Sunday, January 25, 2015

Do We Have An Accord?

Tonight we sat down with family member and her husband to have an open and honest discussion about her being our gestational carrier. 
One of the first major decisions was where we should have this conversation.  We thought at first it might be good to go out for dinner so no one would have to cook/host, but quickly realized that wouldn’t work as this isn’t a conversation to have in public.  I am pretty sure every table near us would have quickly become uncomfortable with the topic of conversations and the fact that at some point during the conversation I was pretty sure we all would be in tears.  (We were, so good call there).
Having the conversation at our house would be difficult in that we are in the middle of a major home remodel and the house is a disaster.  No one really wants drywall dust in their food, but in the middle of a remodel it is inevitable.  I suspect that it probably isn’t very good for you, so we definitely do not want the vessel that will be carrying our child consuming it.
That leaves family members house.  I felt bad about having them host, but in the end it worked out the best.  I was a little worried about the kids being there.  Our niece and nephew are already aware that family member may be carrying our baby – she has had conversations with them to make sure that the family is OK with her decision.  That being said, they have the vanilla version of things and I knew we would be talking about some very adult topics – I didn’t want family member and her husband to have to answer questions later about things that they may not have been ready to discuss with young children.  It worked out that the kids had a school event that night that the grandparents were able to cover.
It also worked out that we had wine.  We had a lot to talk about, and not everything was “sunshine and rainbows”.
We started out by talking about family members decision process to be our gestational carrier.  We needed to know that she had come to this decision knowing all the facts and on her own terms.  GC is a wonderful and very optimistic person and this will be a tough and trying process.  The last thing that I would ever want would be for some of her optimism to fade because of miscarriage or other setbacks that could be a real possibility. 
We also needed to know that family member's husband was OK with this decision.  This also very greatly impacts him.  His wife will be pregnant with someone else’s child and will giving that child away at the end of the pregnancy.  His wife will go through all of the ups and downs of pregnancy for none of the benefit.  With any pregnancy there is always a risk (however small) that there could be complications and that his wife may no longer be able to have children.  Is he OK with these risks?
The feeling of the family are also a very important factor.  Our niece and nephew are going to watch their mother carry a child that will not be their sibling.  In our case there will always be a relationship, but it is still not quite the same.  Mark’s parents have been nothing but supportive, which is also extremely important.  This situation could drive a family apart if everyone is not on the same page.  This would have been an issue with my family member being our gestational carrier.  While it was a disappointment that didn’t end up working out, it may have also been a blessing.
I then expressed how grateful I was to be given such a special gift.  I talked about how it was a process for me to accept this gift, and how deep down I felt that I may not be worthy of it.
By this time everyone was in tears.
Once we got out stuff together again, it was time to have the difficult discussions.  I had brought an example gestational carrier contract with for us to go through the terms together – it was 30 pages.  We needed to discuss everything from the number of transfer attempts and the number of embryos transferred each attempt to termination in the event of birth defects to coverage of medical costs to compensation for services. 
It was a very heavy but very necessary conversation.  Our clinic (as do most clinics) requires us to have a binding legal gestational carrier contract executed by the intended parents, the gestational carrier and her spouse.  Gestational Surrogacy is a complicated process that is filled with emotion.  All parties need to discuss all possibilities and facets of the arrangement and process up front and without emotion.
We had sent the contract over to family member and her husband earlier so that they had time to digest and discuss.  The good news was that we were already on the same page for most of the matters and were on the same page for the more difficult ones.  It was really just a matter of making some more minor decisions together.
After all of that we had more wine.  The wine was a good idea.  Cheers to the beginning of a beautiful journey together.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Painting the Nursery When You Are Not (And Seem to Never Be) Expecting

I think that I may have mentioned that (on top of everything else) Mark and I are currently remodeling - we are actually remodeling about 2/3 of our house and have been in a state of construction/destruction since September.  And yes, I am getting very tired of it and can't wait for it to come to an end (about a month?).

We are currently at the stage where we are painting.  Everyone thinks that this means we are almost done - not even close.  We are painting before carpet/trim/light fixtures/tile/cabinets, etc. etc. so as not to get paint all over our "new stuff".

I have picked the paint colors for all of our rooms except one - the nursery.  I have been dreading this task.  I am finding it hard to pick paint when I have no idea what the theme of the room is, what furniture we are going to have, what sex the baby is, or even if there will be a baby at all.  Really it's the last part that has been making this so difficult.

Since I am trying to be more positive and get out of my downward spiral of negativity (I feel like I should trademark that term by the way), and because carpet is coming soon and I just can't put it off any longer, I buck up and agree to go to Lowe's to pick out a color.

I am very lucky to have a friend at work who has gone through infertility that I can talk to about these things.  She gets it.  I find it hard sometimes to find people who "get it".

Her (always) wonderful advice was to pick something very neutral - tan or yellow, that would go well for either sex.  BUT, make sure that it is a warm color.  Something bright, yet soothing, nothing too colorful.

Everyone keeps throwing green into the mix.  I like green, but green feels more masculine than feminine to me.  I personally really would have liked a soft yellow, but Mark HATES yellow.  I just found out that his room was yellow growing up - interesting.

So I am left with tan.  I like tan, but my foyer and hallway are already tan and I would like a different color for the nursery, something softer, more soothing.  I think that I have found it.  I choose "Heavy Cream" a cream color similar to the picture, but a little less yellow.  It really reminds me of the color of vanilla ice cream.  Not the "good stuff" that is actually nearly white, but the "cheap stuff" that we had growing up.  It makes me think of a soothing bowl of vanilla ice cream, it makes me think of soft (more traditional) baby things like lambs or teddy bears or bunnies.

Painting the room was also a more interesting exercise that I was expecting.  There are some people out there who love to paint, I am not one of them.  I would love to find one of those people and have them over to do the painting for me.  I was really not looking forward to painting also because I thought it was going to be hugely depressing to paint a room for a nonexistent baby.  A few weeks ago that definitely would have been the case, thankfully I am working my way out of my mud.

Unless you move into a brand new house that you built yourself, you are always dealing with someone else's stuff.  For some it is wallpaper, ugly carpet, ridiculous paint colors, you name it.  In the nursery it was chocolate (I hope) handprints.  It felt good to cover up someone else's scuffs, holes, and handprints.  It felt like a fresh start.

Here's to a fresh start.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On Our Anniversary

Four years ago today I married my best friend, Mark S.  It was the best decision that I ever made.  We have gone through a lot together, things that may have broken other couples apart.  But, we have remained strong and are closer to each other than we have ever been.

I hope for many, many more years together.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why Are Gifts Sometimes So Hard To Receive?

Mark sent me a text today that his family member was cleared medically to be our gestational carrier.

Did he not tell me that she was sending in her paperwork?  Or (and this is probably the more likely answer) have I been so wrapped up in my sadness that I just didn't hear him?

I should be overjoyed that this has happened.  I should be so happy that we have made it this far.  This is one step further than we made it with one GC and two steps further than we made it with another.  Why am I not excited?

I had lunch with a work colleague today who has become a wonderful friend and mentor to me.  I found out that she had infertility struggles herself and she has been a godsend to me.  She helped me through my IVF cycles, my losses, and just gets it.  It is hard to find people that get it. She has just been so wonderful to me and today was no exception.

We went out to lunch and I once again dominated the conversation.  I feel really bad that I keep doing that.  I know that once in a while I have been helpful and listened to her, but I do really sometimes feel (and I hope this isn't really true) that it is more her listening to me than me listening to her.

I have told absolutely no one about family members offer to be our GC, not even my mom.  But today, considering our news, and the conversation that Mark and I had last night about my wallowing, I finally felt that I needed to tell someone my news.

It was hard.  I started crying in the middle of Byerly's.  Thankfully it was just Byerly,s, I hadn't spied anyone that I know, and I don't think (don't hope) that hardly anyone noticed.

I feel really bad.  I don't understand why accepting this gift is so hard.  Am I a bad person for thinking that this gift was hard to receive?

She assured me that No, I am not a bad person, and of course this is a hard gift to receive.  It is a HUGE gift.  And, I am not a person who is accustomed to a lot of gifts.

That is true.  Pretty much everything that I have I have worked very hard for.  I grew up as the oldest in a large family.  My parents did not have a lot of money.  Actually that is almost glossing over the truth.  We were poor.  We had reduced lunch tickets.  We went to Catholic school for free and had to get hand me down uniforms from the office (I think that one year I actually had a uniform that fit, but for the most part they were always too big, too long, too short, too small, etc. etc.) The only reason that we were not on welfare is because my parents were too proud.  I paid for my own college and my own graduate school.  Yes I have received some gifts along the way, but not much of material value.

I know that this is part of it, but not all of it.

I have done some soul searching along the way I think that part of the problem is that I am also not sure that I deserve such a gift.

Probably that is really the heart of the matter.  Underneath the facade of confidence and self assurance that I project (and most days it is not just a facade - it is true) there still and always lies a scrawny schoolgirl who gets picked on because she is super smart, dorky, poor, bad at sports, etc. etc.  I know that children are sometimes unknowingly cruel, and that often the cruelty stems from their own insecurity and short comings.  But, it is still hard to rise about it, and although the wounds have healed, there are scars that remain. 

I wish that I could say that being successful, and attractive, and having a nice life that many people would want would make up for everything.  It does most of the time.  It's just that that deep latent insecurity sometimes finds a way to come out and rear it's ugly head.

I think that this is one of those times.

I am having a hard time accepting the gift of surrogacy because I know that it is something that I can never repay, and I don't feel like I deserve it.

I will try my hardest to be deserving of it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Today I realized that I have been wallowing in the mud for a while and my mud is self pity.

I knew that I have been sad for a while now.  Our infertility journey has been tough.  It often feels like we have had nothing but setbacks and failures with no offsetting successes.  It was had for me to take that out of six embryos that were transferred using two different surrogates, not one made it past 5 weeks....

I have been mourning those losses.

Even though we have four embryos left here I have felt like our journey is over. I keep focusing on the fact that their chances of success are "unlikely" instead of focusing on the fact that they have a chance at all.

I am very lucky to have a patient and understanding husband.  And even more lucky to have a husband who sat me down last night to have a serious discussion about my wallowing.

I knew that I have been sad, and that I have felt more irritated than normal, and that my temper has also been a bit shorter.  I also knew that I have been isolating myself - both at work and with friends and family.  I have found it hard to be around people since out last news.

What I didn't know was how bad I really was and how my behavior has been affecting people - my husband in particular.

For some stupid reason, we seem to think that somehow when our life feels like it is falling apart and our heart is breaking, that we can put on a mask of OK and that the outside world falls for our bullshit that "everything is fine" and that we have our act together.

They don't

They can see right through it.

Maybe it is just me, and I think that I am a better actress than I am, but I think that it is probably a lot of us.

The good news is that most of us have built up some goodwill at work and at home and we are allowed to stumble and fall ever now and again.  It's just human nature.

The bad news is that no matter how good you are and how much goodwill you have built up, at some point you really need to get your shit together.

I was reaching this time.

I think that inside I knew this, but I really needed a wake-up call.  I needed something to shake me out of the funk that I was in and call me on my bullshit. Luckily for me I had that in my husband. 

I am working my way out of my funk and trying to focus a bit more on the positive instead of the negative.  And thankful that I am lucky enough to have my husband Mark.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

I don't know if anyone really knows the "secret" to a happy marriage.  I suspect that it in fact is probably not just one big thing, but rather many small things.  Whatever the secret is, my parents seem to know it.

Today my entire family gathered in Dubuque, IA to celebrate Christmas and our parents upcoming 40th wedding anniversary.

I am the oldest of seven children, all of whom have moved outside of Dubuque and many of whom have married and started their own families or will be starting them soon.  Trying to negotiate the holidays among so many people and so many other family obligations has been difficult at best.  This year it was impossible to get everyone home for Christmas.

When we started to discuss weekends and figured out that we would most likely need to meet in January my mother actually got very excited.  We could celebrate their anniversary along with Christmas!  Wouldn't that be great to have everyone home?  And that I for sure had better be there since I was at their wedding (they found out they were pregnant with me right before their wedding).

Luckily my mother has never been much of a drinker and she was no where near far enough along to have to do some major wedding dress alterations, so it seemed that I did not hamper the wedding too much.  Unfortunately I did manage to mess up their honeymoon.  They were planning on going to Florida and right before their trip a flu outbreak occurred right where they were going to visit.  They were advised avoid the flu risk and never ended up going on a honeymoon.

My siblings put our heads together and thought of a great anniversary present for them.  We all put our money together and will send them on their "honeymoon" - they just need to tell us where they want to go.

It was very endearing watching my parents renew their vows.  That after 40 years of marriage, seven children, job losses, sickness and health, they still love each other very much.

If I am only partially as lucky, I will have lived a happy and fulfilled life.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ringing In A New Year

As I have gotten older I have noticed that New Year's Day has been slowly becoming less of a day of recovery and more of a day of reflection.

Don't get me wrong, there is still recovery.  We enjoyed a fun evening last night with friends that included lots of food, cocktails, and staying up past our bedtime to watch the ball drop.  It's just that the evening doesn't tend to last much past midnight anymore (and we tend to have a hard time making that late) and fewer and fewer of us pass out and/or need to stay the night.

I also spent a good amount of time today cleaning the house, cleaning my closet (I think that counts as reflection - realism about things that I never wear and will never fit into), and catching up on my blog (also reflection).

But, I did actually spend some time thinking today about the last year, and what the upcoming year may bring.

2014 was a tough year.  We had a lot more happen this year than we expected - not in a million years did we expect to go to India, do an IVF cycle, and use a surrogate there.

We also had a lot less happen this year than we expected - we were convinced that we would be pregnant this year, that using a surrogate would be the cure for our infertility.

2014 was also a good year.  We traveled a lot this year.  We went to South Carolina with Mark's family, had a great weekend in San Francisco and Sonoma, saw the Taj Mahal and experienced New Delhi, and had an amazing trip to Europe (6 cities, 4 countries, 11 days).  Mark had a fantastic year with work.  I finally started working on landscaping.  We finally started to finish our downstairs.  I got a few great bonus weekends with my family this year with my sister getting married.

What will 2015 hold for us?  No one really knows.  I have decided that whatever it holds, I am going to work on being good to myself this year.

Now that does not (just) mean endless shoes, purses, champagne and mani-pedis.  That means that I am going to also work on doing things that are good FOR myself.

I turn 40 this year and I really need to start taking better and more consistently better care of myself.

I have done some good things over the years - 1-1-15 marks the 10 year anniversary of me quitting smoking, I don't eat very much fast food anymore (I slip every now and again and get a weird once-yearly Big Mac craving) and eat more (still not enough) fruits and vegetables.  I eat less processed and more fresh food.  The binge drinking has (except for vacation and halloween) pretty much fallen off - I do still like my red wine with dinner though.  I also have significantly cut back on my caffeine and only have two cups of coffee per day (I am NEVER giving up coffee completely - the world is a safer place when I have my coffee).

I could do a lot more though.  I rarely exercise, I don't always remember my vitamins, my diet isn't as healthy as it could be, and (this one hurts to admit) I don't always react to stress as well as I could.

Now I am not making any crazy resolutions.  I just decided that I will slowly start making some changes so that hopefully this time they stick.

I would say to wish me luck, but luck has nothing to do with it.  Encourage me, scold me when I need it, and sometimes just be a sympathetic ear.  That's what I really need.

Here's to a happy (and more healthy) 2015....