Monday, March 23, 2015


I really don’t like #blessed. I think it’s used all wrong, for things that aren’t truly blessings. I also wonder if it touches, for some, on the Old Testament concept of your are blessed if things go right, and if they go wrong you are out of favor with God, like because I have this I am blessed, but if I don’t or you don’t, you aren’t. I think the better hashtag, is I Realize I'm Blessed. That is probably the sentiment behind #blessed, but I think it says it better. It’s like, I finally get it, in this moment, I understand I am blessed. We forget in the everyday mundane and in the bigger struggles, how blessed we are. We forget that just the adventure of life and the people on that adventure with us are a huge blessing.

I have learned that lesson over and over again, and yet still sometimes I forget. Thankfully I have been reminded. I have been reminded through this latest struggle that no matter what I may lose, I have so very much. I have incredible friends. I have amazing parents, and even though they live far away, they cannot wait to hug me and love me and care for me and my family tomorrow. I have a husband who struggles with so much but is still able to be strong enough to support me. I realize that no matter what I go through I am blessed.

I get these words of Jesus so much more now, the Beatitudes.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. Matthew 5:3-12 (MSG)

I have had so many adventures, more than I ever thought possible and I have been and continue to be grateful for them. It was out of that and out of my desire to follow Jesus, that I wanted to be a part of other people’s adventures. I wanted to make the dreams of others come true. I wanted my family and another family to experience big dream coming true things. So I was so “care-full”, with everything I could give to the experience of surrogacy. And it may have come crashing down, but in that crash I understood, how cared for I was and am. So many people cared for me during this past few weeks, and I am so incredibly grateful. While I felt a great deal of despair, now I am feeling a lot of joy. It still hurts, when I see a pregnant person, and stings, when a surrogacy storyline comes up in something I am watching, but I am reveling in the understanding of the love and care I am surrounded with. 

I  want to be clear, I don’t see God as the architect of this miscarriage, but I see him as the amazing restoration company transforming this disaster and making my life livable and better than ever. I don’t think he made this baby die to teach me or anyone else something. That little life was precious to him too. I do think though that he is helping me to see how blessed I have always been. He is opening my eyes to a whole new world and letting me walk for a bit in the shoes of others. I have walked through a piece of infertility. I have walked through grief and loss. I have walked through the depression that my husband and so many others suffer with, and even if it’s only for a little bit, I will be able to connect with others to walk with them in their pain a little bit better now. This has been a huge mess, but God is helping me clean it up and things are looking better than they did before. There are still some dust bunnies lurking in the corners, a ring that won’t come off the bathtub, dried on paint in the sink, but I can look at it all and see it as more beautiful than before. 

I’m coming to terms with the idea that we may not get to try again. This tragic pregnancy may be my last, this dream may not come true, this adventure halted. At least I tried. I gave it my all. I lived life to the fullest. I loved my neighbor as fully as I could, and it may not ended the way we wanted, but there was love. It may not have gone the way we wanted it to, but at least I did it, and in doing so, I received so much more than I gave. We lost someone so dear and I have been embraced by the one who is most dear. Friends have quite literally fed me with their love. He is putting my world right and I can see that so clearly now. I was at the end of my rope, I may be at the end of this adventure, but God is here with me. 

The ends don’t justify the means of this experience, but they make it more livable and they help me realize again that I am blessed. 
just two of my many many undeserved blessings

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hitchhiker Adventures #4: Saying Goodbye

I noticed something today, something I would have thought would make me happy, but instead it brought me to tears. I noticed that the swell of my belly was gone. There is still that pooch of excess skin from two other child bearing swells, but the extra from this one is gone. It wasn’t a big swell, as we were still in the first trimester, but it was there. It took a notch from my belt and made my pants a bit tighter. It was partially from weight gained from hormone injections, although most of that is on my hips, but it was also from a growing, swollen, baby carrying uterus. Early as it might have been, just like with my own two children, my stomach had grown. But that ballooned belly has popped. It’s like my body is starting to forget all about the Hitchhiker.

My body may be erasing the signs of him, but my brain is holding on for dear life, even though it knows that life is gone. I want to move past grief and sorrow but I don’t want to forget his little life. He and I were going to have such grand adventures in the months we had together. I knew our time was going to be short, just 37 weeks but I had planned to make the most of them. We were going to take pictures together in front of the grand canyon, my belly bump and I. Then we would take pictures in front of the Welcome to Alaska sign.  We were going to listen to all kinds of music together and read all kinds of stories. That kid was going to know the Bible backwards and forwards from the craziest stories to the weirdest, most amazing things Jesus said. Like anything I do with my youth group kids, our time together wasn’t just going to be time together, it was going to be an experience. We would create a whole book full of adventures together, that I would happily give to his parents, when I handed him over. He would have a record of the places he went to, the noises he heard, the people who surrounded him. He was going to know, even if it was only in his uterine subconscious, and a photobook of memories that he was loved by me, by my community and by an amazing God. We didn’t get thirty seven weeks though, we only got five and a half (he was three weeks before they put him in, because science pregnancy is crazy like that). I guess we got seven and a half technically, but thankfully only one of us was truly there for those last awful two.

We had some moments together the two of us. We had a couple of days of bedrest while he nestled into my womb. I hope he knew he was loved as he was thawed out and given a home. We had some trips to the zoo and gardens, and he sloshed around my belly for walks and youth groups and church. We had a moment of pure joy together with his parents, as we saw his heartbeat on the monitors and heard it’s own amazing music. We had lots of blood tests and pee tests and tests of patience with one another as we experienced nausea. We ate lots of bagels together, because that’s the only thing we could stomach for a while. We snuggled the big black dog a lot. In fact that is one of the few physical things I have left of this whole experience is the smell of the big black dog, that is still all over me, because he refuses to let me feel alone, after the Hitchhiker is gone; that dog continues to drape his big drapey self all over my empty self. I got two more weeks with the Hitchhiker, then he did with me. Mercifully he was absent when we saw his lifeless body on the screen. He had his back turned to us, like he had already said goodbye. He missed the tears, the physical pain, the huge weight of carrying death, he was already gone. We had thirty seven weeks of memories planned but got just a few instead, the Hitchhiker and I.

He is gone, but he will always be with me. I may not be able to name him, or bury him, I certainly wasn’t going to raise him, but he is still a part of me. Whether I was going to raise him or not, he was always going to be with me, just like all of the youth group kids I have cared for over the years, only a bit different, as I carried him with me quite literally. I didn’t just make space in my life for him, but in my body itself. For a while my own son would not drink anything or eat anything that someone else’s mouth had touched. He said he could smell their breath, he and I share a very keen sense of smell. My son decided though that he could eat or drink something my lips had touched, since he had been inside me and shared my breath once. I couldn’t believe the wisdom and depth of that statement uttered when he was only six. You share so much with the child that you carry, even if you don’t share DNA. The Hitchhiker and I didn’t have much time together but in what little time we had, we already shared so much.

This is where tattoos are truly a blessing. They allow you to carry someone with you physically for all of your days. They give an illustration to the story, that is hard to tell, but you don’t want to hide. I will get to have him with me. I will get to tell his story, when people ask what is the symbolism of that tattoo. I will get to share the story of the kid I had for a bit, of the hope that he was filled with, the dreams, the two families that were connected by the hope of him. I will get to remember him verbally in my own way, even if I am not his mother. That, for me, is more meaningful than any tombstone or memorial service. I won’t have to wonder when people ask how many kids I have if I should tell or not, and then feel guilty that I don’t and his story never gets told. I will be able to tell his story and that right now is what I need to keep breathing. I need to know that though my body may move on, he will not be forgotten. If tattoos are defiant, I am defying my body itself, by refusing to let him be erased. I am rebelling not against society, but nature when I allow a friend to draw more ink into my skin. I am rebelling against the stigma, that this life was too short to matter, or this story is too sad to tell. It was a life, it is our story and it matters, the Hitchhiker, he matters. He was loved so much, he was longed for, he was worked for, he was significant and he will be represented on my skin for as long as it lasts. Longer than my belly, longer than my hormones, longer than the tears. He may not have been mine to raise but he was mine to grow and to love first so intimately close, then from afar.
(Once again I am so thankful to the amazing friends I have, and to our incredible artist friend, all of our friends amaze me with the way they can take my broken heart and make it feel a little more whole. The bird is like the ones I have for my other kids, and a kid we lost long ago in a different sort of way. The anchor, is a symbol of hope, which is what this adventure was all about, and my grandpa has a Navy tattoo on his forearm that always fascinated me growing up, so it’s something I have wanted for a while. )

Monday, March 9, 2015

Elephant Gestation a Big Black Dog and the Stifling Grief of Getting Back to Normal

Today I am supposed to be getting back to normal. I am still supposed to watch my activity level and check in with the still rawness of a freshly scraped womb, but I am supposed to start getting back to normal. I was for a while. I tried to start yesterday, I dressed up and held my head high as I walked into church and went back to work. I tried last night as I led a meeting for our Alaska team. I tried to talk even when the pain of being on my feet for a long time and playing youth group games took some of my breath away. I tried as I realized that I would no longer be carrying a big baby filled belly to Alaska with me. I tried this morning as I tackled the laundry that has piled up in the last couple of weeks. But I soon found myself on the couch covered in my dog and my tears, like some awful country song. It’s probably the hormone fluctuations but I think there is more too it than that. Instead of normal, today I found grief and defeat as I am sure that those who have walked through miscarriage, fertility treatments, and so many other losses have before me. 

I wanted so desperately to bring more of God’s joy and love and redemption into the lives around me. This adventure with surrogacy was supposed to do that. I knew it would be taxing and stressful, but it was the kind of stress that came with promise and hope, instead of more bills and more heartbreak. We had enough of those icky kinds of stress. Little thing after little thing with some pretty big things sprinkled in one after another for years, made me long for something different, something new. I thought we had found some of that in surrogacy. It was something cool we could do to help others, to bring life and beauty to the world, and even if pain came with it, at least it would end with joy overflowing and not a debt of yuck. It seemed to do that for a while, it brought excitement, encouragement and hope to a lot of people around us and to our two families. 

Yet here we are in the yuck. I thought once the surgery was over, and my body took a few days off to recover, my mind would be in a better place. It was for a bit, maybe just distracted with trying to will my body to strength and my life to normal. Now though, as I try to get back to routine, the grief of it all is hitting full force. The loss of that little life, the end of the adventure. Returning to normal means it really is over.

We knew this was a possibility, but it was tucked way back in our brains. It had to be, for us to try this really. We all were prepared for the embryo not to implant. I think if at the six week ultrasound we had seen no heartbeat, we would have been disappointed, but not surprised, and we would have been able to move on sooner. This though, was much harder to take, much more complicated to deal with, and delays the whole process a lot more. It wasn’t something we really took into account, and I am sure that is for the best.

Many have asked if and when we will try again, this is perhaps one of the most painful parts of the infertility process. That is out of our hands at this point. We could decide not to, but none of us want to do that. To proceed, though, my body has to be evaluated again. The parents have to be willing to wait for me to recover, everything has to sit on hold for months as we wait on my body. Suddenly the adventure that began last winter, may not end until next winter. Now it seems as if we are on an elephants gestational time table. If we do try again my body will be riding hormonal waves for a very long time to come.

Sometimes it’s easier for me to turn to music, than scripture. I know as someone who works in ministry, I am not supposed to admit that, but it’s true. Often thankfully scripture is woven into and inspires the music that makes it so much easier to digest the messages of God’s love, hope and joy in the midst of defeat. So I am clinging to this Rend Collective song today as I cling to the huge black dog that sits with me in grief. He and I take a break from getting back to normal and just sit for a bit. He puts his head up close to mine, when he sees the tears pooling in the corners of my eyes, and he helps me to find some joy, he reminds me of the message of this song, the message of Jesus, that there is redemption, that life can spring from death.

I will wait for that light of my soul to warm up this cold shadow of grief. I have been so blessed over the last two weeks to have my family and my friends remind me of those things too. Through meals and cookies, calls, texts, messages and prayers, there have been little bursts of light, there have been moments of joy and for that I will always be grateful. If we do go through with this elephant pregnancy, it’s those things that will give me the courage to continue and to embrace the rest of this adventure. So I will try to choose celebration. I will work on celebrating the amazing family and friends I have, instead of grieving so much for the little life, and opportunity we lost. I will sit in the arms of this crazy dog and try to understand that I am in the arms of Jesus himself.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Adding injury to the insult of carrying or “miss”carrying death

I share so you will get a glimpse, you will hear a note, maybe you will understand a fraction of how cruel fetal demise, miscarriage and what follows it are, because carrying death is awful. I know my story is a little bit different. I didn’t carry this baby as long as some have. I didn’t have to scoop it’s remains out of a toilet, as some have. I didn’t have to give birth, knowing after all the work there would be no reward of cries, or breath in it’s lungs. I didn’t have to decide whether or not to terminate the terminal. Women have had to do some absolutely horrible things in the wake of their baby’s death. In many ways I am lucky in other ways though, my story is the same as the women who have bravely walked this road before me. It’s filled with a pain and vulnerability all of it’s own.

The chaplain of the Catholic hospital intruded on the morning that I was trying to face without grief. I had sat with death for a week and a day, and I just wanted it to be over and it would be, at least in part, the big part. It would conclude with a Dilation and Curettage, the same procedure used for abortion. My body held on to that lifeless baby for two weeks, thankfully I was only aware of the one. My body still nauseous and tender and tired, didn’t realize that the life it was making itself sick to support was gone. My brain did though, and it was freaked out. I spent the whole week trying not to think about it, but it would always creep in, and the tears were never far behind. I was carrying death. Once it was a sweet little life, so full or promise and redemption, but now that life was gone and it was sitting in my gut like a stone. Yesterday though, I didn’t want to dwell on it, I didn’t want to cry that morning. I didn’t want to get in touch with my emotions, a room full of people were about to get in touch with my private parts.  I just wanted to suffer through the indignities of the hospital,the indignities of this procedure and go home.

But there I was laying on the stretcher with only a paper gown, some socks and a hairnet talking about baby memorial services, and carving the baby’s name on a special tombstone. Once again in this process, I was nearly naked in front of strangers, discussing a baby that wasn’t mine. I just wanted to shout at the chaplain, “What name could I give him, I’m not his freaking mother!”. But I didn’t I was polite and courteous, and just tried to get the conversation over with as fast as possible. I was offered a small blanket, which I rejected. I didn’t want to talk about the baby. I didn’t want to think about the family whose job it was to name this baby, and whose grief I was carrying too. I didn’t want to explain why I was crazy enough to try and do this for a stranger, I didn’t want to deal with the assumptions, the presumption of judgement, the embarrassment. Maybe if he was mine, I would feel different, but I doubt it. In that moment, he was in my body and he was lifeless, and I didn’t need a tombstone or a memorial service to tell me he was significant or valued, or God’s child. I knew those things all too well, but I couldn’t talk about them in hospital socks and a paper gown. I needed to at least be wearing underwear to talk about them, to think about them. I needed to at least have him physically not with me anymore before I could process him being gone.

She kept talking of the necessity of sharing your feelings, and talking to someone, but again, in that moment, I was sharing more than I cared too. My height, my weight, my medical history, my vagina were all on display or would be shortly. In that moment I just needed to focus on getting through, because truth be told I was scared and miserable, and so very naked. I was scared of anesthesia, my hand hurt from the IV. I had to stumble through the hallway to get to the bathroom in that stupid paper gown while managing an IV. I was about to literally have my insides scooped out with the surgical equivalent of a spoon and a vacuum!!! I didn’t want to cry, I didn’t want to grieve in that moment I just wanted it to be over, and she was dragging it out. She offered to pray, but even that I couldn’t take. I did not know her, she didn’t know me, it felt intrusive. I know she was there to offer comfort, but she only brought grief and the ugly feelings of vulnerability that played a part in this whole surrogate process. It brought out the indignity of it all, it made me feel like I did “lose” the baby, like I did “miscarry” it, because this all seemed like a horrible punishment.

The chaplain had offered to come after the surgery, but that seemed worse, and I am so glad she didn’t. After I was wearing underwear, someone else put on me while I was asleep. After I found sensors on different parts of my body, that I didn’t place there. After people were talking more to my husband than to me, because presumably I wasn’t coherent enough to take it all in. The surgery was described to him, the instructions given to him. Yet again in this surrogacy process, I felt like my body was not my own, like someone else was in control, like other’s were discussing me as if I wasn’t even there. After I was tired, after I was empty, after I was supposed to move forward.

It’s hard to move forward, to grieve for a baby that wasn’t mine to name, or to bury. How could I hold onto a blanket for a baby that I would only have held briefly? It just seems wrong. Not only was I carrying death, I was carrying the weight of knowing another family is grieving, another family is carrying this as well, and that breaks me. I can only imagine how hard it is to grieve for your own child. For some I am sure the blanket is comforting but to me it just added to the shame I had already piled up on myself for putting everyone through this ordeal. Even if it was not my fault, it felt like it. I imagine there are similar feelings for anyone going through this, surrogate or not. How do you grieve for someone you hoped and dreamed about but never got to know?

Being wheeled out of the hospital with a new baby is such a great high worth of commercials and movie scenes,but being wheeled out with empty arms and a womb freshly scraped is it’s own cruel torture. I just wanted to get back to life as normal to move forward, but I am not allowed. I have to sit and rest. I can’t distract myself with work or routine, because even changing clothes causes pain and makes me break out in a sweat. I was warned that even if I start feeling okay in these immediate days following the surgery, the pain will rebound in bigger ways if I try to go about my normal day. I may not be carrying death anymore but my body still carries the lingering effects of having carried a life and then having that life removed. There is still so much left to feel, even if the process is over, and perhaps that is the worst part. It’s cruel how our bodies betray our wishes to put everything behind us and move forward. It adds injury to the insult of it all.