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AND IT IS FINISHED!!!! Michelle & baby Cole are doing fine.

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I’ll get back to the silliness of the Field of 64 in a little bit. But once again, real life has managed to intrude into our fun-and-games.

For one, I managed to give my cat a very bad acid trip. A drug overdose resulting in a trip to the uber-expensive 24 Hour Vet Hospital. Yeah, really. I’ll detail this lovely story another time.

And then a hospital trip of another kind. Not Michelle — the focus of this blog — but my Mom. I was supposed to spend a leisurely 6 days in Oregon on a family visit with my youngest daughter, Sara. But within 45 minutes of my arrival at their home we were headed straight to the Emergency Room.

She had undergone a successful minor throat surgery the previous week in Portland, but the hospital obviously released her too soon. When she got home she didn’t feel like eating or drinking, spending most of her time sleeping on the couch.

An immediate medical intervention was needed, and that’s what I spent most of this week working through. I’m happy to report that she’s on the mend, out of the hospital and gaining her strength back.  

And then there’s the alien life-force that Michelle is carrying. He’s obviously destined for a life as a paint-swapping NASCAR driver. He’s bouncing off her intestines and kidneys at any and all hours now. She’ll have a few choice words about her personal space invader very soon.


In about 16 years — give or take a tolerant attitude — our IPs will be doing the exact same thing I’m doing right now.

It’s 11:30 p.m. on a Thursday night. I’ve just gotten home from dropping off my oldest daughter Emma at a midnight movie premiere of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Months before the movie was due to be released, I had promised my 16-year old that she and her good friend Tresier — both of them huge Tim Burton fans — could go see the movie on opening night. As it turned out, it’s opening on a school night. But a promise is a promise, and so I’m back home waiting until 2 a.m. to pick them up. Normally I’m a pretty strict parent, but this one time I’m going to let her skip school tomorrow.

So as I brew some coffee and attempt to stay awake another two hours, I’ve got some very quiet time to reflect on my current parenting role. And the role I’m going to miss out on with the child currently taking up more and more space inside Michelle. When this little one is Emma’s age, someone else — our IPs Barb and Michelle — will be the ones keeping the promise to let them stay out late. (Probably to view the latest in the Harry Potter saga, number 24 when middle aged Harry and his wizard friends do battle with the greatest enemy of all — the Dreaded Curse of Male Pattern Baldness!)

As the weeks go by, and Michelle’s due date actually starts to come within view, I’ll be spending more time reflecting on just how … different….this journey has been. This experience has been a lot of things so far.

Rewarding. Fascinating. Fulfilling.

But it’s also been strange. Foreign. Awkward at times. And sometimes just flat out weird. Even a feeling of emptiness at what — or in this case — does not lie ahead.

Now that’s something I did not expect.

From my vantage point, it’s been almost all positive. Course I’m not the one gobbling up Tums like they’re M&Ms, or having my internal organs used for soccer practice during all hours of the day and night. But now I find myself noticing how different things are going to be with this pregnancy, especially the final act. Most of all the differences in my own thinking. 

Sixteen years ago I was watching Michelle’s belly swell up at about the same rate as my worries and headaches. ‘Holy shit,’ I remember thinking, ‘My pretty much carefree life as I know it is over. (There’s a shocking GuestWomb entry to come on this topic. Brace yourself kids — but you were pretty much all your Mom’s idea. Sorry to break it to you)

While I might not have been ready for this change, I certainly didn’t shrink from my responsiblities then or now. And that’s what it really meant to me:  Life was to be all about the responsibilities.

Focusing on keeping the roof over our heads, the wife and kid (and soon to be kids) clothed and fed. Praying that everyone stayed healthy through doctor appointments. Nursery school and kindergarten. Braces. And on and on. Saving for college. Paying for weddings. A lot of it was panicky headtrash that seemed overwhelming at the time.

And yet all the responsibility for the little soul currently in residence somewhere east of Michelle’s spleen lies elsewhere. It’s Barb and Michelle, the IPs, that will assume all the burden and more.  They’ll be the ones shaking their heads at how expensive 5 years of braces can be. They’ll be worrying about making sure their boy gets into Honors Classes to make a better impression on college admissions committees.

They’ll be the ones waiting up until 2 a.m. like I am tonight.

Am I going to miss that? Maybe so. Because while Michelle takes the credit for prodding me into becoming a family man, being a parent has been the most rewarding part of my life.  Even those daunting responsibilities that caused sleepless nights so many years ago bring only a smile to my face.


Our Thanksgiving Story continues…..

Even though Michelle  and I have learned a lot about the whole surrogacy world, I feel like there still so much more to know. Some will be covered here in the blog for both educational and entertainment value. (Tastefully, although the photo below does not send much of a message of hope in that way). Other information will be for my own benefit. Not to satisfy some great quest for knowledge about this subject. Like I said before: Of all the things I could be blogging about….wow.

It’s more about putting things in order. Finding out how all the pieces fit. Gaining perspective.

A few weeks ago when I unveiled GuestWomb to the world, my Mom wasn’t too thrilled about seeing all this information available online for anyone — and in her mind, everyone — to read. She made some critical remarks about the blog, and that was OK. Writers have to be thick skinned and immune to criticism. Even….no… ESPECIALLY…from their Mother! But a week passed by and then she called me early one morning to apologize for her remarks. I told her it was fine, and assured her that I wasn’t affected by anything she said.

But then she said something kind of interesting. “I understand why you need to write this,” she said. “It’s your way of coping with this whole situation.”

I didn’t want to dispute or correct her comments. So I just went along with it and accepted her statement. Saying that was probably HER way of coping with having a son write a ‘tell-all’ blog that’s surely to be read daily — if not MORE often! — by every citizen of our hometown, Medford, Oregon!

I’ve already written a little about the ‘why’ behind writing this blog. Helping me ‘cope’ with Michelle’s decision and journey isn’t quite right. No, it’s really more of a device to help put things into context. Because the events of the last 12 months have led our family into new, uncharted territory on many levels. Like an explorer mapping out the wilderness, GuestWomb is helping me to record the events — physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Visiting the home of Barb and Michelle, the IPs, was one such foray that needed, in my mind, some mind-share and reflection. Because, for the first time, the tables were turned in an important way. We were able to get the inside glimpse of just who we were partnered with.

In any Gestational Surrogacy process, the selection of the carrier — my Michelle — is always of attention and scrutiny. Rightfully so. The IPs are investing a lot in this arrangement — and I’m not talking about money here. They have gone to extraordinary lengths to get to this stage — producing the embryos  to be implanted. They’re extended emotionally and spiritually. The woman they choose — or in many cases, a couple like us —  need to be people they can trust. In fact, trust with the lives of their soon-to-be family member. There is no such thing as being too cautious.

So our IPs made all the right moves, starting with whom they chose to help manage this process. To find the right candidate, they turned to the leading surrogacy placement agency in the United States — Melissa Brissman & Associates. We were told later that out of 200 applicants who apply, only one makes it through to the final stages. After the initial interview, Michelle and I were checked out thoroughly. From police and court records, all the way to credit checks.

(An aside: I was researching about how people are trying to hide or change what is said/pictured about them on the internet. You know, those embarrassing Facebook pictures or other misdeeds from the past. Potential employers now routine scour Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and other social network sites to learn more about applicants. I came across the picture at right and joked to Michelle that I was going to use it to illustrate the changes in her diet and health regimen now that she’s pregnant. She was not amused and vetoed its use there. But it’s just too funny not to include it here.)

But I’m thinking if the IPs ran across a photo like that of Michelle, well….I wouldn’t be typing right now!

There was even a process where one of Brissman’s people would visit us in our home almost unannounced — for some reason our IPs waived this part of the process.

Then came the very complete medical testing for Michelle. Again, our IPs chose a top notch group — IVF of New Jersey — to handle the battery of tests and screening. Finally we went through our personal interviews and psychological profiles.

All of this is to say that Michelle and her life has been pretty well documented, examined and approved by our IPs. But what did we know about these two interesting women who have entered into our lives? Very little. And Thanksgiving was my chance to learn and observe, taking mental notes to fill in the gaps and answer a lot of the questions I’ve had.

And the biggest question for me was this:  Where and how will this little baby-to-be be living.  Not because I had any reason to worry or doubt our IPs in any way. It was simply a rare chance to be able to project ahead in this unborn child’s life and visualize her home surroundings.

And many things came to light during our holiday visit. For one, this child will be surrounded by loving caring people, well beyond his/her two Moms. From the siblings-to-be already living in the house, to the Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and others who will be a part of their lives from day one.

The home where he/she will reside couldn’t be more ideal. This child will spend countless days of a happy childhood, exploring this vast home and grounds. As noted earlier, Barb and Michelle have spent the fall moving into this grand estate and already it embodies a warm, comforting place of security and serenity.

And yet household serenity will be in short supply, thanks to this new child’s siblings. I won’t divulge much more information in the interest of privacy, but I hope this little boy or girl will have a strong mind, body… and will!… to keep up with his/her energetic siblings!

The hours went by quickly and the meal was splendid — although marred by an unfortunate minor accident by one of those energetic siblings. Barb spent half the evening with a little one in the Emergency Room getting some stitches due to a nasty fall.

When an evening ends and it’s time to go home, I often breathe a sigh of relief. ‘Whew, got that out of the way”, was my default feeling.

But not so on this night. With my curiosity sated for the time being and basking in the glow of warmth radiated by this special family, we regretfully said our ‘Good Nights and Thank You’s, and departed down the New Jersey Turnpike for home.

And in an afternoon, the picture got a lot clearer. I’ll let Michelle have the last words on our day.

“Every stop along the way off this journey, things are getting more and more real. From the first interviews, then phone calls, the initial meetings…and having Barb and Michelle to our home last summer. Our time with them at Thanksgiving added more to our relationship with them. While this will be a wonderful memory when we look back later on, that day gave me so much more to think about and to feel like I really know Barb, Michelle and their family.”


Insulin syringes are marked in insulin "u...
Image via Wikipedia

There’s nothing quite like the sight of a needle — on a daily basis no less — to bring out honest and clarity.

From the mind of the Blog Hereone:

This past week I have been having more than a few second thoughts. Right about now I’m in need of some positive encouragement to keep me focused on what I need to do..

I’ve been scanning the internet, looking for others who are going through the same process has anything good to say. Something I can use as encouragement. So I start reading another would-be surrogate’s story about her entire journey, all drugs, what she’s feeling and more. 

And great — Now I feel even more scared than before.

What if this doesn’t work out? What if my body isn’t responding to this cocktail of drugs I’m jamming into myself? What all this work was for nothing?

This is what I lie awake thinking about as we get farther down the line. I dont want to go there. In fact, I’m a very positive person and these kinds of feelings of doubts really aren’t me. Maybe it’s the drugs surging me through. Lately I’ve been blaming a lot of stuff on the drugs!

But these are more than just nervous thoughts going through my head. It’s still very much a possability that despite all the tests, doctor’s opinions….everything… it could happen. I could still fail on this very special mission.

Worry, worry, worry. I worry about who’s going to give me my shots when they become daily. That happens in the very near future, maybe even sometime this week. I know I can’t give them to myself. We’re talking big needles.

My husband becomes weak in the knees at the mere thought of having the drugs in the house. (EDITOR — WHAT THE HELL!?!?!)

So I leave this task up to my new friend, a nurse I met while accompanying Emma on a choir trip to England, and the occassional drive by injection by another nurse in my primary Doctor’s office.

But what if neither one are availablbe? My options are pretty limited. I started thinking, ‘What about our vet, who is j ust down the street’? Or maybe posting a Craigslist ad, reading something like: “Good with needles?  Searching for someone to stick me on a daily basis…..”

Betcha I would get plenty of responses. But somehow I dont think that I would find what I was looking for.

To help me deal with all these swirling doubts and second thoughts, I finally thought abot going to the source. She’s partly the reason why we’re even here. Plus she’s actually been through this process three time herself. Not as a surrogate but to bear her own children. I’m talking about my intended parent.

I called her last night and I’m so glad I did. All is right again with the world and I have a renewed sense of why I am doing this, and for whom.

I can do this! I will make this happen.

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spartan-brad-pitt

And as for my take on this idea, well…….

Huh? The picture? Hey, it’s MY blog! I’ll choose whatever picture I like. You do a blog….you can choose the image.

 Personally I think it’s a fairly good likeness.

 So back to that Sunday morning so long ago…..

 As we were watching this story, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Michelle was staring intently at the screen. She’d gone quiet and was zoning in, cocking her head and concentrating on every single word. I could hear the gears whirring and clanking in her head.

 ‘Oh boy,’ I thought. ‘Here we go.’ Because I had seen that look before. It’s a combination of curiosity and determination. Coupled with a sly, calculating kind of furrow of the brow. It’s a look that says: I’ve got the start of an idea. A wonderful, surprising, amazing, intriguing idea.

And here. We. Go. Again. That look means business. Serious business. When she had found a house she liked. Or an idea for her business or new career path. Or a way to decorate a room. Or deciding to have a child.

Now just having a particular look on her face doesn’t guarantee an outcome but it does promise action. Of that I was certain. We were on the start of a journey.

The Big Bang!

While this idea of surrogacy was a completely new idea, it did revolve around a very familiar topic of debate in our household. The subject of children – more of them, that is — had been a semi-regular topic in our home. The topic would resurface every year or so. Completely out of the blue. Triggered by God only knows what. But certainly not by me.

Because I was oh so very certain in what I wanted in this way. I was done. Fin. Add your own favorite way of saying ‘no’ in any language on the planet. That was my position.

I hate to equate having children with gambling on a game of chance, but: I figured we had beat the house twice on Emma and Sara. Blackjack and Royal Flush. Happy. Healthy. Smart. And I had already backed away from the table, and seemingly cashed in my chips.

How so? At the risk of sharing too much information, I had made the decision to..be…well….fixed. Yes, I’m comfortable with the slang associated wtih vetinarians rather than the human medical term. My squeamishness knows no bounds. Rest assured you’ll read not one more detail about this experience in this blog.

So I was mentally and now physically finished with the whole idea. To think about getting ‘un-fixed’ wasn’t an option. And still the topic kept creeping up, like a persistent weed that recharges itself from deep buried roots.

As for Michelle? Well, it turns out she wasn’t so sure. Even after she had enthusiastically offered me up to be the one to seek the ultimate birth control solution. A little TOO enthusiastically for my liking now that I recall, but it made sense at the time. It still made sense. And yet about every year or so, she’d restart the discussion.

‘Wouldn’t it be fun to have another little one’. Or: ‘What if we would try to have a boy’. Was she just thinking out loud?Or was she trotting out ideas to guage my reaction? I’m not sure.

When the subject would rear its (baby) head, I would quickly move to block/blunt/quash it. I had a list of reasons and issues ready to go at merest mention of little ones.

Take a deep breath: Diapers. No sleep. No social life. Cost of college education. Really poopy diapers. Braces. Ear infections. My mother visiting. PTA meetings. Elementary school fundraisers. And god don’t forget those frangrant diapers.

These functioned as my babymaking herbicide, my weed spray to keep those ideas from sprouting. And the topic would soon dissolve and be forgetten….for awhile.

This Sunday morning, however, I didn’t recite my list. Why? I really don’t know. Maybe it was the look on Michelle’s face. Or the hope reflected in her eyes. I’ll pick up that subject another time.I get a lot of questions about why I agreed to this project. It was a pretty simple decision and I have a lot to say about that. Later.

For this morrning I just nodded and agreed with Michelle’s idea. Maybe she’d look at the website. Maybe she’d give them a call and just investigate it. It did sound interesting. Who knows…….

I often wondered what would have happened if I had chosen to try to squash this idea. Would we be here now?


cbssunday

It’s not often in this existence when you can look back at a moment and say: Yep, that’s EXACTLY when my life changed. The. Exact. Millisecond.

Now everyone has life changing events. The first cries announcing the birth of a son or daughter. The first time you laid eyes on your someday-to-be spouse. The shocking news that a loved one or friend has passed on.

But those kind of milestones are really out of your control. They happen, and that’s that. The memory is signed and sealed. To be stored in the attic of your mind. Occassionally dusted off and savored. Or mourned.

My ‘moment’ is different. This event was just the start, the very beginning. The flash point of a chain reaction. Once started…it just kept growing and growing.

That’s why I look at is as: The Big Bang of Michelle’sAdventure.

It was a sunny winter morning. Michelle and I were enjoying our weekend ritual — enjoying a rare quiet moment, sipping strong steaming coffee from our favorite mugs. And watching the one TV show we watch religiously. CBS Sunday Morning. Religiously being the key word. Michelle have never been able to settle on a church that suits our needs. After years of trying this one and that, we’re to the place where this weekend day is started by the one thing we can agree upon — Charles Osgood’s 90 minute service/pot pourri.

Sunday Morning really is must watch TV in a broadcast wasteland. It’s a marvelous mix of current events and commentary, writen and produced by some of the most skillful journalists on television today. This show is a delighful respite from the cable news shows where each talking head — liberal or conservative — stakes out predictable positions on each topic. I swear that if President Obama today declared: Water is wet — the O’Reilly, Hannitity’s and Limbaugh’s would be instantly challenging that position, and finding a way to link it with MOVE.org, Rev. Wright and higher taxes.

But back to the show: Sunday Morn takes its time with each topic. And the subjects themselves are part of the fun. From critically important issues of the day to the completely absurd, each week Osgood and his clever team present invariably brings up a story or feature that examines important issues with a thoughtful — and thought provoking — report.

And so it was on this Sunday morning, reclining on our bed with the sun streaming through our huge bedroom windows, that we refilled our coffee mugs and settled in to view this:

Ka Boom.

See for yourself:

www.reproductivelawyer.com/press_redefine.cfm