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the medicine is winning… again

This stunner is my everything, and she knows it. So that’s my get out of jail free card to say whatever incriminating things I want to in the following sentences. 😏

This go-round of surrogacy is a lot more ho-hum than the last time; definitely less novelty. Interestingly enough, though, we’ll be in California probably as many times for this one upcoming transfer (ETA: Septemberish if nobody important goes on vacay) as we were for our two transfers during the last journey.

Sidebar: speaking of last journey, we still get pictures and videos of that squishy baby and she is *such* a beautiful child. I still don’t quite have my head wrapped around how we (read: mostly Amanda) helped make that sweet bundle of squish. Unbelievable, truly.

Okay, back. The novelty of this thing is worn off a little, but I don’t enjoy it any less. We are matched with some great people that I’ve had the opportunity to hang out with a bit and, though it was brief in the broader scope of things, based on that time, they need a baby the world will be better place with a kid they raise in it. Consider that my vote of confidence.

We are in the thick of meds (remember that disclaimer from before?) and that means all kinds of ludicrous behavior. Crying while talking about our kids? Check. Crying to a banker over the phone? Check. Crying for no reason at all? Check. Crying for good reasons? Weeelllllllll…… 🤔 I’ll get back to you.

Other news: we wrapped up contracts a few weeks ago and had just the best time with our attorney. She’s a great lady. Not one I’d want to cross, though. Like, ever. We spent one day with her on our last journey and have probably spent our only day with her as part of this one, but they are, honestly, two of my favorite mornings of the entire journey and a half so far. Lots of sarcasm and crass implications. A hoot and a holler, that one.

In a future post, I’ll discuss at length the only trouble we’ve had thus far in this journey. Nothing medical (Amanda is in perfect health aside from the partial insanity brought on by the meds she is taking to prepare for transfer). Purely administrative woes. Stay tuned.

And maybe send my wife a reminder text tomorrow that it’s Thursday. There’s a strong possibility she’ll forget. 😁

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thirty-eight hours in LA

I only fell off my bike really hard once when I was a kid. I skinned my knees badly and embedded some small rocks and sand deep into the base of my palms. I bled more than a little and walked my bike home several blocks, too rattled to get back on. It wasn’t days and days until I tried again; I was a kid with places to go! But I do remember mentally committing to trying again. It hurt to hold my handle bars and my knees were big scabby knobs. I thought for a moment about not doing what I was doing. And then I kicked that fear my kickstand aside and flew down the block.

The metaphor here isn’t about something awful that I have kept a closely guarded secret from our first surrogacy; to the contrary, that was an incredible experience; beyond words, really. No, my point here is about fear.

Fear is a funny thing. It can keep us alive just as easily as it can keep us from truly living. It teaches us about rules and respect, risk and ruin. I was in some notable pain when I got back on my bike at 7 or 8. I knew I could fall off. I knew I could get hurt again. I did it anyway. The same trait saw me go on more than one first date. Right now, my pride is a little raw because I tried a variation on sourdough that ended with me dumping dough that never rose, a rare failure in my kitchen between myself and Amanda.

But I got back on my bike, asked out other girls, and made more bread because the rewards so far outweighed the risks.

So we’re back on the bike.

In a mind-numbingly fast 45 hours, our alarms went off, we went to the airport, flew to LA, made new friends, ate great food, saw neat things, walked on the beach, slept in a comfy bed, had a very uncomplicated and equally uneventful doctor appointment, got on a plane back home and went to bed.

Surrogacy is a lot of work up front and then nine months of waiting and then you have a baby (a squishy one!). And overall the last journey was pretty smooth sailing. But there are ample opportunities for risk to turn into pain. We’ve been there during a failed transfer. And we were there for a short while during a really scary bout of bleeding that we both thought was a miscarriage. You can only approach this whole experience with hope. Things can go wrong, and one or two probably will. But the risk is so worth it.

Skinned knees be damned.

2

Again

I’m not really sure how it’s the end of April. Or how I’m just a few short weeks shy of having a first and second grader replace the kindergartner and first grader in my house respectively. The last we spoke here, the world was one specific squishy baby less grand than it is now. Minnesota had just finished its pre-winter months. Yes, we have pre-winter, regular winter, and playoff winter, if you will. November and December are just a taste of what is ahead, January and February, together, are fewer days than their pre-winter counterparts while being far longer months in your emotional consciousness. This isn’t all that difficult to understand when you plan your life around how far you have to drive and how many minutes you think you’ll survive in the elements if something does go wrong with your mode of transportation. About two to five minutes is all it takes for frostbite to set in when the actual temperature is -30 degrees Fahrenheit and the windchill is twice that cold. Yep, -60 degrees Fahrenheit a few days this winter. About a week of them combined. And then we went back to “normal” in the -15ish degrees Fahrenheit range. That’s January and February in Minnesota. Playoff winter is March and April, for sure, and sometimes May. March is a lot of frequent, wet and heavy snowstorms to the tune of 12+” a pop with some freezing rain, sleet, and whatever other forms airborne water can take. Yes, it hails in March here sometimes, too. April is the home stretch, with all of the things March does still happening, but alternating with rain every other time. So the ground falls on a spectrum of anywhere between just-frozen-enough-to-walk-on-without-worrying-about-your-shoes to navigable-by-rubber-boots-only. It can get pretty muddy. If it stops freezing on time, we have a few early rising May flowers pop up in the last several days of April. And suddenly, this unforgiving, barren tundra that, at times, is colder than Antarctica (not a typo), is lush with green emerald vegetation, fueled by the melt of several dozen inches of snow accumulation and frequent April showers. Take that, David Attenborough.

We have been sleeping with our windows open and it is glorious. Minnesota in the spring is so naturally musical. I was spoiled to grow up far from a freeway, where car noise is notable because of its sparseness. Living near a major highway, there is a constant white noise of rubber on concrete, but the symphony from the water birds both passing through and nestling in behind our house is far from lost on me. Neither is having the window open and not having to worry about our pipes freezing. That’s not lost on me either.

May is upon us and that means we are 5 months removed from the delivery of a certain precious baby girl. That puts us just one month shy of being medically cleared to…

Start another surrogacy! Full disclosure, we really, really loved helping to create a family. I’m not an old man, but I’ve done at least a few things, and I can say with certainty that surrogacy ranks in the top 3 most awesome things that I’ve ever done. I’ve gotten married and had my own incredible children; those are the top two. I’m torn on number one. Sorry, not sorry, Amanda.

In Hollywood’s adaptation of Tolkien’s The Two Towers, the Battle of Helm’s Deep is almost lost. As the powers of darkness close in and the fortress is breached, the decision is made to make one last stand. King Theoden of Rohan and Aragorn mount up and ride headlong into certain death.

Until Gandalf the White crests the hill at dawn, a sea of fresh, battle-ready cavalry at his back. And in that moment, crushing despair and absolute defeat are shattered by hope.

That is what this surrogate delivery felt like. We got to be Gandalf. And that’s super cool because Gandalf is awesome. But seriously, I’ve never felt anything like it. To call it a “rush” would be to downplay the experience on pretty much every level. During delivery I found out that many of the staff involved with our hospital stay had only rarely nursed or doctored a surrogate and her baby and some of them, seasoned in their respective fields, never had. Everybody was crying. I’ve been to other births. I get it, people cry about new babies, but these were such complex and beautiful tears. Relief. Joy. Disbelief. Exhaustion. Gratitude. Wholeness. And so many other emotions that don’t quite have suitable descriptors. All of those things surging through the room in a handful of moments saturated with a profundity that changes who you are; that brings you to an understanding of family from which there is no return nor desire to.

So we are on a plane headed to Los Angeles. Because while my wife was overcome by emotion and leaking happiness from her face in light sobs, her eyes found mine about three seconds after delivery and she told me with unwavering clarity what I was already thinking:

“We absolutely need to do this again.”

2

a thrill of hope

Are there words to talk through today? I guess we’ll see.

But that’s the thing — today isn’t just about today. It’s about needles and nerves and anticipation and patience and breathtaking sorrow and the unknown and change and a few miracles all rolled into one word.

If all goes to plan, the little girl my wife carries and my sweet daughters affectionately call “Baby Seed” will be born sometime in the next several hours, on this, the anniversary of our first failed transfer. And it’s surreal to be here: at this end of the medications and planning and flights and waiting. But it’s so much more than that.

Some months ago, I was asked about why we would have a baby for somebody else; why we would “run a marathon, cross the finish line, and have no trophy; nothing to show for the effort?” In the words of my Scandinavian ancestors: Uff da. I suppose I could have felt any number of ways or chosen to react in any similar number of ways, but more than irritated or angry, I was just sad. How anyone can evaluate this incredible journey of contributing our piece to making a family as an empty thing, a trophy-less race, is beyond me for a few reasons.

First and foremost among them, perhaps, is that I’ve never won a trophy or medal or ribbon for any kind of race in my life. I grew up in the beginning of the participation trophy era, so I received plenty of “feelings” awards, but knew them for what they were. And it never bothered me. So the whole race metaphor was a poor choice to win over the persuasion of a former band nerd who repeatedly rejected his high school’s football coach’s begging to join the team because there were drums to play.

But the real reason the whole “you’re not a winner for having a baby and giving it away to someone else” thing didn’t carry any weight is because it’s just not true. Just so nobody is confused, I’ll say it plainly: we didn’t choose to pursue surrogacy to win some popularity contest or please anyone or participate in some agenda. We did it for lots of reasons and I’ve talked through those at length. Surrogacy makes families possible that otherwise wouldn’t be. Adoption does, too! And one doesn’t negate the need for the other, in my opinion. They are each their own brand of miracle.

There’s a baby that is on pace to be born today. And I couldn’t be happier! This little girl is going to be *so* loved. She already is, for that matter. A new chapter in this life’s story begins today and getting a ringside seat (to use my own sports metaphor) is pretty incredible.

It’s Christmas. We put up a tree and a stocking for the dog, but that’s about it. We haven’t had a lot of spare energy this late in trimester three. There are presents to wrap once we get this whole baby thing squared away, so you don’t have to worry about our kids. They are in for some serious Christmas fun. They love Christmas. And it’s fun to watch and listen to them process it. They are enamored of the wonder of this baby that was visited by kings and peasants who came for a reason: to run a race with no trophy at the finish line.

Merry Christmas, friends!

And that one word everything is rolled into?

Averie.

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no donkey necessary

Wow! Guys, we are so, so close! Some of you have asked us if no news is good news. Yes, no news is indeed good news. Pregnancy during surrogacy, as it turns out, is an awful lot like pregnancy not during surrogacy: lots of waiting around, coaxing the baby not to kick so hard, and craving strange stuff. Okay — full disclosure — cupcakes (our most frequent muse this go-round) are not that strange.

Since last we spoke, our kitchen (remember the nightmare-sized hole in its ceiling?!) has been fixed, both of our kiddos started school, and Amanda got a… job?! More realistically, a job went out and got Amanda. In other words, Amanda was not *looking* for a job. One just kind of fell in her lap. And she loves it. She works with surrogacy candidates for a local agency. I’m so proud of her and love fielding all her goofy Excel questions.

But, what about baby?!! I can’t remember if we’ve told the collective “you” yet, but Baby Seed, as our littlest says, is a girl! I don’t know that it’s possible for Amanda to carry a boy. It’s been fun to watch our girls interact with a baby they remind us every day we are not keeping. The older one doesn’t much care or notice while the younger one does immensely, but much more about the process and its impact on Amanda than the baby, though, she does show Baby Seed love often. Mostly, her interaction with Amanda and the baby takes the form of telling Amanda to sit down and rest and make healthy choices for the baby while reassuring Baby Seed that she is helping mommy (Amanda) to be good at being pregnant and make good choices. It’s a good outlet for her bossiness leadership skills.

We’ll be having this baby right around Christmas. That’s pretty cool to me. It’s hard *not* to think about babies and Christmas and Mary and Joseph and shepherds and angels etc. While this baby will have nowhere near the impact on the whole of humanity the way that a baby of Christmas past did, it is not lost on me that this little one will change the world nonetheless. It might just be our world and that of a loving couple from far away, but, sometimes, that’s enough.

And I’m super thankful. For a healthy pregnancy and baby. For the immeasurable support we have received from friends and family. For the honesty of our critics. For the opportunity to help start a family. For my rockstar wife. For each of my super-awesome kiddos and the confident individuals that they are. And, honestly, that I’m not a present-day Joseph, leading a donkey carrying my wife carrying a baby across challenging terrain with not a whole lot of protection from the elements. I think the Christmas story plays out differently if it takes place in Minnesota. I see the discomfort that my wife faces on the daily, and that’s while sitting by a fire on a couch. I can only imagine how comfortable being 36-40 weeks pregnant while riding a donkey (for days!) must be. Joseph, my man, you have my respect.

I wonder if Mary craved cupcakes?

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normalcy

Something funny happened today — I thought to myself: Gee, it’s a good thing we have a surro-thing to do today so at least something feels normal. In its own context, and because of my own exhaustion, I find it pretty amusing that I took some small comfort in our surrogacy journey as being a source of stability. Pre-pregnancy was anything but reliable. Pregnancies with my best girl, though? Yawn. Regular as Raisin Bran.

This happened (referring to surrogacy as the ‘quiet usual’) because life in our tiny corner of everything has been nothing short of whelmingly chaotic; not over- or underwhelming, just whelming. We walked in from a 24 hour road trip back from vacation to this:

Not ideal. A toilet leak upstairs made a real mess of our kitchen ceiling so we had to call water event mitigation specialists (aka guys with fans) and move into a hotel for at least the next day or two while things dry out and likely longer while our kitchen is put back together because there is a gaping hole where the ceiling used to be and our light fixtures have been removed…

Have you ever heard of the X Games??! In short, it’s a bunch of kids (in age or at heart) riding bikes and boards and struggling to keep health insurance; they take extreme risks for money and bragging rights. They’re super cool to watch. They’re not super cool when you need to book a hotel room while they are in town. Minneapolis is just about completely sold out of hotel rooms this week on account of the 2018 X Games going down at US Bank stadium this week.

So we’ve had lots of transition and our kids are a little out of sorts, but only verbally, really. They aren’t acting any differently than their baselines, but the 5 year old reminds me daily that “we are out of sorts, Dad.” But really they’re not. They are suckers for hotels and pools so this is like winning the lottery for them. I’m going to have a rough time topping a trip to the beach that gets immediately followed by living in a hotel for awhile.

Anywho, all of that craziness makes anything surro-esque feel familiar. That’s weird to say, but right now, any kind of normalcy is welcome; even the weird sort.

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tri, tri again

Trimester 1 is somehow done and this delinquent blogger was, well… delinquent.

Believe it or not, I have a life outside of this blog and being the baddest surro-hub ever. I know, breathe. The shock will pass just like the heart palpitations.

Anyway — trimester two. At this point, surrogacy looks and feels (from everyone’s perspective) an awful lot like regular old pregnancy; just an ordinary miracle at this point. Nothing to see here, folks; move along, move along.

I feel awful for my wife, I do. Here we are on vacation in South Carolina with some of both of our favorite cuisines available in the abundant barbecue options and she can hardly choke down a Chobani yogurt drink. We go through a sad routine of her getting super excited about the next meal, only to stab a forkful and siiiiiiiggghhh… and slide the plate over to me or the kids. This is sad for me. My wife and I love food. If you’re thinking you might love food more than either of us, you’re wrong. But not just any food. Good food. Authentic food. Sometimes “authentic” means “an authentic medium McDonald’s fry” but that’s a rare exception. Usually it translates to “we spend lots of time perfecting things at home so they taste like they do where we ate them” or, if it’s just too lofty, we respect the fact that some foods are beyond the level of effort/expense/time/etc. that we can reasonably manage so we don’t try. Like really good churros made in the Mission District in San Fran. Or an exceptional smash burger, the variety, not the chain. Another great example is hibachi — we can do it at home, but we don’t because mess and that huge grill we wont use for enough other things. You get it.

In SC, the barbecue fits this bill perfectly. These are grandma’s grandma’s recipes and things my wife usually powers through with incredible efficiency. This trip? Siiiiiggghh… *pass*. It’s tragic. I’m mourning for her while I enjoy my pulled pork and collard greens like a champ. Hey, sympathy preggo-queasiness is not a thing. Sorry, not sorry, babe. This is definitely a “forgiveness over permission” situation. She’ll recover. Someday.

South Carolina is one of our favorite places. Every time we’re here, we experience something new. There’s always new food, activities, poolside antics, etc.

Our “first” this time? Feeling baby squish move.