Monday, April 18, 2011

Notes From A Cafe

Pistachios are being cracked with salty fingers. Scooby and Shaggy are once again cowardly hiding from some ghostly-evil-not-so-genius-after-all-demagogue, looking to rid of the gang of teenagers in a last push towards world domination.

And that's all I managed to write on the flight before being distracted by the uncomfortable muscle aches of immobility that kick in the minute you hear that click of the seatbelt. We made it through the first domestic and later transatlantic flights. We crossed a continent , an ocean and a sea. We watched movies, did math, tossed and turned in sleep attempts (Little Man being much more successful) and comically climbed over the guy that slept through it all while blocking the isle seat. It took a couple of pseudo attempts to gather the courage for climbing over a sleeping stranger. Then, that too became normal. And we made it to the other side. Out through the automated doors that spill out to the main reception hall for arrivals, Little Man ran into the awaiting arms of Saba and Safta. And so, our Israel 2011 visit begins.

A few days later, I sit in an Israeli sidewalk cafe, sipping on my upside down coffee (the practical Hebrew translation for cafe au lait) and amongst the many ponderings that roam my inner thoughts are; what makes ice so American that nowhere else is it typical to serve it with a Coke? Little things that seem insignificant like this add up to the more substantial reasons of why I am no longer a resident of this country. There are many. There is a tension and aggressiveness that looms over the relaxed atmosphere of the full to capacity sidewalk cafes, frequented by the wide spectrum of the population. News on a radio, tv or spoken of in person is heard in the background of any given time and place. There is a love hate relationship to this way of life that is typical to all immersed in it. On the one hand it's emotionally and
aggressively defended towards those who chose to attack it from the outside. On the other, it's battered from within by it's insiders like a no holds barred cage fight. It's like a racial joke that can only be told by the same culture that's being joked about. Only insiders can take the piss out of the inside. Anyway, I'm not gonna get into the passionate inner struggle of who I am or where I belong. Not in this post. Probably, mostly because it's not much of a struggle anymore with every year passing. I am in a good place. regardless of where I physically reside. I am settled and satisfied. With life, my life and myself. Not to say there's not a need to aspire for more - always. There is work to be done and roads ahead to travel. My hope for the future is to continue as I have thus far - with pride and without regret. In the meantime, I take pictures, make art, write, live, give and get.

So I sit here a continent, an ocean and sea apart from my wife, with pride and hope for the journey that I spoke of two entries ago. The surrogacy journey. The one that has been all on paper and talk thus far, has officially begun in it's actual manifestation. It's been a long theoretical journey of which we are now stepping over the threshold of reality.

As I begin to type these words into my iphone for the first draft of this piece, there is a chance that currently existing cells will continue to multiply to the point of a human creation. A day prior to this father/son family visit Little Man and I are on, was the "transfer" of two healthy embryos that belong to our hopeful couple, the Intended Parents. It's a very clinical way to speak of them. And as they're warm, loving people I will give them the respect they deserve by naming them without naming them. J & R are each their first initial and from so forth will be regarded as such.

Last Thursday was a day that started like all others in this normal, mortal world. A small window of that morning, was not. Orit was told to drink a lot of water prior to coming in. More correctly, she was told to come with a full bladder. Those of you who know her, know that she does as she feels. In altruism as well as basic physical needs. So when the girl has got to pee, she's got to pee. She's gotten quite creative in the past with this topic. Like the one time with a diaper... They picked the perfect internal organ to fill up completely for this procedure. She's told that it would not be the first time should the valium relaxed muscles give into the urge of peeing right there and then on the medical table. We all would understand, but no one wants to see it. Apparently, the bladder being full pushes down on the uterus and makes it easier for the fertility specialist to see what he's doing on the ultrasound. Which in turn makes it easier for the rest of the peanut gallery to follow along as well. Those of us in the grand stands are yours truly and J & R. R, who's gone through this procedure twice herself (now you know which one is the intended mother), is knowledgable in more than just this procedure but in the whole fertility medical world. She's an RN and besides her personal experience and journey, has also worked in the fertility field. I suppose every case is different and every couple and surrogate has a different relationship. Ours is such that when they asked if they could be present, Orit (and I) didn't hesitate. It's their baby and so long as they're comfortable being in the room and following along, we are. I'm not the one who's vulnerable, legs up in stirrups. And Orit is certainly not shy. Once she's positioned and prepared under a blanket, they come in and the fertility party commences. Music and all (a little background ambiance believe it or not. I think it was Buena Vista Social Club). Orit, a little loopy from the valium given her to relax her body, is laying down in position. Me at her side. J & R behind us. All anxiously glued to the ultrasound screen like patrons at a sports bar waiting for the kick-off. Don't ask me why I chose this metaphor as none of us are neither bar patrons nor sports fans. The doctor and his assistant are on the working side of the blanket. Activity begins on the screen. A catheter is inserted and is immediately and clearly visible on the ultrasound screen. A window reminiscent of a dumbwaiter opens from the adjoining room where the embryologist passes the two embryos in a syringe with a long tube. Kind of like what we see on tv when the doctor asks for a tool and it's handed over with two hands in a sterile and procedural manner. There is a formality to the hand off. The long thin tube is inserted into the catheter and the syringe is pushed in. And poof, two little specs are seen as white dots on the screen being pushed out of the tube and into the abyss of the uterus. And that's that. Two minutes and it's over. The most uncomfortable part is the full bladder. She is now free to pee. But "please don't get up just quite yet... I'll bring a bed pan," the nurse said, as we all exited the room. I then come back into the room for a quiet, intimate wait of 20 minutes as she dozes off into a sleep. I believe it's the first time Orit has ever taken any kind of medication such as Valium, so it's natural that it knocked her out. And then we are finished. As a souvenir, we're given a 4"x6" photo of the two embryos (as seen through a microscope and by this time multiplied into 8 cells) that have just been placed in her womb. And off we went for lunch at the Nickel Diner. Back to normalcy just like that. Just another day in everyone else's world.

The chances of a pregnancy "catching" as they say, are less than what you'd imagine. Around 30 percent. These were embryos that have been frozen for several years after all. But we're hopeful that the host body and her determination to make this happen will defy the odds. If anyone can make it happen, it's Orit. There was a chance that they'd not survive the thawing. But both did. There is a smaller chance that they will both "catch" and there will be twins. Right now we hope for one. For the deed to be done. That's the gift we signed up for. The reality of carrying twins is not what Orit would chose given absolutes. Though she will deal with the realities of the science and nature, and take the chances as they come. In the meantime rest is the prescription. It's why Little man and I are here in Israel alone. School dictates our schedule these days and spring break is here. There are only so many windows. As Orit remains a world apart, we are still very much connected. Technology facilitates it. The heart and soul make it real.

Ten days following the transfer, a blood test is taken to determine results in absolute terms. Since a week has past, in a few days we shall all know where we stand. Maybe before, the body will give it's own signs. None thus far. For now we wait and cross our fingers. Nature is taking it's course.

And so on then 10th day, I am expecting and awaken by a video chat, an email and a call -"Congratulations! You are going to be a surrogate daddy!!!" And so it is. Coincidentally falling on our 12th Anniversary (which will be celebrated together upon my return). Looks like I'll be making some trips to Whole Foods for that particular flourless chocolate cake she craved with Little Man. Or maybe this time it will be something else. Either way, I'll be happy to go. Welcome to my life.