Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Home Stretch

Speaking of stretch, I have witnessed Orit's belly get to its current and probable peak size. Baby Aaron (and as you know from following along the journey - last name not Harpaz) is contemplating his readiness to come out and greet the world. At any given moment it can happen. The due date is two and half weeks away. So I suppose we can safely call this the home stretch. Naturally, the anticipation of it all coming to a climax is a source of high alert. But it's being done with calm energy and focused ideas of what's to come. Stay tuned for what's to be with an update...

As far as the quiet period of the pregnancy, I can bring you up to speed. The second stage. When it's absolutely obvious that a woman is pregnant. Not the awkward stage where it's not clear and no one is “gonna go there”. Some women flourish through this period. With others, it's the unfortunate downward spiral of letting herself go. My beautiful wife is definitely of the first variety. Flourishing indeed. Everything about the ideal within the idea of a beautiful pregnant woman is present in her. From beginning through to this pending end, she has carried herself and carried this baby with a giving heart and body. Nourished him from inception. And done so with grace and beauty. Now she is absolutely ready to give him the right of passage to life. Meaning, she’s ready to give birth to baby Aaron. And the most asked question is "isn't it gonna be difficult, emotionally to give up the baby?" The answer is quite frankly, no. A little shocking for the person asking, as they don't expect it that way. And the reasons are simple and many. We/she have been indirectly in this world of surrogacy for years prior to living it. This particular personal experience has been in the coming for 2 years. There is no genetic connection to us. We/she went into a pregnancy with the sole purpose of giving birth for someone else. Their child. Not ours. We’re the ride into the world, beyond that it out of our hands. The one sole purpose. Not be parents again. Becoming parents, is a lifetime of purpose. We already have that with Little Man. And the closer the birth gets and we see strollers, diaper bags, Baby Bjorn’s and lack of sleep, the more grateful we are that we don’t have to live that this time around. If anything, this process is one step closer to solidifying the conviction of not having another child of our own at this moment. Maybe never. Who knows what will actually happen in the future. The world is full of surprises. Just not in this particular case. None here. Everything was and is spelled out ahead of time. And therefore, the most natural thing for us to do is to be eager to do this last and final act of handing Aaron off into the arms of our ever more anticipating friends, J & R, his parents. And us, we’ll look back knowing we made a small mark and a strong bond and move on to the next stages of our life. So no, it's not gonna be hard emotionally. On the contrary. It would be difficult emotionally if we had to take care of a baby beyond the birth. I think the explanation educates the inquirers. And I think, in most cases they get it. And those that do are touched.

Which brings me to some of the looks, confusion and responses we encounter. People are vocal about the obvious visual picture of a belly. They’re quick to want to converse about the belly. Mix it with their natural assumption of happiness for our having another baby. Mazal Tov! And they are quicker to be taken aback by the unexpected response they get. Especially when Little Man is around. He tends to like to take the lead - "no, it's not my brother" pause. "He's my surrogate brother and his name is Aaron ***** **********." pause. The reactions and facial expressions we face in that moment - PRICELESS. Sometimes it's a slow coming to understanding. Other’s quick. Always with shock as the realization sets in. Always with interest and further questioning, regardless of their politics or beliefs. The mental picture of their miffed looks is always a source of laughter in recounting the stories and becomes a part of the story as a whole.

Joking aside, the pregnancy has progressed as it should and as expected. On-schedule. With healthy numbers. Monthly meetings with the midwives are now weekly. The care is thorough and professional. One or both, J & R are present and as much a part of these and everything else in an attentive, sensitive and generous way. A Doula has been found and those wheels are in motion. Little Man wants to be a part of it (obviously not the raw full experience at the end) and definitely meet Aaron. So we’ve enlisted a few hands and backup plans. As goes with my work, which has to be covered in case I must run. And I’ve been crazy busy for a long stretch now. Three more days and I’m done. Until the next time (and you never know when that will be so you take it all). Discussions on logistics have taken place. Decisions have been made. Lists are being made. Standby...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


A bit of a writer’s slump accompanied me throughout this blog drought. Not that there's not much to write about. It's just that it's been more of a physical slump that had an affect on the mental. I’ve been plagued with a series of "issues" that have abruptly forced me to take heed of my health and introduced me to my "midlife" period. Not the so-called “crisis” leading to an extravagant new sports car. I could only wish - right now I'm dreaming of the Dodge Challenger. But, sort of a wake up call introduction to my newly arrived 40's.

My knee surgery took place the end of May. I had anticipated and feared it for so long. And like all hindsight lessons, there was something to be learned. It was simpler and quicker than expected. I woke up the morning of and went in to the surgery center at 6:45am, less than 2 miles from home, with my chin up but clenched fists of nerves. The nurse took my blood pressure prior to inserting the IV and took a step back - the numbers spoke of my nerves from the pending needle (and procedure). We decided to take a moment to breathe deep and have me take a little somethin’ somethin’ to calm me down. A few minutes later it was done. The IV was in and I was still conscious. Little did I know then that was to be the first step in my overcoming syncope and my fear of needles, as would it would be one of many to come. Through the IV, the first step of the anesthesia had begun. I remember being wheeled into the surgery room, the eyes of my orthopedic surgeon recognizable behind the mask and next to him the anesthesiologist introduced himself. Then fade to black.

I woke up an hour later (surgery was 45mins) and that was that. All done. I was sent home bandaged, with crutches, though able to walk on my own. My recovery at home began. Lots of ice and two days of not removing the bandages. I didn't experience pain, only swelling and tightness. Manageable enough to be able to physically work so long as it didn't require bending the knee. Work was quiet as I consciously decided to not take on any projects for a window of time. And so I immersed myself into an intense and prolific period week of woodworking and building in my man cave garage. I built a TV cabinet and a little side table. I modified and refinished another old side table and an outdoor bench. I couldn't sit still. And didn't feel the need to do so as long as I did things slowly, with care and tending to the wound. The following week, I went in to have the stitches removed, only to find out there were no stitches under the two band-aids hiding two little scabbing puncture holes on each side below the kneecap. It looked like an alien face with the kneecap being the large forehead and the two holes red eyes.  I mean shit, not even stitches! And I had all this anxiety going into it. Anyway, swelling aside I was happy to be where I was. Until, that is, I heard about the crystals.

During surgery, the issue I was having with my knee (as well as my feet during unexplained excruciating week long pain flare ups) became apparent that it was not only as a result of and/or overcompensation from the torn meniscus that was being corrected. There were very clear deposits of crystals built up around the joint. These crystals form as a result of the body either overproducing uric acid or not flushing enough of it out. Either way the level of uric acid is higher than it should be. My new unfortunate condition is called Gout. Most of you have heard of it, but don’t know what it is or associate it with older, fatter unhealthy people. Of course upon hearing this, my mind quickly went to a dark place. What is it? Why is it? Why me? What does it mean for my future? I'm not an overweight, medieval king gorging on a huge turkey leg dripping fat down through my beard. I'm an active, healthy young man of 39 (that recently changed to 40). My weight to height ratio is right on. So why? Who knows? It's not caused from diet or lifestyle. And regardless of the fact that I don't know of any blood relatives that have Gout, it tends to be a hereditary thing. And bottom line, it's no longer about why, but rather what now?

The Internet is both a blessing and a curse in times like these. The initial search for knowledge can take you down a never-ending path of information overload. Conflicting, overlapping, and confusing stories of personal experiences, medical and natural recommendations. A whole lot of quackery too.

The next stage is dealing with doctors, tests, medications and insurance. Dipping into this world, you come to realize that we're just lab rats constantly tested and adjusted for the benefit of large corporations making money. Healthcare in America. More like Healthsale. Don't get me started. I have a lot to say about the topic, but it's not something I wish to write about.

Anyway, our bodies are intricate and all the systems are interwoven. When one thing happens, it's safe to say other issues lay in wait or as a result. As I was trying to figure out my way of treating The Gout (as Little Man calls it), a few tests showed other issues that are most likely related but no one can say. One smaller kidney than the other, higher than usual blood pressure and too much protein in the urine. What they can say is here, take this medicine... All I can do is continue to educate myself and find the right balance of treatment for myself.

So it's been a long few months of both post surgery rehabilitation and getting back to a sense of normalcy as I chart out my lifestyle choices for the second half of my life. I have finally come to a place that I can both write about this not so healthy episode as well as have it under control. I'm active again. More so than before. I am living and eating healthier. I’m exercising regularly. I'm experiencing a much stronger and better me that looks forward to continuing the road to health, strength and longevity. Some medications are involved which make me unhappy with the thought of it being a permanent thing. For now it’s my course. And like an alcoholic at an AA meeting that has comes to term and is there to overcome the addiction, I can stand tall and say out loud - My name is Gal and I have Gout.