We went to the clinic a few weeks ago- my IM,my IF, and me. The IVF doctor had to make sure that my uterus hadn't mutated since my last delivery, and we were relieved to see that it was, in fact, exactly and perfectly as we had left it. We were ready for a calendar (I always love to have the dates and the plan of action laid out in front of me), but much to our dismay, the nurse coordinator said that I had to have a procedure done- an hsg- which is short for some big, long medical word that basically means "shoot nasty chemicals that will show up as contrast in an x-ray into your uterus and push them through your fallopian tubes to make sure there are no blockages". Of course, the procedure had to be planned in advance, and we had not planned it in advance since we did not know about it. We were pretty bummed. The silver lining to the clinic causing a delay in my testing was the absolutely amazing news that this clinic is going to allow me to use Crinone instead of PIO. Translated to human speak: I will simply take a suppository instead of stabbing myself with a 1 1/2 inch needle every night for approximately 6-8 weeks. I feel my hips doing a happy dance and my poor, abused blood vessels smiling with glee!
We headed off to a yummy lunch at a local downtown Austin restaurant, and then went back to my IPs' house to relax, visit, and check out the miniature donkeys in the backyard. We had a relaxing afternoon, and then headed back to Austin for our appointment with the counselor.
Counseling is an important step in the surrogacy process. The first time I was a surrogate, I had to take the MMPI (which I call the crazy test), meet with the counselor independently, and then meet with her with the IPs. The second time, I got to skip the crazy test, but still met with the counselor with my IM (and IF by phone), and then talk to her alone. The purpose of the counseling is to determine if the surrogate is in an emotionally and mentally balanced state to endure a pregnancy and the related challenges and trials that come with it, and then hand the baby back to his/her parents and still remain psychologically intact. The purpose of counseling for the IPs is to make sure they are ready to go through another trying procedure and that they are emotionally healthy enough to try something else that could fail. I think the reasons for meeting all together are to establish our expectations for and during the pregnancy, the way we will treat each other and communicate throughout the process, and how we plan for things to end.
At first, I thought the counseling was a complete and total waste of time. Seriously. The MMPI asked if I heard voices in my head telling me to hurt myself. This seemed silly at the time. However, I have come to appreciate the counseling, and yes, even the test. With my first couple, it was just another 't' to cross, but with my second couple, I truly felt concern about the emotional state of the mother since she had recently delivered a living child who died soon after birth. The counselor was able to show me how the mother was handling it in a healthy way and alleviate my fears for her well-being. I realized then that the reason I take the crazy test and speak with the counselor is so the parents know that I can make it through this process without going nuts and that I am capable of handling the emotional difficulty of this seemingly bizarre situation.
This time, we visited with a new and somewhat eccentric counselor. I did not meet with her alone, only with my IPs. I expected the same type of questions as always. Why did you become a surrogate? Does your husband support you? How are your relationships with your previous couples?
The conversation went easily. We had already agreed about everything and knew we would not have trouble with termination or selective reduction ( we both want a healthy, living child- a perfect one is just a bonus). We had already gone through trouble with the agency and the contracts, so we knew we could handle adversity well. At one point, I told my IM, " close your ears" because I did not want my words about the beauty of carrying a child and feeling them kick inside to hurt her. The counselor stopped us, and pointed out that I already cared about my IM - awesome! She told us that we already showed concern for each other's feelings, well-being, and protection. What a great thing to hear at the beginning of a friendship.
There came a point toward the end of our visit where we were ready to leave, but the counselor just
kept firing away with the questions. There came a question that I simply didn't know how to answer.
She asked, " Why do you love your previous IPs?".
I couldn't think of a a response. I tell her, " I carried their child(ren) for them."
She asks again, "but what makes you love them?"
Again, I am stumped. I try again, " We keep in touch."
"Yes, but why?" she poses, and I am reaching for straws here.
I blurt out the only other thing that comes to mind. " Well, a few months after the twins were born
their mother sent me a necklace with two doves on it. She told me they represent the spirits that I carried here for them. The day after I delivered my last surrobaby, her mother gave me a necklace with my children's birthstones on it. These are symbols to me of our journeys together, and I love them for thinking of me with this reminder."
I look at the counselor to see if she approves (as I look at my IPs in horror that I just blurted out
something so stupid and materialistic). I couldn't think of anything else to say, so I didn't. We just ended our meeting with the kind and kooky counselor and went our separate ways.
On the way home, I started thinking about her question. I wanted to find the truth so that I wold know for myself what makes me care for these people so deeply, so quickly...
I think about my love for these families that I helped to grow. I didn't start to love them at the end
of our journey when they gave me a tangible gift. I didn't start to love them when their child was born. I loved them way before then.
So I go back to the beginning. I think of my first meeting with each couple. I think of the words they speak and the expressions on their faces as they explain to me why they are on the road to surrogacy. I remember the sorrow in their eyes when they tell me of their losses, and I still see the love in their eyes when they speak about falling in love with their spouses. I listen to the passion in their voices as they share their desire to become parents. I feel sincerity in their tone, and I see the light of hope alive in them when they speak of the possibility that surrogacy will bring them a child.
In each case, I know right away that I want to work with each couple. Why?
It is the human suffering they have endured. The grace with which they accept reality. The strength they have gained through their trials. The love they have for each other. The desire they have to become parents. The hope. I fall in love with these couples the very first time I meet them. I see my brother and my sister in need, I see their humanity- the grief and the joy and the hope (always the hope), and I want to walk with them awhile. I want to carry a child for my sister while she is unable, and I want to absorb some of their strength as we go.
Every moment after that first meeting is just our friendship and our love growing. Every phone call to check on their child, every intake of breath as I share the baby's heart rate, every smile when they can feel their baby kicking them through my belly, every tear that they shed when they watch their child dancing on the ultrasound screen makes me love them more.
By the end, by the time this couple is holding their child, they are my family. We have walked through fire together and I love them.
That is what I should have told the counselor. That is what I should have told my IPs.