Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Olympic Promise; The Art of Solid Parenting

I like to time childbirth with the Olympic games.

  • The cubs will be born just 5 months after these Rio games. 
  • Eleanor was born just 9 months prior to the Sochi games. 
  • Emrys was born 6 months prior to the London games. 

And Adelia? 
Adelia was born smack dab in the middle of the Vancouver games. 

Perhaps that's why, when Adelia was just days old, Chris and I made a promise to our tiny 7 pound daughter. It was as much a promise to her as it was to ourselves. Living hand to mouth in Dayton, Ohio we promised, "If our children ever show extraordinary talent for any sport, art, or activity, we will sacrifice ourselves to help their dream grow." 

That promise, however noble, has largely been forgotten over the last 6 years or so. We're blessed with perfectly normal, average kids.

Then today it hit me. I'm about to have to make good on that promise. 

As Adelia, just 6 years old, continues to work her way up in competitive cheer and earn more invitations to advanced squads, we were given a few options for this fall:

  1. Have her repeat Jr. League, but in a leadership capacity and with her sister in tow. 
  2. Move up to Dream Team, as she was invited to do last spring. (Open to kids 7 and up)
  3. Join Jr. power squad and continue to develop her skills as a flyer. (open to kids 8 and up) 
We've really struggled with what to do. It'd be adorable to have her repeat Jr. Squad, since Emrys could be with her. And, to be frank, it's located the closest to our home and is an easy 45 minute time commitment per week.

We've really tried to talk ourselves out of Dream Team & Power Squad. She'll, again, be the youngest on the squad by several years. Not to mention that participation means a 3 hour weekly time commitment (at 6 years old) and a drive through the absolute *worst* rush hour traffic Seattle's Eastside has to offer. 

But then I realized... skipping out on this invitation and opportunity would be 100% and solely for my own personal convenience. 

Where would Simone Biles be if her mother said, "Ugh. MORE time in the gym?" 

Would the world know Michael Phelps as the greatest of all time if his mom said, "I'm not sitting in rush hour traffic for advanced swim team. You can repeat Guppies at the local pool." 

How about Aly Raisman's mom if she had said, "Yes, at 3 years old Aly will be the youngest in her gym class... and maybe it's best to hold her back to be with her age peers vs. her skill peers..." 

Now, I'm not saying Adelia is Phelps or Biles or Raisman quality. But, she's consistently being recognized and invited to "level up."

And, as her mom, it's my job to put on a smile, fill the gas tank, and truck it down to Renton in rush hour traffic for 3 hours a week... to help her continue to develop and see exactly what her potential could be. 

That's solid parenting. Putting her dream, her potential, ahead of my comfort. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

On the Road Again

In Australia for my first FTS Confernece
I'm excited to announce that I'll be participating in the Families Through Surrogacy US Conference!

Scheduled for October 1, 2016 in Los Angeles, California, this one day seminar covers pretty much the entire gamut of surrogacy- from legalities and finding an egg donor, to developing a relationship with your surrogate and bringing baby home. With ticket prices starting at just $20, it's a great (and affordable) way to look into surrogacy.

Learn more about the event, and register to attend, here.

This will be my third appearance with FTS conferences. I've previously spoken in Sydney, Australia and San Francisco, CA.

I've said before, and will say again to anyone who will listen, how much I LOVE participating in these conferences. Officially, I'm in town to speak on a panel, moderated by All Things Surrogacy founder Janae Krell, to speak about my experiences as a surrogate.

I'll talk about why I chose my amazing agency, Growing Generations, and how I approach the matching process. I'll talk about growing a relationship with my intended parents, and why I don't want to keep the child I carry.

My favorite part of the conference though, comes before and after my panel. In those times I hang out at the Growing Generations booth and speak with prospective Intended Parents. It's in these intimate interpersonal conversations that I find my purpose.

The excitement in the eyes of a pair of intended fathers gives me such joy.
The battered, but never broken, look of cautious hope in the eyes of an intended mother inspires me.
The steady, confident reassurance of my friend and colleague Dr. Kim Bergman humbles me.

I'm so every excited to have been asked to be a part of this incredible opportunity. To do it on "home turf" is even more exciting. I'm hopeful that some friends, followers, and surrogacy family will come out to support the cause of surrogacy.

I look forward to seeing many of you there!

Friday, August 12, 2016

I Won't Be My Sister's Surrogate. Here's Why.

When people find out that I'm a surrogate I find that the first question I am asked, more times than not, is, "How do you know her?" or "Do you know her?"

People seem to think that, if you're willing to carry a child for someone else, it must be for a sister, best friend, cousin, or other relationship that is long standing and close to your heart. There seems to be a misconception that carrying for a stranger is somehow less noble than carrying for someone that you've known for years.

Let me make this very clear: surrogacy is noble. It's noble to carry for someone you have long known, loved, and watch struggle with infertility. It's just as noble to carry for someone you've just met.

While many women chose to become surrogates after watching someone struggle with infertility, my choice was based on my love of pregnancy and the childbearing process. It was selfish. I wanted that experience again, without growing our family. Perhaps that is why I have always chosen, on purpose, to carry for people who I did not know prior to engaging in a surrogacy journey.

As the name of this blog suggests, I wanted all that was shared between the intended parents and I (at least at the onset of the journey) to be the baby we'd create together. 

The key reason behind this intentional choice is simple. I want to preserve and separate my surrogate relationships from my existing friendship and familial ones.

Bottom line: surrogacy is an intense, emotional roller coaster that WILL change your life. Period. As I see it, when working with a relationship that existed prior to the surrogacy, I have 50/50 odds that surrogacy improves the relationship or damages it. When it comes to my friends and loved ones; those are odds I'm just not willing to take.

When all we share at the onset of the journey is the goal of creating a family, we can all part ways at the conclusion of our successful journey feeling satisfied and successful. Mission accomplished. If more comes of it, great. That's a bonus. But if not, there truly is nothing lost.

However, when working with people you've known for years prior, there is a risk of losing a pre-established and often long standing relationships and years of memories and experiences. All it takes is unsuspected resentment about the pregnancy, dissenting opinions on selective reduction, unexpected or displaced anger over a failed IVF cycle, or disputes over how to eat or behave during the pregnancy. Potentially even a medical bill paid past deadline could ignite resentment. All of these things are common to IVF and surrogacy.

I feel as though, if I were to carry for someone known to me prior to the journey, I would expect to become the favorite "aunt." I have no right to expect that, but I think human nature would take over and I would feel it anyway. That emotional load isn't fair to put on anyone. Myself, or the friend/ family member that I helped.

My emotional maturity to know what I suspect my limitations to be, and then make choices that keep me within them, does not make me a bad person. In fact, it is precisely what makes me a great surrogacy candidate.

Author's Note: I have exactly one friend for whom I would throw all of these concerns out of the window. One friend for whom I'd risk it all and gladly carry a child for he and his wife. They know who they are, and we've talked about this privately. When they're ready, I'm ready.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Twins Diet

To quote Meghan Trainor, "Yeah, it's pretty clear. I ain't no size 2..."

Frankly, I haven't been for quite some time. And this pregnancy I got a little lax on my diet during our two rounds of IVF and allowed myself to gain too much weight. The end result is that I'm heavier at the start of this pregnancy than I've ever been at the start of a pregnancy. It's a fact I'm quite self conscious about.

After a pity party I said to myself,
"Self- look. You're pregnant. You're going to get fatter. Right now your vanity isn't the concern. So we're going to make healthy choices and try to keep it in check, not let the scale dictate our self worth, and deal with the weight in a few months." 

Then I learned, at my 10 week check up, that my doc sends all twin patients to a specialty high risk team that comes with a cool perk. A nutrition plan.

Just what every woman staring down the barrel of a potential 50 pound weight gain wants.
A diet.

So for roughly 3 weeks I've been walking around with a chip on my shoulder about my upcoming "nutrition" meeting. OK, fine. It wasn't a chip. It was a boulder.

So I arrived at what I will call my "Twins Team" appointment today with a smile. A forced smile perhaps, but a smile nonetheless. Then they called me back to prepare for my ultrasound.

It was like I was being indicted. The technician read my list of crimes aloud to me:

"So I see we're dealing with a surrogacy, twins, approaching advanced maternal age (thanks), and obesity, because I see that belly!" 

This woman really knows how to win friends and influence people. I spent the next part of our ultrasound pouting and trying to suck in my ever growing twin belly. However, try as I may, I wound up liking the technician anyway- despite her total lack of tact.

After the ultrasound I headed into the "consultation" room to meet my "twins educator" and receive my diet. Again, try as I may, I just couldn't help but love the woman. She was tiny, and spunky, and flat out adorable. I almost even let my guard down by the time the nutrition plan came up.

I bristled. I was ready for a fight. I'm pregnant. And If baby wants a bowl of spaghetti, baby gets a bowl of spaghetti, dammit.

She started with my daily caloric limit.
I was sure she was about to tell me no more than 2000.
I am to consume 3500 calories per day.
My jaw dropped.
That's a LOT of calories, and I'm not sure I can do it, if we're being honest.

Next, protein. 
Aim for 175g a day.
Now, for most people that might seem like a ton. But for me, that's really just an added supplement in the morning and Greek yogurt at lunch. I trend towards a very high protein diet on my own. So- bonus.

But then I knew what was coming. 
 I typically try to aim for 100-150g per day when I'm not paying attention to my weight, 50-100g when I am. So I was expecting her to tell me no more than 100g.
Wrong again.
They don't really care.
But, maybe try to keep it to 300g per day or fewer.

And then came the bonus round. Dessert if you will. 

They want me to gain 40-50 pounds.
Typically us chunky bottom girls are told try to gain as little weight as possible. 10-15 pounds max. That said, I usually gain right around 30 no matter what I do. So, for me, 40-50 seems absolutely attainable and acceptable. I really let out a sigh of relief.

And, now the challenge....
Most pregnant women try to hold off on their weight gain until the third trimester, when gain is fast and furious. But with twins, we won't make it to 40 weeks. These babies will be born in the 38th week if not before, as waiting longer tends to lead to increased risks. Typically twins come between 34-37 weeks gestation. As a result, my "Twins Team" would like me to try and gain the mass of my weight NOW, in the second trimester, as I won't have much of a third trimester in which I CAN gain weight.

This part will be the challenge for me, as it scares me. It goes against everything I've ever known or tried to achieve in my previous three pregnancies. The math of it baffles me. My home scale says I've gained 0 pounds so far, and we'll go with that one as I'm nude (sexy) when I weigh at home vs. clothed in inconsistent outfits when I weigh at the doc's office.

So, that means they'd like me to gain 30-40 pounds in the next 12 weeks. 
That's 2.5-3.5 pounds PER WEEK. 

While normally this would sound like a lot of fun (bring on the cake!) the hard part will be gaining that much while eating the RIGHT kind of foods. I don't have ROOM in my stomach to eat the wrong things. I have to make every mouthful count.

Plus, if we're being honest, I'm kind of terrified to gain that much, that fast, and then try to stave off all but 10 pounds of gain over the final 4-6 weeks of pregnancy- when the body just starts gaining no matter what you do.

So, that's the twins diet. Not at all what I expected, but I really feel like I can manage it. Live with it. Like all diets, there is some fear and self doubt, and like all diets, there will surely be some cheating (I do have leftover birthday cupcakes you know...). But, in general, I feel empowered.

Let's do this.


So much has happened over the last week or so. I think I'll break it into a few smaller posts over the next several days. So, until next time!