1/5 = 100%: to Lisa on the Eve of Motherhood Year One

I tried to describe Lisa’s personality in my own words, but nothing I say could ever fully capture the wisdom, perseverance, caring, and the love that is at the heart of this woman.

Lisa battled for six years against premature ovarian failure and the early loss of a pregnancy before turning to donor egg as an option for building her family. It was at this point that she introduced herself to the surrogacy and egg donation community on SMO. She came to learn, but we became the learned. She found not only an egg donor but a friend in Julie, who herself is a mom twice blessed through surrogacy. Through Lisa’s journey and her relationship with Julie we at SMO have all learned how to love a little wider, to hope a little more, how not to be afraid to show people you that love and care for them, and how to shine.

Julie and her family became an extended part of Lisa and her husband. After a failed fresh transfer, Lisa had a FET with the one remaining "sub-par" embryo. Julie was there by her side and the ladies and gents of SMO sat by their computers with bated breath, praying each day that this transfer would work. We all cheered and rejoiced when Lisa started getting darkening lines in her 2ww. I still smile when I think of Lisa’s recount of how she told her husband the news:

How I told DH….

First of all, I was NOT going to tell him about the HPTs.

See, we got some faint dollar store positives in May and he was sure that it "worked". When I did an early beta at 9dp3dt and it was <2 (essentially negative), he didn’t believe it and scolded me for bypassing the normal beta time. When we got the final word of the BFN, he was driving home from work. I called him and even though he acts like he’s okay no matter what happens, he was absolutely devastated. He refused to come home and wanted to drive around. Finally, in the middle of the night he came home, and wouldn’t let me see his face. I was so upset for HIM and how crushed he was.

So, I promised myself that I wouldn’t do that to him again.

He arrived home at 6:45 from his trip.

I did not realize that I was hopping back and forth between my two feet. He said, either you have to pee really badly, or you have some pregnancy news to tell me.

WELL SINCE HE CAME OUT AND ASKED….

…..by 6:47 I was showing him all the tests I’d taken over the weekend. He took them all into the bedroom, laid them out on the bed and put them in chronological order (JUST LIKE A MAN!).

Then he kept calling out "OMG, LEE! LOOK AT THIS ONE!!!" "LISA!!! DID YOU CHECK THIS ONE OUT???!!!!?" "GET IN HERE, THIS IS THE BEST ONE EVER!!!" "DID YOU TELL JULIE!?!?!?!" "OH, THIS ONE IS SO OBVIOUS! WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN YOU SAW THIS LINE COME UP!!!???"

Then he told me to go pee and take one right now so he could watch the line show up. It took a little while and we laid in bed tossing the HPTs in the air, like you see people do with bills when they win a lottery.

Lisa shared her pregnancy with us, along with many of her joys and fears, and she did so openly. Lisa was a window to those who had no personal experience with infertility; through her, they could see many of the doubts and uncertainties, but also the hope that can come with the label. Sometimes knowingly but mostly unintentionally, she helped many surrogates feel increasing amounts of empathy for their IPs. Her words helped to heal wounds and bridge gaps, instill hope and soothe sorrows.

She was due with her baby girl Jenna within a couple of weeks of when I was due with Baby M. A couple of months prior to delivery, I made the decision to donate my breastmilk since Former IM was able to successfully induce lactation. I posted my offer on the Pumping and Breastfeeding forum on SMO and one of the first few replies I received was from Lisa. She was concerned that she would not be able to establish an adequate supply due to a prior breast reduction surgery and also from the unstable hormone levels that was the culprit of her POF. My heart leaped at the opportunity to provide breastmilk to such a wonderful person and I jumped at the opportunity. Within days we settled shipping and storage arrangements. Lisa had been priming her body for nursing and had already purchased two breast pumps, one of which she sent to me. Mostly, we formed a closer connection than the one we had already established through supporting each other in our respective journeys.

She went a bit overdue and because I was having a repeat c-section, her induction and my surgery were scheduled just four days apart. We spent the days leading up to our deliveries discussing impending signs of labor and how excited and nervous Lisa was to be so close, just days within grasp of becoming a mother.

In labor she was supported by her husband and also by Julie, who provided updates on Lisa’s progress. After a long labor she did not progress and Jenna was delivered by c-section. She came into the world surrounded in love, and the surrogacy community rejoiced.

In the four days between Jenna’s delivery and Baby M’s, Lisa could tell that her concerns of a low supply were correct. A week after her birth, Jenna was not gaining weight as she should have despite nursing practically around the clock, and in fact was losing weight. My supply came in rapidly and within days of leaving the hospital I was able to send off a very small box of expressed breastmilk (EBM) to give Jenna a bit of a headstart before I had enough milk stored to send off a larger shipment. Jenna started supplements of my EBM on her twelfth day of life and within a day had gained back a full ounce of the weight.

Lisa’s breastfeeding and pumping was not without a lot of struggle. She fumbled with clumsy lactation aids, tried different pumps, and visited many times with her lactation consultant. There were runs of sleepless days and nights and some tears of frustration along the way, but Lisa did it all out of sheer love and dedication to her daughter. Often she would remark, "To even have this struggle is a blessing!" "Moxie," she’d whisper in awe, as if she were seeing Jenna for the first time all over again, "I’m a mom. I have a real, live baby and she’s mine."

Finally Lisa was able to settle into a comfortable routine of nursing, pumping, and supplementing with my EBM. About 80% of Jenna’s intake was my EBM, but I believe that the other 20% from Lisa is what has made all the difference. That 1/5 = 100% of Lisa’s love for her daughter, her love that existed before Jenna was ever conceived, her love that springs forth from six years of struggle, her love that made the fight worth it in the long run.

I pumped for four months and was able to supply Jenna with almost 9 months of EBM. I felt a loss when I stopped pumping and Lisa felt a loss when she reached the end of her frozen supply a few months later. In December, Lisa posted this:

We are down to the last paper bag, with a few plastic bags of Moxie’s milk inside. Moxie wrote a very touching and meaningful note on that bag when she pumped in wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy back in JULY! Can you believe her milk lasted this long for little BabyBep?

Two months ago, we started substituting one bottle of Moxie’s milk for one bottle of formula slowly changing the ratio each week. A month ago, we were down to one bottle of Moxie’s milk every other day and one bottle of my milk every other day. I pump twice a day, getting 1.5 ounces each time (so it takes 2 days to get a bottle), plus I breastfeed several times a day and night…….mostly as a comfort thing as I don’t make much milk at all.

So, here we are at the end of Moxie’s supply and I just can’t, can’t, can’t use that milk! I go out to the freezer in the garage, the freezer my FIL purchased for us for the sole purpose of storing Moxie’s milk, and reach for the bag, and then close the freezer door.

I don’t know what I’m saving it for! I just don’t want this beautiful thing to end. This amazing coming together of two women, to feed a very much treasured baby.

Moxie, I really will NEVER be able to express how much I appreciated your milk and the time and effort it took you to provide it for my little Miss-Love-Love. Breastfeeding was very important to me. I’d attended many LLL meetings when I first started ttc (not knowing it would take six long years). I knew I could possibly have issues with milk supply and your offer was a true G-d send when it was apparent that I was having that problem.

I am sad that this is coming to an end………..

Then, she posted this picture of Jenna with that last package of milk. Jenna has had a couple of colds since then and Lisa has thawed the individual bags of EBM within to give Jenna a boost of antibodies. Two weeks ago, Lisa posted this:
Well, there are TWO plastic bags left now. The other two were used to keep Jenna hydrated during a bout with diarrhea.

I’ll be defrosting those last two bags in 2 weeks for two special birthday bottles.

Then I’ll be posting about how I’m having trouble (emotionally) letting go of the efforts to keep up my little milk supply. I’m going to stop pumping and I’m pretty sure my supply will dry up completely. My baby is very content to comfort nurse, so it will be interesting to see if she still wants to nurse without any milk at all or if she gives it up.

Moxie! You & I!!! We did it! A year of breastfeeding and breastmilk!

Of course, she was pretty much fully formula fed from 7.5 months onward. Just want to put that out "there" that it wasn’t an "all or nothing" process for us.

Tomorrow is Jenna’s first birthday and as part of her celebration, she will have that one remaining bag of EBM. I cannot be there in person but I can be there in spirit, still able to share in her very important day. Frank and I sent Jenna a birthday gift – a stuffed cow, an allusion to my nickname of "Jenna’s Dairy Queen." Today, Lisa posted this picture and these words:

We have only one precious bag of milk left, waiting for tomorrow’s special birthday celebration to finish up the last of Moxie’s supply.

Knowing this, Moxie & her DH sent little BabyBep a combination birthday/end-of-milk-supply gift. A soft, cuddly stuffed COW arrived today!

I explained to my little Miss Love-Love that when one door closes to look for the open window, meaning that it’s time to say goodbye to Moxie’s milk and to turn her affections towards her new friend, "Ms. Moo".

Well, even though I LOVE this gift from Moxie, BabyBep wasn’t too pleased with the prospect of switching her affections to a new mammal (yet). So, I showed her that the bag of milk was going back into the freezer and we’d give her a little more time to adjust. Then I picked her up and she promptly fell asleep in my arms as I typed this post.

My post is in celebration and in honor of Lisa’s first year of motherhood. Lisa, who through tears and heartache made it through the fire and into the realm of her dreams turned reality. Lisa, who is my friend. Earlier I expressed how I felt my efforts to describe Lisa were insufficient, but now suddenly the right words – borrowed from Maya Angelou’s plaudit of a childhood mentor – come to mind: "She was one of the few gentlewomen I have ever known, and has remained throughout my life the measure of what a human being can be…." This is Lisa, and I am so honored to know her and to watch her daughter grow.
Congratulations, Lisa. For what you give, what you share, and who you are, I am and will forever be grateful for you. And Jenna – the little embryo who could – could not have a better mother.
Pictures of Jenna on the morning of her first birthday with Ms. Moo.

3 Comments

  1. k77 on March 23, 2008 at 3:47 am

    What an absolutely beautiful story, it made me cry.



  2. Ann on March 24, 2008 at 10:00 am

    What a beautiful thing to be able to do for someone and a beautiful story. I love the little stuffed cow gift. Thanks for the Monday morning brightening.



  3. Play it again, Baby M on August 25, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    […] in, as I was donating my breastmilk to my friend and fellow Surrogate Mothers Online moderator, Lisa. She was finally q mom via egg donation. She had delivered her beautiful little sprite Jenna just […]