Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Planting The Seeds of Parenthood

Originally published on March 9, 2012, at The Next Family.
My name is Lisa. I’m a graduate student, soon-to-be doctor of philosophy in biology, wife of ten-plus years, mama, and lover of pregnancy. Not kids, by any means, but pregnancy. Kids scare me. They take time. They’re loud. I don’t understand them. They often smell. And they make messes. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son, and I can enjoy children in small doses, but Ken keeps me busy enough that the thought of any more children petrifies me.
Unfortunately, my body loves being pregnant (good Catholic-breeder genes, I think, are to blame) and I feel passionately that everyone who wants to be a parent should get the chance. Because as much of a challenge as children are, they are equally amazing. For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. For every trying moment, there is the joy of triumph. Of creation. I get that. I love the feeling of helping to create life. I’m a researcher, which is an extremely creative occupation, even if a lot of people don’t realize this. Research is simply helping to bring new data, new information, into the light of the scientific community. It’s like giving birth. (I’m in the “pushing” process right now in fact, as I write my dissertation on invasive plants and their effects on native amphibians.) That’s a high that can’t be replicated. And a birth is only the beginning of the most massive education a person can ever get- that of becoming a parent. Kids teach you more than 20+ years’ of formal schooling. In the kid’s first year.
It was shortly after I had finished that trial-by-fire first year with my son that I realized that I wanted to be pregnant again. But how to do that without adding to my brood? (Can one child be called a brood? As much energy as Ken takes, I’m going to say yes, he can.) A little bit of digging lead me to look into surrogacy. Literally, I was digging in the garden planting seeds while Ken played in the yard and I thought about this issue. My mom had had easy pregnancies with my sister and me, and had always claimed that if she could have, she would have been a surrogate. When I was a kid, of course surrogacy was far less common, since IVF was fairly new, and Mom couldn’t think about giving away “her” child (genetically hers), so that’s what took surrogacy off the table for her.
After those seeds were in the ground, I went to work looking into surrogacy, found an agency, and started all the fun of paperwork. This took far longer than I’m letting on, because those first few months of deciding, researching, and filling papers was really boring.
Then, in July of 2007, with a two-year-old and a year of graduate school under my belt, the agency sent me the profile of J&M, a gay couple on the east coast. We got along fine, matched, got through contracts and screenings, and on Thanksgiving Day of that year, transferred two five-day blasts from an anonymous egg donor and one from each of the intended dads. Then we waited. In the two-week wait, we got a positive HPT, then positive beta, then a perfect ultrasound of a singleton at about seven weeks. This journey went mostly without any drama, although there were way more ultrasounds than I was used to with my son, because the fetus was small. (The egg donor was also, and the resultant child is perfectly healthy, but small, so it seems to be just a matter of a small child. Go figure.) In July of 2008, “A” was born healthy and happy and went home to ecstatic daddies. I brought home an electric pump, and donated to the Mother’s Milk Bank of Ohio for a few months. After a rough patch where the new family and I didn’t keep in touch, we’re now all back to being friends and things are nearly exactly as I had originally imagined they would end up (thank you, Facebook, for making the globe a much smaller distance
to cross).
Not long after, I felt the urge to help someone else find the magic of parenting, but wanted to go about it slightly differently. The first surrogacy had taken its toll since I gave birth during the summer, when I typically would have done much of my research. I
wanted to focus on my own creative efforts, and let someone else do the heavy lifting. And I had friends that were having trouble conceiving. After lots of discussion, I did an open egg donation, and then a semi-open donation. There were two more little critters
running around thanks to me, and that made me happy. By that time, I was progressing well with my work, and feeling the urge to be a surrogate again, but without the drugs, and needles, and secrecy of an anonymous egg donation (topic for another time, but I strongly believe that kids deserve to know their genetic heritage, not because of any intrinsic tie to the donor, but because of all the health implications of one’s genes and the importance of knowing the correct medical history). So this time it was traditional surrogacy for me.
In early 2010, I posted an ad, went independent this time, and started searching for IPs. I heard some of the most- ahem- interesting stories I could have ever imagined. I got discouraged, and when my ad expired, I did not put up a new one. Instead, I would take the reins and pick out someone to contact. By June of that year, I saw J&H’s ad the day before it expired. They were a gay couple from New York. I emailed them, they emailed back with trepidation. (They had spent several years and much energy pursuing adoption and/or surrogacy, and weren’t sure if they wanted to hope again.) After a whirlwind “dating” period, we matched, agreed on nearly everything (we would be friends even without surrogacy). In September, we did our first insemination, and it did not take. October, our second, slightly deflated try, did, although not without some drama of a positive HPT, then negative beta, then stronger positive HPT and a digital, and finally the positive beta. E still likes to keep everyone on their toes. This pregnancy was picture perfect, until two weeks of prodromal labor at the end, with a birth in July 2011. I again pumped, this time for E, and we’re still very close with visits, Facebook, Skype, and such occurring regularly.
In the fall of 2011, the first couple to whom I donated used some frozen eggs from a few years ago, and are expecting a July sibling for their little boy. (What is it about July?)
And that’s my story. Our story, really, from my perspective. C’est la vie, I guess. And on. And on. And on.

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