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!