Monday, April 17, 2017

Update on MN Surrogacy Legislation

The Gestational Carrier Act was introduced in the Minnesota House.
Like its companion bill in the Senate (SF 707), the House bill (HF 2593) reflects the consensus points reached by the Legislative Commission on Surrogacy to enact clear and needed regulation of surrogacy in Minnesota that protects all participants. This is a bipartisan bill with support from lawmakers in both parties, and we need to make sure that every lawmaker understands the legislation and the importance of keeping gestational carrier surrogacy available and legal in Minnesota.
There are a few things you can do to accomplish these goals:
1. THANK THE BILL AUTHORS: Thank the authors of the Gestational Carrier Act if they are your Representative or Senator. Authors to date are Representatives Lesch, Hertaus, Zerwas, Youakim and Loonan and Senators Pappas, Dibble, Latz, Abeler and Marty. Use the letter template below and locate their email addresses here. (If you don’t know who your lawmaker is, you can look them up here.) We want to make these lawmakers feel good about their leadership and encourage them to reach out to their colleagues on our behalf. And to those of you who attended MN Advocacy Day, please pat yourselves on the back for securing so many co-authors! And enjoy this blog about YOU! (If your Representative promised to co-sponsor the bill on Advocacy Day and is not listed above, please reach out and encourage them to sign on to this common-sense consensus bill.)
2. ATTEND TOWN HALLS: We are already seeing a difference when people bring this topic up at town hall meetings. A potential new co-author is in the works thanks to one of her constituents attending a recent town hall. To see when your lawmakers are hosting a town hall, sign up for their emails, check their website or follow them on social media. Plan to attend and let us know at info@resolve.org so we can send you some talking points to make it super easy for you.
3. STAY ENGAGED: Be sure to open RESOLVE emails and Action Alerts, and you can also track our bills’ progress by signing up for MyBills on the MN State Legislature website (enter HF 2593 and SF 707). We are in this for the long haul and need your continued commitment. We know that opponents of surrogacy are well-funded and organized, and we must not let up!
Thanks to your efforts, we now have positive legislation pending in the House and Senate to regulate surrogacy in a way that protects all participants without restricting access to this important family building option. Our work will continue through the spring and into the next legislative session, and we appreciate your staying vigilant to help get this legislation passed.
Thank you, Minnesota Advocates!
Julie Berman, RESOLVE Board Chair and Minnesota Advocate
Betsy Campbell, RESOLVE Director of Constituent Engagement
P.S. RESOLVE is the only patient advocacy group in the U.S. that fights for the rights of women and men who are infertile. We can’t do this without your support - any amount helps.Please donate today to protect access to care in Minnesota.
Sample Thank You Letter to Gestational Carrier Act Authors
I am writing to thank you for co-authoring [for Rep. Lesch and Sen. Pappas, say authoring] the Gestational Carrier Act (HF 2593 /SF 707) to enact clear and needed regulation of surrogacy in Minnesota that protects all participants. This legislation is important to me and the 1 in 8 couples in our district who are struggling with infertility.
As a volunteer advocate for RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, I [Insert if you attended MN Advocacy Day - enjoyed meeting with you last month and ] applaud your leadership on this pro-family legislation. I hope you will encourage your colleagues to support the Gestational Carrier Act and keep all family building options available and legal for the more than 113,000 Minnesotans who need medical assistance to have a child.
Thank you again for your support of the infertility community and for helping Minnesotans realize their dreams of family.
Sincerely,
NameMailing Address

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Struggle Continues to Keep Surrogacy Available in Minnesota

While I generally try to stay out of politics, this is a cause for which I am making an exception. Our handsome little man would not be here if not for gestational surrogacy.


Surrogacy is the latest reproductive rights debate at the Minnesota Capitol

Battle pits infertile couples against faith groups, who call it "renting a womb." 

Aaron Lavinsky - Star Tribune
 
Chris and Ann Carda prayed before dinner at their home in St. Louis Park on Jan. 11. Their son, Harrison, 1, was carried by a surrogate mom.


Ann and Chris Carda received a phone call two years ago that changed their lives. A woman from their Minnetonka church offered to carry a baby for the couple, who were unable to conceive on their own.
Amid their excitement, they discovered a campaign to tighten restrictions on surrogate pregnancies in Minnesota. Led by the Minnesota Catholic Conference and the Minnesota Family Council, the campaign describes surrogacy as an immoral practice akin to “renting a womb.”
Surrogacy has become the latest frontier of reproductive rights at the State Capitol, with legislation expected to be introduced this year. Most of the opposition targets paid surrogacies, but some proposed changes would affect altruistic ones like the Cardas’.
“I respect that people have specific religious beliefs, but there’s many different views in the church,” said Carda, a faithful Episcopalian.
But surrogacy opponents argue that people don’t have the right to have children just because they want them.
“A child has a natural right to be conceived in the womb [of his mother] and raised in marriage,” said Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, echoing church doctrine.
Restricting surrogacy has been a legislative priority for years for the Catholic Conference, the church’s public policy arm best known for leading an unsuccessful attempt to ban gay marriage in Minnesota. But the issue has gained momentum with a Legislative Commission on Surrogacy that met last fall and issued its final report in December, in time for the legislative session.
The Catholic conference created an anti-surrogacy website and hosts events, such as a screening of the film “Breeders: A Subclass of Women,” and sets the agenda for Minnesota’s more than 1 million Catholics on political issues. A recent candidate questionnaire asked this:
“Commercial gestational surrogacy turns economically and emotionally vulnerable women into a breeder class, subjecting their physical and psychological health to the whims of the wealthy. The practice also treats human life as a commodity that can be bought, sold, or eliminated when no longer desired. Do you support or oppose legally recognizing commercial gestational surrogacy contracts in Minnesota?”
It’s baffling to Melanie Beckmann, the St. Louis Park mother who carried the Cardas’ baby.
“I can kind of see how you might use that logic if you’ve never known anyone who went through [surrogacy],” said Beckmann. “But if anything, surrogacy is empowering. It is a gift that you are able to give to someone that will change their lives.”
Backers, critics
For the one in eight couples with fertility issues, surrogacy remains a relatively little-used option. In 2014, surrogate mothers had 2,236 babies, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.
While some Christian critics insist surrogacy violates the sanctity of life, supporters argue the Virgin Mary could be considered a surrogate.
Among surrogacy’s strongest advocates are organizations for infertile couples, such as Resolve: The National Infertility Association.
“There are women with cancer, with uterine issues, with other medical conditions that make it impossible to carry a pregnancy,” said Julie Berman, director of the Minnesota Resolve chapter. “For them, this is huge.”
Generally the network of doctors, infertility clinics, attorneys and others who work with surrogate parents say that surrogacy is safe for both mother and child. And surrogate mothers say it’s gratifying for both parents-to-be and themselves. Fifty women submitted letters to the commission to that effect.
Besides the Catholic conference, the opposition here is led by the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network based in California, which produces documentaries with titles such as “Eggsploitation.”
The center’s founder Jennifer Lahl argues that surrogacy is dangerous for the woman’s mental and physical health and that children may have attachment issues.
Abortion also is a concern, said Atkins, as the pregnancy could result in a situation in which extra fertilized eggs implanted in a woman would be removed.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists submitted a letter to the legislative commission saying although there may be “isolated anecdotal reports” of medical complications, surrogates who participate in supervised arrangements that meet medical and mental health standards “face no increased risks to either their physical or mental health.”
How it works
After having her first child, Ann Carda had a medical problem that prevented future pregnancies. That’s when the wife of one of her husband’s co-workers gave her a surprise call.
“I told her I could be a surrogate,” recalled Beckmann, relaxing at the Cardas’ home recently. “This would be nine months of my life, but would change their lives forever.”
Stunned, Carda talked with her husband and the Rev. Katherine Lewis from St. David’s Episcopal Church in Minnetonka. After prayer, Carda accepted the offer.
Both the Cardas and Beckmann and her husband, Dan, underwent psychological tests. Health insurance was ironed out. Both parties were told to get their own attorneys to prevent conflicts of interest.
Lewis sent out an all-church letter, notifying members of this unusual pregnancy, offering to discuss questions or concerns. There were none.
Finally on Nov. 1, 2015, a strapping 9-pound baby was born, with both couples and the priest present at the birth.
“I think it has helped me become a better person,” reflected Carda. “After going through such lengths to have a child, you’re more aware of what a privilege it is to raise a child.”
Minnesota is unusual
Minnesota is among about 28 states without laws governing surrogacy. Unlike other states, surrogacy has been a persistent legislative issue in the state, said Barb Collura, president of the national Resolve and a Minnesota native. That’s why Resolve has a paid lobbyist here.
“We’re watching Minnesota closely,” said Collura. “We haven’t seen this kind of sustained attention, by a Catholic conference, anywhere in the country.”
Resolve has mixed reaction to the surrogacy commission’s recommendations made in December. Some already are common practice, such as requirements that surrogates should be 21, have had a previous child, and be U.S. citizens or legal residents.
But surrogacy backers are worried about other recommendations: that only a single embryo be transplanted, and that surrogacy contracts prevent parents-to-be from asking the surrogate to remove an embryo or fetus for reasons such as birth defects.
It also recommends capping compensation at $15,000, plus surrogate expenses, and requiring the Minnesota Department of Health to record the names of both surrogate and intended parents.
Any “intended parents” would need to have a documented medical need, and create an estate plan providing for custody and care of the child.
Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, co-chairwoman of the surrogacy commission, said she expected related legislation to be introduced this year. It wouldn’t be the first time. A different surrogacy bill was passed in 2008 but vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
One thing both sides can agree on is that any surrogacy arrangements should be safe for mother and child. Said Berman: “I hope at the end of the day, we can come together on things we agree on.”

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Resolve's Minnesota Advocacy Day - February 7, 2017

RESOLVE's Minnesota Advocacy Day

Date: Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Time: 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM (may end earlier depending on your meeting times)
Join RESOLVE for our second annual Minnesota Advocacy Day! Make your voice heard at this free event where the Minnesota family building community comes together to talk to Members of the Minnesota State Legislature about issues important to our community.
RESOLVE’s Minnesota Advocacy Day is for you if:

  • You want to educate your elected officials about infertility and family building.
  • You are struggling to build your family and want to feel a sense of community and control.
  • You have a loved one struggling to build their family and want to show your support.
  • You have resolved your family building journey and want to make it easier for others.
  • You want more public understanding and awareness of all family building options.
Register now for this empowering event and help advance legislation to keep all family building options available and legal in Minnesota.
If you built your family through gestational surrogacy, please consider bringing your child(ren) with you to this inspiring event.

Check-in begins at 8:00AM.
We will make your appointments for you and provide you with materials, training, and all the information you need to meet with your state Senator and Representative.
Event location: 300 North in the State Office Building, St. Paul, MN  (Directions, Parking Information and Map of Capitol Buildings: http://www.gis.leg.mn/html/directions.html)
For questions about RESOLVE’s Minnesota Advocacy Day, please email Betsy Campbell at bcampbell@resolve.org.
Date:
Time: 8:00 AM - 2:00 PM
If you'd like to attend this event you can purchase tickets online.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Support Minnesotans struggling to build their families on November 15

RESOLVE has worked over the Summer and Fall to mobilize advocates to be present at the Legislative Surrogacy Commission meetings and also to testify so that Commission members can hear directly how infertility is affecting Minnesota families. The presence of these advocates has made a positive difference, as has their powerful and moving testimony.
The Commission will be meeting two more times – November 15 and November 22 – to discuss what their final report should include as recommendations to the full Minnesota state legislature. This could include recommendations on legislation and what that legislation should include.
It is important that you come on Tuesday, November 15th at 1:00 in Room 10 of the State Office Building (100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Saint Paul, MN) to show Commission members that the public is watching and supports gestational surrogacy in Minnesota.
RESOLVE volunteers have made a positive difference throughout the Commission’s hearings and we need to make sure our presence is felt as they work on their final report.
Please show up for all Minnesotans struggling to build their families on November 15!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Invisible Mom's Club by Lizzi Rogers

The Invisible Moms’ Club


My children, Jesse and Sam, are definitely less stressful (in a day-to-day sense) than any children in your house. I can absolutely guarantee it.
They don’t wake me up at nights with endless requests for the toilet or a drink or a cuddle or to banish monsters.
They don’t mess up my stuff, break things, fight with one another or incessantly demand my attention.
They leave me with plenty of time to pursue my own interests, have a shower unmolested and get the shopping done without interruption.
You see, neither of them made it to full term. Neither even made it close.
And yet…they were my children. Are my children.
It’s a confusing issue.
Contentious moral or religious beliefs aside; science tells us that upon conception, what’s present is a human being in its earliest form. Begotten of my husband and I, ergo our children. Initially I really did think it was that simple.
But not having them present leaves more challenges (grief aside) than I could have expected.
How do I respond when someone asks if I have children?
I usually tell them no, cut the conversation short and wonder if I just utterly trashed the importance and the presence of those two tiny people who lived inside me for far too short a time.
When I tell them yes, and explain the circumstances, the conversation grinds to a screeching halt, which may or may not be accompanied by the Pity Face.
Either way is tough.
Yet invisible motherhood happens more frequently than you’d ever imagine…until you suddenly end up the mother of an invisible child. Until you’re able to hold back the tears long enough to talk about it. Then women with similar experiences seem to pour out of the woodwork, heartbreaking stories and empathy shared in equal measures. And I want to ask them “Where were you until now?”
I’d always understood ‘miscarriage’ to be a bit of a dirty word. One of those distasteful things which happens in life; like ingrown toenails or root canals. Unpleasant and Not a Topic For The Dinner Table. As such, I knew very little about it. I knew a few women in the family had had one. I knew of a family friend who’d had a stillbirth.
Not one conversation broached the topic of emotion or motherhood.
It was as though those babies somehow didn’t count.
I think that’s why it took me so staggeringly by surprise. I’d even anticipated that I might miscarry my first, given the family history, but nothing ever prepared me for the sheer weight of emotion that crashed down on me and proceeded, over the coming months, to suffocate me under a dark cloud of anguish.
Nothing prepared me for the waves of anger at pregnant women in the street.
At no point was I told about the blind rage which would leave me shaking when I saw misbehaving tots being screamed at by their end-of-the-tether parents. Or being smoked near. Or being ignored when in need of attention.
I was utterly unprepared for the isolation from my husband, who (at first) just didn’t *get* why I was so upset.
I was defenseless against the accusing voice in my mind, telling me that I was clearly undeserving of a baby/hadn’t been careful enough while pregnant/had done it wrong in the first place.
I was ill-informed about how to respond to throw-away comments from the unintentionally insensitive, which left me feeling as though I’d been emotionally assaulted.
So I dug deep, reached out, and slowly, painfully, began making the connections for myself.
Since then, though, I’ve been keen to do my bit – to give back – to share with those newly invisible mothers some of the things which have helped me.
I began by blogging bits and pieces of my story. The feedback was positive – people began to exhibit signs of understanding. I was thanked for generating conversations and enabling others to support their friends who were in the same position as me.
I created a couple of guest posts where bloggers were seeking to promote understanding of miscarriage and childlessness, with an aim of spreading understanding, empathy and compassion. I’ve entered writing challenges with my story as the subject, all in an effort to reach as wide an audience as possible.
I’m gradually becoming adept at talking about it in Real Life, too.
It’s still difficult and it still hurts, but I want to go further from here and take my online presence (and passion for breaking those barriers and trashing the taboos) into the everyday.
I want to be active in working towards a world where miscarriage isn’t swept under the rug; where women can openly acknowledge (and grieve) their losses without feeling uncertain as to the validity of their feelings. I want to be a person who others can come to for information and advice. I want to be at the forefront of a movement which purposefully demystifies miscarriage and aims to establish helpful dialogue on the subject.
I will strive to support the generation of a mindset where each of these little, lost lives is important, and their heartbroken mothers (and fathers) are surrounded by empathy and care, stemming from genuine understanding on the part of those around them.
My children count.
They have changed me, and I am their legacy
.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Seven things I wish I’d known before I had a miscarriage by Alice Callhan

Seven things I wish I’d known before I had a miscarriage

When my husband and I first decided to try to have a baby, I looked forward to the exciting time. I was not prepared when that first pregnancy ended in miscarriage.
How could I have known what it would be like? Pregnancy was a frequent topic in my high school health class, but the teacher made it sound like unprotected sex created instant babies. In my undergraduate physiology courses, my professors described in detail the intricate steps leading up to the fertilization of an egg and then the development of a fetus, but they didn’t emphasize how common it is for those steps to go awry. When a friend had a miscarriage, I gave her a big hug and said I was sorry, but we didn’t really talk about the details. I didn’t know how to ask. So, like most people, I knew basically nothing about miscarriage until it happened to me.
This silence means that many couples are blindsided by miscarriage. We don’t know what to expect, what it means for the future, or why losing something so small makes us feel so sad. If we all knew more about miscarriage, we would be more prepared to cope with a loss if it happened to us and to offer support when it happened to friends.
I ended up having five early pregnancy losses and two healthy babies. I feel very lucky to have this family, but I think knowing a few things about miscarriage would have made the path a little easier:
1.You are not alone. Miscarriage is the most common pregnancy complication, ending as many as 30 percent of all pregnancies. Yet many Americans grossly underestimate it. A 2015 study found that 55 percent of U.S. adults believed that miscarriage occurs in 5 percent or fewer pregnancies. That discrepancy in the perceived and actual incidence puts an unfair burden on couples grieving a loss, making them feel more alone. The reality is that you likely have close friends and family members who have experienced miscarriage, but they may have kept it to themselves.
2. It’s not your fault. That same 2015 study found that Americans blame miscarriage on many things, but they’re often wrong about that, too. People thought that a stressful event, lifting heavy objects, having an argument, or past use of oral contraception or an IUD could cause miscarriage. One in four respondents even believed that ‘‘not wanting the pregnancy’’ could cause it to end. I’ve also heard that yoga poses, foot massages, riding a bike, and even eating gluten can cause miscarriage. Of all of these cited causes, none are true, and incidentally, they all blame the mother. Instead, most miscarriages are caused by chance chromosomal abnormalities. In the vast majority of pregnancy losses, there was nothing the mother could have done differently to prevent it.
3. It can be helpful to share your sad news. When I had my first and second miscarriages, both very early in pregnancy, I didn’t tell anyone except for a handful of close friends and family members. Meanwhile, I opened my Facebook feed every day to see new pregnancy and birth announcements from friends, complete with ultrasound images of healthy fetuses and photos of red-faced newborns cradled in their parents’ arms. There seemed to be no space for my news of loss. And yet, over the years, I didn’t hesitate to pay tribute to other lost loved ones on Facebook - a note honoring the anniversary of my father’s death, a special photo of my aunt, who was dying of cancer, and even a RIP message when our beloved cat died. Why are we afraid to share miscarriage? After our third miscarriage, I was tired of feeling alone with the grief, so I wrote a blog post about it. This wasn’t easy to do. Telling the world that my body had somehow failed and I was hurting made me feel uncomfortably vulnerable. If I exposed my wound, wasn’t I risking greater injury? But that’s not what happened. My inbox was flooded with messages, all telling me that I wasn’t alone and thanking me for telling my story. Four years later, I have healed, but I still get emails from people who are feeling alone with miscarriage. When we share the grief, it feels a little lighter for everyone.
4. There are many ways to lose a pregnancy. My first two pregnancy losses happened so early that I wasn’t even sure if I could call them miscarriages, much less grieve for them. We found out about the third at our 10-week ultrasound, when my OB couldn’t find a heartbeat. The fetus had stopped developing weeks before, but I still felt pregnant. I felt foolish and betrayed by my own body. I waited a couple of weeks for the miscarriage to happen, but it never did, and I finally had to schedule a D&C procedure to complete it. Before my own experience, I had no idea that miscarriage could happen in either of these ways. I thought it was a dramatic event, with an obvious gush of blood that leaves little room for doubt. It often is, and sometimes it is very painful, like childbirth. Other times, it can be a quiet process, maybe little more than a heavy period. It can help to know that these are all common ways for miscarriage to happen, and regardless of the physical process, they can all be emotionally painful.
5. Miscarriage can bring all kinds of messy feelings. First, there is grief that feels disproportionate to the size of the loss. It can linger for a surprisingly long time, taking you off guard on anniversaries of the miscarriage or the due date. But I had other emotions, too, and they made me even more uncomfortable. I felt hatred toward my own body for failing to do this one thing that I had always assumed it could do. I felt jealousy toward my pregnant friends. I felt resentment in yoga class when a glowing pregnant woman rolled out her mat next to me, even though I knew that her journey to pregnancy could have been even more difficult than my own. Finally, I felt ashamed for feeling all of these things, because I didn’t actually wish my situation on anyone.
6. You can’t control or predict the final outcome, and that’s maddening. Studies show that you have a very good chance of having a healthy pregnancy after miscarriage, and these statistics are reassuring. But nobody can tell you for sure what will happen, and for me, that was the hardest part. In the end, I am so grateful for the two healthy children we have, but those baby-making years were defined by both sorrow and sweetness. Every positive pregnancy test represented hope, but it also opened a door to more uncertainty and the possibility of another loss. Coming to terms with my situation meant having patience and optimism, but also accepting that I couldn’t control the final outcome.
7. For better and for worse, miscarriage will change you. Miscarriage made me more anxious and fearful that something would go wrong in future pregnancies. I am not alone in this; a 2011 study found that depression and anxiety associated with miscarriage or stillbirth often persist through a subsequent pregnancy. But my experience with repeated miscarriages also made me more grateful when things went well, and it expanded my capacity for empathy for all of the different ways that people can struggle to become parents. I realize now that it is part of who I am, as a person and as a parent.
Alice Callahan is author of ‘‘The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby’s First Year.’’ You can find her on her blog, scienceofmom.com, Facebook and Twitter @scienceofmom.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day



I am lucky.  Luckier than so many others.  I have a child, a beautiful little boy who is healthy, who is precocious, and has my husband's eyes and my smile.

We feared that this little boy would never be.  He was our last embryo - a poorly graded day 5 morula to be exact - that the doctors feared would not even implant let alone develop.

Yet somehow, despite the odds that were seemingly stacked against him, he came to be.

While he has managed to fill my heart with such joy, there is still, and will always be, a part of my heart that cannot be filled with joy.  Part of my heart will always belong to my children that never came to be.

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day - a day a remembrance for pregnancy loss and infant death.

I did not know how I would feel today.  I did not know how or if finally having a child would make make my losses seem less sad or that somehow I would be healed.

"It has been said 'Time Heals All Wounds'.  I do not agree.  The wounds remain.  In time the mind (protecting its sanity), covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessons.  But, it is never gone."  
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

Unfortunately I believe that this quote rings very true.  Time has built scar tissue, and some of that scar tissue has faded, but it is still there.  Having our little boy has built scar tissue - a significant amount in fact - but still, however faded, and only visible in certain light, still there is a wound.

It was probably very silly of me to think that somehow having a child would make losing another child less sad.  I will say that I think about it less often, and that now when I do I am still hopeful. Whereas before I may have felt nothing but despair.

A year ago we were 20 weeks into a pregnancy via gestational carrier.  I should have been overjoyed, but instead I was terrified.  I was terrified to get close to our unborn child as I was convinced that I would never meet him.  Or, on the occasional moments that I thought I may actually meet him, I would then feel guilty that somehow these feelings were not honoring the memory of the children that I have lost.

Pregnancy after a loss is a difficult time for many women.  Instead of spending nine months of being blissfully happy (well sometimes cranky, bloated, nauseous, hormonal, etc. etc. but for the most part happy) many women, especially those who have experienced pregnancy and/or infant loss spend those nine months in hellish anxiety, convinced that their baby is not real until they hold a healthy baby in their arms.

And then, when our baby is born, healthy, and we finally do hold them in our arms and realize they are real and not just a figment of our imagination, and all should be happy and right with the world....instead it is not.  Or, it is, but it isn't.  While we are happy, deep in our hearts we are still sad.

It is OK that we are sad.  It is normal that we are sad.

And, stop telling us that we should not be sad.

Yes, I do have a child (finally).  But, I cannot (and should not) forget that right now I could have 5 children.

Two of those children would have been carried and born by me.  Two would have been been carried and born via a gestational carrier but are still (an no less) my children, and their loss is not softened by the fact that I did not carry them myself.

Stop telling us that having a child heals the wounds of losing a child.

It does not, and should not.

My own body failed me twice.

Once it decided on its own that my pregnancy was not viable.  My breasts had started to swell and I was exhausted.  Then I started spotting.  And then the spotting turned into bleeding.  The bleeding got heavy.  Heavy enough to cause concern, but not quite to the amount that indicated hemorrhaging.  I knew that no good was coming of this.  I tossed and turned in agony as my body expelled my child.  I was lucky that it was fairly early - only 8 weeks - and that it was a complete miscarriage.

The second time was more difficult.  I had made it a little longer.  My breasts were huge.  My pants were starting to get tight.  I was so exhausted that I was getting lightheaded.  I nearly passed out a few times - once in traffic.  I was having stabbing pain on my right side.  I went into the emergency room because the pain was so bad.  The ultrasound tech started out chipper - I was pregnant!  Then, she started making faces, then she shut down the ultrasound.  She told us we needed to consult with our OB.  I am not a doctor, but I caught a few things - I could tell that something was not right and that our baby's development was not completely normal.  Our OB added that the baby was compressed - my uterus did not seem to be expanding as it should most likely due to my uterine abnormality.  We could continue the pregnancy at my risk and probably the risk of the child.  We chose not to take that risk.

My body then failed others twice.

We knew that my uterus was flawed - it never fully developed and it was therefore not an ideal host to support a healthy pregnancy.  We did not know that my eggs were also (potentially) flawed.  We underwent IVF in order to produce embryos that we would transfer to a gestational carrier with a healthy uterus.  We knew that my age could be a factor since a woman's fertility begins to decline at age 35, but a battery of tests showed that my fertility was good - "better than my age" - so we assumed that a healthy uterus would ensure success.  Unfortunately it did not - twice.  The second time even more crushing than the first.

Fast forward six months - we transfered our last embryo.

Fast forward 9 more months - our son was born happy and healthy.

Fast forward 8 more months to today.

Today we have a healthy, beautiful 8 month old son.  He is a wonderful gift.

Or, should we say a blessing.

A gift is free.  A gift has no strings attached.

Our little one was not definitely not free - we are not even talking about the financial toll.  Our little one came to us at great emotional toll.  The road was very bumpy and winding along the way.  It has been said that the only pain worth suffering for is the kind that makes you stronger.  I do believe that my pain has made me a stronger and more appreciative person.

And, my pain is real, and however uncomfortable, deserves recognition.

Miscarriage and Infant Loss is raw, real, and should stop being swept under the rug.

1 in 4 women will experience pregnancy and/or infant loss.  Let's start talking about it in the hopes that sharing our pain and our stories may lessen the pain of others.