We will return you to your usual Guestwomb.com posts, the  irreverent and semi humorous entries that both of my regular readers have come to expect, in a few paragraphs.

Today I have something heavier on my mind. Or maybe on my soul. Actually I’ve been thinking about them since September when Michelle was implanted with two embryos and the journey was underway.  The ‘them’ I refer to are the ones who didn’t make it.

Our IPs had four frozen embryos left from earlier surrogacy efforts. The plan was to select hopefully three to implant in Michelle to maximize the chances of at least one child produced. But when we arrived in the operating room for the procedure that morning, the count was already down to two.

I was able to look at microscopic images and it was clear even to me that two embryos came out of the thawing process in perfect condition and were starting to literally bud out, like a tiny little blossom of potential life.

And then I saw the others — just tiny little cell clusters really. There was no budding out, no bloom. No growth at all. For one reason or another that only fertility experts could tell you, these two didn’t make it. They were truly dead. Their journey was over before it started.

Of course some would argue that these two DID start the journey. That human life begins at the very joining of an egg and sperm, however it may occur. For most — 99.9% of all people on this planet — this came about through the most natural of methods. And then there are those special few who, thanks to the miracle of modern science, find themselves in this world. Probably the most anticipated and wanted children in the world, given all it took to bring about this miracle!

I’ve thought to myself that what Michelle is doing is the ultimate ‘right to life’ statement. It’s only because our IPs couldn’t bear the thought to simply destroy these embryos that a little boy or girl will be coming into the world in a few months.  There are those on both the right- and left-wing fringe of society who believe the whole concept of surrogacy as ‘playing God’ and interfering with the natural order of things. But isn’t that what medical doctors have done since the dawn of time in trying to extend human life? Breakthroughs and discoveries have promoted lifespans to record lengths. The science pioneered by clinics such as IVF are simply working on the other end of things. Just as your cardiologist, lung specialist or cancer professionals seek to prolong life, the fertility doctors help make possible life at the very start for people who, for various reasons, require the assistance of science to create life.

I’ll devote some other chapters of Guestwomb.com about these groups who oppose surrogacy and what their concerns are. Some have to do with the compensation aspect and their opposition is understandable. While I don’t have any doubts that Michelle is doing a wonderful thing, I’ve been confronted by the inconsistencies of my own personal values about issues like abortion and choice.

My own opinions on what constitutes the beginnings of life, and man’s right to intervene are getting more complex as the years go by. When I was younger and life was simple, this and many other issues seemed so clear cut, completely black and white. I grew up in a strongly Republican, Red State and Conservative place and those were pretty much my values. It was a comfortable position and I really didn’t have cause or reason to question it.

Now almost 50 years of experience and knowledge later, I see things in a different light. No. More like a diffused light. I think that each of us looks through their own window to survey life. When I was young and naive it was a clear window, where the sunlight hits and comes glaring through in a bright harsh beam. 

As the years roll by, I think our personal windows are no longer so clear. It becomes more like stained glass. It’s the same intense white light hitting the outside of the panes, but the light energy passing through the now tinted glass takes on different hues, colors and intensities. Its our personal experiences and knowledge that produce these tints. Sometimes the light is filtered by personal experience. Or the light shines in patterns brought about by knowledge and exploration. And most everybody has some panes where the tints are so dark through prejudice or hate that light is reflected off, unable to penetrate through.

And so what used to be a very stark issue of right and wrong is now bathed in a mosaic of light and opinions. Reds and blues. Lights and darks. For me, it’s the long held belief in the sanctity of life at one extreme versus the pragmatic and often cruel reality of modern life on the other.

Did God really want that little boy born this minute in the worst of the worst country on earth to come into the world, knowing that he has but weeks to live a tortured and starved stunted life? How can the Catholic Church keeps its head in the sand over basic issues such as contraception.

And on the other side, how can people be so shallow and callous as to have ‘morning after’ pills stocked and ready to go in their bathroom medicine cabinets right alongside their Tylenol and toothpaste.  

This is not the time, place or blog to settle or even explore these issues.  I’m just stating what I saw in September, and what it made me feel. 

I saw with my own eyes what was close to the very start of life for the child now growing within Michelle. When did this tiny little mass of cells go from a rapidly multiplying clot of cells to that critical mass of a human being with a soul? What is that magic line in the uterus? Is it simply the point in which this tiny little blob has the potential — all things being equal — of achieving life on its own without science’s help?

Of course all things are NOT equal in this situation. Our IPs, blessed with extraordinary resolve and resources, were determined to make this life happen. They found the perfect partner and carrier in Michelle to realize this dream. For her part, Michelle is devoting almost a year of her life to fulfill this wish. And she’s surrounded by loving, supportive people determined to help her make this happen.

This didn’t happen naturally in any sense of the words. And yet Michelle doing this wonderful deed seems as natural and right as anything I can imagine right now.

So many complex and unanswerable questions and issues. That wasn’t what I was thinking about back in September. On that blessed day, the focus was the accomplishment of Michelle’s successful implantation. Michelle and I, and our IPs, Barb and Michelle, were full of hope and joy that our journey was launched.

Yet at the same time I felt a profound and deep feeling of sadness about the two that didn’t bloom. I came face to face with a true life and death situation in that operating room, and I came away from with new found feelings and thoughts about the absolutely amazing mystery of life.

And every once in awhile, I’ll think about the two who didn’t blossom.

Michelle learned today that she’s carrying just the one child. As you no doubt remember from our breathless encounters earlier in the blog, she was implanted with two embryos.

The chances of her carrying twins was pretty good. As we’ll explain later, it was a good bet that M would be bringing a match pair into the world come late May/early June.

But thanks to the incredible technology available in sonograms and other medial devices, the doctors can already tell it’s just one little soul growing within Michelle.

I’m surprisingly a little sad about that. I have the same kind of regret when I think about the other two embryos that didn’t survive the ‘defrosting’ process at the IVF lab.

I know how hard M is working/going to work to provide an excellent start to this little one’s existence. And I know how lucky this child is to be placed in the loving arms of B and M, the intended parents so very soon….

Every child deserves this kind of jump start to life .

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8-cell embryo for transfer
Image via Wikipedia

And here’s Michelle’s perspective:

Just a few thoughts for those of you who may consider going through an embryo trasnfer. Either for yourself…or for someone else like I’m doing:

My whole procedure was a breeze.  The nurses make you feel very comfortable and I didnt feel icky about anything.  After all, this was a possible conception, a modern miracle in the making….a product of todays incredible technology.

It really was that simple. Quick. I followed doctor’s orders to the letter. I did stay off of my feet for the rest of the day as hard as it was, because there is always something that I could be doing……Its very hard for me to stay still.

In ten days ( or earlier) we will know for sure if the transfer took and how many since 2 eggs were placed.  This is the last chance for my IP’s to have another child…..These were the last of their fertilized eggs. 

I do feel pressure for this to work out for them, but also that nature has something to say about what works and what doesnt.

They say that the hardest thing now is the waiting…….and it is.

Hopefully my next entry has good news.

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Today I spent a lot of time thinking about the first Indiana Jones movie. Remember the climatic scene, where Harrison Ford and Karen Allen are tied to a stake, back to back, while the Nazi bad guys are opening the Ark of the Covenant?

“Marion, don’t look at it,” warns Indy. All the evil guys are enjoying the amazing view of the sprites and angels floating around…

Suddenly the spirits change into demons, and lightning bolts shoot right into their eyes, and out their skulls in wonderful Spielburgian fashion. Even in these modern CGI days where filmmakers can create absolute miracles on screen — like making Keanu Reeves seem like he’s actually an actor — the melting face thing still looks pretty cool.

Which brings me to today’s big event. Michelle and I went to the IVF Clinic today, where she was successfully implanted with two tiny microscopic embryos.

And I got to watch the whole thing. OK, not the whole thing.

In fact, I was just holding her hand and watching the doctors/nurses/plumbers/oceanograhers work on the…err…..business end.

And while there were no lightning bolts shooting into my eyes, no face melting or screams (OK, I wanted to scream a couple of times but didn’t) it has to be about the most unforgetable 20 minutes of my life. And frankly I didn’t expect to be there.

I had asked Michelle who she would like to have accompany her into the operating room, and she thought M and B would want to be with her through the procedure. Per the rules of the clinic, only two people were allowed in to witness the transfer. As I think about it now: I’m sure she was protecting her ultra squeamish husband; I’m not sure exactly who she wanted holding her hand. But I wasn’t exactly stepping forward on my own.

No, it took the prodding of B and M to make that happen. They just ‘assumed’ I would want to be there, saying how wonderful I am to be so supportive, how lucky Michelle is…… Argh. I was trapped. If I said ‘no thanks’ at that point, I’d look like a schmuck….

And before you know it, I was gowned up in a yellow cloud of cotton with a mask, hair net — even foot covers — walking into the darkened operating theater.

And there was Michelle, lying back in the…uh…action…position. I’m not going to go into much detail here. (Hey guys, check out this home movie I made of the whole thing! Get your popcorn!)

Suffice to say that the team of doctors and nurses swarming over Michelle were efficient and professional. This clinic has been in business for over 25 years and they obviously know their business. Michelle was made comfortable, kept informed of everything that was happening and came through this short (20 minute) procedure with flying colors.

Of course the huge valium pill she took 15 minutes before arriving at the Clinic didn’t hurt either.

They ‘defrosted’ a total of four embryos. (God as I type that word, defrosted: It’s like they’re thawing out some ground round for tonight’s meat loaf). It turns out the two had somewhat disintegrated in the thawing process. Leaving two very healthy mini-mini-mini people. I saw a picture of them snapped under an electromicroscope and it was heart stopping. (More on that in a later post.)

 So potential person no. 1 and potential soul no. 2 were placed in their new, temporary home. And just like that: our journey is officially started.

This is obviously a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life. But I recall thinking as I was driving the car closer to the door to pick up Michelle….it was just so simple. Almost routine.

For God’s sake, two potential lives were just given a jump start. You would expect some kind of miraculous flash of light…marching bands… something more than it was.

And yet it seemed to be no big deal, a routine out-patient procedure like fixing a hernia or a nose job. 

Driving home from the Clinic, we stopped for a leisurely late lunch at a Mexican joint. Michelle was about to order her usual lager to go along with her tacos…..and then realized very quickly: Life had changed.

Or so we think. Now we await a blood test in about 10 days to confirm that she’s pregnant.

The success rate is pretty high for this clinic.

Michelle shares some thoughts on the eve of the transfer:

“The night before the transfer, I called the IP’s.  They are so looking forward to tomorrow.  Of course everyone hopes that all will go well and that the embryos are viable and healthy.  So much goes into this day, much of which I know nothing about.  I’ve chosen not to think about it too much before now. I too am excited but now I’m thinking ahead. My mind is racing thinking about all the details of the day.

I am very private about my body and just the thought of being naked makes me ill.

But I have to get past that tomorrow. I’ll focus on something else. Something bigger. As far as I am concerned, this is the real gift, my overcoming my intense need to be private.

I hear the that the whole procedure is less than 10 minutes, and then you have to be off of your feet for the rest of the day……not a horrible thought.

In the morning, I will just shower, dress and just think about the great lunch my husband and I will have after…..

“Leaving at 3:30 today to meet the cable guy”

“Coming in at 10 am; gotta take my puking dog to the vet.”

It’s simple business courtesy: If someone’s going to be late or has an appointment, we let our co-workers or bosses know. A quick email notice sent around the department, accompanied with a short reason.

Nothing special. Routine stuff.

So next Tuesday morning, the big day when I drive Michelle to the Fertility Clinic in New Jersey, I can just imagine the one I’ll send:

“Taking Tuesday off so I can take my wife to be implanted with an embryo created by complete strangers’ egg and sperm. Hit me up on my cell if you need me.”

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