time-flies

So far, the readership of this blog constitues: 1. Not even Blog Heroine has read a word, although I’ve auditioned a few concepts for her. Even though I’m a party of one here, I want to establish on virtual paper exactly where we are.

It’s for my own organization, order or perhaps sanity. But in reality, this entire mission is about timing. Dates and places. Milestones and readings. Checks and rechecks. In other entries we’ll explore more about the process, why it must be so precise in order to make this miracle come together.

For now I’ll give the ultra brief version. Sort of like a DVD on FF>>>>.

January 2009.

Sunday Morning Show.
Michelle’s interest piqued.
Mine too, but tinged with amusement.
Cautious, exploratory phone calls.
Follow up. Faxes.
More phone calls. From screener to search expert.
Emails at a quickening pace.

February

Formal phone interviews.
Much longer questioinaire and profile
They like her; they REALLY like her.
Still no red flags. Not even a yellow one.
My amusement turns to astonishment.
Time to start the paper chase
Pregnancy records
Hospital records
Records so old that they can’t be found. (Ha.)
Sure this is going to knock her out.
But no.
Now the kids know. They are nonplussed.

March and April

Now it’s up to the Doctors
Prodding
Poking
Checking under the hood.
And still no red flags.
It’s starting become real.
Astonishment turns to acceptance. And then:
The Intended Parents (IPs) are who? What?
I share the story with a couple of people including my boss. Mild surprise to say the least.

May

Now it gets real.
A day long session at the Fertility Clinic.
First the mind probes. Well, psychological tests anyway.
Good to confirm I’m not a complete psychopath.
Then more tests for Michelle.
Yet another hurdle crossed.
And a face to face with the IPs.
It’s on. Oh, it is so on.

June

Time to get lawyered up.
25-page document that covers every eventuality.
Well, except for how to hide the perpetual look of amazement on my face that this thing contiues…
At the same time I decide to start this blog. Which may be a book.
Or a movie! (Now you know why the Brad Pitt pic is there…)
We host the IPs for a get to know each other dinner. It’s a great match.

July

 First things first. Family obligations to fulfill.
Wedding 1, then vacation.
Then Wedding 2.
Her family just doesn’t get it.
Of course, neither does mine but that’s another story.
The IPs show their patience and support.
The blog gets a name and takes shape.

 Which brings us to today. It’s mid-August and if all this seemed like some abstract idea that might or might now happen…. Well, that’s over. We’re starting to think about how this is really going to affect our day to day life.

 For instance…we’re putting our house on HomeExchange.com to see if we can find a way to stay in a European community. But…of course we can’t even plan this until. Oh, gotta count the months… Just lots of stuff like that.

 As this moves from the surreal to the real, I’m still 100% behind the idea. And Michelle? Well I’m sure she’s had a few second thoughts here and there. Especially when it comes time for her daily shots. Yeah, I said daily. What’s more…she gives it to herself.

 What, you expected me, Mr. Squeamish, to handle that job? Didn’t you read the first entry to this blog?

 It’s down to just a few days before the curtain goes up. Nine months of prep. Nine more to go. It’s the halfway point in some ways. But in all honest it’s just the beginning.

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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.


emmablog

The 24 screen googaplex theater was almost deserted on a Monday night. This flick was way beyond its blockbuster opening weekend. But that didn’t matter to the 15-year old girl sitting beside me, concentrating intently on the screen. We were watching the latest Harry Potter movie — her second viewing of what will eventually be dozens by the time it hits Netflix.

Not for the first time I realized that my daughter Emma had grown up right alongside of this saga. In fact I see a lot of her in the characters that have helped to frame her life.

She has the heart and conviction of Harry. All of the smarts –without the haughty attitude — of Hermoine. The loyalty — and sometimes the nervousness — of Ron. A little of Snape’s secretiveness. All of Hagrid’s caring interest in animals, great and small. And what I treasure most about her — the depth and character of Dumbledore.

Not bad for a Muggle. That’s a non-wizard in J.K.Rowling’s fabulous world. What she lacks in magical ability, she makes up for it in other gifts. Especially her writing. Years ago, when most kids her age were watching TV or playing video games, Emma spent her idle hours with a notebook and pen, dreaming up vivid creative and complex fantasy stories.

The funny thing is, she never liked to actually finish a story. How appropriate because Emma is the wonderful and rare teen that doesn’t want to grow up. And that makes me so happy. In fact I’ve helped encourage that. There’s plenty of time to do grown up things when you’re a grown up. But there’s no fear in her about what lies ahead in her promising life. Nor should there be.
But now she’s about to face a situation that very few kids her age have expeienced. This girl is going to have an interesting chapter in her childhood, and she has more than a few things to say about it:

At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. When Mom told me her idea about the surrogacy, I had no clue what she was talking about. But when I learned, I had mixed feelings. Well, for one, I thought it was just plain weird. The thought of her carrying someone else’s baby unrelated to her in any way was so strange. I also thought of the risks she’d be taking. So many things could go wrong. But the hardest thing to explain is my overall opinion of it.

I know this whole thing is so controversial, even illegal in some states, which makes me think, really think, about it. Is it wrong or right? I’m aware that it’s a selfless act, giving a couple a baby they can’t have on their own, but I’ve always been more for people adopting kids.

Plus, since surrogates are paid, it will be weird having to tell my friends. I mean, they would think that the kid was hers, when its not. I feel like, when I actually try to explain it to someone, it sounds like my mom is just doing this for the money. It makes us sound either greedy or ultra-poor.

This is going to be so weird.


newsweek_surrogacy

So: On to the heart of the matter. Or, more accurately, the uterus. (ugh….it feels creepy just typing that word.) Because this simple blog is centered around one main theme — Michelle’s upcoming adventure of growing a child.

What exactly is a gestational surrogacy and how does it involve us? Well if I was putting this on 140-character Twitter, I’d Tweet: Michelle is going to be the GuestWomb, have an embryo implanted for the purpose of growing a baby (or babies) at the behest of a local couple.

But it’s really going take about another 144,000 characters to describe what’s going to happen this next year or so. I could write post after post and probably not do the science of this subject justice.

Nor would I really want to, and that’s because: My middle name should be: OH MY GOD I NEED TO COVER MY EYES Squeamish. If I had to type in some of these more delicate medical details that I’ve learned over the past 4 months, my fingers would be breaking out in a rash. I get red faced even THINKING about writing these intimate details down. 

So it’s a good thing this blog is going to be less about facts, figures and details, and more about how our lives are going to be influenced and affected. From the mundane to the profane. And all the laughs, tears, frustrations, reflections, joy and satisfaction that come in between.

But we need a common knowledgebase. So lets start with the more clinical and work our way around to ethical and moral issues.

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So you could see this movie pictured above. (Which wasn’t too bad by the way — I’ll give the full Siskel and Ebert treatment later on)

Or you can sample some more informed viewpoints.

  • Here’s a basic Gestational Surrogacy 101 right here.
  • And another one from a Surrogacy agency.
  • And if you’re really interested, I recommend checking out this site. This is the organization that we’re involved with — you’ll read much more about them later.

And now for some opinion-laden spaces.

This article from Newsweek is informative but infers that carriers are mostly desperate, poverty threatened women. Especially wives of military men who have been shipped overseas.

Then there’s this story from New York Times. It’s a first person account of a woman who turned to a Gestational carrier as a last resort. Some of her comments rub the wrong way — you’ll find them I’m sure. But most of it typifies why couples are turning to women like Michelle to perform this special miracle.

Oh….be sure to read the comments about this story. Obviously this article struck a nerve!

As I come across more articles and resources I’ll share them from time to time.

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surrogate

Saying it out loud helps. Or writing it down, like right now. Because sometimes I can’t even believe it still.

My wife Michelle is going to have a baby. But the baby isn’t mine. Or hers.

Confused yet?

Welcome to my life, since the beginning of this year when we viewed one Sunday morning telecast. A short, 7 minute broadcast that put into motion an amazing adventure for Michelle, myself, our family and dozens of others.

So what’s GuestWomb all about? As the title of this blog states, my 40-something wife has decided to become a Gestational Surrogate. What does that mean, exactly?

Well, Michelle has applied for, tested through and been chosen as a gestational carrier, using her body to grow a child.

It’s been a long process for her to get to this point, full of paperwork, interviews, doctor visits, shots, lots more shots. And careful thought. But she’s cleared every hurdle that’s been put in front of her.

This fall she’s going to be implanted with a previously frozen embryo or two. It’s not her eggs. Or anything from me, either. In fact, she is simply a baby garage as it were for an anxious and infertile couple unable to conceive their own child.

For nine long months she’ll grow and grow. Be poked and prodded with tests and ultrasounds. Surrounded by loving yet eye-rolling husband, slightly shocked kids, and very supportive and positive IPs. In Gestionatl Surrogancy parlainae, IP =  intended parents of the baby (or babies) to be.

A lot it is going to be a ‘hurry up and wait’ scenario, as Michelle goes about her daily life, coping with kids, family, her growing home-based busienss. Oh, and this huge bag of baby hanging off her front.

Until the day of the blessed event. Going into labor. Push, push…puuuuush. Crying baby. Crying parents. And the baby is handed over to the deleriously joyful couple. They hug Michelle, shake my hand (or punch me if they read this blog) and the rent-a-womb has completed its work.

Rent? Oh yes, there’s that little detail. Michelle is being paid handsomely for this 9-month long inconvienece. That’s an issue for us; in fact it’s the one down side in my mind.

That issue is just the tip of an iceburg full of them. Some above the waterline and a lot of them hidden from view right now.

Starting with: What do the kids think? Our two teenage daughters who constitute her successful and happy pregnancies so very long ago. Are they proud of their Mom for an incredibly selfless act? Or things it’s just plain weird and embarassing.

And what of her family? Do they get it, or do they think she’s just in it for the payday? Or my own side of the family for that matter. We barely talk as it is; what is this going to do to our family unity?

How about the fact that she’s….well, no spring chicken? Not many women in their middle 40s are giving birth. Her friends are going to day spas and shopping at the malls, not ‘baby and me’ aerobic classes and buying maternity clothes.

Then there’s the intended parents. What if they aren’t exactly your Norman Rockwell typical portrait of the traditional American family? So much to cover here.

And what about me, your  narrator? What’s going to be running through my mind these next 9 months? Is it just another wacky idea by my slightly crazy wife? Or will I truly admire her for this incredible act of generosity?

And there’s so much more to discuss. From legal and religious issues, to the whole process itself. The issue of infertility and the extreme lengths that people go to in hopes of creating a family is amazing by itself.

Well, stay tuned. Because we’ve got a lot of things to talk about in the next few months.

It should be fun. I promise it will be entertaining.