I think my appreciation of music (despite lacking any talent thereof) and language began with a completely magical album of stories and songs produced by Walt Disney way back in 1965. (Also known as the olden days of yore, for the increasing number of people younger than me.) As a shy and lonely three and four year old, I spent interminable hours listening to it over and over again because it had all the captivating polish and charm you would naturally expect from Disney. In preparing for fatherhood, I began to search for that album but ran into problems when I realized that I didn’t even know what the album was called: I was three or four and couldn’t read the album cover. But I did remember exactly what it looked like, down to its red capital letters and pale lilac color, and searched without success for months until I randomly recognized the old marigold and black Disneyland record label on another album. (For tech geeks, it was like a PDF file without OCR.) That finally led me to the album I sought, and now I’m very much looking forward to sharing it with my children. It’s funny how the memory of an album I couldn’t even read or know the title of became such an indelible part of me.
One of the things that will likely become part of our children’s memories is Winnie the Pooh. My husband thinks that Winnie the Pooh (the original versus the updated Disney version) is the cutest thing ever, and has chosen it as our nursery theme. For some culturally inexplicable reason I’m actually more of a Paddington Bear fan, but it’s harder to find Paddington Bear nursery decor here in the U.S. Anyhow, we of course bought A.A. Milne’s The Complete Tales of Winnie The Pooh to read to the kids. There’s an especially wonderful quote in it that says, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
So I was completely delighted when our gestational surrogate surprised us with a gift: that exact quote on a lovely wall plaque for the nursery.
She and her husband are giving my husband and I so much already that we didn’t expect anything like it. And consistent to form for them, it of course was both perfectly thoughtful and classy.
The second wall plaque in the gift bag our surrogate gave us had another A.A. Milne quote that read, “On some days when the sky is blue and I have nothing else to do, I think a thoughtful thought, or two, and wonder, wonder how are you?”
I don’t know if she meant it this way or not, but it occurred to me that the plaque and the words on it could be a talisman of her good wishes after our children are born and not in her everyday life any longer. She’s going through so much to bring them into this world – between damned uncomfortable hormone injections and unrelenting nausea, plus other things that she’s probably not sharing with us because she’s one tough cookie – that it’s unimaginable that the children won’t enter her thoughts every once in a while, that she won’t occasionally on a clear day wonder how they are – even if they aren’t genetically related to her.
There are, I know, gay fathers who don’t want their gestational surrogate to have any part of their children’s lives after giving birth. They view the relationship as a purely transactional one. I don’t pass judgement on that perspective, and recognize that gestational surrogacy would probably not be a reality without a financial dimension. But at least for us it’s not the only factor at play, or our surrogate wouldn’t have made the unexpected gesture of buying some NOT-inexpensive gifts for our children.
We have the families we inherit, and we have the families we choose. And although we’re not tied by blood or marriage, the reality is that our surrogate is part (a pretty freaking important one at that) of our children’s creation story. So while not a part of our nuclear family, our surrogate and her husband are part of the family we chose. Being the kind of people they are, I know that they’ll help fill in our children’s creation story – helping our children to know with all certainty that they were always meant to have me and my husband as their parents. In the end, our children’s creation story won’t be a traditional duet, but rich in complimentary harmonies.
Today our children begin their second trimester, and I couldn’t possibly be more grateful for that this Christmas.