A Surrogate After Surrogacy

Tomorrow marks 3 months since Squishy was born. 3 months since I was last pregnant. 3 months since I was a surrogate.

Am I a surrogate, or was I a surrogate? It is definitely a part of who I am now, but it’s also a part of my life that is over. I’m at the tail-end of maternity leave, and I’m left wondering, now what?

The last 3 months have been a roller-coaster, to say the least. The first few days after the birth I was on the “I just did the coolest thing in the world” high. Since I didn’t have to have a c-section, recovery was smooth, and I felt like myself again in no time. My hormones started to do their big swing about a week later, conveniently right around the time that C&J and their perfect little family went home. It was so hard saying goodbye. And not just to Squishy, but to C&J, too. Over the course of the year we had formed very strong bonds, and the birth had only strengthened those bonds. I was fearful of how our relationship would change once they took their baby home. Luckily, we still remain close, and I can’t imagine not having these people in my life ever again.

December was crazy, as usual, with a few added emotional hurdles thrown in (we started a business, there were a few family losses, etc.), but I survived. In January life finally started to settle down a bit (we have a 6-year old and TWO 2-year olds, so it’s never really settled.) I was able to start working out, which I was thankful for. I don’t love working out while I am doing it, but man do I miss that stress-reliever when it’s taken away from me. Plus, I was looking forward to starting to lose some of the baby weight. Of course now, 6 weeks in to exercising and eating well, I’ve remembered that I never lose any weight within the first 6 months of having a baby. I figured that since I don’t have a new baby and have the time to run, workout, cook, and eat well, I might be able to lose it earlier or faster, but my body still seems to think there’s a baby out there I need to feed, and is holding onto the extra fat stores. So I’m dealing with the frustration that that brings. There’s no baby here, body. My brain and my heart are 100% okay with that, now it’s time for you to get the memo!

Now that I am getting more active I’ve been taking our dog out for a ton of walks, and it’s during those walks that I think a lot about what’s next. I took a term position last summer that ended in the fall, so finding work of some kind is fairly high on the list. But in the meantime, I have been thinking of other ways I can find purpose and also give back. Right now I am Mom and I am Wife. I know that there is a heck of a lot more to me, but I’m struggling to figure out what that means right now, and what else I have to give. Of course taking my dog on these walks, and going to the dog park with her, led me back to an idea that I’ve always had and always wanted to do. I want to foster rescue dogs. Our dog was a rescue, and since we got her I have always thought that it would be amazing to foster one day, once our kids were older. I have been soul-searching and trying to find another way to give, and this is it. Right now, this is my currency.

This is not a decision that I (actually, we, because my H and oldest daughter are 100% on board) have made lightly. I’ve been questioned about whether or not I have the time or energy to do this. I’ve been questioned about whether I will get attached and if I will be able to give a foster dog away (which is funny considering what I just went through.) And while I appreciate the concern, I am not the type of person to make decisions like this on a whim. Like surrogacy, I have been thinking about doing this for years. I’ve now realized, like with the surrogacy or even deciding when I wanted to have my own babies, there is no such thing as the perfect time. When you know you need to do something – when you can feel yourself light up on the inside when you think about it – you should probably do it.

So, my Temporary Home to sweet little Squishy is now becoming a Temporary Home for a rescue dog. We’ve signed up to foster with the rescue that we got our pup from, and are now waiting for a dog that fits our criteria. I was honoured to help one family bring home their baby last year (they already had enough fur-babies!) and now this year we hope to help some fur-babies find their families. And bonus for me, this year involves no morning sickness!

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A Squishy Birth Story: From the eyes of the IP & Surrogate

I don’t know why, but I have put off writing out the story of Squishy’s birth for the past several weeks (5 to be exact). Or maybe I have been distracted. Either way, I finally got my kick in the butt this afternoon when C said she was working on hers. So, I sat down at my computer and started writing a rough draft. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I got about half-way through, when C posted hers. Initially I wasn’t going to read it until I had finished mine, but of course, I did. And (obviously) it was nearly identical to what I had written so far, except far more eloquent and concise. And so, with permission from C, I am instead going to share with you her version of the story that led to Squishy’s birth, with my point of view added in italics. She wasn’t even able to find an IP version of a birth story, and now, we’ll bring you both sides of the story combined….

Squishy’s Birth Story – An Intended Mother’s (And Now Surrogate’s) POV.

I know, I know – it’s been a while!  I apologize for being so MIA but this Mom thing takes up a lot of time.  That’s right – I’m a Mom!  Our Squishy joined us November 16th at 7:26 pm, perfect and healthy, wearing pink.  We have a little girl!

And here is where the surrogate goes and throws a HUGE curveball at all of our followers. C and J did not know that they were having a little girl and wanted to be Team Green. However, by no fault of my own, I found out mid-summer that there was a little girl in there. It was probably the hardest secret that I have ever had to keep! 

In between cleaning bottles and changing diapers, I’ve been scouring the internet trying to find a couple birth stories from an Intended Mother’s point of view.  Well, there are none so I’m going in blind..

Sunday, November 13th:  After a long 3 days of driving, J and I arrived in Manitoba just in time for supper.  We spent some time with A and her family, let Squishy know that it was time for eviction and then finally and happily crashed in a bed that wasn’t a hotel.

After being paranoid that I was going to go into labour before they arrived, I was finally able to relax, and my H was going to let me walk further than the end of the driveway. Mommy and Daddy had made it!

Monday, November 14th:  The next day, after grabbing a spicy lunch [around 2:30 pm], while A was giving us a tour of the condo we’d be staying at once Squishy joined us, she stuck her head out of the bathroom and said to J and I, “Are you guys ready?!”  Her water had broke less than 24 hours after our arrival to Manitoba.  Squishy wasn’t wasting any time!  Or so we had hoped.

We went right home and called the Midwives who told us to come in so they could confirm that it was, in fact, her water that broke.  We got there within the hour, they checked A out and did a Nonstress Test on Squishy.  Everyone was healthy and although A’s water had broke, there were no other signs of labour so we were sent home around 4:30 pm to wait for contractions.

And wait, we did..

The day my water broke also happened to be the day of the supermoon; the closest supermoon since 1948. I had read that full moons, and supermoons in particular, could cause a pregnant woman’s water to break. I had also read that they could cause a woman’s water to break prematurely, without any other signs of labour afterwards, leading to augmentation or induction of labour. I always laughed at full moon theories, thinking there was no way it could be true. But, the supermoon timing and theory sure ended up making sense with us.

Tuesday, November 15th:  Through the night, A experienced some contractions but by morning they had stopped, so once we were all caffeinated and the kids were off to daycare and school, we headed back to the Midwives’ office for 10:00 am to reassess and look at our options.

They did another Nonstress Test and, unfortunately, Squishy was still very content in there so we were sent back home with some tips to get things moving in hopes that we could meet Squishy that day.

While yes, I was disappointed that things weren’t progressing yet, I was very thankful that the midwives let me go home again, and didn’t insist we go to the hospital. The typical (outdated) norm is that a woman should deliver within 24 hours of her membranes rupturing, but I was not willfully signing up for an induction. I knew at this point that the midwives were going to respect these wishes and were ready to advocate for me if they needed to.

After a couple hours of bouncing on her exercise ball and using her breast pump, around 6:30 that evening, contractions started coming fast and hard.  I was so sure that this must finally be it!  We packed up our hospital bags, had Grandma put the kids to bed and headed to the hospital.

This is where I tell you (whether you like it or not) that I never want to see another breast pump again in my life. The contractions that that thing brought on were fast and furious and didn’t even stick around once I stopped.

We got to the hospital and our amazing Midwife had a room all set up for us.  She hooked A and Squishy up to the monitors, everything looked great but unfortunately, once A stopped pumping, the contractions had slowed down to every 10 minutes or so.  The midwife, again, gave us some options and, in the end, we decided to go ahead with a Leave Of Absence from the hospital for that night so that A could spent the night in her own bed.  We grabbed some Chinese and head back home.. Again.

But also, again, very happy to be allowed to go home! 

This was harder on me than I had initially expected – the waiting, seeing A in discomfort, admitting to myself that even though she was in pain, I was still jealous.  It was the beginning of a very emotional 24 hours.

I don’t know why this thought came about that same evening, but I wondered about this. I distinctly remember thinking about it when we were getting Chinese. And, though I don’t really get it, I understand why. 

Wednesday, November 16th:  After another restless night with contractions every 10 minutes, lasting around 1 – 2 minutes each but nothing more substantial [and certainly, no Squishy], we returned to the hospital at 8:30 am.  A and Squishy were hooked back up, everything was still good but now it was time to discuss induction.

I woke up that morning frustrated, and I think my body held onto that feeling for the rest of the day. I was terrified of being induced and having another c-section, but was trying so hard to trust my body, Squishy, and the midwives that were caring for us.

A was incredibly clear with us and with our Midwives about her / our birth plan.  She wanted to bring Squishy into this world as naturally as possible.  The goal was an unmedicated VBAC and 45 hours after her water broke [at 11:30 am], A was in active labour and 5 cm dilated.

When I walked into the hospital with my first daughter, I was 6 cm dilated and still in denial that I was even in labour, so when I found out that I was only at 5 cm after 45 hours, I was crushed. This was our first check all pregnancy and I thought I would be much further along. I figured this baby was never going to come out.

So.. We walked.  And we walked and we walked and we walked.  If, for no other reason, than to get our steps in for the day [which, we totally did] because walking didn’t seem to be bringing Squishy to us any quicker.  After our laps around L&D, A went back to the breast pump and by 2:30 that afternoon, after being checked, she had only progressed to 6 cm.

Since I was a VBAC candidate, hospital protocol is that I should have been hooked up to IVs and monitors the second I walked into the hospital. I am so thankful that the midwives left me alone (with our team) to walk. I would have gone crazy if it weren’t for those walks.

But, again, I was crushed when they checked me. And in hindsight, my body was holding onto that feeling of disappointment. The contractions started coming on fierce, but after labouring for 3 hours and only dilating 1 cm, I was convinced that they were doing nothing. My body starting tensing up and I couldn’t relax between contractions.

After being checked the second time is when things got rough – for A, of course, but also for me.  I don’t want to take away from the truly amazing thing that A did, but I can truthfully say that I have never felt so useless in my entire life.  Here was this incredible woman, keeling over in pain to bring me a baby, to give me a family, to make me a mother and I just sat there and watched.  There was, literally, nothing I could do for her.  Her husband, on the other hand, was astounding with her.  Afterwards, she referred to him as her rock and that truly is the only way I can describe his actions that day.  He was there for her; not for us or for Squishy but to be her support and her advocate, and he was just that.  As much as I wanted to be there for her, I know I couldn’t have done it any better than he did.

Oh, C, always so humble. She was not useless that day. She did exactly what I needed. While yes, I didn’t physically hang off of her like I did my H, she and J were also my rocks. They walked with me, gave me calming and reassuring looks, and kept the room quiet, just like I needed. Throughout this entire journey, up until today even, C has been exactly the calming, reassuring presence that I have needed.

Hours later [around 6:00 pm], out of pure exhaustion and seeing no progression in dilation, our amazing Tummy Mommy opted for an epidural.  She looked at us and her husband and with tears in her eyes, she whispered, “I tried” and that was when I broke.  She was disappointed in herself that she couldn’t get through the rest of the labour without medication.  After 51 hours of labour, 51 hours of no sleep, 51 hours of discomfort [for someone else] she was disappointed in herself.  I was at a loss.  She didn’t “try”, she was doing it!  She was bringing us our baby and yet, she was upset with herself.

Looking back now, I think I was probably in the beginning of transition at this point. But after having basically no progression the few hours prior, I didn’t think it was possible. And I was exhausted. I was still too terrified of induction and a c-section, that some pain meds seemed to be the lesser of the evils, so our Midwife convinced me to get an epidural to allow my body to finally relax.

The awe and the admiration that I have for A is something that I can never truly put into words.  In our Birth Announcement, I used the term “power house” and that truly is how I saw A over those few days.  And still do.  Having been through labour and delivery before, she still chose to do this for us; people who, 2 years ago, were complete strangers.  She knew it would hurt.  She knew it could be awful.  She knew things might not go according to plan.  And yet, she still chose, still wanted to do this.

And yet I can’t imagine NOT doing it now! Even in the midst of all the pain and discomfort, I had no regrets. All it took was a quick glance at C and J, and I knew exactly why I was doing what I was doing. I knew that they had been through enough; that it was my turn to bear the load for someone who deserved it.

When the doctor came in to administer the epidural, J and I were asked to leave.  I’ve yet to tell anyone but D about this but this was the hardest part of my entire journey; being kicked out of my own child’s labour.  It was, essentially, a breaking point for me.  One where I thought it might even be too hard for me to duplicate.  In that moment, in the midst of my heartache and my anger, I decided that Squishy would be an only child, then and there.  [That, since, has changed.  I imagine in the same way that a woman experiencing labour says that she’s never having any more children so I guess it’s only fitting that the most painful part for A was also the most painful part for me.]

I know that even I felt completely out of control of the situation at this point. I can’t imagine what C was feeling. And that was her baby in there. I promise, I was doing my best to still take the very best care of her. Until the bitter end.

An hour later, by some miracle, A’s husband stuck his head out into the hall and said, “Are you guys ready to have a baby?  Because.. It’s happening!”.  As soon as the epidural was administered, A was able to relax and magically progressed to 10 cm in no time.  So, this was it.  It was time to have a baby.  No turning back now!

I was shocked and so relieved. The OB had convinced our midwives to give me the epidural so I could sleep and start induction the next morning. The NEXT morning?! I guess that was enough to tell my body to smarten up.

When our Midwife told me it was time to push, I nearly cried tears of joy. I was going to be able to push. For any woman who has had a prior c-section, and hoping for a VBAC, you’ll know that those words were music to my ears. Everything was going to be okay. My body knew what it was doing. I was going to get to see C and J meet their baby. If I were to have another c-section, I might not have gotten that moment. I had been waiting months for that moment.

As unpredictable and frustrating, as the past couple days had been, this moment in time was, literally, picture perfect [seriously, we have the pictures to prove it].  We walked in and I sat beside my [now] sister.  The Midwife [literally] handed me A’s foot as she pushed our tiny human into our lives.  Through tears, I got to watch her join us and after 14 minutes of pushing, at 7:26 pm, after 53 hours of labour, she was mine [okay, ours], in my arms – perfect.

I remember the last few moments vividly; in a way I didn’t expect. I knew that Squishy’s head was out, but I could still feel her kicking inside. I looked at my H and said, “This is it. This is the last time I will feel this.” And the tears started to well up. I never felt like I was going to miss being pregnant when I gave birth to my own babies; in fact I was excited for it to be over. But when they were out, they were mine. This one wasn’t mine. In one (pretty significant) aspect, this was our goodbye.

And yet, I still wouldn’t have it any other way. She came out and her parents got their baby; their family. And I got my moment. It really was picture perfect.

Being able to see your own child enter the world from the point of view that I did is something that very few women can say they’ve done.  It’s something that I will forever cherish; rather than covet.  Coming into this as an Intended Parent, there’s always going to be the weird thoughts when thinking of the labour portion of this journey.  Where you’ll stand.  What you’ll look at. How you’ll feel.  But as soon as I walked into that room, everything just fell into place.  Nothing was awkward.  Everything just.. Was.

And it was an honour.

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If you would like to read C’s original post, you can find it here at She Doesn’t Look Pregnant. Make sure to check out her other posts while you’re there!

A Different Kind of Mom Guilt

There’s been a short video floating around Facebook over the past couple of weeks with the title #ENDMOMGUILT and it really resonated with me. It got me thinking a lot about the guilt I feel as a mother and how that has compared to being a surrogate. The guilt that can creep up as a surrogate is a whole new ball game.

My mom guilt started soon after I found out that I was (accidentally) pregnant with my first. I had a friend who had been trying to get pregnant without success for several months, and I knew telling her was going to be hard. In the end, I didn’t have to tell her. She must have figured out what was going on and, as I was sipping on a ginger ale, she approached me and said, “You’re pregnant, aren’t you.” I could sense that she wanted to be happy for me (even though she knew I wasn’t very happy), but there was a hint of sadness there as well. It’s been nearly 7 years and I still very vividly remember the feeling of guilt that went through my whole body in that moment. I would have given anything to trade places with her. It was the feeling that stuck with me and brought me to the place where I would consider being a surrogate, so I have to give some credit to that mom guilt.

C has made it clear that she has dealt with the fact that she will never be pregnant, but I still have a hard time wishing she could experience this pregnancy instead of me. Feeling a baby’s first little kicks is supposed to be a special, almost magical experience, but this time around I felt an intense amount of guilt because I was feeling it and she wasn’t. The same happened for the first ultrasound, and the first time I heard the heart beat. I didn’t even want to look or listen, and I didn’t want to feel excited. I wished that C&J could experience those things for themselves, or at least be there with me, but with the distance between us, it was impossible.

Yesterday was one of those days in pregnancy where things were not magical. Now that I am in the third trimester and completely out of the blissful second I am back to experiencing some really crappy pregnancy symptoms. I have insomnia, and am usually up from 3-5 am every night. My back and hips have been sore, and Squishy can’t decide if (s)he wants to stretch out the muscles of my lower belly or wedge its limbs into my ribs. I’m not even joking when I say that they are likely bruised at this point. The extra blood in my body is putting added pressure on my heart, which results in arrhythmia and palpitations that leave me short of breath. Yesterday I was experiencing all of these lovely symptoms all at once. I couldn’t pick up my own kids or help out around the house like I wanted to, like I should be able to. I also have a sinus cold and with little Squishy on board I can’t take any useful medicine. I try not to complain to C much about it, but instead keep her up-to-date as matter-of-factly as I can.

I made the mistake of letting out one little complaint at supper time last night. “You chose to do this so you can’t really complain,” was the response I got from my husband. And he’s right. I chose this. I am lucky that I get to experience the bad with the good. But dammit, pregnancy really fucking sucks sometimes. I know the sentiment that “I chose this” and therefore shouldn’t complain is likely shared by many, but doing a good deed does not mean that I am immune to the rough days of pregnancy. And at this point, the rough days are increasing. I have to remind myself that I am human and I have to take care of myself. Squishy is depending on me to take care of myself. If that means taking it easy more often than not, and complaining a bit or asking for help sometimes, then I have to do it and not feel guilty about it. But, it’s hard. I chose this.

Now that my belly is growing bigger and it’s obvious that I am pregnant, people often make comments about the pregnancy. If the person is an acquaintance then I will briefly explain the situation, but with strangers I don’t say much and it makes me feel bad. I have clients who ask if this is my first, how many other kids I have, etc. and I want so badly to be able to tell them that it’s not my baby; that I’m carrying this sweet little one for another amazing couple. But it would be inappropriate for me to get into my personal life in that context. I was leaving a patient’s room a few weeks ago and was wishing her well, when she responded, “And best of luck to you and your growing family!” All I said was, “Thanks,” and left the room. I felt awful. This isn’t my baby and it’s not my growing family and it’s not fair that I am getting these well-wishes when C should be. I know that she does from friends, family, and acquaintances, but not the well-meaning strangers in the grocery store. She doesn’t look pregnant, but in a sense she is, and she should be the one getting these messages. Not me.

I relayed this anecdote to some friends and one had a reply that made me feel so much better. She said that while yes, this isn’t my baby, my family is growing, and that these well-wishes extend to that growing family. C&J and Squishy are now part of our family. When people wish me well, they are wishing them well, too. They might not know that, but I have no doubts that if they knew and understood our unique situation that they would be extending those well-wishes to our east coast family.

Mommy guilt is real and surrogacy guilt is something that I have learned to deal with. But guilt has its place and I have to remind myself that without it, and without the guilt I felt when I first found out I was pregnant with my now amazing 6-year old, little Squishy may still be just a thought. Every emotion has its place and maybe I just need to acknowledge that it is all a part of this amazing process.

 

A Surrogate Family: The sister’s perspective

This post was written by my amazing, supportive little sister. I have written about her in earlier posts, and about her reservations with me becoming a surrogate. Obviously she has come around and is now one of my biggest cheer leaders. Take it away, S…

When my sister first told me she was thinking about becoming a surrogate, I wasn’t quite sure what to think or say. Quite frankly, I said all of the wrong things in the moment. I straight up told my sister I would not support her through this journey. A lot of this was because I was scared that something bad might happen to her and how it would affect her kids. I was also being VERY selfish and was more concerned that she wouldn’t be able to help with my wedding as much as I wanted her to, or that she might be pregnant at my wedding and wouldn’t have as much fun. I was also worried that she wouldn’t be able to come visit her nephew as much as I had visited my nieces and nephew in the past couple of years. I wanted my sister and son to have the same connection that I do with her kids and didn’t think it would be possible if she were pregnant with someone else’s child. I had so many different emotions each time I thought about it.

Looking back on all of this now, I was extremely naive to what surrogacy entailed and how great of a gift it would be for a family lucky enough to match with someone as selfless as my sister. I have to admit, I do still find myself thinking about the worst case scenario sometimes, but I know those risks are there in any pregnancy, and my sister has proven in previous pregnancies that she is a pro.

Now let’s skip forward five or six months, here I am one of the biggest supporters of my sister (as well as her family) and C & J. Squishy is making himself (no I don’t know anything – I am just predicting boy!) comfortable in his temporary home and I get to be a part of it all! C and I have messaged back and forth quite a bit in the last couple of months and it was finally time for me to head to Manitoba September long weekend to meet both C & J.

As I pulled up to my parents’ house after a 9-hour drive I found myself feeling nervous about meeting C & J. Do I hug them? Do I shake their hand? What was I supposed to do in this situation??? In I went and my awkward self basically walked right into C’s arms and gave her a big hug. Though J and I hadn’t had the chance to talk at all before I couldn’t resist hugging him, too. Within the first 10 minutes of being home it felt like we had all known each other for years and it was completely natural.

After spending a couple of days with C & J it became very clear to me that they were the most deserving people and my sister could not have picked a better pair. They have fought so hard for this and I cannot believe that in less than 10 weeks C & J will make the drive back to Manitoba to finally meet Squishy!

Lots of love to C, J, the farm and Squishy!

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We’re past half-way!

My poor, sad, neglected blog, I have missed you!

It turns out I am terrible at keeping this thing updated, specifically in the summer when life gets busy. I would much rather be outside spending time with my kids than inside typing on a computer. You can’t blame me, can you? But, a lot has happened lately and we’ve hit some important milestones, so I figure it’s about time for a Squishy update.

To start, I am now 24 weeks pregnant. Yah, you read that right, 24 weeks! That’s almost 6 months! It also means that baby could survive outside the womb, but we’re not ready for that to happen quite yet. Last month, at about 20 weeks, my H and I got to head out to the east coast to visit C&J, meet some of their family and of course, their fur babies, and see Squishy’s nursery. We got some pictures taken and even got to see Squishy’s perfect little face on 3D ultrasound. Then 2 weeks later was our anatomy scan. I know that ultrasounds aren’t 100% reliable, but I think I can already say that there is one cute little baby growing in there. C&J have decided that they are not going to find out the sex of the baby which I find very exciting.



Now that we’re in the second half of the pregnancy I have started getting my mind wrapped around the birth part. I delivered the twins via C-section, because both of the little buggers were breech. But, we are hoping that I will be able to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) this time. I had a much easier time recovering from my daughter’s birth than I did the C-section and would like to avoid an epidural at all costs. Plus, if I have a VBAC the hope is that both C&J would be able to be in the room along with my H. I would kind of like Squishy’s parents to be there for the birth of their baby! So, I am currently working on the Hypnobabies home study program in hopes for a calm, stress-free delivery for everyone involved.

Next month C&J are finally coming out to visit us. C hasn’t met our kids yet, so that will be very exciting. M can’t wait to meet Squishy’s mommy. We’re also hoping to arrange a hospital tour and maybe even schedule a midwife appointment so everyone can meet our midwife. Appointments have been going well so far but it feels like there is something missing when C&J aren’t there. It is their bouncing little baby in there after all!


So, 16(ish) more weeks, and Squishy will be here. So far I have been feeling well. I have the typical pregnancy symptoms (round ligament pain, stretching ab muscles, sore ribs and back, insomnia, heartburn, etc.) but really nothing that I can’t handle. I keep reminding myself that this is a breeze compared to the twin pregnancy. I’m trying to stay as active as possible, which I think is really helping, so hopefully the weather cooperates well into the fall. I don’t want to wish this last month of summer or the next 16 weeks away, but everyone is very excited to meet Squishy!

Talking to Kids about Surrogacy

One of the first things I thought about when the idea of becoming a surrogate came to mind was how it would affect my oldest daughter, M. My youngest two aren’t even 2 yet, so I was never as worried about explaining it to them, but M is a very curious, bright little girl, and I knew that I would have to put some thought into how and when I would open up to her about our plans for me to become a surrogate.

We ended up having a great experience telling our daughter, so here are some of my tips about talking to kids about surrogacy:

  1. Set the stage: The Birds & The Bees. My husband and I have quite liberal views when it comes to being open and honest with our kids on topics like types of families, how babies are made, and body parts. When I was pregnant with our twins, M (still only 3 at the time) started asking questions about how babies were made and how babies get out of mommies’ tummies.  I bought a book for us to read together called It’s Not The Stork, which explains these topics at an age-appropriate level. It also happened to include how families come in all different shapes and sizes, and that some families need help getting started with things like fertility treatments or adoption. It didn’t specifically talk about surrogacy, but it definitely opened up the doors to that conversation nicely. I think it’s important to answer any question that kids have honestly, without giving more detail than they need or want, so I did just that whenever the book elicited a question.
  2. Set the stage: What is Surrogacy? Once I figured she had the science down (as much as a 5-year-old could) I started adding in the surrogacy piece. Around the time that I matched with C&J I showed her this video from a blog called Our Misconception. It’s obviously not meant to be educational, at least not for a 5-year-old, but I knew it would open the door to more conversation (and it’s amazing, not to mention). Sure enough, the questions started coming. “Why doesn’t the mommy have the baby in her tummy?” Again, I answered her questions honestly. “The mommy’s body can’t carry a baby, so another lady offered to carry it for her. It’s still the mommy and daddy’s baby.” If she had started asking about how the baby got there, I was prepared to answer those questions. But she didn’t, so I left that part for another day. I knew that soon enough she would ask, and that I didn’t want to give her more than she was wanting to hear quite yet. At Christmas we also received the book The Kangaroo Pouch from C&J, which is an amazing story about surrogacy told from the surrogate’s child’s point-of-view.

    Once we were done reading it the very first time, M looked at me and said, “I think you should do that for a family.” My screening appointment was a week away and I knew that we would have no problems explaining to our amazing, empathic, loving little girl what would be happening.

  3. Be smart about timing. We decided that aside from setting the stage with some books, videos, and conversations, we wouldn’t specifically tell M about what was going on until several weeks later. We did not want to confuse her if the first transfer didn’t work or if we suffered an early loss. We also knew that whenever we told her, it wouldn’t be long before the rest of the world would find out. We finally broke the news to her when I was 9 weeks pregnant. I was feeling awful that week, and guilty that I had been so tired and useless at home. My H and I had already told most of our close family and friends, so we were comfortable with the news being more “public”, as M loves sharing happy news with everyone she sees.
  4. Keep it simple. We very simply told her that we had met a couple named C&J who needed help starting their family because C wasn’t able to carry a baby in her tummy. So, just like the kangaroo family, I was going to keep their baby in my belly until he or she was ready to go home with them, probably sometime between Halloween and Christmas. Even though I knew that we had prepared her as best as we could for the conversation, I was suddenly nervous about her reaction. But, as I had originally expected, she was nothing but excited. She asked how the baby got in my belly, and we explained that we had to go to a special doctor in Toronto who put C&J’s itty bitty  baby in my tummy through a tiny tube, then we waited to see if it was going to grow, and it did! It was bedtime when we had the talk, so as I tucked her in that night, she asked if she could sing to the baby. It was the sweetest.
  5. Stress that it is not your baby. Since the twins were born I have been very clear about the fact that there will be no more babies in our house. M is well aware of this and agrees that one little brother and sister are enough for her. Still, we continue to stress that the baby in my belly is not ours and will not be staying with us once he or she is born. This is C&J’s baby that they have hoped for and love, and more than anything we are excited for them because now they get to experience what it is like to have a new little family like we did when we brought M home. She has never questioned this or expressed disappointment that the baby won’t come home with us.

People have asked what M thinks of the situation and are surprised to hear that her reaction has been so positive. I always knew deep down that she would be the easier person to explain surrogacy to. M is at an amazing age, where her heart is still innocent, full of love and acceptance. Her heart, along with her beautiful, curious little brain that’s ready to soak up new information, have made this process so easy. It’s the adults that complicate things with their questions and concerns about bonding, health, finances, work, etc. They’re the ones who ask “Why??” M has never asked why we would do this because she knows why. It’s nice to help people. While I can (and have) given a more in-depth answer to the question, that’s really all it comes down to.

Kids are simple. For most big topics I have found that being brief but honest works the best, and it seemed to be the key here. We’ll continue to answer her questions as they come, and I am anticipating more as my belly grows and eventually I give birth. C&J have agreed that M will be able to come meet Squishy once he or she is born, and I think that seeing C&J with their new little baby will be a very important part of the process for her. I keep my kids in mind with every. single. decision that I make, and I am confident that only good can come from this very big journey our family is on.

Do Your Good

This past Sunday we finally went public with our surrogacy news. While we had already told a lot of our close family and friends as we saw them, we hadn’t made our news “public” yet. I knew that C’s plan was to post something on Facebook around May 12, which was the beginning of Canada’s Infertility Awareness Week. Mother’s  Day, May 9, rolled around and I thought that might be a good day to announce. So on Sunday evening I made my announcement. I figured that since it was later in the day I might get a few “likes”, maybe a comment or two. But I was pleasantly surprised with the response I got. C couldn’t wait any longer and announced the next afternoon, and once that happened, the likes, comments, and private messages started to get overwhelming.

I have never been one to take a compliment well. I usually make things really awkward, especially if it’s in person. “Hey Ash, I love that outfit,” will be followed by, “Umm what? Oh it’s not mine. I mean it’s mine, but I didn’t buy it. Um, thanks?”  I don’t know what I was expecting with this situation, but it was really no different. I felt so awkward. I heard (read) from a few people that what I was doing was amazing; that I was amazing. I’m flattered by all of the compliments, but I don’t feel amazing.

I know that what we are doing is changing a family’s life (I say we because my H and the rest of my family are just as much a part of this as I am.) When I look at my own children I completely understand the gravity of this, because I can’t imagine my life without the 3 of them. But I am only doing what I feel like I am supposed to be doing. This past fall I read Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please where she says to “decide what your currency is early.” She says that everyone has something great to offer the world, and that we should figure out what that is early on and use it. She was specifically talking about employment, but the advice still stuck with me. In my field of work I help people, but I have always felt like I had more to give. We have 3 kids, 3 degrees worth of student loans, 2 vehicle payments, and a mortgage, so money was never something that I have been able to donate freely, at least not as much as I would like. And again, with 3 kids and a full-time job, my time is mostly taken. What more could I do? What was my currency? Once I had weighed the pros and cons of surrogacy I realized that this was it. This was the way I was going to give. Once I had decided, I could feel the pull to do it in my bones; like if I didn’t, I would be passing up on this one great thing that I was meant to do in my life. I feel that it has been my offering of gratitude to the universe for what I have been given. It is my turn to give back.

I do not, for one second, think that this makes me any more amazing than any of the people who paid me these beautiful compliments. I think we all have our currency; both for what we can offer in our work and in what we can give to the world. Some people were blessed to be born with a silver spoon or have worked hard to earn their money, and can donate as their heart desires. Other people have some spare time and give it away to charity organizations. I have one dear friend who donates blood almost as often as they’ll let her. (I have donated once, and with my low blood pressure felt awful for the following two days. Just not my currency.) Just this week an old co-worker and friend of mine offered to set up a Go Fund Me account to help C&J with their Squishy expenses, and others have donated. These people have found their currency and they use it.

So, anytime you think of myself, Squishy, C&J, or our story, instead of thinking about how amazing it all is, I challenge you instead to think about what your currency is. And if you’re not already using it, what is stopping you? Find something you’re passionate about, and go do something about it. Maybe it’s small acts of kindness scattered here and there, or maybe you’re going to go volunteer at a homeless shelter or even an animal shelter. I truly believe that we all have it in us to give; to make this world a better place. Go do your good.

only-by-giving

An 8 Week Roller Coaster 

I knew going into surrogacy that the pregnancy would be a lot different than my first two. I did not, however, expect that the differences would be so apparent so quickly.

I was full of nerves the first 5 days after the transfer. Despite saying I wouldn’t, I tested early, which of course only led to having to look at negative tests. Within the first 3 days I was already going through the things I did “wrong” and where I could have been a better surrogate. Did I do too much walking that first day? Should I have gone back to the hotel and straight to bed? Was that one dose of progesterone a bit too late? (We’re talking 15 minutes.) Did I not eat enough pineapple core??? Anyone on the outside looking in could have told me these thoughts were crazy, but it’s hard not analyzing every little thing you have done when so much is at stake for someone else.

There was an overwhelming sense of relief that came over me when that second pink line appeared on day 5, the day I said I would start testing. But it wasn’t a few days later that the worrying came back again. I had no reason to worry this time. The tests kept coming back positive, but I couldn’t shake the feeling. 

When we received the results of the first beta at 14dp5dt (14 days past 5 day transfer) the relief was back again. Our clinic emailed us to say that it was a positive pregnancy test. Unfortunately, the second test 2 days later wasn’t so positive. They like to see your bHcg numbers double, and ours had only gone from 449 to 533. Again, panic set in. So on Easter weekend, while out visiting my sister in Alberta, I had to find a clinic where I could go get the test redone. Then we waited. When you’re in beta limbo, waiting is about the last thing you want to do.

Finally, 3 days after I had the blood work done, we got the results in and my levels had risen to 1232. I had just gotten back to work after the long weekend and immediately started crying at my desk when I read the number, and the nurse saying the levels had now “increased nicely.” Relief once again.

The next couple of weeks were thankfully uneventful. Pregnancy nausea and exhaustion had started to set in, and for the first time ever both were welcomed. I finally felt pregnant.

  
This past Tuesday at 7 weeks, 6 days, a day came that C&J and I had been anxiously awaiting; the first ultrasound. I was overcome with calm when the tech moved the probe around and after a few minutes said, “there it is, with a heart rate of 163 and measuring right at 7 weeks, 6 days.” I sent the picture to C as soon as I got it and everything finally felt perfect.  

 Wouldn’t it have been awesome to go just a few days without panic once again setting in?? Last night was by far the worst of it. I started cramping and bleeding. Not spotting. Bleeding. I had never had this happen in any pregnancy before, and I was scared. My H took me to the ER where we eventually saw a doctor about 4 hours later. They did some blood work, made sure my bleeding hadn’t increased and that I had no clotting, and eventually I was sent home. The doctor said he’d call by 7:30am if there was a drop in any of my hormones, but otherwise he said he wasn’t too concerned because I had just had a normal ultrasound. So today was spent at home in bed, and I am happy to report that the bleeding has basically stopped. I felt awful having to send the initial text to C, not knowing what was happening. But of course, she was amazing and calm, and I woke up from one of my naps this morning to this:

  

C sure does know how to make me feel better! So as for now I will rest as much as possible, and pray that the bleeding doesn’t come back.

Like I said, this pregnancy has been so much different then my own 2. Normally I would get a positive pregnancy test, wait to see my doctor, wait until about 10 weeks to hear the heart beat, then wait again until 20 weeks for the first ultrasound. I never had any blood work done and never had early ultrasounds. I thought the extra monitoring in the beginning would help ease my mind, but in the end it has done the opposite. This has already been such a roller coaster.

As for bonding, I can’t say that there has been much of a difference yet. I never really bonded with my own kids until I could feel them moving, and the real bonding didn’t happen until months after they were born. But, I realized the other day that I am more worried, not just because of the extra monitoring or scares, but for another reason. With this pregnancy I feel like I felt when my sister found out she was pregnant. I was far more terrified for her than I ever was for me while pregnant, because I couldn’t stand to see anything bad happen to her. The same goes for C&J. I care so much about these people, these people who were strangers just 8 months ago, and it would kill me to see them hurt.

So, little Squishy, could you please do us all a favour and stay put? Your one and only job is to grow. Let me take care of the rest. You already have so many people who love you and who are cheering for you. 

And to my body, just chill the F out, okay? You have done this before. You’ve got this. 

There’s a baby in my belly!

I had my beta draw yesterday morning and it came back at 449, which the clinic said is a great number. We are officially pregnant!

Since I haven’t posted since the beginning of the month, I better give an update on how transfer and testing went.

The days leading up to the transfer were emotional for me.  The hormones were finally taking their toll and reality had started setting in. I was experiencing a mix of emotions including excitement, anxiety, and fear. I was so excited to finally meet C&J and help them make their dreams come true, but was starting to feel very worried that something wasn’t going to work out and that I would somehow let them down.  That fear was quickly taken over by excitement on the morning we flew out.

We flew to Toronto on Sunday, March 7 and met up with C&J at the hotel right when we got there.  We went on a brewery tour that afternoon, then out for dinner with the egg donor (who was equally as lovely as C!) We finished off the day with a trip to the aquarium, where we realized the baby jellyfish looked like little embryos. It was a great day, and I even got to indulge in my last little bit of beer for a while. C&J were just as awesome as I expected them to be, and I was once again reassured that we had picked a perfect match.

shirts

The next morning we put on our lucky transfer t-shirts and headed to the clinic for transfer, and aside from a little bit of a wait, everything went great. Everyone seemed really calm and the transfer itself was really quick.  It was a bit uncomfortable, but nothing worse than a pap. We named the embryo Squishy and went on our way. We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging around downtown Toronto and said our goodbyes that evening.  The weekend had gone better than I could have ever imagined.

squishyembie

The wait to test was excruciating. And I’ll admit, I picked up a few cheapies to test early because I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait the full 5 days.  I forgot how discouraging seeing negative pregnancy tests was.  But, on day 5 I finally got a perfect, though faint, little pink line.  I tried a digital test for fun and even it turned positive.  I have never felt more relieved!  We FaceTimed with C&J to give them the great news and everyone was ecstatic. The looks on their faces has made all of the poking and prodding so far completely worth it.

tests

So far things have been going well.  I had a horrible sinus cold the week after the positive tests and forgot how awful they are when you can’t take the good drugs! But otherwise I have been feeling fine.  I’ve been tired, but thankfully the morning sickness hasn’t set in yet. (It will tomorrow now that I’ve typed that, I’m sure of it.)

We are heading out west to visit my sister and her family for Easter weekend and will be going for a few ultrasounds in the next few weeks. Keep your fingers crossed that everything continues to go well!

It’s March!!

lucky

This will be a quick update, but I’m so excited and needed to get it out somewhere.  I can’t believe that March is here!  When C&J and I matched in November it felt like our transfer would be forever away, but the past few weeks have been flying by.  I started Estrace last week to start thickening up my uterine lining and start progesterone very soon.  Yesterday I had my lining check and after an agonizing 24 hour wait, we finally got the results not too long ago.  My lining was at 7.5mm, which is good for where we are in the cycle!  The egg donor has been having her checks as well and things are going great with her.  By the end of this week her eggs will be retrieved and fertilized, and C&J’s little embryos will grow and wait for me!

So, next week is our week!  NEXT WEEK!  We’ll head to Toronto to meet C&J, and the next day one of their embryos will cozy up to their temporary home in my tummy. This is it!