Shockingly, the weather cooperated with us! Oslo was beautiful when we flew out so of course I expected Bergen to be just ugly.. nope! STUNNING city, a super fun day
I’ve been thinking about this forever, trying to decide how best to express and remember this amazing journey I’ve been on the last 5 years. Call it base or Redneck, but I chose to share this part of the story of my life on my skin. I want to be a little old wrinkled lady and have a small bit of WOW on my body, both to make me happy and to help me remember. I am so proud of myself, narcissisticly so in many cases, so embracing an outword tribute to myself and those I love was just the perfect thing for me to do.
My daughter and son are the two flowers on the right, red for the heart chakra and orange to represents me. Kael has a blue center and Raegan has fuchsia. The two pink and purple flowers you see to the left are for Ava and Amelia, a matching pair but not identical, one flower has a more orange center and the other more yellow. Tom is represented on the other side ( on top.. my sunny side up boy) with a yellow and teal flower that is in the same shape as the girls. All these flowers are surrounding a Peacock, a symbol of immortality ( as is my part in the creation of each of these children), a symbol of renewal ( as the true heart of *me* was reborn for having experienced the journeys that created these 5 children), and a symbol of integrity and the beauty we can achieve when we endeavor to show our true colors. The peacock is associated with the Hindu deity that represents benevolence, patience, kindness, compassion, and luck. These are all things I strive to embody in my life and relationships, as is the Japanese peacock association as an emblem of love, compassionate watchfulness, good will, nurturing, and kind-heartedness. I’ve been asked why I don’t have an official nod to my Husband, but the truth of the matter is, he is represented by the whole. Without his love, support, giving nature and patience I would not be the person I am today, I would not have had the experiences I’ve had. It has become very very important to have a moment of official recognition for all of these things, and I am amazingly pleased to have done so.
( Better pics will come soon, this was hastily snapped at the tattoo expo where I got this piece finished and just doesn’t do justice to it’s true worth. But right now it’s a gooey sticky mess, so I’ll spare you that…)
Well, things are moving forward, but not in the way that you might think. I find myself at the starting gate to yet another journey.. not a journey through surrogacy, but rather a journey towards………
I have no idea where I’m going. All I know is, it’s forward.
In a few short weeks, my body will be under the knife and I’ll be the grudging recipient of a partial hysterectomy along with becoming the home for a few feet of mesh. These last couple of physically traumatic births have done in the ol’ lady bits and if I want to move forward in my life, those bits have to be repaired. It looks like retirement from the world of pregnancy will be less of a ticker tape parade out of town and more of a tornado, ripping me away from the comforts of my body and over the rainbow for a whole different kind of adventure.
Folks, I am FREAKED OUT.
But it’s what’s got to happen. Prolapse after prolapse, my body is telling me something. It’s time to listen. This is one of those risks we hear about when getting in to surrogacy in the first place. One of those scenarios that we accept, but never really think will happen to us. It happens. Thinking of being a surrogate? Understand that along with the amazing magic and life transforming positive that comes out of a journey, this is a possible risk.
Is the risk worth it?
I think so. We were done having our own family, surrogacy didn’t change that. My heart bursts with love and pride when I look at pictures of my stunning surro babies, when I think of the families I have helped create. But surrogacy did have quite a bit more down sides that I’d been prepared for. The loss of many relationships and now this physical complication.. I didn’t count on those. Would I do it again? Yes. But I may have approached things differently if my crystal ball had let me in on just what, exactly, I was getting in to.
Much more to say. I just don’t know how to say it.
They say when you don’t know where to start, the best place to begin is at the beginning. I have so many thoughts rattling around in my head about this surrogacy journey, I’ve had a hard time trying to unmuddle the mess. So? We start at the beginning. Some of this is repetitive of early posts, but I want to start here so that the full point of this story is told.
Once Upon A Time;
Many moons ago I came across the idea of being a Gestational Surrogate. It started out as an idea, and became a dream. After some research on my part, I decided that for me the best route to fulfilling this dream was with the aid of an agency. My agency search began with my good friend Google. WHOA Nelly, are there a lot of agencies out there! From full service to do-it-yourself, there is an agency available for every desire. Being new, fresh, and for the most part ignorant of all the bits and pieces required for a successful Gestational Surrogacy journey, I decided to go with the best. The agency that offered the MOST guidance, made the process the most simple. Yes, it was also the most expensive agency for IP’s out there, a fact that bothered me from the first. But I figured the good outweighed the bad there, and their expertise was surely worth the extra money.
I signed on with Growing Generations.
A phone interview landed me with two plane tickets for my husband and I to fly down to LosAngeles for a medical and psych screening. Both went well, I was commended on my acceptance and warmly welcomed in to the bosom of the business. I was a Growing Generations Surrogate.
Just a few short days after all clearances had been processed I was introduced to my first intended father, via e-mail. He had applied as a single parent and while I was initially leery, I was over the moon at having a quick match. We were flown back to LA where we met this nice young man and were successfully woo’d into beginning our contracts with him. An instant connection was formed and daily ( some times several times a day) we exchanged e-mails and phone calls. It wasn’t till we were getting ready to sign on the dotted line a few weeks later that more of a story was shared between this IF and I. It started with a question. This man was listed as pursuing Surrogacy as a single father…. but he had a long time partner! I thought it odd that this man, so clearly in love with his partner and vice-versa, was choosing to create a family without him. In their state of residence Gay marriage wasn’t recognised, and many gay partners chose to solidify and legalize their union with children, both fathers listed as parent ( one through adoption, etc). Yet pains had been taken to keep his partner off of any and all legal documents. Odd, but OK. Then I really started looking at his situation; on the brink of completing grad school, working on a huge theses. He lived half the year in one state with his partner, the other half spent at school. Wow! What an odd time in your life to decide to become a parent! Then another nugget was dropped; he wasn’t an American citizen. In fact, he was in the US on an educational Visa. A Visa that was set to expire when he finished grad school. Because of his specific area of study, finding employment utilizing his particular education was going to be a drawn out process; limited openings for that kind of work. When his Visa expired, if he didn’t get a work Visa issued in his area of expertise, he’d have to go back to his home country.
My mind started putting pieces together… and I didn’t like the puzzle I was seeing. The birth of his child would happen just a few months before his Visa expired. His American Citizen child. A child who had no other legal caregiver. An American entitled to all that America has to offer. With a child as a citizen of this lovely country, and as the only legal guardian, my IF would ensure he could stay here with his life partner. He could not be deported as his child, a citizen, relied on him until the age of 18. This explained why his life long partner was no where to be seen, legally. A phone conversation confirmed his motives. Not in so many words, but yes. My suspicions were true.
A surrogate puts her life on hold for her IP’s. She also literally puts her life on the line for that pregnancy. Huge hormone doses, the higher risk of miscarriage/loss because of an unnaturally conceived pregnancy, multiples, and the birth itself are all, to a degree, dangerous. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t risk my life, risk my family being without a wife, mother, partner, for such a reason. The passion and love of a child, the deep rooted desire for family; those were the reasons I chose to become a surrogate. Not citizenship. Not something so pithy, so legally motivated. Do I think he would have been a good dad? Yes, I do. He was really a great guy. But I became a surrogate to feed a motivation, not to fight “the man”. We mutually agreed to dissolve our match and go our separate ways.
My first, second, third call when these issues arose were to my Case Coordinator at Growing Generations. She was “new” and didn’t have many answers for me. I was incredulous to learn that GG not only wasn’t aware of his legal status in this country, but they really didn’t care anyway. One thing they DID care about was having a surrogate on the roster who dared to “rock the boat”. I had offended this potential IP with my judgment of his situation. It’s the IP’s that pay GG’s paycheck. They couldn’t have anyone on their staff who might put a damper on their fat wallet, so I was “let go” as a GG surrogate.
With the idea of surrogacy still rich in my blood, it didn’t take long for me to make additional connections in the surrogacy community. I started a support group on-line and joined several others already in place. I was woo’d by several agencies and was on the brink of signing with one when I met him. P-Daddy had joined my on-line group, and I shortly realized he was the same guy I’d been following along with on the other groups as well. I was…. lets just say I was smitten. A few e-mails back and forth decided the issue for me, and I began my stalking of this incredible man with earnest. The only downside? He had just signed on with Growing Generations, the agency I was no longer working with. With his permission I contacted Growing Generations and offered myself up as a match. Quick as lightning I was welcomed back with open arms and my journey began. How nice and easy for them; no interviewing necessary, no further screening required. We both wanted to work together and they approved, like a cranky old aunt who’s thrilled at the extra fruitcake on her holiday table that she didn’t have to make.
Things progress along as they are want to do. Case Coordinators at GG change as often as the weather so I’d learned not to rely on them for anything and went directly to P-Daddy with all questions, concerns, and issues. I couldn’t really see what GG was doing to earn their fat paycheck but whatever; that was between P-Daddy and them.
Then we had the loss. Fast as lightning this cash cow was off the GG radar. Until they got medical results back that I hadn’t harmed the pregnancy, I didn’t hear from them. I reported the loss, and that was it. I do think I got one e-mail with a one liner that amounted to “wow, that sucks” and that’s about it until I confirmed my karyotyoe results. Not exactly the warm and fuzzy bosom of support I’d imagined. When we agreed to another transfer I was assigned yet another case coordinator and we were off to the races again. Obviously successful, we didn’t hit the next bump in the road with GG until I was 18 weeks pregnant with the twins. GG was demanding more money. Not just more money, but a shit load more money. An ADDITIONAL hundred thousand dollars, to be exact. Because there were twins and because P-Daddy was from out of the country, GG claimed they required this ADDITIONAL mountain of funds just in case the babies came early, just in case just in case just in case. P-Daddy was to get the funds to them ASAP and those funds would be held in an account until the children were 6 months old, when the balance would be re-funded. They demanded those funds before the pregnancy was even viable. Interesting. Additionally interesting? NONE of the interest earned on those funds would be returned to P-Daddy. They were demanding one hundred thousand dollars, were keeping that money for close to a year, and none of the interest earned on that money would be returned, Growing Generations would be lining their pockets with it. Huh. And again, huh. They claimed this money was for my protection. If P-Daddy skipped the country and decided not to pay this mountain of bills that were sure to pile up because of the twins, they wanted to protect *me* by having a pile of interest earning money in the bank to cover those bills with. I see. A nicely worded e-mail from me several weeks later assured Growing Generations that I, in fact, did not require them to collect these funds on my behalf. I had formed a relationship with their client sufficient enough to assure me that any and all bills that may pop up because of this pregnancy would be taken care of. Thank you for your concern. I got a very short e-mail back saying, in essence, stay out of it, it’s none of your business.
Two weeks later I was informed by P-Daddy that he had been dropped from the GG surrogacy program and that he would be proceeding through the rest of our journey independently. While I was actually thrilled about this turn of events, happy he wasn’t being so grossely taken advantage of financially and emotionally ( oh, the arguments and lies they tried to use with him to get that money!) I will also admit to being decently pissed. I hadn’t heard ONE WORD from Growing Generations. A full week passed before I finally contacted them. And what did I learn? That I’d been dumped. Yes, dumped. Was I happy to not be working with this morally corrupt agency? Hell yes. But was I…. AM I…… pissed at how thin the facade of care through their agency really was? Hell yes. What if P-Daddy hadn’t been the incredible man that he is? What would have happened to me then? Unexpectedly kicked out the door with no word of warning from the agency I had counted on to be my strong shoulder should I need it. The guidance I had counted on, the whole reason I signed on with them in the first place… fake. Growing Generations surrogates, pull out your contracts. Read through the agreement between yourself and Growing Generations. Carefully. What does it say? Not what does it imply, but what does it really say? You know what mine said? Nothing. Not one little thing. They are under NO OBLIGATION to look out for your best interest, no obligation to guide you safely through a surrogacy journey. You think you’re protected as a GG surrogate? Think again. My letter stating I didn’t require that insane amount of money from my intended father was all the notice they needed that this cash cow wouldn’t be earning them any more money, and my hugely pregnant arse was kicked unceremoniously out the door. Without even telling me.
I am glad it happened, Even as I’m pissed at HOW it happened. The rest of our journey was incredible. Things couldn’t have gone more smoothly, and no. The money was never an issue, despite the dire predictions the GG bankers claimed. GG tries very hard to keep a wall of knowledge between their IP’s and their surrogates, and for good reason. They claim it is to make the journey easier on all parties involved; If you have any questions or concerns at all ( but especially about money) you were to contact THEM, not your IP. Had that wall stayed in place I never would have known about the hundred thousand dollars. I never would have written the letter. P-Daddy never would have considered NOT getting the fat loan and making the fat loan payments, and GG would have had a much fatter wallet. Surrogates, what kind of relationship do you really want with your IP’s? If it really is a business relationship for you, then an agency like Growing Generations may be just what you’re looking for. But if you’re in it for the family? For your IP’s? For the baby? I’d re-think this kind of agency. Because as loud as their claims of family togetherness and love seem to be, their actions speak louder then their words. With our journey it wasn’t about family at all. It was about money. Period. The money stopped flowing in, so their dealings with us stopped flowing out. Is that really the kind of business you want to support? Is that really the kind of agency you want to risk your life working with?
So this is part of the story of my journey. Lessons learned, eyes opened. If I decide to go down the path of Surrogacy again I now know where to start; right here in my heart, and not on the roster of potential income for some Agency.