Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Newest Adventure

I got asked today if I was ready for this new adventure my family has embarked on. Another person said I get to experience all the emotions and hardships of the ride without the benefits. Some of you out there already know what I'm about to drop on the rest of you. The rest of you are starting to wonder if I'll ever get to the point, but also know that I'll drag you on a little ride prior to doing so.

So what is the point? I don't really know. Do I write for me or for you? To inform or to justify, or simply to share? For now, let's call it an insomniac's rant.

I have been blessed with many things in my 39 years and I am very aware of them. We all make choices in life, some more defining than others. Some are made for us and we must either adapt, or not. Some just appear in metaphors. I look back at a critical night 13 years ago, on a dark wintry night atop a Brooklyn rooftop and remember one of my such moments. A light bulb lit up above my head and a flame burned within. I knew in that moment, I would be going on many adventures with the woman that now sleeps next to me as I write this. I scared the living shit out of her by making the proclamation right there and then, causing a set back that made me have to fight back for what I thought I had already achieved. Ah, relationships! But hell, that only made me stronger and more persistent, and the payoff, well, you guys have followed our son's life through my Theo Progress Reports for 7 years now. And our devotion to our "Unit," as I refer to my family, through images and words are in this blog and many emails prior to it’s inception. Some of you have been there since day one. Others have hopped on somewhere along the way. Some of you I know well. Others I look forward to meeting one day. But here, in this archive, is the categorically slow unfolding of our story.

So things have worked out for us in that sense. We have worked for us. Made it work. Quite an achievement in this day and age, which gives both of us a great sense of pride in ourselves and for one another. Respect and admiration maintain the flame of love. So much the opposite of what we perceive when just falling into the spirals of love. That chemical high we want never to loose is such an illusion and such the downfall for so many as it starts to fade and we scramble to hold on. As my mother told me through one of my depressive heartbroken late teenage stages, "it's easy to fall in love, it takes work to stay there." Was not what I wanted to hear then, but it turned out to be a saying I never forgot, nor will. I think I understand it now. But still, there is much life ahead and much work to be done.

And so another adventure has begun for us. How much do any of you know about the world of surrogacy? That crazy science of induced fertility where nature is cruel that started with that one “test tube baby” we vaguely remember from the news all those years ago in 1978. Actually, not so many years in the scheme of things. Louise Brown is her name. Imagine for a second being her and being the absolute first of a kind. Not a mixed breed or of a new race. Not with a new disease or mutation never seen before, but still created by nature’s hand. Not unique because of an achievement or an ability. It’s quite a thought in itself. It’s quite an achievement for humanity, regardless of your politics. One that was worthy of The Nobel Prize for Medicine for it’s inventor. Now Louise Brown has a son of her own, conceived naturally. In a sense replenished back to nature’s ways. We’ve advanced tremendously in this science. So much so that we all know it in it’s less crude and more scientific name as In Vitro Fertilization. It’s in our common vocabulary and our daily quest to reproduce. Orit and I are lucky in that we never had to acquaint ourselves intimately in it when we decided to start a family. Sure we knew all the trials and tribulations others around us, close and not so, where going through to get there. And it seemed like more and more were forced to take difficult routes on their quest towards it. Some around us made choices of aiding in science in the more alternative ways. That's when surrogacy first entered our lexicon and education.

Our personal experience was such that we just stopped trying not to start a family and it happened. Wham bam... (you know the rest), pregnancy. Then came the choice of having our child at home as nature intended in our eyes. Inspired by being present and witnessing the birth of our niece, Noa (second daughter of my crazy, amazing sister Ayelet who can see a monkey in my knee - see previous post INSPIRATION if you’re that curious). And so here we made another defining choice that led to our next greatest adventure to that date and our greatest invention to date. Theo came into the world following a picture perfect pregnancy (and well documented at that) as peacefully and calmly as we were ready to accept him. On our terms. In our space. And it's all been yet another adventure with every new day and new stage. And we’re both in love with him and every minute of him, through all the difficulties and challenges of parenting. Another saying that will stick with me throughout my lifetime, this one said to Orit and I by a complete stranger - "you're making a person, make a good one." Think about that. We may make a person for selfish reasons. And that’s ok. It’s human. But, for humanity’s sake as well as our own legacy, really invest in making a good one.

And here we are, beginning the next big adventure. The one you can guess by now, if you've read this far, where my wife checks off one of her "bucket list" items of doing something so selfless, so absolute in it's giving. So random in it's choice of recipients. How many of you think this way? Becoming a surrogate. Bringing forth to the world a child for another couple not able to do it on their own. Their child in our (Orit's) oven. We've had several close friends over the past 8 years that have exposed us to this world, albeit from the receiving end. And so it becomes normal. And so, the seed was planted (still metaphorically) in Orit's mind probably going back that far. And with her, a seed planted is a seed nurtured is a flower that WILL grow. So she made the decision and that's that, it's gonna happen. Obviously, mutual respect and admiration dictates getting me on board. And obviously, mutual respect and admiration dictates that I've been on board since the seed was just being planted. It came as no surprise to me. That's one of the reasons my light bulb lit up all those years ago.

So here we go. Moving on to the practicalities. So much of what we spend our energy on for many of us is just about making a decision. Once that weight is taken off, we are free to do. Next comes how to go about it? Research, education, agencies, meetings, questionnaires, forms, more forms, medical histories, etc... You'd be surprised at how detailed it all can get. But then again, you shouldn't be as it is bringing in a life. That was about a year ago when all that began. Fast forward; a set back in timing, first couple match attempt wrong for us, discussions with Little Man preparing, educating and involving him. Then came getting on birth control pills after many years of not (ironic, but needed to establish a regulated pattern for timing), needing a chicken pox vaccine cause Orit has never had the disease, and yada yada yada... A new couple is then presented on paper. We meet them. We like them. They like us. We have mutual sensibilities and expectations. A contract is drawn. There are lawyers. Amendments are made. Enter the fertility doctor and nurse. A mock cycle is done with estrogen in order to prepare the uterus for the embryo transfer and impending pregnancy. All very scientific, clinical and in a nutshell. The embryos have absolutely no genetic connection to us. They belong to the couple. The womb that will carry and give birth to the child is purely a vessel to ensure a birth from scientific specimen to the Intended Parent’s (IP's) arms and a normal childhood and life. There are several more steps along the way. A couple more visits with the doctor. A few more lunches and hikes with our new friends and partners of the journey. Here the story gets more personal. More intimate. More private. And because there is a specific contract, I won't get into the details of who these IP's are, what they do or anything else personal on their end. I will respect their privacy as promised and as my ethics dictate. The adventure from our perspective, I will try to document to the best of my writing and visual abilities, which is what I'm attempting starting here.

We are well on the way and anticipate the last stages of the science to be over with soon.  Stay tuned for more on the process. All systems are go. We are about to lift off towards the pregnancy stage. And that's where we are to date.

As for Little Man, you may ask how much is he involved and really understands at his age? Well, we've had many talks and have been very candid with him going back quite a while. Those who know him, know that he understands. He gets it. He gets us. He really likes, has had fun and feels comfortable with the couple after hanging out with them on two occasions now. And his assessment of their character is this - "he's gonna be a great dad and she's gonna be a great mom." What more can you ask for?

My mother posed a question. Of course she comes from that camp (seems to be a generational thing) that believes that we should have another child of our own. A sibling for Theo. Two are better than one. That's a whole other discussion and there are many reasons we could get into with all the pros and cons from both our points of view. And that may still happen one day regardless of our current belief that we are good with our "Unit." We are open to this journey being the catalyst that will ultimately help us make that future decision. We haven't done it thus far for many reasons that have led us to this moment. Until then, one step at a time. My mother is obviously concerned as is the nature of any mother. For Theo. For Orit. But she is also behind us in full support of our decisions as she always is after hearing our convictions. I love her for that. Her question was what if Theo grows up one day and begins to feel resentful of the fact the we brought another child into the world that wasn't his brother or sister? I was a little surprised at that, but didn't hesitate in my response. First of all we refuse to make decisions based on what if situations that Theo may one day face. We must empower him and give him the chance to establish his own feelings and trust us as we trust ourselves. Second of all, I can't see that happening cause if it does, it will mean that we failed our job as the parents we strive to be. If we do our job right, there will be no reason to resent, but rather take pride and appreciate us all the more for the choices made to give of ourselves.

So going back to my opening and the questions I've been recently asked. Am I ready? Yes. I am ready. And yes, I am prepared to endure the emotions and hardships that arise throughout. And no, I don't see it as doing so without any of the benefits. I have the enormously large benefit and privilege of being in this marriage. And I love my wife all the more for being who she is and doing what she does. This is as much my adventure as it is hers. This is what I signed up for.