Alert GuestWomb.com reader Micah spotted this above-the-fold story in today’s  New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/us/13surrogacy.html

Basically, it’s a series of surrogacy horror stories. And the victims are ultimately the children created in these flawed pairings of IP and surrogate.

The articles depicts the stories of three surrogacy arrangements — two that seemed fine at the beginning and then devolved. And another that was just wrong from the word go. I’ll let you read the article yourself and read these very sad stories.

(I take issue with the tone of it, insinuating that babies can be to simply ‘ordered up’ as if they’re an item on a menu. Take a look at the comments from others like us who are living in this world who rip the author.)

There’s a lot of blame to go around in these tales of woe. Begining with vague and inconsistent state laws dealing with surrogacy contracts. The real villains here in my mind are the doctors, lawyers and less-than-qualified surrogacy match makers who fail to adequately do their jobs of vetting each party.

And some blame goes to the intended parents themselves. In their emotion-filled rush to simply have babies at any cost they failed to think things through.

With all the factors in play, it was as if these surrogacies were doomed to fail.

Just like every other action you take this day, there’s a right way to do things, and plenty of wrong ways. I’ve documented before how our IPs have done everything right in preparing and executing this surrogacy, and this story just reinforces it. They chose highly regarded agency — Melissa Brissman — to find us. We were painstakingly vetted in every way so that all parties felt confident in each other. 

It was all about minimizing the risk of this arrangement. Together with our IPs, we took every step to make sure this journey would stay on the path. There is just too much at stake to do anything less. Especially for this new little life!

When I read in the article that only 750 surrogacy arrangements are made in the US every year, and that some of them go tragically wrong as described in the story, it makes me feel very fortunate to know our surrogacy was ‘done right’.

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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.”


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I’m not sure what Michelle was really expecting when it came to the intended parents. Who did she picture? A young couple struggling to conceive a child for years and finally taking another route? Perhaps an older couple who had beat back a challenge such as cancer but were left infertile.

They could have white, black, asian, latino or a mix thereof. I know that didn’t matter to Michelle. Perhaps they would be local. Or someone from another state where surrogacy laws are more restrictive.

I’m guessing she didn’t forsee a couple like M and B. And once she did, things only got better.  Here’s Michelle:

It interesting now to recall my first reaction to finding out that the couple wasnt a man and wife, but a wife and wife:

It was a possibility I had been made aware of from the Melissa Brissman Agency early in the process. So I had known may happen and my head was understanding of the possibility. But in my heart I hoped it would not happen.

Why? It’s not a simple explanation. It was nothing against a same sex couple — not in the least. It was more about what I could do. Think of it this way: A same sex couple doesn’t enter into their relationship with the expectaion or even the hope of creating their own children. Of course they can adapt and have the same opportunities of a family unit, but it is not a pure biological connection.

But a man and wife…at least many of them…become joined with the expectation of creating a family together, their own flesh and blood extended.

I imagined myself working with a man and wife who had experienced years of frustration and sadness, trying so hard to conceive. And being in the position of preserving their chance for children of their own.

I suppose I was being naive thinking that this was the most usual call for surrogates, especially in this day and age. 

And then, very soon after I had been accepted into this program I got a call from the Brissman agency informing me that they found a couple for me. I was stunned, because this had happened so soon.  I guess I thought that this process would take months not days.

The agency was so insistant that this couple was most deserving because they had worked with them not once but twice before and knew them very well.

And then of course they told me about B and M. I had to go forward and read the two page letter of introduction…..

This couple has a beautiful family, were hard working professionals who deserved this last chance to be parents once again.

Right then and there I thought: Who was I to be placing my own judgement on the why’s and the what-for’s upon their decision. And more importantly, who was I to judge who should and shouldn’t have the chance to have another child. 

So the agency asked: Did I want to go forward with a phone interview with B and M?

Yes, of course…..if only to see how we would hit it off. And to keep an open mind.

We did and slowly moved forward. We exchanged emails, letters and phone calls. Openly talking through everything that we would go through together as a team. We just took this day by day, very slowly, crossing every t and dotting every i. Just to be sure.

Well now… I couldn’t imagine doing this for anyone else but B and M. And not just because of the two lovely people they are.

No, it has everything to do with feeling pressure. After learning — and experiencing so much — I didn’t realize the kind of expectations that would be placed on me. Imagine if I was carrying the only two embryos that could be produced by this desperate couple that I described above. What if, God forbids, something goes wrong? I would be absolutely devastated and feel so responsible.

Now it’s not to mean I don’t feel responsibility for carrying B and M’s baby(s). But as I’ve learned, they’ve already experienced the joy of having children themselves. If the worst happens and something happens with this pregnancy, of course we would all be sad. But I wouldn’t feel as if I’ve ruined their hopes and dreams for children.


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There are two more people I need to introduce before we go much farther. That’s the IPs — Intended Parents. They’re the reason we’ve arrived at this place and time: early September, just days away from Michelle begin her contractual duties of hosting a new life.

I’d like to tell you their names, where they live, what they do, all about their families, and much more. But I can’t — at least not yet. Because in the contract we’ve signed, there’s a specific clause the prohibits us from divulging this information. We can tell our families, friends, etc. But not to the press, and I’m taking that to include a public blog. It’s a standard term in these contracts, and we’ll abide by it if needed.

But I hope that won’t have to be the case. As soon as Michelle is confirmed as pregnant — in a few weeks if all goes well —  I’m going to ask their permission to use their identities, their names…all of it. Because their story adds a whole other dimension to this still evolving tale.

It was pretty early in the process that we were tenatively matched with this couple. Things progressed quickly after Michelle made first contact with the surrogacy attorney. They had her fill out reams of paperwork, and then interviewed her over the phone. Obviously she passed through the first few rounds of the application process because it was within the first three weeks that the agency called Michelle back. They told her they had found a couple who might be right for her.

Their names were B— and M——-. I can’t list them exactly of course. But to clue you in on why this journey took such a sudden turn to the left, I’ll give them some code names. Let’s now refer to them as:

Beyonce. and Madonna. 

That’s right, two women. A gay couple. The L word.

But most importantly: Two Mommies-to-be.

In the words of the now departed Paul Harvey:

And you know…..the rest of the story….

Which is yet another reason why this is the story that just had to be told!


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