Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Tie That Binds

As promised, below is a guest post from our surrogate and friend, Christie.  Thank you so much Christie for agreeing to share your thoughts and experiences with our readers!  We are three incredibly lucky guys to have you in our lives!  (btw, post title, photos and captions are by me)

I got a text the other day from a girlfriend of mine whose daughter has been a bit under the weather- turns out it’s strep throat. I can completely sympathize. It’s no fun to take care of a sick child and you feel so bad for them. My younger son has a nasty cold right now that is making his nose run and he has a bad cough. We’re in this together, girlfriend!

I got another text the other day from another friend of mine whose son just had his 6 month check-up. He is 21 pounds, 14 ounces, and over 27 inches long at only 6 months! His dad was so proud. Apparently, despite what these impressive numbers might indicate, this actually qualifies as “thinning out.” I can relate to this, too. My older son was getting a little rounder in the middle for a while (and eating me out of house and home), and then all of a sudden recently has shot up about 3 inches. I keep telling him not to grow so fast.

There’s nothing unusual about those two paragraphs, is there? It probably sounds like a day in the life of all of you reading here. The strange thing about it is that I have given birth to all of those children- the two boys that I am raising, my friend’s daughter, Georgia, and the little boy, Jacob and Stewart’s son, Max. What’s more, I am related to all of them because I am a traditional surrogate, but I only consider myself to be the mother to my own two boys, Dean and Drew.

Georgia, Dean, Drew and newborn Max
I am an incredibly fortunate surrogate. There are many kinds of surrogate/intended parent (IP) relationships. Many surrogates, both gestational and traditional, do not have any ongoing relationship with their IPs. Some of them become “Christmas card” friends, where they get a card and maybe a photo each year. As long as the relationships work, however they work, I think it’s fantastic. I knew when I decided to become a traditional surrogate (in which my own eggs were used and I became pregnant through artificial insemination- gestational surrogates are not related in any way to their surrogate children), that it was important to me that I had an ongoing relationship with the families I created. I didn’t know exactly what that would entail, but I don’t think you should keep secrets from children, so I didn’t want to be completely unfamiliar. I have been outstandingly lucky in that, by helping to create these two families, I have gained extended family. Through the process of becoming pregnant and being pregnant, I have become great friends with these families and I cherish that- not so I can stay close to their children, but just because I love them for them.

With Christie prior to the pregnancy
Jacob asked me to write a guest post talking about what it’s like from this end, after everything is over.  I’m sure he thought it would be interesting and informative, but I’m willing to bet that he’s super curious what I’ll say, too.  (I’m totally right, aren’t I? J)  The truth is, being a surrogate changes absolutely everything about who you are.  It changes your family, and it obviously changes the families you create, but it changes your relationships with other people, too.

I decided to become a surrogate because I thought I could, and I thought I would be good at it, and I thought it would be fun and amazing. It took me about 4 years after I decided I wanted to be a surrogate to talk my husband, Bill, into it. He thought it was an awfully big risk to take for someone else. However, if you know me, you know I can be a bit… tenacious when I want something. (That works in your favor if I’m working with you on something, like getting pregnant, but makes me VERY hard to live with otherwise.) After we had Drew, we knew we were done with our family, both pregnancies had been easy (for pregnancy), and he caved gave me his support.
Bill with newborn Max
I met both of my surrogate families through an online community. Getting pregnant with Georgia was quite easy. The pregnancy itself was very easy. The strange thing for me was how nervous and cautious Laurie was about the pregnancy. It was my first brush with infertility. Every time I had gotten pregnant, nine months later (or eleventy billion months later, like with Drew, who was 89 11 days overdue) there was a baby. That wasn’t true for Laurie, so we had a few hiccups when I couldn’t figure out why she was nervous. When Georgia was born, it felt like an enormous victory. Everyone was so happy, and healthy. Same with Max- despite a few hurdles, and a brief time on bed rest (which sounds like a fantastic, doctor-required vacation in bed, but really just sucks is super boring isn’t), the pregnancy was easy, and Jacob and Stewart were wonderful IPs the whole time (except for the one time that Stewart said my girth was impressive- that was his exact word- impressive- ouch). Then I went home and there was the hormone crash.

Post pregnancy hormones can turn you into a crying, raving psycho make life a little difficult. That’s true whether or not you keep the baby. For those people around a surrogate, who has just relinquished the baby, it seems as if she is so sad to have the baby gone, like we have regrets or are sorry we did it. Well, it is sad. For nine months you spend literally every single minute of your life with this person, and you get to know them, and you get used to having them around. Pregnancy hormones get a woman ready to be a mother to a child, and there isn’t a baby to care for. Surrogates don’t love these babies less because they aren’t going to be ours. If anything, they often are more careful, because this baby’s parents have entrusted their care to you for the duration of the pregnancy. That’s a big responsibility! It’s important to understand, though, that the sadness isn’t because the baby is gone- that was the whole point, and it feels great when it happens. The sadness is that the journey is over, and it was everything to you for a long time. It does get better- once you recover a little, the hormones settle down, and the body returns to normal, it really is back to your regularly scheduled life again.

Christie with Max at 4 months
So how do Bill, Dean, and Drew feel about all of this?  They are such an important part of what happens.  My husband and boys pick up a lot of slack when I am pregnant.  With Max, I was on bed rest for a bit, and that really required a shift in the family dynamic.  Despite his initial reluctance, Bill is one of the biggest supporters of surrogacy at this point.  He also considers everyone family.  My boys don’t really think anything of it.  Having a mom who is a surrogate is their “normal.”  They are young, and they haven’t ever known any different.  They do realize that Georgia and Max are their half-siblings.  They loved it after Georgia and Max were born and they got to meet them and cuddle them.  For a while after we had Georgia, they wondered if we would have another child in our family, but Dean later decided that having half-siblings who live somewhere else was best.  He gets to travel to see them, gets more family that he loves, has more siblings, but doesn’t have to live with them all the time or share anything with them.  He figures it’s win-win.  (Sometimes, when my boys are being especially difficult, I’ll joke to Bill that either Georgia or Max is my “favorite child” for pretty much the same reasons, so there.)  What it boils down to is that we all love all of them, and we wouldn’t have our lives any other way. 
Dean and Max
I think the surprising thing was how extended family took it.  I told my grandmother about the first surrogacy.  She seemed very happy and supportive.  I found out later that she did not tell any of my relatives (aunts, uncles, great-aunts, cousins) that live in the same area.  She didn’t think they would understand.  My parents know, obviously, and I thought they’d be very supportive, but I don’t think they understand.  They have met Georgia, and they have seen pictures of Max, but I think the whole thing makes them uncomfortable.  I think they feel like I am giving away grandchildren, but they don’t/won’t ever really talk to me about it.  When I told my mom I was going to be a surrogate a second time, one of her first thoughts was that I would “lose the body that I had worked so hard to get back.”  Nice priorities, Mom.  Surprisingly, one of our biggest supporters has been Bill’s mom, who is in no way related to these children.  She’s met them both, and came down to help when I had Max.  She loves them, and she thinks it’s awesome. 
Max with Bill's mother
Friends and colleagues are insanely curious about it, and ask the most invasive questions.  Probably most common is “How can you give your baby away?  I don’t think I could do that.”  So don’t- nobody asked you to.  (Laurie says nobody wants their kids anyway- she says why would you when you can have one of my designer babies.  She offered to be my “baby pimp” for a cut.  Too funny.)  (If you are mortally offended by that, it’s just surrogacy humor, and it’s really okay.  Deep breaths.)  The reality is, I didn’t give away my babies.  I gave them to their parents, but if you aren’t a surrogate, or don’t feel like you could be one, then it’s a mentality you’ll never understand, and that’s okay, too.  Regardless, it changes people’s perspective on you, usually for the good, and when I get to tell my positive surrogacy stories, I know it’s helping the community as a whole.
So now Georgia is 2 ½ years old (and in the terrible two’s full force, from what Laurie tells me, but that’s okay because I have a tween who has so. much. attitude. we may need another bedroom built on to the house just to make room for it, so Georgia is still my favorite) and Max is 6 months old (and smiling and cuddly without poking anyone with a scrawny elbow or wiggling to death or protesting with a very long, very painful “Mo-o-o-o-om” about the torture of being cuddled, so Max is still my favorite) and I am fortunate in that their parents have allowed me to keep loving them. And, despite the roller coaster of pregnancy hormones and post pregnancy hormones, and me just being me, they all still tolerate love me. I feel so fortunate to have done this, and my life is richer for it, so while Laurie and Joel, and Jacob and Stewart, may feel that what I did was generous, it was selfish, and that’s okay, too.
XXOO- C
Bill, Christie, Stewart, Laurie and me toasting newborn Max
PS – Good job if you made it this far! This was much longer than I anticipated, so my apologies. I can be painfully a bit wordy. My first big “getting to know you” e-mail to Jacob and Stewart was so long that I think they are still reading it. Love you guys!
Love you too!

8 comments:

  1. Christie,
    You helped create an amazingly loving family. Stewart and Jacob are 2 of my closest friends. I just gave birth to my first son Felix 2 weeks ago and I am looking forward to watching the development of Max and Felix's friendship.
    Love,
    Lisa

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  2. Christie,
    You are truly a special lady! Wishing you and your extended families much joy.
    K

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  3. Loved this post, Christie! Honest and funny and from the heart. So glad Jacob and Stewart found you.

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  4. What a great guest post.

    New follower here.

    :)

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  5. you're amazing Chrisite.

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  6. Awesome post. So glad you helped bring Max into the world. Eli's Mom

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  7. Thanks for sharing, Christie. I'm about to become a gestational carrier for my best friend and it was great hearing a positive and honest account of what it's like. I can't wait for our journey to start!

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  8. Christie... you are truly a blessing to many families. I am just starting out on my Surrogate Journey and learning the ropes through FindSurrogateMother.
    Your positive and amazing attitude in life is exactly what the world needs more of. Max is a truly inspirational reason to keep sharing your story--

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