I quite literally do not know where to start to document our recent trip to Madison, Wisconsin to meet our surrogate. I feel I am armed with an ice pick and need to carve a perfect marble out of an iceberg the size of the Empire State building. It is an overwhelming mountain of events and emotion.
I guess we’ll go chronologically.
We arrived in Madison late afternoon on Wednesday, picked up the rental shoe (which more accurately describes its size than “car”) and headed to our host’s house. A friend of a friend offered up her place for us to stay and was trusting enough to let us go into her home when she was not even there. Staying in this extremely kind and interesting woman’s home took so many edges off the experience as a whole. We never had to go find coffee and breakfast in the morning, it was just right there. What an incredible gift!
We had a mellow night that first night; I made a pot of Mexican stew that we all ate together while chatting and getting to know each other.
The next day started early, breakfast at 6:15am then off to be across town in am traffic to get our psychological evaluation.
In this process we got the impression early on that the agency really had their stuff together but going in to their office and meeting everyone really confirmed that for us. Putting faces to names is always good.
I have to admit, I was nervous about the psych evaluation. My childhood was not normal and if anyone on the planet has mommy issues, it’s me. When the psychologist started with, “Tell me about your childhood, where you grew up and your relationship with your parents and siblings.” I damn near choked. In my mind I thought, what if all my childhood issues and my recent depressive episode screw this all up? The little devil on my shoulder advised that I should lie and not tell her all the awful, luckily the angel on the other shoulder smacked the devil in the mouth. I took a deep breath and was as honest as I could be.
I told her everything; mom’s battle with terrible depression that led to her suicide, my sister’s tumultuous relationship with me and my mother, how I was coached by my mom to lie to all the adults in my life when she was really sick, my guilt… all of it. When I finished the whole damn dumb adventure ending with my mother’s death. She offered some very interesting insight into the whole situation, which was good to hear, and then she moved on. We talked about my life since then, my education, my multiple moves, my depressive episode when I fully realized I could not carry our child. She just listened and made notes and small comments. When she asked what I love about my job and I said, “I love knowing what to do to help, I love being the calm helpful person in a stressful situation.”
“You see the connection there between your childhood and your career right?” No, actually I had not, but now that you mention it…
It went on and on and on and on… After she questioned me up and down she questioned Brett (which was shorter as he had an incredible childhood) and during both of these interviews the other person was working on a 344 question personality test with helpful questions like: My favorite sport is archery and stamp collecting. Answered false, slightly true, mostly true or very true. 344 of them!!
Together we answered questions about selective reduction, abortion, miscarriage, birth of a child with a disability, twin-to-twin syndrome and on and on and on.
FIVE AND A HALF HOURS LATER… we were done. She said we were mentally sound and well adjusted, she talked about how we have coped well with the cards we were dealt. She also said she could not give a final thumbs up until she scored our personality tests which could reveal big issues. So we passed, but not 100% until the tests were scored.
We left in our rental shoe mentally and emotionally exhausted and waify with hunger. Even though we had her assurance we were not crazy people I did not feel like it was time to celebrate. We could fail the personality test, what if stamp collecting and archery ARE my favorite sports?
Brett and I went to a little Mexican place for a late lunch and a margarita.
Brett had been silent in regards to feelings about the whole trip to this point. I’d be giddy or nervous and ask what he was thinking about; woodworking or some other unrelated activity. Brett was typical Brett, calm and logical. While we were waiting for our food I asked him what he thought of the process so far.
“It’s exciting.” And he smiled. It hit me like a ton of bricks. It IS exciting. It IS happening. Suddenly I realized how odd it had felt to me to talk to someone, for the first time, like this was a done deal. The therapist was talking about after the birth, during the birth, going home with the baby. These events are all exciting things that I’ve not really allowed myself to get excited about.
Brett went on to talk about how he and I have had these experiences with cancer and multiple losses over the years that have shifted our perspective. Of course it’d be more awesome if I’d never got cancer and we did not need a surrogate, but the fact that we’ve gone through all that has gifted us with different eyes to see these situations with.
I’ve had a lot of practice at “wait and see”. Last year they scanned my whole body to see if I had any lurking tumors. Well they found small nodes in my lungs, the lungs being one of the most common places for breast cancer to metastasize to. Their response to these nodes was, “Well could be nothing or could kill you, let’s wait a year and see if they grow.” Couple weeks ago I learned they were gone. I realized I’d been holding my breath for a year.
I can wait, I can hold my breath, I’m super well versed in WAIT. So well versed that it’s currently screwing with me. There I was in Madison after meeting with a group of people that all they want to do is help us have kids and I could not be excited or happy, but I could wait.
Anyone who knows me knows what happened next. Cryfest. Lovefest. Margaritafest. Have I mentioned how much I love my husband yet? That man is pure sunshine.
The next morning, I woke up excited. I put on my most nurturing sweater, wore my Utah bronzed aspen leaf necklace and a pair of Gramma Billee’s earrings.
My Angel and I had been emailing, I felt like I was starting to know her but you never know. I was about to share space with her and what if things went south? What if her husband did not like us? What if she did not like us?
We arrived at the agency a little early, I left to go to the potty (nervous bladder) and when I came back to the room with two love seats Brett said, “I think they just walked in.”
I changed my position in the room like six times unsure which was the most welcoming and awesome position. I think it just bubbled over and I rushed out into the hall to greet her. I saw her and we just hugged. I really don’t remember the first thing I said but the first thing I noticed was her well-worn cowgirl boots and she was taller than me. I went from wanting to squeeze her to wanting to just fall on the floor and cry. But in a very professional office with professional people neither of those things happened outside of our initial awesome hug.
No clue how the conversation started. It was admittedly awkward. Brett and I sat on one love seat, they on a perpendicular loveseat with a moderator from the agency in a chair in front of us. A meeting of this caliber I had never experienced in my life. The journey together these strangers and Brett and I were committed to seemed to all start to gel. As the conversation started the air in the room changed. I tried not to stare at her but failed. I wanted to take her all in but not be weird. I wanted to be myself and not hold back, I wanted them to know me and my sense of humor, this was not the business meeting you stuff your personality down for. The reality of her was overwhelming, she was there talking and smiling and breathing the same air as me. HAPPENING!!
She and I are VERY similar in disposition. It did not take long for us to sort of hijack the conversation. We got through the agenda for sure, but if she or I wanted to go off on a tangent, the rest of the room came with us.
This is where the absolute amazingness of the agency shined. They matched us with this couple on so many levels! On every damn thing related to surrogacy we are on the same page. It was incredible! If I had to sit down and write out a script of how I’d like the couple we are going to work with answer these big questions, I could not have answered them as well as they did in reality.
They have been thinking about surrogacy for the past 3 years. It has not been a quick decision for them, that’s very comforting. Her reason for wanting to do this and his reason for being so supportive are honestly to help. They love their kids and family so much they cannot imagine a life without them. We both got teary as she talked about what people can do in this life to help, how everyone plays a part and can do different things. “I can do this, I can help people have what we have.” She and her husband watched Giuliana Rancic’s surrogacy on TV and were touched by it so much they decided they could do this. (Giuliana Rancic is a TV entertainment news host who used a surrogate for EXACTLY the same reason we are, her surrogate just miscarried their last embryo. Sending her and her family and her surrogate peace and love.) Amazing the ripples events send out into the world. Maybe if Giuliana had kept her story private our Angel would have never been so touched and would never have shared that magical air with me. Our Angel (which is the term I am going to use for her because, duh, she’s a dang saint!) also has very important people in her life that have been touched by cancer. This has affected her so much she has a tattoo on her wrist of ribbons of multiple colors to represent the people she cares about that have been touched by this nasty disease.
She is doing this for all the right reasons, excluding Brett and I. But when you add us into the mix BOOM- FIREWORKS!!
Our “match meeting” went on for a couple hours. We had to talk about all the horrible things that could happen, all the wonderful things that could happen. Logistics, money, travel, timelines… ALLLLL the things.
When we were done they let us loose and we all went to a pub for food and drinks. There we were able to ditch any agenda and just be together and ask questions.
On the way to the pub Brett and I talked about how amazing she and her husband were. Brett, the sparklemaster, said “It’s like we’re not only going to get a baby, we’re expanding and opening up our family.”
At the pub we ate and drank, we shared important things and dumb things, we asked each other super personal questions and silly ones. We shared stories, the men talked about fishing, outdoors and beer. She and I talked about babies and exchanged gifts. I brought her a snowflake ornament grown from salt from the Great Salt Lake, she brought me a beautiful hand made pottery mug with a Celtic friendship knot on it and a piece of turquoise in the handle symbolizing friendship. Anyone have goosebumps yet? If I thought really hard I am sure I could recall more details of the evening. What I remember more intensely is their smiles, laughing with them, feeling comfortable, feeling excited, watching Brett laugh and tell stories, feeling all the feels!! I’m teary with joy and super emotional writing this but at the time I was too overwhelmed with space sharing and just enjoying them that I kept it together amazingly well.
One bit I do remember was her saying how hard it would be to wait until January to get her medical clearance exam. She and her husband understandably do not want to tell their families until they are sure they are going to go through with it, this medical clearance appointment will be the deciding factor. They will do a special sonogram to look at her uterus to ensure she would be a good carrier. She was super cute talking about how she did not want to wait a month to know if it was a go. So there we were, 2 drinks in, emailing the fertility clinic in Chicago asking if we can get her exam scheduled before Christmas! Her phone beeped before mine, the clinic said they would need the paperwork first and they need to know she is on birth control, but they did have some appointments after Christmas but before New Years. We all about died laughing when she said, “Birth control?! That’s easy, Walgreen’s is right down the street!!”
It is really REALLY a match!!
She and I have been non-stop texting and emailing since we left the pub.
We still have a lot of unknowns and a lot of hurdles to jump but this one was BIG. Sure all the terrible is still out there as it always is, my cancer could come back, I could be hit by a truck, Brett could be eaten by bears, our embryos could all spontaneously combust but FOR THE LOVE I have been worrying about all that shit for so long and now things are so good I feel like I need to drink it up. I have promised myself that even if the most horrible of the horrible happens, for right now I am going to allow myself this happiness and excitement. Right now we have a team of amazing humans all excited and happy to help us bring a little person into the world. That in itself is an incredible feeling, to think of her smile and beaming personality as the star on that tree… how could I not allow myself to stand back and admire this positive experience with awe?