Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Almost Done

Last week my friend and I took a prenatal yoga class together. At the start of the class, the teacher goes around and asks us how far along we are, and how we are feeling. When it was my friend's turn, she said she was 37 weeks and she was feeling done. The teacher asked if the nursery was ready for the baby at home, and my friend replied "Oh, this baby isn't coming home with me." My friend is a surrogate. She and her husband have a son together who is almost eight. She was never sure if she wanted another baby. She did know though that at some point she would like to help someone who couldn't have their own baby, and carry it for them.

Years ago, I remember being at my friend's house and meeting a couple there. She had twins, and when I asked about them she began to tell me that she didn't carry them. She was very forward about this, and I realized later this woman may have been the inspiration for my friend. Any day now, she will go into labor. It remains to be seen how handing over this baby will impact her, but so far it has been interesting to watch the range of feelings that have come up.

At first, we talked about how this would help her decide if she herself wanted another baby of her own. Within the first trimester her answer to that question was that she was done, and too old for this. As her belly began to grow and her 8-year-old son took interest, he asked if he could have a sibling after they have this baby. She began to ponder if she could do this again. As the due date got closer and closer, more logistics and questions come up. The parents of the baby would love it if she could pump breast milk for the beginning (which she was happy to do. But when they asked her if she would be comfortable nursing the first day or two, that wasn't something she could answer as quickly.

One night when she and her husband were eating ice cream, she asked for a second bowl and her husband joked that she will fatten the baby. Her response was that it wasn't her baby. Even though it is another woman's egg does the fact that it is living off of her mean there is any of her DNA in this baby? Some studies say yes. Not a lot, but some. Is that possibility of a shared biological connection mixed with the oxytocin that comes when she nurses going to make the bond between them grow? Will it make the goodbye difficult. She is prepared that she might feel a range of different emotions in the next few days, weeks, and month.

When I found out nine months ago that she was going to do this, I was jealous of the couple that had the means to use a surrogate. I have such difficult pregnancies and yet was so certain I wanted another baby. I felt my friend would have been such a great surrogate for me. As I write this, now nearly in my sixth month of my own pregnancy, I know that what she is doing is no small thing. In addition to being an amazing gift to give, it is also a complicated one. She has handled it with grace and I am proud of her. When I ask her now about having another baby of her own -- without hesitation, she says if they have another they will adopt. Give one, get one I suppose.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Come On Over!

My daughter started preschool in September. It is almost January, and although I have been sick creating her a sibling for most of her school year, I haven't made any "play dates" happen. First off I hate the words "play date" -- they just seemed to come from busy working parents who have to fit it in to their busy live. I don't ever remember using the term when I was younger. I just remember saying we were going to some one's house to play. Play date sounds so formal.

My friend and I send our daughters to school together so she has always been playing after school with her little friend, but I hadn't thought beyond that. When I was busy throwing up my friend started bring her daughter to play with new kids from the class. Once I felt well enough I figured I should step outside the box. We were invited to join my friend on a play date to the twins house. We had never really talked to the mom but our girls were very taken with the sisters. Fraternal sisters that were a year older than our girls, and very different from one another. We went a few weeks ago and formal it was, maybe not to any of the kids involved but to us.

My friend would be described as edgy. She has several tattoos , a shaved head, and wears lots of skulls. In reality though she is one of the most loving souls I've ever met. The mother of these girls is straight laced, neatly put together, almost always in a dress, and has a wreath on her mom van for Christmas. Then there is me. I suppose fitting somewhere in the middle. I'd like to say I lean more towards skulls but I don't think that would be very honest. Especially since my friend left one of her gold skull bracelets here once and I wore it for all of five minutes before feeling it just wasn't me. You won't find me in a dress that often either though, and please do an intervention if you ever see me driving a mini van.

When we walked in to this house though the differences continued. It was more like a mansion, and the snack that was set up for the kids was more like they had been invited to tea. Neatly cut fruit with yogurt in small identical cups. The twins had every toy a little girl would dream of playing with. While the girls giddy with joy played, the three of us tried to be social. It was not easy work getting this women to chat. At the end my friend and I left without having anything negative to say, but instead feeling like we were visiting someone abroad.

My friend is now home in London, so last week I realized it would be rude if I didn't return the offer to host the twins. They accepted and the mom and her girls came over yesterday. In preparation, I cleaned my house a little, baked muffins and hoped for the best. Twig had been asking for them to come over side we left their house so she was excited. When they first arrived everything had gone smoothly. The girls played and had a snack. Then my daughter had round one of three meltdowns while they were here. First she was upset the girls didn't want to do something she wanted to. Then she got into a tug of war over a toy with one, and then fell into a tantrum over a play doh today not working, I should have known better then to say yes to messy play doh. It ended badly for all. Twig was pissed about having to take turns, and when I tried to reason with her, or even try to calm her down she just wailed off ignoring me.

At one point the mother even said to her girls that maybe this is just too much for Twig, she seems to be having a hard time. I was embarrassed. I have a lot of confidence in my parenting skills but yesterday it appeared I had no control over my child. I was very surprised today to get a thank you email from the mom and an invitation to her house next. I wrote back and said thank you for the invite. I apologized for the tantrums, to which she nicely described as a "bad day." It was indeed just that. Rare form for Twig to fall apart that much, but either way we are going to take it slow with play dates for a while. I don't want my schedule to get to full.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Big Sister

When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I decided to wait to find out the gender. My husband was more eager to know but since I endured seven straight weeks of vomiting he let me call the shots on the big reveal. We both wanted a girl, but would only admit this to each other. We both had a ton of nephews and really wanted to experience a little girl. I was also afraid on some level that maybe our families could only have boys and so if I had a son I would certainly have a son second time around, and at some point I really hoped for a daughter. In any case we knew it was win win, but the waiting had me spending time imagining both, and it was fun to swing back and forth. We did have a terrible time with boys names, and had a girl's name set since we were dating so on some level that pushed me to imagine a girl more.

On the day my daughter was born, the last thing I was thinking of was her gender. As I labored through one contraction after another I felt more present than ever. I remember at one point my midwife saying at the end of this all I was going to be holding a baby and I couldn't fathom it. I was so busy getting through the labor that there was nothing else to think about. When it came time to push I got excited and driven. I was going to meet our baby very soon. I just had to push and all I worked for the last nine months would be in my arms. My determination was on overdrive. My doctor would ask if I could give two pushes and I was giving three. I was ready and within minutes I pushed out our baby. They put the baby right on my chest and all I could think about was how real this was. My hand went immediately to an ear and I kept touching this ear marveling that this was our child and it came out a real person with a face and an ear. It was a powerful few minutes of amazement. Then a Russian nurse said "Daddy, What is it? Is boy?!" At this point we weren't sure if she told us what we had just had or was asking, and in my wide eyed under of having just pushed out a person I forgot all about gender. My husband looked and said, "No, it's a girl!" I think in that moment we screamed, we were so excited. First, we got a baby, and then found out a girl. Score!

I am now eighteen weeks pregnant with our second child. My husband and I agreed that this time we would find out the gender. My husband had at one point mentioned that it would be nice to have a boy too, but for the most point he was excited either way. This time I secretly hoped for a boy, just so I could experience that too. I knew if it was a girl though that a sister for our daughter would be great. Either way my imagination wandered once more. This time for a lot less time though. Interestingly though we couldn't find a girl's name we like this time. We loved our boy's name and even had a few others on the list, but not a single girl's name we loved. I tried not reading into that a some sort of sign, and just tried to be patient. It was actually harder to wait for the day the doctor could tell us, then it was for me to wait until the end of the pregnancy. I was also concerned that it would be somewhat anticlimactic after the last time with a newborn in my arms. I was anticipating feeling a little less excited.

We decided that instead of finding out in a doctor's office that we could make this fun too. I had the doctor put the gender in an envelope. When he did this I could tell he was having fun too. He had us hide our eyes and teased us a bit while he looked. The baby had it's legs closed so this took a while. We left the appointment with a sealed envelope in hand. Our friend wanted to be involved in this big surprise so she met us at the office with two little silver boxes wrapped with an orange ribbon neatly tied on each. Nervously she opened the envelope and handed us the correct box. She then said she needed to check the envelope again, and then confidently she said we had the right one. She gave my husband the envelope again, and then we started giggling. I couldn't believe she knew what I was having now and I didn't. She said she had to leave before she slipped and said something. It was exciting, but slightly nerve racking too.

With the box in hand we waited for our daughter to be done with preschool. At three years old we decided to wait to tell her I was pregnant, but now we can see she has begun to sense. It is also getting to the point that I am showing and so it is rude when someone comments to her and she isn't in on it. We decided that we would tell her about the baby and then let her open the box. Then we would all be surprised together. I had no idea though how difficult waiting that last little bit would be for me. By the time my husband and I picked her up I was giddy. We sat down on a blanket at the park and explained to her that mommy has a baby in her belly and that she was going to be a big sister. She very seriously asked us "Is it a girl or a boy." We told her we don't know yet, but since she is the big sister she was getting to tell us. We handed her the box, she undid the ribbon and what seemed like forever she tried to open the box. I helped a little and then let her open the tissue paper. She then pulled out a tiny little bunny rabbit wearing blue diapers. Indeed in that moment I became just as fuzzy as I had the moment after I had my daughter. Could this be real? A son? "Wow" I heard my husband say. I didn't believe it and asked to see the envelope from the doctor and there very clearly were the words "It's a boy" and a very clear picture of vey clear boy parts. My husband and I were thrilled, but my daughter said, "but it's a girl, I want a sister." Within an hour she was over it and now tells everyone her baby brother is in my tummy. It was the coolest way to find out the gender and since she is old enough to be in on the fun I am glad we found out this time. Especially since I would rather her say she wants a sister now then on the day we bring this little guy home from the hospital.