Friday, April 3, 2015

1 Year Update with a Bonus Q&A

April 3, 2014 - Meeting Spencer for the first time 
How, at the same moment, can a year ago feel like yesterday and like a lifetime ago?  It’s strange to think that I actually gave birth to Spencer.  This year has been more wonderful than I had ever expected.  I guess I didn’t know what to expect, but words can’t express the joy it has been to watch an amazing couple turn into a perfect family.  There is no doubt that Spencer is well fed and loved!  His crystal blue eyes sparkle and light up any room he enters and he’s so HAPPY every time we see him.  Two of the last three times we’ve been together he’s been a bit shy around me.  I don’t want to scare him so I just allow him time to warm up to me before I get to snuggle him.  Ben, on the other hand, has no problem picking him up and throwing him in the air and rough housing right awayI’m told he has been sleeping through the night since early on, is super easy going, happy, and a very pleasant baby.  IP-B told me that they would have a hundred babies if they were all this easy.  Sorry, friend, I can’t birth that many children for you!

Our year has been filled with so many wonderful things!  We had our court hearing on Friday, May 23rd to finalize all the legal items for the surrogacy and had an official adoption.  We actually had three consecutive hearings.  Ben was the “presumed father” because he was (and still is) married to me when Spencer was born, so he had to terminate his parentage.  I was considered the “birth mother” and I had to terminate my parental rights.  Last, the official adoption hearing happened so both IP-A and IP-B are on the birth certificate and I’m no longer on there.  It was interesting to be a part of a court hearing…  That was a first for me!  After the hearing we had lunch and were able to spend some time together and chat.  This was an exciting day for all of us!   

Sylvan Lake
In August, Ben and I took the kids on a week long camping (we’re the good ol’ fashion tenting family) adventure to Mt. Rushmore.  This was the first time in a long time that we’ve taken a road trip and boy did we have a wonderful time.  I wasn’t expecting it to be as cold as it was, but regardless we truly enjoyed every second and created a lot of great memories.  My favorite spot was a serene lake tucked in the mountains called Sylvan Lake.  It was one of the most peaceful spots on our trip, so much so that we actually went back for a second day.
Mt. Rushmore

Lydia in Shooter the Short
Lydia and Jack filming a PSA
Our kids have been keeping us on our toes with activities and sports.  Lydia was asked to be in an independent short film, Shooter the Short, where she played a victim of a drive by shooting.  It was quite the experience to act for a filming crew instead of on the local community theatre stage.  Speaking of which, we’ve spent the majority of our last year rehearsing, volunteering, and being on stage for a number of GREAT shows.  Our kids have sure blossomed into little actors and have become quite talented.  Jack and Lydia were even asked to film a small clip for a public service announcement that will play all over the state of MN during the month of April.  Keep your eye out for them talking about distracted driving (remember they are just acting, so when you hear them talking about “missing their daddy,” you are aware that nothing happened to Ben).  Baseball is the sport of choice for the boys.  Ben coached both their teams last summer and I was the chauffeur.  We’re doing our best to keep a healthy balance of activities and family.
George- Baseball

The change in my job status has been one of the biggest blessings of my life.  I now work for an office that is more than wonderful, in addition to having the world’s greatest hours, I have a really cool boss and some of the most wonderful co-workers.  Most of you know that my job with Dr. Hanschu, Huber, and Shore in California was such an amazing experience and the best working environment.  I loved working, loved who I worked for, and had simply AMAZING co-workers.  I finally have a Minnesota job that lives up to all of those standards.  I finally can say that love my job!    

Thanksgiving Celebration
IP-A’s favorite holiday is Thanksgiving so they invited our family over for a Thanksgiving dinner.  We went down to celebrate with them and I wasn’t really expecting a whole Thanksgiving feast, but they mastered a whole gluten free and almost all sugar free meal.  It defiantly made up for all of the months I endured where food and I didn’t get along.  It was a wonderful afternoon of conversation and incredible food.  I also taught Spencer how much fun jumping is.  It’s a good thing for my IP’s arms that his Auntie Liz had a jumping toy that she sent home with him shortly after he learned his new trick.  It was fun to be with them in their home and see the warm, loving, happy, and accepting environment that Spencer is growing up in.  Spencer is a lucky little boy!      

Because I always talk about food in every blog post this one shouldn’t be any different, right?!  My taste buds have gone back to normal, well, almost.  It took three months after giving birth to be able to eat sweets again and I still can’t get enough salt.  I have turned into a big salty popcorn fan and I’m still certain that Spencer will be a popcorn lover.  I also made a big commitment to our son, who is sugar free, that I would give up sugar with him for the year.  It really hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be, maybe because it’s on my own terms instead of pregnancy related.  I honestly don’t feel any different or better but it has paid off a thousand times over when I hear George say, “Mom can’t eat that, either!”  I feel like I’m more supportive when I can eat the same things that he can.  We make a lot of gluten/sugar free desserts and our new favorite is pumpkin cookies sweetened with honey.  I wonder if they would have been too sweet when I was pregnant…     

As a reward for the kids going through our surrogacy journey we gave them a choice on vacation destinations. Their options were Disney World for a week or 10 days on Fort Meyers Beach with 35 of the McCann/Waletzko family members.  Much to our surprise, they picked hanging out on the beach with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  It was relaxing and reenergizing having quality time with our little family and catching up with our extended family.  Island Towers, the resort we stayed at, is one of my very favorite places on earth.  I’ve spent many Christmases on the beach and it’s my happy place.  My hope is that our kids feel the same way and want to spend many more Christmases on the white sandy beach.  I love that we’re passing this family tradition on to the next generation!  We even did a 5k on the beach…another family tradition.  
Ft. Meyers Beach, FL - Family 5K

5 weeks postpartum 1/2 marathon
My plan after giving birth to Spencer was to devote my time into training for a half iron man.  I thought if I signed up that my sister would do the same because we can never do anything without one another.  She had a baby three months before I had Spencer so she wouldn’t have the amount of time necessary to train for the race, but she convinced me that it would be a good idea to sign up for a full marathon.  So we’re running...a lot!  In fact, we are going for an 18 mile run today to celebrate Spencer’s 1st birthday.  On May 9th I’ll be able to cross off one of my goals for the year once we’ve completed the full 26.2 mile trek on the Lake Wobegon Trail.  We welcome anyone who wants to come and cheer us on along our way!   

Spencer was baptized on February 15th at their church in the cities.  I have never been to a more energetic, loving, accepting, and fun church service.  The choir entered and exited as a marching band and sang uplifting songs that everyone knows.  The congregation was welcoming and the most real people I’ve ever seen in a church.  I love when I can enter a building and feel energy that’s joyful and everyone is encouraged to be who they are.  Spencer’s aunt, Serena, and I were asked to be Spencer’s Godmothers. I feel so blessed and honored to hold a very special title and huge role in Spencer’s life.  I was asked after the court hearing if I would be a Godmother.  There weren’t many tears shed over my surrogacy journey but this made me cry, very happy tears.  It was so unexpected and it confirmed that our friendship will last a lifetime. 

Spencer with his Godmothers

Cake Face
Today is Spencer’s 1st birthday!  However, we attended his birthday party last Saturday and he was able to show off his new trick...walking!  I’m not sure how many people were actually there, but it was the biggest birthday party that I’ve been to.  I was able to meet some family and friends of my IPs that I hadn’t yet had the chance to meet.  Meeting and chatting with Spencer’s Great-Grandma was a memorable treat.  She couldn’t tell me enough how well my IPs take care of Spencer and how happy she was to be able to meet me.  These are the moments that touch my heart beyond anything I had imagined.  I know the joy my Grandma and Grandpa had surrounding their great-grandchildren and it makes me beam from ear to ear knowing that we were able to help bring that joy to her life!  I had more people wrap their arms around me and say, “Thank you!”  Again, these are things that I didn’t think about going into this journey.  Spencer is sure surrounded and loved by amazing people!      

One Year Old
My good friend, Molly, and I have made a commitment to take a class at the gym one night a week, more if it works in our schedule, and our instructor happens to be one of my surrogate friends.  It’s not often that you have two surrogates in one building.  It’s great that our kids get to hang out with her kids and chat about their experiences.  The only other time you’ll get surrogates under one roof is at surrogate socials that our agency puts on.  I actually will attend a social in a few weeks with my sister (Ben would have joined me but he’s volunteering at the theatre).  I love surrounding myself with women who understand the desire of surrogacy and connecting with all the wonderful people at IARC. 

I recognize that people don’t understand how a surrogate does emotionally after the birth of the baby.  I guess that’s how we can distinguish who should and shouldn’t be a surrogate.  I knew, without a doubt, that I would be fine after we all went home and even in the hospital after we went to separate rooms.  The single most question I get is, “was it hard to give away the baby?”  I genuinely have never looked at Spencer as mine to give away.  He has always and will forever be my IPs child.  I’ve described my connection to him as that of a nephew.  That is the same description I would give you a year later.  I love him more than other kids but different than my own, of course, so it’s best described as the same love I have for my nieces and nephews.  He will always hold a special place in my heart.  Thinking about him makes me smile and there is no hole in my heart or sense of loss, rather my heart is filled with joy and there is no doubt that this was one of my life’s callings!                

We have been happy to get back to normalcy.  And, as connected as we were with my IPs throughout the journey, we’ve naturally and perfectly separated into our own lives.  We’re forever attached by one very special little man, but I think live has gone back to normal for us and a “new normal” for my IPs.  It was never talked about much on how our relationship would change.  I went from talking to my IPs multiple times a week, sometimes a day, to multiple times a month.  It has evolved into what I would call a perfect relationship.  It has all been very natural and I feel so happy, proud, successful, fortunate, strong, and accomplished from this journey.  After I became a mother I feel like my life has become a series of choices that I make to lead by example.  I don’t think we could have done a greater service for our children than this. 

Our kids have been forever touched and their lives have been formed by this journey.  They have been shown that, no matter what people think or how people judge, you should always live out your dream.  Lydia often talks about how she plans on being a surrogate twice.  We have had conversations at the dinner table about how she tries to explain surrogacy to her friends, but they just don’t understand how the sperm and egg make the embryo or how it gets into her mom’s uterus.  She makes me giggle and I remind her that she should have her friends ask their parents about how it works.  There is no guessing about reproduction in our house!  On my 9 mile run this week George was biking beside me and, without any prompt or conversation about surrogacy, he told me how he plans on his spouse being a surrogate or using a surrogate if needed.  Jack is always talking about the positive impact surrogacy has on families.  Our kids see that true passion is worth expressing.  There is nothing that lights my fire more than talking about motherhood, surrogacy, and raising a child with ADHD drug-free.  This is my life.  These are my loves.  I AM HAPPY!


We thought it might be fun to do a Q&A for our followers

1. What was the best part of your surrogacy experience?

IPs: There were lots of highlights of our journey and so many points along the way that made it such a wonderful experience.  Obviously, the birth of Spencer is an experience that none of us will ever forget.  However, being matched with such an amazing surrogate and her family have made this journey so amazing.  We were able to be part of the entire experience just like any other new parents.  We were all there for the transfer, the doctor visits…to hear the heart beat for the first time…the ultrasound when he was sucking on his thumb…and of course the birth. 

Josie: Of course helping my IPs become parents!  In addition, fulfilling my calling and encouraging others to fulfill their callings.

2.  What was the worst part of your surrogacy experience?

IPs:  The worst part of the experience was watching Josie being so sick during the first trimester due to the medications and the pregnancy…and not being able to do anything about it.
Josie: The drugs, the sickness, and knowing I was pregnant but waiting to find out if I was carrying one or two babies.

3. What was the one thing you were the most nervous about?

IPs: We were both very nervous during labor and birth.  It’s such an emotional roller coaster…so exciting…yet nerve racking!!  Also, we both were nervous about the transition after the birth to home life.  Were we going to be good parents?  Were we going to know how to do this stuff? 

Josie:  I was most nervous about how I would feel when I heard Spencer cry for the first time.  I was mentally prepared but I didn’t know what my natural instinct would feel like.

4.  How were you able to overcome that fear?

IPs: Well, Spencer showed up…and Josie said there was a no return policy!  So, we didn’t have much time to dwell on it.
Josie: The moment I heard him crying brought a sense of relief.  He didn’t sound like my babies…it wasn’t my baby’s cry.

5. What would you change about your surrogacy experience?

IPs: This is a soft ball question.  Absolutely nothing!  With exception, to the worst part of the experience…if we could eliminate the morning sickness.

Josie: I would have had Liz, IP-B’s sister, attend the delivery. 

6. What advice would you give to someone looking into surrogacy?

IPs: Our advice would be to understand that this is a long process.  There are lots of ups and downs…hurry ups and lag points along the way.  You have to be patient.

Josie: Be patient, set boundaries, have good communication with your IPs, and practice the power of positive thinking.  

7. One word to describe surrogacy?


Josie: Passion

8.  Did you learn something about yourself through the surrogacy experience?

IPs: We learned that we were stronger than we thought we were.  It’s a long process and being new parents is a lot of work and emotionally taxing.  We are both very independent and don’t expect people to do things for us.   We learned that sometimes it’s ok to ask for help.

Josie:  Trusting my gut instinct is always a good idea.  I know, without a doubt, that I was put on this earth to be a mother and a surrogate.  There were so many people around me who were worried, even though they respected my request by not saying anything, but I knew they had nothing to worry about.  I also learned that putting up good boundaries with my family and friends from the beginning allowed me to have the experience that I wanted.  And the power of positive thinking is quite amazing!     

9.  What is something that happened that you didn't expect?

IPs: There are a few.  At one of the ultrasounds, Dr. Jokadar informed us that the baby had a bubble in his brain and that it could be a precursor for Down’s Syndrome, but that its commonly found in babies and it normally goes away.   We certainly didn’t expect to get that news….luckily it did go away.  Also, we didn’t expect all of the questions and lack of understanding of surrogacy.  But, most importantly, we didn’t expect all of the outpouring of support from our families, friends and complete strangers.  Its really been amazing.

Josie:  How passionate I became about surrogacy.  I’ve become really involved in the surrogate community and cold hold day long conversations about how amazing surrogacy is.  I would love to share our perfect story with the whole world!  I also didn’t expect to be welcomed into both my IPs families with open arms and we feel like an extension of their family.  They are all such wonderful people.    

10.  Did you have expectations that weren't met?

IPs: We decided to transfer two embryo’s during the transfer.  Since Dr. Viro said, “Josephine, you know you’re a sitting duck for twins, right?” we kinda expected that both embryos would take.  Fortunately, that was not the case.
Josie:  I expected that I would pump longer for Spencer.  It was much more difficult and time consuming than I thought, but I feel content with how much I was able to produce and donate.  I also jumped back into normal life immediately after leaving the hospital.  I somehow expected that I didn’t need time to allow myself to heal from giving birth.  Not having a baby to tend to made me feel like I should just be back to my normal self right away.  

11. Has anything surprised you about being a new parent?

IPs: It’s hard to imagine that you could love something so much.  It’s really been fun to see all of the changes in the first year and how fast they grow and change.  Also, it’s quite amazing that people can actually function on no sleep.

12.  What advice would you tell new parents who became parents via surrogacy?

IPs: Enjoy the experience of being a new parent.  Time flies and they grow fast.  Treasure every moment!

13.  What kind of support have you had after Spencer's birth?

IPs: The outpouring of support from family, friends and strangers has been humbling and at times overwhelming.  But we’re not complaining.

Josie:  Ben, our kids, my family, my IPs, and my surrogate support group have been my supporters throughout this entire journey, and they continue to share in the excitement as the journey has opened to a new chapter.   

14.  How are you emotionally?

IPs: Excellent!  We couldn’t be happier that we had the opportunity to expand our family and had such a wonderful journey and outcome! 

Josie:  I feel no different than I did before being a surrogate.  Truly fulfilling one of my life’s callings has made me feel like I can conquer any dream that I have!

15. Would you do it again?
IPs: Absolutely…  Could an announcement be forthcoming?
Josie: In a heartbeat!  I guess only time will tell…

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