“Are They Twins?” Umm…kind of. Surrogacy is Love
I can hardly believe that it’s been a year already since this photo was taken, and sweet little Norah joined our family. It almost feels as if she’s always been a part of my life. I’m starting to forget already what life was like before these babies came. Did I actually get to sleep in past 9am on the weekends? That was actually a thing?! I can hardly remember that life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this past year, both because I always do that in January when we come upon a new year, but also because Norah just had her first birthday! I’ve been thinking about everything that happened. Sometimes it seems like it was all a dream or like I’m living in a movie. Even now, it still feels surreal that this is our life. It’s an amazing life. Not perfect in any way; it can be messy, frightening, and confusing…and, it’s beautiful- all of it.
Photographed by Justin Hackworth ^^
Not everyone really knows what happened, and how we have two babies that are 4 months apart, so I’ll give a little background. Most of the time when I see strangers at the store who ask if they are twins, I just smile and say, “Yes, they’re close to a year old.” I really hate feeling like I’m lying all the time, but I guess I justify it by saying that I’m not totally lying…I mean, they were created on the same day (in a lab in New York City that is), and they are both almost one year old (give or take a little).
But if I’m being completely honest, they aren’t exactly twins. A friend of mine gave me the idea to call them “twisters,” because they are a mix between twins and sisters. It’s such a genius name for them. I love it!
For those of you that don’t know the story about our twisters, I’ll try to explain…my husband and I did fertility treatments because we had been trying to get pregnant for several years and nothing was working. I had tried everything from acupuncture, diet changes, exercise, relaxation, positive affirmations, yoga, thyroid medications, supplements, detox cleanses, ha, and even putting a pillow under my bum thinking that maybe it would help those little boys to swim in the right direction (yikes!). So finally I got to a point where I felt like we needed to go ahead with fertility treatments. I’ll explain more of the details in other posts about those experiences, but to make a long story short, we were able to get pregnant with fertility treatments twice, and I miscarried twice.
Then we went ahead and decided to genetically test our embryos and do IVF because we had discovered that I had a genetic issue that was part of the reason for my infertility. We ended up with 4 embryos that were genetically “normal,” and I loved those four little creations with all my heart. Everything felt like it was perfectly aligning and I was so certain that this time I would get pregnant and we’d end up with a baby (or two!). We transferred two of our four embryos and I got pregnant! Then, 6 weeks later I miscarried again. This time I was crushed in ways I didn’t even know possible.
I decided that I was in need of some serious refocusing. I wanted to grow, but I felt stuck. I had been putting so much of my time and energy into making a baby, that my life had become somewhat out of balance. So the following Summer, I took some time off of work and focused on processing and sorting through all of the emotions and thoughts that were surfacing after this huge loss. By the time August came, I had decided to go back to graduate school in Boise, Idaho where my sister Cristi and her family lived. So we up and moved from New York to Boise in what felt like the blink of an eye (I’ll explain this more in later posts as well).
Boise was a healing place and time for me. I slowed down a lot, and there was more space in my life because of it. Sometimes that space felt excruciatingly lonely and dark, but it seemed to be what I needed. I had to really allow myself to completely feel the loss and sorrow in order to really heal and move past it. I was also able to reconnect with nature, family, with myself, and with God during this time. Without even realizing it, I was preparing myself emotionally, spiritually, and even physically…to try again. We knew we had two frozen embryos left for us to use, and it was just a question of when and how. I was starting to wonder if my body was even capable of carrying a baby at all. I just didn’t understand how I had miscarried the previous two embryos when we had genetically tested them! My doctor didn’t really have an answer for me either.
So, this is where Nicole comes in. Just before Joseph and I officially moved to Boise, he and I had been out there to visit family. We got together with Nicole and her family for dinner while we were there (we had met them while in Virginia for graduate school), and that night she actually openly announced that she wanted to carry a baby for someone, and that she would love to carry a baby for us. She loves being pregnant, and wanted to offer that as a gift to someone she knew and cared about. I was so touched, I just remember having tears in my eyes and giving her a hug. It was such a genuine act of love that she would even offer that, and it really meant a lot to me. However, at the time, I still wasn’t ready to think about getting back on the roller coaster ride of trying to get pregnant. I felt slightly numb to the idea, and I really just didn’t want to even think about having a baby at the moment. I still felt like I needed a break from trying. So for a few months, I didn’t follow up with Nicole on her offer. I just focused on graduate school, and on getting settled in our new home and on healing from our previous losses.
Fast-forward a few months later to January of 2015, Joe and I went out to dinner with Nicole and her husband to talk more about the possibility of using Nicole as a surrogate. Somehow, I felt ready to think about it again. But it was actually not an easy decision to make. We went back and forth in trying to decide what to do…and I had to sort out my fear of loss, fear of not being enough, fear of what other people would think, and pretty much just a whole lot of fears about the unknowns of this process. We knew we could transfer one embryo to Nicole and one to me, or one to Nicole only, or just one to me and then use Nicole if I miscarried, or we could try for adoption instead. All of this felt very confusing, but the feeling that kept coming back to me was to take advantage of all the opportunities that came our way. I felt like we needed to leave no stone unturned, and use these incredible gifts that we had been blessed with to start adding to our family.
Finally, one day after discussing and sorting through these concerns with my counselor, I got in my car, and looked back to backup out of the parking lot. Just then I could imagine two car seats in the back seat of my car and somehow it felt almost as if they were really there! I’ll never forget that I pulled into the grocery store parking lot, and sobbed for probably a good 30 minutes listening to Patty Griffin and feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love. It was as if God was opening my eyes of understanding and was helping me to know that I wasn’t alone and had never been left alone during this journey. He had been preparing “every needful thing,” and had been with me all along the way.
So, we ended up deciding to transfer one embryo to me, and one embryo to Nicole and we both ended up getting pregnant. I thought that I was miscarrying at around 6 weeks again because I started to have significant hemoraging during that time and even ended up in the ER because of it. But I felt at peace about it, because I knew that if the pregnancy didn’t go full term, then we also had Nicole carrying another baby for us. So, it brought me a lot of peace throughout my entire pregnancy.
In January of 2016, Nicole went into labor and had a smooth and pretty typical delivery. It was such a beautiful experience, and our hospital was so accommodating. In the delivery room we were all there (my husband, our other baby Ruby, Nicole’s husband, Cristi and her baby Asher) , enjoying ourselves…eating lunch, talking and taking pictures. It felt so relaxed and completely opposite of the delivery that I had had with Ruby, since I went into preterm labor with Ruby and ended up delivering her 10 weeks early. It was nice to actually experience a delivery that wasn’t so traumatic, but that was in fact completely beautiful, peaceful and almost Heavenly. What struck me the most were the emotions that I found surfaced for me as I watched Nicole go through the delivery process.
Before she received her epidural, she was experiencing typical pain during her contractions. Every time she would experience pain, I would feel a mixture of emotions wash over me: some guilt and concern, compassion, excitement and above all…love. I felt so much love for her, and felt of her love for me. It was the most tangible experience of Christlike love that I think I have ever experienced. I can’t honestly think of any other time that someone has experienced or gone through pain for me (with the exception of my mother who gave birth to me); but this experience was so unique in that it was really such an emulation of the Atonement, and of pure Christlike love.
Since we are focusing on Love this year, and because this month marks the anniversary of that incredible gift and act of love that Nicole offered to me and my family, I felt the need to write about it and share it. It’s been such a wild ride, and quite an adventure to say the least. But I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m so grateful for the experiences that I’ve had, both the ups and the downs of it all; mostly because these experiences have brought me to a greater knowledge and understanding of God’s love.
Life is full of blessings, miracles and love…both love felt through others, for others and with others. May this new year bring even more love into our hearts, homes and the world! If you want to join us in this quest, follow @weedstowishes on Instagram or use the hashtag #livetoloveproject and share with us your experiences of whole-hearted living. We would LOVE to hear about it!!