You guys, I met someone!

Well, two someones.

I knew I wanted to do another surrogacy the second the twins were born. Call me a glutton for punishment if you’d like, but I’m proud of my particular brand of crazy. I always thought that it would happen in much the same way–I’d reapply with CSP, I’d get matched, and we’d begin the long legal and medical processes.

Then I met Roger and Mimi (names have been changed to protect the innocent). When we met in the fall of last year, they had been trying to have a baby for over five years. They tried everything, and just before we met, Mimi’s doctor had just informed her that due to her underlying health issues, even if she could get pregnant, it was no longer safe for her to carry a pregnancy. This news was devastating to them, and they reached out to their rabbi for solace and advice. Their rabbi, whom I knew through my work in the Jewish community, mentioned me and my recent surrogacy. He offered to connect us, not to match us up, necessarily, but to give them someone to talk to who had experience in the surrogacy world.

We met for coffee a few times over the next several weeks. I was moved by their story, and we hit it off. After our third meeting, we began discussing my carrying a pregnancy for them, and before I knew it, we were both speaking to the agency, preparing to begin the process. But before too long, I got a phone call from Mimi. She had met with her fertility specialist and mentioned offhand the complications I experienced during my previous delivery. He told her that he would not work with a surrogate who had a history of preeclampsia and complicated births. He refused to even see me or review my records. The couple did not want to change doctors at this point, so that was that. Door closed.

Before this, I had only briefly thought about how my HELLP syndrome might affect my ability to act a surrogate again. I began to doubt that any doctor (or any intended parents) would want to take the risk. I put my desire for another surrogacy on the back burner and withdrew my reapplication from CSP.

Fast forward 8 months. It was July, and Mike and I were down in LA visiting Maya, Ben, and their daddies. They had invited friends over for Shabbat dinner, two guys named Adi and Ron (names have not been changed because they’re super awesome and chill). I had met Adi on my last visit to LA, and he had made an impression with his amazing rapport with the babies.

The evening was friendly and fun–the conversation flowed and we all laughed and talked like old friends. Over the course of the conversation, the surrogacy came up, of course, and I learned that not only were Adi and Ron in the thick of planning their wedding, but they were also thinking about babies. I glanced over at Gil and Tomer, and I caught them exchanging a look and a smile.

We’re being set up! I thought, and I had to laugh. I had pretty much talked myself out of trying again; the sting of rejection from that one IVF doctor was enough to cloud my desire with doubt. But I really liked these guys, and the thought of keeping it in the family, so to speak, was attractive. When Ron invited us over for dessert the next night, we accepted, eagerly anticipating speaking with them further about the possibility.

The next night went just as well as the first. We discussed some possibilities and made a plan to sleep on it then talk more over Skype the next week. The major things I had to think about were whether to use the agency again or go private and if I would be willing to carry twins again. I was open to foregoing the agency and going through a fertility lawyer instead, as long as all of the same safeguards were in place. And as for twins, as luck would have it, Ron and Adi were thinking they would transfer only one embryo, anyway.

Adi, Gil, Tomer, and I at Adi and Ron's wedding.

Snapshot of Adi, Gil, Tomer, and me at Adi and Ron’s wedding.

Because Ron and Adi were planning their wedding, we put most things on hold until after the festivities. So in December, we began the process in earnest. The dads got their sperm analyzed, I visited my OB, and they began looking for an egg donor. I tried (am still trying) not to get my hopes up, understanding that I could very well be rejected by another IVF doctor. I spoke to a perinatologist (high-risk OB) at Kaiser, who wrote a letter to the IVF doctor with his opinion that my risk of developing HELLP or another form of preeclampsia again is low, assuming a singleton pregnancy and different genetic material.  The IVF doctor accepted this letter and agreed to see me himself for a saline ultrasound and some bloodwork.

And here we are. My appointment with him is in two weeks, and I’m trying my damnedest not to get my hopes up or to get too attached to this theoretical pregnancy. Everything happened so fast and went so smoothly last time. There are a million what-ifs–what if something’s wrong with my uterus, what if they discover something funky in my bloodwork, what if the first transfer fails, and then the second and third, what if I miscarry, what if the fetus isn’t healthy…what if what if what if? I had forgotten the uncertainty of the early stages of this process. I had forgotten the pressure of holding the hopes and dreams of two awesome people in my uterus.

I’ll take it one step at a time. Next step is a quick trip to LA for the saline ultrasound. One benefit of doing this surrogacy privately is that the dads can be more involved in these early stages. Mike and I are staying with them, and I am looking forward to having a couple days to bond with them and process with them a little bit. And bonus: we get a little visit in with my first surro-family!

Buckle up, friends! Here we go.


Opinion Time: why surrogacy should be legal, regulated, and fair

I have seen several really tragic stories in the news the last couple of weeks about surrogate pregnancies gone wrong. Very brief overview: one was a surrogate for two dads in the UK. They met through a Facebook group and had no written contract. The surrogate changed her mind and was advised by the owner of the Facebook group to lie to the dads and tell them she had miscarried. She carried the baby to term, claimed it as her own, and now the dads are fighting for custody. The other is about a paraplegic woman, an Israeli, whose niece carried a pregnancy for her. The baby was taken away and placed in foster care because surrogacy is only legal when the intended parents are a married husband and wife. The mom is now fighting for custody. The third is about a gay couple who hired a surrogate in Thailand. In Thailand, the surrogate is placed on the birth certificate, and the parents and surrogate must appear in court to get the birth certificate changed. The surrogate has gone MIA, refusing to complete the paperwork, so now the dads, the baby, and their older child are stuck in Thailand, unable to return to Spain where they live. In all three of these instances, the babies had absolutely no genetic relation to the surrogate, and in all but one (the woman in Israel), the babies were the biological children of one of their parents.

The common denominator here is that all of these surrogacies took place in countries that have outdated, discriminatory surrogacy laws or where surrogacy is largely unregulated. There are no protections in place for either the surrogate or the parents. I am not a lawyer, and I’m not going to pretend to understand the intricacies of surrogacy law, but I do have more first-hand experience with surrogacy than your average joe. Here is what I firmly believe: surrogacy must be legal, it must be regulated, and, in most cases, it must be done through a reputable agency.

Once I decided to become a surrogate, I did a ton of research on the various agencies in California. I chose one of the most established agencies with a long history of successful surrogacies which also happened to be the first surrogacy agency to accept gay couples at intended parents. The screening process for me was very rigorous: I went through a multitude of physical examinations and, perhaps even more importantly, several psychological screenings. My husband did the same. I was counseled on every step of the process, prepared for the emotional toll a surrogacy can take. My counselor was in constant contact with me throughout the process, especially at the end, when it was time for the babies to be born and to go home with their dads. When surrogacy is unregulated and done without a third party, there is no support for the surrogate. While what the surrogates in those stories from the UK and Thailand did was completely reprehensible, I must remind myself that these women had no one trained to counsel them through the process. I went into the experience completely prepared, with eyes wide open, with layers and layers of support, and it was still very difficult to say goodbye to those babes. I can only imagine what it would be like to enter into a surrogacy unprepared.

California has the best surrogacy laws in the country. Legally, the babies I carried were never mine. My contract stated that I had no parental rights, that the legal parents were, in fact, the babies’ parents. It even laid out next of kin by three degrees, should anything have happened to both of the dads. In addition to that, toward the end of the pregnancy, I was “sued for custody,” which was essentially just a legal document saying, once again, that I gave up parental rights and the dads were to have full custody from the moment of birth. Once the babies were born, both dads were automatically on the birth certificates. This legal process was easy and left no room for error or interpretation. All the parties involved were protected, and all our obligations were clear.

Bottom line is, when surrogacy is illegal or unregulated, none of these protections or support systems are in place, and someone is likely to get hurt.

So, what can we do about it? I, for one, will continue to tell people my story, to show everyone that surrogacy is a legitimate, safe way for people to grow their families. When I read horrid, judgmental, ignorant comments on a news article, I will respond respectfully and thoughtfully. I will teach my children that there is more than one way (or two or three) to create a family, and each is as beautiful as the next. Surrogacy became incrementally easier for gay couples with the SCOTUS decision to legalize gay marriage nation-wide, but there are still outdated, unfair laws across the nation and around the world. Children, surrogates, and parents alike are going to continue to be hurt if surrogacy is not legalized and regulated and if the laws continue to discriminate against certain kinds of family. Please help me spread the word about the beauty of surrogacy.

You want to do this again?!

“Would you think I’m totally crazy if I said I absolutely want to do this again?”

Mike shot me a quick sideways glance and then hesitated just a beat too long before saying, “No, not at all.”

We were driving to Sonoma for my last surrogate support group. I was three and a half weeks postpartum, still in maternity clothes, still sore and in a little bit of pain from the delivery, still super hormonal. So I don’t blame Mike for thinking I’m crazy. But it’s the truth: I want to do it again.

This past year has been a crazy roller coaster ride, full of complicated combinations of emotions. There were all of the intense joys and pains of pregnancy, with the added compounding factor of a surrogacy and all it entails. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but also one of, if not the most rewarding. For every painful or uncomfortable moment I experienced, I can think of three more joyful, beautiful moments. And every picture I get from the dads chronicling the twins’ first weeks on the outside gives me warm, gooey, happy feelings that make me so proud of the part I played in the creation of this family.

The hardest part by far has been the toll this pregnancy has taken on my relationship with my kids and having to watch Mike take the brunt of the fallout. Experiencing this pregnancy with them and teaching them that families come in all shapes and sizes was amazing, but because this pregnancy was more difficult than my past pregnancies, I found myself unable to parent my kids fully, both physically and emotionally. This was especially difficult on my 2-year-old, Solomon, who entered a very difficult stage a couple months into the surrogacy. In particular, he began throwing tantrums. Not your run-of-the-mill, ignore them and they’ll go away tantrums. Oh, no. These are awe-inspiring, out of control, possessed by demons, all that’s missing is projectile vomit and a spinning head tantrums. They are scary–for me and Mike, for him, and for Ramona (and probably for our neighbors, too). And they’ve continued post delivery, with the added bonus of Solly completely rejecting me. In the throes of a tantrum, if I get anywhere near him, if I even enter the room he is in, he will scream even harder, shrieking at me to “Walk away Mom!” If I go to him when he wakes up crying in the middle of the night, he’ll whimper, “I want Daddy,” and cry pitifully until I relent and send Mike in. It’s completely heartbreaking, and I will often collapse under the crushing guilt of knowing that my partial absence during this pregnancy is somewhat to blame for this rejection.

I have begun the work of rebuilding my relationship with Sol, and although it is obviously going to be a long road, I rejoice every time he comes to me, unprompted, for a cuddle, or when he says to Mike, “No, I want Mommy to do it!” Sometimes I have the urge to take off both our shirts and hold him skin to skin like I would a newborn, reestablishing our bond, but sadly, no almost-three-year-old would stand for that. So I’ll just go day by day, knowing that this too shall pass.

So why do I want to do another surrogacy? It’s a little hard to explain. During this entire process, I felt like I was doing something, like I had a purpose. This may sound crazy to most of you, but maybe I was meant to have a bunch of babies for other people. Every single doctor who had his or her hands up in me (and it was a lot of doctors) told me that with my very high, very long cervix, I am an ideal carrier. I’m done having babies for myself, and it would be a shame to put my high, long cervix on the bench forever, right? So I’ll give myself time to heal, I’ll enjoy being with my family as just me, sans nausea and a giant belly, I’ll give Solly time to grow out of his tantrums, and then after a while I’ll begin to think about my next surrogacy journey, whatever that might look like.

Am I certifiable? Maybe. But deep down, I know this is the right path for me. This is what I can do for couples facing the trials of infertility and for gay couples who long for children of their own. I want to do something to help people, and this is what I do well, so this is what I will do.

Our Birth Story (with far too much detail)

**Long post ahead. But it's worth it, I swear!**

A little more than a week ago, I got the call from my OB. “How about having some babies today?” she asked, in her trademark chipper voice.

“Um, ok! What’s going on?”

“You’ve been officially diagnosed with HELLP syndrome. Your liver enzymes are way high and your platelet count is dropping. If we let you go any longer, you could go into liver failure or you could begin to have seizures.”

“Sounds convincing. I’ll call the dads.”

IMG_1826And thus commenced an 18 hour labor. I got to the hospital around 10:45 on Tuesday morning, where I stopped by the perinatology department for one last ultrasound. The perinatologist wanted to double check the relative sizes of the babies and their position to make sure that vaginal delivery was still the best option. I thought we would be meeting with the doctor to discuss all the options, but I was sent to Labor and Delivery without speaking to anyone.

What followed was an hour or so of not really knowing what was going on while they monitored the babies’ heartbeats and my contractions. Turns out I was actually in early labor anyhow. Weird. Finally, the senior resident in charge of my case (we call her Blonde Doctor, not in a pejorative way, but because she is very pretty and blonde and I love the TV show Scrubs) came in to talk to me. She told me that in my case, vaginal delivery is still the safest option, even with Baby B being breech, because my low platelet count could cause excessive bleeding during a C-section. And because I was in early labor, my body would likely react favorably to the pitocin (the synthetic hormone used to induce labor, known for producing incredibly painful, relentless contractions).

IMG_5345All of this sounded ok. The daddies were on their way with an ETA of about 6:00pm. I had been preparing for a pitocin-induced labor for weeks, and I had read up on what to expect during a breech extraction (do a google image search–I dare you). But then Blonde Doctor gave me some bad news–I had to be on magnesium sulfate during the entire labor and for 24 hours after the delivery. Magnesium sulfate, commonly referred to as “the devil’s drug,” is used to prevent seizures, one of the most dangerous complications of HELLP syndrome. It is a muscle relaxant, which is not what you want to be on during labor while your uterus is trying its damnedest to contract, and it causes wooziness, hot flashes, grogginess, nausea, vomiting, and all-around yuckiness–all things I would have liked to avoid during labor. But I also did not want to begin having seizures, so, at about 12:00pm, I began pitocin and magnesium.

One of the super-fun things about being on mag during labor is that you have to be on complete bedrest. And as those of you who have ever been in labor can affirm, in bed is the worst possible place to be. None of those magical yoga poses to help ease the pain and help the baby descend, no way to relieve the horrible pressure on your back and hips, and, because there is no dignity in childbirth, no trips to toilet. That’s right–for the first 7 hours of labor, before they placed my epidural, I had to use a bedpan. And let me just take this opportunity to say that nurses are the most amazing people on the planet. I cannot imagine a more selfless occupation. Thank you to each and every one of my nurses, including the one who had to help me heave my gigantic ass onto a bedpan every 90 minutes for 7 hours.

Once I began the magnesium, I entered what I began to call “mag time.” The hours were simultaneously endless and impossibly fast. The time passed in a liquid fashion, sometimes flowing so swiftly that I could not believe the clock and sometimes seeming to stop altogether. My contracts got stronger and stronger, and my labs continued to deteriorate. I worried and worried that the dads would not make it in time, and I had very conflicting feelings about wanting it to just be over and wanting to hold on until the dads got there. (If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to take a chill pill–I would have 12 more hours of labor after the dads arrived!) Finally, at 6:00pm, 6 hours after beginning the drips, Gil and Tomer arrived!

About an hour later, I decided to get my epidural. I probably could have gone longer, but Blonde Doctor was worried that if my platelet count continued to drop, they would not be able to place one at all. So my anesthesiologist, Liz, placed a very careful epidural. (Liz, by the way, has a child in Ramona’s class. It was so great to have someone I know be there for me, especially later on when things got dicey.)

The next few hours passed in mag time, with Mike rubbing my back and snoozing at the foot of my bed, and the dads, my mom, and my stepdad talking quietly. Sometime in the middle of the night, Blonde Doctor broke my water, and I instantly progressed to 6cm. She then upped my pitocin drip as high as it would go. No more messing around–time to get these babies out! Unfortunately, this was around the same time that my epidural began to stop working. I regained the feeling in my feet and legs, and I began to feel the pitocin-fueled contractions more and more. Mike rubbed my aching back and hips more vigorously as I moaned through the contractions.

About 4 hours later, Liz came back to urge me to let her replace the epidural. “We need a working epidural in case of an emergency C. Otherwise we’ll have to put you out completely,” she explained. I was also beginning to fear the breech extraction sans pain control. So I consented to a new epidural. It was much harder to sit still for it this time, since the contractions were now coming one on top of the other. The instant I sat up, waves of nausea hit me, and my nurse pushed some zofran into my IV.

Half an hour later, the new epidural was placed, and the pain receded a little. I began to feel a lot of pressure down below, so Blonde Doctor was called in to check my progress. 10cm! I was complete! The room was suddenly bursting with activity–the dads were suiting up, the attending physician was paged, and I was rolled from my labor room to the OR. Hospital protocol is to deliver twins in the OR since the chance of an emergency C is relatively high. This meant, however, that since both dads would be there, Mike had to stay out. I began to feel my first real pricklings of fear as I was rolled past Mike and he gave my arm a quick squeeze. “Love you,” he said. I think all I did was try to smile.

Once in the OR, I shimmied over onto the table, and placed my feet in the stirrups. I was flat on my back and the pain in my ribs was excruciating. I began to feel the overwhelming urge to push but was told to wait while everyone got into place. Finally, after an eternity, Blonde Doctor took her seat. “Woah, she’s crowning already!” she said. Umm, yeah. That’s what I was trying to tell you! When I was finally given permission to push, Baby A–soon to be known as Maya–just glided into the world with three easy pushes. The wondrous sounds of a newborn baby crying filled the air as Gil cut the cord and Maya was placed in her warmer.

Now on to Baby B and the breech extraction. I was told to not push while Blonde Doctor reached up inside me and tried to locate both of Baby B’s feet. His sac was still in tact, and the doctor seemed to be having trouble getting ahold of both feet. She kept getting a hand and a foot or a foot and an elbow. The attending physician was using an ultrasound and manipulating the baby from the outside, which was just about as comfortable for me as you might imagine. Thank goodness Liz was there, letting me squeeze her hand since the dads were understandably distracted. (Liz, if you are reading this, I would like to apologize if I broke any fingers!)

Finally, after about 5 minutes, Blonde Doctor felt confident that she had both feet, so she broke the bag of water and started to ease him out. I was told to push push push! while the attending pressed down on my belly. All of the sudden, Blonde Doctor yelled, “Stop!” I stopped pushing and watched in horror as she and attending physician began to try to get Baby B’s head unstuck from just inside my cervix. I began to cry and asked over and over “Is he ok?” No one would answer. After who knows how long (turns out is was just a couple of minutes), the attending grabbed some forceps and sat beside Blonde Doctor. He inserted the forceps to widen my cervix while Blonde Doctor reached both hands in to ease the baby’s head out. She caught him, this tiny blue creature, and the silence was deafening. Baby B–soon to be called Ben–was whisked to his warmer, where they bagged him and began administering CPR.

Time stood still as I began to doubt every decision I had made over the past few days. Why had I been so insistent on a vaginal delivery? All the doctors had told me it was the safest route for me, but what about the babies? Had I been unbelievably selfish, wanting to avoid surgery? How could I ever forgive myself if something happened to baby Ben? How could the dads every forgive me? But after the longest 30 seconds of my entire life, a shrill cry split the air. The entire room exhaled as Ben began to breathe. Tomer came over and wiped my tears, which made me feel a little better, like they wouldn’t be angry with me, but for the next few days, every time someone said the words “traumatic birth,” the guilt would come bubbling back.

Normally, after you have a baby, said baby provides a distraction from what could arguably be the worst part of child birth–delivering the placenta. But with no babies on my chest, all I had to concentrate on was the nurse’s excruciating uterine massage (sounds lovely, but it’s not) as the next few contractions tried to push the the placentas out. But the placentas would not deliver, and Blonde Doctor had to sorta pull them out. After that, I got to see the babies up close and personal for the first time. They were, of course, gorgeous and cuddly, all burritoed together. I got to hold them as I was wheeled back to the labor room, back to family.

For about half an hour, everyone gushed over the babies, and I was handed them to nurse. Maya latched right on like a total champ, and a nurse was helping me to latch Ben on when I felt a gush down below. I must have said something, because my nurse came over to take a look. She pressed down gently on my belly and whoosh! All of the sudden I felt incredibly dizzy and I started shaking uncontrollably. My nurse yelled, “Get Dr. Hebl back here!” and suddenly there were hands everywhere–taking the babies from me, laying me flat, trying to place an IV, placing towels underneath me. I was whisked out of the room while I heard people call for blood and anesthesia and doctors. I heard a nurse call over her shoulder to Mike and my mom, “Someone will come back and tell you what’s happening!”

I was rolled back into the OR, and before I was even back on the table, Blonde Doctor had her hand up inside me, up to the elbow, feeling around inside my uterus. The attending physician was back, too, using the ultrasound. The two doctors began arguing about something and the nurse kept saying she couldn’t find a vein and all there was was pulling and pressure and shaking and noise and hands. Then Liz leaned down and said into my ear, “I’m going to give you some gentle sedation now.”

Next thing I know, I’m back in the labor room, pulling off my oxygen mask. I asked a nurse what had happened. She told me that I had started to hemorrhage and they were concerned that I had retained pieces of the placenta, so they had performed an emergency D&C. And in order to save my uterus and stop the bleeding, they placed a balloon inside my uterus and towels inside my vagina. This lovely “vag pack” was to remain inside me for 24 hours following the delivery. I also had to remain on the magnesium and on bedrest.

The next two and a half days in the hospital, I rested while the dads bonded with the babies and my family flowed in and out to visit. It was just as strange and emotional and wonderful as I anticipated it would be to watch the daddies with their babies. It was a little harder than I thought it would be to let go of the responsibility, to not be a part of the decision-making process about various things, but watching Gil and Tomer hold those babes felt so, so right.

We all got discharged on Friday afternoon. I was recovering well, and Maya and Ben were both looking healthy and strong. Friday evening and Saturday were spent with family. I cuddled those babies at every opportunity, knowing that we would be saying goodbye far too soon. I remember being in awe of my own kids when they were newborns, unable to believe that my body could create something so perfect. Looking at these babies, the feeling was the same–sheer and utter perfection.

We said goodbye Saturday evening. I have a hard time showing emotion publicly, so the goodbyes were swift and straightforward. It hit me sometime that night, however, that it was over, that I would not be seeing the babies or the dads every day. My life had revolved around this pregnancy for so long that it was hard for me to imagine what life would be like when things returned to normal. I felt very weepy the next few days, hormonal and sad, but it helps to know that we will see them soon. Gil and Tomer have very generously offered to have us come stay with them sometime this summer and do Disneyland! And in the meantime, there’s Skype and pictures–lots and lots, right, guys?!

IMG_5362I think it’s all too fresh to have some insightful wrap-up of this experience. My body needs to heal, my hormones need to settle down, and I need to rediscover my rhythm with my kids and my husband. All I know is that my life is richer for having done this and that I have gained two more children to love.

Welcome to the world, Maya and Ben. May your lives be filled with love, light, and laughter.

Five awesome things about being on leave

[Warning: What follows may be TMI for some people. Sorry–pregnancy and parenthood are gross.]

I am in the middle of my third week of leave, and I am now prepared to name five awesome things about being home alone all day. Completely, blessedly alone.

1. Using my own toilet without an audience. One of the many things I did not anticipate about parenthood was that having a young child automatically forfeits your right to use the toilet in private. I generally have at least one small child in the room with me, critiquing my technique or passing judgement on various body parts. If I deign to close and, god forbid, lock the door, one of two things will happen: a child will bang on the door shouting, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!!!” until I relent and let the master manipulator in, or a child will crumple to the floor outside the door in inconsolable tears, leaving me feeling like the worst mom on the planet just for wanting to take a shit in private. My favorite, though, is when my little one, two years old, will open the door and ask me, “Do you want privacy?” When I respond yes, the following conversation ensues: “Mommy, you want privacy?” “Yes, please.” “Privacy on the potty?” “YES!” “I lock the door.” “Thank you!” Then he will move farther into the bathroom and shut and lock the door–from the inside. “There. Privacy.” Sigh. All of this is to say that the only time I get to use a toilet by myself is when I’m at work, and using a public restroom just isn’t the same as using your own. But now I’m on leave, and I can use the toilet, in my own home, as many times and for as long as I please without a child sitting in my lap or making comments about my genitalia. Absolute luxury.

2. Ugly-crying while watching Say Yes to the Dress and being able to blame it on pregnancy hormones. I find Say Yes to the Dress simultaneously ridiculous and fascinating. The overly dramatic editing and underscoring, the ridonculous budgets these women have for a dress, the tule, the lace, the beading… And oh, the drama! It is absolutely the definition of a guilty pleasure, and I spend equal time hate-watching it and love-watching it. I also spend the last fifteen minutes of each episode weeping into my ice cream. It’s just the hormones. Uh huh, yep. Hormones.

3. Passing huge amounts of gas with no judgement. I know, I know. TMI! But seriously, I have never been so gassy in my life! It’s mostly the burps–burps that put Homer Simpson to shame. It’s just another one of those glamorous aspects of pregnancy that no one really talks about. And when I’m at work or among polite company, I need to stifle those burps and hold in those farts in order to avoid humiliation and adhere to the standard social contract. At home, by myself, I can let ’em rip. And let me tell you, it feels soooo good. Sorry to be crass, y’all, but I have 9, maybe even 10 pounds of baby in my body right now, and there is not much room for anything else.

4. Glancing at my work email with absolutely no obligation to take action on any of it. I have 124 unread emails in my inbox right now, and I don’t have to answer any of them. To my dear coworkers, who are infinitely supportive and unendingly awesome, I say, “Bwahahaha! See ya in June, suckers!” Ahem. Sorry. But really, I love you guys, and I can only relax while on leave because I know my programs are in good hands. Please forgive me, but while I thought it might be stressful, watching and ignoring my inbox while it grows and grows is actually quite liberating.

5. Clothing is optional. My belly is now approximately 5X larger than anyone’s belly should ever be, and even my stretchiest pants and softest shirts are supremely uncomfortable after wearing them for just a little while. It feels so much better when there is nothing on my belly–the bump needs to breathe! I definitely cannot strip down to my skivvies at work (that damned social contract again), and I am not entirely comfortable walking around sans pants when the family is home. But when I’m by myself? So long, pants; it’s been nice knowing ya! Sports bra and panties, for the win!

Carrying twins is no joke, guys. I am supremely grateful for the time I’m getting to rest before I deliver. I am also supremely grateful for all of the support I am getting from friends and family. I couldn’t have made it this far without you!

8lbs 2oz of baby

My belly has developed its own gravitational pull

My belly has developed its own gravitational pull. Notice the amazing (and attractive) veins and stretch marks. All part of this labor of love.

Hello, friend. I know, I know, It’s been a while. Let’s blame my long absence on my broken home computer and not on my olympic level procrastination.

A quick update: I am now 31 weeks 4 days. The babies are growing (and growing), and every ultrasound confirms that all is well in utero. At my scan on Thursday, the ultrasound tech estimated that each baby is weighing in at approximately 4lbs 1oz. That’s over 8 pounds of baby! Neither of my kids ever reached 8lbs while on the inside. I’m getting a little uncomfortable (read: very, very uncomfortable but embarrassed to complain about it), and I honestly have no idea how my belly is going to make it another 6 weeks. Or my bladder. Or my internal organs.

Nuzzling head to head.

Nuzzling head to head.

The babies are currently both breech, nuzzling each other with their heads up in my ribs. Baby A needs to flip head down if I want to have any prayer of delivering vaginally, but since they are the same size, Baby B can remain breech and we’ll try for a vertex/breech delivery. I’m remaining optimistic (read: delusional); the ultrasound tech said there is still plenty of fluid around each of them, which means the little girl still has room to flip. Lots of down-dogs for me! I’ve also read that doing handstands in a pool could help a baby flip. Fun! And probably less hazardous than handstands on dry land.

The dads were in town a couple weeks ago for a quick visit. It was just lovely, as usual. And now that they live in Los Angeles, it’s less of a schlep for them to get up here. We began our visit at a check-up. My OB practically squealed when she saw the dads! She is so into this whole process. Some Kaiser OBs are not like OBs at other practices–there are OBs who do clinical work, seeing patients in their office, and there are OBs who work in the hospital, delivering babies. My doctor never got privileges at the hospital because she knew she wanted just clinical work. But she told us at our appointment the other day that she will apply for privileges so she can assist at the delivery! Talk about flattering! Now I just gotta keep the buggers in until the paperwork goes through.

After the doctor, we had lunch then headed over to the daddies’ hotel to hang out and talk about the birth plan. They are so patient, kind, and supportive in my delusion that I will be able to have a vaginal delivery. Gil also talked me through a C-section step by step in intricate, bloody detail. Really, I’m just terrified of drugs, so the thought of getting a spinal and having to take painkillers afterwards scares the crap out of me. A few days after the visit, I found out that a mom of one of Ramona’s classmates is an anesthesiologist at Kaiser. She very kindly talked with me about my concerns and made some suggestions. I’m hoping she’ll be on duty when I go in–it’ll be a party in the OR with her, my OB, and the daddies. Who says major abdominal surgery can’t be fun?

The next day, after amazing french toast a la Tomer, the dads and I headed off to get some 3D ultrasound pictures taken. I’m a little farther along than most women are when they get these photos done, and I’m much more full of baby than a woman with a singleton, so the babies look a little, well, squished. But their adorableness is undeniable, and maybe it’s just me, but the fact that they are both using their placentas as pillows is just too damn cute.

Last bit of news: I am officially off work! Friday was my last day. I am now a lady of leisure. Bon bon, anyone?

Thanks for your patience with my long absence. Coming soon–a reflection on my 15 minutes of (somewhat awkward) fame. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can peruse this article from the j. weekly and this blog post from Kveller, both published in the same week.

Two adorable fetuses and one ginormous surro-mama

Say what you will about Kaiser–their Level II ultrasound machine is AWESOME. Look at these pictures! Have you ever seen cuter fetuses??

Both babies are measuring right on schedule, about 1.3 pounds each. And I am measuring, well, large. I am 22 weeks, but my belly measures about 10 weeks ahead (using a singleton pregnancy as a guide), so I look about 32 weeks. When people ask me when I’m due, the standard reaction to my reply of “April” is a dropped jaw and speechlessness. The tactless will saw something like, “Wow, you’re going to be HUGE!” The more tactful will mask their shock with a casual, “Oh, the spring. How lovely.” My favorite response (and by favorite I mean most rage-inducing) is, “You poor thing!” You can save your pity, folks. I’m going to be just fine. I can’t say the same for the next person who tells me I look ready to pop. Pop this, bitch!

the cow is laughing

Me 22 week belly shot. Even my cow is laughing at me. “22 weeks?” she’s saying. “Bwahahaha!”

The daddies have been in Israel the last couple weeks visiting family, so we haven’t been talking as much. I have to admit, it’s made me a little nervous having them so far away, and I’ll be glad when they’re back home, safe and sound. Not that Texas is right next door or anything, but it’s comforting somehow to have them on the same continent. The custody papers were filed last week (separate documents than the original contract), so the daddies super-duper, double-officially have custody of the kids once they’re born. I can only imagine how exciting it was for them to sign those papers.

kids and bellyMy kids continue to bond with the bump. Ramona has become an expert on fetal behavior. The other day, she put her ear up to my belly as though she were listening for something. My mom asked her what she was doing, and she said, “I’m waiting for mommy’s tummy to rumble because when it does, it startles the fetuses and then they move!” I mentioned this to her once weeks ago–that girl is a sponge! Solly has started bestowing my belly with hugs and kisses and asking everyone if they have babies in their bellies, too. He’ll sometimes pull his shirt up and ask me to kiss his babies. Adorable overload.

Twin pregnancies are involved. I begin my twice monthly check-ups next week, and I have officially been enrolled in what Kaiser so charmingly calls Early Labor Watch. This means that a nurse from the Fetal Monitoring department will call me every week to check in, ask me about my Braxton-Hicks, and make sure I’m doing my kick counts. I don’t mind the extra attention–anything to help keep these kiddos where they are for as long as possible.

latkesNow back to Hanukkah festivities. I highly recommend being pregnant on Hanukkah–less guilt about eating all the latkes. The three of us have been enjoying every bite. Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

The Halfway Mark (in which the daddies feed me very well)

It’s Thanksgiving today. I’m sitting in my mother-in-law’s dining room, listening to my raucous family in the next room, laughing, playing games, and (for the moment) entertaining my children. I’d like to say that I’m sitting here quietly reflecting on all the things I have to be thankful for (spoiler alert: quite a lot), but who am I kidding? I am sitting here grabbing a few moments of peace while trying to digest the fourth helping of mashed potatoes I’ve had today. Have you ever had the potato-sweats? It’s like the meat-sweats, only saltier.

This is the first moment I’ve had to reflect on the past week, which was pretty incredible. The visit from the daddies included our anatomy scan, a meeting with the hospital, trips to Toys R Us and Buy Buy Baby, lots and lots of meals, and a talk at the synagogue, all compounded by some ridiculousness at work. What struck me the most was how close I felt to the daddies, how comfortable it was just to be with them. We’ve only met in person once before at our match meeting, but the events of the past several months (you know…me getting knocked up with their babies) have made us like family. I was so sad to see them go, and not just because they kept me so well fed.

Their visit began with a quick tour of the JCC where they are quite famous amongst my coworkers. Then they took me and Mike out to dinner at La Fondue, where we enjoyed a long, lingering meal, sometimes chatting about the babies but mostly just chatting about nothing in particular, enjoying each other’s company.

Selfie at the doctor before our appointment.

The next morning, the three of us grabbed some breakfast (which I insisted on paying for to assuage my guilt for the very expensive pots of cheese and chocolate from the night before). Then we headed to the doctor for the much anticipated anatomy scan. This is the scan where the tech measures every little part of each fetus, and it was incredible to watch. I could see the folds of their brains, the texture of their kidneys, every little bone in their hands and feet. This was the first ultrasound the daddies got to see first-hand, and I reveled in every little gasp, sigh, and comment. It felt so good to have them there with me, sharing in this pregnancy.

A beautiful shot of Baby B.

A beautiful shot of Baby B.

“Do you have any guesses about the sexes?” the tech asked.

“We already know Baby B is a boy,” I replied. “Gil thinks A is a boy, too, and Tomer thinks it’s a girl.”

“Well, Tomer is right!,” she said. “Baby A is a girl!” That’s when the waterworks really started. Gil and Tomer both began texting their families, spreading the news.

The daddies proudly displaying the roll of ultrasound pics.

The daddies proudly displaying the roll of ultrasound pics.

The rest of the scan went quickly, and we met with the perinatologist briefly. Both fetuses are developing wonderfully, and the doctor said my cervix looks beautiful. It’s not every day a girl gets a compliment about her cervix!

After the scan, we popped over to Labor and Delivery to speak with the nurse manager about the logistics of the birth itself. Turns our Kaiser is pretty accommodating. I will have to deliver in the OR (apparently standard procedure for twins), and normally only one other person is allowed to be present. For us, they will let both dads be in the delivery room. The only bummer is that Mike can’t be in there, so I don’t get a support person. But I have a feeling Tomer will want to be up near my head anyhow (because really, who wants to see all that?), and he can probably shout, “Breathe!” as well as anyone. Once we’re in the postpartum ward, the daddies will get their own room next to mine, and the babies will room in with them. They can be brought to me to nurse or, if I’m recovering well, I can pop next door. Just one big party! Hopefully, after a few days, we will all be released at the same time.

After the meeting at the hospital, the daddies dropped me back off at work (for a verrry long evening, it turned out), and then met Mike and the kids at Toys R Us. They ended up with an awesome remote control car. All Gil would tell me about the evening was that he was impressed with Mike’s patience and parenting skills. Ummm…uh oh. The next day, I played hooky from work and, after yet another delicious meal out, I took the daddies to Buy Buy Baby to give them the lowdown on baby gear.

Next came Shabbat dinner, cooked by Tomer and my mom. Delicious, of course. Once again, just like back in June, the daddies blended right in with my family. The next morning, I headed over to Beth David to give my talk. I was really nervous, not so much because I was worried about people’s reactions to surrogacy, but mostly because I hate public speaking. It went really well, though. I was glad I didn’t prepare much because it ended up feeling really natural. The rabbi started things off with some basic thoughts about the conservative movement’s position on surrogacy (mostly positive), then he turned it over to me. I told the basic outline of my story so far and then opened it up to questions. I told people they could ask me anything, and they did, although no one was disrespectful. Everyone seemed really interested, and I was really proud to be an advocate for this beautiful process.

After one last meal that evening, it was time to say goodbye. I can’t believe I won’t see the dads again until the birth! Tomer made a few hints that he might think about coming to stay a few weeks early in late March, just to be safe. I hope he decides to do that, for a couple of reasons. I am terrified that I will go into labor early and the dads won’t be here for the birth. What gets me through all those hard evenings is thinking about that moment the babies are born, when I will get to hand these amazing people their children. I think I would be devastated if they miss it. Oh, and less selfishly, I want Gil and Tomer to have the experience of watching their kids be born. I also think it would be awesome for at least one of them to be around, in the trenches, those last few weeks. Those of you who have been through a pregnancy (as either the preggo or the preggo’s partner) know that those last few weeks are some of the most intense. The aches, the pains, and the fluids that leak out of embarrassing places. The insatiable hunger and the maddening inability to eat more than a few bites because your stomach is smushed up against your sternum. The Braxton-Hicks, the cervical pain, the sleeplessness. And the amazing things, too. The strong, reassuring kicks. Watching your belly jump rhythmically when the baby gets the hiccups. I want the daddies to experience all of this. (And I wouldn’t complain if they fed me, too.)

I am halfway done with this journey. It hasn’t all been easy, but it’s been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. Here is to smooth sailing in the second half.

The Daddies are Coming (and a brief lesson on Jewish law)!

bump in the woodsskeleton shirtThe daddies are coming for a visit next week. I haven’t seen them since before the transfer. I can’t believe it’s been that long. We skype and facetime regularly, so it doesn’t feel like that long, but it’ll be so nice to have them here and get the opportunity to really share this pregnancy with them. You can only convey so much through pictures, even pictures as cute as these.

They fly in on Wednesday, and we have some big plans. Wednesday night, they are taking me and Mike out to La Fondue (ooh la la). Then Thursday morning, they are treating me to a pedicure before the main event, the anatomy ultrasound and the big gender reveal.

14w6d ultrasound(Although we kind of accidentally found out that Baby B is a boy. At my last doctors appointment, my OB was doing a routine scan just to check their heartbeats, when Baby B suddenly flipped over and presented us with his bottom and his very obvious boy bits. Both the doctor and I gasped in unison, causing the daddies, who were facetiming with us, to say “What, what?!” “Well,” said the doctor, “I could tell you Baby B’s gender, if you want…” The daddies said sure, so we shared the news. She tried to get a look at Baby A, too, but to no avail. Baby A stayed resolutely in a tight little ball. But I digress…)

After the ultrasound, we’ll grab lunch before I have to go to work, where I will stay late for an event (boo) while the daddies take Ramona and Solomon to Toys R Us for some good, old fashioned spoiling. The next day, Tomer is insisting on cooking Shabbat dinner for the family, which is exciting not only because I’ve been dying for him to cook for me but also because it will be amusing to watch him arm wrestle my mom for control over the kitchen. Tee hee.

It will be a whirlwind few days, and I’m sure it will be over too soon. But I’m going to do my best to savor the time we have together, especially because this will be their only visit before the birth.

After the daddies fly home Saturday morning, I will be heading to Congregation Beth David. They asked me to come speak about my journey so far at a learning session after services–they even made a flyer! One of the rabbis will teach about Jewish halacha (law) regarding surrogacy and then I’ll add a personal touch by telling my story. Here’s an interesting tidbit: Judaism is a matrilineal religion; people born of a Jewish mother are themselves considered Jewish. I always thought that meant that if an egg donor is used, she needed to be Jewish for the child to be born Jewish. I recently learned that it is not the egg that matters but the womb. A Jewish womb is like a mikveh, and any child born of that womb is Jewish. (“Jewish law does not recognize the microbial,” a rabbi said to me today, “only things that can be seen with the naked eye.” Interesting…) I thought that my being Jewish was just an emotional plus, but now that I know it is actually halachically imperative that I am Jewish, this entire endeavor is imbued with even more meaning. I am looking forward to learning more next Saturday. Now I just need to figure out what I’m going to say… I kinda hate public speaking.