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a very strict plane

This is my “ready to facilitate the exit row procedure” face. I’ve sat in a few exit rows in my time. They are not a substitute for front row seats. No, those seats are built for humans. Exit row seats are an airline’s way of charging more for a tiny bit more room and outsourcing a lot of responsibility. If your ticket says “EXIT ROW” on it, as many of you know very well, the airline staff stops you and your brave few exit row companions before you even get on the aircraft and asks if you will help in the event of an emergency. This is normal. Today was less so.

A flight attendant showed up seat side to deliver a second exit row speech and thoroughly explained how to open the door, find the instructions for doing so in two different places, and would not leave before receiving a VERBAL CONFIRMATION from each exit row member?!! This is a very strict plane.

I said “yes” because my millennial flight attendant is super intimidating I’m a good person and feel confident in my abilities to rip a hole in the side of the aircraft on a whim follow the instructions of my flight attendants and read the placard on the door after thoroughly studying the instructional pamphlet in the event that the plane is being eaten by Godzilla experiencing an emergency.

EDIT: My wife tells me that exit-row verbal confirmations are normal. I guess I’ve just flown with a lot of flight attendants who don’t care if I live or die are not very good at following FAA regulations. See if I ever help them in the event of an emergency. Godzilla can have them.

We are California-bound again. Should be sunny and 78 degrees Fahrenheit today. Another trip, another doctor appointment. I would be more optimistic if I didn’t have a long list of reasons to doubt the just barely scheduled processing care we are set to receive. What I know after the last several run-ins I’ve had with other doctors recently is that self-advocacy at a medical institution is imperative. And paying incredibly close attention to and double or triple checking your doctor’s work and that of their administrative staff is so critically important. That’s part of my job on these trips and in the several days and weeks leading up to them. I ask a lot of questions to make sure that my best girl is treated well; no funny business. Sometimes these California yokels need a little taste of Minnesota nice.

We are so ready for the next steps of this journey. We are ready to be pregnant and done with trips to L.A. for a while. You know, scratch that. We are ready to be done with trips to L.A. that involve doctor appointments for a while; I’m always up for a little Sunshine state warmth. This trip out is for another womb check to make sure the room is ready for a squishy baby. If all goes well, we’ll be back in a couple of short weeks to do a live transfer. That term sounded pretty science-fictional to me the first time I heard it, so let me explain. It isn’t sucking an embryo out of one uterus and putting it into an adjacent one with a turkey baster. It’s an egg retrieval and fertilization and subsequent implantation into the carrier’s uterus without any freezing in between, just like a Wendy’s cheeseburger. Allegedly. So it’s not so alien-esque as it sounds, but it still feels like something out of Star Wars. At least to this guy, anyway.

So, at the earliest, we could be 2 weeks and 5 days pregnant by this time next month (🤞🏽)! That would be nice for all parties involved. It’s been a longer road this time as compared to last time. And a harder one. But we have high hopes (literally; we are on an airplane 😂). Something will stick at some point. Here’s hoping it’s this cycle.

Stay tuned.

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sometimes, you just know

I knew this with Amanda.

Despite a lot of people telling both of us we were wrong/crazy/etc., we dated, got engaged, and were married. Along the way, there were naysayers and doubters who pretty much all asked the same question: How do you know?

There are a lot of different ways to fashion an answer to that question, but the purest version is more of a gut thing; a reflex. Some people call it instinct or self-preservation borne of conditioned responses; survival of the fittest, perhaps. Providence. Whatever you choose to call it, explaining it isn’t as simple as choosing a favorite color. Mine’s orange.

We are not pregnant. Or pregante. Or pregananant (a little humor because laughter is powerfully medicinal).

And that is okay. And is going to be okay. It was a blow, for a day. But then the sun set and rose again, like it tends to, and we found ourselves days and weeks removed from that news that we didn’t necessarily want to hear; that no one on a journey toward building a family via surrogacy wants to hear.

Infertility is a monster.

We spent a few quiet days at home reorganizing schedules and thoughts and feelings (lots of feelings; because hormones) and arrived at a place of accepting what’s next.

Together, with our IP’s (intended parents), we are trying again. At breakneck speed, we received the news of a failed transfer by way of a negative blood test and, within a day, an updated timeline for next steps.

Wow. Fast.

So we pressed on. Between the failed transfer at the end of October and today, we have received more sad news in the form of an egg retrieval yielding eight useful eggs that all ceased to grow several days after being fertilized.

More feelings. More processing.

Somehow, I knew. I don’t have any sort of supernatural abilities or clairvoyance. But I prepared for these setbacks, in hindsight, knowing that the outcomes wouldn’t be what we wanted. Don’t ask me how, because I don’t have some secret formula. I just knew. So I anticipated and reacted accordingly. I hoped, but I reasoned. All the odds and numbers and timelines were what they were and didn’t come together. It’s still a little weird to me, but I’m glad that everything wasn’t a complete blindside as a result.

This news changed some plans very last minute. We had trip number eight to California (in eight months) planned for this past weekend. We didn’t go. And despite the temperature difference being something like 80 degrees Fahrenheit between here and there, I wasn’t sad to be home. Especially on a weekend in December. My kids weren’t sad either. My dog was downright elated. Me too, dog, me too.

We have more plans for more trips and more appointments. But not until after the New Year. I’m all in on this grand adventure, but I’m not sad about a lull for a minute. I’m thankful for a small break from what’s been a relatively more chaotic journey this time as compared to last. I’m thankful for my wife who is fiercely committed to bringing her piercing light to the searing void that is infertility. I’m thankful for my kids and their endless wonder and questions and support when we have to leave them for two to three days here and there for doctor appointments that seem (at least some days) to be endless. I’m thankful for our supporters. You know who you are and we love you. I’m thankful for our critics. We don’t have many, but I really enjoy a good argument, so whether I do that in my head or in person, I’m exposed to perspectives I might not otherwise have, so, thank you. I’m thankful for our babysitters and dog-watchers and sounding boards and (perhaps more than most others) our Sunday pizza lunch buddies. All of you play a part in us being able to do this.

As 2019 closes, I may not login here again. In fact, let’s plan on that unless I’m feeling entirely too sentimental come Christmas. I do that sometimes. I’m excited for what’s ahead and perfectly content in the now. Now is so very, very good. Don’t forget to be in the now, with your phone set aside, complete with eye contact and a warm cup of cheer. Or a cold one; what do I care? I drink Nitro coffee (it’s cold) in sub-zero temperatures. Give good hugs, plan on doing nothing with a friend, and do a random act of kindness. And because, for me, the season feels empty without some mention of “why”…

I hope that you find peace that only a Baby can bring; a baby who brought Kings from afar, whose birth summoned a heavenly host and was attended by shepherds who had to be talked out of a panic attack by the same, and whose sinless life and death would save the world.

We’re big on babies around here. Jesus, included.

Merry Christmas.

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a teeny tiny little bomb

L.A.’s outskirts are on fire. But we are safely headed home. We didn’t see anything more than smoke everywhere. We are thankful to have never been in harm’s way. Our hotel room was a welcome sanctuary in the evenings of this trip, however; the smoke outside made us deeply appreciate the at least clean-er air inside.

This was our transfer trip!! As I had previously mentioned and hoped for, this appointment was a pleasant one. The only “whoops” on the part of the clinic was not offering Amanda the planned-on dose of Valium prior to transfer. It’s just for relaxation purposes, not for pain, but we’ve done this before and were not in any way nervous. Excited, yes, but in more of a focused and determined way than a “feel all the butterfly feels” kind of way. So, not a black mark against the clinic for experiential reasons, but I’d say at least a gray mark for such casual handling of a controlled substance reasons.

But Amanda, as per her usual, dominated this whole event. She was cool as a cucumber and made everyone around her calmer. What a babe I married. #luckiestboyinthistown

We got to watch the transfer this time! Not live (ick!), but on a screen. Suuuuuper interesting. A little dot in a dish gets sucked into a tiny tube and then from there it’s pretty easy to fill in any mental blanks. Turkey basters in sitcoms aren’t all that far off. 🤣

But what I didn’t anticipate was a tiny flash on the ultrasound when the embryo is actually inserted into the uterus. At a microscopic level, there’s a tiny bomb going off as a baby hopefully starts settling into a snug spot to endure a punishing Minnesota winter. Life is too neat.

And complicated.

In my experience of such things as a surrofather, this stage is perhaps as emotionally taxing as delivery. Here’s why. A successful transfer is built on a foundation of countless, searingly painful failures. Doctor appointments gone not-to-plan, soaring expectations shredded by bitter disappointment, plans made and readjusted. And readjusted. And readjusted. And so on. A blithering cycle of crushed hopes and fierce resolve.

Our deepest privilege is to step into this cycle and break it. With a squishy baby.

And now is when we *might* be at the beginning of the final lap of this infertility journey. The next several days are frustrating. Up until now, our efforts have been strictly on schedule to control a myriad of variables; to encourage perfect conditions for life to develop. We’ve done all we can. After months of playing a perfect game, of turning in flawless completions of tasks and med cycles and paperwork and flying and being on time for so many things, there is nothing else.

Now we wait. And pray.

There’s a chance this won’t work. And it’s more than anyone involved ever wants to be reminded of. It’s not higher than fifty, but it’s definitely somewhere around one in three. If you implant enough embryos, every third one fails.

That’s why this stage is tough. Because of what’s been endured to reach this taste of success, there’s so much more that could go wrong that it’s scary to hope. What makes this a no man’s land is that it’s also suffocating to not allow yourself to feel. So if you go all in and you’re right and there’s a baby at the end of this transfer, then you win. All the joy, none of the baggage. But that’s a hefty risk to gamble against. Even if the transfer works, one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. On the flip side, if your fear dictates your responses, you will miss such unique joys associated with literal once in a lifetime moments. That sounds perhaps negative in connotation, but I don’t mean it that way. It’s not fair to expect someone who has travelled the road of infertility to not be subject to different fears than the rest of us know. Perhaps stronger. Perhaps not, but as real as they come, nonetheless. I’m not sure how much choice there is at the surrogacy stage of infertility as to how you deal with fear and pain.

But that’s why we do what we do. We fight fear with frailty. And an embryo is a teeny tiny little bomb.

Bombs away.

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turning points

Tomorrow is transfer day. I almost said tomorrow is the first transfer day of this journey, and that’s technically true, but I’m not going to actually say that because it implies there might be a second. For all parties involved, I really don’t want that to be the case, so let’s just go with tomorrow being transfer day and go all in on it being the only one for this journey.

I like transfer day. Or at least I did last time. Everyone was so happy and friendly; moreso than a bloodwork appointment. People aren’t necessarily unfriendly for non-transfer appointments, but the nature of an embryo transfer appointment makes everyone a little cheerier. A lot of failures have been endured by a lot of people even just to get to transfer day, so it’s worth it’s own little celebration.

I’m thumbing this post out on my phone at several thousand feet above the ground somewhere halfway-ish between Minneapolis and Los Angeles. If you don’t count one of the flight attendants getting super mad because a passenger absolutely reeks of marijuana, it’s been a relatively uneventful flight.

The preparations for this trip went about as smoothly as possible; moreso than they did for our recent vacation to South Carolina with the kiddos when Amanda got all the way to Bloomington (20 min. from home for those less familiar) before realizing she had remembered everything for our trip except her cell phone. So we turned around and went home. And then we turned around and went back. We made our flight, but with no time to spare and our recent signup for TSA pre-check that was processed in an incredibly short amount of days (4 or 5) absolutely saved us. We zipped past a line of approximately 200 people while passing through the pre-check line of just a dozen or so. It was an adventure, to say the least. Our eldest’s backpack got pulled aside by a TSA agent who dwarfs me at six and a half feet tall. He put on a scary face and voice and asked her if anything in her backpack would bite his fingers if he opened the bag to search it. Eva was not having any of his teasing and answered in a more than mostly terrified tone to tell him no, she didn’t have anything in her backpack that would bite him. No games about it. She took the TSA verrrrry seriously and apologized profusely for the half bottle of Gatorade he removed from her pack. She then proceeded to rake Amanda over the coals for not checking her bag better before we went through security. 😂 Good times.

Nothing anywhere near that entertaining this morning. We had an entirely uneventful airport experience. Sunrise over the Rockies is one of my favorite things. We haven’t had clear enough weather in several flights to see it, so I’m glad we were able to today.

We don’t have any plans today. Maybe a nap later? Getting up at 2:45am is early. And the day only gets longer when you add two hours to it.

We are here until Wednesday, this time, because we have to wait 48 hours to fly after transfer. Also, no roller coaster riding. Or bull fighting.

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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.