In response to Family Circus, regular commenter Alex asked this question:
I've often wondered, actually, how
your role as a surrogate affects your family (er, and lest it's
unclear, I don't mean "affects" in a bad way). So if you were to feel
like posting on that sometime, at least one reader would be eager to
learn about this.
Veeerry good question, Alex. The answer to this question is multi-faceted, depending on which part of my family it is we're talking about. My role as a surrogate affects Frank, el Cinco, and our extended family in different ways.
An implicated question drawn from the main question is how do my children deal with the fact that the baby I carry is not their sibling? A little story for you from a couple of years ago-
Me: Oh, you didn't know? That's special chocolate milk. It's waaay too sweet – that's why I don't buy it. That stuff is more chocolate than milk. Do you know where they get it from? This is really cool. They get it from brown cows. And you know what's even cooler? What do regular cows usually eat?
Jaiden: They eat grass.
Me: That's right. Well, these brown cows – the farmers don't feed them anything but chocolate bars. No grass – just chocolate all day. So these brown cows eat nothing but chocolate bars, so they don't make regular white milk, they make –
Jaiden: CHOCOLATE MILK! Whooooaaaa… (eyes wide in wonderment)
He bought it, and without a moment's hesitation or shred of doubt. Little kids are kinda stupid like that. But seriously – kids are malleable, and they are ready to accept whatever truths or lies as new constructs within their realm of what is considered normal and unremarkable. So when I said to them, "The baby in my tummy is Former IM and Former IF's baby. When he's born, he'll be joining their family because he belongs to them," they simply accepted it as it was, and they didn't experience a jarring sense of "wrongness" to which I had to help them adjust. Of course, there were questions that I had to answer either immediately or further along in the pregnancy. At the time, the twins were only 5 and Jordan was only 3, so I kept my responses and explanations simple, expounding only if my answer spurred another question:
Me: Because the part of her body that holds the baby inside is broken, so she needs my help. It's like I'm holding her baby for her until he or she is big enough to come out and be healthy.
And that was the end of that one.
Then a couple of days later:
Jaiden: Yeah, I really wanna know that, too, cuz I've been thinking and thinking but I just can't figure it out.
Me: (oh, shit. I'm sooo not ready for the "where do babies come from" lesson, much less making IVF kid-friendly) Well…the doctor put him or her there.
Jaiden: Did the doctor put me and Kyra in your tummy?
Me: Uuuhhhh, no.
Kyra: Then who did?
Me: Uuuuuhhhh…Daddy did.
Kyra: Ohhhh, I get it! If you have a baby for somebody else then the doctor puts the baby in there…
Jaiden: …yeah, and if you're having a baby for us to join our family then Daddy puts the baby in there, right?
Me: Yeah…that's usually how it's supposed to work.
Kyra: That's pretty neat. Can we play with the Play-Doh now?
Me: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. That sounds like a great idea. Thank the Lord for Play-Doh.
Then, the next day during dinner –
Kyra: After this baby comes out, are you going to have another baby brother or sister for us to bring home like Kaelyn?
Jaiden: Why not?
Me: How many chairs do we have at the table?
Kyra and Jaiden: Six.
Me: How many people do we have in our family?
The Twins: Six.
Me: Well, there ya' go. No more space at the dinner table. We're all filled up here, so now we're going to help someone else fill their house.
Of course, this mindset was also something that I had to nurture a bit. Though only five, the twins were old enough to relate my surrogacy pregnancy to my pregnancy with Kaelyn, who at the time was just one year old. They knew from the start that the baby was Former IM and Former IF's child, that his name was Baby M, and that when he was born, he would not be joining our family as their brother and sister. They also knew and understood that carrying someone's baby for them was a special kind of pregnancy that not many women did, and that Former IM and Former IF would be so happy to to have a child, just like I was happy that they were my children. To them, Baby M going home to Former IM and Former IF was just as natural as Kaelyn coming home to us.
One last vignette – I started my maternity leave the week before Baby M was born. One day when I went to have lunch at school with the twins, their music teacher (who did not know of the surrogacy) spoke excitedly with Kyra and Jaiden about the baby:
Teacher: Wow, Kyra and Jaiden!
It looks like you guys are ge
tting ready to welcome a new baby brother or sister to your family!
Jaiden: (almost flippantly) Oh, no we're not.
Kyra: (waving her hand airily as if to brush away the very thought) That's not our brother.
I hastened to explain before she choked on her half-eaten chicken.
Explaining how everything fits
together to the children was/is by far easier than explaining it to
some adults, and acceptance for them came much easier, also. They had
no reason to believe that anything about it was weird or unnatural.
Now, for how my role as a surrogate has affected Frank, I'll let him tell you in his own words:
Frank: I've definitely become more patient. I think that surrogacy has brought Moxie and I closer. It's opened me up more emotionally from an empathetic point of view. I now see a larger picture of what other couples have to go through to build their families.
Me: Can you explain how it's made you more patient?
Frank: Well, from a somewhat comedic point of view, you're a lot of work when you're pregnant: "I need, I need, I need…can you rub this, can you rub that, my butt hurts, can you make me some tea…I have a taste for this, but don't make that because it'll make me puke…"
Me: Are you mocking me?
Frank: You're damned skippy, I am. Seriously, though – I've been through three pregnancies with you with our children, and I know started off very supportive and catered to you right from when you were pregnant with the twins. Maybe some other guys would have felt their patience thinning a bit with each pregnancy, but I felt like mine grew with each one. Of course I wanted to take care of you when you were pregnant with our babies, but I wanted to take extra-special care of you when you were pregnant with Baby M. I felt like I had to watch over you a little bit more. You had a big job to do and I wanted to help you do that. If someone had been carrying our baby, I'd have wanted to know that she was resting, eating healthily…basically that she was being well-taken care of. Taking care of you meant taking care of Baby M, and that was very important to me.
Me: How do you feel about this upcoming journey with Chance and Apollo?
Frank: I'm happy about it…ready to see things get started. Given their past history, I think I want this one to work more than any of the others. Not to say I didn't want the others to work out, because I did – more than I could ever explain. I know you know what I mean. But Chance and Apollo – when you consider what they've been through already – I can hardly even wrap my head around it. Somebody – the Universe, God, who or whatever – owes them. Big time. It's time to pay up. And the way this whole match happened – it's like it was meant to be.
So – that's how it's affected him. Raise your hand if you love Frank.
As for the rest of the family, they rally together to support me through my surrogacy journeys. They're always anxious to meet my intended parents and learn about the paths that lead them to surrogacy. They're happy when I am and sad when I'm not. They help out with watching the kids for appointments transfers and the delivery. Once pregnant, my mom holds her breath until I come through the delivery okay, but then that's true for any of the pregnancies between me and Chanel. In a nutshell, they're the cheerleaders on the sidelines.
I might be the vessel, but I think that we're all better people because of surrogacy. My family deserves immense amounts of credit. If not for their support, I could not, would not, do this.
Not even for my very own chocolate milk brown cow.