So we’re matched (at last)! We met our awesome surrogate and her husband on a video conference first, with our agency case manager facilitating the call. Audio/video latency aside, it felt pretty good. I mean, we were all kind of keyed up trying to make a good impression, but it didn’t feel forced either. We met in-person next at a Japanese restaurant (which is hilarious because my husband avoids Japanese food like the plague, despite my best efforts), and it felt just as comfortable. Surrogates are obviously very generous and compassionate women (you’d have to be to essentially surrender your body for nine months), but it occurs to me that their spouses have to be very secure and compassionate people as well. That’s certainly the case with our surrogate and her husband. As I’ve learned from past experience, it helps that they’re old enough to have perspectives that relatively younger surrogates may not necessarily have. It may be a sign of my old age, but it seems to me that some things only come with time.
As we went through the process of signing a surrogacy agreement and covering off on all the intricate legal details to make sure my husband and I are listed on the original birth certificate (which isn’t possible in every U.S. state, by the way), I’m finally starting to think about the details of being a father. How do I know if my child is healthy and developing normally? Do I wait for her/him to cry to know if s/he is hungry? How often do I take my child to the pediatrician? The way my husband and I are dealing with the hundreds of questions we have is a classic example of how we’re different: my husband is planning on enrolling us in a class closer to the delivery date, while I on the other hand have bought a half dozen different baby books and started highlighting and color-coding pages. The interesting thing is that all of the books are very female-centric (pregnancy stages, breast-feeding, etc.), and rightfully so – but I’ve yet to find a book that talks about a father as primary caregiver and not just an exhausted mom’s back-up. I’ll figure it out, but still… This blog is, in part, my little attempt to at least start filling this void.
While researching childcare books, I found a children’s book that talked about waiting for a baby to be born. It was a little embarrassing because even after (or maybe because of) my experience spending interminable months waiting, the story brought me to tears right there in the bookstore. It was so much more appropriate an explanation of the process that brings children into being than the line I’m sure I’ll be tempted someday to use on my smart ass teenage daughter or son: “it cost me over $250,000 to bring you to life!”
At any rate, all of this research got me thinking because apparently all children ask about their origin at some point in time. When my brother asked where he came from, my parents – with almost sadistic pleasure – told him that they found him under a bridge. And being a loving model older brother, I would always ask why we couldn’t take him back and leave him there. The genetic odds are that our children will be at least moderately intelligent kids (our egg donor is a college grad, and both my husband and I hold graduate degrees), so I’m pretty sure they’ll also ask where they came from. And, being reasonably intelligent beings, they’ll probably also notice that there’s no woman in our house. Even without knowing anything about uteri or ovaries, they’ll probably also notice that most other kids have a mother.
So our plan – subject to improvisation depending on how well things work out – is to first and foremost never lie to our children about their origins. Because the last thing I need is to have a young adult in the world racking up massive therapy bills because s/he is perpetually bitter about being lied to as a child. So my husband and I agreed that our responses to their origin will be age appropriate, but also completely truthful. And we’ve also read that it helps to be proactive in telling children their origin story. So we’ve begun crafting a story that we’ll tell our children over and over again even before they can talk. It goes something like this:
Once upon a time, your father and I met and fell very much in love. But as much as we loved each other, we knew that something was missing. And what we were missing was you! So we worked very hard for a long, long time to try and find you. While we were waiting for you to come, we were very sad because we wanted you to be part of our family so very much. Finally, we met some very special people and wonderful angels who started to help us because they saw how sad we were without you. And how much we loved you even before you were born. Do you know who one of the angels who helped us is? It’s [our surrogate]! She worked very hard with us to bring you into your family, where you belong. And you’ll always belong to our family, and we’re so happy that you’re here. Because we love you so much.
As they grow older and start to ask why they don’t have a mother, we’ll explain that some children don’t have a mother or a father. And some children have two mommies or two daddies, like they do. What’s important is that they have a family who loves them very much. We hope to find and join organizations for same-sex families, so that the children have some proof that we’re telling them the truth. I have to confess, particularly because my own mother has such an irreplaceable spot in my heart, that I worry that my children will feel some sense of loss knowing that they don’t have a mother. But hopefully we’ll be good enough parents – particularly my husband, who is the most loving person I know (even if he is a slob) – that our children won’t suffer too much. And incidentally, the main reason why we want our surrogate to be a part of our lives is so she can affirm to our children that they weren’t abandoned by a mother – but were always intended to be part of our family.
We plan on explaining the role of our egg donor to them when they’re much older (probably when they learn about the facts of life). And we’ll explain that their biological mother wants to wait to hear from them until after they turn 18 because she always meant for us to be their parents and for them to be in our family. But we don’t ever plan on telling them who their biological father is, because we’ll both be both parents equally to all of our children and what matters is family – not genetics. Anyhow, that’s the plan. Let’s hope it works.