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.”

Lots of chatter in my world this week about the concept of  “support”  When people say that they “support you 100 percent” what exactly does that mean?

If it’s just the words alone — either expressed in a quick email or a hurried phone call — it means nearly nothing. It’s just too quick and easy. Too cheap.  Lovely sentiment, but empty.

But there’s a recipe to make those words mean something: add the concept of sacrifice.

Here’s something I wrote in a letter this week that sums up how I view it.

Support is not taking the easy way out. It’s not doing what is convenient or simple.

Simply answering a phone call, or expressing bland platitudes in an email = not support.

Endless talk that elicits no action = not support.

Support is going outside of your comfort zone to do selfless acts. It’s effort, action and initiative.

It’s about putting thought and empathy together and expressing that in a way that makes a difference.

It has nothing to do with the amount of money you make or spend, or the amount of airline tickets you buy.

Support almost always involves some measure of sacrifice, great or small. It might be the sacrifice of time or mindshare. It might involve lightening your wallet or bank account. Or a little dedictated time if that’s all you can — or need — to do. The sacrifice is usually different for every person. 

Support is about sacrifice with no thought of a payback in return.

It can come in all different forms and actions. Support can be taking an honest look at yourself in the mirror, realizing you’re doing things to hurt the ones you love, and making life altering changes for no other reason than to ensure others’ lives are better and more secure.

Support is what Michelle is doing to help B and M bring this child into the world.

Remember that old wine cooler brand from the 1980s — Bartles and James? Every commercial with those two old guys as the spokesman always ended with one of the them saying: “…and thank you for your support.”

That’s the way I’ll end this post too. Especially those who provide real, true support. You know who you are.


After inviting a tiny piece of the planet to learn about our little secret, I took a much-needed break from the blog.

The last couple of weeks has reminded me of buying our first house. Before we could even take a deep breath and relax…we were eager to show it off to friends and family.  Sure, lets add some more stress on top of stress. A lot of cleaning, some touch up paint, making sure that everything looks just right. And then you throw open the doors and invite everybody in.

And you wonder what people think. Did they really like the place? Were they just being polite? Even more stress on top of stress.

I’m not sure what kind of reaction I was looking for. A round of applause? A huge influx of traffic to the site? Angry emails from pissed off family members? A call from Barack Obama?

Well I got most of the above. Alas, the President was unavailable; must have been playing a lot of pick up hoop games lately.

But the comments were nice. Surprisingly so and I’m thankful to those of you who have gone out of their way to discuss the blog with me. And a huge thank you to the dozens that have already subscribed to it! I hope I’ll be able to continue to earn your attention, and to entertain and educate.

Speaking of educate: that’s what we’ve been doing with our own families in the past week. I burned through a cell phone battery trying to explain to my Mom why it was important to share the news. Electronic publishing…blogs…RSS feeds…it’s not part of her world. And neither is an open discussion of the subject of surrogacy. I think that’s what bothers my parents the most. It’s not that they object to what Michelle is doing. It’s our willingness to let other people in and experience this with us via GuestWomb. It’s a completely foreign concept to them, and it’s probably an area where we’ll agree to disagree.

As for Michelle’s family, well I’ve certainly given them something for them all to talk about! I drew some pretty sharp protests from a couple of them who insisted they did not share what I perceived to be a family-held view — she’s doing it for the $$. Lesson learned, I made some bad assumptions and edits have been made.

And it triggered a lot of phone calls and emails, back and forth between Michelle and the rest of her family. And frankly, I’m glad. Not that I may have caused some hurt feelings — that’s not my intent. But that it allowed Michelle yet another opportunity to explain the ‘why’ in her decision.

This flurry of communication even extended to our IPs. Michelle shared some of her family’s lack of understanding about her motives. And B and M responded with a moving, emotion-laden note for Michelle to send back to her family.

Will her family ever really get it? Will my own family feel comfortable with sharing this amazing journey with the rest of the world?

Will Obama ever bookmark this blog?

Stay tuned, please.

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ENO Pagliacci 3 c Robert Workman

The house lights have dimmed. The opening overture has died out. The director gives a nod and the curtain goes up.

GuestWomb goes public.

After hemming and hawing. Tweaking. Fine tuning. And…alright…stalling, plain and simple: It’s time to open this blog up to other eyeballs besides mine.

I’ve been dreading and anticipating this moment at the same time. Opening this blog up is like opening myself up — never an easy thing. And yet I’m proud of what I’ve written. I’m even more proud of what Michelle is doing. And it will be nice to let others – a lot of them – in on our little secret.

I’ve only shown a few bits and pieces to Michelle. I’ve read entries to my daughters. But for the most part, this has been my own private domain. That all ends on Friday, Oct. 23 at 4 p.m. I’m going to send a series of emails out to family, friends and work colleagues, announcing the existence of this blog.

Most people on this email list have no idea abut Michelle’s big adventure. I’m sure there will be a lot of ‘WTF’s and ‘OMG’s in the reactions. (And that’s just from my Mom : )  Yeah, they haven’t seen it yet either.)

And maybe a few: ‘So that’s why Steven’s looked so stressed the last few weeks’. Ha. As if I’m the one under any stress or duress.

But I think I’m really going to get a lot of “WOWs!” and “How wonderful for her!” I’m sure I’m going to be bombed with a lot of questions and reaction over the weekend. What I’m really hoping is that more than a few folks subscribe to either an RSS feed or an email chain. Meaning they want to follow this saga, and watch this story unfold over the next eight months.

Meanwhile, the next part of my master blog plan begins to unfold. With the help of webmaster Dan, we’re going to make this visible in search engines using some of the most common key words. I’m going to be sending out link requests to the top 50 surrogacy sites. I might even spend a few coins on pay-per-click ads and banners on Google.

Because if I’m letting in other eyeballs besides my own….might as well get as many as I can.


Attention whores. You know who I’m talking about. You may call them something else, something more polite. But to me, they are what they are. They live only for other people noticing them, drawn to the glare of the spotlight like moths on a hot summer night.

‘Look at me,’ their clothes, piercings or tattoos scream.

‘It’s all about me, me, me’, screeches their flashy car or new face lift/boob job.

They measure their lives by the number of eyeballs trained upon them. You know them, work with them….you might live with them. In fact, you might be one. Though I doubt that, because instead of spending time reading MY blog you’d be writing your own.

Please forgive this rant about these self absorbed cretins. But I’m trying to make a point with my extreme disdain for these kinds of people and their selfish behavior. Because as Michelle begins this amazing journey, all of the attention is going to be focused on her. Rightfully so of course, because unlike your rank and file attention whore, the Blog Heroine is doing something pretty damned extraordinary. She’s going to be earning her place in the sun, basking in her well earned acclaim.

And I’ll be standing near her, slightly to the left of the center of attention. Just where I like it.

Sometimes I joke that I would have been happy having the tiny cabin next to Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. (I can imagine myself, walking over to his tiny place, knocking on the door and asking to borrow a cup of gunpowder or whatever he was using for explosives.) I enjoy my quiet time, my alone time. In fact I require it to turn down the static of life every now and then.

And my need — or extreme lack thereof — for attention follows suit. I’m not just being modest here. The center of attention is not a place I’ve ever sought, and this even goes back to my days as a sportswriter for a small local newspaper. Sure, I enjoyed seeing my byline atop a good column or story that I worked hard to put into ink and newsprint. I found the satisfaction in telling the tale. Not in the fact that I was the narrator.

At the same time, I don’t like being the passenger on this or any ride. I don’t like being a passive observer. I want to participate; I need to be an active partner to feel like I’m doing my part. And creating GuestWomb is the very best way I can contribute to this effort.

Chronicling the story is being a part of the story.

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Let’s get this out of the way right now.

It’s not about the money. That’s not why Michelle is doing this.

Yes, she’s getting paid. And pretty darn well. I’m not going to reveal exactly how much because, by the terms of the contract we signed, I’m not allowed to disclose that. But the average gestational carrier receives between $18,000 and $25,000 plus expenses. They get another 5 grand if they carry twins, and even more if — god forbid — it’s triplets. And if this not their first ‘project’, they earn a substantial amount more.

But we know we’re going to get the questions and the comments. In fact, we already have.

Many in Michelle’s family think it’s for the money. That doesn’t surprise me much because frankly it’s how those folks think. It’s not a unanimous viewpoint certainly, but if they conducted a family vote I think that’s how it would go down.

But my family? Well that’s a bit of a surprise. My own sister-in-law, who’s been somewhat estranged from us, called for the first time in years after learning about it from my brother. She grilled Michelle about the situation and then pronounced herself satisfied to learn that I’m not forcing her to do it for the money. (What???)

And you’ve already read what my kids are worried about. They think their classmates will think that somehow we’re victims of the bad economy, that we’re poor, we’re going to lose our house or that we need the cash to survive.

The truth is: We don’t need it. The money is going to go straight into an account for that special trip to Italy, or that grand landscaping project that we keep meaning to do. Not a rainy day fund. But a little something to make a sunny day just a little brighter.

I make pretty good coin as a VP of Marketing for a good company in south Jersey. Michelle will be making more than me pretty soon if her Fabric Goddess home decor business continues its meteroic trajectory.

If you want some more proof, you can click here on our listing at HomeExchange.com. Our house. We’ve listed our house, trying to trade homes with a family in Europe next summer or fall. So you can see we’re not exactly living in some falling down shack.

And yet it’s an issue. I have to admit I’ve been slightly weirded out by the money aspect of it. She’s getting paid to use her body. Some people might ask: How is that different than a prostitute? Well, for one there ain’t a lot of pleasure happening here. Between all the injections and drugs today, the invasive procedures to come and that little thing called labor and giving birth….well, this is a selfless act of sacrifice. Made a little easier by monthly checks.

But the fruit of her labor makes all the difference. Growing and nurturing a life. Providing the ultimate gift to a couple who desperately want to add to their family.

If I didn’t fully understand the real reasons why Michelle is led to do this, I would have discouraged her from going through with it. No, that’s not right. I would have vetoed it. But her intentions are as honorable as can be. True and innocent. She’s been blessed with a young body and soul that can host a miracle.

Maybe I would feel better if we just donated the money. Give to a charity. To a random homeless person.

But something tells me that nine months from now, as Michelle is screaming her head off while producing a living, breathing bundle of joy, she’ll be happy knowing her trip to Tuscany is a little closer.

It comes down to this: Why is Michelle doing it? Because she can.

A golf ball directly before the hole
Image via Wikipedia

Joe Golfer lines up for a short putt. It’s a familiar situation, the same almost-gimmee he’s stroked thousands of times on hundreds of greens. A four footer, straight into the hole. Easy as pie.

 Joe slowly draws the putter back….twitches and jerks…..and pushes it 8 feet past the hole. “Mother!!*#$@#!$“, exclaims Joe.

Welcome to the ‘Yips’, one of the quirks of the game of golf. It’s said that a half of all golfers have experienced this sudden loss of ability to make a simple shot. Sometimes it’s just temporary, a hole or two. Other times it’s a career ender. Even the greats — Ben Hogan, Ben Crenshaw and Sam Snead among others — have suffered this mysterious affliction. Doctors and sports psychologists and tried and failed to identify why it happens. And how to cure it.

 And it’s not just confined to golf. It happens in other sports too, most notably baseball. The Yips have destroyed the careers of major league baseball players like Yankee second baseman Chuck Knoblauch. He seemingly overnight lost the ability to throw the ball to first base. It’s a toss that Little Leaguers make on a daily basis; suddenly this All-Star can’t throw the ball 60 feet with any kind of accuracy. Pirate pitcher Steve Blass was another afflicted with this strange syndrome, able to fire the ball hard to a catcher but utterly helpless to lob the ball to any base.

 And as my family has now learned, it’s not just confined to sports. Because the Yips have come to our home. Suddenly without warning — after three weeks of giving herself injections — Michelle couldn’t stab herself.

OK, stabbing might be a bit overdramatic but that’s what she calls it. And really that’s what it is. Self admistered stabbing. Since early August, she’s had to give herself a little shot to reset her body for this whole project. It’s a short little 1/2 inch needle, just tiny. Michelle takes a new syringe each night and draws the medicine out of a refrigerated bottle. Then she takes a pinch of belly and pops the needle right in.

 Says Michelle:

 Up to now, it’s been fine. Easy. Something I have to do every night and I haven’t had a problem. It’s never hurt at all. It’s been matter of fact, nothing I’ve even been thinking about.

Michelle has been traveling a lot this summer — two weddings in California and a family vacation in Virginia — and still managed to stay on track with her drugs. She’s had to store the medicine in family’s refridgerators, hotel mini bars and even restaurant coolers. She’s injected herself in all kinds of places, from cramped restaurant bathroom stalls to hotel rooms. And never once has it been an issue. Until tonight.

 I knew there was a problem when she went upstairs to do the deed like always. But she didn’t come down for about 45 minutes or so.

 Michelle tells the tale.

It’s like a suddenly lost the ability to stab myself. But the last few nights I’ve had a little issue. I haven’t been poking myself hard enough. I’d pop the needle in — it never hurts so that’s not the thing. But I was going too light. So I’d have to push the needle in just a little bit more and that kind of freaked me out.

 I kept swabbing the skin with alcohol pads, prepping for it and getting it through my mind. But I just couldn’t do it. I would step back and take a deep breath. And then try again, swabbing my skin. I went through nine alcohol pads, just going through the motion. But I kept chickening out.

At this point you might ask: Why didn’t I just do it for her?

Don’t ask. Just don’t. We’ll have another entry soon that details my wife’s drug regimen and exactly how ‘helpful’ I’ve been. But having me push a needle into the body of my wife was just not something on the table.

Not that I wasn’t my usual helpful supportive self. After seeing her come into the bedroom and slip into bed, I growl at her: “Hey, you’ve got to do it. You aren’t going to bed until you make this happen. Just go for it.” Oozing with sympathy and understanding there.

Back to Michelle:

I kept thinking, hey if I just didn’t do just this one shot, would it really make a difference? Would this whole thing fail because I couldn’t give myself this one 10 cc lupron injection? I almost had myself talked into skipping just this one…..

But folks, that’s not Michelle. Not the Blog Heroine at all.

 I just can’t fail. I just can’t stand the feeling of failure. I have to make this work.

So with the help of Emma and Sara, Michelle was finally able to do the deed.

Both girls really helped me. They did a little countdown, like 1-2-3-GO. And I just felt like I had to. I was running out of time and patience, and their encouragement seemed to make it happen.

Stab. All done.

Not your typical kind of family support. I mean most kids cheer their sisters or brothers on during sports events, or applaud during a concert of pray. But a countdown for a needle? Ah well, I guess you’re learning that we’re not your typical kind of family.

So at least for this night, the Yips were put to rest. But tomorrow, there’s another 4-foot putt to face….

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