Sunday, September 13, 2015

Nine months

About a month ago, a woman in my IP group posted the following, "Grateful Monday. He has officially been home longer than he was with anyone else.  9 months old last week! "  Until I read that, it never occurred to me that Jaden's nine month birthday would be a special milestone.  Here we are though. Jaden is nine and a half months old.  I am so grateful that Ellen took care of him his first nine months in utero and even more grateful that Jason and I have been able to take care of him his first nine months outside of the womb. What an incredible nine months it has been!

People often ask me if I ever see Ellen now, or if she ever gets to see Jaden.  That question seems absurd to me, but I suppose there are plenty of surrogates and IPs who don't have a relationship post-birth.  Some just keep in touch via Facebook or text picture updates on birthdays.  Thankfully, that isn't the case for Ellen and I.  Our friendship has only grown deeper since Jaden's birth.   Here are just a few snapshots of the times we have spent together in the past nine months.
Ellen comes to visit. Jaden is four days old.

Ellen acting as kvatterin at Jaden's Bris.  He is eight days old. 

Visit to Ellen's house to help trim the Christmas tree. Jaden is two weeks old.

My birthday- Jaden is three weeks old.
Ellen and Chris come to visit. Jaden is learning to smile at five weeks old.

Ellen and the girls come to visit. Jaden is six weeks.
Jaden's first sleepover at Ellen's. He is two months old.
Girls weekend in Chicago.  Jaden is three and a half months old (but he's at home with daddy).

Family gathering at Ellen's parents. Jaden is four months old.
Second sleepover at Ellen's. Jaden is almost six months old.
Hanging with Ellen's oldest at our house.  He is almost eight months old.
With Ellen's oldest and Chris last weekend. Jaden is nine months old. 

I'm so excited to continue making memories with Ellen and her family! 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mixed Feelings on Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day.  I am finally a mom.  After nearly five years of failed cycles, lost heartbeats and crushed dreams I finally have the most adorable little son that I can spend Mother's Day with and call my own.  I should be overjoyed, right? Then why aren't I? All week I've had such mixed emotions- happiness for sure, relief, but also a sadness that blankets everything.  I told Jason last night that I think I am sad for all the people I know who are still trying to become moms.  People I "know" from the FB boards that I am part of, and people I know in real life.  I know what today is like for them.  Infertility is something you live with every day but on this day- when the very thing you long for, hurt for, mourn for is being celebrated by EVERYONE- the pictures, sentiments, and thank yous given for something you may never experience-it stings.  After year two, I learned to just avoid FB on this day.  Now that I can finally join in on the celebration- I find myself still wanting to avoid FB.   I certainly don't want to contribute to their pain with my own "look at me and my beautiful family" post but I also don't want to go there because I still hurt.

This morning as I woke to got to the bathroom around 5am,  I saw that my little guy was stirring.  Before I went to retrieve him, I checked FB as is my habit (figuring it was probably to early for the barrage of Mother's Day FB posts so still safe) and I saw a post from Our Misconception  by Candace Wohl that really resonated with me.  She too was experiencing a myriad of emotions on her first Mother's Day.  Here is a snippet of what she wrote that really hit home:

But for some reason, amidst this joy and what should be the end of the story, I hurt. I have an emptiness. Perhaps it is the scars I bare that remind me pregnancy was and will never be part of what has made me a mother.

I am standing in the middle of the road with one foot on one side of the line for what will always be my infertility diagnosis and the other foot on side of the fertile ground of motherhood.
Someone really put my melting pot of thoughts and “feels” into the right words last night. She said I was surviving infertility in a fertile world. Yes, yes I am.

I feel guilty.

I feel blessed.

I feel angry.

I feel overwhelming joy.

I feel sorrow for others.
I still feel infertile.

So yes, while there is a big part of me that is experiencing Survivors Guilt- wrestling with feelings of guilt for having survived/achieved something others have not- Candace's post helped me to see that I'm also struggling with still feeling infertile.  Yes, I have my baby.  But it was not an easy road getting him here.  And if I want another one, as so many have asked and as Jason and I ask ourselves either out loud or in our heads daily, it still won't be easy.  Mother Nature reminded me of what a bitch she can be when she decided to have my period show up a week early last night. Because after all, why not throw in some hormones to make me extra emotional during this confusing time?

After early morning feedings, I can usually put Jaden back down for an hour or two and go back to sleep myself.  I really wanted to do that this morning, because I knew I needed to write about my feelings after reading that post.  I've been struggling all week about what to say and finally got some clarity. I started to write and got maybe three sentences in when I heard the adorable "Ah-gee, ah-gee" cooing that Jaden does.  And my heart melted.  I brought him in our room for a few minutes and then tried putting him back down.    Once again, his cooing made it clear that he wasn't going back to sleep.  Now I think that bitch Mother Nature was winking at me through him.  Reminding me that this is no time to be feeling sad.  Reminding me that even though I didn't get to carry him in my belly, I get to carry him now.  I get to see his little face light up whenever he sees me and I get to be his mother.

On this day moving forward, I won't forget for whom this day is painful.  I won't forget those who long to be mothers, nor those who had to use the help of doctors to become mothers.  I won't forget those who needed the help of generous women either through adoption or surrogacy to become mothers.  I won't forget those in pain because they lost their mothers or those who have a strained relationship with their mothers.  This is a day to honor them all.

Yet I will also remember that I am lucky and blessed to be a mother to Jaden- a boy with a smile that lights up a room and a sweet and gentle spirit that warms my heart every day. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Full Circle

IiU In the last couple of weeks I've really had some full circle moments.  It started with a trip to our fertility clinic to introduce Jaden to Dr. Toledo. It was pretty surreal going back to RBA- a place we had frequented far too often since December of 2011 (though we had been hanging out in fertility clinic waiting rooms since October of 2010).   There are a series of feelings that you experience in that waiting room- it starts out with hope and excitement and then moves on to confusion,  anxiety, despair, desperation, anger, and sadness.  The more hours you log in the waiting room chair, the less hope and excitement you feel. The more those other feelings take over and start to consume you.  Those feelings were my normal for the better part of the past four years.  Returning to the fertility clinic this time I felt a whole new range of emotions- joy, pride, happiness...and relief.   My new normal. And boy did it feel good.

We scheduled our visit with Dr. Toledo during Ellen's winter break because we really wanted her to be there too.  We also scheduled it during the clinic's lunch hour, so were quite surprised to see the waiting room was full.  We were careful to remain in the hallway just outside the clinic's entryway.  I wasn't about to go flaunting my baby in front of all those longing couples in the waiting room.

It was wonderful seeing Dr. Toledo- someone who had experienced so many ups, and mostly downs with us over the years.  On more than one occasion, I had fallen apart in Dr. Toledo's arms after hearing bad news.  What a full circle moment it was to now see him cradling my baby in those same arms! It was really special that Dr. Toledo wanted to hold him. He told him Jaden how much he was loved and how hard we had worked to get him here.  It warmed my heart.

And here is another full circle moment:

From this...

To this...

Just a few days after that visit I had another full circle moment.  Remember that birthday party for my dear friend's two year old twins that I wrote about here?  Last year I left that party in tears.  This year for their three year old birthday,   I arrived with my three month old! 

Finally, yesterday was a special day too.   Chris and Jason went out of town for the evening for a boy's night so Ellen and her girls and Jaden and I decided to get together.  It was just over a year ago that I met her girls for the first time.  We went to the zoo and back then,  they just knew me as mom's new friend.  I remember being so taken by all the newborns at the zoo, hoping and praying that it was foreshadowing.  I guess it was because this weekend we went back to the zoo- with my own newborn! 

Monday, January 12, 2015

What a Difference a Year Makes

It was exactly a year today, January 12, 2014, that Chris and I first met Kerri & Jason.  I remember being a ball of nerves on the way to meet them.  Looking back, I knew in my gut that they would be the perfect match.  I knew it from the very first conversations that Kerri and I had through Facebook.  Meeting them solidified those feelings.  And here we are today...we went from strangers to friends to family. 

Kerri posted her thoughts on the birth of Jaden, and I thought I would share some of mine as well.  That same ball of nerves I had on the way to meet Kerri & Jason for the first time was even bigger on the way to the hospital.  We were induced, so I think knowing that this was the day intensified those feelings.  As nervous as I was, I couldn’t help but think about Kerri & Jason and how they must have felt.  Everything they had worked for the last 4 years plus was finally coming to fruition. 

Having your own baby is the best thing in the world.  Or so I thought until I was a surrogate.  Having someone else’s baby for them trumps it a million percent.  Being there, in that moment, is almost indescribable.  Kerri had warned me many times that she gets extra chatty when she’s nervous.  I’m the opposite.  I told her and Jason that they would know when it was getting close to baby time because I would stop talking and get in the zone, so to speak.  My other signs of impending baby crowning (aka holy hell, get this thing out of me!) are me asking for drugs (I don’t really mean it) and saying I can’t do it (like I have a choice at that time).  Disclaimer – I am not anti-epidural or anti pain meds.  I am pro women doing whatever works best for them and their baby.  I am also, according to the nurse and most other women I know stupid crazy.  Needless to say, I did ask for meds (which I didn’t really want or get) and I also said I couldn’t do it, but I did.  And like that, it was go time.  Kerri was holding one leg, Chris the other, and Jason was very diplomatically at my head behind Chris until both he and I basically forced Jason down by Dr. Ramani.  Seeing the birth of your child is a miraculous thing, and no way was Jason going to miss out on that on my watch. 

The mood in the room was excited, nervous, and beyond happy.  It was euphoric.  When Jaden was born and Dr. Ramani placed him on my belly, seeing Kerri see her baby for the first time was breath taking.  The years of anticipation, heart ache, loss, worry, and sadness were replaced in that single second.  This child that she and Jason yearned for so desperately was here, and he was perfect. 

Don’t get me wrong, the birth of my three girls are three of the best days and times of my life, but being lucky enough to help create another family and witness the sheer joy and love that having Jaden brought to Kerri & Jason ranks right up there with my own births. 

Anyone involved with surrogacy will mostly likely claim that there is no such thing as a “perfect journey.” I whole heartedly disagree, because from second one, this journey was.  Not that is was 100% easy and worry free, but it was perfect.  This last year I have heard many people say that Kerri and Jason were lucky to have me, but it’s simply not true.  I’m the lucky one.  Lucky to have a husband, children, family, and friends who support me 100%.  Lucky to have Kerri & Jason as not just IPs, but as friends and family.  Lucky to have their extended families and friends welcome me and my family with open arms.  Lucky to witness the pure love, kindness, caring, generosity, faith, and perseverance of Kerri & Jason.  Yep, I’m the lucky one. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The First 48

Editors note: I really did start writing this post during the first 48 hours after he was born.  However, five weeks later I'm finally getting around to finishing it.  This motherhood thing sure keeps me busy! 

Well, we didn't have to make a decision about whether or not to blow $450 on the four star hotel room hospital room because as it turned out, Labor and Delivery and Mother and Baby floors were both packed beyond capacity.  Thankfully, despite the hospital policy that wouldn't allow us to bunk up with Ellen, no one seemed to mind that Jason and I both slept there.  By slept I mean napped  That's about all you can do the first 24 hours of a newborns life.

Jaden was born at 3:13 PM. Following his birth, after all the visitors left, they took Jaden to the nursery to give him a bath and Jason and I accompanied him.  It was interesting surveying all the other babies in the nursery.  Most of them were a lot bigger than our little guy. And noisier!  One of the babies was crying non-stop.  They told us that would probably start on Day 2.  Thankfully, that non-stop crying hasn't started yet.

After his bath, Jason and I spent some time in a separate room feeding him. It was really surreal and special to have that alone time with him.  The room was dim and it was just us and this sweet baby.  Finally.

After feeding time, we headed back to Ellen's room.  We felt a little bad about crashing with her, but I think she was happy that we joined her.  Come to think of it, I think it was really the best thing for all of us. I know she was exhausted and would have liked to have gotten some sleep, but I bet she was also feeling lonely.  Her husband and kids were at home and I'm sure it would have been hard being alone in that room, not pregnant anymore, and not with the baby she had just carried for nine months.  And it would have been strange for us not to be with the woman who just had just given us this gift.

The night itself went pretty well, except for one minor detail.  You know how they tell you not to bring newborns out in public/around sick people because they have not yet had their vaccinations so are more susceptible to illness? Well, what do you do when that sick person is the baby's mom?!?  That's right folks, I never get sick.  And yet the day my son was born- the son I've been waiting to meet for nearly five years- I started coming down with something.  I knew I wasn't feeling well when they started to induce Ellen so sent my mother-in-law out for some Emergen-C.  By the evening, I was feeling pretty lousy and borrowed one of the thermometers in Jaden's bassinet.  Sure enough, I had a 101.4 fever.  Ugh.     

Jason was very protective of Jaden and didn't want my germ-infested self handling him.  I was so tired that first night that I was okay with Jason taking the late night feedings (every three hours).   What I didn't know until a later date was Jason was so worried/in awe of Jaden that he set his alarm to wake up every hour to check on him! So cute/neurotic!   When day two rolled around I was less pleased with Jason's insistence that I not hold my baby.  We compromised by asking the nurse for some masks.  This is how I spent the next 24 hours with the baby.  Notice my glare.  That's me being really unhappy about the whole mask thing.

The morning after the delivery,  Chris came to pick up Ellen and they headed home while Jason and I waited for the doctor to discharge us.  We had to wait for his blood work to come back to make sure he wasn't jaundiced and were able to leave just shy of 24 hours after his birth.   It was really crazy to think that we would be on our own with this newborn but thankfully, we had hired a post-partum doula, Penny, to come to the house the following day.  A friend of ours recommended her services and we couldn't have been more pleased.  Before we even left the hospital she emailed me a list of instructions including when to feed, nap and do tummy time.  She encouraged us to have him sleep in the crib from night one, claiming we wouldn't sleep if the baby was in our room.  Jason was not on board with that (probably, in part because he has literally slept through our burglar alarm in the past) so we put Jaden in a bassinet next to our bed.  For the first night anyway.

Penny was right- the baby kept me awake.  He would make noises throughout the night and though he was still sleeping, it kept me awake (as suspected Jason slept right through it).   That first sleepless night I used the time wisely.  Penny had also suggested that we watch "The Happiest Baby on the Block" by Harvey Karp, MD.  I had the book and had skimmed it a while back, but around 2AM, I decided to download the video on my Ipad.  Watching the video when I actually had a real live baby was really helpful.  Not only did it provide visual demonstrations for important things like how to swaddle (the DUDU method- Down, Up, Down Up) but it was also really comforting. You see,  Dr. Karp has a theory about the first three months of a newborns life, in which they really do little else but eat, sleep and poop.  He calls the first three months of a babies life the 4th trimester.  He basically suggests that, unlike baby horses, who are able to walk and even run minutes after they are born,  newborns are still quite immature and are really much like fetuses.  They would really benefit from a 4th trimester in the womb in order to continuing developing but there simply isn't enough room in there.  So Dr. Karp encourages parents to essentially recreate the womb for the first three months of the baby's life and gives instructions and examples of the ways to do that (namely the five S's - Shushing, Swaddling,  Side/Stomach, Sucking, and Swinging).  THIS WAS HUGE NEWS FOR ME- and really for any intended or even adoptive parent out there.  You see, since I have a crappy uterus, I had to outsource Jaden's womb.  I never got to provide that nourishment and comfort that Ellen gave him for the first nine months of his life.   But now, I get to be his womb!  

So on this very first night that my new baby was home, I had a wonderful light bulb epiphany.  I couldn't wait to get Jaden into his nursery*, where we had the all important white-noise machine (which recreates the loud slosshing and heartbeat sounds that Jaden heard in Ellen's uterus). I couldn't wait to perfect the swaddle, so he could feel that tight comforting snugness that he felt in the womb.  I couldn't wait to give him his pacifier so he could turn on his calming reflex.  It was my turn to be his womb and I couldn't wait! My new mission to provide the same comfort Jaden experienced in the womb was comforting to me as well.

*he  has slept in the nursery the second night he was home and every night since!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Get a room!

I had a lot of anxiety leading up to Jaden's birth,  not just about how how the delivery would go, but about how things would go after the delivery.  Much of it was logistical.  We didn't know up until the day of whether or not Jason and I would have a room following the delivery. 

In typical delivery situations, the baby rooms with the mother.  In typical delivery situations, the mother is the one delivering the baby.  So, since our situation was anything but typical, we weren't sure what that meant for Jason and I.  We were hopeful that the PBO we had in place would help.

At around 20 weeks gestation,with the help of our attorney Jason and I petitioned the court for a PBO or a Pre-Birth Order.  A PBO is a court order signed by a judge establishing parentage of an expected child when the woman giving birth to the child is not genetically related to the child.  The law assumes that a woman who gives birth to a child is the genetic mother of the child; if she is married her husband is presumed to be the father of the child. Invariably, the presumption about the husband being the father of the child has in some cases been wrong (when there's another baby daddy), but until recently, it was never wrong about the mother.   Enter modern science.  With the advent of surrogacy, some states (including Georgia) began the practice of utilizing Pre-Birth Orders to address this issue.   The fee for obtaining a PBO in Atlanta varies anywhere from $2600 to $5000.   While the surrogate can waive her right to an attorney for the contract phase of surrogacy, it is mandatory that she has an attorney for the PBO in order to ensure that she is not being coerced into signing the petition.  The Intended Parents are responsible for the surros attorney's fees as well, usually amounting to around $750.  What happens if you don't live in a surro-friendly state that grants PBO's?  You obtain a post-birth order, or in some cases, adopt your baby.  This makes the hospital situation trickier.   If the PBO is granted (thankfully it typically is), the hospital is ordered to put the names of the genetic parents (Jason and I) on the birth certificate.   Additionally, the court order states that Jason and I are to make all medical decisions for the child once he is born.

In theory, having a PBO in hand should have made the hospital situation pretty seemless.    With Jason and I being recognized as biological parents, we would both be given hospital security bands which allows us all access to our baby.  We also hoped that we would be given a hospital room following his delivery.   When Ellen was around 30 weeks pregnant, I called the hospital to see if this was possible.  I was initially told it would depend on the hospital census, but later told that we wouldn't be able to get a room regardless of the census since hospital rooms are only given to patients.  We asked if we could stay in Ellen's room with her, since she is technically the patient.  They told us only one person was permitted to stay the night in Ellen's room.   The Charge Nurse that headed up the Mother and Baby floor did say that there is a special "Family Room" that she has designated for families of patients who need to stay the night and told us we were welcome to stay there.  She said it isn't technically a hospital room but should be sufficient.  We were still hopeful the PBO would help get us a room, but grateful that there was at least a back up option in place.

The three of us decided it would probably be best to go to the hospital to introduce ourselves and speak to the powers-that-be (in this case, we started with the charge nurses). We also wanted to check out the "Family Room" in case we did end up having to stay there.   Unfortunately, the "Family Room" was less than ideal. The room was quite small and just had a chair and a bench in it.  No bed. No bathroom.  Not even really room for a bed.   After seeing the room and my clear disappointment, Ellen told us not to worry- we could just bunk up with her if we couldn't get our own hospital room.  We asked the Charge Nurse about this and were once again told only one person was permitted to stay the night in Ellen's room. Hospital policy.  We were also informed that once the baby is born he is given four security bands.   Two of the bands would go on each of the baby's ankles, one would go to Ellen, and the final one would go to whichever one of us Ellen chose.  We explained that Jason and I both should be given bands but they insisted since Ellen is giving birth to the baby, the baby goes with her.  No way around it. Hospital policy.  Okay, we said.  Well then can we get additional bands so that Jason and I can both have a band? No dice. They only come in sets of four.   The nurses we spoke to were quite nice, but it was clear that they were not familiar with surrogacy and weren't sure how to bend hospital policy to accommodate our situation.

With PBO in hand, we eventually asked to speak to the Director of Nursing.   We explained that we know our situation is unique but surely there must be a way around hospital policy.  She assured us that she is familiar with surrogacy but still insisted that Ellen gets the security band because she is the "birth mother".   Birth mother? Um....this is not an adoption.  The Director must have seen the look of discontent on my face in reaction to her choice of words so she corrected herself.   "She's not the birth mother. She's birth".  Vessel??   She told us that we need not worry though, because even if Jason didn't have an arm band, it would be communicated to the staff that he was the biological father and would be given all access to the baby.  The hospital isn't that big, she told us.  It would be fine.  

This didn't sit well with us so when I got home I immediately contacted our attorney.  We have an incredible relationship with our surrogate but there are some surrogacy journeys that don't go as well as ours.  In fact, I have heard of cases where there is such a breakdown in the relationship that the surrogate and Intended Parents don't speak at all and only receive updates about the pregnancy from their attorney.  If our situation was like that, we certainly wouldn't feel comfortable with our surrogate having armband access to our baby while one of us was denied this access.    After several emails, phone calls and weeks of waiting, our attorney spoke with hospital counsel and got the security band situation straightened out.  Jason and I would both be given armbands.  Ellen would not receive a band.

As for the room? We were told that we still wouldn't be given a room but, if there was a room available, we would be given the opportunity to purchase a room for $450.  This wasn't exorbitant, but was no steal either.  We figured we would just make a game-day decision and see how we felt, and packed an airbed and a sleeping bag just in case. 

Stay tuned for the next blog post to see what we ended up deciding...

Monday, December 15, 2014