Stalking My Surrogate

It’s been nearly four months since I last spoke with my surrogate.  I’m concerned.  We used to talk nearly every other week and now my phone calls and texts have gone unanswered.  I’ve left countless messages to her and now I feel like I’m balancing precariously on the edge of normal checking in on someone and stalking.

My surrogate and I have always had a good relationship.  We grew close during the surrogacy nearly eight years ago.  What began as a casual friendship blossomed into one of respect and genuine care for one another as together we attended weekly doctor’s appointments and ultrasound checks.  We emailed daily and spoke on the phone every other day.

Our friendship continued after the twins were born.  It’s funny, but while we talked a lot about the pregnancy while she was pregnant, we rarely talked about the twins once they were born.  We had other topics to discuss:  work, relationships, family drama and movies.  My surrogate was movie obsessed, as was I, so we were always comparing movie notes.

We’ve been great supports for one another too.  We supported each other during the surrogacy and later, through marriage wobbles, childrearing questions and work issues.  We listened, consoled, empathized and guided.

But now, I haven’t heard from her and I’m worried that maybe I’ve done something or said something to upset her, but for the life of me, I’m not sure what that could be.

What should I do?

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“100% Organic”-  What the @#(*

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I was recently doing some guilty late-night on-line shopping and came across an adorable website selling organic baby clothes.  One of the onesies stood out from the others  It was an all-organic baby grow with the words “100% Organic” printed on the front.

My first thought was that this was the kind of onesie that a Whole Foods-proud mom would buy for their baby, you know, the kind of mom that grows her own fruits and vegetables, bans all plastics from her house and uses only cloth diapers.  The kind that uses environmentally-free cleaning products and washes her baby’s hair in a homemade mixture of chamomile, lavender and organic castille soap.

But then it dawned on me.  Organic, in this case, referred to an organic conception not the mommy’s lifestyle choices.  This onesie was for those lucky, privileged mommies out there who were conveniently and fruitfully able to conceive the old-fashioned way without any intervention from science.

I looked for the “Artificially Made” onesie, but alas, my search was fruitless.  What are those of us who conceived via IVF, IUI, ovulation drugs, or Surrogacy meant to clothe our babies in?

And then I got a little mad.  Sure it’s great that a lot of women can get pregnant naturally, but advertising it on their baby to those of us struggling and in pain is just plain insensitive.  There’s no need to broadcast your fecundity, especially using your beautiful baby as a prop.

So, for all those mommies out there who own one of these aforementioned onsies, the next time you think about dressing your baby in it, please think twice.  I’m glad that you had no difficulty conceiving, but there are a lot of us that are trying really hard using non-organic methods and your onesie just hurts.

Cultural Identity

The notion of a singular cultural identity is a tricky one in our household, especially for my adopted daughter.  She is Chinese by birth, American by citizenship, English by dual citizenship from her father and Swedish by her adoptive family heritage.  In my house we celebrate Chinese New Year, American 4th of July and Thanksgiving and Swedish Christmas.  Our house is adorned with Union Jack paraphernalia, Chinese paintings, American flag decorations and Swedish ornaments.  It must be confusing for our little girl to figure out just what her identity is.

A diverse cultural heritage and tradition seems uniquely American.  We are, after all, known as the “salad bowl” or “melting pot” of ethnicity, culture, language, religion and tradition.  So true in my household.

For now, I believe exposing my daughter and my other children to various cultures only enriches their life experience.  I want them to know that they are connected to a culture beyond the American one that they encounter on a daily basis in our American environment.  In the example of food, we eat American hot dogs, Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce, Chinese stir fried noodles and a Sunday English roast of Chicken, potatoes and peas.  We visit the Chinese-American Museum and also the Swedish American museum where we learn about history and cultural traditions.  My children travel to England to connect both with their family and country that their father grew up in.  We have taken Chinese language classes to introduce Mandarin and foreign language into our lives.

My children’s cultural identity is varied and extensive.  Ultimately, they will decide for themselves as they grow older which culture they identify with the most.  They can chose the aspects of a culture that they like and mix it together with one from another to create their new mixed American cultural identity.

 

 

 

Well Intended But Hurtful Comments

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When you’ve gone through a trauma or a loss, it can often be difficult for those closest to us to find the right words of support and comfort.  Nothing can make the pain go away, but an attempt is made to focus on the positive and towards the future.

After my hysterectomy, people used to say, “What a terrible shock you’ve had, but at least you still have your ovaries and can have more children.”  When my twins were growing inside my surrogate, they said, “It’s terrible that you had a hysterectomy, but you have a beautiful baby girl and now you’re expecting twins.”

These comments were well-intended to make me feel hopeful about my future twins and  be grateful for my first baby.  But, they also denied me the grief I felt at having a hysterectomy in the first place.  Yes, I had options for future family planing because I had ovaries, and I was blessed with a beautiful, healthy baby, but I was also sad and mourning the fact that I could never again be pregnant myself.

Furthermore, the message I received when people glossed over my hysterectomy was that feelings of sadness or mourning were wrong and inappropriate when I had a baby girl to show for that first pregnancy.  No one wanted to hear about how I almost died during my hemorrhaging or that I might feel depressed now that I no longer could become pregnant naturally.

It’s important to feel the sadness and grief of loss as well as the hope and expectation for the future.  To repress the sadness of the past only takes away from the ability to feel joy of the present and future.  I wasn’t going to collapse under the weight of my sadness, I just needed a chance to express what I was feeling. I needed a sympathetic ear to listen to how I felt and some empathy would have gone a long way.

Hysterectomy Delusions

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It wasn’t always easy for me to talk about my hysterectomy.  Lingering shame and anger over my body’s hysterectomy led me to not want anyone to know what had happened to me.  When I was in the hospital recovering from my surgery and later, when I returned home, I only shared what had happened with my family and best friends.  I couldn’t accept what had happened to me and part of me hoped that if I didn’t talk about it then it couldn’t have happened

I was delusional, of course, for thinking that denying my reality could allow me to live in a fantasy.  In the first place, the physical toll of the hysterectomy was made apparent by the pain I suffered during my recovery.  Walking, bending and lifting were nearly impossible those first few weeks.  I barely had an appetite and quickly lost my baby weight.  Emotionally, I was prone to fits of crying for no apparent reason and I was sleepy a lot of the time.

When a neighbor noticed my scar, I lied and told her that I’d experienced some postpartum hemorrhaging that had required minor surgery, but that everything had been OK.  She didn’t ask further questions and seemed to accept my story.

I saw a therapist who specialized in infertility and trauma and she helped me work through the emotions of shock, grief and ultimate acceptance of what had happened to me.  She made me realize that I should be grateful that I had not died during my hemorrhage and that I had a beautiful baby girl now to love and care for.  I was allowed to feel sad and mourn the loss of my uterus, but I also learned that I still had options and possibility to expand my family.

I announced my surrogate’s pregnancy to friends when my surrogate was around 20 weeks pregnant.  It was a bit complicated to share the news for first I had to explain why I was using a surrogate.  My friends were saddened and shocked by the news of the hysterectomy, but overjoyed that I was expecting twins.

It’s been a complete 180 degree turn from feeling anger and shame over my hysterectomy to feeling grateful for it.  I no longer have any delusional thoughts over it and feel finally at peace with what happened.

Pregnancy Envy

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I used to have pregnancy envy.  When I first became infertile after my hysterectomy and could no longer get pregnant naturally, I started to resent those closest to me who were becoming pregnant.  I suffered those first few months following my hysterectomy by being angry at my body for betraying me and and feeling great sadness at what would no longer be.

I wanted to be pregnant naturally and grow large with an expanding waistline.  I wanted pregnancy cravings and aversions.  I wanted the weekly check-ups and ultrasounds.  I wanted the grainy black and white pictures of my developing baby.  And I wanted to feel those first kicks and movement inside me.

An acquaintance of mine, who had also had a hysterectomy, felt greater pregnancy envy than me.  She would stare with longing at her pregnant friends and alternately want to be them and wish bad things to happen to them.  I never felt that way towards my pregnant friends.  I never wished ill upon them or that their pregnancy was anything other than healthy.

It’s hard having pregnancy envy.  Around the time of my pregnancy another acquaintance of mine became “accidentally” pregnant with her then boyfriend. I remember feeling upset that she could become pregnant so easily and without intent whereas I had intent but no means.  I felt that life was unfair to dole out pregnancy to those who didn’t want it when those of us who did want it were left wanting and desperate.

For the most part, my pregnant friends were sympathetic and sensitive to my situation.  They asked about my previous pregnancy and my options and hopes for future babies.  They allowed me to feel a measure of sadness at their news that they could get pregnant and I couldn’t.

My pregnancy envy ended when I decided upon surrogacy to add to my family.  I was filled with promise and possibility that surrogacy was the solution to my problem of not being able to get pregnant.  My friends announcing their pregnancies no longer hurt me and I no longer yearned for my own pregnancy.  After my twins were born via surrogacy and I began the adoption process, I had completely accepted the fact of my permanent infertility and had no longer held any lingering feelings of wanting to be pregnant myself.  I was overjoyed with my friends’ and family’s pregnancy announcements and the sight of their growing tummies.  I could be completely happy for them and supportive of their pregnancies.

I believe for those of us who suffer from infertility that pregnancy envy is a normal, natural state.  It’s not wrong to have, but rather it’s an emotional response to our own feelings of sadness and frustration.  I’ve learned that it doesn’t last, which I’m grateful for, and that it is possible to replace the envy with happiness and support for our pregnant friends.

What To Do With The Extra Frozen Embryos

UnknownWhy do I pay storage fees for embryos I have no intention of implanting?

That was the question I asked myself two years ago.  For 6 years I paid annual storage fees for 12 cryopreserved embryos that were leftover from my IVF treatments.  Of the embryos that my initial IVF cycle produced, 2 were transferred into the uterus of my surrogate and the remainder were preserved for future transplant.

I was lucky in that the first round of embryo implantation into my surrogate “took” and 8 months later I had twin boys added to my family.  Very soon after my twins were born I realized that I no longer felt the urge or need to have more biological children, thus an international adoption was pursued to have a fourth child.

But still the question remained, what to do with the remaining embryos?  Even though I knew they would not be used, I felt hesitant to let them go.  I felt an emotional connection to them and imagined that they were small babies just waiting to grow.  I pictured them looking like my twin boys and wondered if the embryos were male or female.

Finally, however, I made the difficult decision to stop paying the fees.  I knew that I didn’t want more children after now having four.  I knew that having biological children was not more special than having an adopted child.  And I knew that at some point I would have to face the fact that I couldn’t be spending so much money year after year with no intentions of ever using the embryos again.

I called up the storage facility and informed them of my intention to stop paying the fees.    I was asked if I wanted to donate my embryos and I said “no.”  I couldn’t imagine my embryos being used for medical research or implanted into the womb of another woman.  The lab next asked if I wanted to collect the embryos myself or if I wanted them to dispose of the embryos there in the lab.  I paused for a moment. I wondered if I should collect the embryos and then do something with them, like bury them or somehow mark the occasion.  I decided that was not in my emotional best interest to take them and authorized the lab to dispose of them themselves.

It’s been two years now since my embryos were exposed to air, thus terminating them.  I don’t think about the what ifs or could have beens.  I’m more upset with myself that I didn’t dispose of them earlier when my twins were born and when I knew that I would not be doing surrogacy again.  I think about the money that could have been saved and donated to Smile Train, for example, or another children’s medical foundation.

The frozen embryos are gone, but I’m thankful that we had them in case the first transfer didn’t work out.  I’m glad that science exists to be able to freeze embryos in the for other couples so that they don’t have to repeat the entire IVF process if the first round of transfer isn’t successful.  I’m OK with having no more embryos and grateful for the two that my IVF produced.