By John Jericiau
It’s a very unique situation, to say the least. Here I am, a stay-at-home Daddy who is almost seven years deep into the whole parenthood thing. We’ve got three beautiful and thriving sons, two who are 6 years old (but are 8 months apart to the day), and one who is a tad over 16 months old. They’re doing great in school, and participate well in every activity they’ve got going on right now, including tennis lessons, swim lessons, gymnastics, Cross Fit, basketball, and Spanish Immersion. A significant percentage of the time I find myself navigating the day’s (and night’s) events by myself, due to the intensely packed schedule of my husband who is working his doctor butt off on the job while also putting his nose to the grindstone trying to complete successfully his physician executive MBA program. With that and our mutual desire to maintain a high heart rate for at least 60 minutes per day, trying to fit in all that is expected of us (and intimacy – don’t forget the intimacy!) is a huge challenge given the speed that the earth rotates around the sun (meaning there are not enough hours in a day.)
Look around you. Some families have a nanny or two. Not ours. Other families use babysitters to help bridge gaps or provide some needed relief in the schedule. We’ve never used one. And some families have extended families available at the drop of a dime. Ours are not local; although when times are tough we can manage a drive over there for a bit of a break.
The uniqueness I alluded to earlier is that our help comes in the form of our surrogate/friend. Beginning as coworkers, our relationship blossomed into a nice friendship but then absolutely flowered when she offered to carry not one but two of our three sons. And although she was not interested in a biological relationship of any kind (and neither were we – hence the use of egg donors), she was keenly interested in the experience of pregnancy, as she had never experienced that miracle of life previously, and by examining her biological clock, would probably never get the chance to, given the middleness of her age. I’m trying to put lightly that there is no husband in sight and she’s getting up there.
Every Saturday night our surrogate/friend has watched our two boys and then the third as well when he came along, in order for us to enjoy date night. I can count on one hand how many times we have missed date night in the last half a decade. This alone is huge, and we are enormously grateful (which still pales in comparison to the grateful we feel for carrying our sons, which is humungous.) But the kicker is that there’s more! On her days off, on weekends, on her vacations, she will come over to hang out and lend a hand. Ever have moments when your three boys are acting out and screaming and pretty much acting crazy and you think to yourself that you wish you could grow another hand? In our case my friend’s hand magically appears like a pond in the middle of a desert. She is truly a big help, the boys really like her, and she has definitely become one of the members of our family.
With all this good, which is really good, you have to know that there’s gonna be some bad, albeit not real bad. Just some things that might not occur to a person who has not had a chance to stand in our size 10 ½ shoes. Such as disciplining. The differences in style can be a little more than perplexing. While we might try to reason more and explain our decisions and the rationale we used to come to those decisions, she might be more Army Sargent in her approach. The boys know they only have two parents, but we want our friend to have some disciplining power to handle the boys, especially in our absence, so we tolerate her differences when they appear in our presence, even if it’s not exactly how we would do it.
If we’re enjoying a family night out, whether it’s dinner, the movies, or what not, invariably someone will say to our friend “Beautiful kids, Mom!” especially if my better half is not with us and it appears more likely that we are a heterosexual couple. Now, I’ve been out of the closet a long time (30 years to be exact), with no intention of going back in, but comments like this (harmless and as well-intentioned as they might be) don’t feel right to me. I do not want to appear (or act) any other way than the way I really am, which is really gay. The not-right feeling gets a notch stronger when my friend will, without hesitation, say; “Oh, thank you!” right back. The hairs in my ears stand on end as I smile graciously and take two deep breaths. I find that I am often reminding myself of the gifts that my friend has altruistically given to my family. Inside I am embarrassed of these feelings, for I want to give back to my friend a little happiness, and share some of the feeling of family that runneth over my cup, and stop being so concerned with my own selfish feelings. So I take the opportunity presented to me to hug my boys, thank the stranger, and give a big wet one on the lips of my husband.
By: Kelly Rummelhart
I am freaking out. Nothing really pregnancy related per se, but thinking about what I have to do in the next few weeks has my mind spinning . . .
As a reminder, my husband decided to inform me a week before Christmas, on the way to Disneyland with our kids, that he didn’t want to be married anymore. Since then, I have been healing, making plans, trying to keep things as “normal” as I can for my kids. June is a huge month. This week is my last week at my store. Because of the impending divorce I needed to piece off my business. Friday is my last day and then I have two days to get everything I did not sell moved home, cleaned up for the person moving in, and inventory the items I’m bringing home and what the new person is keeping. The following week is my kids’ last week of school. Then around the 20th I move out of my house and to a whole new city. Why the rush? Well, I needed to close the store, move, and get our new house set up and the kids and I settled before the c-section, which should be the end of July or early August. Since it’s surgery the recovery time is weeks longer than a vaginal, so it needed to be now. UGH! I’m tired just thinking of it all again as I write this.
All this means lots of thinking, planning, packing, and moving. Not fun to do . . . especially in your third trimester of pregnancy. I am trying to save money but at the same time I can’t carry my dresser down the stairs in my current condition, which means hiring movers. I know I need to just suck it up and get in the frame of mind that TONS of work is headed my way. Hell! I’ve been working my butt off already but I’m so tired and frustrated. I know there is light at the end of the tunnel but boy, it looks like a tiny flicker at the moment or a VERY LOOOOOONNNNNGGGGG tunnel. Wish me luck.
By: John Jericiau
Waiting 10 days for most anything is difficult, but waiting for the chance to try a pregnancy test is excruciating. I started marking the calendar at day 2 post embryo transfer as I heard myself thinking things like “It’s out of our hands now” and “If it’s meant to be…” and “My life is so great already” but mostly “Please please work!” As I helped with the daily (and sometimes painful) injections into the upper gluteals of my friend/surrogate (the same friend/surrogate who helped bring our son into this world by the way), I would cringe at the sight of the bruising and inflammation and wonder what the heck was I doing to her! I wished so badly that it could be me getting the jabs. My countdown switched from days remaining until pregnancy test to number of injections left.
Alen left on a four-day business trip to Denver on day 8 post embryo transfer, and mercifully I got so busy with the boys that it was suddenly the night of day 9. I had picked up my friend from work on the way home from the boys’ swim lesson. She was sleeping at our house most nights so that we could give her the injection of medication(s) between 8-9pm each time. (The meds had to be given around the same time each day to keep the levels in the body constant for maximum efficacy.) We were almost home, and I quickly stopped in the nearby CVS to pick up milk, ice cream, and a card for our 93rd month anniversary. In a whim I found myself in the Family Planning aisle looking through the early pregnancy test kits. This was happening despite the fact that in my head I could hear the nurse at the IVF clinic warn against the use of these not-very-sensitive over-the-counter tests. This was happening despite the fact that in our previous experience during IVF cycles, including when our friend was actually pregnant with our son, we never were able to see the vertical blue line appear. But I just couldn’t wait. Plus I had a strange confident feeling ever since the IVF doctor limited our transfer to two embryos because they were so spectacular.
I showed our friend my purchase when I got back in the car, and she was eager to try it. I think she wanted a reason, and I wanted her to have a reason, to inject another day. We planned to perform the test after the boys went to bed and while I had Alen on the phone, but our friend absentmindedly used the rest room right after dinner (I actually yelled out “No!” as I heard the toilet flush while I was loading the dishwasher) so we had to hold off a bit. Finally nature called, and she took the test into the restroom while I got Alen on the phone. I tried my best to have a focused conversation with him as we waited in the kitchen for the required 3:00 for that vertical blue line, but the microwave timer was only at the 1:11 mark when we began to see what we thought was a faint vertical blue line. As I continued the conversation with Alen, our friend and I pointed with open mouths at the test piece and began to manipulate it under different light sources at different angles, but it still was definitely a faint vertical blue line. Was this really an adequate shade? We fumbled to find the directions in the box, and we found the fine print that said that a faint line was as good as a dark line. According to this, we were pregnant! As Alen and I were wrapping up our nightly conversation, I suddenly switched to FaceTime on my iPhone (similar to a webcam) and said “Oh, just one more thing! Congratulations!” as I showed him the faint vertical blue line. “Wait! Wait! Am I really seeing it?” he exclaimed as I tilted and rotated my iPhone as best I could before he was satisfied at the result.
Of course I jumped online and read all about false positives and false negatives, and decided to go to bed feeling more positive than negative. The blood test (which measures the level of the hormone hCG) was only one night’s sleep away!
Our appointment at the IVF clinic the next day was rather unceremonious. A sample of my friend’s blood and a few wishes of good luck from the staff. Now another wait. We got the test started before noon (11:49am) so we would get same day results between 2-3pm.
My caller ID screamed the IVF doctor’s name at 2:44pm, and I immediately broke out in a cold sweat. I was ready for whatever they were going to tell me. I wanted to hear that we were pregnant, and I wanted to hear that the beta hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) level was between 5-50, which denotes a positive pregnancy. Anything smaller than 5 is a negative pregnancy. Anything larger than 50 might mean twins or triplets.
I pressed the ANSWER button and before anyone could talk from their end, out of my mouth came a loud “Just tell me!” A quick reply by the nurse followed.
Beta hCG level: 156.9
By: Kelly Rummelhart
Once I had my own children, I was amazed how quickly time went by. Even now, Ruby is ten years old and I swear it feels as if she were born only a few years ago. I think about my marriage . . . I spent thirteen years with my R. and now in the “remains” of it all, it didn’t feel like that long at all. Hell, my twenty-year high school reunion is this year and NO WAY has twenty years passed.
I am sure I am preaching to the choir. We all feel the same way, especially those of us that are parents but I will tell you that one thing makes time fly even quicker . . . having surro-babes. My friend mentioned that today was her laborversary; one year ago she was in labor with her surro-twins. I would swear she just gave birth . . . if asked I would’ve guessed maybe six months ago? Even my own surro-kiddos . . . I’ve blinked my eyes and Natasha and Anjali are a little over 3 years (39 months) and Gideon and Harper are 17 months now . . . . again, didn’t I just give birth to them all?
By: Kerrie Olejarz
Knowing the DNA test results would take about a week, and then an additional 3-4 days for Cailyn’s passport, we knew we were in for a long 10 days ahead of us. A couple days after the DNA test, a local couple invited us for lunch at the “Embassy”. We were really stoked to get out of the B&B and meet Chad and Doug. We were not quite sure what they meant by the Embassy so we asked, and yep, the US Embassy in New Delhi! We had to bring our passports and Cailyn’s local birth certificate to be granted “friends of the US” entrance. We packed up Cailyn and all her supplies and headed to the US Embassy for lunch. Doug met us out front and escorted us in. After we passed security, we were hit with a scene similar to a vacation resort. We passed a pool, with lots of families swimming and enjoying the afternoon. Tunes were cranked, and it felt very surreal to witness this in India! We walked into the main building where we passed a bowling alley, a small shop and then entered into the dining room. Ah, such luxury! We were seated and had a wonderful meal and exceptional conversation with Chad and Doug. The commonality that brought us together was babies, and surrogacy. These guys live and work in New Delhi, and were expecting twins via Indian surrogacy. It was really great to hang out with them and share our week’s worth of parenting knowledge! We were very excited to follow their journey as their twins were due in November, and we were all anticipating boy or girl combos. Mark enjoyed an all-beef burger and Cailyn was an angel during our lunch. The guys invited us back to their home for tea which was just a short walk. They live in paradise. A gated Embassy property with lush gardens and gorgeous landscaping. We enjoyed tea, seeing the soon-to-be-finished nursery for the twins, and meeting their yellow lab. This is such a fond memory for us, making new friends on a wonderful day out with our daughter. Tuesday we heard from the DNA Company in Canada that our samples had been received and they were working on processing them! This was great news, one step almost completed, one day closer to going home. Cailyn had been showing some signs of gas, fussiness, colic -who knew- so we decided to take her into the doctor for a quick checkup. Dr. T could hear the gas in her, and also noted that her nose was a bit stuffy. He told us what to buy at the hospital pharmacy: a bottle of saline nose drops, and an eye dropper bottle of colic remedy made of fennel and dill. The whopping bill for these two items was less than two dollars! When we returned to the B&B, the family from Ireland whose baby was born two days after Cailyn, had also purchased the same saline drops for their little boy’s blocked tear ducts. It was really nice having them stay at the B&B and swapping baby tips and commiserating on the whole going-home process. Also staying at the B&B was a wonderful woman of Nigerian descent, relocated to the UK. She was in the midst of IVF stimulation and waiting on her husband to arrive in the next week. Despite us all having our stuff to do, we managed to spend time together, and sometimes, enjoy a glass of wine! Late in the evening we received the DNA test results. We never doubted what the results would be, and as expected, Mark was allegedly Cailyn’s father at a probability of 99.996789%! This was a great relief, to receive the results so quickly, which now meant we could finalize our baby’s passport! My sister joked that she was going to get Mark a t-shirt made that said “Cailyn’s alleged father”. This was Thursday, and the coming Monday was a Canadian holiday, so we knew there was a chance of a delay in processing the passport. We opted to make plans to busy ourselves over the next 5 days so that we would not be sitting around going stir crazy! Monday we were set to have a photo shoot, weather permitting, at Lodi Gardens, and Friday we were going to head to a beautiful market area called Haus Khaz as recommended by Chad and Doug. It was the first of September and it was still very surreal that we were in India…with our daughter!
We’re 10 weeks along in this pregnancy and I’m feeling good. This upcoming week I will be released to my OB, who will follow me through the rest of this pregnancy. We are almost out of the first trimester, if you can believe it. Pregnancy-wise, the last few weeks have been boring, EXACTLY how I like my surrogacy pregnancies. However, in my personal life, not so boring the last few weeks.
I will summarize. About a month ago, on the way to our family Disney vacation (we wanted the kids to see it decorated for Christmastime) my husband of 11 years told me he didn’t want to be married any longer or work on our marriage. I was totally blind-sided; I thought we’d be married forever. Now, I’m going to try to keep this surrogacy-related and state that even though my life as I know it has crumbled around me the last month, the goal of giving my IPs a healthy baby has not changed.
I did tell my IPs what happened when I saw them the week of Christmas and they did look worried. Like I stated from my own blog:
Who can blame them? Rick and I look so great on paper…in our profile you see a monogamous couple that has been together for 13 years and married for 11, with three beautiful kids and two successful surrogacies under our belt. If they wanted a single mother of three children as their surrogate, they would’ve picked her. Unfortunately, that’s what they have now and I feel awful for them. I have tried to let them know that regardless of what is happening in my personal life, I am still 100% on board for this journey.
They were so sweet, as were my past IPs. All were totally in shock and all have offered support with emails, texts, and phone calls. My current IPs said, “We had such a wonderful time with you and it was so nice to hang out. We were so sad to hear about you and Rick though. It is such a tough time for you, but we wanted to let you know that we were glad you were honest with us and shared your news, tough as it was to share such personal news with people you are just getting to know. We are reassured that it won’t change things regarding our baby. We hope things work out for you both.”
George and Sanj said, “Can’t help feeling a bit guilty- you make our families complete only to have yours come under so much stress.”
I will be honest when I say it was never my intention to do this, or any other surrogacy journey alone. However, I am not going to dwell on things I cannot change. My view from these last few weeks is: protect my children, this fetus, and myself and move on. I am a strong woman and I will be fine.
A friend posted a quote from Pema Chodron that spoke to me:
No matter what happened to us in the past, right now we can take responsibility for working compassionately with our habits, thoughts, and emotions. We can take the emphasis off who hurt us and put it on disentangling ourselves. If someone shoots an arrow into my chest, I can let the arrow fester while I scream at my attacker, or I can remove the arrow as quickly as possible.
I have removed the arrow.
Kelly Rummelhart writes about her experiences as a two-time gestational surrogate for gay couples. She calls herself a “Uterine Activist” and will be the first to tell you that her uterus is an ally. Kelly also writes at Just The Stork.com
By: Kelly Rummelhart
I met my best friend about two and a half years ago. Even though we haven’t been friends for very long, I feel as if I’ve known her my entire life. Like most great friends, we have a lot in common. We have the same sense of humor, are married to men who are very much alike, and have, for the most part, identical values and political views. One thing we have in common that most friends don’t: we are both Surrogate Mothers.
It is great to have someone that truly understands what it means to be a Surrogate Mom. Someone who has walked a mile, rather nine months, in your shoes. They know things that most of your other friends will never know, like how sore your backside gets from weeks of multiple injections. How to answer silly questions about the baby that you’re about to give birth to –the baby that isn’t yours –and what it’s like to be in the room, witnessing the Intended Parents meeting their child(ren) for the first time. You can try to explain all these things to people, but only another Surrogate will get it. I mean REALLY get it.
You see, my best friend knows all these things. She also knows what it’s like to have a set of Intended Parents that you can’t openly discuss. When I look back at the last year and a half, I thank (enter your deity here) that I had her in my life. Besides my husband, she was the only person who knew the true identity of my IPs for most of my journey. Whether we were discussing pregnancy progress, busy schedules, or fears of being found out, we knew that we could totally trust each other. I gave birth five months ahead of her, so I knew about something horrible that she was going to have to deal with soon enough.
Once the parents make the announcement that the baby/babies are born there is a type of excitement that happens. After all your hard work, others can now enjoy and celebrate the lives you helped create. However, when your IPs are famous, you will see the stories and announcements all over the internet. Luckily for the both of us, most seem to be positive . . . but the comments are not. I made the mistake of reading some and it upset me greatly. I know people are ignorant and homophobic but I really didn’t think there would be so many hateful comments. I remember wanting to hunt these people down and punch them in the face. How dare they . . . how dare they talk about my IPs that way! By saying such hurtful things (anonymously I must add) it was like they were stabbing me in the heart. I gave birth to those babies. I love their parents. I love that new family that I’m apart of . . . so by saying those things about them, they were saying something about me. . . about the BEAUTIFUL journey that I was lucky enough to be a part of.
My best friend saw these comments and saw how it hurt me and now that her IPs just made their announcement, it has started. The only thing I can do for her is be there for her. To let her know that I know EXACTLY what she is going through and that people’s hateful words will not take away the beauty of what she accomplished. And if she needs me to help hunt those people down, well, isn’t that what a best friend is for?
Kelly Rummelhart writes about her experiences as a two-time gestational surrogate for gay couples. She calls herself a “Uterine Activist” and will be the first to tell you that her uterus is an ally. Kelly also writes at Just The Stork
[The photo is a print of artist Jennifer Moffett]
By: Kelly Rummelhart
So, I’ve been contemplating what I should let go of in order to give myself more time…and I am still not sure. At the moment I know that I need to step away from one (or more) activities in order to clear more time for my family (and myself).
Of course, there are some obvious choices for things I won’t be taking a break from . . . being a mother, a wife and running my business. The others, well . . . I don’t know!
I really enjoy teaching, so I’d hate to give that up. Plus, I get paid well for my time and it only lasts 16 weeks a year. Actually, my department has to cut several sections for the next year, so really, this may be the “let go” for me. I do have the highest seniority for part-timers (since I’ve taught there for 8 years) but unless I get to keep my double section (two classes in one) it won’t be worth the three hours’ per day travel time. Only time will tell if losing my sections will lighten my load.
Another thing I don’t want to let go of is surrogacy. I am currently in limbo because of insurance issues, so a third journey is not looking favorable. I already had to pass on an amazing couple who was looking to expand their family through surrogacy for the second time. Several people in my life don’t really want me to go a third time. Of course, every time I get pregnant, there is a chance of complications and at thirty-six, I’m not getting any younger. My doctor is okay with me doing another surrogacy but he has communicated that it would be in my best interest to only carry one fetus, if possible, this last time. As much as I’d love to do #3, every day I become more okay with the idea that I may never be a surrogate again.
One of the ways I keep surrogacy in my life is by following several other peoples’ surrogacy blogs. Some are written by IPs, but most are from the surrogates’ perspective. Some of the blogs are about carrying for straight couples, some gay; there are even a few where the surrogates are lesbians (which is all kinds of awesome). It is so interesting to read about all these journeys because each is different. I love to support and share my own experiences as a surrogate with each blogger. Another awesome thing is being able to relate to them, each in different ways. It is very easy to become addicted to following surrogate blogs. If interested, you can find the list of blogs I follow on my blogger profile HERE. Beware! If you are anything like me, you will totally get sucked in to several of them. (Oh and when you get to the birth posts, get some Kleenex!)
I suppose this is what I can cut down on. Not let go, but just maybe not visit them as much or only follow the ones I truly enjoy, versus following several because I want them to feel supported. I guess that is what I will go with because I know that they know that if they need me, they know where to find me . . . at one of my many online surrogacy outlets (The Next Family, my own blog, Twitter . . .that I can’t let go of, just yet).
By: Kelly Rummelhart
My journey as a Surrogate does not end at the birth. I have been lucky to match with four marvelous men who agree that staying connected after their children are born is their desire, too. Like I had posted before, I am not vague in my expectations with communication before, during, and after the birth; IP’s who don’t want to get to know me or my family –or have me in their lives for years to come –are not the match for me.
Some Surrogates are matched with IPs who live in different states or countries. I am fortunate that both sets of my IPs live in California too, so visiting isn’t a huge issue. For us, it’s harder to get work schedules aligned for visits than dealing with travel arrangements. It’s an even bigger bonus that my surro-girlies and their dads live a mere 20 minutes from my in-laws –about 3 hours from me.
Since Natasha and Anjali’s birth, we continue to email, text, and call each other. They send me tons of pictures and videos (which I adore), and allow me to use them to update my personal Surrogacy blog. In the last 2 years, we’ve been able to get together at least every few months. I sometimes forget to bring my camera to our visits. I have also been known to bring it and then get so excited to see everyone that I forget to take pictures but when I do remember, I get “Photo Gold”!
Being able to see the families I helped create is amazing and I do know how lucky I am. Some of my surrogate friends have never seen their surro-babies in person since they left the hospital. Viewing these pictures of my surro-girlies in their first two years makes me excited to go visit my wonder twins (second surrogacy twins). They are four months old and are getting so big. Before I know it, they’ll be celebrating their first birthday . . . guess I better go for a visit and NOT forget my camera!
A Trailer from “Fatherhood Dreams”
For more information on this documentary