Psychological Evaluation…

The good news… I am no longer in the “What’s next?” Limbo and instead I’m in the, “Oh Shit… What if I’m Crazy?” Limbo.

Not really.  I’m pretty sure I am not any more crazy than the rest of the average American population.  At least, I hope I am not.

In the surrogacy process, most agencies follow the same basic protocols: basic application, more detailed application, phone interview with agency rep, collection of medical records, insurance review, background checks, a home visit, then you’re “on the market”…. then you WAIT.

It’s a lot all at once and then, for most, a period of waiting.  My process with my agency went as normal, but even before my profile “went live” I got a call saying that one of their case managers had a couple of IP’s that might match perfectly with us.  So we skipped right over that first wait time and jumped right to the next flurry of excitement. We leveled up!

Level two’s process, again, is similar no matter what agency you work with.  You get to read IP’s profiles and either move forward, or move on to the next profile.  My husband and I liked the first set of parents we were given so we moved forward setting up the Skype meeting (you can read how that went here).  Long, awkward story short- we all agreed that we would love to work together!  Yay.  Leveled up AGAIN!

Level three….

waiting.

I had grown used to the flurry and constant contact so when it stopped I got anxious.  I don’t know exactly why, but we were told we were ready to advance and then… crickets.  It was really nerve racking- which is when I wrote my Limbo post.  Had they forgotten about us?  Had the IP’s changed their mind and decided they didn’t want to work with us? Was this normal?  Was I over thinking it?  Was a loosing my mind… most definitely.

The only explanation I can come up with is that there are a LOT of professionals that have to be involved in this whole surrogacy process which means that there is lots of communication that has to happen and be coordinated- between IP’s and their case manager, between the agency and the IVF clinic, between the surrogate and the case manager, etc… the point is, there are a lot of cooks in this kitchen!  And, lucky me, it was spring break.  Families everywhere were taking vacations and time away from the office which surely had an affect on the lines of communication!  (or so I hoped.)

Anyway, back to level three:
The IVF clinic that the IP’s are using needed to review my medical records to decide if it was even worth the next steps.  This was the first hang up. I finally heard from my case manager that the doc at the clinic was out of the office which is what caused the delay.  I was thankful to have some communication and some reason for the slow down.  So, after nearly two weeks of waiting, we were moving again.

The next step is the psych eval.  My agency found a lady near me so my husband and I were able to schedule the visit quickly and didn’t have to travel too far. They want both the surrogate and her husband (in the case that the carrier has one) to attend to make sure the environment and family can handle the changes in dynamic that occur in a surrogacy situation.

I realize that not all agencies and procedures will conduct their exams in the same way, but for those of you out there that might be interested or anxious and want to know what it might be like, here are the details of mine:

First, we were greeted by a counselor who wanted us to fill in basic info- she would use this to help guide the conversation. It took us about 10 minutes to fill in the questionnaire.

Then, the conversation started.  She asked a lot of questions:
Describe our childhood? (we both had to do this)
Were either of us ever married before?
Describe your relationship with your parents.
How did you two meet?
Describe your kids and your pregnancies.
Describe your relationship.
What do you do to handle stress?
Describe your personality? (we both had to do this)
Describe your health and workout habits?
Who have you told about your surrogacy journey?
How have they responded?
What do you plan to tell your kids about this process?
How do you think this journey will affect your family?

There were probably a few more questions, but they were all in the same vein. It was very much just a conversation and she was very personable.  Nothing to be nervous about. It took about an hour and a half.

ScantronMy husband was allowed to leave at this point, while I remained to take the MMPI-2.  A mental health assessment that asks the same questions in different ways 567 times (literally… there were 567 questions?!?!). That took me about an hour.  Then I was free to leave.

That was on Thursday of last week… and now I am waiting again.

I do know that the next step is the medical screening and that it will be in CA and that my husband and I will, obviously, be traveling to the IVF clinic there to have it completed.  I do NOT know when that will be scheduled or if there are any other hang-ups that might prevent me from even getting to that point.

Ugh, the not knowing makes me loony.  But hopefully we are getting closer to the part I am confident in: growing babies!

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Another reason.

Tuck 3My precious little boy turned three.  THREE?!

It’s so cliche’ to say, but where did the time go??  How did the little 8 lb squish who made me a mommy actually turn three?

Each of his birthdays are always met with the same mix of emotions.  I am so proud of the little man he is becoming: he is kind, polite, caring, and helpful.  And every day he grows older he is becoming more capable of doing things himself which is both heartbreaking and awesome.  Awesome because having to take care of a one year old, and a three year old, in addition to managing myself and be a good wife is all consuming and, frankly, exhausting! So, the more things he does for himself the less I have to do for him. But it is heartbreaking because he needs me less and less. And eventually he will no longer NEED me at all (though I hope he still wants me to help when I can).

Anyway… March 17th I am always awash with the memories of that day now three years past when I was in labor (read that story here). The feelings and emotions of that day… and night… and the following morning… are tangible. I dare to hope they always will be, though  experience teaches me otherwise.  My mom’s memories of her pregnancy with me and her delivery are very hazy so I am fully aware that time, the magic eraser, will eventually fade these memories until I can only vaguely recall the highlights.  I hope that having written the story down will help my recollection some but who knows.

This year, on March 17th, we followed our normal baby wrangling schedule and we mentally prepared my son for his birthday the following day.  He is only just now figuring out what that really means.  In his newly, three-year-old brain it means cupcakes (this year he requested that they be green… his wish is my command)!  We did all the same things we would normally do- breakfast, park, playing outside, lunch, etc…

And after an exhausting day (they all are when you’re raising kids), as I was wrestling him into his PJ’s and wrangling him onto his bed and struggling to get him settle for his story… even in my exhaustion and my readiness to have some adult time I had to stop and thank the universe for making me a mommy.  And for giving me the precious gift of my son.

There is nothing else in the whole world that I will ever treasure more than my little family.  Even on the really terrible days when everything goes wrong and shit seems to be hitting the fan… even then I know I should be thankful.  When the kids are whiny and throwing tantrums and not listening… when my husband is cranky… when work is stressing me out and I lack patience (because adulting is so flipping hard sometimes)… when the house is dirty and chores are looming… when life sucks as it is sometimes prone to do… even then, when I consider the alternative, I need to recall that feeling of thankfulness.

Because I do not even want to imagine what life would be like without my husband, my son, or my daughter.

As I rocked my too-big-to-be rocked little boy to sleep the night before his third birthday because he whispered to me that he needed it, as my back ached, as exhaustion overcame me, my heart swelled with love and gratitude for the boy in my arms.  And then, it ached for all the women and men out there who’s arms are empty.

And I thought to myself, THIS IS WHY I AM WORKING TO BECOME A SURROGATE.

Peeing on a stick…

POASAnyone actively attempting to get pregnant has been there. The dreaded two week wait (TWW). Many women are/were there more times than they would like to admit and it’s always the same thing each cycle:

The excitement starts to build with each day you tick off the calendar as you near ovulation day and you wait with bated breath with every OPK—begging your friends or online forum buddies to help you decipher if it is positive yet… or at least darker than yesterday… maybe… please?!?!

Then it’s here! You get your smiley or the two matching lines and it’s GO TIME!!! The baby dancing (BDing) starts. Your dear husband, especially if he is not in the loop, wonders what has gotten into you, but he does not DARE question it as he LOVES the increase in your libido. ☺ At this point you are on a TCC (trying to conceive) high… you’re hopeful, excited, and enthusiastic. You are able to stay that way for a while. You get your crosshairs on your chart and ovulation is confirmed!!! Hooray!!! You check and double check your BD schedule… and then sometimes you check it once more just to make sure you didn’t miss something the first two, alright seven… times you looked at it.

It’s usually around this point that your mood begins the downward spiral because you DON’T FEEL ANY DIFFERENT… or maybe you do… or maybe you’re over thinking it… or under thinking it… or just need to relax… or stop counting… ??? It’s this part of the cycle that you get the TWW blues and begin to wonder if you’re timing really worked. You usually text/post to your TTC girls that you “think this cycle is a bust” or “AF is just around the corner” or you’re “just not feeling it this time around.” And, the good friends that they are, assure you that “you’re not out until AF shows” and strangely, even though you know that and have heard it before, it helps keep your spirits up just enough to go back and take a second look at that pee stick or dig yesterdays out of the trash (even though you’re only 7, 8, 9, 10 DPO and the likely hood of seeing anything is outrageous!!!) and when that second line still hasn’t magically appeared your spirits are dashed ALL OVER AGAIN! ☹ Boo!

But then… sometimes… that stupid test you took 5 minutes ago has a line!!! Holy cow!!? Was that there a minute ago??! No way… you held your breath as you watch the line cross over the window and were sure there was just the stupid, lonely control line before you walked away. Your heart begins to race. Your hands start shaking and while you haven’t felt nauseous ever, you feel it now. You snap a picture and pray it shows up on camera. You text your friend (or post it on your boards) and pray that they can see it too. They do… or are they just saying that to be nice?! They tell you to buy a more expensive test and you look at it the dang thing again (safely tucked into your pocket where you can peek anytime you want to make sure you aren’t dreaming) and now you just aren’t sure. Maybe you’re going crazy. No, you ARE certainly crazy… but you get into your car anyway and drive to the drugstore and you buy the more expensive test and tell yourself that you are NOT going to touch it until tomorrow morning!!! It’s only 8:00pm but you want to go to bed NOW… it’s like Christmas Eve when you were a kid. The sooner you go to sleep the sooner Santa will come… but just like when you were 5 sleep does NOT come so easily. You wonder if that elusive second line will show up. You pray that it will but part of you still doubts and these thoughts chase the sandman away.

Around 2:00am you have finally managed to doze after checking the TWW boards again for some sort of distraction and around 5:00am you wake up and desperately need to pee but really want to hold it in so it’s a good long hold for that expensive test that holds your sanity in it’s stupid window and pink line(s). 6:30- you’re about to wet the bed and can barely hold it long enough to get the wrapper open… you are dancing by the toilet and remember to grab a cup to catch your first morning  urine sample just in case the test doesn’t work properly or the results are iffy and you decide to use a different type of test. You try desperately not to pee on your hand but the raging river of urine can not be tamed and now you have to wash your hands before you can dip the stupid stick. GRRR!!!

You look at the sample… you pray again… and then you question yourself – it’s only 11 days past ovulation (DPO)… it could be negative. Can you handle that???? You pull the test away from the sample still dry and you bolster yourself with the “it’s still early” idea or the “well at least I will know and can move on to the next cycle” but deep down, either way, you just need to know so you re-read the directions for the 100th time, dip the stupid stick, and count to 5 very slowly. You watch as the line passes through the window like you have for each of the previous cycles in the past… and then, after the longest two minute wait you have ever experienced, you see it. A real live second pink line. The bathroom starts to sway and you sit, stick in hand, on the toilet seat and stare. Holy Crap… I’m pregnant.


This was written in early 2013 just after finding out that I was pregnant.  My husband and I decided to “stop preventing” (i.e. I stopped taking birth control) 8 months before this moment.  I knew that it could take up to 6 months for birth control to leave my system but many people get pregnant right away.  I was not that lucky. Every month I tracked.  Every minute of the day it was on my mind. Every single time, I got my hopes up.  And for 7 of those months my heart was broken when that elusive second line never showed. 

I know that I am lucky because that second line did appear for my husband and me.  I know that many women have been through the constant struggle- it is all consuming.  They plot, plan, and track each cycle. They wake up and take their temperature which initiates the cycle of thinking about pregnancy and babies ALL DAY.  They pee on ovulation predictor sticks during lunch and stare as the sample passes over the window and they silently pray that THIS TIME it’ll work.  They wait painfully for two weeks over analyzing every twinge and every tingle that might signal that this time will be different.  They start peeing on pregnancy tests at the first possible chance to know as soon as they can.  And, for so many, they cry silently in the bathroom when their cycle starts and any inkling of hope is dashed… again. 

It’s a vicious cycle that I can’t really even claim to fully understand.  I consider myself very lucky.  

It is this brief glimpse into the struggle that many men and women facing infertility deal with that led me to pursue becoming a surrogate.  

 

Limbo

I’m in a sort of limbo. I’m waiting to move to the next level in the surrogacy process but it’s all “hurry up and wait” which is driving me a bit loony. The hard part, if I think about it, is that I am super anxious.  Not so anxious I want to back out or anything… there’s no going back for me.  I WANT to do this.  But I don’t respond well to the not knowing part.

I know how to be pregnant. I know how to handle labor.  I know how to have a baby.  That’s essentially what I signed up to do… the stuff I KNOW how to do.

But surrogacy has a lot of checkpoints (as it should!) and those… those I don’t know anything about.  The control freak in me is… well.. freaking.  I like to have things all mapped out and be able to see what’s in front of me, but right now I can’t.  I do not know what’s past the dense fog of the unknown. unknown

For instance, I’ve never filled out an online profile (call me lucky, but my husband and I met in high school and I never had to do the online dating thing) so that was a first.  I admit that I probably over thought it, but I wanted to make sure I sounded like a reliable mom and person.  I mean, these people are trusting me to grow their baby for them!  I struggled to let my newborn son stay with his grandmother during the day when I had to return to work!  I cried for days leading up to it and a few hours after I dropped him off.  I can’t imagine having to trust someone the way these intended parents will have to!  Anyway… there was a lot of pressure there!

Another first- I’ve never skyped with people who want me to carry their baby for them.  I angst-ed about it for DAYS!  Would they like me?  Does it matter what I wear?  What the hell do we talk about?!  How will it start- I mean, do we dive straight in to talking babies and pregnancy or do we have some warm up stuff?  Again, so much pressure.  And not knowing how to prepare myself made me a bit nuts. In most circumstances you can imagine, roughly, how it will go and prepare yourself mentally for it.  Like for interviews.  Once you’ve done one, you can imagine how any interview you might attend will go and prepare yourself for the types of questions you might face and how you should respond.  This surrogacy business, though, is all uncharted territory for me so when I tried to prepare myself, I kept seeing… black.  I had NO CLUE how it would go and was anxious as hell.

Ultimately, the conversation was like any other “Hi, it’s so nice to meet you” introduction and eventually it segued smoothly into the more formal “surrogacy talk” without a hitch. It was a bit of a struggle having 5 people chatting with a slight time delay- the connection made it difficult to just pick up or add in naturally to the conversation so I ended up biting my tongue a bit for the sake of ease.  I felt much more awkward and ridiculous than I hope I came off, but there were parts of the conversation that kept me awake that night, afterward, that I completely over-analyzed.  Of all the things I could have said, why the HELL did I say that?!  Oh my goodness, did she know what I meant when I said _____.  Oh dear, did I offend them when I _______.  And, even though the agency rep confirmed that we would email on Monday after the weekend, I checked my email about 453 times over the next two days hoping that my husband and I made a good enough impression that these people would want to pick us.  I mean, come on… NO ONE likes rejection!

They did pick us, by the way!!!  We are officially matched!  Which has sent my control-freak-self into a whole new level of hell.  SO MANY UNKNOWNS HEADED MY WAY!

Legal paperwork:  I’ve signed some contracts in my time, but it was all…skim… skim… skim… yep, okay.  Sign. There was never anything serious on the line, hence the skimming.  This time, two loving parents who have been working very hard for years to have kids… their hearts are on the line.  An infant life is on the line.  Hell, my life is on the line (though that’s pretty extreme, really, but my husband does worry.  Understandably). Ultimately there are a LOT of things that this document will have on the line and the weight of that is not lost on me.  In fact, when I really think about it, it knocks the air right out of my chest.

Medical Testing: I’ve successfully gotten pregnant twice with no issues.  But I was chatting with a dear friend who is currently using a surrogate and she explained why their process was taking so long.  Essentially the surrogate mom (who has 4 kids of her own: 2 vaginally and 2 by c-section) got all set to go for the transfer twice only to be told that her lining “wasn’t optimal” both times.  She was also diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (a thyroid issue) and that caused other delays.  Neither of these were things the surrogate ever had to worry about- hell, she had 4 babies!  Knowing this is probably a good thing- I can mentally prepare myself for the long haul.  But, goodness!  I now have a whole new set of “what if’s” to keep my mind reeling.  What if I don’t have “optimal lining?!?!”  What if I have some undiscovered thyroid issues?!  What if it was a fluke that I got pregnant so easily?!  What if I cause even more heartbreak for this couple?!  Ugh… the unknown… yuck.
Oh!  And then, there’s the psych evaluation that precedes my medical screening.  LOL!  What if my mental angst for the unknown is picked up on by the person evaluating me and I am diagnosed as bat shit CRAZY?!?!?  How ironic!  The process of surrogacy has made me too crazy to be a surrogate.  Wait… that’s actually not funny.

See… this is what happens when you leave a control freak without anything to control.

I digress… obviously.

But, that’s where I currently am.  Just waiting.  And checking my email.  And then waiting some more.  And refreshing my inbox, again.  And then waiting some more.  Oh, and also trying to teach my classes… and then checking my email. Driving home.  Checking my email.  Then playing, feeding, bathing, clothing, tickling, and reading to my babies.  Then checking my email.

You get where I am going with this.  In fact, I gotta go.  I need to check my email.

(PS- the friend and her surrogate are pregnant now!  Yay!  They just had the anatomy scan and their little girl is healthy and progressing nicely!  20 weeks!  halfway!)

 How my journey as a surrogate began…

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes ___________ with a baby carriage.

We all know this little ditty and we all also know that it doesn’t always work that way or in that order.

For instance, a couple of my high school friends- their path essentially followed that tune but there were a lot of bumps in the road on their way to the baby carriage.  They met in middle school, started dating in high school, were engaged in late college, married in their early twenties, and then… they started working for the baby carriage part.  In fact they had the carriage. Just no baby to put in it.

People would ask (I was guilty of this), “When are you going to start your family?” Or jokingly, “Have you pulled the goalie?”  The first year went by.infertility.. and then the second… still no baby.  All the while, outside pressure continued to build.

Finally, over drinks, my dear friend confessed that they were struggling with infertility. They had been through all the testing, a few IUI’s, IVF, a couple of chemical pregnancies, a miscarriage, and more pee sticks (ovulation and pregnancy) than she could even begin to keep track of.  And she suffered all of this silently, on her own.  Perhaps embarrassed, or worried, or fearful of jinxing it they kept it to themselves. I was heartbroken for her. Devastated. I remember thinking then, over drinks, that I could offer to carry a baby for her and then stopped myself.  How could I be so presumptuous?!?!  How did I even know that I could carry a baby? Or get pregnant?  How insulting might it seem for me to offer something like that when I know jack squat about pregnancy?  To assume that it would be easy for me when it was so hard for her… how rude of me to assume!  I never mentioned it, but that was the first time I considered being a surrogate.

A few years later, when I was pregnant with my daughter, another very close friend from high school shared some terrifying news.  His wife had gone into labor, which we had all been expecting at any moment, but during labor her liver began to fail.  She was in a rare 1% of women who develop this disorder and nearly lost her life in the process.  Thankfully both the mom and and the baby survived, but it was a couple of harrowing days for their family.  And, sadly, she was told that she would never be able to have another baby as the risks were even higher tempting fate a second time.  I cried for her… and for their family.

Fast forward a few months.  My second beautiful baby was in my arms and while I was elated to have my her (read the birth story here or my son’s here), I was a little sad that the process was over for me.  I LOVED being pregnant.  I even loved both my labors and deliveries. I loved the power and intensity of the whole process.  But once it was over another feeling kept creeping in.  I can’t really explain it- I knew my family was complete, but I did not feel done with the process of babies and was almost saddened by knowing that it was over for me.

February, not even two months after giving birth, I started reading more about surrogacy.  I found every blog I could and while nursing my baby girl read every word of each of them.  I became a little obsessed.  It was around this time I first mentioned it to my husband.  Having read so many blogs, I knew the best way to get the desired response was to lead with the financial benefit the process could provide.  He shrugged it off as something we could discuss later, BUT HE DIDN’T SAY NO! I took that as a sign that I should do more research.  I contacted agencies and started getting answers to some of the questions I had.

A short time later, my husband mentioned an email exchange he and his friend (whose wife almost died during labor) had been having.  After much discussion, they had decided to pursue surrogacy to help them finish their family.  During the conversation, I blurted out, “Can I carry their baby for them?” It slipped out before I could sensor myself or rhetorically plan my argument. Surprisingly, my husband was on board!!!  After clarifying a few points, we called and proposed the idea to our friends that same evening!

They, understandably, needed to think it over and would get back to us. But it was that exact moment that I knew surrogacy was in our future.

Ultimately, our friends politely declined for a few reasons and I am thankful that we had the conversation as I feel it has helped me better understand both sides of the process.  First, they were already matched with a lady through the agency they were using and were beginning the paperwork.  Second, his wife was really struggling with the whole process.  She absolutely hated/resented the fact that she was unable to carry the baby herself- an emotion I can only sympathize with and one that breaks my heart.  Her honest response was that she wanted to have the ability to be resentful toward the surrogate and needed the distance to be able to do so.  Having me, a close friend, as a carrier would make her feel guilty for having those feelings.  And third, she also wanted the option of eventually allowing the relationship dissipate- again, distancing herself from the painful reminder that she wasn’t able to carry the baby herself.   I immediately understood and think that it was very profound for her to be able to process those tough feelings.  I am thankful for her honesty.

candleBut, it was this event that thrust my husband and I full throttle into the world of surrogacy.  I spoke with my sister about our plans and she was excited!  I spoke with both my husband’s parents and my own- they were more protective and asked a lot of questions, but after our conversation, all of them agreed to be supportive and help in any way they could.  It was then that I began sharing the news with my friends (many of whom believe I am nuts because pregnancy was not “fun” for them at all). Everyone agreed that it was a great idea and that I was “perfect for the job.” There was just one more hoop that I felt I needed to jump through before signing up with an agency.

The first question that EVERYONE asks a surrogate is, “But how can you give up the baby?” And I know the answer; I had read it on boards; it made sense in my brain; I was pretty confident that this wouldn’t be an issue… but I wanted to meet someone face-to-face who had been through the process and have them be completely honest with me about how they felt after.

One Saturday soon after, I met with a lady who, a year prior, had completed her surrogacy journey.  After telling her story, she patiently answered all my questions (process? emotions? issues?  paperwork? financial concerns?) and calmed any reserved fears I was having. I was ready.

The next Monday I submitted my application.  Let the matching begin.