The Over-Simplification of the Melissa Cook Surrogacy Case

My thoughts on the Melissa Cook Decision- See link below..

Surrogacy Contracts, Abortion Conditions, and Parenting Licenses in the Curious Case of Cook v. Harding

The Order makes clear that surrogacy agreements are “presumptively valid” in California, with “[n]o minimum levels of income, intelligence, age, or ability are required for either the surrogate or the intended parent(s).”

Judge Wright notes in a footnote: “Should Cook ultimately prevail, the Court is at a loss to imagine an intended parent in this state who would contract with a gestational surrogate, knowing that the woman could, at her whim, ‘decide’ that the intended parent or parents are not up to snuff and challenge their parenting abilities in court.

If you read the above article, I’d like to mention that what has been conveniently excluded is the fact that regardless of biological status of the child, intended parents are not screened WHATSOEVER. No background check, no drug testing, no psychological evaluations, no home-study… ALL of which are baseline requirements for an adoption. The surrogacy issue is not how to protect the intended parents, it’s how to protect innocent children from being born into potentially dangerous situations.

As a surrogate myself I am not against surrogacy in concept, I’m currently 33 weeks pregnant with my new IPs’ twins, but for everyone’s sake, the IP’s should be at least checked out to some extent. Unfortunately, I learned in the hardest way possible to do my own research and exactly what was at stake in the event I ever just took people at their word again. Some of the most depraved and manipulative people are very capable of coming off as charismatic and authentic. IP’s literally undergo less screening than a person trying to adopt a dog.

That being said, for both of my surrogacy journeys I have had psychological testing, STD screening, home visitations, not to mention extensive lists of activities in which I can and can not engage included in my contracts, all so that I could be trusted to provide a hospitable environment to a child for 40 weeks. A child I grew to love and who was formed with such deliberate intention, the same child that, after 9 months of red flags, I was contractually committed to hand over to a man who would 3 years later die of a drug overdose in the same house where his daughter slept. Fortunately for her, the drug dealer (and only other present party) called the police instead of just leaving his lifeless body to be found by his daughter, or worse, taking advantage of a very vulnerable 3 year old child.

What’s worse, is that the laws protected him and never considered her, or me for that matter. After all of the formalities experienced on my end, I assumed at least as much had been considered on his end, after all, 18 years is quite bit longer than 40 weeks. This of course is not the case. After the contract was signed and the pregnancy was confirmed I spent the subsequent 9 months in psychological turmoil as I witnessed the deterioration of the representations of this person who was to become this precious child’s “parent.” Suddenly each appointment a different lover replaced the original partner to whom I was initially introduced. Although they would alternate on occasion, the main relationship in his life would turn out to be a drug addicted, live-in dependent with a propensity for violent outbursts… and yet I’m the one that was screened. For 3 years he got to take advantage of such a beautiful gift, while I struggled deeply with the role I played in her ending up in this life. She deserved a shot at a good life, yet she was a victim at conception. A victim to a self-centered, manipulative narcissist that confused property with parenting; a victim to people who were too busy minding their own business to tell it like it is, who would later admit that they “thought maybe a child would change him”; a victim to a naive do-gooder that just wanted to help a “deserving” fellow human; and finally a victim to an opportunistic institution that rewards financial investment with the life of a human being.

In my case alone, under adoption law, this man would have never been allowed to bring a child into that situation. The fact that it was later made clear that he was also abusing drugs, only helps to prove my point. The issue that uncapped needles were found within reach of the toddler on several occasions, and that she was actually holding one in her little hands just weeks before his death is only made more serious when the fact that he was, subsequent to his death, found to be both HIV and Hepatitis C positive.

The issue is not selfish, emotional surrogates that just willy-nilly change their mind, the issue is an industry that overlooks the best interest of innocent children and well-intended women to so easily allow for children to become victims. So I despise this oversimplification that surrogates are hung up on “minimum levels of income, intelligence, age, or ability for the intended parents.” The issue is that the children of surrogacy are not legally given even as much value as a dog in a shelter.

If there is to be a meaningful change in surrogacy it has to start with the screening of intended parents. We act like what’s most important is that the intended parents maintain their rights as parents, don’t you think it will only further the success of this argument if you can reasonably know whether every intended parent does not have a history of drug abuse, violence, pedophilia or are living in an environment that is indicative of the like.

16.Twin Update: 29 weeks, 3 days

Where to start? Since this is a blog primarily about my surrogacy, we’ll just start there.

As of today we are 29 weeks, 3 days and some of us are getting ginormous. I’ve shot up to 168 pounds, 7 of which is a couple of baby boys, for a total weight gain of 38 pounds. Not too surprising. What is surprising is that although I’ve had some mild and sporadic swelling in my hands and feet I’m not experiencing the water weight overload that I had in my previous pregnancy. No arthritic type pain, can still grip and hold things, bend at my knees, it’s wonderful! My biggest pregnancy obstacles are pants and shoes, as in putting them on, fitting in them,etc.

I finally broke down and bought maternity jeans and ordered clothes from a website that specifically caters to pregnancy, which I thought I would never do. What can I say, twins change you.🙂 So the most up to date weights are from last Wednesday and are as follows:

28 weeks, 3 days (ultrasound)

Baby A= 2 pounds, 8 ounces

Baby B= 3 pounds, 6 ounces

That’s right, a near 1 pound difference and the gap is trending toward getting bigger. The good news is that we have one “average” size babe and one “big guy.” They’re still both healthy and very much themselves. Baby A is quite the kicker, while Big Baby B is a bit more mellow. I truly love these little guys. They are the coolest.

 

15. The boys are getting BIG!

We had our echocardiogram yesterday and found out that at 23 weeks, 3 days the twins are both measuring over a pound…

Twin A= 1lb 3 oz

Twin B= 1lb 8oz

We’re all very excited to have a tangible measurement, I think it really helped to make things real.  These fellas are growing, and quickly. According to my apps, they should be anywhere from just at 1 pound to around 1.2 pounds this week. I’m a proud surrogate, but more importantly there are two healthy boys moving around like crazy.

The little guys aren’t the only one’s packing on some pounds. I started the pregnancy around 130 lbs. which is about 5 lbs under my “normal” weight, so I’m giving myself that allowance. I now weigh roughly 155, for a total gain of 20 (minus the 5). I’m happy with that. My body is keeping it’s shape pretty well. My stomach is quite big, boobs are growing of course, all else seems to be in order. I’m not too worried about the weight. I learned with my first pregnancy that we all gain differently. I always imagined I would be one of those women who would only gain 20-25 pounds, but reality had different plans, since with Jacqueline I gained a solid 47 pounds. I will say that most of it, in my opinion, was in my ankles.😉

Speaking of elephant ankles, hoping maybe we can skip those this time, although I’m thinking with two babies, that’s probably not likely, and going to be happening sooner than later. Back pain, alarming leg cramps in the middle of the night, and the pain in my pelvis are all increasing daily, so I know my body is working hard to accommodate the growing occupants.

I have some fun, new symptoms this go round, including dizziness while standing. I can walk for miles with no problems, but the second I try to stand in line, forget about it… Which brings me to Pregnancy Brain, which is really making me appreciate the capacity and memory I had before. I never realized how capable I was at processing, storing & recalling information until about 2 months ago. Even simple words escape me regularly, and for this reason, this post is going to be short, just like my memory.

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14. No News = Good News

Cervix measured exactly 3.3 cm, same as 2 weeks ago, so feeling very optimistic. I think I read too many post about early labor/delivery, so the twins have me worried they are going to try to squeeze out early. I have no actual indication this will be the case for me, my water sprung a leak with Baby J on her due date, and twins run in my family with my mom being a twin and her twin having had twins, but you just never know. I do know that if the boys could kick and flip their way out they’d have already done it.

As for me, I’m feeling great. I did a 10 mile hike at 18 weeks, and although everything was fine I decided maybe that was a bit excessive. I think it just feels good to feel good again so I’m taking full advantage. I’ve cut back to about 6 miles tops, but only once a week, since I work full time. I think my propensity for hiking has a lot to do with how difficult it is to find things to do that don’t involve drinking and spending money, plus the list of “do nots” I have in my contract, while also trying to off put the occasions I allowed myself the ice cream instead of applesauce.

That being said, my belly is about as big now at 22 weeks with the twins as it was full term with Baby J, so a bit curious of what to expect in the coming months. Being a single (and looking) girl, it’d be nice to have my body bounce back like it did last time, but that might be a tall order… guess I’ll just have to keep polishing the old personality.

Wish I could say more, but I’m glad to have to think of things to talk about.

 

13. Officially Outnumbered!

It’s been FOREVER it seems since I’ve had an update. I’m 18 weeks, 3 days and we had our anatomy scan this morning.At this point both boys are measuring exactly to date, which is to be expected with the certainty of in-vitro.

I’ve been feeling little bodies push against my stomach for about 3 weeks now. At first I didn’t believe it, since 15 weeks is quite early, even for twins, but Baby A (leftie) wouldn’t let me deny it.

Baby B (rightie) has been a bit more mellow, which gave me hope he might be a she, but turns out the placenta is to the front so not going to feel much out of him. I already feel that I have a sense of some personality.

Leftie is the little wild man. He seems naturally defiant, not intentionally, he’s just marching to the beat of his own drummer. This was confirmed in the anatomy scan. He just could not be still and took some coercing. At one point he yawned as though to point out his apparent boredom with the lack of stimulation in there.

Rightie, on the other hand, took a third of the time. Every single mark was easily made and he seems to be the mellow, cooperative type.

I can’t wait to get to know them better. A few months ago I was pretty honest about  my doubts of being able to love these babies as much as my first, baby J. I was wrong. I’m so in love and they are such lights in my life, just like the little girl who preceded them in my womb.

Speaking of which, Custody battle is still in the works. I’m learning a lot now about not dwelling on the negatives. My heart still hurts for Baby J, but focusing on it and letting it wear on me day in and day out isn’t helping anyone and it certainly won’t change anything.

It took a couple of months to just be okay, first-trimester symptoms with twins DID NOT help, but soon after the New Year my capacity for loving life began to expand again. Now I can say that I’m truly beaming with light…. Until, of course, I get my attorney’s bill each month, but I just have to keep reminding myself that there is no amount of money that surpasses Baby J’s right to a happy, loving life. I’m still in this. I truly believe I love her at a capacity that no one else involved in this case can and I just have to believe in that love.

All things considered I feel truly blessed. The twins are healthy and I’m in love with being pregnant. I’ve never felt more beautiful. Baby J is alive and well and there is still a good chance I’ll at least have a place in her life.

In a way I’m glad for the opportunity to experience both light and darkness on the same timeline. The twins were transferred on November 6, and Jacqueline’s dad passed away on the 11th. The little guys are due in July and it’s approximately this time we’re expecting the situation for custody of Baby J to be concluded. It’s very clear that my outlook is a reflection of what I concentrate on, so  I’m making a point to continue moving forward and looking on the bright side of every situation.

This year is about new life and change and growing pains, physically, mentally & emotionally. There is a lot of symbolism with the necessity of loss and how even the most hopeless and seemingly negative experiences can blossom and open the door for gain in the forms of perspective, understanding, perseverance deep appreciation and love.

Oh well, I guess I’m just thankful for this time of turbulence. I’m thankful for the experiences and what they can teach me. I’m making a point of taking note.  I’m thankful that good and bad coexist, and that our lives are so diverse and uncertain, and that all the bad, when we look back at it are really just stepping stones on a beautiful and most amazing journey.

 

 

12. Surrogate Seeks Custody

So this is something new and should sufficiently explain my hiatus from up-keeping my blog at such a pivotal point in any pregnancy.

First, let me say that I am now 9 weeks 2 days with my IP’s twins and currently have nothing concrete that would keep me from remaining optimistic that this time next year my IP’s will be celebrating the holidays as a family of four.

We had our second ultrasound on Saturday, December 19th and saw two strong beating hearts and even some moving limbs. What an amazing and surreal vision to see them moving around in there, in me. Just wow. There are just no words to explain the happiness, and the hope for potential future happiness. Not only to see the beginnings of life, but the smiles on faces of people you know deserve to be parents as much as anybody.

The fact of the matter is that I needed that moment as much as they did. My own personal life is being hit by something very emotional and very difficult in regards to Baby J, the child born of my first surrogacy.

As mentioned previously she has recently lost her father, and only legal guardian, and I’m heart broken for her. Furthermore, I believe myself to be a strong candidate for custody, and I intend to pursue it. I’ve detailed in the GoFundMe page I started for legal fees if your interest encourages you to read further re: my case (link below).

Surrogate Seeks Custody (GoFundMe)

So now I’m here, so much excitement and heartache mixed to the brim with uncertainty. Pregnant and excited for the lives within me and hurting for the life I helped create 3 years ago. It’s been a struggle to say the least. It’s hard to know what to concentrate my energy into. Sometimes I’m oblivious to even being pregnant, until I have to pee, or take medication, or realize that I can’t have a drink.

A part of me wonders if this is the mixed bag of emotions for expectant parents who have lost a child. Joy simultaneously triggering feelings of guilt and even betrayal. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe I can be feeling exactly the same level of turmoil, and I am grateful for that, but there is a little girl that I love very much that is hurting very much and there is nothing I can do to help her right now.

Last Friday I watched as Baby J was taken from the woman who has been a secondary caregiver in her life as she desperately tried to bargain with her to “Please don’t leave me,” “Please come with me.” “Why won’t you stay with me.” “I need you.” Tears streaming down her face. NO CHILD should ever have to reason or barter to have the people they love and trust in their lives. It’s unfortunate that her temporary guardians aren’t compelled to show any regard to the sanctity of keeping the people she loves and trusts close by, or at least allow (or really even encourage) contact. Especially at a time when she just lost her primary sense of security, her father, just over a month ago, and now, the only other person that has been in her life from the beginning. Which is why I have to get involved.

The battle is going to be a long road. I’m fortunate that I have the support of a tight knit group of friends of her father, who have been exposed to my relationship with Jacqueline from the very beginning, and am also happy to be given the support of 2 other parties currently seeking custody, including the secondary caregiver described above.  This is already proving to be a cathartic relationship dynamic in this rigorous and draining process, and I’m at least happy that baby J is loved unselfishly by so many, who really want the best for her, and just want to be included in her life… The downfall is that she is not with one of them now.

There’s not really a whole lot else to say, except it got me thinking about the argument at the base of surrogacy. We’ve all seen the slogan, “In it for the outcome, not the income.” I’ve personally had a falling out with 2 friends (both male), since starting this recent surrogacy, who questioned my motives. I found it difficult to explain to these people what’s in my heart, I tried emphatically, but people tend to think the worst in situations they couldn’t possibly understand, which seems to be a theme at this particular moment in this country.

That being said, I think it’s important to point out that, when all is said and done, surrogates are really not in it for the money. For 9 months, and longer, we love these children as though they are our own. We are proud of them when their first heartbeat is strong and on point, and when they are measuring a day over their age; alternatively we’re routing for them when they are a day under. We provide them with intentional nourishment and send them good thoughts and energy while the building blocks of the person they will become are falling into place. We imagine what they will be like and we try to influence it in any good way we can.  Last Friday, I sat on the stand in cross-examination and answered to an attorney regarding my contract and payment as though I had done something wrong, insinuating with each question that greed, and not love, was at the root of my agreement. I answered all of their questions with my head held high, and with clear certainty. I am proud to be a surrogate, I’m proud to be her surrogate. I’m proud that I can give love and create life and give it away for someone else to nurture and benefit from. It is not an easy thing to do. You don’t do that for the money. You don’t sign away your love and hopes and intentions for that child to have a great life. You don’t just stop that kind of love and devotion because you’ve reached the end of a contract. You enter into surrogacy because of love and when that signature goes on the line to secure the IP’s position as their legal parent, you sign your name with that same love and a shit ton of trust.

 

11. Life.

PREGNANT! 6 weeks, 3 days today. I’m feeling nauseous and exhausted. Even thinking of foods that I used to love makes me cringe. Mostly I can eat cereal without getting queasy, which makes me nervous that (against the odds) I’m TRIPLE pregnant. 1st ultrasound is this Saturday, December 5th, so we should know then hopefully.

FYI-My first pregnancy with Baby J had no symptoms whatsoever, to the point where I waited for each ultrasound just to be sure there was still something swimming around in there.

MY HCG counts from this transfer, compared to the previous transfer of twins that miscarried at 5 and 5.5 weeks (Below).

November 18, 2015: 1st HCG Beta:  1,756

Previous Transfer(Twins): 1st HCG Beta:  1,380

November 20, 2015: 2nd HCG Beta: 4,467

Previous Transfer (Twins): 2nd HCG Beta:  3,410

In other news, and the reason for my update delay, as you may know the transfer of 3 frozen embryos was on N0vember 6th… November 11, I got news that Baby J’s father, and only legal guardian passed away. I’m still reeling from the news, thinking it might eventually sink in.

After the transfer the nurse requested that I try not to travel for the first two weeks, to which I replied, that shouldn’t be a problem. I was wrong. 5 days later I was on the phone with her to get permission to attend the funeral in Texas.

My relationship with Baby J is different than most surrogacy situations. I’ve been involved in her life since literally the first minute. I went home with them after her birth and stayed for a  couple of weeks, and returned 4 months later to take over as nanny indefinitely. I stayed with her day and night for 5 months until I ultimately returned to California to continue with life as usual.

Believe me, this was not an easy decision. I will always feel that there is a piece of me walking around outside of my body and the further away it is, the harder it is to be okay about it. I just knew that under the circumstances it was for the best.

However, as emotionally difficult as it could sometimes be, I was always grateful to be in the situation I was in, where my IP encouraged and welcomed me into their lives. We were a true modern family.

There are 3 years worth of sentiment and memories that  I could reflect on, but the short and sweet version, is that Baby J, who celebrated her 3rd birthday (coincidentally as her daddy celebrated his 51st birthday) on October 16th, lost her daddy 3 weeks later rather unexpectedly and is now without a mommy or a daddy.

My heart aches for her. My heart hurts for her daddy, who is going to miss such an amazing life.   We’ve always felt that she was an old soul and she’s always lived up to that impression.

I remember her daddy asking me when I was about 8 months pregnant, what I thought she might look like and I told him, “I don’t know, but I know she’s got a calm and considerate spirit”… I was right. The last 3 years this would get brought up often. It’s an amazing thing to know a person before they’re a breathing person. She’s such a gift and she is beyond her years, so it’s hard to imagine what might be going on in that little head.

I wonder if I’ll have this kind of connection to the new embies.

A friend of her daddy mentioned that she had visited a couple of weeks before his death and they discussed what would happen if something ever happened to him. Unaware that baby J was listening, they were surprised when she spoke up and said, “Don’t worry daddy. I see angels all around you.”

I was a little surprised, although her daddy had spoken of a couple occasions where J had mentioned something “otherworldly.” I never really quite knew what to think of it. To be honest, it wasn’t so surprising, because she’s always been beyond her years, even as an infant she had a calm about her that was beyond. I’m not exclusive of any type of belief so this isn’t concerning to me.

We saw Baby J after the funeral and she was happy and playful as ever. She made me think of how special children are. She mentioned that she misses her daddy. I don’t know if she really knows that he’s gone in the capacity of which he is, but thinks maybe that he just went somewhere and isn’t coming back… this a little more difficult to imagine that she might think anyone could possibly ever just leave her and not come back on their own will.

I can’t go into much more detail right now because there’s just so much we don’t know. It’s uncertain what the future holds for her, or where she’ll end up, or with whom. My fear now is losing her altogether. I truly love her like she’s my own and if I could, I would try for custody, but what will happen will happen, as always.

I just hope for the best and that she’ll have a long and happy life with a great person who will love her more than they have ever loved anything or anyone, because she deserves nothing less.

So now I’m torn. I’ve always believed it’s so important to be upbeat and positive throughout a pregnancy. I’m trying my best, but the uncertainty and concern I have for my first angel is hard to overcome.

In addition, and it’s scary to say this out loud, I’m generally worried that I won’t be able to have the same kind of love and bond that I think is so necessary for these little lights. I’m hoping that once I feel them kicking around and they become “real” to me things will change, but it’s definitely a worry of mine.  Since Baby J was born I’ve had this fear, even about having my own kids someday. It just feels impossible that that much love could exist, but knowing me it should start burning me up once I see their little bodies curled up on the ultrasound.

So life as we know it is quite a chaotic mix bag of emotions at the moment.  I’ve actually updated this post about 10 times in the past 2 hours, because it is really hard to put down so many thought and make them at all comprehensible. In the spirit of moving forward, I’m trying to take a page out of Baby J’s playbook.

While my mom and I were visiting with her after the funeral, J continued to play and sing and revel in life. I wouldn’t say that she is blissfully ignorant, I think she just isn’t conformed to the idea that we should dwell on the negative. Bad things happen and you can choose how you deal with it. Feeling sorry or sad or defeated is a decision we make everyday. I thought I learned this with the recent miscarriages; I looked for the silver lining and I found enough to push me through, but I think it’s a practice, rather than a lesson. Something you remember to do with time.