strong, intelligent women, particularly on my maternal side. Her great-great grandmother, the second daughter of four daughters born to the mayor of her village in Japan, sailed across the pacific ocean at the turn of the 20th century to become a picture bride to a man she'd never met. Her great grandmother, also the second of four sisters, left an American internment camp with her husband, during world war II, to farm for the government that imprisoned them. While her husband oversaw German POWs working in his fields, this woman cooked extra food at lunch so that all would have enough to eat. Her grandmother broke the color line for her sorority nationally, and went on to break the color line in a school district in the Midwest as an English teacher. And then there's me, her mother, who has had all sorts of adventures. Aaron said he knew it was a girl from the minute he found out that the baby was kicking the surrogate when she was in a position the baby didn't like. It's not a Yokoyama-woman trait to sit on the sidelines. ;)

Now I really feel as if the pressure is on to get ready. The baby's room, until now, has been the room in our house that we toss stuff into when we're not sure what to do with it. And, to be completely transparent, it's mostly my stuff! So the rest of the day will be spent cleaning that room out.

Aaron and I have been holding off on name discussions until now. We quickly realized we had some strong opinions on names, and decided that there wasn't any point in arguing the finer points of one name over another when half of the names we would argue over wouldn't even matter. So now it's time to get into heated name discussions.

After Friday's ultrasound the reality very much set in. We're going to have a baby! It's going to be a girl! And we've got to get our rears in gear and prepare!!!!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pink or Blue...But What Ever Happened to Red?

So tomorrow's the "big" day, the day we have the ultrasound that will tell us if our child is a boy or a girl. Of course, along the way we've learned that what is supposed to happen on a particular day isn't always what happens. So, if the ultrasound doesn't show the gender, I guess we'll just wait for another little bit.

All along this journey people have been asking us when we'll find out if it's a boy or a girl, or if we want a boy or a girl, or if we have boy names and girl names picked out. When we went to Babies R Us I was honestly shocked at how "genderized" everything is. Out of all the crib bedding and whatnot there was only 1 that I would consider gender neutral. All of the others seemed to scream BOY or GIRL. Boy or girl, boy or girl, that's the big question. That's how one chooses how to decorate a nursery. That's how one chooses which clothing to pick. That even determines how people react to the baby. Let's say you dress a baby in as "gender neutral" clothing as you can, maybe jeans and a red t-shirt. If you tell people the baby is a girl, automatically you hear comments of, "Oh isn't she precious looking?" and "How beautiful!" Take the same child and tell people it's a boy and the comments become "Look at how strong he is!" and "Isn't he a flirt!" From the very beginning the child gets treated a certain way based on their gender.

There was an interesting article lately about a couple in Canada who has a child named "Storm." They have decided that, for the time being, they aren't going to tell anyone the child's gender. Storm will just be Storm. And people can react how they see fit. And this is causing an uproar. People like to know gender. It very quickly gears a person's thinking towards gifts for a child, or clothes for a child, or even for the phrases one uses with a child. A child without a known gender is uncomfortable. I'm not saying that I agree with rasing a child without sharing his or her gender, but it certainly is an interesting experiment.

I remember when a relative had a child born with undifferentiated genitalia. Even the doctors at the hospital had a hard time wrapping their heads around that one. Pink cap or blue cap? Baby Boy ____ or Baby Girl ____ for the name plate? Until the DNA results came back there was quite a bit of befuddlement, even from the medical professionals.

I wonder about how our children pick up ideas on gender roles and how different genders are supposed to behave. Several of our favorite family stories revolve around use of the iron in our household as we were growing up. You see, dad did all the ironing. I'm pretty sure my mom knows how to iron, but it was always dad who did it. It was mostly his work shirts that needed ironing and he liked it a certain way, so he ironed. As a teenager, if I needed something ironed I went to my father, not to my mother. So anyhow, the first story begins with me watching my father very closely, when I was around 4 years old. I mean, I was staring at him intently as he ironed one day. And dad, with his infinite patience, just waited until I was ready to ask my question. I took a deep breath and asked with all the seriousness a 4 year old can muster, "Daddy, can girls iron?" And my father, in his infinite wisdom replied, "Why yes, girls can iron. They can do they laundry and do the dishes. They can be doctors or nurses, lawyers or astronauts. Girls can do anything they want to." Several years down the road, I was about 6 and my sister was 3. We were playing in the family room, and, for some reason, mom was doing some ironing. The way she tells it, we were playing, and then all of a sudden we were very quiet. She looked up, and we were both looking at her wide-eyed. At that point I asked, "Mommy, does Daddy know you're using HIS iron?" It wasn't just ironing, when it came to childrearing and housekeeping both of my parents pitched in. Some of my favorite meals didn't taste right unless my father cooked them.

Then I contrast this with a statement another little relative made when she was about 3 years old. "I ONLY want to wear dresses. Pants are ugly! Dresses are pretty!" The thing is, both of her parents tried to raise her as "gender neutral" as possible. They dressed her in all sorts of clothing and colors. They both pitched in around the house. Her mom, while beautiful, hardly ever wore dresses or skirts. Mostly she wore jeans. So where did this little one get the idea that dresses were what was pretty and should be worn? They didn't even have cable in their house, so it wasn't like she watched a lot of tv. But somewhere she got that message and took it into her little heart. That was in about 2006. And, as much as I hate to say it, things have changed since I was a little girl, and I'm not sure that they are for the better.

Lately it seems like the "princess" concept has taken off everywhere. It used to be one just saw little girls dressed as princesses at Disney theme parks, and now they are all over the place. OK, here's my disclaimer. If you know me, you know I LOVE Disney! I worked there in entertainment for goodness sakes', embodying all of the things I'm about to have an issue with. So yes, there is a bit of me that is a hypocrite, but honestly I think there's just more of me that's plain old confused. Until 2000 Disney had never marketed the "Princesses" outside of their story lines. Whenever a Princess was seen on a shirt it was in the context of her story, eg: Snow White was always with the 7 dwarves, Sleeping Beauty was always with the 3 fairies, etc. Then, in 2000, after realizing how many little girls came to the parks dressed in homemade Princess costumes, Disney began the "Princess" brand and line. The big 5 princesses (Belle, Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora and Ariel) suddenly began appearing on t-shirts and sweatshirts all over the place. Specific princess costumes for girls were developed and sold in the parks and in Disney Stores. And little girls and their families ate it up. (I'm in the process of reading a very thought provoking book: Cinderella Ate My Daughter. definitely worth the read). Suddenly little girls were princessed up all over the place. And the concept has exploded. Yes, there's Captain Hook and Peter Pan, Buzz Lightyear and Woody, but not nearly to the extent of the princesses.

So here's my thing, and here's where I struggle. The princesses aren't exactly the best role models that I want for my daughter. Most of them (Cinderella, Belle, Ariel) have absentee mothers. Those that do have mothers have Wicked Stepmothers. A good number of them disobey their parent (Mulan, Ariel). And, as I see it, most damaging, most of them get into trouble or find themselves in trouble and instead of solving the situation themselves they require rescuing from a man. Cinderella needs the prince to rescue her, which he only does after she was all gussied up for a ball. Belle, who is a reader which I appreciate, needs Beast to fall in love with her to give her her freedom. Ariel, maybe the worst offender, gives up her VOICE of all things, to get a man to like her. Snow white needs a prince's kiss to save her. And on and on. It's also notable that the big 5 princesses are all white. So much for Pocahontas, Jasmine, Mulan and Tiana. Rarely are they included on any princess merchandise with the others. It's hard to find merchandise featuring them alone. But I LOVE DISNEY! So how the heck do I reconcile this? I guess it's watching movies with your children, male or female, and then talking about what you see and notice; the good and bad choices the characters make along the way.

I also think the "princess" theme tends to limit creative play instead of encourage it. When we were younger we played house and school and going to the zoo, and horses and some game one of my best friends and I invented with a flying machine in her back yard (which was actually a really cool tree) all sorts of other pretend scenarios. The thing about playing "princess" is that rather than using their imaginations, children act out the scripts they know. There is a formula to princess play that isn't as open ended as school or house. Dress up and pretend play iis great for kids, wonderful for their imaginations and necessary for psychosocial development. But when the script is already written, how much of it is pretend play and how much of it is regurgitation?

I'm sure if I thought it through I could come up with similar cultural influences on boys: video games, sports, etc. But I'm most familiar with girls because, well, I am one. And, to me, it seems like maybe we've lost some of the gains we had before. Try and find tops for girls that aren't pink and glittery. Try to find baby gear that doesn't scream BOY or GIRL. Try to find any nursery theme that isn't almost all pink with hearts and butterflies or blue with sports balls or trains. I wish I could find more in the middle ground. But it's very, very difficult.

So tomorrow we find out the gender of our child. And the thing that I hope Aaron and I always remember to keep at the forefront as we parent is that boy or girl, what is most important is that we help our child discover his or her unique God-given qualities, some of which may be gender related, but, I suspect, much of which has nothing to do with his or her gender, and nuture those qualities for what they are. That we think outside of the box the marketing executives and clothing designers attempt to build around the genders, and help our child to find who he or she is, the way he or she was created by God, and to believe in that and trust that.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Our Journey to the Mothership

About a month ago I was talking to someone and telling her that in a lot of ways I feel like this blessed journey towards motherhood feels more like completing a checklist than preparing to welcome a new member of our family and embracing all the change that comes with it-

1) Find Agency- Check!
2) Find Surrogate- Check!
3) Go through fertility treatments- Check!
4) Achieve Pregnancy- Check!
5) Go to appointments- Check!

Of course, perhaps if I sat down to really consider how much this was going to change our lives forever I might be completely paralyzed! All right, not really, but people keep squealing and asking me "Aren't you soooooooo excited?!?!?!?!?" Well, yes, we're excited, but again, sometimes it feels more like a dot to dot puzzle, and when we finally connect all the dots, viola! Baby! In the meantime, we sort of bide our time between the dots, or wipe our brow with a "Whew! Check that one off the list!" I had wondered if that was part of it being a surrogacy or part of my personality or what, however, several friends who have been pregnant tell me that they can identify with that feeling, even though they were carrying their own child. It wasn't until the baby was placed in their arms that it all became real. I do think part of it, for me anyway, has to do with conceiving a child with medical treatments. They give you a calendar, you inject yourself with your specific drug cocktail every day, you visit the doctor every other day, or daily and on and on. It's not the miracle of making love with your spouse over a period of time and then one day peeing on a stick and seeing the plus sign. It is calculated and prescribed. So I was musing this over with someone and that person asked me, "What would make it feel real to you? What would make you feel your heart beat a little faster, and your anticipation grow? What would help you find the joy?" I thought for a moment, and then said, "Well, I guess decorating the baby's room." After all, if there's a place to put the baby, then it stands to reason that it would seem more real, right? And I like decorating and creativity.

Thus, a couple weekends ago Aaron and I journeyed to the mothership, the mecca of babyhood, the icon of infant idolatry...BABIES R US (you have to say that in your mind with a big, booming, echoy voice to get the effect that Aaron and I felt when we walked in the door). "Holy _____ (insert word of your choosing depending on how colorful your vocabulary is and it will suffice)", we thought. The size of half a target, all dedicated to apparently "necessary" items that people under age 3 or 4 need. We stumbled over to the Baby Registry counter, mouthes gaping open and pupils dialated, gave our information, and, although we insisted we were just going to look, were given what Aaron kept referring to as "the phaser" with the admonishment (in a perky, but maternal way), "You may say you're just going to look, but you should start marking whatever you think you might possibly be interested in, because you can always change it and add to it online or when you come into the store." Um. Okay. And then we were handed THE LIST.

THE LIST was a list of more than 200 item "MUST HAVES" for your registry checklist. Now, I was pretty little when my sister was born, but as far as I can remember we had diapers, bottles, an umbrella stroller, a crib, some clothes, a playpen, and pacifiers that we both refused to suck on. And that was about it...and we turned out ok. And then there was my mother. When she was born the Japanese had just been "evacuated" from the West Coast during World War II and "relocated" to internment camps. I think if she was lucky, she had diapers. No crib or stroller or anything like that...and she turned out ok. And I'm looking at THE LIST of 200+ items thinking, "Why the heck to babies need to have 200+ items these days???" I mean, they haven't changed much. Developmental progression is still the same as it has been for thousands of years. But Aaron and I were on a mission, to "find the joy" and "make it real" so we gamely waded in.

Ok, we more than waded in. We jumped in with both feet. We looked at cribs, strollers, carseats, high chairs, bottles and only God remembers what else. I've got enough material from this one journey practically for its own blog, or at least several entries, but to keep this entry manageable I'll limit it to the stroller section. Remember me, umbrella stroller kid? Well things have changed! There are Travel Systems, lightweight strollers, jogging strollers, full-sized strollers, activity strollers, double and triple strollers, stroller accessories, stroller gear, and on and on and on. And remember me, umbrella stroller kid? As we glanced down the aisle our eyes got bigger and bigger. But we are not ones to let a small sojourn to Babies R Us get the best of us, nay nay! So we jumped in with relish to test them out and decide what would work for our munchkin. And 30 minutes later we were just as baffled as when we started. Just when you think you've got one figured out, you move on to the next and it folds differently and its wheels lock differently and, if it's a "travel system" the carseat fits in differently. After spending an hour in the strollers aisle we were beat. We briefly explored other aisles of the store, but finally hit the wall staring down the bottle aisle. 10+ different brands, each with multiple sizes, nipples, shapes cleaning systems and other accoutrement did us in.

Overall our first foray lasted around 2 hours. And yes, we did experience "joy" and the "reality" definitely hit us. I've now enlisted 2 experienced moms to go back with me to help me figure out exactly what we really do need (which I coming to believe is very little of the list of necessary items) and the ins and outs of strollers. Nonetheless, the consumerism of "baby" everything everything was a bit mind blowing. Thus, about a week later, when I was ready to journey out again, I did so on my own terms and at my own pace. I went to a great consignment store near my house, and found a fabulous, like-new changing table for about 25% of retail cost. Now THAT (taking care of my child, taking care of our resources, and taking care of the planet by reusing things), to me, is finding my joy!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chugga Chugga, Choo Choo!

Those who admire modern civilization usually identify it with the steam engine and the electric telegraph.
— George Bernard Shaw

I don't know anything about the electric telegraph, but I know with certainty that one of the delights we've come across on this journey, that we may very well have missed, is the joy of traveling by train. The train between King Street station in Seattle, and the train station in Portland takes about 3 1/2 hours. The journey would be the same by car, but it is in no way as enjoyable.

On a train, you can get up and move around whenever you want. There's no "please remain in your seat until the seatbelt sign goes off," or "place your tray tables in the upright position." There's no tapping the brakes in rush-hour traffic, arguing about which lane is traveling the fastest, or taking time out to stop for bathroom breaks. Amazingly enough, the bathroom travels right along with you, and even when you're using it, you continue making forward progress! You're allotted more than 18 square inches of seat and leg room, and there's even enough space to stretch your legs out and recline a bit. There's plug-ins to keep your electronic distractions charged up, and even Wi-Fi on some routes.

Perhaps the best part about train travel, are the people. We've met a lacrosse team traveling from California back to Canada, a young college grad from Denmark who traveled from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles and finally to Seattle, all by train, and all sorts of other people. People are just friendlier on trains. If you happen to take the route with the dining car, on your journey you'll be seated with two other people, whom you don't know, for dinner or lunch. Although Aaron finds this a bit tiresome, I love it. How often do we break bread with strangers anymore? Although you may only be sharing space with them for less than an hour, there's plenty of time to talk and start seeing the world through their point of view. It's always an adventure, and you never know what you're going to get!

The coast of Washington is beautiful to see by train. Much more beautiful than looking at every McDonald's and Chevron sign up and down the freeway. Just for the adventure, I highly recommend everybody try it one time, at least. You'll see the world from a whole different perspective. Whenever I start to feel like this journey is getting tedious, and I'm weary of traveling the road between Seattle and Portland, and back again, I try to remind myself that it could be so much worse…We could have to drive all the time!

We just rode the train down on Sunday and back on Monday for our 12 week appointment. It was our first time at the midwifery clinic. The midwives are all nurse-midwives, and practice at Oregon Health Science University Hospital. The baby will be delivered in the hospital in the same room that would be used if we were using an OB, however by a midwife. The first visit seemed very relaxed and personal. For the first time we got to hear the baby's heartbeat! What a great sound. "Lisa" was very excited that this ultrasound was the first that could be conducted through her belly instead of with the ubiquitous and highly personal "vag cam". Lisa and I are both happy to be done with that! Our baby is looking great. S/he is measuring five days older than s/he actually is. What a surprise, a child of Aaron and I, is already an overachiever. S/he was quite active, waving arms and legs, however also compliant and positioning his/herself just perfectly to take measurements for some sort of genetic testing and a first look for Down syndrome. So far everything looks great.

And, for those of you who are curious, the "fruit" comparison for this week is that of a peach. Frankly, given all the genetic manipulations and growth hormones, I've seen plenty of "limes" (last week's fruit of choice) that are the same size as peaches, but our glorious app tells us that this is a distinct growth.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Invertebrates" and "crabmeat"

Hello! As I sit down to dictate this (And yes, I do mean dictate into a talk-to-type translator, so please forgive any typos!) I realize how long it's been since I've written. Right after our last doctor's appointment, it was finals week for the classes that I teach. And let me tell you, now that I've been on both the student and professor side, I think finals take twice as much work for the professor. Right after that we went out of town for about a week, and then I had surgery on my left wrist. For good week after that I was blitzed out on painkillers, and God knows what I would've typed if given the opportunity! Now the pain (and painkillers) is at a tolerable level, and I'm able to dictate a blog entry into my fancy-schmancy talk-to-type program. So hooray for my return to the blogosphere! One thing I can say, is that by taking a hiatus, I've gotten a sense of who's actually reading my blog! Several of my mother's friends asked her if everything was going okay since I hadn't updated my blog in a while, and I got a couple e-mails, phone calls, and text messages checking in. It's great to know how many people really care about, and are joining us, on our journey!

My wrist is doing all right, although even with all my occupational therapy knowledge, I'm getting very tired of trying do things with just one hand. The surgery was for an injury that occurred last October while I was at work. I tried conservative treatment for several months, and then it took awhile for L&I to approve the surgery. After going in, the doctor was glad that we'd done surgery, and thought it would really help. The main part of the surgery was done on a tricky set of ligaments called the TFCC. He explained to me that if this series of ligaments were healthy it would look similar to "squid" and that my set of ligaments looked similar to "crabmeat". He cleaned out all of the delicacies, and then also did some work on the joint where the radius and the ulna connect. I'll be in the soft brace for about six weeks, and then I'll be able to start slowly using it again. My goal, of course, is to have it in tip top shape by baby's arrival.

Right now everything is going very well in the pregnancy. The last ultrasound showed that we have one healthy baby, and the other had stopped developing. While we're sad that the other baby quit developing, we're very excited that the others doing well. There was a fantastic moment when it looked as if the tiny "Flipper-Hand" on our 22 mm baby waved at us Aaron was talking about it. "Lisa" is experiencing more morning sickness and nausea than she ever did with her other two children, but other than that, she's doing well. We have our next ultrasound appointment on the 23rd, which will put us at right about 12 weeks. I feel like I'm in some weird time phenomena where time is both speeding by and plodding at the same time.

Of course these days there's an App for everything, so Aaron has downloaded "baby bump" which shows us week by week how are baby is developing. This app also continues to be a source of humor for Aaron and I. One of the things I most appreciate about Aaron is his "scientific" sense of humor. I was doing some cleaning up one day, right after he download the app, and he called out to me from the other room "when is our baby due again?" I told him and to see him furiously adjusting the program. "Ah!" He said, "now it's beginning to look more like an invertebrate!" Apparently at the two weeks he was looking at, in one week the embryo was still round shaped, and by the next week it it assumed more of a "tadpole" like appearance. I'm happy to report that it does appear that we are expecting a mammal. ;) This week, week 11, stated "On your baby's head, the ears are moving to the side of the head." Of course this left both of us wondering where the ears had started! We both continue to be amazed at how quickly the baby grows. Right now it's telling us that it's 1.6 inches, roughly the size of a "lime", weighs .25 ounces, and will double in size by next week! Ah the wonders of following a pregnancy with all the technology available to us! Thank you Steve Jobs.

PS: one of the things I'm trying to use this as is as a record of our journey. I know many of you get to this site by going through Facebook. If you don't mind, it would be great if you could leave any "comments" on the actual blog, instead of my Facebook. They'll have a complete record, all together, of both my thoughts and people's responses. Thank you! (Of course if you really want to, you can comment in both places!)

Hmmmmm. I'm discovering that if you comment here, then sometimes I don't know who you are!!! OK, feel free to comment wherever. I just like to know people are reading. :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Message From Aaron (The Husband)

Hello, blogiverse; this is Aaron the husband writing for Tiffany. She can't type at the moment because she just had wrist surgery. But in her post-anesthesia stupor, she asked me to update the blog, as she has been getting many emails and texts.

Now as for the baby news, we are going to have... just one baby! The one that was barely surviving no longer has a heartbeat and is being slowly absorbed back into Lisa's body. I have to admit this is a little sad. But we are ecstatic about the healthy and growing baby that is thriving in our surrogate's welcoming womb. Tiffany and I are certainly relieved that we will not have the complications and dangers of a twin pregnancy (not to mention the extreme challenge of double-barreled baby-care). Mostly, we are thankful that we have a strong, growing baby in there!

Tiffany will put up a post of her own soon, either when her wrist heals or by speech-to-text. We thank all of you for your concern and support!

Friday, April 15, 2011

One or Two?...well...yes it is

Add this one to the ever expanding list of This Is A Little Bit Different Than We Expected. Everyone (meaning the medical professionals who knows these things) told us that at this ultrasound we would know if we were having one or two babies. Well, it didn't exactly happen that way. So much for "One if by land, two if by sea"....I guess we're currently in one of those vehicles that can travel on water or over land.

When the doctor doing the ultrasound started out with "Here's the first embryonic sac," I braced myself. I mean, when someone starts out a sentence with "Here's the first...." you automatically think that there's another. So the thought that runs through my mind is (as my breath catches in my throat) "OK, two, we can do this." The first embryo was a beautiful 7mm long, floating in a lovely sea of amniotic fluid. There was a strong heartbeat that we could see, a little blip-blip-blip on the computer screen.

Then he went to the second embryo. He pointed out that it was considerably smaller, that it hadn't consumed it's "yolk sac" and that he didn't see a heart beat. He said that the remains of that embryo would simply be absorbed into the body. So I took another deep breath, "OK, one baby, beautiful, great, healthy!"

He went back to the first embryo and took a picture (already added to the growing stack). Then he went back to the second embryo, paused and said, "Oh wait! I think I see a faint heartbeat!" So here's my inner monologue, "Holy cow! OK, so is it one? Is it two? What the heck do we tell people? What the heck do we plan for? This is so so so weird. Seriously, completely, utterly, totally weird."

So the main story is, we have one fetus that looks very healthy. The heart is beating strongly, the size is good, and everything looks good. The other fetus is about two thirds the size of the first one with a faint heartbeat. At this point it could survive, or it may not. The medical professionals seem to be thinking that it won't survive, and that at the next ultrasound, in two weeks, we'll find that we have one healthy baby. But no one will make an absolute call on that. "It's too hard to predict," one says. "There's a slight chance it may survive," says another. And my brain says, "OK. Another two weeks wait to see what happens. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat. Repeat again. Repeat until you can wrap your head around this one."

It was an odd appointment to walk away from. We had gone down there thinking that we would have an answer, and, as so many medical things go, it's not quite black and white. So much for definitive ordinal numbers. So once again...we wait. For another 2 weeks to see what God has in store for our family. If nothing else, I'm learning how to wait and rest in Him, knowing that He has it all under control. Thank goodness!

Nonetheless, it was thrilling to see at least one healthy, happy baby, and to see our good friends, "Lisa" and "Leon." Speaking of "Leon" (the surrogate's husband) he had a very interesting exchange with a friend on the phone the other day. He was talking to a friend on the phone and mentioned that his wife was pregnant. The friend launched into a "Hey! Congratulations on number 3...." at which point Leon interrupted him and said, "No, no. It's not mine!" There was a pause on the other end of the line. It's an interesting journey for all of us.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Interesting Feelings

It's interesting. One thing I had not anticipated was this acute sadness I am feeling. After spending time with a friend who is 3 months pregnant I came away with a longing to experience what she is experiencing, and an envy/jealousy towards our surrogate who gets to actually carry this pregnancy. The feeling grew even more this weekend when I spent time with a woman who is 7 months pregnant. We've been so focused on getting to this point of being pregnant and the ultimate goal of a child that I really hadn't anticipated this, and I don't quite know what to do with it.

I kind of feel like an involved and engaged bystander, but a bystander nonetheless. Everyone fawns over expectant mothers, asking them how they are feeling, telling them they're glowing and giving sage advice, wisdom and folk remedies on stretch marks. It's our pregnancy, sort of, in that it's our child, but I don't get all that part of being pregnant. And yes, I know I won't get sagging breasts, or morning sickness, or stretch marks which may all be a good thing, but I also don't get the joy of the sideways pictures taken of me every few weeks, or feeling the flutter of little feet and hands inside my womb or the knowing smiles from everyone I see, strangers and friends alike, that says, "I know what's up with you. What an amazing experience!"

In my philosophical moments I've been thinking about archetypal persona of what it means to be female, to be a mother. It's not exactly something Hallmark makes a greeting card for. It's not the 50s, there are so many acceptable roles for women other than homemaker, wife and mother. Nonetheless, when one talks about a 'Mother-To-Be' there is the image someone glowing with the anticipation of the life inside of them, the life that they get to support and nourish before the child is even born. What happens if you don't fit that image?

Maybe if the distance were shorter between our surrogate and us I would feel a bit more like I was experiencing the pregnancy along with her. It's nothing she's done or said, indeed she and her husband keep talking about this being "our" (Aaron's and my) pregnancy. And we've bought some children's books to create audio CDs of our voices reading to play to the as it grows child (and her children). And I bought her a "pregnancy" journal that I hope she'll keep so that I can later share that with our child. I feel like I'm doing everything I can to feel involved. But it's just not the same. I mean, let's face it, nothing about this journey is the same as most people's journeys toward parenthood. And I'm mostly ok with that. Mostly grateful that there is a way for us to become parents. Amazed that someone will join us on this journey and help us become parents. But, to be totally honest and transparent, every now and then I do feel that ache of wishing it were different...more like everyone else.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yin & Yang

In traditional Chinese philosophy, Yin Yang represent all the opposite principles found in the universe.

"Yin and Yang are mutually-arising, interdependent, and continuously transforming, one into the other. One could not exist without the other, for each contains the essence of the other. Night becomes day, and day becomes night....Such is the nature...of everything in the relative world." -Elizabeth Reninger

I've been thinking about this concept a lot over the past week. The balance of the universe. The ability of horrible things to exist at the same time as wonderful things. The ability to feel devastated and feel hope and excitement at the same time. Aaron and I definitely had a Yin Yang week last week. On Wednesday evening Aaron got laid off. There was no warning, no real severance to speak of, and it was effective immediately. Thus we found ourselves mired in uncertainty, confusion and despair. Aaron's work colleagues are like family to him, and he loved his job. Then, on Friday morning, we found out that we were pregnant! I had always imagined that I would be over the moon with happiness, and while I am delighted and excited, I'm also cautious. In 36 hours we had gone from sobbing to dancing. And we continued to sob while we danced. The interconnectedness and ability of two seemingly opposite emotions to exist at once was never more apparent to me than last Friday.

And perhaps that's where my caution comes from. I wish, I wish, I wish I could just be solely ecstatically happy. Don't get me wrong, I AM thrilled and happy, but, experience over the last several years has taught me that being cautious might just be the healthiest thing for me emotionally. Maybe if you've never been on a journey like this you can't understand. With illness, surrogacy, and, frankly, with life, I've learned there are ups and downs. Everyone knows that. And so while I sit here, thinking positive thoughts, and feeling happy, I'm also not releasing myself to 100% joyful abandon.

The thing is, at this stage in pregnancy, about 1 month, most people never announce they are pregnant. Things happen during the 1st trimester. And maybe because I'm a pediatric OT I'm acutely aware of things that can go wrong throughout pregnancy. Maybe I'm removed from feeling totally connected to what's happening because there aren't any changes going on in MY body. With a phone call, we find out we're pregnant. Nothing has changed around me or in me as evidence of a pregnancy, other than that phone call.

I think I'll feel a lot better on April 14th. On the 14th we travel to Portland for the first ultrasound. We'll get to see "Lisa," and our baby's beating heart. Or maybe our babies beating hearts. We transferred 2 embryos, so who knows what we might see. For the safety of the pregnancy, for Lisa and for the baby, we're hoping for a singleton, but if God has twins in the cards for us, then that's the road we'll travel.

It's funny, I thought that when we found out we were pregnancy I'd write a completely joyous blog. But I guess when you've already been through so much trying to get to this point, the positive pregnancy test is just another step on the road to being a parent. Instead of being the beginning of a journey, for most couples who get the positive pregnancy test, for us, between working with a surrogate and doing fertility treatments, it's just the middle part of the journey. And that's what I keep reminding myself, this is a journey. But the 14th will be a big day. Maybe I'll be able to breathe a little bit easier. Maybe I'll be able to let my hope grow a bit. Until then, I wait with cautious optimism.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Faith and Hope

Today is Aaron's and my 6th wedding anniversary, so it seems appropriate to post today. Above you'll see our blastocysts (that's what embryos are called after 5 days) that were transferred on Wednesday. It truly is amazing. The one on the right is a full blastocyst. It's about 200 cells. The darker mass of cells on the right is what will form the baby. The smoother cells to the left form the amniotic fluid. The thicker cells around the outside for the placenta. How amazing is that?!?!?! I could stare at this picture for hours and marvel at the intricacy, the ingenuity, the beauty. This picture was taken a couple hours before the transfer, and when the transfer was taking place we could see the one on the right emerging from it's cellular cocoon, "hatching" as they call it, and sliding out of its shell. A 5 day transfer like we were able to do this time has a greater likelihood of success, as they are able to choose the most developed embryos for transfer. In our case, on day 5 we had 3 embryos, one at the full blast stage (the one on the right) and two that weren't quite there (like the one on the left). After much thought and prayer, we decided to transfer 2. I'm really glad we did, because the next day we got some sad news. The 3rd embryo never developed into a blastocyst, and thus could not be frozen. So it's these two we're praying for right now. Aaron suggested we call them "blasty" and "cysty". I guess I'm more poetic, as I've decided to refer to them as "Faith" and "Hope" from Hebrews 11:1: Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

The days leading up the transfer were crazy! Our surrogate and her family came into town on Sunday, expecting a Monday transfer and then a return to Portland on Tuesday. On Monday we got the news that we had enough embryos to wait until a Wednesday transfer. Thus "Lisa" and her family stayed in town for the Wednesday transfer and returned to Portland on Thursday. I felt so bad about the change in plans, but Lisa was great about it, and their family made a mini-vacation out of it. Perhaps best, Aaron and I got to spend a lot of time with them, dinner on Sunday and Tuesday, hanging out on Wednesday. It was wonderful. Tuesday was the hearing in the Senate committee...and let me tell you, that's a whole different blog entry coming up! The "Anti"s for our bill were out in full force spewing rhetoric that made me cringe. What was supposed to be a quick hearing lasted about 2 1/2 hours with a half an hour prep before. But, as I said, that's another blog entry. If you'd like a preview, another woman has already blogged about it: here.

The transfer itself was more uncomfortable this time. Lisa has to have a full bladder, and this time it was VERY full. The pressure of the wonderful "duckbill" holding things open, the tube for inserting the blasts, and the ultrasound wand pressing down were a bit much. And yet, I got a flash forward to 9 months from now. Lisa was grimacing and I reached out my hand and held hers. It felt so natural, and boy does she have a grip! I'll have to exercise my hand squeezing skills! It was wonderful to not just be an observer and watch our little embry-babies make their journey into her womb, but to really be in the moment with her. Breathing with her, following her lead, supporting her, and being actively involved in the process, not just a passive observer.

So now we wait. Next Friday is the date when we will get word. Until then, we pray, and hang on to faith and hope with confidence and assurance.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cheaper by the half dozen....

Someone today asked me how I was feeling. (ok, it was the nurse from YFCF21C) I replied, "Well not bad. Actually I just feel like someone repeatedly stuck a very long needle through an orifice that doesn't typically receive needles, and picked off small objects from my innards multiple, multiple times yesterday. I'm sure you know the feeling." Maybe a bit snarky, but the truth.

Yesterday I was really disappointed. Although I had 12 good looking follicles, they only managed to retrieve 7 eggs. The doctor said that she tried each follicle several times, but, from what I understood through my still somewhat foggy from anesthetic state, if the egg doesn't retrieve easily, then it's likely not mature and not going to fertilize anyway. Today, however, we received good news. Of the 7 eggs retrieved, 6 were mature and they all fertilized! That makes it twice as many as last time. We went from a fertilization rate of 60% to 100%. So maybe the acupuncture and herbs did do something! So we currently have 6 embry-babies doing their best to divide, conquer and grow in a petri-dish. The transfer is set for Monday. Grooooooooow little embry-babies!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Veins of Steel

For some reason, although my ovaries seem to be cooperating more this round, my veins have decided not to cooperate. Each time I go in for an ultrasound to check out how my little Easter baskets are doing, they draw my blood. Now I'll admit, I'm what's known as a "hard stick," in medical language. My veins are deep, move around, and generally try to disappear the minute a needle clears the skin. But the phlebotomist at YFCF21C was phenomenal last round. She managed to get my blood with the first stick each time it was drawn. I even thought that perhaps my "bad vein" days were over and I had entered into a more harmonious, symbiotic relationship with them. Alas, this has not been the case. I've had my blood drawn about 6 times in the last 2 weeks. And only once has it been done with one poke. Neither elbow vein seems to be cooperating this round. Even more distressing, about half the time it's taken 3 pokes to get blood, a try in each elbow, and finally, with much sighing on the part of the phlebotomist, moving to my hand.

So here's my concern. Let's say I pass out at the grocery store or something (I don't anticipate this happening, I' m just posting a scenario) and they call the paramedics. One look at my tummy will reveal a constellation of needle marks and bruises. At least 40 at this point. Then they'll look at my arms. My elbows are covered with needle marks. One look at my hands reveals the same. Thus, instead of searching for a deeper medical cause for my passing out, they'll label me a junkie, give me some narcan and toss me in the back of an ambulance. I mean, at least I look like one of the "Snooty, Upper Crust, Eastside junkies," but with the needle marks, a junkie nonetheless. I can see this case of mistaken identity leading to either tragic consequences, or a great number in the musical.

I can't believe how much is going on at this point. OK, first of all, "Lisa's" lining. It's looking ok, but she's travelling from Portland to Seattle on Thursday to get that all checked out, and I'll be her wheels for her time in town. Then on Friday they're doing the retrieval. The excellent news is that I may have as many as....12 good follicles by then! Yes friends, God asks us to pray specifically, and praying for a dozen may have done the trick! The doctor keeps remarking that this, "is a very different cycle from last time." I don't know if it was the acupuncture, the herbs (oh gosh, another thing someone might overhear and think I'm a junkie!) the prayers, or just simply another month, but things are looking good. With the retrieval on Friday, depending on how the embryos look, the transfer will take place on either Monday or Wednesday. Here's where things get a bit complicated. On Monday, at 10:00, I have my every-3-months-oh-how-I-love-them botox injections. Which means I reduce down on my medications and go way up on the pain scale. (oh man, I get about 20 shots then. Yet another reason I will be mistaken for a junkie in my supermarket scenario) Anyhow, this should be ok because my physical labor will be done by then as far as baby-making goes. But it will mean that I have this am appt. then off to the train station to pick up Lisa, then off to YFCF21C, etc. On Tuesday I've been invited to testify to a Senate committee on behalf of the bill that passed out of the House. Then, if it's a day 5 transfer, I work most of Wednesday and will have to figure out a way to get around that one.

So things are super busy...but I also have much to be thankful for. For how well this cycle is going. For the support I'm getting from my family and friends. For our wonderful surrogate and her family. For the bill that I can speak on behalf of. For a medication like Botox which, although painful, does wonders for me.

And perhaps, for understanding paramedics who will look beyond the myriad track marks and consider the fact that, perhaps, I am not a junkie.

What you can expect is updates as often as I can over the next week to let you know how things are going, and what specific prayer needs are. Right now I've got 4 follicles that need to grow about 2 mm more to possibly be mature, and Lisa needs a safe journey to Seattle and back to Portland on Thursday.

Oh yes, and if that wasn't enough, I've taken a real step out now (not that I've exactly been hiding in the shadows up until this point or anything). Last night I received a call from the Seattle Times. They asked if they could interview me for an article they are writing about the bill currently going through the legislature. With Aaron's blessing, I was interviewed this afternoon. I really think this is the right thing to do. I think more people need to understand what gestational surrogacy is, and isn't, and the challenges that can arrive when Washington State makes it so difficult to do. At the same time, I've basically opened up our story for anyone who picks up a paper to hear. Sure a blog can reach a wide audience, but mostly it's my friends and family who are reading this, and other interested parties who have heard about it through word of mouth. Now, anyone from my kindergarten teacher, to the grocery store clerk (the one who is going to respond when I pass out in the grocery store), to someone very opposed to surrogacy is going to see my name associated with it. So I'm a little bit anxious about that. As I said, I think it's the right thing to do, but I'm still a little anxious about it....and the needle marks....all over my body. Thank goodness it's still long sleeve weather.

Friday, March 4, 2011

One Little, Two Little, Three Little Ovum.....

The numbers are in, and they are looking good! It looks like right now I've got about 10 good follicles. Last time I had 6 follicles and we got 5 mature eggs, and 3 embryos. I'm not all that good at math, but intuitively I know that having at least 10 good looking follicles is better at this point. I don't know if it was the acupuncture, or the viatamins, or the new protocol, or just luck and prayers, but inspite of all my worrying, things are looking good! Frankly, I'd like a dozen. It just sounds like a good number of eggs to have. Eggs are meant to come in dozens, at least, according to the grocery store. So I'm praying for an even dozen, and hoping that's not too greedy.

Now our concern is "Lisa," our surrogate. She gets checked, just like I do, except instead of follicles they're looking at the thickness of her uterine lining. Right now, it's not as thick as the doctor would like to see, that is, according to the doctor in Portland. Thus, like last time, she's probably going to have to travel up to Seattle to get her lining checked up here. We want to have a nice, thick uterine lining to create a hospitable, warm environment for our embryos to snuggle in.

With the size of my follicles right now, the retrieval will more than likely be Thursday-Saturday of next week, with the transfer 3 or 5 days after that.

In the meantime, I continue to shoot up, with 3-4 shots per day. The dots on my belly remind me of stars in the sky, and I almost want to create my own personal constellations out of them :)

Thanks so much for all of your prayers!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rough Day....Good Friend

Right now things are rough. In addition to the stress of the IVF cycle and the surrogacy, I've got a lot going on in my life outside of the surrogacy, and dealing with raging hormones is not helping at all. I'm at the point where I want to throw my hands up in the air and shout at no one in particular, "Seriously? Seriously? There's got to be something more to throw at me! Because I'm not giving up! On anything! Even if I'd really like to! So...since I'm not giving up, Lord can you please just make things a little easier?"

So I've decided to take a page from my friend Michael's blog. He's the inspiration for my blog. He's also going through a surrogacy right now and began blogging about it. And after reading his, I began to blog, and, with encouragement, decided to share my blog with my friends, as he had been doing with his. And one day, he wrote the kindest blog entry about me (excerpt: Michaela's (my pseudonym on his blog) blog has been so helpful to me. She finds humor in pain like I can't do. She finds hope in adversity which I can't always find. She finds happiness in a frustrating hand that life has dealt her. I have definitely used her texts and calls and blog to help me through rough times.)

I was actually re-reading his entry today to remind me that I can make it through all of this. So I thought one way to turn my attitude around was to talk about his experience. Because he's been so great for me, going through this.

Michael and I went to Northwestern together, eons ago. Of course, he had no idea who I was because I was 2 years younger than him in the theater program, and who pays attention to those that are in the years behind them, unless they are particularly threatening? But I noticed him. And years later, after returning from Disney, and deciding to pursue ASL in addition to finishing my degree at Northwestern, I ran into him again at Columbia College in downtown Chicago, where he was studying interpreting. Now, here's his version of how we re-met, taken from his blog:

Picture it: Columbia College. Summer of 2001 (I think). A hallway. A young girl comes up to me and says...

Girl: Is your name Michael?
Me: Yeah. (She looks up to me because she's a newbie and I'm about to graduate.)
Girl: Is your last name H____?
Me: Yep. (She knew me because I was such a phenomenal interpreting student!)
Girl: Did you go to Northwestern?
Me: I did. (Hmmmm...what's going on?)
Girl: You majored in theater, right?
Me: Ummm...yeah. How'd you know? (Should I be calling the cops?)
Girl: You graduated in 199...7?
Me: OK...why are you stalking me???

OK, he didn't actually say the last line, but I guess that was going through his head. Although I looked so cute and innocent back then, how could he possibly think I was stalking him? So we were friends there, where he helped me out several times as I got into scrapes with the professors...usually accidentally. We lost touch after I left the Chicago area, and then, years later, we bumped into each other on Facebook. Well, God has a grand plan for everything, because he began a blog about surrogacy, since he was starting his surrogacy journey. And I just happened to see a link to it on Facebook right when Aaron and I were beginning our surrogacy journey. Seriously now, how many people go to the same University, then years later are at interpreting school at the same time, then years later begin surrogacy journeys at the same time?

Anyhow, along this crazy ride, Michael has been an amazing support to me. I've had friends facing infertility, friends doing IVF, but he's the only one who is doing surrogacy. And being a unique experience in and of itself, having a friend to share the journey is incredible. Along the way Michael has always encouraged me, telling me things are going to turn out ok and, "Just think, after all of this, the teenage years will be nothing!" Whenever I think I've got it tough I think about his journey. While my uterus isn't a good home for a baby, and my ovaries don't work as well as we'd like them to, at least I've got my own ovaries. Michael has to work with a surrogate and with an egg donor. And, at this point he's had 2 failed transfers. And run out of embryos so he's starting again with egg donor #2 whose cycle just got pushed back until May. And he's still encouraging me. Mostly, his blog cracks me up.

We've decided when all this is over, to pay off all of the bills, we're going to write Surrogacy: The Musical, or perhaps Michael and Michaela (similar to Julie and Julia, and where I got my pseudonym), or some other catchy title. We've got it cast for the most part. He wants to play himself, I've picked Amy Adams to play me (I plan to do the choreography), and we've got a host of other A-List actors slated to join the cast (not that they know it yet). We've come up with some catchy song titles like, "Makin' Babies in the 21st Century" (with choreography featuring pipettes and petri dishes), a hilarious cover of "Matchmaker" from Fiddler on the Roof with all new Lyrics, and the showstopping "Pushin' Real Hard," a revival-esque gospel number about the birthing process. Of course, at the rate this is going, we may have an epic on our hands.

So can you do me a favor? The next time you say a prayer for Aaron and I, would you please pray for Michael too? Because he's an amazing guy who really deserves this to go right for him the next round.

And I guess I accomplished my goal. Because after writing this, I do feel a little bit better. :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Bill Passed the House!!!

Late last night, after over 2 hours of long debate, SHB 1267 passed off the House floor with a vote of 57-41! That's the bill I testified on. In fact, I was able to find the link to where I testified: My testimony It's fairly lengthy, but I begin talking at about minute 24 if you want to skip to my part. Now on to the next hurdle - the Senate!

A person who was there during the House debate had this to say, "40 amendments were offered but only the 2 offered by the bill's Prime Sponsor Rep. Pedersen were adopted...Rep. Miloscia (D), the member who offers the majority of the amendments, is a VERY strong Catholic and passionate about his beliefs. He feels that the bill is more about "baby selling" and the "slavery of women" then the creation of families. While his fellow Ds may not agree with him I think it is important to note that they let him speak and share his passion with a level of respect. In an environment usually built on conflict and disagreement he was able to stand up within his caucus with a differing opinion."

Now on to the next hurdle - the Senate! The bill continues to be scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday, March 15 at 1:30 in the Senate. The hearing should be shorter but after the long House floor debate I think we can expect a bit more opposition on the billThe bill continues to be scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday, March 15 at 1:30 in the Senate. The hearing should be shorter but after the long House floor debate I think we can expect a bit more opposition on the bill."
Since the Senate was where the bill didn't pass last year, I'm really hoping I can make the hearing to testify. At this point it's all going to depend on when my egg retrieval date is, and when the transfer to the surrogate is. I'll probably know more about when the retrieval may be on Friday after my appointment, and then about 24 hours after the retrieval, when they've had a chance to see how many embryos we have and their quality, we'll know when we're going to be able to do the transfer.

Whew. It seems like everything is either moving at lightening speed, or at a snail's pace with all of this. Meanwhile, the stimulant hormones are making me pretty irritable and weepy. I'm so glad I don't usually have PMS!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

On pins and needles...literally

Do you hear the Rocky Theme playing in the background? I do, because we're starting Round #2 of the IVF cycle and I've been in training in the off season. OK, so I didn't go to Philly and run up and down the library steps a jillion times, nor did I jump rope for hours on end daily, but I've been in training.

You see, as if I didn't already spend enough time with needles between botox and fertility meds, I've decided to spend even more time with them! Yes, I've been doing acupuncture since the middle of January. There's been some research in Europe that has shown that acupuncture can help with fertility treatments, increasing the number and quality of eggs produced. There's also research showing that it can increase the chances of implantation of the embryos once they are transferred, but there's not much I can do on that side of things. Thus, I've been focusing my efforts on this side of things. My acupuncturist is also a Chinese Herbologist. Thus I've been taking some wonderful herbs for the past 2 months also. At least, I'm assuming they are wonderful herbs. With a name like "Nourish Ren & Chong Formula-Jia Wei Gui Shao Di Huang Wan," and containing things like Dioscorea oppositifolia rhizome, Paeonia lactiflora root w/o bark and Rehmannia glutinosa cured root ruber I can't state for certain that they are indeed wonderful. All I can say is that they are supposed to help with fertility and egg quality. And since that's what we're going for, then in my book, they're wonderful!

To be honest though, I'm heading into this cycle with a lot more trepidation than last time. Believe me, I know that a positive outlook and state of mind can do wonders. Yet, I'm way more concerned than last time. I guess last time I was blessed with a certain naivete. We were expecting about 15 eggs of good quality. We had no reason to expect anything different. And I guess now my eyes are opened to what can happen. On the good side, although we didn't get many eggs last time, we still got some, and we were still able to transfer some. But it wasn't what any of us, our doctor, Aaron, or our surrogate were expecting. And so I'm nervous and anxious. Which, really, there's nothing to be nervous and anxious about. I've done everything possible I can do: vitamins, acupuncture, herbs. At this point, it's out of my hands and into the best hands possible, God's. There's nothing I can do. What is going to happen will happen, and worrying about it won't change the outcome. Yet, I suppose worrying is part of the human condition. I've been praying for peace about this, and I'm getting there, but it's not easy. I guess it never is.

So here's the outline. The retrieval should be sometime around the 10th of March depending on how my happy little ovaries produce. And, we are expecting they are going to produce abundantly! My first ultrasound that will show how they are doing is this coming Tuesday, so I will definitely try to post an update. For the next several weeks if you could pray for me, Aaron, our child to be, and our wonderful surrogate "Lisa" that would be fantastic.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Government Action Update

Forgot to mention, I heard from Representative Pedersen yesterday. He had the following to say,

The bill passed out of the House General Government Appropriations Committee last week and is now in the House Rules Committee. It will probably move to the floor for a vote next week – and then over to the Senate. The hearing in the Senate Government Operations & Elections Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, March 15 at 1:30pm.
Depending on our transfer day I don't know if Aaron and I will be able to make it to the Senate hearing, but since this is where things got stalled last time, we're hoping we'll be able to make it!

What's a little snow after all we've been through?

I've been waiting to announce it on the blog until I knew we were on for sure, but now I shall. I'm beginning my next round of stimulant medications on Saturday! If all goes well, on about March 10th we will have some lovely eggs to retrieve for our second round of IVF. We had to get to YFCF21C today for an ultrasound and blood draw to get the go ahead. This, however, proved to be a bit more difficult than a typical jaunt into the city.

You see, last night we got about 6" of snow. Now, my friends on the East coast and in the Midwest, I know that as you read this you are shaking your heads, scoffing at this. "Bah!" you think, "After what WE'VE been dealing with for the last month, what's a lousy 6" of snow? Especially when you want a baby!" Well, let's talk geographical differences. For example, when I went to Northwestern, back in Chicago, I asked someone during new student orientation week, "Where's the best place to go skiing around here?" And he answered, in all seriousness, "Colorado." Because about the only elevation you get around there is on freeway overpasses.

Now, let's look at the Seattle metropolitan area. You see, Aaron and I live at the bottom of a big hill. A really big hill. And, in fact, all over this area are really big hills. Some of these hills are so big that they make the Great Smokey Mountains and Appalachians look like pitcher's mounds. We could probably refer to them as mountains, but, a hill by any other name would rise as steep. And Seattle, until recent global warming trends have changed the climate somewhat, rarely experienced snow. So the whole city owns something like 20 plows. Needless to say, living at the bottom of a hill, after an evening where it snows like crazy, does not bode well for travel the next day. Remember, we're talking a place where school gets cancelled or let out early if they think there might be snow.

Fortunately, we were somewhat prepared. We parked the car at the TOP of the Very Big Hill the night before when it began snowing. Then, it was just a matter of fording the drifts to get to the top of the Very Big Hill the next morning. Aaron the Intrepid, in an act of gallantry, began the trek 10 minutes ahead of me, and had the car nearly dug out from beneath its snowy tomb before I even reached it. And then, he offered to drive us to the clinic! See, here's the thing, in our relationship, whenever possible, I tend to do the driving. Aaron hates driving, particularly in the city. Secondly, driving keeps me from getting car sick. The snow must have awakened some dormant cromagnon gene within him, "Me protect wife from weather!" And in an act of pure chivalry (or perhaps it was out of fear of how I might drive in the snow) he offered to drive.

Then we began what I thought might be the most harrowing part of our journey. Heading Into The City. Because the other thing about Seattlites is that, for the most part, they have no idea how to drive in the snow. When they start to slide, they hit the breaks. When they begin to lose traction, they gun their engines. When they begin to fishtail they turn, they turn their wheels away from the skid. Don't believe me? Check out these YouTube Videos for some amusement:

Here, a guy tries to go up a hill, and fails miserably:

Here, several people prove their ineptitude:

Here, is where I was pleasantly surprised. The streets had very light traffic, another one of endearing Seattlite traits is staying at home when it snows. Secondly, Seattle proper hadn't been hit very hard by the snow. The worst was right in our area! We made it to the appointment with plenty of time to spare. I spent some good time getting my blood drawn, having my ovaries checked out, and signing the omnipresent consent forms. Round 2, here we come!

Friday, February 18, 2011

"My experience with government is that when things are non-controversial and beautifully coordinated, there's not much going on." -JFK

I guess things are a lot more complicated in government than I thought. I've been in contact with Rep. Pedersen (the House Member who is really pushing for this bill) and he clarified where things will go from here with the bill. So here it is:

The next stop for the bill is probably the House General Government Appropriations Committee. (This is because the Administrative Office for the Courts has a one-time $80,000 cost to update the Judicial Information System to reflect the changes made to the parentage statute). That will likely happen next week. I sit on that committee and have already spoken with the chair, so that should be pretty straightforward. After that, the bill will go to the House Rules Committee and wait there until we are ready to consider it on the House floor. That would be the last week of February or the first week of March. Once it passes out of the House, the bill will go to the Senate Government Operations & Elections Committee (not Senate Judiciary). The bill passed out of that committee last year as well, made it out of Senate Rules, and then died on the floor of the Senate. I’m hoping we have all of that worked out.

So I guess last year it died on the floor of the Senate, not in committee. I'm going to do whatever it takes to stop that from happening again! Our surrogate is an amazing, wonderful woman, but all of this travel back and forth to Portland for her and for us is tiring and complicated. I'll keep you all postede on how things are going with the bill and what you can do, Washingtonians, to help encourage your representatives to vote for it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I came, I saw, I testified

I tried to look this up in an online Latin translator. I got Veni, Vidi, Testifi. Somehow not as impressive sounding as Veni, Vidi, Vici....but I did that too. ;) The best thing about doing this was meeting two other families testifying on behalf of this bill. We each had slightly different stories, but each of us was passionate about what we were speaking about, and each of us could relate to the others' stories. So here it is. It's a bit long, and some of it was taken from previous blog entries so it may look familiar but if you have the time, it may be worth a read. Right now it's getting past the House Judiciary Committee. After that it will go to a full vote of the House. The bill made it that far last year. If it passes that, then it will go to the Senate Judiciary Committee. That was where the bill died last year. If you are a resident of Washington, I urge you to send your House representative a quick e-mail or give them a quick call voicing your support for HB 1267. If you go to and put in your address, it will tell you your district legislators. Then, just click on each legislator's homepage, and on that page there will be a link to e-mail them. If I can go all the way to Olympia to testify, it would be great if you could send a quick e-mail to your house representatives.

OK, so the testimony:
Chairman, committee members, thank you for allowing me to speak to you here. For the record, my name is Tiffany Sparks-Keeney, and this is my husband, Darrell Aaron Keeney.

In 2007, while in the middle of graduate school, I began to develop some strange symptoms. My muscles began to tighten uncontrollably, sort of like a charley horse that won’t let go, I began to trip over my feet, and I developed a tremor in my hands. After 2 years of seeing multiple neurologists, physiatrists, neurogeneticists, physical therapists and other medical professionals in several states, they arrived at the diagnosis of generalized dystonia, in my case, a condition that causes muscles in my body to tighten uncontrollably, causing extreme pain, and limiting mobility. And in my case, slowly progressive. There is no known cause or cure, only ways of managing the symptoms.

My husband and I had been planning on having children when we both completed graduate school, however all of a sudden it wasn’t quite as simple as what they explained during high school sex ed. No one could say for certain how my body would be affected by carrying a child, during that time, or afterwards. Because I have a very rapid heart rate as part of the dystonia, there was a lot of concern. Another major concern was the medications I was taking. After 3 years of living with dystonia I had finally found a combination of medications that worked for me and allowed me to function fairly normally. Getting pregnant would require me to come off of some of those medications. But what do you do when the medications that make your life livable can poison your developing child? And the additional stress caused to my body by going off the medications would cause extreme stress for the developing child. What do you do when your body is unreliable and not a safe haven for a baby?

Well, first you cry. A lot. 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. We had dreamed of having several children, and now what were we to do? Then you question God. You ask him why, over and over again. You pray, you get angry, you get jealous of every friend that gets pregnant so easily. Then, after a year in our case, you come to a place of acceptance. You realize that while 99.99% of the population isn’t in your boat, this is the boat you are in, so you can either sink, or plug the leaks, grab the oars and start moving again.

Looking into surrogacy, we found there were many options. The least expensive was to go overseas, to India, or to Guatemala. We weren’t interested in engaging in any exploitative practices. That left us looking state side. Unfortunately we didn’t have a friend or relative who could carry the child. My sister has never had children, and is thus ineligible. None of my friends were able to at this time. We were amazed to find that Washington State does not allow surrogacy for compensation. Thus, we looked to Oregon where we have found an amazing woman to help us become parents.

The expense of surrogacy is tremendous, including the costs of in-vitro fertilization. Having to use a surrogate in Oregon has added an undue burden to our costs and to our time. Aaron and I have travelled to Oregon 3 times since this process began, to meet agencies, interview potential surrogates, and look at hospitals. We’re becoming very familiar the Amtrak and Portland regional transportation! Our surrogate has travelled to Seattle 4 times since this began, in one instance, three times in one week, and this is all before we have conceived a child. Between hotel, train tickets, and food expenses, each of these trips has cost between $700-$1000. There is also the time cost. It takes roughly 3 ½ hours to travel one way to Portland, so at a minimum, going to Oregon necessitates taking a day off of work. And, during the pregnancy, we expect to make many more trips. The cost, however, isn’t what it’s really about. Aaron and I would mortgage our house if that’s what it took. The real cost is in terms of bonding with our child.

It is absolutely devastating for someone who always wanted to have a house full of children to not be able to carry a child. 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 are going to be limited. 3+ hours away seems so far. I'd always dreamed of being pregnant. Unfortunately, while in many surrogacy arrangements intended parents do attend all of the doctor's/midwife's visits and whatnot, with our surrogate being located in Oregon that's going to prevent us from being as involved in the pregnancy as we both want. We won't get to see a pregnant belly slowly growing week by week. I know many of you on the committee are parents. 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 every week or more. I would bring her home baked cookies, ok, actually I stink at baking, but I would bring her fuzzy socks and Ben and Jerry’s. 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 nurture 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. And then, with the distance, we may miss the most precious moment of all, our child’s birth. Members of the committee, imagine how it would have felt for you to have missed your child’s birth.

The current statute places an undue burden on couples struggling with infertility. We aren’t worried about our figures, or want to take the easy way out. Indeed, this is the hardest journey we have had to make. Gestational surrogacy for medical reasons is socially acceptable, my friends are thrilled at reading about our journey on our blog. It is acceptable in a legal sense, much of case law has been decided in other states. Not only would this bill make gestational surrogacy with compensation legal, but it puts in place strict guidelines, safe guarding intended parents and gestational surrogates. You know, when you get to the place of needing a gestational surrogate, it’s a very low point. I felt like we had exhausted every alternative and hit a wall at every turn. First my illness, then not being able to carry a child, then not being able to adopt, then being told that Washington State wouldn’t allow compensated surrogacy. Each of these slams into the wall makes you just a little bit sadder. Washington State can’t change my illness. Washington State can’t change the fact that I can’t carry a pregnancy. But what you have the power to do is help couples like Aaron and me, who have been slammed again and again, and make this path on the journey towards having a child a little more gentle.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Citizen Participation in Government

Tomorrow is the big day! In an earlier blog entry (August 4th) I talked about writing one of our state representatives about wanting to help with trying to get gestational surrogacy with compensation legalized in our state. As it stands right now, someone in Washington who wants to use a gestational surrogate with any monetary compensation for the surrogate can't, it's criminalized. HB 1267 - 2011-12 would decriminalize it and set specific parameters on surrogacy in Washington. In many states right now there aren't specific statutes on the books allowing surrogacy, but there also aren't specific statutes prohibiting surrogacy. Those states function in a sort of surrogacy limbo. People in those states often engage in surrogacy, but if something were to go before the courts, neither party has much protection and their contracts could be essentially meaningless. This bill sets up specific rules, spelling out exactly what is allowed. It protects both the intended parents, and the surrogate.

So here I go. I've always said if you don't vote, you can't complain about the decisions our lawmakers make. And I guess I'm taking it one step further. If there's something that's really important to change, then it's important for people who have a vested interest to stand up and speak. There's a part of me that really doesn't want to do this. I've got a bunch of stuff I have to get done for work, it's about a 1 1/2 hour drive to get there, and who knows what it will be like afterwards when there's traffic, I'm not sure what I'm going to say, excuses, excuses, excuses. But, when I really got to thinking about it, this is an opportunity for me to actually have a chance to make a difference for something I believe in. Granted, it's not as simple as writing a letter or giving money to a cause, things I've done in the past. But, I figure it's time to step up to the plate. In 20 years I want to be able to look back at my life and say that when I had the opportunity to make a difference I didn't let it pass by, I stepped up.

So tomorrow I'll be in front of the Washington State House Judiciary Committee with Aaron by my side. Wish me luck, and pray for me!