Friday, July 31, 2015

Oh, the Possibilities...


Erika: 


Transfer Day-
This one is a tough one to write. I wanted to describe the feelings and all the moments of the day. But when looking back, even now, a week later... I am still overwhelmed with a HUGE sense of gratitude.  As I'm typing this, I'm trying not to cry.

The night before I couldn't even sleep. I stayed up putting Tina's gift basket together. 

In her gift basket I put a ton of things that would help her out during bedrest, like slippers, breakfast in bed tickets to give her hubby, and chocolates. I also gave her some coconut water and pomegranate juice, which we'd read were good for implantation. It was pretty awesome that we were both looking into stuff that week and texting each other with different things we'd found. I also put a grown-up coloring book (that I'm sure the kids have used by now) along with some cool colored pencils to help her pass the time.












Let me also say, I am not superstitious. But I am super-fun. Green is said to be a fertility color and so I found the perfect shade of nail polish that we could both wear called First Timer. Pretty perfect. I gave it to her a couple of days before the transfer at our counseling appointment.
Me, at 6AM that morning,
filled with excitement, gratitude, butterflies and hope.
I woke up the day of Transfer before my alarm went off.  I think we all did. As I got ready for the day, and was feeling all the feelings… I got this text message….

We went to go pick her up and take her to her very first acupuncture appointment. Funny story... I had described mine and how they used like 4 needles and then attached me to a machine, and how it felt like Pop Rocks. Well, for her they didn't use the machine, which I think is a plus. However, it wasn't just 4 needles. She said she had needles from head to toe! That was totally unexpected, but she's a trooper and said she couldn't even really feel them.

From there we went to the clinic. They took us all to the office where I'd had my retrieval done. It was actually just a few doors down. (lol... no elevator needed.) We waited for a while, and during that wait, we took our very first selfie together. The three of us. In this together.

Luis:

I try not to get too excited or anxious about many things as I have gotten older. The butterfly feeling in your stomach and the worries that go through your mind about all the possible things that can happen. Avoiding this has helped me be calm and think things through, be more rational and less reactionary. I suppose it's my own defense mechanism against getting hurt. I went into transfer day thinking I would be able to keep this up. I was wrong.

When we arrived we were placed in the waiting room that I had been in but not Tina and Erika. Two months had passed since the last time I had been in this room. I was there by myself waiting for Erika to wake from her egg retrieval.  True to myself, I tried to keep my mind occupied with positive things while keeping conversations light hearted. The doctor called us into his office after waiting 15 minutes or so and showed us a profile on the blastocyst they were going to transfer. Erika took a few pictures, and he asked if we had any questions or concerns. We all drew blanks on questions. My mind was moving in slow motion and the meeting at the speed of light. I felt like a baby trying to learn how to speak. My mind had failed me. All of this rational thinking and keeping calm went right out the window as soon as I saw this photo. It looked like a catscan of a brain, but inside I knew this was our future. A baby that could change our lives. It was the first visual evidence of Erika and I being one. Something from each of us. A part of us.

We were mesmerized... while also trying to figure out what was what, and really just in awe that this little bundle of cells was something Luis and I made. It was a perfect part of him and a perfect part of me. Luis said it looked like a Dominguez, but I see some Meza in there for sure. 
Not long after this meeting we were placed in a tiny room, smaller than the room I was in for my retrieval. It was lit by just one small lamp on a table and soft classical music playing in the background. We tried to arrange ourselves in the room like Tetris champs so that Erika could take video of the transfer from the screen. I stood against the wall and really tried to think positive. I usually don't like complete silence. When things are silent it usually means you're waiting passively for something to happen instead of trying to tackle it yourself.

My mind was in full action as we were physically limited waiting for the doctor. Here in front of Erika and I was someone who has taken a step of courage and love for us without really knowing us. I suppose in life we have friends who we hang out with, call upon every now and then, get together at social events. We also have close friends, people who we have purposefully placed our time and energy into building life long relationships. These close friends are those who really know you and are there to support you on this journey of life. Then we have family. For me growing up in a large Mexican family I would meet new cousins, aunts, uncles all of the time. I was raised to understand that even though I might have just met a family member, I loved them unconditionally. They were blood. We had a connection that went beyond our lives. We at some point shared a common past. Family gives without asking in return. Family offers without question. I remember feeling this sense of family about Tina as we were crammed in that room. I saw her as a family member I'd never met. Someone who I had not shared stories with or knew every little thing about. But someone who I would love as family. Right here in this little room, this was the beginning of our common past. Perhaps years from now I hope our children will know Tina's children as family too.

My position in that room did not allow me to see much of what was going on from the screen. The doctors spoke very softly and their eyes were glued to the black and white monitor. The silence made me fearful of making any noise or causing any disturbance. I thought about what would happen if my phone went off or if my breathing was too loud. I did not get to see Erika or Tina's reactions through out the process. However the three doctors faces were exactly like a T.V show or movie where humans have just landed on a new planet. Any movement on the radar caused an immediate twitch in their eyes to refocus. It was a bit too much for me. I have not been that serious about anything in a long time. I forgot how intense things can get.

Erika:

Picture this: Luis and I crammed in a corner of a room (not much larger, but definitely nicer than my retrieval room) behind Tina. Me, placing part of my foot to the side of Luis’ leg, balancing on the other foot in order to capture the screen with my camera, while not trying to be in her way either. Luckily, I do yoga, so that helped me hold my balance. Before the doctor arrived, we’d been waiting quite a while. We spent the time talking, laughing and trying to figure out what the best angle would be for me and how many other people might also be in the room for this.

We’d been waiting in the room for a while still and I think the longer they
made us wait, the more antsy we all got. At one point, Luis asked, “…What are some signs that you’re gonna pass out?” Tina and I started giggling and asked if he thought he was going to. He said no, but I made sure to keep an eye on him. 

The craziest part of the day… well, there were two. But the first one was when the lady came back with the baby blast on a straw. I know she’s a trained professional, but she’s carrying literally the most precious thing in our lives in her hands… in a straw. (Notice how shaky and blurry the video is... nervous much?)

video

The other crazy part of the day you can’t really see. It looks like static on a TV and we honestly had no idea where to look. But watch and listen to the doctor as he let’s go. "One, two, three...." I get chills just thinking about it!
video

The thing you didn’t get to hear, was the largest exhale I’d ever heard. I think Luis must have been holding his breath the entire time. 

Keepin' the toes nice and warm.
When it was over, they asked Tina to stay laying down for the next 30 minutes. I rolled over the doctor’s stool and Luis now had room to sit. In hindsight, we probably could have given her this half an hour to process it all on her own. It didn’t even occur to us at the time. We just wanted to stay with her as a sense of support. I think Tina said something about not wanting to laugh. So we tried to stay mellow and speak softly. But then Luis said something, out of nowhere, about siamese twins, like from Lady and the Tramp. And that made Tina laugh super hard. And you could tell she didn’t want to, but she couldn’t help bouncing from the giggles. It totally lightened the room. You can always count on Luis for comedic relief. The nurse came in a few minutes later, assured us that the baby could not be laughed out and that basically it was nice and safe in there, like a little jelly sandwich. She then went to grab a wheelchair to escort her out and Luis went to get the car.

It was honestly all a bit surreal and I don’t think I really knew how to process it. We laughed and talked a lot that morning. But I didn’t really get super emotional at any point during or right after the transfer, and that’s weird for me. I was just trying to take it all in. But as real as I knew it all was… I still felt a bit removed. I felt like maybe the true possibility of it all hadn’t yet sunk in.

In the elevator on the way out, a mother and her son stood near the buttons. He was about 3, with curly blonde hair, and wearing a bright green t-shirt. We had a few stops on our way down and the little boy kept looking up at the numbers, asking his mom if we were on the right floor yet. 

The mother overheard us all (me, Tina, and our caseworker who arrived later) talking about the transfer on the way down. When we got to the first floor she looked over and said, “If that was a Dr. Lin transfer… he is a Dr. Lin success.”

And just like that, it was real. That little boy represented all the potential that was being held in that beautiful bundle of cells. And suddenly, I felt it all.
From the book I bought her with quotes on gratitude.
This was the back part of the dust jacket.

“Having gone through all of this, we really have developed a huge understanding of how you grew to be. We now know all of the complexities of life and how you were formed. We are also able to see how much love and how many possibilities are held in something so small. A true bundle of joy.”
---expert from a letter to our baby


And afterwards we celebrated with Big Hero 6
and (even though I usually avoid fast-food like the plague...)
we got some traditional transfer Mickey D's fries.



Thursday, July 23, 2015

Moving Right Along


After taking her goodies home,
Tina texted me after noticing what the Hallmark bag said.
"How fitting! All that we are doing to create a little bundle of joy!"

Erika:

For the last month or so, things had been moving along smoothly. The legal contract was almost finalized and we had a tentative date on the calendar for our transfer. Getting through legal wasn't as overwhelming as I'd anticipated, mainly due to our lawyer's unique perspective (except for maybe the size... it was over 60 pages... which we read through 3 times). Not only did she have experience working with Intended Parents and Surrogates, but she was an IP herself, a few years back. We felt comforted by the fact that she knew the ins and outs of this process really well and that put our minds at ease.
Seeing how things were going so well, Tina and I decided to take the kids to the beach. We packed up some snacks, brought tons of beach toys and had a really great day. The kids showed me how to dig a river for their toy boat to move down, the kids threw frisbees, we watched them chase a kite around the beach, and ate SAND-wiches. After that we stopped by their house because her daughter wanted to give me a tour and before I left she said, "Thank you!... For EVERYTHING." I think there was a lot of thankfulness being felt that day. 




A week or two later, the contracts had been reviewed and were ready to be notarized. I know that I am a grown up and should know what that is... but I don't think we'd ever had something notarized. At least I've never had to look for a notary and I didn't really know where to start. We were in a bit of a time crunch in order for our transfer date to stay the same. So, I asked Facebook if I knew anyone who could do it. I got a few responses, but the first person to get back to me was a friend I've known since Kindergarten. I sent her a message at almost midnight and explained briefly what it was for and right away she said she would do it. Problem solved! When we met up the next morning she was so excited for our news.  The notary process itself was super easy and we sent it in to our lawyer right away so that we could get the approval from our clinic. Later that day,  I received a message from my friend. Super sweet.


So now that everything was approved, the next step was to go to the clinic together for Tina's med protocol and get a finalized calendar. I had been thinking about this particular moment for a couple of years now. I'd been reading a blog (Our Misconception, which is my absolute favorite blog and source of inspiration, and helped me during the last couple of years when I started actually facing my infertility) and that's where I got this idea for a care package for Tina. I knew that if one day we got to this point, I would do all that I could to make sure that we could make the experience even just a little bit easier on our surro. We always knew this wasn't going to be an easy road, but I wanted us to help in any way we could. So I started collecting things over the last few months and was even gifted the same hanging organizer by a friend's aunt whom I've known forever. So incredibly nice!!! It was actually the same ThirtyOne Hanging Organizer that my blogger friend used and it was absolutely perfect!!! 

Here's what I included inside: bandaids, socks, a Lady Buzzy, syringes, sharps container, medications, alcohol wipes, dry erase markers, a Cycle Day calendar, See's chocolates, a heating pad for soothing the oil based shots, lavender/shea butter massage oil, Burt's Beez lip balm, prenatals, and two 3M hooks to hang up the organizer.  
Fun bandaids to keep things interesting and to distract from the pain.
It helped me with my injections and would make me less mad about being poked. 

They also serve as markers so you can remember where you did it last. 
Silly socks to keep feet warm during Dr. visits and after acupuncture.
This hilarious llama card and a Lady Buzzy to help relieve and distract from the pain of injections. 
We showed up to the clinic early that morning so we could finish setting it all up. Most of the stuff fit perfectly in here. There were some medications that didn't quite make it (there was a lot) so I put the rest in the Hallmark bag, but this was still perfect because she can hang it up and out of the way, and even use it after her surrogacy journey for other stuff.

I have really enjoyed putting this stuff together for her. It's a fun way to show our gratitude and focus on things I can do help. It keeps me looking forward so that we can keep moving right along

Luis:


I was anxious to meet up for this appointment at the clinic, since I had not seen Tina since our initial "interview" almost 3 months before. Erika had started to build up a relationship with her and she would keep me updated and share text conversations with me, but I felt a bit out of the loop in terms of just knowing more about her and the family and her getting to know me and us (Erika and I) together. I was the only guy there along with Erika, Tina, and our agency coordinator. 

My experience in life has taught me that no matter where or who you are with, when there is a group meeting, roles must be determined to get things done. For example, in my own life I've played the organizer, writer, speaker, questioner, transitioner, Debbie Downer, class clown, optimist, etc.... For this meeting, I had to feel my way through the conversations of babies, tattoos, parenthood, life stories to figure out how I was needed and when to chime into a conversation.

The instructions on taking the shots were long and somewhat complicated for a first timer (I wasn't at the demonstration day for Erika's shots and relied on pictures and YouTube videos). I was sitting behind Tina and I could tell by her diligent notes that she wanted to make sure she did everything right. I did my best to ask questions that might clarify possible missteps. It did not help that the nurse giving the directions was having a few issues modeling the injections herself. Our coordinator, who has been a surogate FOUR times showed Tina how to inject herself by using the edge of a table for balance. It was good to have this experienced person in the room to help calm down some of the nerves. 

I believe that if I were Tina, and had been there by myself, without anyone else in the room, I would have had some major second thoughts about this whole thing. I hope she understands and utilizes the support that is there for her. We have told her many times and there are things in place to help her and the family during this  time, and that we are all here for her when she needs it. I had the feeling that this specific meeting was the point of no return for all of us. Not in a "danger! danger!" way, but more like in a reflective "look at all that has happened to get here" type of way.

I learned long ago that life, as much as we try to get our way, is going to play out how it's supposed to. This does not mean don't prepare and pray for the positive, but believe in the bigger picture. As of right now things are still going great. Should I be afraid of that? Should I question how well things are going? I don't know how to answer that, but I figure if WE just stay positive and see the beauty, kindness and generosity of this journey any outcome is a blessing. 

"We really want you to know how many people have been praying for you and have helped out with each little step. SO many people. We get texts and calls from people who are so excited for you and wanting to help play a part in bringing you to us!" 
---excerpt from a letter to our baby






Monday, July 20, 2015

You'll Know When You Know


Erika:

The first thing people always ask after telling them about our baby plan is, "Who's going to carry for you?" For a long time, we didn't know the answer to that question.

Years ago, before we'd decided how we would try to build our family, that was the same question I would ask myself. Regardless of how we were going to proceed, the fact remained that someone else was going to be the one to carry our baby.

Ten years ago... even five years ago, the thought of leaving that responsibility in the hands of someone else was terrifying to think of. How were we going to be able to put all of our faith and trust in another person to take care of our baby for the first nine months of its existence? I had to believe that whoever we decided on was going to be someone that God had been preparing for years before that. I'd asked some people in the groups I'm a part of and they all said the same thing, "You'll know when you know."

During that first year of finding out that I couldn't get pregnant, one thing I did (the only thing I could do) was pray for the person who would eventually bring our child to us, whether through surrogacy or adoption. It's kinda surreal praying for someone you've never met before, but who you know is out there in the world somewhere, living life, and would one day be led into our lives. With surrogacy, we knew that person was going to have to feel called to do it and know in their heart that they were meant to do this.

So, last year, once Luis and I decided on a fertility clinic, we had to decide whether we would be working with an agency or "going indie." For this first time around, we decided working with an agency (although more challenging financially) would help us feel a bit more at ease about everything. They would help us with the matching process, help us maneuver through all of the mounds of paperwork and really make sure all of our bases were covered. It's been comforting to know that we have support from the agency and can go to them with all of our questions.

After deciding on an agency (we'd met with two and decided to go with the one that was local and had experience working with our clinic) the first step was to create a profile. I've never done online dating, but I suppose it's kinda similar to that. Our profile contained responses to several questions regarding our background, personality, expectations before, during and after a pregnancy, a personalized letter describing our story, and a few photos. ...I really have to say that our letter was a perfect blend of the two of us. We took about 30 minutes to each write our own. We let each other read them and then we combined them into one Super Letter that came straight from the heart. We're kinda really proud of it. 




The hardest part was finding flattering pictures to add to our profile. What do you do when all of your favorite photos together include either weird faces or weird costumes? It took a while to sort through, but we found some decent ones. I think we used one from high school, one from our wedding, one from our last trip to Europe, and one where we're awkwardly carrying Poh in our arms... kinda like a baby.



For about a month or so, during this time, we'd been looking through the profiles of potential surrogates. They'd answered similar questions, so we looked through and wrote down which ones seemed to be the best matches. We found four potential profiles. We looked for things like age, birth history, and preferences before, during, and after. None of the four hit every point we were looking for, but we were willing to at least meet with them. The very next day the agency told us that all four were no longer available and had just been interviewed by other intended parents. ...Heart sank.

However, the agency said that there was a new person who had just been cleared (medically and psychologically) and they appeared, at least on paper, to be a better match for us. Her name is Tina. They sent us her profile and, honestly, she really did match better than the others. Her responses on every single point were in line with our own. We read a letter she'd written, as well as a letter from her sister which was really heartfelt. Her sister described her compassion for others and I felt that I was really able to get a sense of who she was. ...My heart felt a bit lighter.

Towards the end of March we set up a meeting/interview.
It's kind of weird to call it an interview, but at the initial meeting we needed to ask all of our big, crucial questions, as well as ones that would give us insight into the type of person she is. We'd compiled a list, like two typed pages, front and back. Some of the questions had already been answered in her profile, but we figured they could serve as conversation starters. Many people in the surrogacy world describe this first meeting as a cross between an interview and a blind date. We knew we had to walk into that meeting, not just ready to ask a million questions, but to go in with an open heart, ready to really listen in order to get a sense of her character, her intentions, and her heart.

The initial, "Nice to meet you's," were the only awkward bits of the whole experience. Once the conversation started, we barely looked down at our list. (Although, that may have been partially due to the fact that I folded mine about 50 times out of nervousness.) The questions we started with naturally led into questions we'd written down and other topics we hadn't even thought of. There was never any awkward silence or weirdness between any of us. We seriously just let the conversation flow.

Another awesome thing was that we got to meet her husband and children. I don't think we were expecting that, but it helped show us that they had really thought this decision through as a family. Her two kids, ages five and three, were absolutely adorable. Every few minutes they would come out from the other room, where they had been playing quietly, and give their mom a hug. The youngest would find decorative sculptures and fruit from around the office and present them to her as a gift. So cute! At one point they were behind us racing on sliding chairs. Having them there really helped lighten the room and make our conversation much more comfortable. Additional topics that came up because of them were favorite Mexican desserts, kindergarten, and the tooth fairy.

Going into the meeting we were actually more concerned with her wants, needs, and expectations.  But she came into it thinking the same about us. At one point she said, "This will be your baby. I want you to experience it the way you would if you were having it yourself. I want you to be at the appointments, feel the baby kick, and be there in the room for the birth."

For me, it was really apparent that she was coming into this with the best intentions. She said that she was hoping that this would serve as an example to her kids as to how meaningful it can be to sacrifice yourself for someone else and what it means to be a blessing in someone's life.

The last question we asked was what she was most looking forward to. They said that after having spoken to other gestational surrogates about their experiences, and asking what really made it all worth it, they both agreed that they were most looking forward to the moment at the very end... "Seeing you hold your baby in your arms for the first time."

And I think that's when we knew.

Leaving the meeting I was actually worried that they would think we were crazy. Like I imagined them walking to their car saying, "Nope! I am not going to carry their weirdo baby."

But that didn't happen. Within days of each other, we'd both contacted the agency saying we'd like to move forward. And now here we are, a few months later and less than a week away from our first transfer day! During these last few months we've all gotten to know each other better and this real sense of trust and friendship has developed. We're excited to be at this point! We completely trust her and know that our lil baby blast is going to be in the best of care.

"We prayed for the person who would take care of you in your beginnings. We prayed that she would be a woman with a heart of kindness, compassion, and integrity. We prayed that she would be gentle and loving in spirit. We hoped that she was a woman of faith who would pray for you and for us and for God's many blessings." 
---excerpt from a letter to our baby

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Letting the Glitter Settle

Erika:

One thing I failed to mention in the last post were the hormonal changes I went through. I had expected that during the time of injections I would be crying constantly or really angry and freaking out. My regular doctor even told me, "You both just need to understand... it's not you. It's the hormones." But I got through the shots without incident. I mean, I did yell at a kid about dumping out my water bottle on accident one day. (He felt SO bad, but he was real careful around my water bottles after that.) That was it. Nothing major. I thought I had made it through.

Well... the Sunday after retrieval, we were on our way home from my mom's and I start freaking out. I was angry about something and then I start crying UNCONTROLLABLY. I'm, like, hysterical. This lasted for about 15 minutes. Then I started feeling crazy and apologized to Luis. I didn't associate it at all with what I had just been through. I didn't think it was related. I thought we were past all that. All I knew was that I felt crazy and I felt bad that I went off like I did. Then Luis said, "It's ok. Maybe this is all part of it. We don't know that this isn't normal."

(For the record, I was upset about something legitimate, however, the weight of my reaction was not proportional to the issue at hand. My feelings were REAL and VALID, but my reaction... not so much.)

I didn't really think it was related until it happened again... 3 days later. This time, I started crying hysterically because my favorite jazz club was being sold. Then a few days after that I almost cried in my Vice Principal's office because I forgot to send an email....
Yeah, something was definitely off.

So I went online to one of my groups I'm a part of and asked,

"Question about your experiences after retrieval. 
So I had the retrieval on Friday. During shots and everything I didn't notice any heightened or extreme emotions. Or even being too scattered.
However on Sunday night and today I have had major crying episodes about things that I found somewhat upsetting, but i felt like the crying went beyond. And I couldn't stop. Anyone else have weird emotional stuff after? I am naturally an emotional person, but, this is kinda nuts."

One of the sweetest responses I got back was this, 

"Your body has just been through a hormonal rollercoaster, with estrogen levels that would put a pregnant woman to shame (with a little hcg thrown in for good measure). On top of the physical stuff, this is an emotionally HEAVY process. Be gentle with yourself."

Apparently it was going to take 1-2 months for me to feel more like myself again. I wish someone would have warned Luis. A head's up for both of us would have been nice. So that night I told Luis, that though my feelings were real, I'm dealing with this hormonal stuff still, so for the next couple of months, I'm sorry.

He understood and said, "I'll make sure not to mess with you." 

Since understanding where it's coming from I've been much better at handling my emotions. And actually, about a month ago, I found this video and it has totally helped me deal with my feelings in a more productive way. I just watch the glitter settle.


And this was basically me.

Jess crying/Dirty Dancing

And this is a video that Luis and every man should watch.

Amy Schumer: Fight like a girl



"It's important to understand how to have a balance between your head and your heart. I hope you are able to develop a balance, getting the best of both of us as you grow up." 
---excerpt from a letter to our baby