Monday, March 31, 2008

Yes. I Really Asked Her That.

So, as the temperatures here have gotten up in the 70's a few times lately, I figured it was going to be time to break out the capris soon. Looking down at my legs, I figured I better a) shave them, and b) get some tan on them, unless my goal is to frighten small children when I show these bad boys in public for the first time.

To that end, I initiated the following conversation with one of the moms at my kids school ...

Me: "You sure have a nice tan, and already look good in your summer clothes."

Her: "Thank you."

Me: "Do you have a local tanning salon that you use?"

Her: "No, I don't tan."

Me: "Really? Because you have a beautiful tan."

Her: (pause) "You know I'm half black, don't you?"

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Kellen!!

Why does this keep happening to me --- these kids, and the shock of how they INSIST on growing older when I’m not looking???

Kellen, I’m not quite sure how you snuck this one by me …. But you turned TEN this week! I am alternately horrified, and thrilled, that you are turning into such a nice young man. (But secretly, horrified at the thought my little boy is not so little any more.)

Yours was the pregnancy that proved God has his own timeline. Yours was the pregnancy that stunned us beyond words. So stunned, in fact, that I almost didn’t believe it was really happening until it was time to go to the hospital and deliver you. Yes, I gained 60 pounds and yes, the ultrasound showed there was a baby in there ….. but how could I be sure? Maybe it was just a tumor, or something. Seriously? After all those years of trying …. Pregnant???

Yours was the labor that refused to start on its own, and that then wouldn’t end. I say even now, at the age of 10, you’d still be in there if you could. Two weeks past due, and you had no intention of coming out and greeting the world, let alone your parents and older sister.

Finally, after being at the hospital two days, on meds to induce labor, not sleeping for over 36 hours, with the slowest-progressing labor ever known to mankind, the doctor asked what did we want to do …… turn off the IVs, get some rest, and try again the next morning? Or have a c-section? I replied, “I don’t care if you pull this kid out of my nose …. I’m tired, and I want it over with.” And so, a calm, controlled half hour later, you finally arrived. Fat, wrinkled, adorable.

Kellen, birth photo, March 25, 1998

You were the lucky one. We had already gone through all the newborn trials and tribulations on your sister, fairly recently. So you got none of the new-parent jitters or anxiousness; no parenting by trial and error. Actually, by the time you arrived, we were so exhausted that we must have seemed like the most laid-back parents on the planet. We had a newborn, and a 13-month old. We were thrilled, sure, but truth was, we were just too tired to worry about much.

Despite that, we loved you without measure, and still do.

I thought it was adorable that you were the fattest baby on the planet.

Kellen, age 4 months

And the smiliest. (When you weren’t crying and screaming and pitching a holy fit, that is, until I tossed my smug, superior parenting skills out the window and gave you a pacifier just to stop the screaming this kid screams all the time for goodness sake I just can’t take any more make it stop!!) But usually you were the smiliest.

Kellen, age 8 months

And although these were busy times, I still thought you were the cutest little boy on the planet. How could anyone not want to just squeeeeeeeeeze those precious little raccoon cheeks???

Halloween, 1999, age 1

Slowly, you started turning from a toddler into a little boy. Truthfully, I wasn’t too happy about it. I mean, sure, now you were a lot more fun, and I could see your personality traits starting to veer towards typical “little boy” interests.

You were perfectly happy making a mess. Toys, blocks, mud, food; it didn’t matter. Pictures like this one are especially dear to me, because the truth is, you ate like a bird (still do!), trying to prove to me that small children can survive on air. I love the photos that show evidence I actually do feed you, since Lord knows your scrawny little chicken legs and concave chest seem to say otherwise.

Kellen, age 2

And you were, are, always have been, and most likely always will be, a true child of the outdoors. Nothing made you happier and your joy was infectious. Still is.

Summer 2000, age 2

See what I mean?

Kellen, age 3

One of the things I love best about you is your ability to switch back and forth between being a rough and tumble boy, to being a sweet kid who would sit on his mother’s lap, to being the kind of kid who can play well with others, whether it be outside games involving sunshine and fresh air, or inside games involving army men and fort-building. You are truly a go-with-the-flow, agreeable little guy and I believe it will serve you well in life.

Kellen, 3rd Birthday, 2001

*MOST* of the time, I can count on you to do what I ask without complaint or attitude, although you are getting a little cheekier as you get older. Sometimes lately I want to take you by the arm and warn you, “Hey, you’re fixing to make things a whole lot harder for yourself” ….. and sometimes I have to turn away because your smarmy comments and “Cut your nose off to spite your face” streak comes straight from my DNA. I don’t know whether to shudder or laugh when I see it right coming right back at me, from son to mother. Your sister started developing her “pre-teen” attitude about age three …. Yours, sadly, is just starting to rear its ugly head.

Summer 2002, age 4

I was so worried when at age 4 I enrolled you in all-day Pre-Kindergarten at our local public school. You looked so tiny, what was I thinking? Sending you away from me all day???

Summer, 2002, age 4

I needn’t have worried. You loved school, loved making new friends, loved learning, and loved having your creativity and imagination fostered. Too young for all day school? Hardly.

Halloween, 2002, age 4

I do look back on these photos, however, and wonder where the time has gone. Wonder where the little boy who was content to sit in my lap for hours and watch tv, drinking his chocolate milk and twirling his hair, has gone.

Age 5

Age 5

October, 2003, age 5

Mainly I wonder if I’ve done enough, or done well enough, these first ten years. Have your father and I taught you the lessons we want you to learn? Have we been patient enough, and fun enough, and empathetic enough, and creative enough, and firm enough?

Age 6

Summer, 2004, age 6

Summer, 2004, age 6

Will you remember the first half of your childhood as one filled with adventure and excitement and security and love? Will you remember parents who took time to play with you and teach you and guide you? Who found every single dinosaur picture you drew fascinating, and who took the time to pretend with you in the forts that you built? Parents who never missed a practice, or a game? Parents who were always available to help with homework, or play a game of basketball in the driveway, or look up shark facts on the computer?

Kellen, 7th Birthday, 2005

Age 7

Age 7

Florida, July 2005, age 7

Age 7

Probably not, because those parents don’t seem to exist in our household. We love you beyond measure, and want to do anything we can to help you succeed, but we’re human, too. Some days we are tired and don’t want to play catch, and some days we have to cook dinner instead of playing yet another game of Boggle or Yahtzee. Some days, to be completely honest, I don’t understand your math homework, or am just not in the mood to watch another skateboard trick. Those days, I worry about what failures we seem to be as parents, and whether love will be enough.

Kellen, 8th Birthday, 2006

Age 8

Age 8

So I guess for now, we’ll just cross our fingers and say our prayers every night that we’re doing an OK job. Not perfect, no matter how hard we try, but at least good enough.

Age 9

Age 9

Age 9

Memorial Day, 2007, age 9

When I look at these photos of you, and especially this most recent photo of you on your 10th birthday, and see the handsome, smiling, confident, caring, friendly, kind young man you’re turning into, I have a warm feeling inside that at the very least, we’re getting the LOVE part right.

Kellen, 10th Birthday, March 2008. And yes, those are toothpicks we are lighting. Because not only did he get store-bought cupcakes instead of a real cake, I didn't even realize until two minutes before this picture that I was out of candles. Don't you wish all your friends were as classy as we are????

Cold hard cash. The best gift of all.

I hope you always feel it too, buddy. But in the meantime, could you maybe start eating a little more? I’m afraid you’re going to shrivel up and blow away before the next birthday.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Thanks, once again, to all of you and your notes of support. I’m not sure you realize how very helpful they are, but it meant a great deal to me these past few days to read them.

I am feeling fine physically, and definitely happy to be off the Hormone Roller Coaster from Hell. Blaine said I was maybe just a wee bit touchy last week --- I said he was a jackass who needs to keep his @#$)#(* opinions to himself.

Mentally, I am ok. I can’t speak for all surrogates who miscarry, but what *I* feel, or at least what I think I feel, is more sadness and loss than grief. I can’t compare this to a miscarriage of my own because I was lucky enough to never have one. I had infertility … I had issues with getting pregnant … but I was lucky, and never lost a pregnancy of my own. So while I can’t be sure what I’m feeling is different, I have to think it is. Mainly, I feel sad for my Intended Parents, because although the loss is mine physically, the loss is theirs personally.

I do, however, also have questions of guilt and responsibility, and wondering if something I did or didn’t do caused this. I took my pre-natal vitamins, I ate healthy, I gave up diet sodas and caffeine, I never drank coffee to begin with so no big loss there, I didn’t do anything physically strenuous, I purposely didn’t stand in front of the microwave, I didn’t carry anything heavy, I never missed a shot, or a pill, or a suppository (ugh, I know, tmi) …. So, why did this happen? Especially, why did this happen twice? There are tests being done, and yet we’ll possibly never know.

Thanks, also, for including my couple in your thoughts. Again, for privacy sake, I won’t be saying a whole lot about them, and would never presume to put their thoughts or feelings on this blog. Someone asked if any of my Intended Parents have ever read my blog --- the answer is no. In fact, the first two go-rounds, I didn't even have a blog. However, one set of grandparents does read (Hi, you know who you are!) and I would never do anything to compromise any of my Intended Family’s privacy. I know all of you understand that, and I appreciate your respect for their privacy, at the same time you are keeping them in your thoughts.

So in the meantime, we heal physically and emotionally and take some time before deciding on the next step.

Thanks for hanging with me in the meantime.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thin Skin

I want to thank all of you, from the bottom of my cold, shriveled heart, for responding so kindly to my Internet-Hissy-Fit last night. Not sure if it was more Hissy Fit, Temper Tantrum, or good old-fashion Pout, but either way, I sincerely appreciate the kind comments that followed. And, while I have never been shy about the fact I am a comment-whore on this blog, I can reassure you that despite what someone in the guestbook said (hopefully, jokingly) about that post being nothing more than a ploy to get more of you to sign in and leave a note, that’s not the case at all.

I realize that it’s my PERSONAL blog, and my PERSONAL stories that I share, and people can take it or leave it. However, maybe I’m just not tough enough, but when I read a comment that leads me to believe I’ve stepped on someone’s toes, or someone doesn’t like something I’ve written, about my PERSONAL life, I take it, well, personally.

Yes, when Kendrie was in treatment I wrote on her Caringbridge site for therapy and would have done so no matter if anyone ever read it or not. The empathetic, supportive notes I received back were simply icing on the cake for the mental peace that blogging about our cancer experience gave me.

Here, though, I blog for fun, and am not above admitting that I’m grateful the vast majority of the comments are positive ones. Not sure why people read if they’re never going to comment, and not sure why people feel the need to comment if they don’t like what they read. But, I’ve said it before, confrontation gives me hives and to that end, I am activating the comment moderation feature on this site, starting tonight. NOT because I don’t want to hear negative comments, and NOT because I only want the positive comments coming though, but because it just makes my life easier to know drama can be contained that way. Does that make me a dictator? Why yes, it does. So sue me. Or, just quit reading, how’s that for a suggestion?

Now, with regard to this surrogacy story, I think I have to be totally honest with all of you. About the fact that I haven’t. Been honest. Totally. I mean, honestly, I haven’t been totally honest … wait. What?

The truth is, I’ve been sort of, in a way, not a mean way or a deceitful way or hateful way but more of a little white lie way, been lying by omission. Yes, I know there are some of you who find it hard to believe there might still be parts of my life I keep private, but it’s true.

One of those things is the fact that I am currently working on my fourth surrogacy journey. I had it timed, or *thought* I had it timed, so that when I finished telling my surrogacy story here online, that I would be able to follow it up with the announcement that I am expecting. It was going to be quite an exciting announcement, and after seeing the baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound last week, I couldn’t wait to get through the story, to my wonderful news at the end.

Unfortunately, while in Texas on Spring Break, I suffered a partial miscarriage. The day after that happened was the day I wrote my cranky post about surrogate compensation. Hmmm, hormonal, anyone? Last night, I was preparing to go in today for my d&c --- my second in five months, thank you very much, this surrogacy journey is not going as smoothly as the others, to say the least --- and found the comments, which led me to believe I had upset some people with my story telling and opinions and experience.

Honestly, a small part of me snapped, and I thought to myself, “You know what? Forget it. I feel shitty enough about myself right now as it is, and I don’t need this blog to make me feel even shittier.” Hence my decision to stop with the story. Who knew that in addition to whacked hormones and night sweats and cramping and bleeding and the feelings of guilt and fault and blame and incompetence and remorse and loss, that yet *another* symptom of impending pregnancy loss is EXTREMELY THIN SKIN??? But that’s what I had last night, and why I simply couldn’t face telling any more of the story if it meant I might upset even the minority of people reading it.

So thank you sincerely, honestly, and earnestly for your comments. Even though you didn’t know what I was going through today, they buoyed me in my time of need. And those of you who *did* know what was happening, thank you for keeping it private.

I am in a much better place mentally this evening and would be honored to continue the story. It is an extremely important part of my life, through good times and bad, as today so sadly reminded me. But if I can enlighten, or entertain, or educate (again, blah blah disclaimer about me not being a professional anything blahblahblah) with my experiences, then I’m happy to do so.

In the meantime, please put the baby’s parents on the top of your prayer list tonight. What I have been through this past week in no way compares to what they have been through, and they deserve much better. Hopefully I can still give that to them and get the happy ending to this story, after all.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dear Anonymous

Dear Anonymous, I said they were "ignorant" and "uneducated" about the military lifestyle. I stand by that opinion. I also bent over backwards to mention, several times, that they were pefectly lovely people, yet still somehow managed to ignite an unpleasant dicussion in the comment section.

I think it's time for me to end this story. I can't seem to tell it properly without offending people.


A few different feelings and thoughts went through my head, almost simultaneously. First, relief. Thank goodness to know I wasn’t imagining things. They didn’t like me either, and I was almost happy to know I wouldn’t have to work with them. Second, following immediately on the heels of relief, was indignation. What do you MEAN they don’t want to work with me? What’s wrong with ME, that they think they’re so great and can pass over me like I’m not good enough? Third, a little bit of despair and sadness… what IS wrong with me? Why didn’t they like me? And finally, regret at the thought my surrogate journey was over before it even got started. Six months of applications and essays and psych tests and physical screenings and interviews and now ….. I’m done, and I didn’t get to carry so much as a suitcase for someone else, let alone a baby.

I said as much to the counselor on the phone, “Wow. That’s pretty discouraging. I, uh, I don’t know what to say. Um, I’m sorry? Because they didn’t like me? Or, sorry for letting you down?” Truly, I was a little bewildered because this just wasn’t supposed to happen. The social worker had told us previously that while yes, occasionally match meetings didn’t go well, it was almost always the surrogate not wanting to work with a couple. Maybe they just seemed different in person than she expected (hello? Sounding familiar?) but that couples are normally so excited to meet the person who can hopefully help them, they are usually thrilled to be moving forward and can’t say yes quickly enough. Plus, I think it was a point of pride to the social worker, after she put the time and effort into presenting the right girls to the right couples, and vice versa. Not that couples NEVER turned down a surrogate …. It wasn’t like this was the first time in their agency’s history this had happened, but she said on the phone to me --- pretty grimly --- it doesn’t happen often, and she wasn’t too happy about it.

In fact, she was downright annoyed on my behalf. Come to find out, the couple had only one reason for not wanting to work with me. Not because they thought I was weird, or crazy, or diametrically opposed to their personal ideas and expectations …. But because Blaine was in the military. And not even because he was in the military (and they were Clinton-loving liberals if you ever saw any) but because … are you ready for this? We were slated to move the next summer, and didn’t know yet where we were going. They were convinced that Blaine was going to be sent to some God-forsaken third world country, and I would be forced to go with him (they obviously didn’t understand the concept of “remote” “unaccompanied” assignments) and that I would have to give birth to their baby in a rice paddy or cave in the desert with no medical attention and then guerilla insurgents would steal the baby and take it to live in a compound somewhere.

Um, yeah. O.K.

We had actually spoken to the social worker about this at great length, the fact we didn’t know where we would be stationed next. Believe it or not, there are a few states where surrogacy is illegal, and the agency needed to be sure I wouldn’t wind up there. Not that THAT would even have been the end of the world, just that I would have had to go someplace else to deliver the baby.

But even that was a moot point, because we knew we were moving one of two places, depending on Blaine’s acceptance (or not) to an advanced military school, and both of those places were on the “good” surrogacy list. We had already done our research, and double-checked, and triple-checked. Although the social worker tried to reassure this couple that their scenario, me being captured by terrorist pirates and the baby and I sold into white slavery bondage, or whatever, was NOT going to happen, they weren’t hearing any of it.

Bottom line, Blaine being in the military freaked them out, and nothing the social worker said could change their mind. (Please note that this was actually BEFORE 9/11, and the Iraq War, and our country was honestly in a very stable military situation at that time. Can you imagine if I’d actually been matched with this couple, and nine months later the Twin Towers had been attacked? It gives me hives just to imagine their reaction.)

Actually, you know what? I was glad. Sorry that they were so ignorant about the workings of the military, but glad that it worked out in my favor. Surrogate relationships are doomed to fail if both couples don’t have a healthy respect for the other couple’s way of life …. And no way could I be matched with a couple who was so suspicious of our military lifestyle. I mean, it’s not like they didn’t like our dog, or the car we drove, or my taste in clothing. Being a military family is what we WERE, and if they couldn’t get behind that, there was no way this would work. So really, I was relieved.

But sad, too, to know I’d been knocked out of the running by someone so uneducated, and unwilling to listen, about the military.

Then my social worker snapped me out of my funk …. “Are you kidding me?” she said, still indignant on my behalf, “This isn’t over … you’re not done. We’re going to set up a meeting with the other couple, the couple you wanted to meet in the first place. I completely mis-read the first couple and to be honest, they blind-sided me as well. But you’re going to meet the other couple, and it’s going to be fabulous. I promise.”

And so I crossed my fingers, and hoped she was right, and agreed to fly back to Maryland with Blaine the next Saturday (ah, geez …. MORE begging for overnight babysitting from my friends) and meet couple number two.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Blind Date

The counselor called me a few days later to tell me the couple was thrilled to get my profile and couldn’t wait to meet me. We set up a meeting for the next Saturday afternoon at the agency office in Maryland. OHMYGOSHTHISISREALLYAHPPENINGACK! Since Blaine and I had to get up at the butt crack of dawn to catch our flight, we had to make arrangements for a friend to watch our kids the night before, and ALL the next day while we were gone. Let me tell you, that is some serious pay-back babysitting time that I am going to owe someone later.

I was so nervous in the days leading up to the match meeting. A few months before, I had had a “moment” and cut off all my hair and donated it to Locks of Love. I hated my new biker-chick haircut. What if they hated my hair, too? What would I wear? What if I was so anxious that I got that weird blotchy chest thing? Or threw up? Would they think I was a goober? What would we talk about? What if I got there and forgot how to speak English?

Finally, the day arrived. Blaine and I flew to Baltimore, then rented a car and drove to the agency offices. Typically, a match meeting takes an hour or two, with the social worker making the initial introductions, then joining in the conversation to sort of lead the four of you through getting acquainted, and the process of what working together would entail. She asks a lot of pointed, personal questions, and it can be awkward, discussing things like your fertility issues with a total stranger, or *their* fertility issues, and how you feel about carrying someone else’s baby with them sitting right there in the room.

We sat and chatted, and I kept waiting for the “Click!” that I just knew was coming. And they were …. Nice. Perfectly lovely. But no click.

Then, after the “official” meeting with the social worker, she recommended the four of us go out to eat a late lunch and get better acquainted in a more casual environment. “Ah, good,” I thought, “this is when I’ll relax and feel the connection.”

So we walked around the Annapolis Harbor for a while, window-browsing and deciding on a restaurant, and trying to shrug off the big ole’ veil of AWKWARD that was crowding around us. We decided on a seafood restaurant and sat around the table, all four of us attempting valiantly to strike up a common chord, to keep the conversation flowing and smooth and interesting.

Yeah, big fat nothing.

And the harder we all tried, the more uncomfortable it became.

They were dyed-in-the-wool true-blue New Yorkers, who couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to live anywhere else in the world. I admitted that I liked suburbia, and thought living in a big city again would make me claustrophobic, like it did in Los Angeles. They didn’t seem too impressed with that. They thought the Clintons were the greatest thing since sliced bread (I think they might have made that exact statement – “The Clintons are the greatest thing since sliced bread”) and there sat Blaine and I --- active duty military, about as Republican as they come. Blaine’s favorite hobbies are hunting and fishing --- they were VEGETARIANS, for pete’s sake! I am pretty uptight when it comes to personal, emotional displays --- she was a theater major in college.

You can see how this was perhaps not going well.

We finished our meal and said our good-byes. We had been instructed by the social worker to absolutely, positively, NOT commit to one another that day. She wanted both couples to have plenty of time to go home and consider the decision, without any face to face pressure, before calling her with our answers. This was the time, all the girls at the support group meeting had confided, giggling, that they and their couples, their new best friends, had all agreed they were going to work together no matter what. That they didn’t need to go home and think about it before calling the social worker to tell her yes, hands down, without a doubt, yes.

I was quiet in the car on the way back to the airport. Blaine, bless his heart, was trying to put a positive spin on the situation. “Well,” he said, “I didn’t exactly feel a strong kinship or anything, but they seemed nice. Didn’t you think? That they were …. Uh …. Nice?”

“Yes,” I said slowly. “I just didn’t expect it to be so *hard*. I thought we would bond instantly and have tons of stuff in common. It was just so much more WORK than I thought it would be.”

“Well,” Blaine said, “You can’t expect an instant connection with total strangers.”

“But that’s just it,” I replied, “I DID expect an instant connection. But I never felt ANY connection. At all.”

“OK,” he asked, “Are you going to call the social worker and tell her you don’t want to work with them?’

And that’s when it hit me: NO! There was no way on the planet I could call the social worker and tell her I didn’t want to work with them. How unbelievably cold-hearted would that make me? They needed a surrogate, I wanted to be a surrogate – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist. So what if we didn’t have tons of things in common? I had told the social worker in my initial interview that I wasn’t looking for new best friends, just a nice couple that I could help. And yes, this couple was nice. And I could help them. So what if they were big-city, Clinton-loving, theatrically-expressive vegetarians? I could still help them, by golly!

First thing Monday morning I called the social worker and told her I had decided to work with them. I felt good about my decision … strong and empowered. I had met my couple, and maybe they weren’t exactly like I thought they would be, but I was on my way now to being a surrogate. This was actually pretty exciting!

The next day my social worker called me back. Her tone sounded weird on the phone, sort of tight, and she paused, before just saying it: “The couple called. They don’t want to work with you.”

Sunday, March 23, 2008

How do you know your Easter was a success?

Well, shiny happy faces are one way:

Children willing to pose for pictures is another way:

Fighting over candy is yet another way:

I said, give me some of that candy!

No, it's mine, all mine! You can't make me share!

Wanna bet? I WILL have some of that candy!

Oh, wait. Is he stealing her candy, or giving her the Heimlich?

Nope, no worry. Definitely stealing candy.

And the number one way you can be certain your Easter was a success? When your nine-year old son clutches his stomach before bed and says, "No more candy, Mom, no more!"

Whether your stomach ache is from eating your own candy, or candy stolen from others, Happy Easter from our family to yours.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I’ll Take Batchelor Number One, Chuck

When I received my packet from the agency, there were two profiles in it. (For privacy sake, I won’t be specifically stating anyone’s names, or reasons for needing a surrogate, or any other kind of identifying information, beyond what I need to tell my story.) I immediately started analyzing each profile, and poring over the photos each couple had sent, waiting to feel that “Click!” the other girls had talked about.

Um …. Nothing.

Well, not exactly “nothing”. It was more a matter of feeling like BOTH couples looked perfectly lovely. BOTH couples had stories that touched my heart, and BOTH sounded wonderful and friendly and down to earth in their letters. NEITHER of them said anything in their letters, or showed anything in their photos, that would have turned me off or led me to think they were not the couple I should work with. If someone had been sporting a swastika tattoo, or had maybe listed "dog fighting" as a hobby, then I would have known immediately that they were not the couple for me. But they both looked so ….. nice. It was a little perplexing. How was I supposed to choose?

I called the social worker (who has a name, obviously, but again with the privacy issue) because of course Blaine was no help whatsoever. She went into more detail about each couple, telling me a bit more about their personalities and what she thought each couple’s strengths might be as far as working together. I hemmed, and hawed, and asked some more questions. Finally, she asked, “Are you leaning more towards one or the other?” And I sort of sighed and said, “You know what? This is much harder than I thought it would be. But yes, if I was forced to choose right this very second, I think I am considering couple #2.”

The social worker paused, and then said, “Really? Because I thought you would choose couple #1.” Which of course had me asking, “Why? Are they better? Can I change my answer?”

Let me tell you, it’s very difficult to be such a wishy-washy person, and that is the reason you NEVER want me on a jury, deciding anyone’s fate. I am the most easily persuaded person on the planet.

“No,” the social worker said, “It’s not that they’re better. Just that they are closer to your own age, and don’t already have children. I just thought they might be a closer fit for you and Blaine.”

Hmmmm. This was really stinking hard. I spent another day or two scouring each profile for some hint, some clue, some lightning bolt, that would tell me THIS is the couple I should choose. And although in my gut I kept gravitating to the second couple, I had great faith in the social worker's ability to do her job well. There was a reason she had so many happy surrogates at those meetings, right? So in the end, I agreed to select the first couple’ profile. Now, my profile and photos would be sent to them, to see if they thought I looked like someone they could work with …. My GAWD, this was nerve-wracking!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Springtime Freshness

I freely admit that in between our move from Georgia to Oklahoma, and the fact the holidays happened shortly after that move, and then all the work I did on the rental property, well, I’ve been more scatterbrained than normal. I don’t know, some days (weeks, months) lately, I can’t seem to get my act together.

Kellen had his first soccer practice for his new OKC team tonight. I went upstairs to get his shin guards and shoes, and guess what I found in his cleats? That’s right, the socks that he wore to his last soccer game …. in Georgia … from last November.

What does that say about my house-keeping and laundry skills?

Ahhhh, that was some springtime freshness aroma, for sure. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put a bandage on my head, from where I got little x’s over my eyes, passed out from the smell, and fell over backwards.

Anticipating The Match Meeting

Different agencies and attorneys do things differently, of course, but I think most of them try very hard to match girls with couples who are going to be compatible, and work well together. It’s not really like (some) adoption experiences, where the couple who has been waiting in line the longest gets the next baby. A surrogacy relationship is one where you have to work very, very closely together. Given the very nature of fertility treatment, you’re thrust into an intimate relationship pretty much immediately. It’s important, for many reasons, that you and your couple have the same basic outlook going in. Are you both reserved? Outgoing? Private? How important is physical proximity to one another? Would you work with someone who lives overseas? What do you want as far as contact during the process? Are you a phone person, or an e-mail person, or a leave-me-alone-I’m-actually-pretty-busy person? Are you a control freak? Do you mind working with a control freak? If an Intended Mom hovers, will you feel protected, or crowded? If an Intended Mom backs off to give you space, will you feel relief, or abandoned? Would you be willing to work with a couple who already has a child, or would you prefer a childless couple? Would you work with a gay couple? An older couple? A couple of a different race? What is your willingness to carry multiples? How far are you willing to travel for treatments and transfers? What are your feelings regarding selective reduction in the case of multiples, or termination for medical problems? What are your expectations for contact after the birth?

These are all the sorts of things –- important things -- that the social worker learns about you, and about the couples, during the interviews and subsequent contact you have with her. She winds up with a pretty good idea of who might work well together, and why, and what would constitute a “good” match, bearing in mind that what works for one surrogate and one couple, would not necessarily work for another. Not that one set of circumstances is right and one is wrong, just that this is a huge emotional undertaking. Obviously, for all involved, a good fit between surrogate and Intended Parents is not only helpful, but essential. Quite frankly, you just can’t embark on a journey this intense and personal with the wrong person, or it could be miserable for everyone.

And there I was, pestering the social worker to see profiles now, today, yesterday, last week!

The agency I was working with sends two, three, or even more Intended Parents profiles to the surrogate to see first. Naturally, the social worker only sends profiles of couples she thinks might be a good match for you. A profile consists of a “Dear Prospective Surrogate” letter, where the couple tells you about themselves, and pictures. I remember getting my first packet of profiles and ripping the envelope open like a frenzied, ADHD child on Christmas morning, I was SO excited to see them.

Then, after reading them yourself, you have to talk things over with your husband, because of COURSE you have to discuss this with him and analyze each and every single thing about each profile, from their reasons for needing a surrogate to how they look in the pictures to what their hobbies are to who had the stationery you liked best, ooh, look, they used vellum, I wonder if she scrapbooks, and hey, he has a nice face, until your husband rolls his eyes and covers his ears because he is sick to death of dissecting each fact and each story and even each picture, look, they have a golden retriever just like us, and for God’s sake could you just PICK ONE ALREADY?!?!?!

Then, you discuss each profile with the social worker and she helps answer questions you might have. It’s tough, because you have (or at least *I* had, and most the surrogates I’ve ever known, have had) this overwhelming desire to help ALL the couples you see, and choosing between them is a difficult thing to do. A few girls said they knew instantly, the minute they saw their couple’s profile …. But I think just the nature of the beast means you know by choosing one, you are actively NOT choosing another, and that’s hard.

But eventually the social worker helps you decide, if you haven’t decided already for yourself. Then, YOUR profile is sent to that couple, and if they agree that they’d like to meet you, it’s time for the match meeting, which takes place back in Maryland, with the social worker serving as facilitator. And undoubtedly, that is when things start to really get exciting. And nerve wracking, too, because remember how I likened a match meeting to a blind date from Hell? Well, double that times twenty when the time finally comes. No matter how excited and committed you are, you’ll find yourself mumbling under your breath, “What if they don’t like me? What if they don’t like me?”

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Part of a Group … at Last

An Addendum. Or a Pre-Addendum. Or whatever you would call this:

Thanks to those of you who understand my reticence to talk about the financial aspects of surrogacy. I know it probably seems odd to talk about a subject so personal, and yet still feel certain aspects are more personal than others, and off-limits. I appreciate your support. As far as those of you who suggested people were fact-finding as opposed to being nosy --- yes, I think you are correct. I think the vast majority of people who ask "in the real world" are nosy-parkers, but I didn't get that sense here. However, the uncomfortable feeling remains, no matter the motivation behind the questions. And if I may, I'd like to make a disclaimer at this point that I'm sharing my story and my story alone. *My* experiences; *my* feelings. That does not make me a surrogacy expert, and again, I would recommend to those people researching the legal, technical, finanical aspects of surrogacy ..... contact an agency or attorney or any of the legitimate web sites out there. Read here for fun, because you find it interesting, because your greatest thrill in life is finding my typos and rubbing my nose in them ... whatever. But I cannot claim to be an expert or to dispense advice. < backslash end of blahblahblah disclaimer backslash.>


So at long last, it was time for me to attend my first-ever surrogate support group meeting, held once every three months in Maryland. I felt almost giddy with anticipation, like a pledge who just found out she finally made it into the sorority (I know, that’s a dumb analogy, but you know what I mean.)

I was nervous, too, about what to expect, and what would happen, and what would be expected of ME? Mainly, I wondered, would the other girls be a bunch of hemp-wearing tree huggers who sat around talking about the evils of pain relief during childbirth and wanting to pass time as a group by holding hands, braiding each other’s hair and watching episodes of A Baby Story? I mean, what kind of person typically wants to be a surrogate, and was I really sure what I was getting myself into? Would I have ANYthing in common with any of them? What on earth would we talk about??

Needless to say, I shouldn’t have worried.

The way the meetings worked, everyone would fly in either Friday night or Saturday morning. We would meet at the hotel on Saturday, shortly after lunch, then sit around a big conference table (or two or three conference tables pushed together, depending on how many girls were attending) and the social worker would facilitate the talks. Although really, it wasn’t so much talking, as just going around the table, each girl introducing herself and telling where she was in her “journey”, with the other girls getting to ask questions, offer advice, congratulations, etc.

Depending on the number of girls there, and how long-winded everyone was, this in itself could take a couple of hours. Because you weren’t invited to the meetings until you had passed all your initial screenings, and in most cases, a few more months had gone by, most of the girls actually had something interesting to share ... unlike me at that first meeting, who hadn’t gotten any farther than filling out all my paperwork and passing the initial screenings. Mine wasn’t exactly the most fascinating introduction in the world, to say the least. Most girls had either already been matched with a couple and were working towards getting pregnant, or they already *were* pregnant, or, my favorite part of the meetings, girls who got to tell their birth-stories.

Since the meetings took place every three months, the first meeting held after a girl had given birth, she got to come back and sort of “hold court”, if you will, telling everyone about the experience. The birth stories were always saved for the end of the meeting, like a special treat, and we had two at my very first meeting. And then, also at the very first meeting I attended, one of the surrogates who had recently given birth not only got to share her story, but her Intended Mom came to the meeting and brought the baby. Everyone was gathered around, congratulating her, and oohing and aahing over the baby, and I looked over at the big, thrilled smile on the IM’s face, and the big, proud smile on the surrogate’s face, and that was the moment it was solidified in my brain that I wanted to be a part of something so very, very special.

The rest of the weekend consisted of dinner together that evening, then all the girls getting together in their hotel rooms to talk and dish in a less formal setting, sort of a mini-slumber-party before flying back home the next day.

That first night was when I got to know the other girls a little better, and realized that my pre-assumptions about them were wrong. I wasn’t “the most normal” one of the group …. Every one was pretty much, well, just like me. We came from all over the eastern half of the country, some north, some south. Some of us worked, some of us were stay at home moms. Some of us were (ahem) older, some were younger. Some had teenagers at home, some had small children. There were nurses, a doctor’s wife, a pastor’s wife, teachers, students, an ex-policewoman, active-duty military, ex-military, and military wives, women in business, women who were self-employed, women who home-schooled; you name it, it was probably represented.

Most had gotten pregnant easily themselves and had a desire to help others less fortunate. A few, like me, had known infertility to some extent ourselves, and were looking for the chance to help someone else, and to thumb our noses at the Gods of Infertility while we were at it. Most were warm, open, kind, empathetic women (girls? What’s proper?) who felt a calling to help a family in this way. A few were wicked funny, with dry senses of humor – girls I knew I could be friends with even without this common bond (Hey, Deb!) What we all had in common was an interest in surrogacy, and the belief that this was something we could do for others.

We sat around talking for hours, with the more experienced members of the group passing on bits and pieces of information to the newer girls. Inevitably, as it does practically anytime a group of women get together, the talk turns to pregnancy, labor, and delivery. What made these stories unique was the common goal at the end ---- the successful contribution to a new family.

They talked and talked, and I listened and listened, and couldn’t wait to get started. The stories that interested me the most at this point were the stories about “match meetings” … when potential surrogates met their potential couples – talking and chatting and exchanging expectations and ideas and goals and extremely personal information before deciding whether or not to work together. Imagine the most stressful blind date ever ---- where you talk about intimate subjects with people you’ve never met, with a chaperone, for goodness sake, and that’s pretty much what a match meeting is. A crash course in "Getting to Know You" and "Do You Like One Another?" Every girl at the weekend get-together who was already matched (basically, anyone who had been around longer than me …. I was the quintessential example of “newbie” that weekend) seemed to genuinely care about the couple they were trying to help. I heard a lot about “instant connections” and “we just clicked” and “I knew they were the couple for me.” Needless to say, I couldn’t WAIT to meet my couple and get started. After all, it was now November and I was already months behind on my master plan. (Remember? Pregnant by October? Geez, I'm a goob.) I hadn’t been home 24 hours before I was calling the social worker, pestering her asking her how soon I could start looking at profiles.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Dreaded Money Talk

Well, I was hoping this issue wouldn’t rear its head at all, or that at least it would be a little later in the game. But, the comments in the comment section and the personal e-mails that I’ve received the past week or so lead me to believe the time is sooner, rather than later. And that makes me sad. I probably seem a little dual-personality (Um, isn’t the correct word "psycho”???) considering how open I seem to be on here --- I mean, if I put parts of my life out for review on this blog, should I be surprised when people ask questions? Or cynical about not wanting to answer them?

Deep breath ---- Yes, the vast majority of surrogates, both traditional and gestational, are compensated for their “services”. Sometimes a girl will provide what is called a “compassionate” surrogacy and waive any sort of compensation, but that is probably most often a case of someone helping a relative or close friend. While I have no idea what the total cost of a surrogacy might be, nor do I want to know, I can assure you it is prohibitive, and that the couple, the Intended Parents, pay for everything --- medical costs and doctor bills, to include all screening, monitoring, and IVF expenses, legal costs, travel costs, cost for medications, testing costs, agency fees, insurance premiums, and the surrogate fee, which can vary greatly depending on the circumstance.

A few of you have asked why I needed to obtain life insurance and medical insurance. It’s fairly standard for couples to take out life insurance policies on surrogates. Most surrogates are mothers themselves, and heaven forbid something tragic were to happen during pregnancy or delivery, that life insurance is to help take care of the surrogate’s family. As far as medical insurance, for my first surrogacy, I was told that my personal Tricare health insurance, through the military, would not cover surrogate pregnancies, so my couple was required to take out a private health insurance policy to cover the pregnancy and delivery. Of course once the baby is born, he or she goes immediately onto its parent’s health insurance plan. I subsequently discovered that Tricare does indeed cover surrogate pregnancies, although there is a proposal currently working its way through Congress that would exclude surrogate pregnancies from Tricare coverage. Some private health carriers cover them, some do not, in which case it is the couple’s responsibility to provide coverage. And let me tell you that in between the premiums, the co-pays, the deductible, and the fact the plan only paid 50% benefits, my first couple could have just paid cash for the delivery and come out ahead. But, that’s why it’s called insurance, right? And thankfully, we didn’t have any complications.

Bearing in mind that talking about money – period -- makes me uncomfortable, nonetheless, I have a few points to make about surrogate compensation:

Um, why wouldn’t we be compensated? Everyone else involved in this process is: lawyers, doctors, agencies, social workers …. I guess I don’t understand why people assume just because it is something we want to do, and something that takes a special person to do it, that somehow means we should do it for free. I can think of lots of noble callings; teaching, working with the blind or disabled, saving the freaking tree monkeys in the rain forest, for goodness sake, but no one expects any of those people to do it without compensation for their time and trouble, just because it’s something they feel passionate about.

I’ll admit, when I first started researching surrogacy, I had no idea that compensation for surrogates was the norm. I also had no idea -- no CLUE -- how much time, effort, and sheer pure dedication is put into this on the part of the surrogate, and why being compensated for that is really only fair. Had I gotten further into my story, you would have heard about the traveling that is done and the time spent away from family that surrogates sacrifice. You are often at the mercy of a reproductive endocrinologist’s schedule and calendar, and especially if you are traveling out of state for testing and transfers, you don’t usually get to pick and choose the times that are most convenient for you to travel. I personally have missed birthdays, soccer games, school parties, and other events that made me sad to miss, but which were unavoidable if I was really committed to doing this. I can’t even imagine the juggling that surrogates who also work full-time must do. Reason number one that your family must be supportive and understand that your being a surrogate affects THEM, too.

And on the part of the surrogate, let’s not forget:

**The dozens and dozens and dozens of doctor’s appointments for ultrasounds and blood tests and specialized fertility tests like hysteroscopies and hysterosalpingograms, endometrial biopsies, polyp removals, etc. I’ve traveled all the way to Maryland, and all the way to New Jersey, numerous times, just so a doctor could shoot water in my uterus and dye in my tubes and take pictures, to see for himself that my innards are healthy and that I am a qualified candidate to carry someone else’s child.

**The hormones and medications that we take by mouth, by patch, and by shots that we give ourselves in the thighs and the belly and the ass (daily or twice daily shots for almost three months for every pregnancy attempt, if you really want to know, and yes, I’m talking the big long needles like you get at the doctor’s office that we jab into our own rear ends, or have our husbands jab for us, which some of them enjoy a little more than is appropriate, in my opinion) and by suppository, if you truly want to talk about something pleasant.

**The thrice-weekly trips to the doctor in the weeks leading up to an transfer to make sure via ultrasound that your lining is not too thick and not too thin, and to check that the hormones you’re taking to suppress your own ovulation are working, and blood test to make sure that your progesterone and estrogen levels are being manipulated appropriately, and let's not forget the side effects from shoveling all these hormones into your body, and the steroids which make you grumpy and hungry (good practice for being pregnant, right?) ….

**And then the thrice weekly doctor’s visits to repeat everything after a transfer to see if it worked.

**The miscarriages and d&c’s when it doesn’t work, and the nine-months worth of lifestyle changes when it does. Gaining weight, swollen ankles, morning sickness, fatigue, varicose veins, more doctor’s appointments, bedrest, heartburn, travel and diet restrictions, and all the other multitude of normal pregnancy complaints. Amnios, if necessary. I’ve canceled or postponed vacations with my family because I was unable to take part in activities, or travel out of state, due to pregnancy. I didn’t get to be with Blaine when he was getting his radiation because of a surrogate pregnancy. Not something we saw in advance, but that’s the way life goes sometimes, right?

**The chance of more serious concerns regarding the risks of delivery. Thankfully, serious problems are rare, but I do know a few surrogates who have had emergency c-sections, or serious, frightening, life-threatening complications during delivery.

And you know what? Yes, we do it all willingly. No one can force someone to be a surrogate and we all know what we’re getting ourselves into. In fact, pretty much every surrogate I’ve ever known has been THRILLED to get to experience all those things, even an occasional hardship, if it meant in the end we got to realize our dream of helping to make or expand a family. But given everything we undergo, even willingly, even HAPPILY, I don’t think I should be embarrassed about the fact I am compensated. Yet every time someone asks me, or I hear that they’ve asked my mother or my sister or my friends, “How much does she get paid to do that?” it takes a little of the joy out of it, and makes me feel defensive. And tainted. And snippy. Since when is it anyone else’s business?

Surrogate fees vary depending on circumstance and expectations, but I can tell you this: No one should EVER consider being a surrogate for the money, because a) that’s the wrong damn reason to do it, and b) you could make a lot more money getting a job working a fast food counter, for only eight hours a day, as opposed to what a surrogate receives for being pregnant twenty four/seven, nine months long, and the months and months of work and commitment that go into the process beforehand, and c) again, the money is not what it’s about. It’s about getting the opportunity to be a part of something that is bigger than yourself, and helping another family in a way they can’t help themselves, and, even selfishly, the pride and joy and happiness you get to feel doing it.

I told Blaine when I started this story that I hoped no-one asked me about money because it makes me so uncomfortable to talk about. I have always refused to discuss my compensation with anyone --- I’m a private person, and it makes me cringe when I’m asked because I’m always so surprised that someone *would* ask. If you really want to know, google it and find out. If you’re just asking to be nosy, then don’t.

I’m not embarrassed that I’m compensated; I’m embarrassed that people ask about it as if that’s the only reason I do it. I might be hoping for too much, to want to share a story this personal and yet still set up my own personal boundaries. I don’t blame people for being curious; it’s just not something I’m comfortable talking about. I hope you can understand and respect that.

I’m willing to share this story. In fact, I’ve been looking forward to it. But I’m not willing to talk about money. Blaine said, “Someone will ask. Probably several will ask. You know they will.” And I replied, “I hope they don’t. I think it would take the fun out of the story-telling.”

And they did.

And it did.

And so this is the last I’m going to talk about it, so that the fun doesn’t stay away for good. I’ve hesitated several days, wondering whether to even post this or not. I feel a little bit like Sybil ... "Here, here, read my blog! Comment! Ask questions! Oh, but not that."

However, I’d really like to put this specific topic to rest … hopefully this will do it. With any luck I answered any questions you might have, so we can move on. If not, let me suggest again, try googling. But don’t ask me. I’m sorry if that makes me sound defensive …. I’ve had a crappy day, and I guess I am.

Friday, March 14, 2008

When Action Progresses to Actually Filling out the Damn Application and Quit Talking About it Already!

A few days after that initial phone call, I received a Priority Mail envelope from the agency. I can clearly remember walking into my living room and sitting down on the sofa to open it. I can clearly remember how excited I was, looking over the “Application—Part One”, and knowing this was the first concrete step I could take to fulfill my goal of becoming a surrogate.

And you know how asinine I felt, remembering how the very first time Blaine and I had unprotected sex in our quest to have baby, I got a little emotional at the end, knowing we had just produced The Miracle of Life, and there were probably tiny little angel baby harps playing in the background with pacifier-shaped fireworks going off in the distance out the bedroom window????? Well, I feel just as asinine today, when I think back to how I felt with that application in my hot little hands. I remember thinking, “It’s June now. I’ll send back this application, I’ll be done breastfeeding in September, I’ll get pregnant in October, and I’ll deliver nine months later. …. Do the math …. Hey, that’ll be June! Maybe today is the pre-one-year anniversary of when I’m going to have the baby, woohoo!!!”

My gosh, I was a moron.

Remember that hold-your-hand-and-guide-you-slowly-through-the-process philosophy I was so pleased to have found in this agency? Because I wanted an agency that was controlled and calm? Well, the next few months were going to show me just EXACTLY how “slowly-through-the-process” it could be. I’m not even sure of the exact timeline because I didn’t start keeping a journal until months later, but I do know the rough timeline was something like this:

June: Fill out initial application, including listing three personal friends as references, people who could vouch for my happy, healthy, sane family life. Hmmmm, finding three might take some time.

July: Fill out second part of the application, and a travel questionnaire. One of the things I loved initially about this agency was that they require their surrogates to attend quarterly support group meetings (although I always HATED calling them support group meetings … made us sound like a bunch of alcoholics.) Because their nearest office to me was in Maryland, that meant every three months I would spend a weekend at a hotel with other surrogates, social workers, and various agency representatives, making sure everyone’s social and emotional needs were being met, letting girls share information, personal updates, news, concerns, celebrations, etc. I was SO excited to go for the first time and meet these girls, who had the same dream as me. Hmmm, was it really a dream yet? No, no, more like an ambition. But still, ambition alone won’t get you to Maryland, so you better fill out that travel questionnaire, missy, and return it asap.

August: Interview with agency social worker. Normally, the potential surrogate and her husband have to fly to Maryland (or California, depending on what side of the country you live on) for this interview, where she talks to you more in depth about what being a surrogate entails, discusses your own motivation, expectations, etc. She also meets with the husbands (aka support person) to get their perspective on the situation and make sure they are completely, totally, without a doubt, non-wavering, supportive. However, the agency had had a slew of Ohio applicants all around the same time, so rather than fly five or six couples to Maryland, it made more sense to fly the social worker to us. You know, mountain to Mohammad kind of thing. Worked out nicely for us, as the interview only lasted a few hours, in a conference room at the airport, as opposed as me and Blaine flying all the way out there and worrying about child care for two days. I LOVED the social worker, and after meeting with her, I was more certain than ever that I wanted to do this. Now, I just had to worry that she thought I wasn’t a complete nutcase and would recommend me to continue moving through the application process.

Also, I had to write several items that would be kept in my file for potential couples to see: a Dear Intended Parents letter, similar to the Dear Birthmother letter Blaine and I wrote when we were trying to adopt, a “Describe your personality and characteristics” essay, and also a brief analysis of whether or not I would be willing to selectively reduce or terminate a pregnancy, why or why not, and for what reasons. And, put together a photo collage with 4-6 recent photographs of my family for potential intended parents to look at. Hmmm, how quickly can I lose 20 pounds?

September: Take the MMPI psychological test. Wait, does that mean she thinks I’m a nutcase? No, actually, it’s a requirement for everyone wishing to be a surrogate through this agency. This test, if you’ve never taken it, is a complete pain in the ass. Over 400 questions long, all about “Do you hear voices?” and “Have you ever wanted to hurt yourself?” and “Would you steal something if you knew you weren’t going to get caught?” and not only that, but you have to take the test in front of a witness, for goodness’ sake, and then mail it back so it can be scored to see if you passed, or if the men in white coats would be showing up any day now. Considering I was a stay at home mom with a one year old, two year old, and a three year old at home, it was a toss up.

Also, it was time for my initial screening physical. Not too terribly detailed, but the agency sent me a kit to take to my personal physician so I could get a pap smear, get checked for all sorts of gynecological infections, blood tests, communicable diseases, etc. Blaine had to get the same tests done … well, not the pap smear, thank goodness! Although I would have to be checked out more thoroughly by a fertility specialist later, this exam was just to ensure my overall physical health, and whether my own doctor would recommend me as physically capable of undergoing in-vitro fertilization and carrying another child.

October: Well, I must have passed the physical exam and the psycho-test, because I’m being told to apply for life insurance and medical insurance. Guess that’s a step in the right direction, right? (Wait, wasn’t I supposed to be getting pregnant this month, according to my master plan? I wasn’t even sure I had been officially accepted into the program, let alone met my couple, let ALONE gotten pregnant! Man, my master plans NEVER seem to work out like I think they will!)

November: And at last, after almost six months of applying, I got a call from the social worker that I needed to make plans to attend my first-ever support group meeting. I can remember saying to her on the phone, “So, ummmmmm, does that mean I’ve been approved?” And still, STILL, it was conditional, based on whether or not the fertility specialist found anything that would make me an unlikely candidate …. But yes, yes, YES, I had passed all the initial screenings and they were accepting me as an official prospective surrogate, yippee!

In hindsight, I think one of the reasons this agency has such a phenomenal success rate is because of this very process. Although tedious and slow and frustrating, especially to someone likes me, who wants to see action once I make up my mind, ACTION, baby, going slow and steady like this ensures that no girl who isn’t completely dedicated to this process will make it through as an applicant. It’s almost like they make it so drawn-out and tiresome to scare off anyone who isn’t one-hundred percent committed. You have to WANT to make it to the end, and complete task after task after task, in order to get there. And now that I was finally there, over the big first hurdle, I was ecstatic!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Delay

Everyone here is fine. There have been no serious illnesses, cancer diagnoses, car accidents, fires, floods, famine, tornadoes, severed limbs, snake bites, plane crashes, electrocutions, bridge collapses, hurricanes, stabbings, or accidental poisonings.

But still, it's been a busy couple of days. Besides the usual rot of school and soccer practice and birthday parties and piano lessons and planning for Spring Break next week, I've had one home from school since last Thursday with a bad cold, one who got suspended today (don't even ask) and I'm hosting a luncheon for eighteen women at my home on Thursday.

So forgive me if the next journal update isn't there for a day or two. I think it will take that long for the valium and Jack Daniels to wear off.

(Of course I'm kidding. Everyone knows you can't mix your sedatives! I'll go for straight Jack. I need to save the valium for when I drive the kids to south Texas by myself this weekend.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

When Research Progresses to Action …

A day or two later, the phone rang. I saw the agency name pop up on caller ID and my heart jumped a beat with anticipation. This was it, they were calling me back! They were probably calling with information about when I’d be getting pregnant, or who I would be carrying a baby for!! Wow, would it be a girl or a boy?!? Or maybe both?!? How exciting!!!

Um, no. Obviously, I got a little ahead of myself there.

I talked for a while with the Surrogate Mother Coordinator. She told me about their program and what being a surrogate for them would entail. I would have to undergo a pretty rigorous screening process, but if I met their initial criterion, which we could establish in this phone call, she would be happy to send me a formal application. Yes, I was definitely interested, I assured her. What were the initial criterion? I asked, crossing my fingers I would meet them.

Was I between the ages of 21 and 37? Check (the upper age limit has since been raised to 42 and is still deemed “flexible”, which I think only goes to show …. Us old chicks rock!)

Was I a non-smoker? Check

Non-drug-user? Check

Did I have a husband, or other support person, who was in agreement that my being a surrogate was a good idea, and who would encourage and support me throughout this process? Check

Had I given birth before? Check

Was I currently, or had I previously, raised a biological child of my own? Check (The idea here is that they want women who understand both the experience of giving birth, and the experience of raising that child, and all the emotions that go with each one. For example, they wouldn’t accept an applicant who had perhaps given birth young and placed the child for adoption, and then never gotten pregnant again. They wouldn’t accept someone who had never been pregnant but was raising step children, as another example. Obviously, this is an attempt to ensure the girls wanting to be surrogates are familiar with the journey to parenthood themselves, from the very, very start to the very, very finish.)

Did I live in a surrogate-friendly state? Um, I don’t know, did I? Ohio? Check

I was not currently pregnant myself, or breastfeeding, was I? “Uh …. Well …. Yes I am. But my daughter is already nine months old and I don’t plan on breastfeeding past a year.” (When in actuality, my daughter weaned herself at eleven months because she had much, much, MUCH more interesting and important things to do, like twisting her head around to look at the tv every time I tried to nurse, or wiggling down to see what the other kids were doing, or crawling after the dog, or trying to eat plastic army men, and woman, why do you keep shoving those boobs in my face? I am done, I tell you, DONE with you and your breasts ---- pass me the real milk!!)

Then, it was time for me to ask the question that had been worrying me since the beginning: Would the fact that I was a previous infertility patient rule me out? It’s funny, because people often assume that surrogates are “fertile myrtles” who can get pregnant at the drop of a hat. The coordinator wanted to know *why* I had been a fertility patient, since obviously it had been resolved if I had two biological children. I told her the two things the doctors had found potentially wrong with me; that I was a sluggish and irregular ovulator, and that my cervical mucous was the quality of rubber cement. Well, hey, guess what? Neither of those things matter if you plan to be a gestational surrogate. In fact, as long as you have a healthy, intact uterus, your own fertility issues don’t even come into play. Who cares if you produce a bazillion high-quality eggs each month? The doctors will use meds to suppress your own ovulation when you’re trying to be a surrogate. And who cares if it takes bionic sperm to penetrate the Great Wall of Glue in your uterus? IVF bypasses that process anyway. So she assured me that no, those two issues alone would not eliminate me from applying for their program. As long as I passed all the other tests, they were insignificant. Whew!

The coordinator agreed that since I was nearing the end of my breast-feeding period, it would be ok for me to go ahead and fill out a formal application. She told me up front that how long the screening process took, from start to finish, would depend quite a bit on me and how quickly I did my part.

I assured her that I was very sincere about this, and had done my research. Now that I had made up my mind this was what I wanted to do, I was ready to move forward and would get the application returned to them post-haste. We hung up, and I sat back and waited for the application to arrive … if I must confess, getting a little tingly with excitement.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


Last summer, when we attended the Lighthouse Retreat in Seaside, Florida, we were inundated with a typical Lighthouse week of kindness and caring and tender loving care. Not only did the workers and volunteers of Lighthouse rise to the occasion to make it a fabulous vacation, as always, but the residents of Seaside helped out as well. We received free bike rentals for the week, coupons for food and ice cream from the sidewalk restaurants, souvenirs, etc. Also, a local photographer named Michael Belk offered to take pictures of all the families, donating both his time (in the bazillion degree heat; that man was working up a sweat!) and then donating the photos to the families.

The retreat was the first week of June, and I hoped to use the family portrait for our Christmas picture. Summer ended, fall came and went, and no pictures. A few of the Lighthouse families were talking behind the scenes …. “Do you have your pictures yet? No? Neither do we.” Then Christmas came and went and still no pictures. I called the Lighthouse to ask about it, but have to admit I felt embarrassed. Sort of like, “Hey, thanks for the great beach vacation and pampering our family like we’ve never been pampered …. But I want MORE! Where are my free pictures?!?”

See what I mean? It just seemed a little greedy.

Well, imagine my pleasure when they arrived in the mail today! Even though it was only nine months ago, Brayden and Kellen, and especially Kendrie, all look so young to me. Brayden still had her pre-braces on, and Kellen didn’t have the gap from missing teeth that he currently has. The family portrait we received is 11 x 13 and I had to cut some of it off to scan it and share …. But I couldn’t be happier with either picture and am thrilled to have finally received them.

In fact, I was admiring our family photo this afternoon when Blaine came in from outside. “What’s that you’re looking at?” he asked, and I eagerly held up the picture for him to see for the first time. And what came out of his mouth … can you guess? Was it, “Ah, what a great picture” or “Wow, I’d forgotten about those” or even “Hey, what a nice looking family” --- was it any of those things? Nope, the first thing that came out of his mouth was “God, I look bad.”

Have I mentioned how much I hate cancer?

You know how they say that people tend to marry their physical attractiveness equal? Like how the beautiful head cheerleader marries the hunky quarterback? Or two people who are say, fives, on a scale of one to ten, will wind up together? And when they don’t, for example, like Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovette, or Drew Barrymore and Tom Green, people sort of look around like, “Hmmm, that’s weird.” I don’t care how charismatic or filthy rich Donald Trump might be, those models did NOT marry him for his looks.

Well, I think Blaine and I did exactly that equivalent-attractiveness thing. Let’s be honest, neither of us are ever going to work as Calvin Klein models, but strangers have never thrown paper bags over our heads, either. We’re just kind of … well ….. average looking, I suppose. We’re sort of mainstream …. Not drop dead beautiful, but not butt-ugly either. At least I don’t think so. If you think I’m butt ugly, you are welcome to NOT leave your opinion in the comment section.

But despite the fact I imagine we’re considered average, to *me*, Blaine has always been a really handsome guy. Shorter than normal, but with fabulous shoulders and great legs, extremely smart and easy going, he’s always worked for me. And I think I’ve always worked for him, and neither one of us has really given it a whole lot of thought.

Until cancer, and the devastation it wreaked not only on Blaine’s face, but on his psyche.

Have I mentioned how much I hate cancer?

When the doctors are telling you that in order to remove a cancerous tumor and save your husband’s life, that they’re going to have to remove his soft palate and his hard palate and his cheekbone and all his upper teeth on that side of his head, it doesn’t matter. You know without a doubt that looks aren’t as important as his health. You don’t care that after the surgery, that side of his head will basically be a giant sinkhole, you’re just grateful the tumor can be removed. Heck, when they come out after surgery and say, “Good news! We were able to save his eye!” it feels like a real bonus.

Then, surgery after surgery after surgery to try and reconstruct his oral cavity ….. not because he is vain, but because it is necessary for his quality of life. Because he doesn’t like being able to look in his mouth and see his eyeball, because he doesn’t want to live the rest of his life on a soft foods and liquid diet, because he doesn’t enjoy having a forked lip, because he hates blowing his nose and having mashed potatoes come out of it.

Blaine has had approximately fifteen surgeries in the last five years. ONE has been cosmetic, which was done at the same time as another, necessary surgery. He has been cut from the outside edge of his eye, all along his bottom eyelid, down the side of his nose, under his nose, through his upper lip, and had his face peeled off more times than I can count. He has a permanent dent in his scalp where they’ve removed part of his skull. They removed both a lower leg bone and a lower arm bone in order to reconstruct his palate and gums, and he has enormous scars on that arm and leg to show for it. His original trach hole wouldn’t close. He has a v-shaped scar across his neck that seriously looks like someone tried to slit his throat.

Have I mentioned how much I hate cancer?

Then, radiation when the cancer came back. Radiation that left him permanently partially deaf in one ear. Radiation that fried his salivary glands so that eating is a constant aggravation, and not pleasant. Even swallowing is a hassle. Radiation that caused contraction of his facial muscles so his mouth doesn’t close normally, and radiation that has left him with constant pain. The cold weather hurts, the hot weather hurts, the humidity hurts, the wind hurts. Radiation which wiped out his endurance, and has left him with at least a fifteen pound muscle mass loss because the man who used to work out five times a week hasn’t been in a gym in over two years, yet still loses weight if he doesn’t watch out. Would you even like to guess how much money we’ve spent on Boost these past two years, in an effort to keep his weight up?

He is every bit as handsome to me as the day we stood across from one another in church, holding hands, saying our “I do’s”. The same day that I squeezed his hand much harder on the “for richer” part of our vows, something you can see me doing on the video, and then you can see both of us grin at one another right after that. Ah, to be young and a complete moron, huh?

But guess what? It worked. All those surgeries worked, and he is currently cancer-free. (Big, giant happy dance.) Although he had complication after complication, and it felt like his entire life was one big “two steps back” scenario there for awhile, for the most part, the reconstruction is done. The chronic pain is still an enormous, intimidating hurdle which we are struggling to resolve (see: the hassle of being forced to travel to south Texas next week to meet another pain doctor because NO ONE in Oklahoma will touch him … and although the Air Force has no qualms about sending him to San Antonio, they don’t see the logic in just sending him back to his Tricare-participating pain doctor in Georgia who worked so well with him and is already familiar with his case history.) The deafness has become an issue and he’ll be having outpatient surgery again next month to have another tube put in his ear. But actually, that seems minor compared to everything else he’s been through. As long as the cancer stays gone, the implanted tissue and bone in his face maintains a good blood supply and doesn’t die, and the new bone in his gum can support the implants for his teeth, he should be ok physically.

What is not minor OR ok is the beating that his self-esteem has taken because of the way he looks and the way he feels. It was funny the first time someone at the military hospital in Georgia, after he got the MRSA staph infection in his leg, asked him if he had stepped on a land mine …. Not so funny the second and third time. For most of the past five years he has not had many of his teeth. I can tell in family pictures over that period when he had teeth and when he didn’t, by whether or not he smiled with his lips apart. He HATES when he doesn’t have teeth. He doesn’t really like to go out in public because he says people stare at him. He understands it, but it still makes him feel self-conscious. He doesn’t care for socializing a whole lot because in a crowd, he can’t hear what people are saying. We have to make sure he is seated with his good ear to people if we go out to dinner, or to a party. And despite months and months of speech therapy, and a newly-reconstructed palate, he still has some speech issues and is sometimes self-conscious about talking to people, especially on a phone. Coming back here to Tinker and running into people he worked with twelve years ago has been …. Interesting at times, to see their reactions.

It’s easy for me to tell him that it doesn’t matter, that looks aren’t important, and that he’s just as handsome to me and the kids as he ever was. I even tell him, “So, your face looks funny … I’m fat! Neither one of us is perfect!” but I know it doesn’t make him feel better. I remind him those scars are proof of his bravery over the years, and that I will never love him any less. In fact, to be honest, I don’t even really notice anymore, the physical changes he has undergone. But he notices, every time he looks in a mirror, and it makes him unhappy. It makes him self-conscious.

Have I mentioned how much I hate cancer?

After the last surgery he had in Georgia, the doctors came in his room and told him about the next surgery they would like to do on him. This one, for cosmetic purposes only. It sounded pretty high-tech, truth be told. They would do all sorts of 3-D imaging of his face, and build a flip-opposite mold of the undamaged side of his face. It would be a mask of sorts, which would perfectly mimic the normal side of his face, but would be constructed completely backwards. (Am I even explaining that right?) Then, they would peel the dented side of his face off, yet again, and slip the mask into place right under the skin, from eyeball to jaw, securing it somehow, so that his affected half would be a mirror-image of his normal half.

Sounds pretty John-Travolta-Nicholas-Cage-Face-Off-ish, doesn’t it? In fact, I kept calling it a face transplant, much to Blaine’s annoyance. The doctors told him, this would be a huge deal. Major surgery, with a major recovery time. For purely cosmetic reasons. But they really thought he was a good candidate, and they would be willing to try if he would.

Laying in the hospital bed, recovering from his umpteenth surgery to finish the reconstruction work, Blaine paused, then simply looked up at the doctor and said, “Not now. I just don’t have it in me.” He had never – NEVER – balked at a surgery, because he knew they were all necessary. But he was beat down, and couldn’t begin to think about a surgery that wasn’t 100 percent necessary.

Yesterday, he mentioned it to me.

I don’t know how I feel about it. On the one hand, I want him to do whatever it takes to feel better about himself. To be able to go out in public without having people draw in a sympathetic breath and ask what happened to him. It doesn’t matter how handsome *I* think he is, his opinion of himself is low, and maybe this surgery could correct that. Sort of like how he tells me he loves me no matter what, too, but deep down, I *know* my ass is too big.

On the other hand ……… well ………… geesh. Again? I worry he’s not ready, or that he’s going through with it too soon. If he’s going to do it, it must be done while he’s still on active duty. He’s not retiring anytime soon, but the end is out there, looming. Should he do it now, just because he has the chance?

I feel like a protective mom, who hates to see her child endure any more than is totally necessary. I worry about what could go wrong. I worry that moving forward before we get his pain management issues under control is a mistake. I worry that he won’t be happy with the results and will regret doing it.

And I guess deep down, I worry that when he’s done he’ll be so handsome that I’ll be the Lyle Lovett in our relationship.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

According to Blaine, they really *are* losers with a capital “L”

So you know my favorite show right now is The Biggest Loser, and we record it so we can watch it when it’s convenient. Blaine could care less about the show, but we were having quality family time tonight and all watching together, Blaine included. Well, except for Kendrie, who is in bed with a sore throat and a fever of 101 …. Guess letting her spend the night last weekend with her cousin, who had just been diagnosed with strep, wasn’t such a stroke of genius on my part.

First they showed a re-cap of last week when Mark got voted off and he was crying, then they showed his brother Jay crying because he was so sad to see Mark go. Then Dan started crying when was overwhelmed, realizing how much weight he has lost and how much physical progress he has made, then Bernie started crying when he was talking to his family about supporting him in his weight-loss goals.

This is the following conversation that took place, which sort of makes Blaine sound like a caveman, but which made me giggle, so I’m going to share:

Blaine: Oh Geez, is there another one crying? There’s too much crying on this show.

Kristie: Blaine, think about it. These people have worked so hard to achieve their goals, and what they've accomplished is so huge, I’m sure they’re simply overcome at times.

Blaine: I don’t care. They’re crying like little girls.

Kristie: Blaine! That guy lost one hundred pounds … ONE HUNDRED POUNDS! Don’t you think that entitles him to shed a few tears of joy??

Blaine: I don’t care --- Was it a hundred pounds of testosterone he lost?? Because that’s the only thing that would explain all the damn crying.

When Talking Progresses to Research ...

Pre P.S. Woah! I appear to have struck a nerve with my costume complaint, with most of you agreeing we should pull our children out of this school immediately and move to rural Siberia where costumes are never required, only polar bear coats. What I find truly ironic is only a few hours after I hit the "publish" button on that last post, Brayden came home from school with the following announcement: "Mom, I have to dress up like an old lady in the assembly on Friday; can you get me a dress and a shawl tomorrow?" (sigh)

I was glad to see so many of you commenting, though. Crickets had started chirping around here and I was re-thinking the current storyline. For now, I'll plug along and keep going.


So once I acknowledged my interest in surrogacy was more than a passing fancy (what does that mean, anyway, "passing fancy"?) I got online and started researching. Started reading everything I could get my hands on, from Ask Jeeves and websites and message boards, all about the world of surrogacy. And … well …wow. Just wow. There was so much information out there, and I was on overload; it was overwhelming. Some good, some bad, some accurate, some from the land of crazy, and let’s be honest, I was completely ignorant of the entire process. I wasn’t sure what information was reliable, and what was normal, and what was too bizarre to even be considered.

At the time, most of what I was finding felt a little too “on the fringe” for me. I can be pretty conservative, and definitely don’t consider myself to be a “leap first, look later” kind of gal. (Unless it involves a shoe sale at Nine West … then yeah, I pretty much plow forward with no common sense whatsoever.) But for big ticket, life altering experiences, I am more of a cautious type. Online, I was finding couples advertising for surrogates, surrogates advertising for couples, arranged parenting requests (??) alarmist stories of what could go wrong, legal precedents and complications ….. for someone like me, who had no clue where to begin, it seemed a little frightening and unsupervised. Trying to navigate this process, and embark on something like this, by myself, via the ‘net, was too intimidating. I mean, everyone knows the anonymity of the Internet can be a tricky thing, and how could you be sure what you were getting into?? I clearly remember saying to Blaine, “I am not about to wind up on Jerry Springer like these people …. Advertising on the internet for a surrogate …. Who does that?!” and reconsidering the entire thing. I mean, what was the most well-known surrogacy story at that point? The Baby M fiasco --- who wants to be a part of something like that!?!

In hindsight, I have to laugh at my naiveté. Just because *I* wasn’t familiar with that particular process, didn’t mean there was anything wrong with it. It just meant that it wasn’t the right process for me, at that time. So I kept looking, at that point with more morbid curiosity than anything else.

Then, I found a website for a surrogate agency located in California that seemed .. well … more organized. More professional. More supervised. Ahhhhh, for an anal-control freak like me, that was good. That was more in my comfort zone. Again, it doesn’t mean it was better, it just means it was better for me.

The agency I found is a well-known agency within the world of surrogacy, with offices located in California and Maryland. At that time (it was summer, 2000) they had been in business for twenty years, had facilitated the births of over 700 babies, and they appeared (to me, anyway) to be a firm, solid, secure, reputable agency. They advocated a very controlled, well-guided, let-us-take-you-by-the-hand-and-lead-you-through-this kind of approach. Although I wasn’t sure exactly what that process would include, I did love the wording on their site:

“We believe that surrogate parenting should be a collaboration of professionals who guide the entire process. The team should consist of doctors, psychologists or psychotherapists, attorneys and an agency that is the liaison between all the participants. {Agency name} has created a "team" that is unsurpassed anywhere in the world. {Agency name} is unique because we have created a team that is involved with each surrogacy arrangement from beginning to end.”

And at that point I turned to Blaine and said, “Ahhhhh, relief. I’ve found the way I want to do this; a way that makes me feel safe.”

And sent an online request that very evening to the powers that be on their webiste to “please contact me; I am interested in your surrogate mother program.”

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Enough is Enough

I like my kids' new school, I really do. I like the teachers, I like the administration, I like that it’s less than fifty yards from my house, I like the activities they offer, I like the parent involvement, I like that the other kids have been welcoming and kind.

What I do NOT like, however, is this school’s freaky obsession with costumes. And any extra-curricular or academic activity that brings about a need for costumes. Costumes that parents – specifically, UN-CREATIVE parents like me – have to provide. Does anyone realize this stress this causes me? And why does it keep happening?

Our first week of school here, literally, the very first week, they had their annual school-wide Vocabulary Day, where every single student in the entire school was assigned a different, grade-appropriate vocabulary word. Each student was to put together a costume that represented that word, then take part in a parade, before standing in front of their classmates -- in their costume -- to read the definition.

In theory? A terribly cute idea. But for a mom who hadn’t even unpacked half her household belongings, let alone had any idea where the craft stuff was, it was way too much pressure right off the bat.

Kellen’s word was “decillion”. Do you know what a decillion is? No? I didn’t either. I was quickly told a decillion is a one, with thirty-three zeroes after it. Never mind that we were still eating off paper plates because I hadn’t unpacked dishes, and that we’d all been wearing the same underwear for three days because I hadn't found the laundry soap, I needed to drop everything and come up with a costume for decillion. In hindsight, I should have just made him stand up straight and made a tail with thirty three paper rings, but at the time, I completely panicked. Fortunately, his teacher took pity on me and made him a sign to wear around his neck that said basically, “I am a Decillion”.

Kendrie’s word was “crazy”. I stuck a Dr. Suess-type hat on her head and sent her off to school. A better example of crazy would have been my face, on a life-size 3-d billboard, with my eyes bugging out and my hair standing on end, but I just didn’t have time.

I don’t even remember what Brayden’s word was because bless her heart, I didn’t even try with a costume. Her teacher sent home a note saying she could be exempt, as a new student, and I took it and ran.

Less than a month later, the gifted program put on a Live Museum, where the kids dress up as certain characters, then “come to life” when a student pushes a sticker on their hand. Kellen had to dress up as a famous Oklahoman, so we went with Johnny Bench and I bought a vintage baseball (read: real wool and itchy!) uniform on ebay. Kendrie was to dress up as a famous author, or one of their characters, so I purchased a Harry Potter costume, also online, and Kendrie described the works of JK Rowling. Sure, I know store-bought (or ebay bought, in this case) is kind of cheating, especially compared to the parents who obviously spent hours and hours working on their kids' costumes …. But remember, I’m the kid who went as a hobo every year for Halloween because I don’t have a creative bone in my body.

Right after the Christmas holidays, the 5th grade held their Colonial Fair, and in addition to making a poster and building a booth and selling your wares, wearing a stinking Colonial Fair outfit made up part of the grade! Thank goodness for online shopping, is all I’m saying, so that Brayden could truly look the part of a young Colonial girl, and not fail 5th grade history just because her mom couldn’t sew a muslim dress and white puffy kerchief hat if my life depended on it.

But the final insult came today, when ALL THREE kids brought home notes that next Friday is the school-wide! Book! Character! Day! With lots of exclamation points!!!!

Each kid is to pick one of their favorite books and write a report about the book … a report they have to read in front of their class, dressed as a character from that book.

Are you kidding me???

Kellen, thank goodness, was willing to recycle Kendrie’s Harry Potter costume from the Live Museum, so that’s one down. Now I just have to refresh his memory of the book for the report.

Brayden had already selected Harriet the Spy without telling me, bless her heart, because she said, “The costume will be easy, Mom, it’s just jeans and a hoodie!” I appreciate her trying, but then we took a good look at the book and realized we also have to get glasses, a tool belt of some sort, and various and sundry spy items to hang from said tool belt. Egads.

And Kendrie, well, I don’t have a clue what she’s going to do. First she wanted to be Clifford, of all things, which I totally don’t understand since she hasn’t read any Clifford books in about four years. Then she wanted to be one of the kids from the Magic Tree House series, which I said was an awesome idea, especially if they ever wore vintage wool baseball uniforms in any of the books, because we could recycle that as well. Maybe I should convince her that her favorite book is Audie Murphy’s “To Hell and Back” and I could recycle Kellen’s book report from last month and have her wear her army costume from Halloween.

Oh, fuck it. She can just go as a hobo.

**And let’s not forget the 4th grade re-enactment of the Sooner Land Rush that takes part later this spring, and the Land-Rush-y costume I have to get for Kellen. What is WITH these people???