Surrogacy part 13…

It has been a few weeks since I had a miscarriage now and partly it feels surreal, yet every known again I have had a moment of feeling emotional and sad. I didn’t expect it to affect me so much and I thought I’d be right as rain after a few days.

Fortunately, I am now feeling more like myself…. this has without a doubt been helped by the love and support of the people around me.

As a team, if anything we all feel even stronger than before, and Ali & Andrew have been amazing. I went into surrogacy wanting to help create a family and despite the miscarriage this hasn’t changed.

So, we have discussed the next steps and unsurprisingly the boys have pretty much left the decision making down to me. I knew that whenever we decided to try again that we could find it harder next time around and so I thought that it didn’t necessarily matter when we tried again.

The hardest part is that after a miscarriage it can take a while for you body to get back on track and that your cycles can be affected. Me and Ali are similar in the fact that we like to be organised and so this has thrown us both off as we aren’t able to predict when I will have my period or when I will ovulate and so it’s turned into a bit of a waiting game!

Part of me is anxious about the possibility of having another miscarriage even though there is no reason to believe it would happen again and part of me doesn’t want to let Ali & Andrew down as I know how much this means to them.  

In the meantime, we had the chance to spend some quality time together (just the adults) at the SurrogacyUK annual conference. It was lovely to see them as always as we had a great time. I had never been to the conference before and being more of a wall flower I was a little unsure about how I would find it. The boys were always going to arrive after me and so I had to put my big girl pants on and walk into the conference hotel on my own and navigate my way around until they got there. The main room was full to briming for the opening talk and that’s when I found out 450 people were there!

SurrogacyUK promotes friendship first and it really does feel like that. Everyone involved is incredibly friendly and supportive and you never feel as though you are alone on your journey. Throughout the day there were various workshops including those aimed at intended parents and surrogates. I was expecting to see a lot more surrogates there (there must have only been around 40 of us) but it was interesting to hear about their experiences. I still find it hard to believe that people don’t take the time to share their deal breakers or have the serious talks with each other until quite far down the line and this ends a lot of teams. There have even been occasions where surrogates haven’t felt able to have a say in how they give birth even though SurrogacyUK would always promote that those decisions should be down to the surrogate. I feel lucky knowing that as a team we have discussed everything, and that Ali & Andrew trust me.

One thing that I found interesting was when they discussed children’s involvement in surrogacy journeys and how to make them feel included. I definitely feel as though my girls knowing that I am hoping to help create a baby for Ali & Andrew and how that works is the right thing. However, none of us had really considered our children’s role throughout the pregnancy and so now we have thought of ways for them to feel involved such as attending scans if possible, recording scans/baby’s heartbeat and I always thought it would be nice for my girls to be aware of the stages of the pregnancy even just down to telling them how big the baby is each week and any milestones.

The conference was quite emotional as it touched on loss, but it was also emotional when other teams shared their journeys with everybody. It is so heart-warming to hear such positive journeys and the incredible friendships that have come out of this and that continue years after the surrogate baby has been born. I went into this thinking that I would help to create a baby and that would be it…never did I imagine that I could end up making some amazing friends and extending our family.

Who knows how our lives will have changed by next years conference??   

Surrogacy part 9…

For some reason it feels like it was ages ago since we were in London when we went to stay with Ali & Andrew. Our friendship seems to be going from strength to strength and it feels as though we have known each other for years!

We have since spent another fantastic weekend together near Stamford which was a picture postcard town! We stayed in an Air BnB together and to say it was only the 3rd time of meeting all 3 girls were really comfortable together. I realised that I don’t have my guard up at all around them and feel I can just be me which is such a lovely feeling. There’s no trying to impress or be on my best behaviour…what they see is what they get.

I love the fact that we can chat about anything and everything and not just surrogacy (even though obviously that is a big part of our relationship!). I’d say we know quite a lot about each other and as I have said before, in these situations you talk about things you would never discuss with new friends or acquaintances.

As Ali, Andrew & myself know that we will be forming a team even though we have to wait until the end of the 3-month GTK period to make it official we have been discussing the nitty gritty of stuff. As this is their first journey doing it the traditional way, they had a lot more questions and unknowns and I found it hilarious when they said they didn’t know where everything was and needed a bit of a biology lesson!!

I’ve always said from the start of my surrogacy journey that I want to write about it with brutal honesty because although it is becoming more prominent, so many people still have no idea about surrogacy.

So, we have discussed the agreement and unsurprisingly there was nothing that we didn’t agree on. I would always respect the IP’s wishes, but they have said very openly that throughout this journey they trust me and would never expect or ask me to do anything related to the pregnancy such as what to eat or when I can take a pregnancy test etc.

Ali & Andrew are trying to get their heads around menstrual cycles and ovulation and how it all works, and we’ve pencilled in the days around when I should be ovulating for when we want to start trying. I had to explain that unfortunately our bodies don’t always work like clockwork so there is an element of needing to be flexible. I am normally fairly regular with my cycles but since starting to take Pregnacare conception vitamins it has affected my first cycle but I remember it doing the same when I was trying for Florrie & Bea so I am hoping they will regulate themselves after this month.

When it comes to working out when you ovulate it’s a bit of a guessing game to be honest. I’ve always tracked my cycles which tells you when you should be ovulating, and I tend to feel when I am too, so I’ve not paid more attention to it than that. However, last month I decided to take an ovulation test when my tracker said I should be ovulating, and it looked as if I had already peaked so this month I am testing from a week after my period to try and work out exactly when I do ovulate. This isn’t as easy as it sounds as the sticks provide two lines and basically when the second line is at the darkest this is when you should be ovulating. I have also got the clear blue ovulation tests but there have been mixed reviews about their accuracy so we will have to see. Fortunately, with conceiving it is more important to try in the few days before ovulation than the day you ovulate when trying yourself as you do have a limited window.

We know that the first month we try will be a bit of trial and error for both myself and Ali, but we’re pretty laid back about it (I say that now!!). I know I’ll be a little nervous as I want to get it right and obviously, I want to become pregnant for them, but I am also getting excited now!

There’s absolutely no pressure from Ali & Andrew when it comes to conceiving, the pressure is more from myself particularly as I fell pregnant 1st time with both my girls, but I know this is different as everything was being monitored by the clinic when I conceived my girls. So, we shall see!!

One thing that took me by surprise was that Florrie asked me how babies are made. She already knew that her and Bea were made with the help of a clinic, but I couldn’t say the same this time as it’s not the truth and I believe it is important to be honest with your children so that they know they can talk to you about anything and trust you.

I did have to think about what I was going to say but after talking about it with Paige I realised that it’s only adults that feel uncomfortable having these discussions. We happily teach our children from a young age about body parts but when it comes to genitalia, we can avoid the subject or give pet names for these parts which doesn’t set children up well for the future, particularly when they do reach an age where they understand about sex. So, in the end I told her that Mummy has eggs inside her and Ali has sperm (which are a bit like seeds) and when they mix together, they make a baby. For now, there were no more questions but if they do come up then I will answer them as best I can.

Florrie & Bea both know that I will be trying to make a baby for Ali & Andrew and that once Mummy has made the baby that it will be going to live with them, and they are fine with that (as long as they get cuddles with the baby!). Ali & Andrew have said how important it is to them for me to be a part of their baby’s life and that I will be an honorary Auntie to baby and Honor and that is very touching.

In the short time we have known each other I feel I have gained 2 incredible friends; an adorable ‘niece’ and my girls have gained 2 fab ‘Uncles’ and 1 ‘cousin’ (so far!!).  

The best man in the world…

This week marks 6 years since I lost the most precious and amazing man in my life….my Grandad. We were incredibly close, and he was the only man in my life, in many respects he was a father figure as well as a Grandfather.

I have so many happy memories of him…

He always always shared everything he ate with me; I think it was one of his ways of showing his love and affection. Like a mother bird feeding a baby bird! And of course, his food always tasted better than mine even if it was the same! From giving me a quarter of his toasted tea cake to tearing a packet fully open so we could share his Walkers prawn cocktail crisps!

As a little girl he took me everywhere with him on the back of his bicycle and I often joined him in the village when he went for his morning coffee.

He introduced me to a British comedy classic – Fawlty Towers and did a very good impression of Basil Fawlty! We must have watched every episode of Dad’s Army and we often used one of its famous sayings…’Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring!’

Every time I saw him, we had to do the crossword together out the newspaper or the word wheel and of course play at least one game of scrabble with a cup of tea and a rich tea biscuit or two!

My Grandad had a great sense of humour and in his later years used to great me by honking a bicycle horn he kept on his table.

His house was always immaculate (as was he) and he could spot a crumb, dirt, or speck of dust a mile off! I take my hat off to him for his dedication to keeping his house so spotless especially cleaning the washing machine after every use (I don’t think I’ve ever cleaned the washing machine!).

He was a keen gardener and took pride in his garden which included keeping his hedges trimmed and if one little shoot appeared out of place it would get snipped! He even trimmed a bush into the shape of a rabbit which remained by his front door all those years.

I love the fact that he would never leave the house without his favourite aftershave on, his hair sprayed and without smart trousers, a shirt, tie, and traditional jacket.

He cycled everywhere until he could no longer, and you knew when he had arrived at the house from the sound of his bell!

My fasciation of World War II and the Titanic come from my Grandad as does my love of Malta as he often went there, and I was lucky enough to go with him. This is one of the reasons that me and my Mum want to go back.

My Grandad was incredibly loving, kind, generous and had a heart of gold. In all honesty I do not think he had a bad bone in his body and never recall him ever getting angry. His love was without a doubt completely unconditional.

I am so lucky to have had him in my life and only wish that he could have met my girls as I know he would have adored them as would they. He was an amazing Grandad and would have been an equally amazing Great-Grandad.

Over the past few years, I have reminisced and carried guilt about things I could have done differently or wishing I had spent more time with him or told him I loved him more, but I know that I cannot undo the past.

If I had had a boy, I always wanted to name them after him but as I had two girls, I decided to pay tribute to him and so my youngest daughters middle name is Josephine (as my Grandad was Joseph).

Every time I see a robin, I think it’s my Grandad who has come to say hello (I know no everyone will believe in this but each to their own) and so I will say hello!

I still miss him very much, but I have lots of happy memories to share with my girls and they will grow up knowing all about him and of course they will learn how to play Scrabble!  

Scrabble!

Family…

Families come in all different shapes and sizes. Some mean more to people than others and I guess culture can play a part in that.

I am very close to mine; some may say too close because I couldn’t be too far away from them and it’s a contributing factor as to why I’d never emigrate or move hundreds of miles away. Admittedly we have to live our lives for ourselves, but I suppose it comes down to what we value and what we want out of life.

So, when asked about my family I can chose how much detail I go into on that one. In its most simple form, my family is a twig! But I love my twig very much!! My twig consists of me, my mum and my two daughters. My grandad was also a huge part of my life and was more like a father figure. I still think about him every day and miss him very much. He was an amazing man who I loved a lot. I wish he had been around to meet my girls; he would have been an amazing great grandad. He would have given them £1-coin every time he saw them, offered them a morning coffee biscuit or a chocolate digestive and even let them dunk it! He would have shared his bacon sandwich or tea cake with them, cutting it up into small pieces and no doubt ending up with none for himself! He would have let them honk his bicycle horn that he had on his table and made them giggle. Every time I see a robin, I say hello to him – Grandad loved birds and I believe it’s him coming to see us whenever I see one.

Sounds fairly straight forward right? Well, it is and it isn’t. When I get asked about my dad, I suppose it depends on who’s asking and how I feel as to how I answer that one! In the past I’ve just said I don’t have one. People who have known me since I was a little girl will know that I did have a ‘dad’ until I was 9 years old. So, this is when it gets confusing! I can remember a woman visiting us a few times when I was little, and I can remember going to court when as far as I knew my ‘dad’ adopted me. I was a clever little girl, but I still only remember him being in my life as he was around since I was 2 so being adopted by him didn’t bring any questions up for me as he’d been around all my life as far as I was concerned.

Then less than 2 years later after what I can only describe as a picture-perfect childhood, I remember waking up one night to the sound of arguing and went to sit on the stairs where upon I listened to my mum and dad arguing. I can’t remember what it was about, but I remember going downstairs and begging my dad not to leave and asking him to promise me that he never would.

I can still remember to this day; he did indeed promise me he would never leave. (Not something I personally think a parent should ever say to their child, the damage is horrendous when this promise is broken). Then I remember either the next day or soon afterwards (bearing in mind that he had promised he would never leave), he sat me down and told me he was leaving, meanwhile my mum was in floods of tears and my dad’s offer of comfort or consolation was giving me the Argos catalogue and saying that I can choose something out of it from him, I suppose as a leaving gift!!!

Needless to say, my world crumbled around me after this and I never saw him or his parents again. (Sorry I’m having a shiny eyed moment…deep breath)

Anyway, without going into the consequences of his departure right now, over the years it raised questions for me.

One day I discovered 2 birth certificates for me…one with who I believed to be my dad on it and one with a different man’s name on it. I was only a young teenager at this time. So, this is when I found out about my birth father. I was confused as to why my adopted dad did indeed adopt me, after all he had been in my life since I was 2 and was married to my mum so why did he feel the need to adopt me? I also found out that my mum had to adopt me too and there was a long in-depth process to do this. I have to admit that I then questioned if my mum was my mum, I mean why would your birth mum adopt you?! I didn’t look like my mum; I didn’t think I was like my mum and my ‘dad’ had just vanished off the face of the planet. What was I to think? But the UK legal system is very odd sometimes and I eventually stopped questioning this.

So, when I found out about my birth father, I discovered a whole other side to my family I never knew I had including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings.

I’d always wanted to have a brother or sister and a big family – a bit like the Walton’s!! So, I was excited at the thought of having a bigger family. But being a teenager, being a deep thinker, worrying about my mum, fearing rejection again and questioning why I’d want to try to get to know someone who has already rejected me once, I struggled with this. (However, in recent years I have met some of my extended family and recently I have started to get to know my birth father and his family).

I was left with a lot of different sides of stories and a lot of unanswered questions.

I later discovered that my adopted dad had remarried and gone on to have 2 of his own children. Imagine how that made me feel?!

So, from the age of 10 onwards it was just me, my mum and my grandad. They will always be the core of my family. They were always there for me and they are who I grew up with, they’re the ones I share memories with. My grandad was a traditional man, he never really spoke about things other than the weather yet his love for me never seemed to change despite him knowing I was gay (which I know he never understood) and he even came to my wedding.

I don’t intend to live in the past, but I know I struggle with not knowing the answers to things. Not knowing how or why a parent can abandon their child and disappear off the face of the earth.

However, I am lucky to have such a close relationship with my mum and my girls are very close with her too – they definitely have her wrapped around their little fingers!!!

I also believe that friends are the families we choose for ourselves. So to add to my twig there is also my lifelong best friend who is more like a sister to me. We have known each other for 29 years now and have been there for each other ever since. I love her to pieces! What is also special is that she has 2 little girls that are a similar age to mine and they are all very close.

I’ve often said I could write the script for a soap opera based on my life!

My family have given me strength and unconditional love always and I couldn’t have got through the last couple of years without them. They are absolutely amazing, and I love them with all my heart!

So, I have a very strong twig for my family tree but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Today, I’ll leave you with this…. whoever you class as family, I know it’s harder especially during lockdown but pick up the phone and tell them how much you love them! If they are in your house or your bubble, give them an extra squeeze! I sent some pocket hugs to those I can’t see right now to let them know I’m still there and will be giving them an extra extra long hug when the time comes!!

Finally, one of my favourite scenes in Lilo and Stitch is when stitch says….

(particularly as it’s similar to my name!)

Lockdown part 3….Week 2

Congratulations! We made it! It may seem bizarre to celebrate getting through a week, but I think we should. Whatever you may feel you have or have not achieved; you’ve made it through another week of this weird time. So, reward yourself – be it with a sticker, a bath, a high five, some flowers, chocolate, a treat…you deserve it!

This week was the return of PE with Joe which I completed, all be it mainly on my own but with my eldest daughter keeping me in check with what exercises I should be doing if I wandered off during the 25 second rest period to do household jobs (bearing in mind she’s only 3!) and my youngest daughter clapped after each exercise and said, ‘Well done mummy!’ which was very sweet.

It has been nice to have some more structure to the week otherwise I think I’d struggle to know what day of the week it was (not that it particularly matters at the minute!).

I’m very lucky that I am able to spend this time with my girls and I really enjoy it but am finding it disappointing (as I’m sure lots of people are) that I can’t do more with them such as go to the farm, visit friends and family, go away, go to the cinema, take them to classes, museums, art galleries etc. I really hope that it won’t be too long before we can do these things again. For me one of the hardest things is the not knowing when this might be. I’ve not got my hopes pined on a time and I’ve decided not to make any plans yet as I know I would feel disappointed if more things got cancelled. I made the decision not to write anything on my calendar this year as most of last year got crossed out!! All that can go on this year’s calendar are things like when the bins are going out (which is a lot more than me!)!!

However, our week has been filed with daily walks which usually includes jumping in muddy puddles and on one occasion my youngest daughter took great pleasure in splashing in the deepest puddle she could find and when I took her wellies off most of the puddle came out of them!! She didn’t give a monkeys though and loved every minute of it. If I’d had my wellies on I would no doubt have joined her! We’ve also done lots of arts and crafts, including making cornflour slime, models, jewellery, aqua beads and we thoroughly enjoyed creating lots of handprints for our latest window display – a heart. The girls also painted lots of hearts to go on a tree of hearts which is also part of our window display. Now that everyone’s Christmas decorations are down and there are no more rainbows, it was suggested in our village that people create displays of hearts but so far, I haven’t seen any others. It certainly made our walks more interesting and the girls enjoyed spotting things in people’s windows.

My mum paid for some online dance classes (https://totbop.co.uk) for the girls to try and I have to say all 3 of us have enjoyed them. The main advantage is that you can do the class whenever you want and have access to it for the entire week. Both my girls love music, so we enjoyed boogying to Meghan Trainor’s, ‘Better when I’m Dancin’ and Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ during this week’s class.

We also got to have a bop in the car (when we went to collect our food shop) to the girls’ favourite songs which of course have to be played on repeat for the entire journey! So, for the past couple of months, we’ve been listening to Trolls Just Wanna Have Fun and Jessica Mauboy’s We Got Love!

Despite it only being 2 weeks of lockdown so far, I think more people are struggling this time…I know people have said that this is the time to focus on ourselves, to reinvent ourselves, to start new hobbies etc but that’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself. It’s great if you’ve been able to, but equally it’s completely understandable if you’re greatest achievement is functioning.

I’ve decided that I need to stop looking at the news and social media so often. I don’t know what I hope or expect to see but it’s never anything positive or upbeat and you certainly can’t avoid things to do with Covid. So, I need to set myself a target of only looking once a day and limiting how much time I allow myself to look. My counselling tutor made a very good point this week when she told the class that it’s best not to look at the news in the evening as it will affect sleep along with anything heavy or serious including a TV programme especially if you’re a thinker (like me!). I think it’s almost like an addition for me now, I don’t even know why I check the news or social media every day? What do I think I’m missing? I like being in my own little bubble (not a Covid bubble!) so why infiltrate it with rubbish I’m bound to read? That’s something for me to think about and try and work out.

Anyway….if you’ve been lucky enough to have snow this week I hope you made time to make a snowman, have a snowball fight and make snow angels….if not, why not?! I would absolutely love to have some snow! My girls have never experienced snow that’s settled enough for any of those things. Fingers crossed some comes our way!