I recently was given the incredible opportunity to travel to Australia to speak about surrogacy. I was on a panel discussion at the Families Through Surrogacy Australia convention in mid May. It was simply one of the best things I've ever done.
The timing of the event was incredibly fortunate- it fell just days after the first birthday of Ellie. So, naturally, when given a free day in Oz I chose to hop a flight from Sydney to Melbourne to meet up with Ellie and M, T was out of state on business.
In case you don't recall how our last visit went, Ellie was not a fan of her surrogate mother. For the little girl who refused- REFUSED- to vacate my womb 9 months earlier, she outright couldn't stand the sight of me that day. One look from me would send her into tears. And I had even brushed both my hair and teeth that day. I wasn't heart broken by the rejection. Truly. I knew it was a possibility and really, she's surrounded by men. So imagine this strange looking (and sounding) woman coming at you and assuming familiarity? I think most kids would cry.So this time I decided to try a different approach. I went to her more slowly, less familiar, and asked her for permission to cuddle, hug, hold and play. Imagine my incredible joy when she was OK with each request! So for the day we spent time playing peek-a-boo, cuddling, tickling, raspberry blowing and bonding. It was such an awesome change from just three months prior.
After lunch I stopped by her home to see the place I had sent this child into just over a year earlier. I think my favorite part was a bulletin board by the back door that is covered in snapshots of the family. Every time the dads walk E by it they stop and point out one or two people and call them by name. My heart was flooded when I noticed photos of me with Ellie as well as other photos that my girls have sent them over the last 12 months on the board. It was obvious that these photos weren't added just for my visit. The photos were there because we really are a part of one another's families at this point. When I think back on this visit, it is likely that board that I will think of first.
The guys had also saved me one of E's birthday cakes from her party. In this way I was able to have some of her birthday cake, even though I had missed the party. So, over coffee for me and tea for Grandma and M, we talked surrogacy, and Ellie, and parenthood. I shared a tearful hug with M's mom. We really do have a unique and special bond. After our snack we crowded around the TV to watch video from the birthday party so that I could see the traditional singing of Happy Birthday. It was very cute, but what was really moving was what happened next. The computer went right into the video montage the guys made shortly following the birth. It had video of the days just before the birth, footage at the hospital, immediately following the birth, and a bit from E's first days of life.
I've seen the video before, clearly, but this time it had an entirely new impact on me. I started to cry, again. You see, this time I had this fly on the wall view of my choices to become a surrogate and how HUGE that choice really was.
I made a little person. I'm not so arrogant as to say she wouldn't be here without me, there are other surrogates, but because of people LIKE me, Ellie exists. M&T are dads, Grandma S has another grandchild. Because of my choice, someday M&T will be grandpas. The branches of this family tree have forever been changed "for the good" because one person with a big heart and an able uterus said, "Yes. I can help. And I will." That realization sends chills down my spine. It's so big! On that day, in that living room, with those tears running down my face while holding the hand of the grandma I helped make... I felt such incredible pride. A new pride, a new sense of self.
And I knew, I just had to do this all over again.
So, one year removed from the end of our epic and well chronicled journey, I am here to announce that there will be another journey.
M & T are quite happy with their family of three, and have changed their position from "coach" to "cheerleader" for this journey. They'll be a part of my support team, but not the parents this go-round. So, if not M&T, then who? There will be more on that in the coming weeks as I learn more myself.
But for now, buckle your seatbelts! The ride of a lifetime is back for seconds.