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.

0

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?

0

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.

0

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.

0

no pickle

No pickle is safe. I don’t remember buying pickles in such quantity or with quite the frequency that we are for surrobabe compared to our own pregnancies. But it is what it is, I guess. Too bad they are the sweet and spicy kind. A jar of dill spears? In the words of my four year old: that’s my JAM!!

Pickles aren’t the only dietary modification around here, let me tell you. For weeks now, Amanda has been in the thick of an all too reoccurring theme:

  • Sees food item
  • Needs food item
  • Nice husband buys/picks up food item
  • Takes way-too-excited first bite of food item
  • Despises food item
  • Hisses like vampire at food item
  • Nice husband quickly pulls shades (just in case wife is a vampire) and offers kale or other non-meat alternative
  • Wife stops hissing and eats a pickle
  • Husband makes sure the pickles have not run out
  • Rinse
  • Repeat

Despite this utter madness kindly termed “pregnancy brain,” all is well. Baby is healthy and growing right on schedule. All appointments are good. We are all done with needles!! Naomi thinks her mother is a wonderful science experiment. Eva largely doesn’t care and just wants to go swimming. I buy more pickles.

#11w4d #teamsquish #liketeamedwardbutlessweird #andmoresquishy

0

clues

One of my favorite expressions is: it’s like looking for a needle in a swimming pool full of needles. That’s just a fun fact and completely unrelated to anything else in this post.

Since the last time I was here, we have had one blood test, two bowls of Noodles n Company, way too many hours of uncertainty, and an ultrasound.

To figure out if a pregnancy is still intact after a bleeding event, there are two ways to definitively tell: two blood tests over the course of a few days to see if some super secret blood number doubles (…over 9000!! This is a super nerd joke 🤓, so don’t feel bad for not getting it. In fact, maybe feel good about it. 😉) oooooorrr getting an ultrasound (provided the squish is far enough along). So we did one blood test yesterday and have one scheduled for tomorrow.

But we don’t need it.

Amanda had an ultrasound this morning. And saw a heartbeat!! You guys!! At 5 weeks?!! 🤯

I’m told it wasn’t enough to register audibly via ultrasound, but zooming waaaaaay in showed a perfectly rhythmic little lub-dub. So unless there’s something else living inside my wife’s uterus 🤔😳😱, all the clues we have are pretty definitive: squish lives!!

EDIT: I realize I didn’t give any sort of scientific reason for what happened here. While I don’t fully know why because I operate on computers instead of people, I can parrot a doctor just fine: something about a progesterone (hormone medication) reaction; fairly common. END EDIT.

Speaking of clues…

We have two days left on our super-secret surprise chain!! On the days I remembered to, (ha!) I gave the kiddos a clue or two. We have compiled:

  • Daddy licks Naomi on the face
  • Pinecone
  • Little Cow
  • Metal
  • Signatures
  • Water
  • Ginger Ale
  • Madagascar
  • Taco
  • And this picture…

Thanks for thinking of us over the last day and some and for journeying with us!! It’s amazing to be so supported when things start to maybe go a little sideways 😕 and just a whole lot of fun when they don’t. 😜

1

say a little prayer

I remember in college how I would send my friends text messages across the room or across the house for the sake of absurdity — “Is my broomball stick in the garage?!” or “Bring me a banana!!” or just “Hi.” It was a dumb game that we played because we were discovering the wonder of carrying the entire internet in our pockets all the time and being able to harass each other as a free fringe benefit of having a cell plan. With great power comes great irresponsibility; something like that. Inter-house messaging made me grin every time.

It didn’t this morning.

I was on the phone with a Microsoft cloud support representative talking about hiding on-premises public folders from a cloud global address list when my phone started to chirp. It was my beloved texting from the bathroom. I promptly hung up on Microsoft. I’ve gotten a couple of incredibly confused emails from Microsoft support in the past few minutes wishing me well and hoping that everything is okay. It will be. I’m just not sure if it is right now; neither of us are.

Bleeding, even lots of it, is normal for an IVF pregnancy, I’m told. We have some very last-second appointments scheduled for tomorrow to see if that’s true for us or if a little family on the other side of the globe has to wait a few more weeks than planned for their little squish to come home.

Not knowing good news is worse than knowing bad news, I think. We are sincerely hoping that today will just be another day; that a doctor will look at some results and tell us it’s fine, just some possible thing that can happen when xyz conditions are met but blah blah blah — you’re fine. We know everything will be if that isn’t the news we get, and are prepared/ing.

But we wouldn’t at all mind if you’d grant us a simple request:

Say a little prayer.

0

the between begins

More than most other things I enjoy being a musician. I’m a classically trained percussionist, whatever that means. In high school, I sat behind a set of 3 ancient tympani, a xylophone that had bars engraved with ancient hieroglyphs been badly vandalized, and an assortment of shakers, dingers, and whizzers galore during long after-school hours devoted to playing in the community theater pit orchestra. In my youth, I thought this set of instruments was very much a second fiddle to the adjacent drumset that in my later shows I would eventually occupy. While I enjoyed both, today’s ‘me’ would ask for the second fiddle because of the bar rests.

In music, the space between notes not occupied by toots, honks, and ratta-tat-tats is as important as its noisier counterpart. And even combined, the auxiliary percussion parts I helmed for the theater were brief at best — accents and highlights of themes that, in truth belonged to trumpets, violins — the occasional clarinet. Everything else I “played” was a bar rest — a black bar on a page of music that takes up the space of one written measure but carries a number above it that specified just how long the conductor doesn’t want to pay attention to the obnoxious drummer(s) classically trained concert percussionists. Three or so times through, I learned my parts well enough that I could completely zone out and still not miss a beat; I listened subconsciously and when my part was coming up, I’d put down whatever book I was reading, play my 3 notes, and pick my book back up. I loved the in between then and I love it still.

So I’ve decided to embrace conquer our new season of waiting with a little bit of wonder and a whole lot of fun: due to some poor math (I blame sympathy hormones) and the fact that the sun continues to rise and set, we have entered single digits in our super-secret and spazz-attack-inducing countdown.

Ladies and gentlefolks, we have 9 days left.

1

back to waiting

I never planned on going to San Francisco. Full House was as much as I ever thought I needed. It seemed like a lot of traffic and people and weird. It’s all of those things, but it’s a lot more than that, too. There’s a lot of culture, and the food that tags along with it; SanFran is a tasty city, make no mistake. Ramen, sourdough, sea creatures so fresh they wiggle if you’re into that sort of thing, mac n’cheese versions of Chipotle, impossibly good breakfast — if you can crave it, SanFran very probably has it. Hungarian? Yep — great Hungarian. Japanese grill-your-own-meat-at-your-table experiences? Mmhmm. French baked goods that make eating anything else that is isn’t a French baked good sad? Yes, and they are enlightening. New Orleans inspired BBQ with a Russian twist? In that specific case, unfortunately yes, they have that, too. Variety. Soooo much variety.

But there’s a lot more than food on the bay. There are festivals pretty much all the time, there’s always live music somewhere, and mass transit that, well, kindof gets you to all of it — okay, some of it. It’s called BART (Bay Area Rail Transit, I think?) but Amanda usually called it BERT or BENNY; whatever felt right in the moment, I suppose. So many hormones.

But this last trip, like the transfer trip before it, was 5 days long because it’s deemed safer for the freshly-transferred embryo to not fly for a few days post-transfer. So, per doctor’s orders, we hung around San Francisco for a bit.

But we aren’t city people, not really. We are suburb people, absolutely, but not really downtown folk. So we skipped town and drove somewhere out of the city on the daily: 2 hours north, 3 hours south, beaches crowded only by sandpipers, tide pools crammed with starfish, waves that drown out your thoughts, especially hermit-y crabs that hate everything — rocks and trees and skies and seas. That San Francisco is beautiful. So we spent our time there picking up tiny green rocks and polished emeralds sea glass for our biggest smallest fan back home and running for higher ground when rogue waves snuck in around sunset and having staring contests with seagulls who were always up to something — I swear they are organized and up to no good — all because adventure is out there but you have to go to find it. So we did. And we took some fun photos as we went along, Like this one:

Hey, I was looking at that magnificent sunset while I was taking this picture of an equally stunning sight. What? So I multitask.

And this one:

And this one:

And this one:

And, finally, this one:

That last one is pretty much a perfect snapshot of our trip: a whole lot of taking in the beauty around us while mentally and emotionally preparing for more waiting. And that’s exactly where we are now — and for 8 more months.

Amanda is pregnant.

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mk II

And just like that, we are back to waiting and leaning on whatever the actual success rate for an IVF pregnancy is. That’s a weird sentence; let me explain.

Surrogacy is not a highly regulated thing. Because of this, a lot of clinics or agencies will report wildly different (read: usually fictional or skewed, unfortunately) success rates.

But what about the Web MD’s of the world? This is a medical procedure, after all; what does infallible internet medicine say about such things?

Good question. They have data, but it’s from 2009. The chance of having a surro-baby from studies released that year for a woman under 35 was 39.6% and for women over 40 just 11.5%. Regarding baby-having, age is more than just a number. But, again, this is all 9 year old data. This science is always being aggressively advanced. Unfortunately, because there is a lot of money involved, the data surrounding is not always reliable.

It is likely that we are looking at something in the 50-60% success rate given we are nearly a decade removed from the 2009 dataset above. But I’m no scientist or subject matter expert here. No — I’m just a guy with a keyboard and an internet connection; a virtual truth warrior! And 50-60% looks and sounds way better than 39.6, so we’re just gonna go with it!

Another question that has been asked after each of our two transfers now: How did it go? or Did it go okay?

I completely understand the nature of this question and we are always happy to be checked-in on by friends and family, so don’t hear this as “Well, that’s a silly question. *scoff*”. I hear the question and I know what happens during a transfer so I smile at the two things when I mentally put them together.

Here’s how it all works. It’s not exactly the same as the movies: typically Hollywood shows us a scene involving a turkey baster — sometimes the woman is even upside-down!! 😆 This is how it *actually* happens according to my better half with me paraphrasing:

  • Step one: don’t pee all morning — a full bladder makes watching the transfer via ultrasound much more feasible.
  • Step two: at the appointment, undress from the waist down and cover up with a sheet.
  • Step three: there’s no turkey baster involved. Instead, it’s like a giant bendy straw.

That’s it. Literally. In, out, pants on, French fries. There isn’t really room for variable unless a meteorite smashes into the clinic and kills everyone or the doctor, I don’t know, grabs the wrong sample? Pretty much any of the possible alternative outcomes would be worthy of a TV show not all that unlike Jane the Virgin.

All of that said, we love your questions and will be happy to feature them if you like, so ask away!

At the time of this writing, we were in search of a McDonald’s because apparently those French fries are the right French fries according to a bunch of superstitious surro-crazies other women who have pursued the incredible adventure of helping build families through surrogacy. Also, the photo below is not a photo of some classified alien installation on the moon. It’s a (hopefully!) future squish.