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The End

 bib

I open the front door and see a letter on the floor. “Yet another bill”, I think as my body slumps. I place it on the table to be ignored. Instead, I lay on the floor to play with my baby. Each day we come home after daycare it’s just daughter and mommy time. I cuddle with her, roll around the floor with her, sing and talk to her, and tickle her sides, admiring her beautiful, big, toothless smile. I treasure our time together.

My phone dings. I check my text. My friend, who just had a birthday, is on her way over. From the closet I get a gift bag for her birthday gift. Then I grab tissue paper from a baby bag. Something white and pink falls onto the closet floor. It’s a bib. I hadn’t seen it when I opened baby gifts several months ago. On the bib is a little, yellow whale cuddling and swimming beside a big, pink whale. Underneath the whales reads, “Mommy loves me.” My dear daughter, you have no idea how much I do. I will swim through whatever currents I need to make sure you are safe, and to let you always know how much I love you.

 I put the bib on my sweet baby girl. After my daughter nestles into my lap for a bottle, I finally pick up the ominous envelope on the table and I open it. It’s not a bill. It’s the birth certificate! The official, Albany-approved, Public Health Department, birth certificate! I squeeze my baby and cry softly. If I cried the pure depths of what I felt as this moment, thunderous sobs would shake me and scare my child half to death. I am finally, legally identified as my daughter’s true, biological mother. Completion. Finally I feel my family is whole and complete. I feel as if I drove out of a traffic jam onto a beautifully scenic and peaceful, country side-road leading into the hills.

 I look at the document in almost disbelief. It’s just a piece of paper. That’s it. How easily the paper could be torn, or spilled on, or lost. It’s difficult to believe that this simple piece of paper brought me utter emotional hell for so many long months. It seems so silly that this one, thin piece of paper makes the world seem so right. I admire my name as the mother. Then I notice the street address on the certificate. It’s wrong. Really?! Then I look at my daughter’s name. Her last name is wrong! Instead of my husband’s last name, her last name is the same as mine: my maiden name, hyphen, my husband’s last name.

 I email our lawyer: “How do I correct my daughter’s last name?”

“I must write a new court order, contact the judge to sign the new order, then contact the Public Health Department to change the new birth certificate.”

It’s a lot of paperwork and could take quite a while for the correction. I’m ready for closure now . . . for completion now. I don’t have the emotional strength to wait anymore. Hmmm. I look at the certificate. It’s nice having our last names the same. Frankly after everything I’ve been through, maybe this is a sign that everything will be okay from now on. Well . . . congratulations, dear daughter, you now, officially have a new last name!

 Albany, Albany. The things you do to me. There is nothing for me to do but laugh.

————–

And this is where I’m going to end my blog. I began this blog to educate others on gestational surrogacy and, instead, it turned into a cathartic experience. Thank you, everyone, for your kind support through my journey. I am going to try to take a break from the blog world. I feel honored to have read so many heartfelt blogs. Your experiences have become mine as I have taken each of your experiences with me, hoping with you, feeling sad, frustrated and hopeless with you, and feeling hopeful and joyous. I wish everyone happiness, and may your dreams come true.

———————

Questions to Consider When Considering Gestational Surrogacy

From my experience, I have learned questions to think about and discuss with a surrogate, before finalizing any contract:

  1. Regarding the state that the surrogate lives in – is it a gestational surrogate-friendly state? In other words, do contracts hold up in the state and are intended parents considered biological parents? From my experience, this is the first and, one of the most important, things to consider.
  2. What if the gestational surrogate or carrier likes her OBGYN and you don’t?
  3. If the carrier lives out of state, who will take care of her lawn, housekeeping, shopping, kids when she is at appointments and after deliver if her husband is unable?
  4. If out of state, how often will you be able to visit and attend the MD appointments? Realize this includes considering expense for travel.
  5. Over estimate expense to be safe. Often the process becomes more expensive than anticipated.
  6. How much does the carrier’s health insurance cover delivery and MD fees? Does your insurance or her insurance cover the baby’s stay in the hospital and the pediatrician visits in hospital?
  7. Disability and maternity leave for the surrogate – will she use PTO or will you cover her time off after delivery? Do you have enough money to cover expenses if she is placed on bed rest before delivery? If the surrogate is able to use PTO and then can use disability to cover time off, usually there is a 25% salary loss when on disability. Will you make up this difference?
  8. Your maternity and paternity leave: Will you take a week or two off before the due date, esp if out of state, to ensure that you are there for delivery?
  9. While the baby is in the hospital after delivery before discharge, where will you stay? What privacy can you give the carrier? How will you spend private time with your baby while in the hospital?
  10. What are the surrogate’s expectations during pregnancy? During delivery? After delivery? What does she expect to have paid for? What communication do the two of you intend to have during pregnancy and after? Phone calls vs emails vs texts.
  11. What are your expectations?
  12. What are your and the surrogate/s/carrier’s beliefs re: abortion if the child is not developing properly in utero or if there is health risk to the surrogate? Do you two have similar moral and religious beliefs?
  13. You can’t really try to control how much the surrogate exercises or what she eats, even if it is different than what you would do. Focus on the positive instead.
  14. How do you intend to feed your baby? Will you allow the surrogate to breast feed while in the hospital? Use donated breast milk? Use a formula? Or take hormone pills to breast feed yourself?
  15. What do you plan to tell your child? Whether you tell your child about surrogacy or not, how will you explain it pregnancy and the birth to your child? If you don’t intend to tell your child of surrogacy, how will you explain not having pregnant photos of yourself or not being able to tell of the child’s birth from a physical perspective?

If you are a gestational surrogate or an intended parent, may your experience be beautiful!

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We sat in the courtroom. My daughter with her lawyer on the left of me. My husband and mother on my right. I sat in a chair in the middle, directly in front of the magistrate As the judge walked out and sat down, my daughter stretched her arms toward me and started crying. I held her and she sat content. How can the judge not see the bond this child and I have?

 

My daughter’s lawyer said how wonderful our child was and it was obvious how much we cared for our baby. She had no question that we are good parents. Then the judge called my cousin and she sated that she did not want the baby.

 

Then a silence hung in the court room as I clenched my baby close to me. No one will take her away.

 

“The birth certificate shall be amended!” the magistrate declared.

 

I’ll receive the birth certificate with my name as my daughter’s mother. The magistrate looked at me and smiled. I released a loud sob, clenched my teeth, and willed tears to stop flowing, and whispered, “Thank you” over and over to the judge. Pure will held back my tidal wave of tears. I had to act properly in court, but the expression on my face must have said it all, for my daughter’s lawyer and the bailiff both started crying as well. The dam almost burst as I left the court room with my precious daughter in my arms. I quickly silenced another loud sob as I kissed and nuzzled my nose in my baby’s soft hair. I gently stroked my fingers through her blond, thickening hair.

 

All this time she grew I was partially distracted from an outdated law that slowly ate away at my spirit. So much time wasted in torment. My beautiful child. I will never let you go. I will guide you through your life and be the support you need for every endeavor in your life. May I be the support that you were for me today and these past painstaking months. You are truly an angel.

 

We left the court and briefly visited my cousin so she could see the baby and hopefully calm whatever feelings she had towards me.

 

 After I returned home from Albany I took 5 days off of work. I cancelled plans to go to a co-workers baby shower. I declined to go out for a drink with a girlfriend. I’m not sure what is wrong with me. I feel deeply sad. I think the tidal wave of emotions is still trying to break through. It’s been a long, difficult, painful 1 ½ years, and finally, for the first tie, I am starting to feel its completion near and the beginning of another cycle in my life–and my family’s–begin.

 

My anger has begun to subside towards the gestational carrier. Not being allowed to feel my baby’s kicks, or attend important doctor visits, or thrill in every new development of pregnancy with the surrogate was heart breaking. I get it, it was her body, and she coped as best she could by trying to feel and find a sense of control over her body when someone else’s child was growing within her.

 

 The new birth certificate order brings me a sense of completion. The nine months of pregnancy are gone, I can’t get them back, but at least I legally have my child now, and no one can take her away from me. This is what matters.

 

 I look up at the clouds as I write and wonder, “Is there really any such thing as completion?” For even when one dies, their spirit lives in the hearts and minds of those who remember. Every act affects our memories and future experiences. No, there is no completion, for experiences change us. The carrier will never understand how her actions devastated me during the pregnancy, and I no longer feel frustrated by this, but our relationship is forever changed. I have lost a deep trust, and with a family member. The stress that this person caused crept into all corners of my life.

 

 What caused the most distress of not having my name on the birth certificate was the possibility of having to adopt my daughter as a step-daughter, and he control that the carrier had over my life and my daughter’s before and after her birth.

 

 I’m relieved, I’m deeply saddened how things occurred, I’m overjoyed, I’m nervous of future dealings with the carrier, as she is family. I have a lot of emotions to sort out and much healing to do.

 

 But one thing I know as that we made history this week. And by me, I mean my daughter. She came into this world with a look of fierce determination. At such a young age she already achieved a victory not just for us, but for women in NY and beyond. When she is older, she will know how important she is in this world. She amazes me. What a blessing she is. Thank you so much, my Honeypot, my baby angel, for choosing me as your mother. For I truly believe you are an old soul who’s been waiting to be born. I already have learned from you.

 

I feel a flood of emotions from sadness from how things transpired, relief at this final outcome, love for my amazing daughter, and such complete honor to be this little girl’s mother. She makes me believe that we all have a purpose … in our life. She helps me forgive.

Cover of "My Beautiful Child"

Court Draws Near

A phone call from the lawyer.

They want my daughter to appear in court with us and a lawyer will be there to represent her.

I’m confused. “They are treating this as a pilot study and basing the process off of adoption cases, which they know,” my lawyer tells me. “This is the court’s first case like yours.”

Part of me feels nervous. Is the court worried if I am a suitable mother? Another part of me is relieved: the court will see how in love I am with my little girl and therefore will never separate us or deprive me of being acknowledged as her biological mother. Good Lord, I have no idea what they are thinking or wanting from me . . . from my daughter. I feel as if I am on trial. Am I?

The wonderful news my lawyer reveals is that the judge has agreed to call the gestational surrogate during the court hearing so she does not have to show in court. Thank God! Huge problem solved. I can’t wait to tell my cousin this.

As I sit here writing, I contemplate the past 1 ½ yrs. It’s been a hell of a journey. People tell me that the harder something is, the greater the ‘reward’. It’s true. Every day I look at my little blessing in amazement. She amazes me. She never will cease to. And my love has no bounds for my child. 

 

The Court Summons

“This is bullshit. I’ve given up my life for you for a year. The court wants more?! Now way. I’m pissed. I’m not taking time off work to go to the court. Enough is effing enough! Something else needs to be figured out…. I want my life back!!!”

We all do.

The above is what the gestational carrier emailed me (actually, there were 5 ranting emails) after she learned that the three of us need to go to court to meet the judge to amend my daughter’s birth certificate with my name as the mother, not the surrogate’s name.

I don’t understand my cousin’s reaction. Did she forget she initiated the process, asking to be our surrogate while knowing this may happen? She had already found and talked to the reproductive clinic and arranged everything before I knew about it. When she called me to offer her help, the clinic was already expecting my call. I know a part of her is mad that I no longer call her every day as I did when she was pregnant. But didn’t she expect that? And didn’t she expect that her life would return to as it was before surrogacy?  Shame on me for expecting our relationship to be as good as before, and better.

For months we’ve left my cousin out of all the emotional turmoil I’ve felt dealing with lawyers and public health administration and on and on. Instead, I told her we were working on finding a solution and would most likely have to go to court in the future. Well, the future has come. One more day—no, one half-day—is all we are asking from her to get this resolved so that finally the end will be here. I wonder:  if she doesn’t show in court, will the judge think she wants my baby and then not agree to amend the birth certificate? Doesn’t she know her not going looks bad to the judge? She doesn’t seem to care about the agony I’ve felt not having my name on the birth certificate.

Why is my cousin reacting so maliciously towards me . . . still? Perhaps she is simply just as nervous seeing a judge as I am. Perhaps she if feeling a void since my daughter’s birth, and is trying to figure out how to fill it in her life? If only she would tell me. I think her emotional reactions throughout the entire surrogacy are more complicated than perhaps she is able to admit to herself.

A friend is coming over tonight to calm me. I can’t wait. I open the wine early. Drinking wine, I read yet more texts from my cousin and try to calm her. Our day in Albany court will soon be here. I don’t know what to expect. Our lawyer doesn’t call us or send informative emails. Perhaps she’s trying save us money by not talking to us, but I hate the feeling of not knowing.

“God”, I pray, “may this day to come be the day Albany agrees to put my name on my daughter’s birth certificate as her biological mom.”

I want to call reporters, try to get media support, but afraid to ‘rock the boat’. Will it harm my cause?

“God, please let us make history in upstate New York. Let us put an end to this and create a beginning for others,” I say aloud looking up at no one. Why does this have to be so hard? Where are people’s hearts and compassion? There has got to be someone in that court who will feel compassion for me and my family. . . .

 

Another month passed. Not quite sure where the months go. My little wonder is longer, has more hair, squeals in delight, and laughs even more. And every day I unconditionally love her even more, if that is possible. This person: full of personality, likes, and dislikes. SUch a precious spirit in this little body. She amazes me. Often I look at her in disbelief. Is she really my daughter? How did I get so lucky to have this child? Then I remember. . . wait, NY legally doesn’t consider her my child. The director of vital records still refuses to put my name on my biological daughter’s birth certificate all because someone else carried her.

I call another lawyer for a second opinion:

Is this normal to wait so long for NY to accept my Massachusetts pre-birth order to place my name on the certificate?”

No, it’s not normal,” the lawyer responds, “but your present lawyer is good, and if anyone can get the job done, she can.”

The problem, I’m told, is that Vital Records Guy (figures it’s a man who doesn’t understand the plight of a mother) is new to his job and afraid that it is unlawful to have my name on the certificate. How he can even begin to think it’s unlawful puts me in disbelief.

So, yet again, I contact my lawyer to understand what is the next step before I start taking things into my own hands.

Apparently, Vital Records Guy decided he wants a judge/court in Albany, NY to review the Massachusetts pre-birth order and our case. Here we go again, getting yet another lawyer (this one must be an Albany lawyer), going back to court, dishing out another $2,000+ for lawyer and court fees. All with no promise of resolution in my favor. However, this is my only option, short of giving in and adopting my daughter as a step-child. We all know my feelings about that. The thought sickens me.

I’ve done nothing wrong, so why do I feel like a criminal on trial? My “sin” was that I could not carry my own daughter due to physical disabilities. I remain in purgatory, sitting in my cell and waiting months on end, having no control over my own, and my daughter’s, destiny. This is emotional abuse.

But you know what gets me through all this? Every time I see my little munchkin, especially each morning when I go to my daughter’s crib. I lean over and look down. Her big, bright eyes look up at me, her big toothless smile expands, legs vigorously kick the crib mattress, little uncoordinated arms flutter and dance in the air, and a loud squeal of delight chimes forth. This is my favorite moment of each day.

What special moments get you through the day? I hope each one of you have one precious moment that becomes a precious memory, lingering in your mind throughout the day, bringing that smile and warm, fuzzy feeling to your heart. Without these moments, life can feel lonely and void.

 

 

There’s nothing like soaking in a long, hot bath and having a good cry; although 3:00 AM isn’t the time I prefer to be awake. The baby is sleeping better than me. My spine has locked up, my back muscles burn, my neck muscles pull my vertebra out of alignment, giving me headaches, and my entire body aches. My little one has hit over 10 pounds and carrying her is becoming more difficult, and with this comes guilt.

I didn’t carry her for nine months, so this is my time to hold her and bond with her, but I’m having to put her down more and more. It’s heartbreaking. To care for her, I have to care for me first, and that means less physical contact and cuddling time. Will less holding of her somehow permanently decrease our bond now through adulthood? The latest articles state that holding one’s baby throughout the day builds the mother-child bond, promotes cognitive development, and provides a calming effect. Is my physical disability creating a disability for her by affecting her sense of well-being as a child, and later as an adult? Screw research, she feels my love for her. And how I care for myself provides important role modeling to learn that:

1. You can’t care for another unless you first care for your Self.

2. Honor and nurture your Self. 

But honoring my Self doesn’t come without disappointment, frustration and guilt during this new phase of my life.

Honestly, I didn’t think the time would come so quickly in which the back pain would flare-up. I thought it would happen when she was 6 months old and heavier. But I also thought it would quickly resolve because being held all the time would partially be replaced with the incessant desire to sit and study the world with her newfound perspective and crawl and explore. My back would have more of a fighting chance to survive parenthood. I misjudged my body by four months. Trial and error.

On a good note, making my back happy, makes me and my baby happy. Here are some of my strategies for now and later:

  1. The Snap and Go stroller frame has been the, yes the, best buy. And I bought it second-hand. Added bonus. It saves me from carrying the car seat (which is so heavy) when I go out. The frame is lightweight and easy to fold. I simply take it out of my trunk, click the car seat in the frame, and go everywhere it. It When I grocery shop, I put the food in the pouch under the seat, and I can whiz around the store faster than if I had a large carriage.
  2. Moby Wrap. My kiddo is still adjusting to it and doesn’t like to have her head tucked in, but the moby wrap is a good option to help carry her around the house. It’s cumbersome to don, and took me about 2 months to figure out how to correctly wrap and wrap and wrap again its long material around me, but it evenly distributes her weight on me. I like it so much better than the Bjorn. Although the Bjorn is more simple, it doesn’t distribute her weight as evenly and my back feels this. What about the Ergo Bjorn? I hear people love it, but it didn’t work for me. The strap around the waist rests right across my hypersensitive scar in my low back. As soon as I put it on I had sciatica that lasted a half-hour. The Baby K’tan is similar to the moby wrap, but easier to don. It worked when my daughter was a newborn, but as she grew, my shoulders and back became painful. In my opinion, the moby wrap evenly distributes the baby’s weight more than the other wraps and the cloth doesn’t hurt my scar.
  3. Bassinet. I never intended to have a bassinet, but my mother brought me one that my great-grandfather made. What I love about the bassinet is that I don’t have to bend over as much to get my baby in and out of it as compared to the crib, even with the crib’s mattress at the highest level.
  4. The Boppy. This has been a ‘god-send’ for bottle feeding my baby when I feel too much back pain to hold her. It elevates her head just enough. But even better, I don’t feel guilty not holding her because I can still look at her and smile and talk to her while feeding her and caress her. I’m still able to have those special bonding moments.
  5. The Bouncy Chair. When she wants to be held and I just can’t, one of the only things that soothes her is the bouncy chair. And, just like the boppy, I can still look at her, hold her hands, and talk and play with her.
  6. A darn good mobile on the changing table. My brother gave me the simplest mobile—Winnie the Pooh characters that circle around to a simple tune. All the other mobiles I’ve seen rave reviews on have not made her nearly as happy as this one. When my little one is fussy, I place her on the change table, hold her hands, and we ‘dance’ to the tune. The biggest smiles and laughs come during this time. It’s better than holding her. The beauty of the mobile being on the changing table is that the table is high enough that I do not have to bend down at all, like I would for the bassinet or crib. I have spent many half-hours playing with her and singing the Winnie the Pooh song on that changing table. It’s become her happy place. 
  7. The Cloud and Stars Quick Zip Crib Sheets. My sister, who also had prior back surgery, told me about these sheets. There is a foundation sheet placed around the mattress, and then a top sheet that zips on. Easy and quick changing of the crib sheet without having to lift a heavy mattress to place the sheet around the mattress corners every time a sheet needs to be changed, which will be often, from what my sister says, especially in the middle of the night.
  8. Umbrella Stroller. As soon as she reaches six-months-old or is strong enough in her neck and core to sit upright with support, I’m using the umbrella stroller. This means no more lugging the car seat in and out. I just pick her up and put her in a light-weight, easily unfolding stroller to zip her around during errands or even in the house when I need a rest from carrying her.
  9. Let’s face itMeds – not the full dose and here is why … I hate taking medication, but I am needing it more and more. Here is the problem: I can’t take muscle relaxants at night unless my husband can get up during the night because they knock me out for a good 6 hours. I’m a lightweight. But what is really scary is that I have taken a muscle relaxant at night and woken up to take care of the baby in half a brain fog. I’ve spent one week experimenting between three different muscle relaxants to determine the least potent but still effective med so I am safe to pick my baby up in the middle of the night. However, I’ve had two episodes of throwing up all day and being horribly sick to my stomach. I think my liver was pissed at me. Now I take half a dose of the least potent med and take Quercetin, omega-3, and 2 liters of water, natural anti-inflammatories, to help with pain control. I also maintain a Gluten-free and low red meat diet.
  10. A Supportive Husband and family. I don’t know how I would take care of a baby alone with a back injury. The days I need to take my most potent muscle relaxant, which is usually once a week, my husband takes the shift for the entire night, and then gets up early for work. My parents have babysat so I could go to the chiropractor or physical or massage therapy and so I could rest. I’ve only asked for help twice though because my mother has a knee injury and I don’t want to have two of us in pain. But, my husband and family is there to help when I ask, and just knowing this is key.
  11. Mommy’s Group. Staying home alone with a newborn, especially during winter, can be incredibly isolating and lonely. Experiencing pain can increase these feelings and lead to depression. Of course I felt burdened trying to get to the Mommy’s Group when I feel like crap, but the group is a blessing. Being with other people and having a set time scheduled one day a week to interact with other new moms and make new friends is emotionally rewarding, and gets me out of my funk. 

The good news I heard today is that my cousin got her gestational surrogacy tattoo, but she wanted so big that the tattoo artist found no room to place my daughter’s birth date where she wished. So there is a tattoo of our clinic’s logo on her forearm without my daughter’s birth date. Relief overcame me when I heard this news.

But unfortunately good news sometimes comes with its fellow counterpart, bad news.  After two weeks of meditating and finally beginning to relax and trust that all will work out regarding the birth certificate, I got an email today from my lawyer’s office discussing a letter they received from Albany’s vital records. This letter basically states:

We are sick and tired of your lawyer’s calls, and therefore, refuse to return any future calls. Your request to amend the birth certificate is under review. Welcome to purgatory.

In other words, I am left waiting to see if they will ever amend my daughter’s birth certificate and place my name on it. It is becoming apparent that most likely we will be going to court.

So, as I sit in purgatory, here are a few chuckles to share with you from my sleep-deprived “Tired Mom Moments”:

1. As my husband headed outside, I placed my baby’s hat on his head instead of his own. It took me a few seconds to figure out why it didn’t fit.

2.  I put grated cheese in my coffee instead of soy milk the other morning.

3. I forgot my phone number when asked for it.

4.  I wore my shirt backwards all day.

5. As I went to take my sunglasses off, I instead took gum out of my mouth and put it on the car seat.

6.  I tried to ‘mute’ my husband using the remote control. I meant to ask him to wait  a minute while I muted the tv to hear what he had to say.

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