Infertility

If Your Child is Born but You aren’t the One Giving Birth, is it Still Your Birth Story?

PAIL’s Monthly Theme for October is about your birth story. Technically, we have one, but I wasn’t the one giving birth.  I wrote about our surrogacy birth experience a couple of years ago.

I am a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to birth stories because I can’t really participate. Get a group of women together who have children and you can be certain that at some point the topic will come up and the story swapping will begin. What can I offer? “Oh, my surrogate pushed for 5 minutes and almost didn’t have time to get an epidural!” Yeah, that’s a bit of a conversation stopper.

Women bond over their birth stories. It’s the female version of a war story. And I get why they are important. I do. Birth is an amazing, beautiful, terrifying experience and the end result is literally life changing. It’s just that after spending 4 years being mute during discussions of pregnancy symptoms, delicious babies and birth stories as well as dreading baby showers, I was looking forward to being in the club. And I am, sort of. I failed to realize there was another level of membership, of initiation, and I can’t join. I am silent again. You don’t realize how much the discussion of motherhood revolves around the physical aspects until you are unable to participate, to contribute.

Contribute. Maybe that’s what bothers me. I am unable to contribute to the larger narrative of pregnancy and birth that is unique to the female experience. Does that negate my experience? Make me less of a member? Perpetually a junior member of the club Mother?

But then again, 4 years out from my son’s birth, I am wiser. I’ve realized over the passage of time and (sometimes painful) experience that there are always clubs to which we cannot belong. There are new clubs I didn’t realize existed until recently and clubs to which I belong that others may envy.

So ladies, I do not begrudge you your birth stories. You earned them. My story may be a bit more unconventional with me hyperventilating in a chair and wishing for a Valium, but that’s OK. The end result was the same.

A Vestigial Organ Bites the Dust

Thank you for all the good wishes for surgery yesterday.  It went well and quickly.  I had been dreading the 2-hour wait between check-in and surgery because I am not very patient, but it went by very quickly, especially since the nurse and docs were coming in to prep, talk, have me sign stuff, start IVs etc. Next thing we knew, it was time for me head back to the OR.

I woke up in recovery fairly easily and despite being very groggy, I was able to have some ginger ale and carry on a conversation.  I didn’t even hurt as much although the morphine they gave me certainly had something to do with that!

The doctor found and removed only one cyst: apparently the one on my right ovary was dragging down a bunch of stuff and made it look like there was a cyst on the left one too. Not being overly familiar with anatomy, I’m not sure how that works unless the cyst was about the size of a bowling ball but the bottom line was that there wasn’t a cyst on the left ovary.

The big news is that they also removed my appendix. That was a surprise.  My doctor is a man of few words, so I’m sure I’ll get more information at my follow-up in 2 weeks, but from what I understand, the endometrioma had adhered to the appendix. I don’t know if the appendix was irritated or swollen, but they decided it needed to be removed first. The doctor did state matter-of-factly that I would need to stay on BCPs.

Of all the scenarios Jimmy and I went over, removing the appendix had never occurred to me!

We were home by 3:30 and after talking to Daniel, I went to sleep. I’ve been sleeping off an on since 4 PM yesterday. Overall, I feel decent. I’m still bloated and the CO2 is slowly working its way out, but I’m less sleepy.  Today my abdomen is sore like I’ve done 1000 sit-ups, but I’m taking it very, very easy. Lots of ginger ale, broth, crackers and light TV.  And a pain pill when I need it.

Jimmy is taking great care of me – yesterday was his birthday! Nothing like spending your birthday with your wife having surgery! Better than being at work, n’est-ce pas?  Daniel is having a great time with MIL, and I was so relieved we had a good morning and school drop-off with him yesterday.  The cats are irate at not being able to be in the bedroom, but they’ll get over it.

So far, so good. I might even crack a book today (Mina, I decided against GoT based on your comment. I could do without blood and gore right now!).

Adieu, appendix.  I apologize for you being brought into the endo mess and removed, but I guess that’s the life of a vestigial organ.

So I’m Having Surgery Tomorrow, No Big Deal

I’m having a laparoscopy for endo tomorrow. It’s my second one. The first one was 6.5 years ago in January 2007. It’s time. I have been having increased pain for about a year now, the kind the lasts for weeks and requires lots of Ibuprofen just to take the edge off.  I finally went to the doctor and as I suspected, I have a cyst on my right ovary. My right side is the troublesome side. What I didn’t expect is that I have an even larger cyst on my left ovary.  Unlike the right side, the left side is very quiet. That’s the freaky thing about endo: you cannot ascertain severity based on pain level.  Of course, the cysts could be the tip of the endo iceberg, so the doctor decided another lap was warranted and then we can manage the endo through hormones until menopause.  It’s my own fault. I had enjoyed not being on any hormones after IVF for our surrogacy cycle 5 years ago this month (!). The downside was that no medication meant that I essentially gave endo a permission slip to cause trouble.

I had been fairly nonchalant about my upcoming surgery. I’d had a prior lap, so the procedure wasn’t a mystery. My first lap had been for diagnostic purposes, so in addition to the physical recovery, I had the emotional fall-out of coming to terms with the grab-bag of problems that had been discovered.  This time is different. It is for pain management for me and quality of life instead of preparing for more fertility treatment. Plus, we have Daniel now. In 2007, we received real answers on what was going on with me as well as acknowledging that our journey was going to be even harder than we ever anticipated. This time, I’m approaching my lap knowing that my treatment days are over. We have 5 frozen embryos and no plans for further treatment.  I shrugged and told everyone it was no big deal. I’ll get up on Wednesday, have the lap, come home and sleep the rest of the week.

And then the anxiety started to set in. A lot of it has revolved around Daniel. He will be spending the rest of the week w/ MIL, who will take him to and from school and try to preserve his routine. I have uniforms to pack, regular clothes to pack, books, toys and a billion starfish to pack, and instructions to write about schedules and lunches. He also had a teacher workday on Monday, so the routine was already disrupted for the week. We’ve been talking to him about the lap and what’s going to happen this week, and he has been asking questions about it, and I’m worried about being away from him and him being away from us.  It doesn’t help that the routine upsets and what I think is his worry have led to a very rough Monday evening and Tuesday morning with him. I feel horrible and guilty that we aren’t able to assuage what I think is his fear as well as the fact that he’s being unreasonable and well, FOUR, which is driving us up the wall, which then makes me feel even worse because I don’t want our short time together this week to be full of tears, yelling and grumpiness.

And then I worry about the lap itself. What will they find? Am I in worse shape than any of us thought? Jimmy and I’ve had the pleasant “If, then” conversation about a few different scenarios so he can make an informed decision. I can’t have anything to drink or eat after midnight tonight, and I’m already feeling thirsty in anticipation of not being able to have any water. My brain has dusted off the memories from my first lap, and I remember the shoulder pain from the CO2, the pain I felt after I woke up, the scratchiness from the tube down my throat, the worst pain that always seemed to hit in the middle of the night and left me writhing in agony because I couldn’t get the dosage on the pain meds correct.

Inhale. Exhale. Chances are that everything will go as expected. Daniel will have a great time w/ MIL and come home full of piss, vinegar and sass. My job is to rest, take it easy and maybe, just maybe, begin reading Game of Thrones.

We check in at 9:30 tomorrow, if you could spare a thought around 11:30, I’d be very grateful.

 

Routine Change

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

This week has been L-O-N-G, primarily because we had a major change in our daily routine this week.  Daniel said goodbye to his classmates at day care last Friday and started Pre-K at a small Catholic school on Wednesday.  We had toured the school in late spring in order to decide if we liked it for Kindergarten in 2014. During the tour, the principal told us that they still had spaces available in their Pre-K class and that attending Pre-K guaranteed a spot in Kindergarten.  We hadn’t planned on Pre-K at this school since Daniel’s day care incorporates Pre-K lessons into the two classrooms for the 4-year-olds (and it’s not like he hadn’t been learning anything in the younger classes).  We really liked the school, though, and Jimmy had attended it through 8th grade, so we decided to go ahead and give Pre-K a try.

We had a lot to do to get ready for the first day, including buying a new full-size backpack, a new lunch box and uniforms.  Uniforms.  Yeah. The school has a strict policy on what is worn when.  Shorts and a short-sleeved shirt for the 1st and 4th 9 weeks.  Pants and a short- or long-sleeved polo for the 2nd and 3rd nine weeks.  There is also a specific uniform for PE.  There are also new routines to learn.  Daniel’s Pre-K teacher requires the parents to provide a fruit or veggie snack for the mornings along with lunch. Since the Pre-K kids are low on the totem pole, they eat lunch at 10:45, so I’m packing less food for lunch than I did for day care, especially since they eat snack at 9.  Whew!

The biggest change in our routine has been the morning routine. School starts at 8, and we can walk them to their class at 7:40.  We need to leave the house at 7 to make sure we can make it in time because traffic can be difficult.  I wake up Daniel at 6:15 so he can eat, get dressed in his uniform (soooo cute!) and play while I finish getting dressed.  That means that I get up at 5-ish to make sure I’m finished washing my face, brushing teeth, putting on make-up and putting in my contacts by the time I need to wake up Daniel. That makes for very busy mornings! You might wonder what the big deal is; after all, don’t I seem to be awake and active on Twitter at that time anyway?  It turns out there is a huge difference between being awake and lounging in my cozy bed and having to be up and active at 5!

Daniel and I are wiped in the evenings.  He’s been asleep by 8, and I’m trying to get to bed no later than 10. I am really looking forward to being able to sleep until the late hour of 7 AM tomorrow!  I’m sure it will get better next week as we adjust, and maybe we won’t have to get up as early once we feel confident about what morning traffic will be like.

Daniel seems to like his new school so far.  He really likes his teachers, and I like that his class is small.  Since I’m getting to work so much earlier, I can leave earlier, and it is such a nice change to be home by 5:30 instead of after 6 like it had been.   His school is close to where Jimmy and I work, and we like knowing we can be there in 10 minutes.

So far, so good! I’ll have more to say about his new school next week.

Other Items of (Possible) Interest

Father’s Day

Children are extremely funny – both intentionally and unintentionally – at this age.  Daniel’s daycare teachers interviewed each child about his or her father and sent it home as a Father’s Day gift. Daniel’s answers to the questions are hysterical. Behold:

daycare questionnaire for Father's Day

First of all, his father’s name is Jim, NOT Stephen! Daniel does know Jimmy’s name, but the little stinker didn’t make up Stephen from nowhere. We’re a very naming family – everything has a name, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that Stephen is the name of Jimmy’s iPhone (mine is named Millie). So, yes, it is a little humiliating that Daniel used the name of his father’s iPhone for his father’s name.  Ouch.

Secondly, note the age he gave Jimmy: 26. Twenty-frigging-six!!  I’m envious because when I asked the little imp how old I was a few weeks ago, he said 62. 62! Jimmy gets 26. Jimmy says he’ll change his name to Stephen if he can be 26 😉

Thirdly, Jimmy is not a garbage man to Daniel’s chagrin.  He works in IT for our local utility monopoly. He’d probably enjoy being a garbage man more.

The rest of the answers are sweet and made us laugh. We did have a moment of worry about the “favorite food” answer because Daniel has been fond of saying that everything Jimmy drinks is beer after Jimmy had 1 beer with dinner. It’s probably the only beer Jimmy has had in the 4 years Daniel has been alive LOL.

The drawing is fairly representative 🙂 It is so enlightening and humbling to see what behaviors and lessons stay with our little ones.

***

When we moved into this house 8 years ago, we were beginning to think seriously about starting a family. Like within a few months. We scrutinized every house we looked at for its suitability for children and settled on our current house because we liked that all the bedrooms were on one level. We especially loved the huge yard and the wooded lot. We stood on our back porch and pointed to a shady spot right before the trees started and declared it would be perfect for a swing set. We could envision our children playing in the back yard, swinging high and and sliding down the slide.

It didn’t quite work out the way we thought it would. It would be 4 years before the baby we had imagined became a reality.

It would be four more years before the play set graced the back yard.  Jimmy and I decided that Daniel’s big birthday present this year would be a play set. Jimmy had a few requests: monkey bars and a club house. I wanted good swings and a slide because Daniel loves to slide.

On Saturday, we sent Daniel to grandma’s for the day and had the play set built.  When I brought Daniel home, the work was finished, and we took him to see it. He grinned and ran to it at full speed. As he explored every part of it, he would turn to us and say, “I love you, Mommy” and “I love you, Daddy.” Melt.

Playset!

Today, Father’s Day, we spent 2 hours outside playing on it.  I know that the play set (or “clubhouse” as Daniel calls it) is technically Daniel’s birthday gift, but it feels like a gift for us too.  A perfect Father’s Day and Mother’s Day gift.

After years of struggle to get Daniel here, seeing him happy is the best gift we could ask for.

Happy Father’s Day, Jimmy. Your little boy adores you.

Jimmy and Daniel

I’m the Monday Snapshot!

Hi. I’m here. Insane, but here.  We have under 2 weeks to go until our Listen to Your Mother show and much like a wedding, there are many last minute details to finish up.  I find myself humming, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” at odd moments, but you know? It feels GOOD to be back in this theatrical environment. Also? Tickets are still available!

And work has responded by crowding my calendar with meetings, meetings and more meetings.  Today I was in Greensboro for our strategic plan refresh session. I was in meetings pretty much every day last week and will be in meetings every day this week. Even Friday, and that’s just wrong!

Months ago, I signed up to be part of PAIL’s Monday Snapshot. They told me it would likely be April before mine went up, and I promptly forgot.  Last week, they emailed me that Monday was my day, and I promptly forgot again. Then this morning, I woke up to an email asking if I had gotten the earlier email and if I could still participate. Yikes.

I was looking so forward to participating and had screwed up royally. I hurriedly found a picture, wrote a few paragraphs and sent it out. The PAIL ladies were very sweet to work with me despite my tardiness, and my profile went up later today.

I’m not usually so disorganized, and I hope to be in better form soon. In the meantime, check out my Snapshot if you have a moment.

We survived Monday, right?

Where’d My Baby Go?

Oh the memories

Oh the memories

We’re doing serious purging at our house right now.  We’ve been vicious.  Haven’t played with it or used it in a while and not donation quality? Purge. Nothing has been spared: old televisions, clothes, toys, pots and pans, etc.  It has been cathartic watching the pile of junk in our attic, closets and guest room dwindle.  Cathartic hearing the heavy “thunk” as we chuck something into the dumpster.

But I’ve had a lump in my throat all weekend.  I was tempted to blame residual grief over last week’s work drama for the lump, but that didn’t seem quite right.

In our zeal to purge, we went through Daniel’s baby gear, and I set aside items to take to a coworker and took a lot to a local thrift store. Pack n Plays (we have 3). Bouncers. Bumbos. Snap n Go. The car seat in which we brought Daniel home from the hospital.  As I sorted, I realized that I was sad about giving away these tokens of Daniel’s babyhood.  Many of these were items we registered for at Babies R Us before his birth, giddy and still somewhat in disbelief that we had reached that milestone. Allowing ourselves finally to ponder the specs on car seats and the combo stroller vs the lighter weight Snap N Go. The bouncy seat that calmed him but also induced rage when he felt taunted by the animals that hovered just above his grasp. The play gym that amused him and was the source of many coos and giggles. I think its music is permanently stored in my memory.

We have tons of pictures of Daniel.  His babyhood is well documented, and I’m sure we have multiple pictures and videos of him playing with or in these items, but it stung to acknowledge these tangible reminders of his infancy, of our euphoria at finally achieving our hard-fought goal, as items we no longer need.

Part of it is due to how fast life is moving. I know that Daniel is growing up.  Hell, he’s almost 4.  FOUR!!!!!  Each night as he whines about some aspect of the bedtime routine, we’ve responded, “We know you can do this.  You’re almost 4.” It’s true and it works, but holy shit, how did  he come to be almost 4???? Last time I checked, he was a tiny baby. What worm hole did we enter?

The other part of it is our infertility history. While never ignored or forgotten, it manages to pop up when I least expect it.  I don’t know if we’ll have another child.  I hope we will, but if we do, it is still likely a few years off.  Keeping bouncy chairs and bumbos for a potential sibling that might not materialize for years seemed silly at best and masochistic at worst.

I did keep a few things.  Items that have so much meaning that I can’t quite bear to part with them. Maybe I’ll have to part with them in a few years, but I’m not ready yet.  I’m not quite sure how I got to the point where a car seat was so symbolic, but it is.

Despite my sadness, I’m glad to be able to pass on what we could.  I like knowing that the items we chose so carefully or were gifted by generous friends and family will help another family.  I like thinking about my coworker’s baby boy playing with the toys that we picked out for our sweet boy when he was a baby. I don’t want to become a hoarder who saves everything because she can’t bear to get rid of something.  It helps knowing some other child may get great joy or some other family will have their needs met by our items.

I’ve enjoyed every stage with Daniel, truly.  Infancy was sooooo sweet.  Toddlerhood was challenging but exciting. He’s a definite little boy now, and every day he comes home with new knowledge and cheek and makes us laugh and melt with his sweetness.  Sometimes, though, I wish I could press pause.  Time is moving so quickly. Too quickly.  In a few years, we might be selling his train table and trains on Craig’s List.  It’s a good reminder to try to enjoy every single moment.

This wistfulness? They don’t mention that in the parenting books.  It hurts. A lot.

 

An Open Letter to the Carpet Beetles With Whom We Share Our House Unwillingly

Dear Carpet Beetles,

We’ve been co-habitating for a year now (to my knowledge. It could be longer but I don’t want to think about that), and I think it’s past time for you to move on.

I miss my clothes.  I miss my sweaters and cardigans; my cute skirts and seasonal pants.  I miss my seasonal socks. I know you miss them too because you love cashmere and wool as evidenced by the holes you nibbled in some of my favorite shirts.

But it’s more than missing my clothes.  I’m tired of you.  We’ve had exterminators in the house every few months since January.  We were told it would take only a few months to eradicate you, but you have proven to be pernicious.  Your hardiness was so impressive that our exterminator’s boss demanded a sample because he could not believe that they had done so much treatment and we still had a problem.  The verdict?  Carpet beetles.  Gee, I knew that after about 30 seconds of Googling last December. Thanks for telling me something I didn’t know.

Today the exterminators were here again, hosing down the interior and exterior of the house.  We listened as the manager commented on our furnishings and paintings, teasing the guy he was with that the “girl” in the painting in our living room might be for him.  For your edification, sir, the painting is of Circe.  She isn’t someone you’d want to date.  She turns men into swine.

Did you know, carpet beetles, that you also are extremely tempted by cat hair?  Wow.  We didn’t know that.  It hadn’t come up in ANY of the Googling we had done.  Not at all.  Maybe we should throw out the cats or contemplate shaving them because every.single.person who comes to our house to deal with the problem mentions the cat hair connection.  I appreciate that yes, we need to stay on top of our cats (ha ha not literally), but cat hair is not the root cause of the problem.  It’s not like you, carpet beetles, are being generated from cat hair.  How about, oh I don’t know, treating the problem???

Your presence is also extremely embarrassing.  When I come home, the first thing I do is scour the baseboards for you, and I take too much pleasure in squishing you.  It’s probably not healthy to delight in your demise that much.  But you also make me feel dirty.  How can I have people over when our house seems so disorderd and filthy?

We are not filthy people, carpet beetles, and I suspect that we have been categorized as that by the exterminators and others we come in contact with because of your presence.

The bottom line, carpet beetles, is that you have far outstayed any welcome you had (and you had none) in my house.  It’s time for you to move along.  I wouldn’t subject anyone else to you, but surely you can find a decent home that will let you consume all the natural fibers you want without devastating anyone.

Thanksgiving is a time meant to put aside differences and come together, celebrating the highs and mourning the lows together.  Carpet beetles, you inspire a lot of lows and no highs.  I do not celebrate you on Thanksgiving.  I do not at all wish you well now or in the upcoming year.  May you starve.  If I could hit each of you on the head with something really hard, I would.

May we all have wonderful Thanksgivings.  And death to you, carpet beetles.

 

 

Remembering the Other

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.  In years past, I would have a moment of silence for my friends and anyone else who had reason to observe this day. It never occurred to me until this year that I was one of them.  Our surrogate pregnancy with Daniel started out as a twin pregnancy.  Our first ultrasound was at around 9 weeks, and we were able to see clearly two sacs and two embryos but only one heartbeat.

I don’t know why I never considered that we had lost a pregnancy.  Maybe it was because we never had the opportunity to think of our pregnancy as a twin pregnancy; by the time we had the ultrasound, the other embryo had died.  Maybe because I preferred to focus on the huge positive that we still had a wriggling embryo who became a wriggling and active baby and now little boy.  After all, that was one more wriggling, thriving embryo than we had ever had before.

The truth is, though, I’m still haunted by the vanished twin.  The other sac and embryo is present in our ultrasound pictures from weeks 9-12.  My excitement at being able to show Daniel his first “baby” pictures is tempered by the fact that I’ll have to explain what is so clearly visible next to him.  I didn’t expect to feel so gutted that day when I saw the the lifeless embryo.  When I find out someone is having twins, I feel slightly envious.  It’s like a sore that has never quite healed all the way.

I suppose on a practical level, it would have been nice to have twins in order to have our parenting journey reach a neat, tidy end. It’s something I think about a lot lately as Daniel grows older and I wonder if our family building efforts will peter out quietly, the victim of circumstance, finances, age and time, despite having 5 embryos on ice.  Having another child requires us to make a lot of decisions, decisions that will force us to weigh the needs and potential of our existing child against what it will take to bring a potential child into being.  And as many of us in the ALI community know too well, what worked once may not work a second time, may never work again.

It may be that what I mourn with the loss of our twin is the belief that for a few weeks, the decision of having two children had been made for us.  No need to try to roll the dice again. No need to long for a second child, yet feel guilty and worry that the longing means that Daniel is not enough. No need to try to justify the financial hardship to achieve a “spare,” no matter how desired.

When we were about two years into our infertility journey, I was in a dark and desperate place.  There was someone in an online forum to which I belonged who was psychic and would perform readings.  I paid her and asked my question: unsurprisingly, it was “will I have a child?” Her answer was that she saw twins or maybe one very active, strong-willed child with a lot of personality.

I might be reading too much into it, but I think her answer describes Daniel perfectly.  I never asked about a second child and if given the chance, I’m not sure I would.  I’m afraid to.

So tonight, I’ll light a candle for us too.

Stupid is as Stupid Does: Another Rant on Surrogacy in the News

I generally think that media coverage of infertility and surrogacy is a good thing,  helping to raise awareness of infertility and the process of surrogacy, but sometimes I read something that is so infuriating and just wrong that I can’t let it go.  Usually this reaction is triggered by the comment section, but this time it’s the articles themselves.

Over the weekend, CNN featured a story on James and Natalie Lucich, and James’ sister Tiffany Burke who is carrying their twin boys.  At first blush, the story seems so sweet: a sister generously carrying twins for her brother and sister-in-law after Natalie had an emergency hysterectomy.  Awwww.  But there’s this comment from Tiffany on her reaction to James and Natalie telling her they were considering gestational surrogacy:

“I was pissed!” [Tiffany] Burke recalled. She was worried: What if the surrogate drank or smoked or did something to harm herself? She didn’t want the Luciches to take that chance.

That’s right.  Because every woman who carries a child for another couple is an unstable crack whore motivated only by money.  Tiffany’s comment invokes the stereotypical view of the amazing women who generously disrupt their family’s life in order to give a couple the most priceless gift in the world.  Comments like hers are so frustrating because no matter how much coverage surrogacy gets, the gestational carriers always come off as lower-class, uneducated women of dubious character who must be watched very closely.  This impression is why people think that surrogacy is exploitative; if the gestational carrier is so ignorant and poor that she cannot be trusted to take care of herself and any baby she carries for another, clearly she doesn’t know what she has gotten herself into.

Edited to Add:  I’ve received some comments stating that the above quote was made two years ago and that Tiffany feels differently now and is collaborating on a documentary with her sister-in-law in order to help people understand surrogacy.  I think that’s awesome and that documentary will fill a much-needed void.  However, if I knew nothing else about Tiffany, didn’t read her blog, didn’t dig deeper etc., I would have only that quote to go on to draw conclusions about how she perceived surrogates in general.

And then there is this gem from the Huffington Post’s coverage of the Lucich/Burke story:

Burke is troubled by online speculation that her pregnancy is a form of incest because James is her brother. As Burke explained, the twins are Natalie and James’ 100 percent genetically and were conceived before they were placed in Tiffany Burke’s uterus. It has also been noted that James and sister Tiffany were both adopted and have no biological bond.

Are you serious?  People are so ignorant of biology that they honestly think that Burke’s pregnancy is a form of incest?  OMFG.  I can’t believe Burke has had to clarify that she is not related by blood to James.  When I read shit like that, I really fear for this country and its educational standards.  It’s worse than I thought.

And then there’s the coverage in The Stir that led me to this story in the first place: Woman Pregnant with Her Brother’s Twins Must Make His Wife Feel Guilty. My interest was piqued because I wondered if it was going to be some salacious tale of a horrible gestational carrier (just as with every situation, there can be a few bad apples) who is going out of her way to torment her sister-in-law.  What I read was actually worse.  First of all, it’s poorly written.  Secondly, it’s pure speculation.  Writer Mary Fischer muses that James’ wife Natalie must feel enormous guilt for the disruption in Tiffany’s life and the extreme nausea Tiffany has been experiencing during the pregnancy:

While she’s no doubt eternally grateful to her for being willing to give her and James the gift of more children, I can’t help but wonder if she has days when digging out from under the guilt is almost unbearable. She must feel so indebted to Tiffany for the rest of her life, because there’s just no way you can ever repay something like that.

I cannot speak for all Intended Mothers, but when I think of our gestational surrogate, I feel grateful to her and in awe of her. And no, there is no way we can ever repay her in any meaningful way that matches the significance of what she has given us, but Fischer’s notion of Nicole’s indebtedness seems slavish and overwhelming. As if the twins will be always be a bittersweet reminder of her sister-in-law’s noble sacrifice.

And last but certainly not least, Fischer throws Natalie a bone:

And as much as people will applaud Tiffany for carrying these babies for her brother and sister-in-law, Natalie’s strength should be noted as well. Not many women would be able to handle a journey like this without falling apart.

Excuse me?  Why wouldn’t a woman be able to handle a gestational surrogacy journey without falling apart?  Clearly Fischer knows nothing about infertility because by the time you have decided to pursue surrogacy as a means of family building, it is imperative that you have come to terms with your inability to carry children.  Based on my experience and the women I have talked to and read about, yes, you might feel a pang as you watch another woman’s belly swell with your child, but frankly, you’re kind of over it by that point.  The focus has shifted from pregnancy to parenting.

I also detect a bit of condescension that Fischer believes Natalie is lesser than her sister-in-law because she no longer has the ability to carry children and that not being able to do so must be damaging to her perception of herself as a woman that most women could not handle watching another do it for them.  One of the first reactions to discovering you can’t have children is often to feel like less of a woman: if your body can’t have children, why are you a woman?  One positive (ha ha) from infertility is that I was forced to confront cultural and societal perceptions and expectations of women and work through them.  I am a woman and a woman of worth in spite of my inability to carry a child.  Of course I have days when I struggle with this; I’m not that enlightened, but infertility has broadened my understanding of what it means to be a woman beyond reproductive abilities.

And then we come to NBC’s The New Normal.  I’ve griped about the show in previous posts, but I don’t think I’ve laid out my concerns.  In case you don’t know, it’s a comedy about a gay couple who decide to have a child through surrogacy.  Let me be clear: I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with gay couples having children and/or using surrogacy as their route to parenthood.  I support their ability to do so.  My issue is that I wish that the show were about an infertile couple pursuing surrogacy.

There are differences in the experience of a gay couple pursuing surrogacy versus that of an infertile couple: coming to terms with infertility; the relationship of the mother to the surrogate; the IVF process; stupid comments about who the mother is.  There are some similarities: stupid comments about who the mother is, misconceptions about what a surrogate is like and legal issues.  I’m not saying The New Normal is a bad show; I guess I just wished it told the story of what it’s like for a normal couple to experience infertility and pursue surrogacy, to act as an antidote to the stereotypes perpetuated in most media coverage.  I worry that people who watch the show will think they understand surrogacy and more importantly, what it is like to go through it or really, what it was like for us to go through it.

Rant over, I guess. I just wonder if it’s fruitless to keep railing against articles like these and how surrogacy is portrayed on television in the same way we can’t seem to get reporters to stop using “implant” for “transfer.” I have to keep trying, though, because articles like these and network TV capture the public’s attention and are the ones that color their perception of infertility and surrogacy.  They color their perception of my very personal story and how that little blond boy playing with legos at day care came to be.

What one thing do you wish the media would get right about infertility?