My last post talked about what I’ll be missing out on in 16 years. This post is what I won’t be missing out on in a few weeks.

I’ve been a huge Conan O’Brien fan for years. Always regretted that I never got tickets when he was doing his Late Night gig just up the road in New York City. Then he moved to LA to take on the Tonight Show….and we all know what happened next.

Fast forward to today, as I was scanning the internets. There was a blurb about Conan taking  his act on the road while he is barred from being on TV. Checking the tour schedule….YES! He’s going to be in Atlantic City on May 30. My credit card number was already punched in when…………… I remembered.

Oh crap. Michelle’s due date. May 26.

And here’s the place — right HERE — where being the ‘surrogate’ and not the ‘intended parent’ has its advantages.

Because assuming Michelle is on schedule….. the Conan show is just four days after the big event.

Barb and Michelle, the intended parents, will be spending all their time getting to know the newest member of their family. Talk about ‘Late Night’ gigs.

Meanwhile, Michelle will be on her way to Atlantic City, hoisting a few glasses of champaign, laughing at CoCo’s antics.

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.”

Cousins, uncles, sisters and more gathering from near and far. The aroma of roasting turkey wafting from the oven. A noisy throng crowding the TV, cheering or booing each football exploit. The table fairly groaning under the weight of serving dishes and platters. And then come the choices: White or dark. Mashed or sweet. Pumpkin or apple.

Ah, the traditional all-American Thanksgiving scene. Just the kind of warm, comforting images that come to life on a Norman Rockwell canvas. As for my own holiday experiences? Well, they’ve been more suited to Norman Lear .

For starters: Growing up we seldom spent the holiday at home. My small family was scattered all over Oregon, so we gathered to celebrate in the middle of the state. “Over the hills and through the woods to Grandma’s house… ” was replaced by exit  174 on Interstate 5 for the Village Green Motor Hotel, where we were about the only guests. Substitute the grandparents’ table and fine china with eating our meal in a nearly deserted dining room, and you get the idea.

I’m not complaining, mind you. You can have your same-ol, same-ol long-standing traditions, thank you. Every one of my holidays has been unique and memorable in its own way. Like the year a momma cat and a batch of her kittens found refuge under the bed in one of our room. Or the year my drunken uncle kept calling our room in the middle of the night, trying to continue a silly family word game.

Fast forward to today and Turkey days are still far from the norm. As the only family members on both sides who live in the east, we exchange holiday greetings via cell phones, trying to match up the time zones and dinner times. 

One year I tried to light a seldom-used fireplace to bring a little warmth into the dining room — and proceeded to fill the house with billowing smoke. By the time the fire alarms had turned off the food was ice cold and the story of our  “Year of the Smoked Turkey’ was born.

Then there was the Thanksgiving dining at a historic Inn on the Delaware River. Three of us enjoyed an incredible meal….while I spent the next 12 hours learning the ins and outs of food poisoning. Mostly out, FYI.

All of this is just a long lead in to describe this year’s observance. Because in some ways it was more Rockwell and much less Lear. Unexpectedly, we enjoyed one of the warmest, family-oriented Thanksgiving I’ve ever spent. And in the company of near-strangers to boot.

As you’ve probably guessed, we spent the evening with Barb and Michelle, the IPs, and their family. I won’t go into a lot of detail about who, where and more out of respect for their privacy. But I don’t think they’ll mind me sharing our reactions and feeling before, during and after.

Honestly I don’t know exactly what I was expecting. Michelle has had a lot more contact with the IPs during this process. I’m not sure this is a blessing or a curse but: My wife has the ability to establish and forge friendships quickly and easily. Her warm, open and friendly manner seems to almost attract like-minded people.

And I’m quite the opposite. (See the Ted Kaczynski reference earlier in this blog!)  Keeping my guard up is my default. I don’t open up and even feel comfortable around new folks. So this holiday invite was going to be a stretch for me.

Yet it was an assignment  that was looking forward to. Because, honestly, I’m still so very curious about our new friends — their history, their choices and their lives today.  Hopefully I’ll learn for the purposes of sharing more in this blog — but that’s their call, and in their timeframe.

Really it’s more about my own personal understanding of their world. I’ve been wrestling with an often-revised GuestWomb draft entry on my feelings about this unconventional arrangement.  A lot of my long held viewpoints are really breaking down from this self examination. I have a hard time explaining how I came to own these old attitudes and beliefs. My own lack of knowledge, experience and understanding to this lifestyle choice is quite telling. And yet I find myself more open — dare I say, more liberal — in my outlook these days. (Sorry, Dad.)

But Thanksgiving isn’t the time or place for a probing interviews, so I put my list of questions away.  Yet in a few short hours, I learned so much by just quietly observing and soaking up the atmosphere in Barb and Michelle’s new home.

End of Part 1

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The last time you’ll see their pictures in the blog.

So now everybody knows. About Michelle’s very special project. And about my part in this journey, the blog.

Even Barb and Michelle, the IPs.

Yes, they’ve given me permission to use their first names in the blog.  So while referring to them as Madonna and Beyonce might have a great way to drive traffic to the blog, I’m happy to leave those pseudonyms behind.  

It was never my intention for Barb and Michelle to be the last to know. It just kind of played out that way. My Michelle (Hmmm two Michelle’s will be difficult to keep separate in this story but I’ll do my best) and I talked at length about when and how to discuss with them. When the time was right, I had planned to take a day off work, ask them out to lunch, and spend a quiet afternoon exploring the subject. I would get the chance to really explain my thinking, outlining my reasons and motivations for telling the tale.

We decided to broach the subject AFTER it was official — that Michelle was pregnant and it was game on.  When confirmation came from M’s doctor we were ready to have ‘that talk’. And then events got in the way. I had a business/family trip to the west coast. Michelle’s business had a surge of rush orders and her time was limited.

On top of that — Barb and Michelle had a huge project on their hands. In the space of just a few weeks, they sold their home….and bought another…and moved!  Their free time was precious, and so they remained in the dark.

Over the last few weeks, as I plugged away on entries, had the site and logo designed, and scheduled a launch date…I was getting anxious. I wanted them in on MY part of the secret. To be supportive and understanding. Or at the very least, not hating it!

As I worked on the blog late at night, my mind would begin to conjur up worst case scenarios. What if they didn’t like it? What if they hated the idea of going public with our story? What if they think I’m trying to exploit this situation for my own gain?

It was critical that the IPs were in favor of Guestwomb — much more important than I ever admitted to my Michelle. If Barb and Michelle had been opposed to the blog…..if they had not understood our reasons for sharing this story…..well, I doubt very much you’d be reading this right now.

I always knew I didn’t absolutely NEED them to approve or contribute to this journal. I could legally abide by our contract by having them remain as Beyonce and Madonna. I could soldier on, telling a one-sided story and omiting anything that involved the IPs aside from the absolute minimum. And I was preparing myself for the possibility. But not really.

Because if I didn’t have their support — I would have ended this blog right then and there. Over and out. Because the four of us have quickly progressed from simple Carrier and IP. And I wouldn’t even call what we have together as mere friendship. It’s beyond that as well.

It’s a bond that’s strong today and growing stronger every day. We feel privileged to be in their lives and to play such a part in growing their family. And I know they have similar feelings towards us.

I wouldn’t have dared let get in the way of what promises to be a special kind of relationship. If they had any concerns or doubts…..this website would be blank.

Finally I just couldn’t take the uncertainty any more. It was time to tell all. I spent the better part of three nights constructing a lengthy, detailed email, laying out all my reasons for wanting to play the part of scribe in this unique story. I ended it with the link to the intro page that I had sent out to family and friends, and invited them to explore it all.

After hitting the ‘send’ button I spent a long, agonizing day watching my email account for a response. I had a pretty tough time concentrating at work, wondering what Barb and Michelle thought of my humble blog. Many more worst case scenarios ran through my mind.

Finally that evening, the message I was hoping for arrived. They got it. They understood all of the ‘why’s behind this journal. I felt a huge sense of relief and joy. 

Going forward, Barb and Michelle might make ‘appearances’ in this blog. Or not — it’s their call. I’ve asked them to contribute as much or as little as they want. For right now, they’re happy about their portrayal in these ‘pages’ to date. And they’ll keep an open mind about how much they’re willing to share — through me — of their story. I can tell you they’ve built an amazing life together, full of love and warmth, and I hope I have the opportunity to tell you all about them.

It’s a MUCH better story than Madonna and Beyonce, believe me.


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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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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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…..