Accepting the trying times.
Today I am 35 weeks pregnant. I haven’t suffered even a single bout of morning sickness. My weight? I haven’t gained so much as a pound. If I drank liquor, I might just pour myself a stiff martini and then go pass out on the floor, sprawled face-down, right on my flat stomach.
How is this possible? Well, as it happens, my baby is seven hundred and some-odd miles away, busily developing in accordance to her DNA blueprint, safely nestled in the uterus of the most inspiring person I know, our wonderful gestational surrogate.
Regardless of what the sensationalist American media might lead us to believe, the road to surrogacy is very rarely a choice of vanity or whim. Sadly, it is far more often a journey through grief, disappointment, perceived failure and heartbreak that leads to this path. Fortunately, with hope and luck and the right person, it can end in a dream come true.
In 2012 I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Now, if there’s one thing that makes you want to cut all the dead weight from your life and start living your dreams, it’s that horrible, horrible c-word. So, while advanced cancer is not currently curable, it is treatable — so, that was that. My husband and I decided to move right along with our plan to start a family. It just necessitated a few more moving parts. Namely, finding a loving, sane, unbelievably selfless and brave woman to help us out with this small thing.
Well, we found her. Then the hard part started.
Those reading this who are parents surely know the agonizing yet necessary prenatal tests: nuchal translucency, ultrasounds, the screening for Down’s Syndrome and neural tube (spinal cord) defects. A typical pregnancy requires nearly weekly doctor visits and that’s if everything is proceeding like clockwork, with no surprises or unexpected issues, be they large or small. Now imagine all this is going on, and your wished-for, prayed-for baby just so happens to not be conveniently located inside you, but rather miles upon endless highway miles away…stretching away into the murky distance. Stress much?
Letting go. Holding on. While I’m not officially a parent yet, this is the tightrope I’ve walked the past eight months. I suspect this is just the beginning and probably a good run-up in terms of training for what’s to come. Take a casual stroll through the parenting aisle of any bookstore and you’ll find plenty of titles on learning to let go of the reigns. In my case, I just had to start the process the very day I found out we had a baby on the way.
As humans, we desperately grasp at the controls. “Can I fix it?” “What will happen next?” But the fact is, we can only do so much. I grab the moments I can, in the rocker in the nursery I have ready for my baby. I take time to sit amidst the chaos and tap into the stillness that is there, deep inside. When my mind is quiet, even for one minute, it restores the solid ground beneath my feet. The fact is, I can’t really do much at all. I can trust the surrogate I’ve come to love, I can have faith that the doctors are reading the right signs. I can have hope that my health will allow me to see my little one grow big. I can connect with my daughter’s spirit, so far away yet so close. Somehow, knowing that I can only do so much gives me great relief. We do what we can, and then we have to trust. Holding on. Letting go.
I first heard my daughter’s heartbeat through an iPhone. Did that make it any less heart-shatteringly beautiful? No. The grey blob in the ultrasound that’s stuck on our fridge came in the mail. So what? Of all the people on this planet, we somehow found the most generous, loving one of all, who along with her family has conspired with us in the greatest of ways to make our dearest dream come true. And I’m finding as it so often happens in life, we get what we hope for, it just doesn’t always arrive in the shape we’d expected.
Sometimes it’s even better.
We are devastated to announce that Laurel died on July 5, 2015. To learn more about Laurel, you can visit her blog Cancer is the New Black.