Saturday, December 31, 2016

In the Mess & the Miracles


A year ago today I climbed the pyramid of the Sun with my dad. 
We looked forward to celebrating the start of 2016.

Ensima del sol. NYE 2015
"2015 had taught me many things, but the biggest is how out of control we are in this life. 2016 started with an undeniable reminder... All I can do is have hope that things will be better, and understand that it's a new day every morning."
In the hospital in Mexico last January.

As angry, resentful, and helpless as I know we all felt at times
throughout this incredibly difficult and unpredictable year, I can't help but look back
and see all of the joy, hope, and healing that this year brought us. 

Only a couple of weeks old.

God was there with us in the middle of the mess and the miracles.
And I know He'll continue to be as we go into 2017. 
These little bear booties represent all the hope we held onto all year.

We've all come a long way.
NYE 2016

"Mateo, you were the light our family needed in a pretty dark time. Even while you were in Tina's belly, you were giving us hope for the future. You connect with Papa and everyone you meet in such a special way. I've seen you bring love and comfort to people in the middle of loss, just by letting them hold you. As crazy as everything got around us and in the world, we could always look at you to be reminded of God's promises, and of His unending, unconditional love. You will forever be the light of our life. Our most special gift." 
---excerpt from a letter to our baby

Monday, December 26, 2016

This Christmas


I love Christmas.

That is an understatement.

I FREAKING LOVE EVERYTHING about this season. The music, the movies, the feelings, the smells, the parties, the food, the tinsel, and the trees.... My love for the season has everything to do with how I was raised, and I am super, forever grateful for that.

He could not be any happier.

Having been back at work now for about a month, it was nice to get these days back with him.

This Christmas we did all of our usual traditions, but with Mateo right there with us. I really tried to take in each thing we did as a new family, and even though I know he won't remember this one (nor even the next couple of Christmases) I made sure to sing all the songs as often as possible... put him in as many different Christmas outfits and beanies... did the Santa thing... watched the Christmas classics... and even added a tradition.

Santa must have had a long day.

Mateo made a much better Santa.
Luis decided we should take a Christmas Eve hike this year, while listening to all of my favorite holiday songs. I was definitely jingle-belling all the way.


Me, Mateo, Tina, and Lilly! He always loves seeing them. <3

At a mommy and me Christmas party! This was the
bow from Mateo's very first Christmas present!
As far as gifts, Luis and I got each other "the gift of nothing."
Because all we ever wanted, is sleeping upstairs in the nursery.

Incidentally, we didn't really get Mateo anything either. All we got him was a box filled with tissue and wrapping paper.

He freakin' loved it.

I ended last year's Christmas post by saying, "2016 is going to be a life changer."

There has never been a truer statement.

Beyond all of the complications and heartache of the year is this "tiny" gift that we received, right smack dab in the middle of the madness, which has provided us with an endless amount of faith, joy, hope, and Love... and not just for me, but for our entire family. And we thank God every day for him.

"Merry Christmas baby!!! Pretty sure this was my most favorite Christmas. It brought us so much joy to celebrate this time with you. Waking up on Christmas morning to hear you cooing from your room, cuddles with you while listening to Christmas music... best present ever. Thank you for being such an amazing little man. Christmas from now on will only be better and better each year. Watching how you'll experience and enjoy it through the years is something I'll always look forward to."
---excerpt from a letter to our baby

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Bye Bye Baby


I don't even know how to start this post.

Tomorrow is going to be my first day back at work in five months. And although I'm excited to go back and meet my students, I've had a lump in my throat all week thinking about tomorrow. I actually burst into tears a couple of hours ago... but then I put Mateo to bed, and I felt better. He watched me as I whispered and sang to him, held onto my finger, and scratched at my chin. He comforted me. That's how amazing this kid is.

I still cannot believe how quickly the time has gone by. Seriously.
It's crazy to think back to a time, when I didn't even think this was a possibility. It's also crazy to think I ever worried about us being able to bond. From that very first second, I felt connected. And since then, that connection has only grown. He lights up when he sees us, and I think that's the one thing that will keep me motivated throughout the workday... thinking about the moment he sees me when I get home. Although, it'll be interesting to see how exhaustion will effect me at work or even when I get home after work.

 When was he ever this small? And why the heck do they grow so freaking fast!?




This is going to be such a fun time for Luis, who decided to stay at home with him until January. He's going to figure out how to do things his way, make him interesting foods, go swimming, and plan day trips and adventures. At five months, Teo is so much more aware and wants to be kept busy as much as possible. He even seems a little bored sometimes... looking around like, "Sooo... what are we going to do next? Where are we going?" Thankfully he's not mobile yet. He is, however, starting to get his first tooth and next month he's going to start eating solids! Hopefully teething doesn't get bad. So far, so good.

I am grateful to have had all this time with Mateo. I don't regret it at all. I didn't get the 9 months of straight bonding with him beforehand. These 5 have really helped catch me up. I did everything in my power to take advantage of every second.  I joined mommy groups, did baby and me yoga, took swim class, traveled, hung out with family, and really just enjoyed him, learning, laughing, and figuring it all out as we went.

"Mateo, tomorrow I'm going to try to hold it together. I will be bragging about you all day long and I'll be holding back a flood of tears. I hope that you have so much fun with Daddy! I'll look forward to hanging out with you after work every day, so make sure you don't get totally worn out." 
---excerpt from a letter to our baby

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Believe in Unicorns...


Over the last few years, leading up to meeting Baby Mateo, I'd learned a lot. I'd learned about the whole process of surrogacy. I'd learned about the development inside the womb. I'd learned about the whole IVF procedure and so many things related to assisted reproduction. I'd started learning about what to do and expect once baby was here. One thing I wasn't expecting to learn about was breastfeeding.

If you've been reading our blog since the beginning, you know that I've dreamt of nursing my own baby. It's something I'd always envisioned, even as a young girl, but over the years began to accept that it was not going to be a part of my experience. However, through the journey I started hearing about these adoptive and intended mothers successfully nursing their babies, in some cases even exclusively breastfeeding, and I was once again, given a glimmer of hope towards something I'd thought was impossible.

A few years ago I'd been introduced to the concept of inducing lactation and breastfeeding without birthing, through a blog I'd been following. My jaw dropped as I read about her experience and I just couldn't believe it! She was like a unicorn! Was it possible for my body to provide nourishment for our baby, a baby whom I didn't carry in my womb???

I toyed around with the idea during the early part of our surrogacy journey, but I was so overwhelmed with the whole process when we were in it, that I kind of just put it on the back burner. In March of 2015 I began to follow the accelerated protocol which I'd researched through books, articles, blogspodcasts, and support groups, all dedicated to educating and empowering women to believe in their bodies. In the beginning, it was difficult to find support from my current doctors, as they also thought these mothers were just unicorns. But I found a lactation consultant, and thankfully a couple of the nurses I'd met along the way were willing to help. But I have to say, it really came down to my own determination and insistence that I was going to be my own best advocate.

lactation cookies!
When starting out, I was doubtful. It was stressful.  Right in the very beginning though I got a pretty incredible boost of support. An amazing friend of mine reached out to other breastfeeding mommy friends, some who I knew and others I'd never met, and in a special book (The Big Book of Boobies), they shared with me their special moments, biggest hurdles, and words of wisdom in regards to breastfeeding. (She also gave me a nursing tank, nursing pads, a vintage nursing book, milk bags, and some Mother's Milk Tea!) Needless to say, I cried reading through the stories which provided me with a huge sense of hope and renewed motivation. In all cases the consensus was, it wasn't going to be easy, but it would be worth it.

Right around this time I began the pumping part of the protocol. I began pumping at home, at work, in the morning, in the middle of the night.... I was hooked up to a machine every 2-3 hours. And for the first couple of days, there was absolutely no result.

The box my pump came in. lol.

But I will tell you, the second I saw that first single drop of milk fall from my breast, it was like seeing a unicorn fly over a double rainbow... into a pot of gold. Seriously. I cried and maybe squealed with excitement a little.
On the day Mateo was born, the fact that I was able to not only get skin to skin time, but have him latch on and nurse, was more than I could have ever asked for. In those first few days, I was able to provide him with his basic need. I was making just enough at that time (since newborn babies' bellies are so tiny) and that felt amazing. Seeing the doctors and lactation consultants come by to visit, just to sing praises for what we were doing really boosted my own confidence and made me feel that my efforts had been worth it.

Over the last 4 months, I've been able to continue nursing (though I was never able to produce enough to exclusively breastfeed) and I've been able to experience this amazing side of mommyhood. I still nurse before most feedings and in between feedings too and I am just thankful to have gotten this far. My goal was 3 months, and I will continue as long as my body decides to cooperate.

Day 4. First drop of milk on the mouth.

I will be the first to say, "Fed is best," and to give baby what he needs any way you can get it. At the hospital, we began supplementing with formula after each nursing session and have continued to give him formula, as needed. Tina was able to provide milk for him for the first month of his life. In the hospital room we were "pump buddies" and it was just so amazing that she was able and willing to do that for him. We have also been blessed with dear women in our lives who have donated breastmilk to Mateo since then. It really does take a village and I am so thankful for these mommies who were willing to share their stash and help to nourish our baby boy.
about 2 months in... not sure how much you actually drank....

Today I took my last dose of one of the key components in being able to make milk. I have mixed feelings and am sad to think it could stop. But I'll continue to take some supplements and eat lactation-friendly foods, and my heart is thankful for the time that we've had. Having not been able to grow him in my belly, it has been an absolute honor to be able to bond with him and provide for him in this way. We will continue to bond with and nourish him in a million different ways going forward. I'm so, super grateful for all of the support that we've had for this part of our journey.

Thank you for believing in unicorns.

After 4 weeks, I shared an update with a mommy group.

"Mateo, you are not picky when it comes to eating. But you take it very seriously. I didn't know what "hangry" meant, until I met you. Every day we're shocked at how much you've grown. But we're happy to see each new roll and to see you healthy and thriving." 
---a letter from an excerpt to our baby

At 4 months, Daddy is trying to get you to feed yourself.... 

These are some of the questions my friend had people answer. Now, it's my turn.
1. How long you nursed... 4 months and counting
2. Places you've nursed... in a restaurant, in a mommy group, walking down the street...
3. Things your little one does while nursing... he scratches the side of my back, plays with my shirt, wiggles, pops off and looks around, looks at me, smiles, naps (or pretends to...)
4. Moments you were so thankful to be able to just whip out a boob... in the middle of San Francisco, during a hunger meltdown, we didn't have a bottle and I loosened up the wrap he was in, and walked down the street with him attached. It was the first time I'd done it in public.
5. Pumping Experiences... I'm still pumping away. Even though it's very little, I'm always reminded that any little bit I make is basically a miracle. It gets a little exhausting, and I don't do it as often as I should anymore, but the fact that I'm still producing is amazing.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Special guest post by Tina


p/c: Every Little Bit Photography
It is so hard to put to words what an honor it has been to carry baby Mateo and help Erika and Luis along their parenthood journey. This journey for me has been amazing. Erika asked me a loooong time ago if I would be willing to make a guest blog entry and I absolutely loved this idea, but, I think this is like my third attempt to try. It is just so hard to put to words my experience.
I had always had the idea of being a surrogate in my mind, especially after being blessed with great pregnancy experiences. When I first began the conversation with my husband, Ricky, that I was seriously considering becoming a surrogate we talked about the reasons I wanted to be a surrogate and who we visualized helping.  I firmly believe God aligned our lives with Erika and Luis’ lives. We connected right away. It felt meant to be. We talked and we knew they were the ones we wanted to help. 
 Throughout out the entire process, my greatest anticipation was getting to watch Erika and Luis seeing their baby for the first time. Although, I didn’t get to experience this in person due to the circumstances of our emergency delivery, I was surprised about three weeks after the birth of baby Mateo, with a sweet video the nurse captured of Erika bringing out their baby boy to Luis.  And now I have to say, what is even greater than watching that video, is watching them enjoy and grow together as a family.
Erika and Luis, their entire family, and friends have been beyond generous and loving to me and my family, it is incredible. I am so thankful for all the love and support I received from them. I don’t think I could have found a better, more loving, or more deserving couple to have had the privilege to get to know and have a part of my life. 
To the Perales/Dominguez Family: 
Erika, Luis and sweet baby Mateo, I really have no words to thank you or express to you my gratitude for all you have done for my family. It has been such an amazing journey. May God continue to bless you and may your cup run over with love for one another.  It has been my pleasure to help make moms and dads: grandparents; sisters and brothers: aunts and uncles; but most importantly to help make a family for two adorable high-school sweethearts.

Here is the video mentioned above:

Meeting Mateo from Erika Perales on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Love Multiplied


This month we celebrated our 9 year wedding anniversary. At this time last year, we were working through some grief and lifting each other up to move forward... Stepping ever closer to meeting Mateo. 
p/c: Cameron Ingalls Photography
Over the course of our relationship (18 years together) we've had our share of obstacles, some easier to overcome than others. Infertility, has challenged us on all fronts. It's challenged us financially and emotionally, it's challenged our patience and our faith

I know that parenthood comes with its own set of challenges. All of the above, but with added exhaustion. How do we stay connected, keeping each other a priority, when seemingly, our only priority should be Mateo?

I don't have the answer. But I feel confident that we have what it takes to weather it all.... Having gone through all we have, and done all we had to do to get Mateo, our love and our partnership has been fortified. I think we look at each other through a different lens now, too. With a greater respect for one another, with a bit more forgiveness, and with a lot more gratitude. 

p/c: Cory Kendra Photography

Now, don't get me wrong. It's not all sunshine and rainbows. We argue, we get overwhelmed... sometimes I cry, sometimes I yell. But we are learning together, about each other, and about our marriage. I have to believe that with Mateo here, the capacity of our love has been multiplied. And side by side, we are figuring out how to do this parenthood thing one breath at a time.

"Mateo, we spent our anniversary this year, with you by our side. We went to a few of our favorite places in Portland, including a hike through Forest Park. We sat for a while and just made you laugh over and over again. My favorite moment of the day was when we went to Salt&Straw. The ice cream girl fell so in love with you and our story, that she gave us giant, double scoop cones for free! She kept saying, "Oh my gosh... You guuuuuuuys...." It was so cute and she was super sweet. She is just one more person you have touched with your story and I know she won't be the last." 
---excerpt from a letter to our baby

We are honored to be nominated for best blog by Resolve and we appreciate all of you who have read our words and supported us over the last year. If you enjoy our blog, please vote for us by clicking on this link. 


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Teach me how to stop time...

two week photo shoot with my former student and one of my favorite souls. ---p/c Kelsey Hart


As cliche as it is... they really do grow up so fast. Time really does fly. And I wonder every day where the time is actually going.... Mateo has been with us for one month. He is one month old. Thinking back on the lifetime before him is almost impossible. And even looking back on our whole surrogacy process, it's unreal to think that just a year ago we were getting ready for our first transfer.

As I work on Teo's baby book and some photo albums (like actual albums with pages!) it's crazy to look back and see where we were, not that long ago. To see how much hope we were holding onto during this process. To see how much trust and faith we had that one day we were going to meet Mateo.

one week photo shoot with my awesome friend Cory! ---p/c Cory Kendra

And now he's here. In our home. We've started to get to know him and figure out our routine. I can honestly say, 100%, that Luis is amazing at this being a dad stuff. He is so involved and so hands on, and he has really been such a blessing. We are a team and we have been conscious of working together at this parenthood thing, allowing each other to find time to rest when we need to.

---p/c Cory Kendra

---p/c Cory Kendra

Mateo sleeps between 4-6 hours at night, so that has been awesome. He's been doing that pretty much since his second week. He is still really mellow and only sounds his crazy alarm when he's hungry and we are not moving fast enough. Mateo keeps us on our toes. He also has night wrestling matches with his swaddle blanket. Eventually, he wins.
sneaky hand, always makes its way out.   ---p/c Cory Kendra

He has also been growing and changing so much! (And I'm kind of nervous about this 4 week leap that I've heard so much about.) He's lifting his head up, making eye contact, and cooing and smiling in the mornings. When I wake up with him, I'll lay him right between us and we'll just stare at and talk to each other. Yesterday, I swear, we were playing a game together. I would stick my tongue out and he would copy me! It was seriously the most fun game ever. Luis was even impressed! We did that for like 2 minutes, until he got bored. But it was amazing! Between that and simply having him  fall asleep on my chest, those have been some of the most enjoyable parts of motherhood thus far.

Poh has been getting used to the new family dynamics as well. He had a hard time trying to figure out what he was the first few days. With all of his squeaks and cries, Poh was pretty confused and really just wanted to lick him all over to figure it out. Obviously, we didn't let him, but he has snuck in a kiss here and there. Now Poh only cries when Mateo cries. Not sure if he's concerned or annoyed. But I think he's learning to love him. 

---p/c Cory Kendra

 "HELP!!! The fluffy beast is touching me!!!" ---p/c Kelsey Hart 

We've also had lots of awesome visitors bring us meals and other goodies over the last few weeks and we are so thankful for all of the company and joy people are sharing with us. Our families come over all the time and, needless to say, they are obsessed. We all are.

on our first family walk around the neighborhood.

Everyone has also been asking about Tina. She is amazing and we've actually visited each other a few times in the last month. She is healing well and our visits are always awesome. Her kids absolutely love Mateo. She's been a continued blessing in our life and I am still trying to wrap my head around it all. I think that might take me a lifetime.


So I have to admit that that there is a big difference in what I knew love was before and after Mateo. I think about this guy everyday, in all moments. I have been able to get out a bit more than Erika by golfing and going to basketball practice. However, being physically apart does not stop me from thinking about how he is doing, has he slept, did he eat, is he happy, was he crying. This bundle of a human has hijacked me. I love it.
watching soccer together.
I have been proactive in being as involved as possible. Not to be some super dad or to impress the wife with my skills, but to be there for my family. Half the battle of being a father is just being there. As Erika mentioned, we have done a great job working together so far. I hope to continue learning what Mateo and Erika need from me. It is a new and growing relationship for all three of us.

He loves Dumbo.
Being a dad as of now is exactly how I envisioned it. I have told people who have asked how is it going, by responding, "Eat, Sleep, Poop." Which Erika told me is the title of an actual baby book.
My most fearful part of this early stage was not knowing the routine, but by now we kinda know what to expect and have started to pick up on those small noises and cues of his, Mateo's attempt at communicating to us. His hand movements remind me of the SNL skit the with boss who has the body of a baby. And I'd be lying if I said I haven't already acted out my own version, impersonating Mateo and lack of arm control.

Luis loves wearing him.
Perhaps the most difficult part has been trying to stay awake late at night on the rocker as he goes to sleep. Mateo's sleeping routine is my favorite. It starts with his head rocking back and forth, left to right, then slowly his eyes start to roll behind this eye lids, and it finishes with him giving us a milk drunk smile, as he squeaks out sighs of happiness.

early morning smiles.

---p/c Kelsey Hart

---p/c Cory Kendra
---p/c Kelsey Hart


"Mateo, you've been the most exciting part of our day, every day for the last month. Watching you start to recognize and respond to us has brought us both so much joy and we absolutely delight in all that you do. Still excited for the lifetime of days ahead and to watch you grow at lightning speed. I only wish that I could stop time to make sure that I am fully absorbing each of these moments with you. There are so many that sometimes I feel like it's all happening at once!" ---excerpt from a letter to our baby
Early morning hangouts. I never used to be a morning person. I am now.
---p/c Cory Kendra