a novel change of pace

This is NOT a CDC testing center.

Wow. What a time it has been since my last post. In said post, I talked about our plane ride. We weren’t worried about flying. Now, we can’t travel really at all because of shelter-in-place orders at both origin and destination. Plane tickets are unheard-of inexpensive, but it doesn’t matter.

Surrogacy, as we know it, is on pause indefinitely. We are fortunate to be where we are on our journey. If you are going to get stopped in your tracks, ours is not such a bad place to be stopped. Where are we exactly? Allow me to explain.

We were touch and go, ready to fly out to California the third week in March. Every day brought new COVID-19 headlines and restrictions. San Francisco had just received their shelter-in-place order, and our contacts and friends in L.A. feared (correctly) that the same was coming to them in just a matter of days. We were scheduled to fly out for an eleven day trip that would have included some blood work and a fresh egg transfer. We got really close to doing this trip. It was bumped back by two days once and then indefinitely delayed. Both the rescheduling and the indefinite hold were decided in the eleventh hour each time, so we literally had bags packed that sat for a week at the ready before we knew for certain that we wouldn’t need them. This was frustrating, but manageable.

Our IM (intended mama) was on a similar touch and go standby status. Her trip, though, was allowed to proceed, and for very good reason. Despite all the external turmoil and virus-induced strain on infrastructure, economy, and the collective baseline sanity, our IM was already primed and ready for an egg retrieval. So, they forged ahead. And were highly successful! They were able to collect ten viable, good quality embryos; a big victory in light of the last attempt rendering nine embryos that all ceased development just days after retrieval.

The rest of this is based on no certain science, but rather the most conservative, risk-minimizing evaluation of current events. We are not pregnant. Our transfer trip did not happen. We are not planning to travel until we, at the very least, see a downward trend in the number of reported cases and deaths of COVID-19. This is driven by 1) the lack of data surrounding how COVID-19 affects pregnant women, 2) the lack of data surrounding how COVID-19 impacts pregnancy, delivery, and child development, and 3) how deliveries are being handled at the moment. Strangely enough, number 3 is perhaps the most immediately pressing. Delivering mothers are only allowed one support person, so this has changed delivery room dynamics; does surrodad or an IP (intended parent) attend delivery? I’ve spoken with people in close proximity to or working in medical facilities across the nation over the last several days. COVID-19 can be a medical system back-breaker. Dwindling supplies, reused paper surgical masks, documented unexpected interactions between COVID-19 and the female reproductive system; in this surrodad’s opinion, it is too risky to start a pregnancy if there is any control to be had over one. Fortunately in our case, there is.

For international surrogacies that are already in motion, it gets far more complicated. COVID-19 tests in California as of a few days ago were taking about 2 weeks to process. Requirements around international travelers visiting hospitals were reported to include not one but TWO negative COVID-19 tests, so 28 testing days total (no idea if the days can overlap). And as of a week or so ago, it was near impossible to get just one test, let alone two. So IP’s were most probably missing labor and delivery on account of the COVID-19 testing situation; discussions about “parking lot babies” have been had, some in jest. But I’m not convinced there wasn’t at least a thread of genuine contemplation woven into such half-hearted jokes somewhere. Again, this is not a boat we are in (yet?), thankfully. No one can say if or when that may change, however.

The next several weeks will be telling for all of us on so many levels. We have friends and family who work in hospitals and nursing homes. We can’t thank you enough for your grit and courage. We pray for your safety and strength daily in the face of the unknown that threatens to be very, very costly. Be as safe as you can. Wash those hands. Cover those coughs. Sleep. Don’t go into work sick. We are rooting for you. Every day. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We have friends and friends of friends who have and have had COVID-19. It’s a sniffle at best and dying, suffocating, alone, away from family, at its worst. We have been very fortunate to not have been touched in that way; to have lost someone to it. We are grateful for that. We mourn for and with those that have and ultimately will.

It is a dire time in the world, to be sure. But we are not without hope. And joy. Some days, we have to choose those things, but they are not far off. A quote by C.S Lewis has been making the rounds on social media, suggesting a simple replacement of “atomic bomb” with “COVID-19”:

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

Hmm! A lot to think about. A lot of existential-pondering things to think about. For a more thorough discussion on that quote and, critically, how it doesn’t suggest that Lewis would ignore governmental directives like social distancing check out this blog post.

The days are indeed strange. There is a novel virus floating about. For some, it is a transparent condition with no symptoms. For others, it is deadly. Each life lost is a tragedy, a freshly broken family blasted with grief and fear. It’s easy to read headlines and take comfort in falling fatality projections. That’s weird to type. It *should* be hard, breathtaking even, to see (United States) numbers like 94,000 or 85,000 projected dead. Those numbers are lower than the 240,000 that was originally projected, but still–that’s so many people in the course of several weeks; a far quicker rate than most any modern conflict. And that’s just the U.S. This week, we crossed the official 80k mark for COVID-19 casualties. And we aren’t done yet. The days will be, for a while, bleak; touched by death.

But we can do this, beat this. Together. To invoke the spirit of Lewis’ point, we need not live in fear. Our mortality is fixed, but not more so now than it was yesterday. A simple reality faces us: we can live, differently yes, but we can still live. Many of us will face grief in the days ahead. Many more of us will be there to comfort those who mourn. While we can (because none of us knows when we’ll take our last breath), let us make a point to do just that: live, intentionally, on purpose, with a healthy hand-washed and mask-wearing abandon, without a phone constantly in hand; helping, volunteering, encouraging, fighting, recovering, thriving.

My six year old is a very smart kid. Moreso even than most adults I know, she is very tuned in with the emotions of those around her. Her intuition to give a warm hug or offer a sweet word is stunning. It has not escaped her that the world is a little bit darker than normal right now. She knows what COVID-19 and coronavirus are and that people are dying. She knows that her grandma and grandpa and probably her favorite auntie are all on the front lines of a dangerous global medical crisis. She sees the tangible worry around her manifested in store and school closures. She doesn’t like learning on a computer. It’s hard for her to have her dad home all day every day and not be able to talk to him while he’s working; he’s home, but not able to fully be there.

Recently, that same sweet, sweet first grader said, in the thick of a government-mandated stay-at-home order, with her normal so diametrically ripped out of its usual stable existence:

You know the great thing about life? You never know what’s gonna happen next.

Naomi, 6

Inimitable joy; precocious perspective. I’m over here taking notes, to be honest. I receive reminders often from this little sage to be thankful that I have a home, food, and a job. And her; I am oft-reminded to be thankful to know the wonder that is her. We’re working on humility. She is abundantly confident. 🙂

My hope is this, then: when we are looking back on these days from the other side, we will never forget; those who were ruthlessly taken from us, the heroes daring death each time they just went to work, how we united as communities, nations, as human beings, and how we ultimately overcame.

Because you can bet we will.

And then we can get back to things that a global pandemic puts on hold…

…like making squishy babies.

Wash those hands, don’t hoard, and check in on your family and friends often.