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.


Anonymous said...

Ok, first let me say THANK YOU! for continuing the story despite those rude nosy people. I have friends who do foster care and they often are accused of doing it "for the money" (yeah, $12/day is really gonna take them far! haha!). Anyways, rude people aside, I think most will agree that we can't wait to hear the good stuff (match meeting, finding out it took, seeing the IPs hold thier new baby), and have no desire to know about any compensation or other such matters.

That said, these support group meetings sound like a blast!

The Running Girl said...

I'm loving reading about your surrogacy journey. I think it takes a very special person to do what you have done and can't wait to read the rest of the journey.

Anonymous said...

Awe...don't leave us hanging!!! I want to hear more!!! so glad you are continuing the story.

Anonymous said...

Wow, just wow. For those of us totally oblivious to the world of surrogates this is all fascinating. Thanks for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for continuing with your story. I find it very interesting and think you are an incredible woman.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I can't imagine anyone asking about the money involved in surrogacy; it's like walking up to someone that you DON'T know well and saying something like "Well, just HOW much DO you make at that job of yours?", the ultimate in LACK OF CLASS and poor taste, in my opinion. Having said that, I don't mean to offend any of you who might have been so curious as to ask - I just know that it would've NEVER have been something I would ask. Kristie's right - even church pastors get paid, and they aren't risking their life and health. And, as soon as she said the dreaded word "hysterosalpingogram", I knew that I would never have had the courage to do a surrogacy - having had ONE of those nasty little "procedures" myself and having NOT enjoyed it one bit - especially after my older sister had said to me "Oh, they're a piece of cake!"!!!! Piece of cake - she jinxed it for me, I guess. At any rate, it HURT! But, I digress. Kristie - I'm enjoying every minute of your surrogacy story - but don't put it out there unless you're enjoying doing so - well, that's my 2 cents worth, anyway!

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing your unique journey. Everything is something I would never have a clue about otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for continuing the story!!


Anonymous said...

Being one who has total "Lack of class" and asked about financial compensation years ago, it wasnt about wanting to know what Kristie "made" giving birth to another couples baby, as much as it was my curiosity about the whole process. I didnt realize at the time that asking about it was rude and insensitive of me. I think it depends on the context. If people are asking because they want to judge a person for why they may do such a thing - that is one thing. But, if asking out of pure curiousity and amazement with the whole journey, isnt that different? Although, I suppose the question would make the surrogate feel just as uncomfortable either way - because the question does imply that it the person asking it feels that the monetary compensation is the motivating factor. Kristie, if I could back up I wouldnt have asked you about that back when you were carrying the twins! Love Erin

Anonymous said...

As a foster parent and an adoptive parent, I've also been asked the money questions. Sometimes they're from people who are wanting to do the same thing and trying to figure out if they can make it work in their lives and sometimes they're just plain nosey. In face to face conversations, I find it easier to discern the asker's motivation.

I feel like I'm refreshing often hoping to find the next chapter. So...carry on!


Anonymous said...

Lets just say, that I know how you feel on the money question! I have been asked if you and Blaine paid me for Brayden and I have also been accused of "selling" my baby!