Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dear Baby M

We just got the phone call today from the doctors telling us that our surrogate is pregnant. I'm going to sound exactly like every other dreamy-eyed mother when I write that I'm already falling in love with you, althoughyou are only a handful of cells that's just barely managed to lodge itself into the uterus of a woman I met only once for 5 minutes.

For that's the strange and miraculous way you came to be made, half-way around the world in a non-descript hospital laboratory. Here are the people who helped you come to be:

  • Two enthusiastic Indian doctors
  • A determined, shy, and very tiny Hindu woman named Rajeshree who will carry you in her uterus in exchange for money that will help her improve the life of her own family
  • An inquisitive, outgoing Muslim woman named Neha who has a beautiful smile and silky black hair, who provided the genetic material we needed to make you
  • And Us, your very jetlagged, emotionally overwhelmed Dadam and Ima, who wanted you so badly that we flew across the world and trusted this team of strangers to help us get you. You had so many chances not to be created and against all the odds, there's the fact that you now exist, madly dividing your cells and developing organs and limbs.

Now that we're back in the peace and quiet of our little Denver existence, it all seems so unreal, and yet, sooner than we can imagine, you're going to arrive as our little despot, sending us scurrying to meet your every need. Which we will do with great gladness. I'm already imagining the moment you're put in my arms, red and wailing, and the quiet joy of having your little fist close over my thumb. We can't wait to meet you, little baby M.

Love, your Ima

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chaos in Mumbai

Our first two days in Goa were a bit strange, but also relaxing. The hour drive from the airport to the yoga center showed us a more rural side of India -- women riding on the backs of motorcycles wearing brightly colored saris, small shops along the winding dusty roads, gaily painted trucks all bearing the reminder "Honk Please OK" on the back bumper, a rule that was widely and liberally applied.

The yoga center was, as you might expect, a calm oasis with a large open-aired practice pavilion, a separate eating area, and small huts dotting the jungle. There appeared to be a mix-up with our room, so when we arrived they put us in a nicer, tree-top room near the eating area. We lay down on the comfortable, 4 poster bed to relax, but I quickly noticed a rustling sound from above -- large rodents circling the perimeter of the walls where there was a gap with the ceiling. Combined with the stress we had put ourselves through in Mumbai, this was too much for me. In my high-strung, city-stressed mode, I rushed to try to find a manager to complain to, but the placid villagers staffing the reception area didn't understand my panic, and when I finally found the center's owner -- a shaved-headed Londoner who knew that he was living a dream on a beach, with beautiful yoginis lounging around him at breakfast -- he reminded me that we were in a jungle, in the rats' territory, not ours.

So I finally accepted the rats on the ceiling, and encouraged one of the center's cats to hang out on our porch. We pushed the bed away from the wall so that the droppings wouldn't fall on us, and tried to enjoy ourselves. Took a few yoga classes, swam in the clear ocean, tried to avoid the people selling beads and sarongs on the beach, wandered through the little village near the center. All the while, having heavy discussions: "do you want a baby? I don't know, do you want a baby? Are we really ready for a baby -- emotionally, financially, maritally?" Most of the people at the yoga center were German, so weren't speaking to us much, so we were again alone in our thoughts and our great deliberations.

On Thursday night, there was a blackout in the village -- no lights for miles and miles. You don't realize how dark the dark can really be when you are miles away from a city. In the dark, we found a spot where we could get cell phone reception and called the doctors to see if the egg harvest was on schedule for Friday. They mentioned that there had been a bomb, but that things were returning to normal and that things would go on as scheduled on Friday. We didn't think much about the bomb -- we were wrapped up in our own personal drama. But the next morning at breakfast, we had finally gotten friendly with two of the German girls, a television host and the lead singer from a rock band, and they told us a little more: there had been a terrorist attack, with several bombs around the city, including one at the Taj hotel, which we had stopped in the day before the attach to use the bathroom. We had plans to walk to a nearby town to do some shopping, but once we realized the scope of the event, realized we needed to get in touch with our family first, so we found the nearby internet cafe. A quick check of my e-mail revealed that my family was in hysterics. We had left them without any itinerary because our trip to Goa was planned at the last minute, so they hadn't the faintest idea where we were. In the US, news coverage of the attacks ran non-stop over Thanksgiving day, so my family had spent the entire day calling each other in a panic. They contacted the US embassy and every yoga center in Goa, and by the time we reached them they were trying to figure out how they would identify our bodies. We were embarrassed and a bit mystified about why they were so worried if they thought we were in Goa, but we were happy to set everyone's minds' at ease.

The trip back home was a long one. Security at the Goa airport was tight, and flights out of the airport were delayed (we heard a rumor that the runway was closed due to military use of the runway, but this was never confirmed. Luckily, we had time in between our domestic and international flight, so when we landed in Mumbai, we had a car pick us up and take us to a (bad) Chinese restaurant for dinner then to see an (even worse) Bollywood moview for a few hours. Security for our car to get near the movie theater was quite high, and they initially didn't want to let the driver wait for us. We were glad he did, though, because the movie was hard for us to follow (it was a comedy with several different plot lines and no song and dance numbers), so we left at intermission.

Many many more steps of security awaited us at the International airport. Our flight left at 3 am India time, and because Adam was still having some reservations about going forward with the pregnancy, by the time we arrived at our stopover in London, I told him that he should just phone the doctors and call it off. The implantation had probably already happened at that point, but I was mad at Adam and exhausted by the whole decision-making process. He really didn't want to make the call, though, and while we were having that final argument near a pay phone, a small, pigtailed little girl who looked like she might have been Indian peeked around the phone booth and smiled at us. That was it -- I think Adam's heart melted a little, and maybe his fears abated enough to say "let's just see what happens. If we're pregnant, we'll have a baby; if not, we'll still have a wonderful life." So we got on the plane home, with two weeks to wait until we found the answer.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A bit of background

Infertility and surrogacy are part of the plots of several important stories in Judiasm. On Rosh Hashona every year, we hear the haftorah portion about a woman named Hannah, an infertile woman whose husband loves her more than his other wife, who has given him many children. He says to her, why do you weep? Am I not more precious to you than 10 sons? (Hah, I say, get rid of the other wife.) So she goes to the temple to pray for a son, and she's praying so hard that the priest thinks she's drunk. When she finally tells him why she's so bereft, he tells her that God has heard her request, and she conceives a son and dedicates his service to God.

And then there is the story of our matriarchs, Rachel and Leah. Rachel can't conceive at first, and gives Jacob a servant to bear a child on her behalf -- the first recorded surrogacy. Leah does the same, so that Jacob eventually ends up with many children from his two wives and two surrogates. In Anita Diamont's beautiful telling of this story, The Red Tent, she pictures the surrogate actually being held in the arms of the intended mother during labor.

Both of these stories have been in my mind and my imagination for a long time as I thougth about having a family. And having a family -- a Jewish family -- has been something I prayed for over many years. "The Whole Package" as I said to Adam each time he tried to convince me to picture a more "out of the box" life, like buying a bed and breakfast in Costa Rica. Why then, when we are here in India to embark on this journey, do I suddenly feel so worried about actually fulfilling my dream? Maybe I've been an outsider from this continuous chain of human experience for so long that it is hard to come back in. Or maybe Adam's fear of the noise and chaos of an infant have me scared, too. Or maybe I just don't want to come back to Mumbai in a year!

For right now, we are on a plane to Goa, about an hour's flight from Mumbai, for a few days at a yoga center. Adam's sperm has been collected, we have a contract with our surrogate, but the eggs have not been harvested and we have a few days to think before they are implanted. Perhaps, away from the chaos of this city, we'll have time to come to a decision we can both live with.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

1st day in Mumbai

Juhu Beach, Mumbai. Walked around the beach last night after our arrival. So many families out to get some fresh air at the beach, little boys playing cricket, a festive atmosphere of balloons, otton candy, colorful saris, and sunset on the Arabian sea. We felt very uncomfortable being followed by children and women trying to beg from us – they speak good enough English to know just what to say to appeal to your sympathy, and are extremely persistant. Very hard to say ‘no.’

We had a lot of serious conversations about what a weird way this is to have a baby. Adam admitted that he really didn’t think we’d follow through on this idea, and admitted his doubts and fears about going forward. I felt like dorothy falling into a feverish dream of Oz, seeing the world suddenly in reverse from the world she'd previously known. I know Adam wasn’t paying as much attention to all the plan that I was making. He always had something more immediate he was focused on: School things, the Olympics, going Jeeping. I pressed on because I thought that he had agreed to the plan; maybe I should have paid more attion to his disinterest. His doubts started to plant the seeds of doubt in me, too -- do I really want to be a mother, or do I just think I do? I'm beginning to think: "You can lead a horse to water, ....

We do have lots of questions for the doctors -- what kinds of genetic testing are allowed? How much screening is done of the egg donor's medical and mental history? What is our probability of pregnancy? Will they allow us to reduce twins to a singleton? What is the prenatal nutrition/diet plan for surrogates?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The adventure begins

En route to India

Finally, after more than six months of planning, research, and consideration, we are on our way to India, where several wonderful women and a group of doctors will help us to have a baby. You. It seemed like an easy decision at first – we wanted a baby, and this would be faster than adoption and would bring us a newborn baby, who we would know from the very start of his or her life.

But we’re the type of people who weigh our decisions carefully, and fear making decisions we regret, so the discussion continued even as we boarded the plane: were we ready for the sleepless nights, the hard work, the commitment and devotion required to raise a good kid and a successful person. These are questions that all parents face, but because we know how worry-free and easy our childless life was, it seemed much more of a sacrifice.

I reminded Adam that we will make very good parents, giving our child a fun life and the best opportunities that we can afford. While a bit afraid of the sleeplessness and crankiness of children, I don’t think we fully understand the increased joy that seeing them grow and develop will bring us.

So here we are, 20 minutes from landing in India, for what’s suer to be the start of a huge adventure. We have 2.5 days planned in Mumbai, then three days at a beachside yoga center. In fact, the adventure has already begun: we had a 12 hour stopover in London. The air was crisp and cold, the parks so green and clean – quite a change from 28 years ago, when I spent a year in college here during the era of punk rockers, economic malaise, bland food, and resistance to the 20th century. Now, the city glistens; additions like the Tate Museum, the London Eye, and new office towers have modernized the skyline. We spent a lot of money very quickly during our 12 hours, walking around Westminster Abby, taking a double-decker sight-seeing bus, and eating fish and chips, and mutton stew.