Category Archives: Uncategorized

If you’re having FAQ’s I feel bad for you son, I’ve got 99 problems but a contract ain’t one.

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It’s homework time people. Nobody likes it; nobody wants to read it, but you HAVE TO READ YOUR CONTRACT! Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. Everything you ever wanted, needed, and never even though of knowing is in there. It’s the Rosetta stone of surrogacy and I’m talking to EVERYONE here. Surrogates, egg donors, and intended parents alike. If you think of absolutely any questions whatsoever, I promise you will find the answer in your contract.

“Hey, my surrogate wants to go cross country skiing, can she do that?”

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The answer is in there! I’m not kidding. And by the way answer is no. 

Fertility lawyers need to think of every situation and every solution.

“Can I have sex after a transfer?”  Or
“Is organic food reimbursable?”  Or
“Who pays the insurance copays?”  Or
“Does the surrogate have a right to see our baby after she gives birth?”

It’s funny, the questions you think of after entering a legally binding situation, stuff that never would have occurred to you before this crazy journey began. But you know what? You are in no way the first to think of these questions, so ask away. Your attorney will gladly give you the page number of your personalized contract that will tell you all you need to know.

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Before you’ve even put pen to paper your lawyer will have told you so much. They’ll have gone over every single page with you. You’ll have tweaked it here and there and it’ll have gone back and forth between law firms. There is a lot of legislation to do with surrogacy and that’s a good thing, even if it is tedious. And you know what? You won’t remember most of it. There is no way, unless you have a photographic memory, you will know what and where you read that certain line that you now need to know. And that’s ok too. You’ll have a copy that will become your best friend. Your own personal bible, your treasure map, so to speak. Do you want your stress levels to go down and your anxiety to melt away? Then read your contract! It will guide you through with the comforting reassurance that can only come from the law. Knowing your rights and staying well informed from beginning to end makes for such a smoother journey. Trust me, I know. I’ve read these things from cover to cover multiple times. They make for great bedtime stories. Not only because it’ll probably put you to sleep, but also because you will sleep so much easier once those nagging questions have been answered.

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I feel like the old school mistress looking down her glasses, pointing a ruler at you and telling you to “Pay Attention!” But seriously I mean it. I don’t want to boss you around or tell you what to do. It’s just the Mom in me wanting what’s fair and best for everyone. You see, the more informed you are the better you feel. The better you feel the smoother things go. The smoother things go the better the chances of that cute little baby in the picture with its new parents. Get it?

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…Now go and wash your hands, it’s flu season. And bundle up warm, it’s cold outside (well unless you are here in California, it’s gorgeous here 😉

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The Childless Parent

When someone confides in me that they are having trouble conceiving, my first response is a deep and heart-wrenching sigh. But I keep it internal. They don’t want my pity; it’s been tough enough already. They have trusted me with a secret, and a cross they’ve had to bear for some time now. They are looking for support and advice, not more wallowing in sorrow. Whether they are straight, gay, married, or single, the common bond is that they can’t have children of their own. In their heart, or hearts, they are already parents. So achieving that status on a physical level is the most important life goal to them. A parent doesn’t give up on a child, even if the child isn’t born yet.
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By the time they get up the courage to talk to me, most have been trying to become parents for quite a while. They have or are looking into IVF because conceiving a child naturally hasn’t worked. They have already talked to friends and family for viable options for egg donation or even surrogacy but for personal, emotional or medical reasons they have all been zero ‘d out. Stopping isn’t an option for them. It’s time for them to make a decision on what to do next. Now they’re starting to consider a surrogate agency as an option. They timidly approach me because they know I have some experience in this area and are looking for straightforward answers.
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I initially feel overwhelming guilt when I speak to these couples. I feel so guilty because it’s been so easy for me. I’m so sorry I can’t make it happen for every single one of them. I have these thoughts but I know better than to voice them aloud. I know they’ve already seen me, their family and other friends through envious eyes. They have already asked “Why?” over and over again. What they need now is a plan of action. “What’s next? How do I move forward?”  It’s not an “I’m sorry for your loss” kind of situation it’s a beacon of hope that is needed. They’re looking for that light at the end of the dark tunnel they have been traveling alone.

So what do I tell them? Well it’s different for each case. Some women are freezing their eggs. Some are going to keep trying and trying through IVF, and some are going back to the old fashioned way and trying not to “try”. For those who are done with these options, or can’t even attempt them I suggest surrogacy. I answer any and all questions for them as best I can and I refer them to Surrogate Alternatives for more in-depth answers. They are the professionals and can help give them the hope they need to continue. I personally went through this agency because I researched and found them the most compatible to my needs: friendly, knowledgeable and attentive. And that is what I tell my friends. I know it’s easier talking to a friend then to some agency they’ve never had contact with, but I can only tell them so much and I really do not want to get my facts wrong in such important matters.
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Having you’re own baby is not a want; it is a need. I want to say that I understand fully and comprehend their struggle, because I don’t. I do see where I can come help though. I haven’t felt all of their pain, but I’ve been there to help alleviate some of it. I want to thank the people who have trusted me with these stories and encourage all because it does and can happen for them. Never lose hope in that. I’ve seen first-hand the end result for some and am waiting patiently for others.
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Does Gift Giving Equal Love?

During this time of year my mind turns to the thought of gift giving. What do they mean to the giver and the receiver? Everyone’s perceptions are different and it truly takes a special talent to know exactly what someone wants and be able to give it to them. It also takes a gracious recipient to fully appreciate what has been given. This same principal works in surrogacy for both physical gifts, and gestures, but it’s not always perceived the same.

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Recently I was chatting to a friend and she casually remarked that her friend had just received something she called a “pop-out gift”. She explained that it was something her husband had given her after she had delivered their baby. In her case, it was an iPad. Neither of us had ever heard of this term before so I went to the all-knowing internet and looked it up. Apparently it is a fairly common practice to give a gift to the woman who has just delivered your baby. Sometimes it’s called a Push or Labor gift. It can range from something as sweet and simple as flowers or to the more extravagant jewelry. It depends upon the means of the giver. I had received small tokens after the birth of my own children, and my surrogacies, but never knew it had a name or was in fact an actual tradition.  So I asked around and yes, many of my friends and family were in the know and had received all kinds of variations of a Push gifts. Their opinions ranged widely on the topic as well. Some believed it was a throughly deserved right for the woman to receive the appreciation she so greatly deserved while others believed it was a vulgar expression done only by those who were “spoiled,” almost considering it a form of bribery. I can understand both sides.

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There is something called The 5 Love Languages that my mother showed me a long time ago. It is a test you can take to determine how you, your partner, and even your children best express and receive love. The categories are as follows: Words Of Affirmation, Acts Of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.  Mine is, without a doubt, Receiving Gifts. I believe this is why I became a surrogate in the first place. The definition of this category is difficult to understand if it is not your personal language. Let me explain. To others it may seem frivolous or petty but what it really is is the tangible expression of love. It’s a physical expression that we can literally grasp and know that someone was thinking of us! It works both ways for me. I show my love by giving something (in surrogacy’s case: a baby) that I know is valued to the ones I care about, and I want to know I am loved by receiving something from them in return. There is no price tag involved, it’s not the dollar value of the gift itself, it’s the knowledge that someone went out of their way to think of me. This is huge to me and it’s what I strive to do everyday for others. Whether it’s buying my kids a Slurpee after school because I know they’ve been craving one; or making my husband booties because that’s what his grandmother used to do for him; or even giving a family a child of their own because that’s what’s been missing in their lives. I love to give, it’s how I show love. Now others love in different ways and knowing this is key also. I can’t be hurt when I don’t receive things the way that I give. I have to understand that kind words, selfless acts, time spent together and hugs maybe mean more to others then physical act of giving.

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It all comes around to understanding again. What seems to be a constant theme in all of my blogs. They don’t call it a “labor of love” for nothing. The act of labor is all for love no matter if it’s your own or for someone else. If someone feels compelled to give you a gift because of it that’s amazing. However it should not be expected. Honestly the look on a new parent’s face or even just the knowledge of what you have done can be as rewarding as a little blue box from Tiffany’s.

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Walking in their shoes; A Mother and a Surrogates journey

Imagine if you will, being a woman. A woman who has worked hard and has found a partner. A woman who now wants a child, a complete family. Now imagine trying to conceive this child and nothing happens; going to the doctor and being told you can’t conceive. Then, taking all your hard earned money and trying every other possible alternative to create a baby–hormones, egg retrieval, IVF–again and again with no results. Or even worse getting pregnant (!!!!!) and then miscarrying. Do you think you have an idea of what that could feel like? Now imagine the physical, economical and emotional toll this will take on you.

I can only imagine and sympathize with these women. Unfortunately, I know too many. I’ve had long personal discussions with a few and it breaks my heart. These talks are one of the main reasons surrogate mothers exist today. So, after all this pain and toil, some of these women look towards surrogacy. The reason they choose an agency is for protection. This most precious treasure they have been so long in seeking becomes closer to their grasp and they want to do everything in their power to obtain it.

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When a man and woman intend to become parents and look through the files of fully screened surrogates (and, sometimes, egg donors) they are looking for a means to an end, an end to the emptiness they have been feeling, an end to their toils and tribulations. They choose carefully and hope that the surrogate will help them complete their maternal desires.

Once everyone has spoken and agreed to this journey, the contracts are signed; and the medications for the surrogate begin. The egg retrieval is done and at this stage the Intended Mother (IM) becomes even more anxious. It’s happening all over again, but with renewed and different hope! If, and when, the surrogate is confirmed pregnant with a heartbeat ultrasound then the IM is inundated with emotions: “It happened, we’re pregnant! Oh God, we could loose it (again)?!?!” Her maternal instinct takes over and yet she feels out of control because it’s not her body. She may become increasingly concerned with the surrogate’s diet, what medications she is taking, if she is following the doctors orders, and just about every waking aspect of her life—anything from the surrogate getting her hair dyed and nails done to if she is exercising enough or too much. All of this may cause the surrogate to undergo additional stress, which is the exact opposite of what is wanted.

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It can become very tense very quickly. There is an emotional switch that can, and does very often occur, with an IM and her surrogate. The IM needs to know that the surrogate is doing everything possible to achieve a healthy pregnancy. She wouldn’t be a surrogate if she weren’t. The surrogate then needs to know that these emotions are not personally aimed at her, it’s just the IM’s fears and apprehensions manifesting due to her own perceived “helplessness” in these matters.

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As the pregnancy continues and they enter the second trimester healthily, things tend to lighten up. The emotional roller coaster on both sides seems to even out a bit. The IM starts to feel more secure that the baby is doing well and begins to trust he or she is eventually going to arrive. The surrogate earns the IM’s trust and the women may even become quite close during this part of journey. They may share intimate details with each other, promising to stay friends and keep in touch once the baby is born. This calm may go on until delivery. And, if they are among the lucky ones, it stays that way. The happy healthy baby is born (!!!) and the no longer IM, but now mother, is over the moon, delighted and grateful. She lets the surrogate hold the child after the delivery. They remain in contact via pictures and emails and life is good. 🙂

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However, that is a best-case scenario. Once that baby is born, the “Momma Bear Switch” can turn to the extreme level. The IM becomes so frightened, so scared that someone will try to take her child, she suddenly sees the surrogate as a threat. No matter how irrational or unfounded this feeling may be it is real to her and can be completely over-powering. The IM cannot believe that something she has wanted so dearly, and that is so extremely precious to her, would not be coveted by the woman who carried it for her for nine months. This feeling is understandable for the IM, but completely unfounded for the surrogate. The IM will not let the surrogate see the child, let alone hold it. All contact is severed and the surrogate may never hear from the family again. It’s the harsh truth, but it happens. It is completely within the Intended Parents’ (IP’s) rights to do so. The surrogate may just never know the child she helped bring into this world.

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For the surrogate, this can be devastating, especially, because it can happen without any warning. Things seem fine until they are in the labor and delivery room.  Suddenly, she has had the baby, but there is no baby. The IP’s will not speak to her. She feels alone and abandoned. There is a reason that in a surrogacy contract it states that the surrogate will, if desired, be allowed one hour alone with the baby in the hospital. This is for closure sake. The surrogate had this baby inside her body; she wants to see what she helped to create. A surrogate doesn’t want to keep the child. She entered into the agreement knowing and trusting this. When a surrogate delivers a baby, there is a physical need to know about the child. Much like an artist or a craftsperson that has created something, the surrogate wants to see her work and know that it was successful.  It is a completely different connection than with her own children, but it is still valuable to the ending of a journey. It makes it all feel complete.

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Sometimes in these situations the IP’s may come around and send an email with pictures. Some have a change of heart later, once that fear has subsided and they are comfortably settled at home with the child. The IP’s may start sending updates to the surrogate in the years to come. But sometimes they don’t and that’s OK too. As long as the surrogate is aware of this possibility as she enters the agreement. The surrogate can be comfortable in the knowledge that what she did was an amazing act of love and is valued even if unspoken. What the surrogate needs for this to work is to know that this separation has nothing to do with her. What she did was a beautiful and fulfilling act. Even if she is not involved in the rest, she has helped to create a loving family. The families are grateful, too, in their own way. Some IP’s have been through such a long and harsh road they are unwilling to take any chances once they’ve obtained that wonderful gift of life. It has made them complete and they don’t want any more obstacles. A clean break was felt best. It all just needs to be communicated.

Understanding on both sides helps. The agency will help provide this from beginning to end, but it really does come down to the individuals involved. Prior knowledge is key. For the Intended Mother, she should remember she’s chosen (albeit reluctantly) to have another woman carry her baby.  Conversely, surrogates should be understanding of the IM’s experiences and tribulations. Knowing and being prepared for any possible outcome is best; that means it may hurt, but it can hurt less.

Marriage Equality And What It Means For The Future of Surrogacy

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On June 26th, 2013 the Supreme Court of the United States overturned California State Ballot Proposition 8, ruling that the amendment it created to ban same-sex marriages is, in fact, unconstitutional.  Also overturned was section 3 of The Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), thus unbarring the federal recognition of same sex marriages.

This was a huge step forward for so many couples waiting to become families. In these cases, with natural conception an impossibility, it really has changed and continues to change the world of IVF and surrogacy. In the past, only one of the Intended Parents could be listed as the legal parent of the child; now both possess complete custody. Both partners can now be fully recognized as a legal family, with all the coinciding benefits:  health insurance, life insurance, wills and trusts for spouse and children. All included, no one gets left behind. Everyone is taken care of.

This is an amazing time for gay parents, especially here in California. With our world-leading surrogacy laws in place and now fully legalized marriage equality, we are truly leading the way into a new era. TV titles such as “The New Normal” and “Modern Family” have nailed it. We are slowly changing societies view of what a traditional family is. I have many friends in this community and the collective sigh of relief can be heard throughout. They are starting to become accepted, which is all they have ever wanted. These parents go through all the same struggles as any family does but they have been doing it on the outskirts without the aid, care, or understanding of the masses. This changes now.

Taking our families to places like Disneyland or even just to school, I now see openly gay families who are not afraid to show their love and devotion out in public. These kids can start to grow up without feeling stranger’s eyes on them constantly. Without the gossip and unnecessary drama of a once taboo subject, their families are normal. And now we’ve got the documentation to prove it!

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I predict a large influx of gay IP’s using California in the upcoming years. Surrogacy itself has become more of a common place word. With big names like George Lucas, Jimmy Fallon, Angela Bassett, Nicole Kidman and Neil Patrick Harris all using surrogates, it’s not as unknown or misunderstood anymore. We’re mainstream baby! Now that gay marriage is becoming more global, there is nothing in the way of longing parents having much wanted children of their own and being accepted by their communities. Because let’s face it, gay or straight, it really does take a village to raise a child.

Also, besides the moral uplift of all of this there comes the practical and financial ones as well.  More marriages = more money.  More babies = more money. More families = more money. All going to our economy. It’s a win/win situation. Basically any loving family rocks and now we can show the world just that. Keep growing and keep changing for the better world, it’s working. It really is.

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All Mommy wanted was a back rub… (the benefits of prenatal massage)

I did it! I finally decided I was worth being taken care of and allowed myself what I had previously considered a luxury: a prenatal massage. You’d think after three pregnancies, I would have done it ages ago; however, I am a very stubborn and “tough” girl who doesn’t believe in “wasting” money on things purely for me. Boy was I wrong. It was wonderful and it will not be the last time I go. This looks like it’ll become a regular thing for me now that I know better. I felt so much more relaxed afterwards. And I slept! I actually slept through the whole night! This never, ever happens to me, especially during pregnancy.

So, you may be asking: What is a prenatal massage and how is it different from a regular massage? A prenatal massage is a specialized technique that is designed for a woman usually in her second trimester up to part way through her third. It’s meant to improve circulation, give you some energy, and take some of the strain away from your over worked muscles and joints. It uses a lighter pressure and you lay on your sides as opposed to your back and tummy. Lying on your back is never a good idea when you’re pregnant. The weight of your baby and uterus blocks circulation to the placenta. This can cause complications that no amount of massage can help. It is a little more difficult for the masseuse to rub you down at this angle but far safer.

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It also has the same great benefits as any message does. Loads of studies have shown that they relax and loosen tight muscles, reduce cortisol (that nasty stress hormone), increase blood flow (+++ for us preggers ;-), keeps the lymphatic system going strong, and flushes toxins out of the body. Just be sure to drink plenty of water afterwards as massage releases toxins that have built up in your muscles to float freely through your body, which can make you sick if you are not properly hydrated afterward.

What all this means is, that with regular prenatal massages you should become generally more relaxed. They help relieve insomnia, get rid of joint pain, and relieve swelling and headaches, even sinus congestion. Also not forgetting to mention all those neck, back, hip, leg and sciatica pain you’ve been having.

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Here are just a few warnings to keep you safe and happy. The first trimester is a little too risky for a massage.  With everything changing, it’s just not a good time (especially for surrogates or anyone getting assistance with conception). Also, research your masseuse first, don’t just go anywhere. People who specialize in this type of massage need to be specifically trained in prenatal massage. The right hands work miracles, the wrong ones could put you in the hospital. New studies are showing that the amount of trust you have in someone is equal to the amount of relaxation you will allow yourself to feel. If you’re not 100% with the person you won’t be able to reap all the benefits. Another thing: stay away from those ankles! They don’t know exactly why yet, but when you rub those bad boys, it can start labor. Unless you are past your due date, keep away. Just skip down to those well deserving (probably slightly larger) feet of yours.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to go book my next appointment…

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Super Foods and Villainous Eats… The battle between Good and Evil Pregnancy Food dos and don’ts

No Drinking, No Smoking! (obviously) No raw fish, no unpasteurized dairy.  Well I can see that…No undercooked meats or “freshly squeezed” juices from restaurants or farmers markets!? No raw cookie dough 😦 limited tuna?! Watch out for deli meats! Ceviche and smoked fish. No, no, no. Apparently, there are lots of bad bacteria out there. And no please dear god… cut back on caffeine!!!!! Nooooooo!
   
There are so many “no’s” when you are pregnant, so many “watch out” and “be careful of” moments, that it’s hard to remember them; then you have  to restrain yourself for at least 9 months (more if you are breast feeding).  It can be intense.  My mantra of “it’s for the baby, it’s for the baby” helps but I still want to cry when I’m out with friends and they want to go for sushi and drinks.

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The nice thing is when you take care of yourself during pregnancy, you feel better. And not just physically, there is an emotional pay off to that, too.  Also, there are so many “super foods” to combine and discover that it can actually be kind of fun to play around and branch out from your normal diet. I’ve gotten to experiment with combos I never thought of before and now they are some of my favorite meals.

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Here’s a list of some amazing foods for woman and their developing babies:

Leafy and super green veggies:

Broccoli, Kale, Spinach, etc–All really are great sources of foliate, fiber, calcium, potassium, and vitamin A.  Also, they have stuff you’ve probably never heard of like lutein, zeaxanthin and carotenoids. You can stir-fry it, roast it, make salads, and sneak it into smoothies. Just eat it!

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Brightly colored fruits and berries:

Blueberries, mangos, kiwis, strawberries, plums, bananas, etc–all packed with good carbohydrates, an alphabet full of vitamins, potassium, foliate, fiber and phytonutrients. Eat them on their own or with yogurt, cereal or pancakes or make smoothies or fruit salads.

Nuts, beans and seeds:

Garbonzo (chickpeas), lentils, black beans, soybeans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc–These are full of protein, iron, fiber, foliate, zinc and calcium. These little wonders are good brain food and great for snacks, salads, soups, chili, pasta or hummus.

Dairy (pasteurized), eggs, salmon and lean beef:

Protein, Vitamins A, D, B6 and 12, niacin, zinc, iron, choline, omega-3’s to name a few and all help with baby’s development. Cheeses, yogurts, omelets, grilled or in a sandwich.

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These are just off the top of my head. All you need to do is Google “pregnancy super foods” and you’ll get list after list along with some amazing recipes too. And if you’re like me, you’ll go “pin” them all on Pintrest so you can decide later what to have for dinner. 🙂

The main thing is to just not stress. Take care of yourself and the baby will benefit from it, too. If you slip up, it’s ok; just try to get out of bad habits and routines. So much less will weigh on you when you just make a conscious effort to be healthier in what you eat. You’ll have more energy and clear peace of mind that you are doing what you cannot just for you, but for that dependent little life inside as well.

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Surrogacy, the new prostitution?

Negativity exists in every form of work. Uniformed and overly (and overtly) opinionated people are everywhere. The subject matters they dwell upon range from politics to plumbing. Surrogacy is, by far, without exception to this rule. I recently read a blog calling surrogates “prostitutes;” those who work in IVF “pimps” and the intended parents “Johns.” I am not referencing or linking to this person’s blog because I don’t want to lend it any credibility. While I do understand some people’s aversion to the idea of surrogacy–due to religious or emotional ideas–I absolutely cannot condone those who judge without research or understanding. Especially when it is by someone who isn’t affected personally by another’s choice. This is my broad statement of belief, not just when it comes to someone’s fertility or lack thereof. I am a firm believer in live and let live.

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Surrogacy fulfills a need, a yearning that is denied to a person by unlucky circumstance. It is born out of a desire so strong, I would put it akin the fulfillment of their life. I don’t believe it’s even really a want at this stage. It’s a need. A need for the love of their own child.

Some opt for adoption, which is just as long and as tedious a process as surrogacy. Surrogacy is a very, very personal choice, alongside a woman’s right to choose. It is an expensive one as well. I am not sugar coating it here: if you cannot afford it then it is not an option you can utilize. However, it is not a profit deal either. The doctors, nurses, lawyers, and agencies involved are not doing it for the money. They are just people who felt the need to help other people in their profession. There are swindlers out there, as in any profession, which is why it is important to do your research. The reason it costs so much is that there are separate steps with many specialized professionals. No one person is making a large lump sum.

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The women who opt to become surrogates aren’t in it for just the money.  Who, in their right mind, would want to go through at least a year of medication (needles mostly), dealing with lawyers, and then giving birth (!!!)  just for money?  The money involved helps support us as we go through this process, but we aren’t buying Lamborghini’s or paying cash for a mansion. We do it because we care. We are mothers, too. We’ve been blessed with easy pregnancies and healthy bodies and are able to give back to those who need us.
Also, there are moral laws in place that are strictly adhered to by these professionals. They aren’t making babies in the lab or selling babies to families. They are merely doing outside of the womb what would naturally occur (if it could) in the womb. It’s just putting all the pieces together with hopes for the best outcome. Trust me, if any of these people could have a baby the old-fashioned way, they would. It’s not about wanting to keep your nice body while someone else does the work or about picking out some sort of “super baby” with selected genes.  It’s about having a healthy child to call your own. That’s it. There are no ulterior motives involved. At least, not from reputable sources.

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I just felt the air around here needed some cleaning. I recently spent the weekend with a group of surrogates and the number one topic we spoke about was the things people say to them. The positive is what makes the experience worthwhile. We need the support of others just as anyone in a highly involved position would. However when strangers come up to and say “How could you sell your baby?” or “You must be numb not to feel connected to the child growing inside you?” or even “What you’re doing is wrong!” it hurts. These are not fictions; these are actual statements collected (and shared) by many surrogates. We try not to let it in, we try to rationalize and forget, but it still twists the knife and hurts every time.

When you are doing something you truly believe in and are told it’s wrong, your first instinct is to fight, to justify and to make them understand. I’m just trying to share the other side of the story. I can’t make those who don’t want to listen hear. But I can put this out into the world in hopes that it may make a change somehow, somewhere for someone. I want people to ask me questions. I want them to become more knowledgeable and informed, then I want them to go and make their own personal decisions.

And remember dear readers that old saying your mother probably taught you: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all (at least to people you don’t know 😉 )

What’s a placenta?… She did what with it?!

The placenta is an organ that grows inside a pregnant woman’s uterus to provide nutrients and oxygen to the developing baby. It also enables antibodies to pass from mother to child and removes waste from the baby’s blood. It’s attached to the wall of the uterus and is connected to the baby via the umbilical cord. Basically, it’s what keeps the little one going.

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The word Placenta comes from the Latin word for cake.  It really does look like a big purple pancake, full of all those good nutrients for the baby. It measures about 9 inches wide and 1 inch thick in the middle, weighing roughly 1 hefty pound at delivery. Delivering the placenta is called the third stage of labor and, unless there are complications, is probably the easiest part of it all. Most women forget after pushing out the kid that there’s just one more part to do before you get to lay back and rest.

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Although this super organ can cause issues during pregnancy, as well. The most common is Placenta Previa; when the placenta is low in the uterus and partial or totally covers the cervix (the outlet for the uterus), it can cause severe bleeding and a C-section may be required. Placental Abruption is when the placenta peels away from the uterine wall (partially or fully) and can cause bleeding, a lack of oxygen and nutrients to the baby, and early delivery may be needed. Placenta Accreta is almost the opposite. It’s when the placenta attaches too deeply into the uterus and fails to detach during labor. It can cause bleeding and severe blood loss after delivery and the mother may have to go through surgery afterwards to remove it and possibly her uterus along with it.

I think most readers are really curious about this next part: What is done with the placenta after birth?! Well, we here in the West tend to just incinerate it via the hospital. However, there have been growing beliefs and new findings that we have been wasting something important. Here are just some of the ways our placenta is now being used:

The first is to leave it alone! They aren’t cutting the cord at all. It’s called a Lotus Birth and basically you carry the baby and placenta around until the cord naturally falls off. (Between 1-2 weeks) Those who do this believe that it’s a much more natural and healthy way to slowly introduce their child to the “outside” world. There isn’t any scientific proof as of yet that this is helpful to the babies however there isn’t anything to say nay either….

The second is to encapsulate the placenta and have the mother take it as a supplement after birth. This is a rising trend that started in ancient Chinese medicine. The basis for this thought is that in the wild many mammals eat the placenta after the birth of their young and it seemed to give them rejuvenating properties. More and more woman are doing this as a much more appealing alternative to cooking or eating their own “murder-less meat”. Studies are showing that ingesting your own placenta may actually help rebalance your hormones, possible combating Postpartum Depression by making mothers less fatigued and overwhelmed and in a much cheerier disposition.

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Another take-home placenta idea is to bury it. This is probably one of the oldest human customs around the planet. Although it has no health properties this is more of a spiritual belief. I have a Wiccan friend who did this after the birth of her first born son. She planted it at the base of a 9 month old sapling (placentas actually do make wonderful fertilizer) and now the tree grows along with her son. Even if you hold no religious beliefs along these lines, I think it’s still a lovely gesture.

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The placenta really is an amazing thing and we are still learning about its benefits to both child and mother. The last time I delivered I donated mine to research. Maybe this time I’ll keep it. And who knows, maybe within the year I’ll be blogging about my own personal experience taking placenta supplements.

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Twins

This is one of the only words in the English language that elicits a positive and negative response simultaneously in the human brain. The levels very, depending on the person’s point of view. To someone who is using a surrogate to start their own family, it could be the equivalent of winning the lottery. Killing two birds with one stone, if you will. Some of the best news they’ve had in years! To someone finding out for the first time they are carrying twins, it can also send up a red flag of a potentially high risk pregnancy.  With twins come Complications such as: bed rest, premature delivery, fetal demise and others. A new father may become doe-eyed at first, then as the realizations of double the responsibility sink in, his eyes may then keep widening with nervous apprehension. To feel so excited and so scared all at once is a roller coaster of exhilaration.

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I recently discovered these feelings myself. When I filled out my surrogacy application I, like most others, put down that I would be willing to carry twins. It is clearly stated that the probability of this happening through IVF increases due to several facts. People tend to use more than one embryo in a single transfer to increase the likelihood of one sticking and turning into a positive pregnancy. When you are going through so much it’s best to hedge your bets as much as possible. Also, you’re on fertility medication and have been accepted as a surrogate because of your beautiful uterus. All of this makes for a pretty cozy environment that persuades embryos to stay put. It’s by no means a guarantee however, it just increases the odds. In the past 10 days, my IPs found out that they are going to become parents to not one, but two baby boys, sometime here in the next 7ish months. They are ecstatic; it’s what they dreamed of! I’m so happy for them. This is exactly the payoff moment of why I do what I do. I’m also nervous as hell. I openly admit it. I’ve heard a range of twin stories from “easiest pregnancy I ever had!” to “Oh my god, I was on bed-rest the whole time and I was so sick!”

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I can’t speak for other surrogates, but I do get the strong feeling that though most of us are generally excited about the concept of carrying twins, when the reality hits it’s a whole new ball game. My head races with all the complications that “could” happen and I start to freak out. My main panic attract came about by worrying the babies won’t be getting enough nourishment and they will come too early. That’s when I took to the old faithful social media and reached out to friends who were twins or have had twins. I discovered I wasn’t alone and that yes, my fears are justified, but there is absolutely no reason to freak out any more then with the other three pregnancies I’ve had.

You see, our bodies are amazing things that can adapt to almost anything we throw at them. Well, we fortunate few who pregnancy comes easy to, can anyways and Doctors are very used to twin pregnancies and know what to expect and what to look out for from beginning to end. Now I really do believe I’m getting the easiest end of this deal. The parents are the ones who’ll have to deal with the midnight double feedings and diaper double-dutch. Which of course, they are more than happy to do :). I’ve been down similar roads before. This will be a new adventure for me. My IP put it best. “You’ve been pregnant before, we haven’t. This will be great because it’ll be new to both of us. Something we can experience as a first together.” They are on board and ready to dive in and that gives me the confidence to take the plunge too.

Funny enough while putting my thoughts together for this blog I got a call from the lovely Ms. Ann at SAI wanting to share something she had heard on the news this morning: A mother in Ireland may have just beaten the world record for time apart delivering twins. Her first was born after her water broke at only 23 weeks and was born June 1st of last year weighing just 1lb 3oz. Bizarrely enough her contractions stopped after the first and the other’s fluid remained. Her second twin was able to stay in her womb until August 27th and weighted 5lbs 7oz at birth. A full 87 days later! Both twin girls are perfectly healthy now and doing very well.

Stories like this just go to show that yes, we can worry and fret about unpredictable things in our future, but they also can turn out miraculously. I’m excited. I know the home these boys are going to is going to be so full of love that, in my bones, I can tell anything will be surmountable.

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Twins, wow, what a word!