8

Happy Anniversary Rachel!

Yesterday was Rachel and I’s one year anniversary since meeting. This time last year we were put together in a group chat on Facebook by a mutual friend saying that we had to meet one another. Look what we’ve done since then! I totally got her pregnant, aw yeah.

It’s amazing what can be achieved in a year, not only in terms of surrogacy, but I’m also astounded at how I just happened to cross paths with someone who is now such a great friend. I notice that as I grow up I’ve become more complacent to seek new friendships (as my current friends are pretty darn awesome! … and I’m lazy), but being in the surrogacy community has really opened my eyes to all the awesome people out there that are just waiting to be met 🙂 So happy anniversary for yesterday Rachel – let this be the first of many!

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In another year’s time, I expect that we will have learned even more about each other. How we navigate new times of intensity, distance, extreme fatigue, stress, pain and pure joy. I think that surrogacy is probably one of the most involved and intense things you can do to learn about a friend, and so far we seem to be going from strength to strength by acknowledging the good bits and the tough bits. Even in times of conflict (which every friendship eventually faces to some degree), I hope that at the end of the day that we’ll be able to strengthen the solid base we’ve worked on building. There is no denying that surrogacy is tough, things go wrong and to that we are not immune; but going in to it eyes wide open with top priority placed on honesty I think gives us the best chance of success.

Anyway, on an entirely unrelated note, I really want to tell you a little more about the hospital we’re working with, because they are pure awesome so far! Rachel spoke about some of our appointments in her last post, but since then I’ve had more contact with the hospital; in particular the surrogacy coordinator, and a lactation consultant (read more about my plans for inducing lactation here).

I am floored with how helpful everyone at Mater Mother’s Hospital has been. We have been given the option to rent a room in the hospital (hopefully) adjacent to Rachel’s, which we plan on doing so that the option is there if anybody wants or needs some space, or not, as the need arises. This is all through the public system, and so I am floored by their flexibility. I’ve had some really lovely and supportive phone calls with various people too, and so far would recommend the hospital and their lovely staff with flying colours. I’ve also had some emails with a lactation nurse, who has booked me in for my very own appointment when next in Brisbane!

Which brings me to my next exciting piece of news…. I have started to make milk! TMI? You may want to skip reading the next paragraph then! 7 weeks after I commenced a modified Newman Goldfarb protocol (which was coincidentally the day after our 12 week scan), I noticed my boobs felt weird. So I gave them a bit of a prod, and lo and behold out came some milk! I excitedly galloped down the hallway and immediately told everyone I know. My poor friends! It was seriously one of the most exciting things to happen to me in my whole life, on par with the time that a small portion of my arm made an appearance on Eurovision.

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I’m not even joking.

Our other news is that we have officially commenced serious baby shopping! While this might not seem like a big deal to some, to me it’s something I’ve “dreamed” of for years. I never had dreams of the perfect wedding or house or anything like that growing up, but I’ve always had this idea that pram shopping was going to be a special day. I was so set on making it special that I ended up doing it over two days! The first was with hubby, where we narrowed it down to two contenders, and then the second day was spent at a baby expo, where I put in an order for the one we were leaning towards (and it was on sale – bonus!). We’ve also started to think about cots and think we’ll be going with something from IKEA – they seem good quality and are very reasonably priced.

I also promised that I wouldn’t buy any more baby clothes, but that only lasted a week. Oops.

Sorry, not sorry!

3

Letting the cat partially out of the bag

We’re only 10 weeks and I already have 10 outfits per day planned for this child until they’re 18. Oh dear.

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I don’t have a shopping problem. I can stop annnnnnny time I want to…

In other news, hubby and I told our parents. In some ways it was fun, but if I’m entirely honest, I don’t think I was ready for the avalanche of excitement and “our news” all of a sudden becoming “everyone’s news”. I guess this is something to get used to once personal news is in the public domain (I can see the irony in writing this…. I’ve been blogging in public the whole time, but ‘real life’ public feels different).

I really enjoyed the weeks of quiet time that we had while the news was just our special news for the team, our closest support people, and those in internet-land. Now that the grandparents have hold of it it’s at another level! Of course our parents always knew we were pursuing surrogacy and have always been overwhelmingly supportive, but I made the decision that once we started transferring to “don’t call us, we’ll call you”. I am really glad we did, as it allowed us all space to breathe.

Anyway, we tried to surprise them with the updated “news” together as one family when we were all in the same place at the same time (which seldom occurs for logistic reasons); but there’s not much to surprise people with when it comes to surrogacy (unless you’ve kept everyone in the dark prior).

I was a little bit sad that I couldn’t say “Surprise!” in the usual way that people get to when it’s their own pregnancy, you know, you’ve all seen the adorable YouTube videos of people putting a bun in their mother’s oven and watching her reaction. My version would be something along the lines of “Surprise! We found out that I have a series of diseases and after a lengthy period of various consultations and meeting this awesome chick who lives on the other side of the country and going through counselling and legals and a few transfers in a questionably designed chair now she’s PREGNANT!” – doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

Mum is a clever little bunny and had it all figured out that the news was about to be dropped. She’d told my brother what her suspicions were too, haha. She’d also told all of her friends, and was most displeased when I requested to not make the announcement public until we’d had our 12 week scan. Sorry mum!

I’m having to warm to the idea of it not just being our news now, which initially was a really weird feeling, but I think I’m getting there 🙂 I can only imagine how this must feel from a surrogate’s point of view – if I’m feeling a bit precious about it, imagine having the decision of who to tell and where and when about something to do with your body made by someone who isn’t you? This is one of the reasons why it’s super important to talk to everyone in the team about delivering important news. Really it’s not just the Intended Parents’ news, it’s the team’s news, and I felt honoured to be able to deliver it to our families, even if they’d already guessed it!

2 sleeps until I’m reunited with my lady-love! Can’t wait!

2

There really is a bear in there!

When you last heard from us, we were just about to head up to Queensland for our first scan. Everyone had a little touch of the nerves at some stage prior, but on the day everything went so well! It was amazing to see a little wriggly bean in there! And it had a heartbeat! Crazy times! I’m going to be a mum to this little jellybean!!!

The scan was fantastic. It made things feel a bit more real for us; but by far the highlight of the trip was getting to hang out with Rachel’s family. I’m starting to feel a little too at home with them, much to our husbands’ mutual dismay, as it’s getting harder and harder to pry the wifey’s away from each other!

Seeing Rachel quelled a lot of the morning sickness related guilts that I wrote about in my last post. I’m not sure why, but having those few days where I could give her pats and show some love felt like it was something that needed to happen in person before I’d feel ok within myself. I hadn’t seen her in person since transfer, so since so much had happened between then and now, I felt like a part of me wasn’t sitting right until we were reunited.

In other news, David’s parents are visiting from overseas. Even though we’ll wait until after our 12 week scan to tell the general populous, we’d like to take the opportunity to tell our parents while they’re all here together in person. So that’s happening tomorrow night when we all go out for dinner! I printed off some ultrasound pics to hand around so that they can do the talking for us.

Rachel even went out of her way to get another scan just before they came, so that we can show them a clearer picture of Bear! What an absolute sweetheart. She even sent us a video of the ultrasound! David and I were both at home the day she sent them. We huddled around the screen watching the video again and again. It was a really special day, even though we weren’t there with Rachel, it felt as though we were all together.

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Roar!

Anywho, fast forward a few weeks and Rach will have her first hospital appointment! Some might call it overkill, but I really want to be there to take her to things whenever possible and I’ll be damned if living interstate will stop me. I know that the likelihood of us being able to be there for everything is slim (already we haven’t been there for everything), but I don’t want her to miss out on all of the things she’d have with a same-state surrogacy. David will have to hang around here this time because his parents are still around, so it’ll be me flying solo for this one! I’m pretty darn excited 😀 though the idea of me taking Rachel backfired when she insisted on picking me up from the airport!

In other news, I’ve been to see my counsellor recently for a mental health checkup. I make a habit of doing so whenever anxiety surfaces to the point of being uncomfortable for prolonged periods of time. I am quite prone to anxiety, so went to visit the counsellor to see if there was any underlying cause for concern, surrogacy related or otherwise. Anywho, I am pleased to report that all is well on that front. She did suggest that I cut back my online commitments though, which I have done, and is one of the reasons this blog post is a bit tardy! So if you see less of me online, now you know why 🙂

Anxiety is a part of who I am, and so it’s my responsibility to ensure that I keep on top of it to keep our team swimming along awesomely. My reason for writing about it here is to encourage everyone who is predisposed to any sort of mental health issue, transient or recurring, to have a solid plan in place for if and when you find yourself feeling unbalanced. Your surrogacy team doesn’t need any additional stress on top of their current undertakings, and it’s up to you to ensure you are accountable for your own mental health.

Until next time! Peace out 🙂

1

Carrier pigeons and boobs

Long time no blog post! You heard from Rachel the other day about the fun she’s been having (I use the term “fun” loosely!), so thought it was high time to fill you in on what’s happening on my side of the fence. There are 2 parts to this post:

  • Part 1 is about morning sickness by proxy,
  • Part 2 is about boobs (yay boobs!).

Morning sickness by proxy is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. It knocked me around mentally, way more than I anticipated. When someone I love is hurting, I hurt too. It’s magnified significantly when someone you love is hurting because of something you’ve either directly or indirectly had something to do with, and even more when they’re at a distance.

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Visual depiction of feelings in cat form

Now I know that we all signed up for this knowing full well what was likely to happen, but it still took me by surprise about how heavy my heart has been this week. I am good at laying the guilt on myself at even the slightest thing, so this week it has been a bit of a challenge to stay balanced.

Not wishing to sit around and dwell more than necessary, I tried to do something about it. When you care about someone, it can be hard to know how often to check in to see how they’re doing, because there becomes a point where that’s smothering (and let’s face it, not all that helpful); so I wanted to come up with another way to show Rachel I’d been thinking of her that didn’t involve 24/7 video surveillance and an SMS based subscription service that asks every 10 minutes to rate her nausea on a scale of 1 to Donald Trump, sending an automated carrier pigeon with a tiny backpack full of cupcakes and pictures of cats for any score more than a 4.

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Thus the morning sickness care package was born. While it wasn’t intended to make *me* feel better, the days that I spent putting it together were therapeutic because I was physically doing *something*, even if that “something” wasn’t all that significant. It was a nice way to pour some positive energy back in to the situation rather than sitting around mindlessly layering the guilt on top of myself like some sort of delicious chocolate cake.

I’ll take this opportunity to give a huge shout out to Rachel’s amazing family whose support for her knows no bounds. Not only are they amazing to Rachel, but they also helped me out with some insider information on ways I might be able to be helpful from a distance this week when I was going stir crazy. Such sweethearts!! Can I adopt her whole family? Is that a thing? Let’s make it a thing. Of course my brain managed to find a way to feel guilty about the amazingness they’ve shown towards us during this whole venture too, but I know that logically I just have to suck it up and embrace surrogacy being a team effort way beyond just surrogate and IP’s.

This week I also touched base with some gorgeously supportive people outside of the surrogacy team. This reminded me of just how important it is for me to have good support people who are removed from the team, so as to not overload anyone. While Rachel’s morning sickness does give me the sads, it isn’t about me. But it is my responsibility to make sure I process my own associated feelings in a healthy way. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t challenging at times, but I’m learning new strategies for staying balanced and all in all am doing OK.

Anywho, in no way does the discomfort I’ve had come close to what Rachel is going through – I just felt it worthwhile to report what it’s like on the other side of the fence, on the other side of the country 🙂

Anyway…. onwards

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Since Rachel included a boob-related update in her last post, I thought I should do the same. Sadly mine have not grown to porn-star proportions…. yet. I’m working on it though.

Did you know that people can take medication to induce lactation?!

Isn’t modern medicine amazing?!

Inducing lactation is something I’ve always been interested in. Over the last year or so, I’ve flip-flopped about whether or not to give it a go. My usual “let’s do this!” attitude takes a back seat the more my illness is present. New drugs to add to my already extensive regime, and exhaustion from pumping before bubs even arrives were the two things holding me back. Fatigue and stress are serious health concerns for me, as they can cause a flare in my illness, which can potentially have life-threatening consequences. There’s not much use running myself ragged to induce lactation if it means I’m unable to physically care for myself or a baby as a result. There was a little fear of failure in there too, combined with thinking that donor milk and/or formula are A-O-K, which lead me to feel like it might not be worth the bother.

Anyway, long story short, I thought heck, let’s give it a go and see what happens. I was really 50/50 about it at the time, but since now is the time to either start it or decide not to, I thought I better get on it or I might regret it later. And even if it doesn’t work, I will have surely learned something along the way that may be of assistance to someone in the future.

Another thing that really cemented my decision to give it a go was a gorgeous soul who emerged from the online ether to introduce herself and say she’s been following my journey and lives in my home town! We met up and exchanged stories over a cauldron of coffee, and I left feeling energised and excited to give it a go, as she has had great success.

So I waltzed in to the doctor’s office (after having read about the Newman Goldfarb protocol) and asked her for lots and lots of drugs. I love my GP, she didn’t even bat an eyelid, and even called the regulatory authority for medication in Australia to give me an extra massive supply. The medication used throughout the protocol needs to be taken at much higher doses than usual, so it’s not financially viable to buy it in single packets over the counter in Australia without an authority script.

My doctor left me with this pearl of wisdom as she signed the script:

“I’m ok with you doing this… on one condition. If it doesn’t work, you have to understand that it’s not your fault.”

… Yes mam! Woo drugs! Let’s do this!

I imagine this is what it will be like

I imagine this is what it will be like

Now that I’ve settled in to the medication regime (4 x daily, phwoar!), I am so glad that I decided to start it. It feels good. No sign of a third boob yet though, which is disappointing. I had a few minor side-effects but all in all I’m pleased so far to be giving it a go.

Anywho! In other news, I’m super excited because tomorrow we fly to Brisbane! It’s been far too long between visits up there. I miss Rachel’s family! And as a super mega bonus, Monday is scan day! It’s going to be scantastic.

I also received an AMAZING package of various pregnancy books from a dear friend, which I can’t wait to get stuck in to. I’m still undecided about just how much I want to know from them, but I am pleased to have some different resources to help guide that decision. I don’t want to know too much, but I don’t want to be entirely ignorant either. I think there’s probably a sweet spot somewhere where I’ll know enough to support Rachel, but not so much that I turn in to a nervous wreck trying to think of each and every eventuality. At the end of the day I will probably seek the same amount of knowledge as if I was pregnant myself, which is a personal decision I haven’t quite arrived at yet. I guess that my depth and level of curiosity will become more evident as the pregnancy progresses.

Hopefully next time you hear from us it’ll be with a blob on an ultrasound! Wheeeeee 😀

6

There’s a bear in there

Holy surprise transfer, batman! Transfer number two crept up on us so fast, so much so that we only found out the day before that it was happening! So we quickly jumped online to book a flight for Rachel to Adelaide. Well, that’s a bit of a lie. We were already online. We’re always online, ok! I was trying to make it sound as though I do other things sometimes… which I don’t.

Both Rachel and I said that we enjoyed having it creep up like that, because there was way less anticipation anxiety!

Rachel arrived, and we managed to tick off a bucket list item we’ve had going for a while – to feed the ducks! Here we are at the Adelaide botanic gardens 🙂 I just love the lotus pond here in the gardens, especially when in bloom. It has often been a place I will come and quietly reflect by myself; and now will have an extra special memory to add to this special place.

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Two smiley girlies by the lotus pond

This visit felt different. Not good or bad different, just different! There was more of a calm energy in the team, rather than an arms flailing and squealing limitless ball of exploding energy. There was still an excitement, but it felt way more relaxed. Looking back on transfer number 1, there was way more manic energy in the air than this one. Rach has been to visit Adelaide a few times now too, which meant we could spend more time chilling out than making a mad dash to stay entertained. I love seeing this girly, so chillaxing was most excellent and I’m looking forward to doing more of it in the future.

Our emby was code-named “Bear” after Playschool’s lyrics -“There’s a bear in there, and a chair as well”,  because the transfer room at our clinic has a terrifying chair that only the unsuspecting women transferring have the pleasure of knowing. We call it the chair of destiny/terror – it reclines so much that Rach says you feel like you’re going to fall off! Kinda like the tower of terror, but less fun and more genitals in the open air. We were slightly better prepared for the chair of destiny this time. We’ve butchered the playschool lyrics accordingly:

There’s a bear in there
and a chair as well
there are people with catheters
and embies to deploy
Open wide! (… lol, don’t read too much in to that one)
Come inside!
It’s transfer!

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Bear!

And so we began the two week wait! I’m looking forward to reporting on how we went again (so far it feels very different for me). Since Pip didn’t stick around, I thought this time we could use a little extra stickiness, and made Rachel a “sticky bouquet”, complete with sticks, stickers, cinnamon sticks, sticky notes, a stick figure (lovingly hand drawn by my husband) with a baby stick figure in its belly (which was all his idea! so cute), honey for extra stickiness, ladies speed stick deodourant, sticky date pudding, sticky tape, paddle pop sticks and sticky lint rollers!

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The day after transfer, I took Rachel with me to exercise my “one retail adventure per milestone” rule. While we were at the baby shop, one of the assistants asked if what I was buying was for a friend (which in hindsight I should have said yes to for the sake of simplicity, lol!), but instead I fumbled out the truth because I’m so used to telling every man and his dog about surrogacy! I figure the more open I am about it, the more chance it has of being recognised as a normal venture.

Oh, and by the way, this is my friend – she’s gonna have my baby one day.

The two ladies behind the counter’s eyes widened, jaws dropped and they both started squawking with excitement. I think Rachel would have crash-tackled me to the ground mid-sentence if we weren’t in public. The poor love was then accosted by the overly enthusiastic old chooks, happily flailing arms and fawning over how amazing she is and asking a million questions. “Can I give you a hug?” I’m pretty sure she made their day! While I am sorry for having embarrassed poor Rach (she’s a modest sort!), I’m glad I got to see surprise-over-enthusiastic-surrogate-fawning at least once (because she IS totally amazing!). She just rolls her eyes at me when I try to tell her how amazing she is – she had to suck it up in the shop!! So there’s a bit of sorry not sorry going on there, but I think I’ll be more tactful in the future when we’re together – along the lines of saying “an amazing friend of mine is having a baby and I love her so much and I want to buy all the things!!”, because that part is true! 🙂

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Too much cute! You can’t handle the cute!

Until next time 🙂

xoxo

13

Still awesome until proven otherwise

Being in and around the surrogacy community for a little while now, I’d read a lot about the two week wait being terrible. Like, an octopus suctioned to your face levels of terrible. This post will talk about how it went for me, and what I’ve learned from it.

The wait went for 7 days, but it felt like a lot less (probably due to Christmas being smack bang in the middle). Of those 7 days, I’d say that 1 was a day of anxiety for me (day 6), but I can also attribute that to other things like being far too merry with the Christmas food buffet, and the gym being closed.

All other days felt pretty normal – the thought of the two week wait certainly did enter my mind, but not in an anxious way. I felt grounded and realistic, but at the same time did entertain the thought of what might happen with a positive or negative outcome.

The extent of my thinking on a positive was:

  1. Literally crap pants
  2. Panic
  3. Cake

I kept myself busy. I went shopping. I rode my bike to the boxing day sales. Each day I visited a different shopping mall, to get some exercise out of the sun (or at least that’s what I told my wallet). I made a deal with myself that I’d go on one baby-related retail adventure per surrogacy milestone, so bought the most adorable romper to celebrate our first transfer (that’s a lie, I bought two because I couldn’t decide which colour I liked more).

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Disclaimer: model in use is not an actual child.

I showed hubby, he called them “adorbs”. The one in the picture is super small and will probably never end up used, but I’m a sucker for tiny cute things on sale. God help my wallet when there’s an actual, non-hypothetical tiny human to go shopping for.

It used to feel like a big deal (confronting and terrifying) to entertain the thought of buying baby things, but during the two week wait it just felt normal, so I went with it, hoping that retail therapy didn’t add any additional pressure on Rach.

As a serial optimist, I also made a list in my head of the good things that could come from a negative:

  1. Get to see Rachel again real soon – that will always be a joy for me, regardless of whether it’s due to a positive or negative prior.
  2. Get to deploy plan B of amusing ways to make transfer fun
  3. Get a bit of karma-evening-out happening. I’m so lucky in so many ways that I felt it was my turn for a different card or two to be dealt our way.
  4. A negative would teach me so much. It’d show me what this kind of loss feels like, and maybe one day I’d have something of substance to offer to someone who is in a similar dilly of a pickle. And if it happens again, and again and again, this is the point I’ll always come back to. This is the one I’ve been focusing on.

And so it came to be that we had a negative. My loyal readership should be thankful, because crapping one’s pants and panicking doesn’t make for the most enlightening blog post 🙂

So, how did those predictions of how I’d go pan out?

Prior to the news, I predicted that I was adequately prepared enough to not experience a drastic low-of-lows with a negative. Thankfully I was right about that part. I’ve always seen surrogacy as a process with no end date, not even after birth or granting parentage. I will always be an Intended Parent. The relationship I have with my surrogate doesn’t have an end date, being involved in the community has no end date, and all those other milestone dates are up in the air until they happen. So although I’ll let myself get excited about milestones, it doesn’t make sense to over-invest myself in dates before they occur. I’ve always been about the big picture; and so was very pleased to learn that those values picked me up and carried me through this round.

So when the two week wait ended with a negative, I thought ok, drat, but no problemo, we got this.

That first day was weird.

In my mind I felt the same as the day before, and the day before that, just happily coasting along, still optimistic as ever. Weirdly optimistic. I didn’t cry. I cried at the final episode of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I cry on the plane when they play the Qantas commercial just before landing. Am I all of a sudden a heartless sea witch destined to live life imprisoned in an emotional desolate wasteland? What’s going on?

My main concern during that first day was that Rachel and hubby were feeling loved, and that my current optimism remained sensitive to how the others on the team might be feeling. I felt calm, collected and at peace with our negative, but I needed others on the team to know that their feelings are just as valid, irrespective of what they are. I wondered if either it hadn’t sunk in yet, or if perhaps I had prepared myself way too well for whatever the outcome, and so was actually – shock horror – ok.

I was ok – so ok that it didn’t sit well with me.

I wondered if that would change. It did.

During that first day, I spent a lot more time looking outwards than I did inwards. Most of my thoughts were about Rachel. As day 2 rolled around, my heart was heavy for her, far more than for hubby and I. I felt it wasn’t fair that she had to feel the weight of the outcome in her heart when she’s been nothing but amazing. This beautiful creature who’s come in to my life is not only helping to grow a family and saving my ass from serious illness or death in the process, but now has to experience her own kind of loss too. Damn it. That sucks. I know she wants this to be smooth sailing for me as much as I want it for her, so I knew she was hurting for me. I was hurting for her, too. I was flat.

I didn’t have room for anyone apart from Rachel and hubby in my bubble that day. I was pleased that I’d been priming friends and family with “don’t call us, we’ll call you” with any news, and told them it’d be a while before we’d be sharing any. A few people knew Rachel was coming to visit, and a very few select friends will now know the outcome of this round through this post, but beyond that, I am very content to sit on this one myself.

Sad isn’t the right word to describe it. My heart is filled with such gratefulness and love that I was still a long way off from sadness. I just felt weighty, but never to the point of thinking I wouldn’t bounce back, and never losing sight of all that is good 🙂

And then day 3 rolled around. I found myself smiling more than not. Excited. Bouncy again, and looking forward to the next two week wait 🙂 All in all, I think that round 1 was very kind to me, and I hope that round 2 and any that follow are just as kind 🙂

2

Awesome until proven otherwise

Transfer was great! Little ‘Pip’ as our embryo is now code named, is now on board with Rachel 🙂 We giggled like school girls the whole day. If I get to have transfer day again some time in the future, well, there are far worse things that could happen 🙂

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PUPO (pregnant until proven otherwise) is a funny kind of thing. It’s the time in between transferring an embryo, and the time it takes for confirmation of pregnancy or lack thereof, during what is known as the two week wait. For some it’s a really nerve wracking time, especially if IVF cycles have gone awry in the past (this is an understatement for some people – the two week wait can be hell).

Not being a particular fan of hell myself, I’m hoping to steer-clear of it. I’m not sure how, but so far I’m far from it. I’m thinking that a steady stream of “business as usual” might be the way to go. I feel as though there’s definitely an expectation for it to be a hard wait, but so far, no signs. I’ve had a lot of experience dealing with anxiety in the past, so I do wonder if this means I’m better prepared for spotting the signs and dealing with it before it gets out of hand.

So far I feel like the 2WW is a really exciting surrogacy bonus – most people in the non-IVF world only get to find out when they are pregnant, but we get to celebrate a milestone well before then! I really feel like it’s important to celebrate the progression of a surrogacy adventure, even if a particular milestone leads to a result not all had hoped for. That in itself is a milestone, as it signifies reaching another step along the way, equally as valid regardless of a positive or negative outcome.

I am actually really interested to learn how I’ll feel if we get a negative – thus far I can’t really pick it. Stay tuned faithful readers – will I be transformed from a bouncy ball to a blubbering blob? Only time will tell 🙂

Anyway, I told Rachel that she doesn’t have to tell me she’s doing or done done a pregnancy test until she wants to. I have wiped all dates out of my mind. The exciting bonus of having short term memory problems is that I’m really quite excellent at forgetting things. So I’ll have a vague idea as days pass that we’re getting closer, but I won’t know until she’s ready to tell me 🙂 This seems kinda fun because I like surprises (even if they’re not good surprises), and also should hopefully reduce a little stress for Rach, in that she can choose to do it whenever she wants, and choose to tell me whenever she wants to also.

The other reason why being PUPO is great, is that there aren’t too many opportunities in life where you get the chance to jam pregnancy tests in to a bouquet of soluble fibre and nursing pads, and present them to an unsuspecting friend 🙂

bouquet

I also just had to share this amazingly hilarious and entirely appropriate card that Rachel gave us right after transfer:

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We’ll be awesome until proven otherwise, no matter how this cycle goes 🙂

10

No WAY!

Oooooooohhhhhhhh my goodness. Oh. My. Gosh. Golly. Jeebus. All of the other faux-swear-words I can think of. I had to come here to let off some steam.

Flights are booked. We’re doing this NEXT WEEK! 😀

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Right, now that that’s out of my system… I’ve been reflecting on what it means to feel grateful lately, and more specifically, opportunities where we have the choice to replace a lot of other feelings with gratitude.

Last week I was sick. I mean *really* sick, not Lupus sick (all is pretty steadily uneventful on that front thankfully!), just a good old fashioned virus. It’s been a long time since I’ve lost a whole week to illness, so that’s what I chose to focus on – how incredibly fortunate I am to have times of wellness. So many people with my cocktail of disease can’t say the same. Last week wasn’t at all easy, but all in all I was glad to have a reminder of just how healthy I have been lately.

Since learning to adapt to having chronic illness in the co-pilot’s seat, I realise just how much choice I have about the way I steer my heart. I have a choice to be grateful. That’s how I see surrogacy too. How incredibly lucky am I to be here, in such an amazing community of people, to meet so many amazing people from all kinds of backgrounds, with a common thread of love and support running so deep.

Gratitude can replace other feelings too. I read a really good article the other day that shows how we have the opportunity to say thank you rather than sorry (check it out here), which prompted me to write this blog post.

When I first came in to the surrogacy world, I had a lot of feelings of guilt. Guilt that I was putting someone else at risk to mitigate my own, that I was putting my own desire for a family at the expense of another’s, and just basically allowing someone to do something for me that I would never in a million years be able to say thank you enough for. It didn’t sit right, and I wondered whether this guilty feeling would ever end. At times I felt as though it would prevent me from being able to ever “do” surrogacy.

I’m not saying that those feelings have disappeared – I think they’re still there and always will be; however instead of feeling like there’s a rock sitting in the bottom of my tummy because of guilt, more and more, I’m beginning to replace the guilt with gratitude, or as the article above says, replacing the “I’m sorry” with “thank you”.

Here’s a list of things I’m grateful for at this very minute:

  • Having the mental space to realise that now is an opportune time to slow down, reflect and learn. We are approaching a big milestone in our surrogacy journey, and I want to soak it in!
  • Allowing myself to be excited! I think it’s important to celebrate every opportunity for excitement, because withholding excitement with too much caution denies us of so many opportunities to be content in life.
  • Watching my husband get excited, and feeling more involved. Granted, his version of excitement is outwardly very different from mine, but I can tell on the inside that he has a genuine excitement, which I am so grateful to be able to witness, because it is something I felt I was denying him when I discovered I would not be able to carry.
  • Seeing the look of excitement on Rachel’s face, hearing it in her voice, being able to feel it even though we’re half a country away. I am so grateful that we will have an opportunity to share that excitement in person so soon!
  • Realising that all of the above dot points relate to excitement.
  • Excitement!

I am under no impression that this sweet spot will last forever, but I have resolved to fully embrace it while it’s here. I know we’re likely to have bumps, roundabouts and detours along the way, but right now, in this very moment, I am Joy 🙂

6

Let’s make a baby! … right after we finish all this wine

My apologies for the significant delay between posts! I’ve had a draft in the works for a while now (ever since our last visit to Queensland), but it seems to have been gobbled up in the ether 🙁

A lot has happened since my last update! In fact, so much so that we’ve reached a significant milestone – we’ve finished all of our red tape! Crazy amazing!! I can’t believe we’re finally here, at a point where we could transfer any time (well, you know, subject to the usual IVF stars aligning :)). Eeeeeeeep! I still can’t believe it!

Counselling came and went (which was what my last gobbled-up-draft-post was about). Really there wasn’t all that much excitement to talk about there. I found very few surprises during counselling, largely due to Rachel and I having previously hashed out pretty much anything they could throw at us beforehand. It was good to have a third party dig around in our minds though, just to make sure we hadn’t left any stones unturned. While I didn’t completely agree with everything the counsellor said, I do think it was a worthwhile exercise, and can see tremendous value in it being mandated during the surrogacy process.

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We ate counselling themed cake. Years at art school payed off – how sweet are my icing skills?!

It does perplex me though, that current Australian law doesn’t mandate continued counselling throughout the surrogacy. Just think of all the additional opportunities for cake that everyone’s missing out on. As it stands, counselling is only required prior to forming an agreement, to make sure you’re not cray cray, and to ensure all parties understand what they’re potentially getting themselves (and their families, and any child born as a result of the surrogacy) in to. Also, in South Australia, we’re not required to attend counselling *with* the surrogate family, we are only required to attend it separately, which I find super-duper weird.

Anyway, we’ve decided to write our own additional rules! We’ll seek counselling throughout regardless, just to put some extra checks and balances in there to make sure everyone’s expectations are being communicated and met well. I think for us, this will be extra important since we live at a distance, there are less opportunities to talk to each other and see first hand how everyone’s feeling.

This weekend marks another milestone of sorts too – I’ll be having my last drinks for a while. I decided to turn down alcohol for the duration of Rachel’s pregnancy out of respect and support for her. Even though comparatively, it’s such a small slither of the many sacrifices she has and will make during our surrogacy, I feel that as a pregnancy partner, any way I can show a little extra love is absolutely worth doing. If I was pregnant, I’d be stoked if my husband did it with me, so that was the sealer – I offered enthusiastically without hesitation once we started chatting about it. I think it will also teach me to think of other go-to things during stressful times, as I do enjoy a glass of wine every now and then to unwind. I think that being sensitive to and trying to understand the sacrifices that a surrogate makes is important.

So, what’s next?

We had plans for transfer early next year, but then I got the surprise of my life (and I am *very* hard to surprise) when Rachel handed me a diary on my 30th birthday (one of many, many presents – oh my lord, that’s a blog post in itself!). I opened it up to December 2015, where it said “Let’s make a baby?”. Whaaaaat?! I’m pretty sure the look on my face said “This was not in the script!”. I was cautious and excited all in the same breath. It took me a good week to process it, because previously we’d self-imposed some other conditions for our transfer which had not yet been met.

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Biggest birthday surprise ever!

Underneath my excitement was what I’ll call my party-pooping-gut, which said haaaaaaang on a minute, we can’t just get all excited and break our own rules in the process. I had to think this one through. I didn’t want my desire for a child to overrun any sensibleness in place. It turned out that after a good chat, neither of us saw reason to keep some of those self-imposed pre-transfer goals in place. After a good long think and chats with the husband, I’d satisfied myself that I wasn’t getting caught up in excitement, and was still looking after the best interests of Rachel and her family, and Rachel felt the same – so we decided to shoot for December!

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My husband David and I, doing the obligatory surrogacy agreement signing action shot

Anyway, after a feverish rush to finalise our paperwork, we’re not too sure if we’ll make a December transfer after all, due to our clinic closing over Christmas. But we’ll see! A December transfer would be an amazing Christmas present! But I always say that the best presents are those that last a long time, so waiting until the new year will be just as sweet! I may start to get the shakes if I go too long without seeing Rach though!

It must be so nerve wracking for surrogates to feel as though their bodies are responsible for the timing and outcome of someone else’s transfer. I wish there was some way I could share that weight to make yours lighter. I salute you astounding women, not only for the act of carrying someone else’s child, but for all of the load you and your families shoulder before, during and after. There are so many worries and sacrifices you take on, many of which you may not realise, may not vocalise, or may not have heard by others despite trying. Thank you for those you’ve shared, so that we can continue to learn and understand how surrogates and Intended Parents can continue to grow together and learn from one another.

And now please excuse me while I go and drink all of the remaining wine in our house. I hate to see waste!

 

0

Lawyery fun

I quite like lawyers. I figure if we can outsource some of the tricky bits in life to someone with more expertise than us, we can free up time and energy for more important things, including (but not limited to):

  • patting cats,
  • walking backwards and forwards from the fridge to see if cake has materialised,
  • staring menacingly at soccer mums who park over my driveway every day at 3:20pm,
  • smelling bacon,
  • buying things on eBay for $1 with free shipping

So I was very ok with enlisting the help of a surrogacy lawyer (or two, as is the requirement in Australia) to guide us. This post will talk about that process and how it feels, without actually talking about our personal surrogacy Agreement 🙂

Every surrogacy adventure in Australia has to have an associated surrogacy Agreement, which is a legal document drawn up that sets out the intentions of all involved. It is then handed to Judge Judy (or whoever is on duty) when applying for parentage, which happens after a child is born as a result of the Agreement. At birth, the child legally belongs to the surrogate and her partner until parentage is obtained, despite being in the care of the intended parents.

The typical gestational surrogacy Agreement states that the surrogate intends to become preggers with the intended parent(s) embryo(s), and will hand-ball the baby to said parents at birth before they have time to realise “crap, what have we gotten ourselves in to?” and run arms-flailing in the other direction.

The typical agreement also states that the surrogate will carry said child in exchange for nothing other than a bucketload of karma the size of a thousand suns, 9 months of awkward questions from strangers and an inability to venture more than 10 minutes away from the nearest bathroom. The typical agreement also states that the intended parents will pay for all medical and surrogacy-related expenses incurred, using actual money, not chocolate coins, Woolworth’s trading cards, or a picture of a spider.

Now that sounds sensible enough, but in reality, the Australian surrogacy Agreement is an odd beast for a few reasons:

  1. It’s not legally enforceable – it’s an agreement, not a contract.
  2. The typical agreement takes things that are very trust-based, and puts them in to something almost resembling a contract.

Right, so, it’s a legal requirement, it’s a legal document, but isn’t legally enforceable. Gotcha. On some levels that’s confusing, but there are actually certain things best not put in a “contract”. Since naturally much of an agreement relates to a surrogate’s pregnancy and birth, an enforceable contract might have the potential to lessen a surrogate’s feeling of bodily autonomy, which is the last thing that should ever happen to anyone.

On the flip side though, a lack of contractual obligation has the potential to cause uncertainty for both the Intended Parents (hoping that the surrogate will relinquish the child, and sign over parentage after birth), and also for the surrogate (hoping that the Intended Parents will accept a baby born as the result of the agreement, that all expenses will be reimbursed, and that counselling and appropriate grievance processes are followed).

So in theory either party could bail out mid-adventure leaving the other half of the team in a pickle, with no ramifications apart from getting coal from Santa every year for the rest of eternity. This is where trust comes in to it. So much of altruistic surrogacy is trust-based.

I have a crazy amount of trust in our surrogate, so I felt that for a legal document to come and be all like “here are the things you unconditionally trust about each other – let’s put them in a written agreement just in case things go pear shaped” felt very pre-nup-py to me, even if it’s not an enforceable contract. Go away lawyers, leave us alone in our love bubble.

Anyway, the process did have its benefits as we were prodded to think about different scenarios not previously discussed. After a while I started to view it all as just another box to tick – suck it up and get it done. After all, the Agreement is just a requirement to demonstrate our intentions to the court. I guess a big part of me feels like I want to prove my intention through actions now and for years to come, not because of any written agreement, but because I want to out of love.

So the whole written Agreement thing just didn’t feel natural to me at all. The process of getting it done was the first thing about our surrogacy adventure I felt wasn’t really “me”. If it were me, I’d write it on a serviette in glitter glue and have a clause in there about everyone being allowed to bring their pets to work and eat chocolate before bed. This is why I’ll never be a lawyer 🙂

I’m so glad that the legal stuff is almost done and out of the way. Now we can all get back to concentrating on important things, like figuring out how to best ice a counselling-themed cake for after our appointment on Friday (pics to follow!) 😀