Friday, December 7, 2012

One Year Ago Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The End and the Beginning

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

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The thing Nobody Talks About

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

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

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

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

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

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

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