I’ve been asked over and over again how delivery was. I’ve been asked when I want to be a surrogate for another family. There are so many things I’m not quite ready to answer but for those of you that have followed this story for many MANY years I can tell you that Guy is absolutely perfect. That my delivery was slightly different than I remember labor to be but in the end a baby was born. He was born at 6:19 pm on March 5, 2014. He looked perfect just as Jayde did nearly 17 years ago.
I’ve not yet posted my final post because I’ve got a number of things to deal with on my own before I open them up for the entire world. For those of you that I don’t speak to regularly or that have seen endless images of Guy on my Facebook page here is a picture of him from today. Today he laughs and so do I…..
I’ve been asked many times in the past few months if I’m regretting my choice to be a surrogate. I’ve been told by many that they think I regret my decisions. The answer is really easy for me. I’m not regretting any of the decisions to be a surrogate and I wouldn’t have changed the outcome. I don’t sit around and feel sorry for myself on what has been happening. I’m just grateful that I’m able to help intended parents wanting a child and that all of the issues I’m experiencing are able to be fixed.
I do wish that it wouldn’t have taken seven years to get to the end result but I also understand that things don’t always happen in the time frame that I choose. There is a reason that things have taken as long as they have and there is a reason that I contracted AVN (Avascular Necrosis) during pregnancy. I can’t dwell on the reasons why, I can only accept the fact that they ARE.
I’ve made the decision that I will not be able to help any other intended parents wishing to have a child though. I think my body is telling me that this little Guy is the only surrogate baby I will be able to have. I had originally wanted to help multiple intended parents obtain their dream of having a family so this was not an easy choice to make. I know that I can help people without carrying the child for them though. I can be part of a support system they need and I can answer any of the questions that are confusing throughout the surrogacy process. I’ve worked with multiple doctors and understand the protocol that is needed to get pregnant as a surrogate. This will be my main goal moving forward.
More often than not I’ve found that silence is my best form of therapy. I’ve come across this yet again. I’ve been silent partly because I didn’t know what to write and partly because I needed to keep it inside for just a bit longer. Ronen and Gadi needed to make the decision to use a different surrogate based on the multiple failures in our program. The doctor has indicated it had nothing to do with me as well as Ronen and Gadi indicating it would take them years to find another match as incredible as ours. Instead of letting the hurt out, I just kept it close to my heart where I still owned it. I had control over my emotions when everything was locked up inside and I didn’t need to talk about it.
Last week, I needed to be re-screened to be a surrogate and part of the process is a psych evaluation. Everything went quite well (at least I think they did) and the doctor asked me the same questions as previous evaluations. It wasn’t until she indicated I should be mourning the loss of my fallopian tube because I had lost a part of me that I became more aware of the piece that was really missing from me. I did nothing short of beg the surgeon to take both fallopian tubes when she asked me if I had any questions prior to surgery. I tried to convince her that there was no way I was going to wake up one morning and be like “Whoops! I forgot to have another child” considering Jayde is now closer to 15 than 14. I’ve known since she was born that one isn’t the loneliest number but the perfect number of offspring for me. That I would commit the rest of my child-bearing years to providing it to anyone else wishing to have one, or two, or three or whatever number is their perfect number. I knew I wouldn’t be mourning the loss of a stupid tube that caused another failed attempt for Ronen and Gadi, that I was cursing it under my breath because of what transpired. If she would have only taken both tubes, I would never run into this issue again; granted the chances are really slim, but still a possibility.
While sitting in the office for the psych evaluation the ache started to set in and I knew what was missing from me, it wasn’t a fallopian tube, it was Ronen and Gadi. I remain in constant contact with them but it’s not the same. Instead of nearly daily emails, they’ve dropped off to just about once a week. Instead of laughing on Skype with them, I’m left wondering if they will find a match that fills their needs, that produces a viable pregnancy when it was the one thing I wanted to do more than any other. I also wonder if they will be happy with their new match or if they too will be thinking of the things that I’m thinking of. I know it takes a remarkable person to be a surrogate so there is not a chance that they will end up with someone who isn’t up to the standards that I believe a surrogate should have. In stating surrogates are remarkable women, I don’t feel that I fall into the “remarkable” category. I feel that I am just normal doing the right thing. The right thing for me and without a doubt, the right thing for the intended parents. Doing the right thing doesn’t seem remarkable to me.
Back in January Jayde and I went back to Toronto for my third implant. The flight was flawless, ride from the airport to the hotel was wonderful and check in to the hotel went without a hitch. Jayde and I had quite some time prior to my implant so we planned a few fun things. We went to an outdoor ice rink and attempted to skate. Jayde is only used to skating with her skates so the rental skates really weren’t working for her. We “skated” for about 15 minutes before she said she was done! We spent a large amount of time at the Easton mall in which Jayde wanted just about everything. She got a necklace she wanted and a few other little things. I must say shopping in Toronto SUCKS! It’s highly over priced.
Jayde got to experience Ruth Chris‘s without being a vegetarian for that particular day. The last time Jayde was in Toronto with me she decided she was going to be a vegetarian for the week and ate a salad while I ate a steak served sizzling in butter. Nearly every day since we’ve been in Toronto, Jayde has asked if we can go back so she can eat another steak sizzling in butter. I sort of feel the same. I wish we had one closer to where we live; but then again I’d want to go there constantly and we’d never have money for anything else.
Implant day came and I went to CReATE while Jayde stayed at the hotel. At CReATe everything was the same as previous trips. It’s busy with women desperately trying to have a child. My turn came and I went to the procedure room, laid on the table and started to wait. Dr. Librach came in the room and while I was laying on the table with my legs up, he said “Oh my, Christina! Your uterus looks amazing! Good job thickening it!” I thought that was a bit awkward but who am I to question what my uterus really looks like? I let Ronen know what the doctor had said and he thought I should walk around with a sign that says “Dr L thinks my uterus is amazing!” Unfortunately I couldn’t convince Jayde to carry the sign.
I waited the standard two weeks prior to the pregnancy test. Anyone that’s gone through the two-week waiting period can attest to the fact it’s the longest two weeks ever! The test unfortunately was zero which means yet again I’m not pregnant. It’s so frustrating to try so hard for something and for it to end up negative time after time. I always feel that I’ve done something wrong, that I didn’t give myself a shot at exactly the right time, that I took the other meds without an appropriate amount of food or at the wrong time. I sit and analyze this hour after hour, day after day once I hear the results are sent back as negative.
So now I sit and wait to determine whether or not I will go back for an additional implant. Lucky for me Ronen and Gadi still have a large number of embryo’s frozen.
I need to deviate from the Surrogate post just to talk about Lucas tonight. Anyone who knows me well knows how important this little man is and for those who don’t, I will give a brief explanation of the little man who melted my heart.
As all stories, there needs to be a beginning, middle and end. I hope to provide an inspirational beginning, a middle full of drool and smiles but I surely hope that I don’t need to discuss the end anytime soon. The beginning actually happened before I had met Lucas, it began when I got into an accident at an amusement park while I was on vacation and it changed my life as I knew it then and as I know it now as well as brought me screaming back to my parents house. The accident was something I generally don’t talk about so many have no clue that I was even hurt. The summer of 2003, I hit my head so hard I lost the sight in my shutter eye! Any photographer knows this is something that generally ruins your career. I stopped shooting completely for about a year because I just couldn’t get over the shock, pain and disgust. I thought I would never be in a studio again.
After numerous doctor appointments, it was evident that IF I ever wanted to shoot again I would need to train my left eye to shoot the camera. Since I am completely right eye dominant, I knew this was going to be a daunting task. I didn’t know if I would be able to ever be strong enough to will myself through taking off-center blurry images just to see if it would work. I spent months in my bedroom at my parents house contemplating this and never once came up with a clear answer. I just knew that I was broken and I didn’t know if I could fix myself. I rarely left their house because I thought people would judge me for being 26 years old and living at my parents house because the loads of money I made in New Jersey had run out. I was able to live there for a number of months and pay a ridiculously high-priced lawyer to get the state to release jurisdiction of Jayde back to North Dakota but after that, the money was dwindling fast. Doctor appointment after doctor appointment to figure out how to fix my eye didn’t help when I no longer had health insurance.
There was one person that came into my dads bar in July 2003 that made one comment which changed things for me. He said “Geez! Smile once in a while it really can’t be that bad.” That one comment was a turning point for me. I wanted to work to train myself to shoot again no matter how off centered the images could be. I was going to fight even harder.
I worked and worked and finally obtained a studio position at a local studio. This was so difficult because I had been working only for myself in New Jersey; the studio was mine, what I wanted went. Now I needed to run any ideas by another photographer and the owner of the company. I know the title is “All About Lucas,” but I needed to provide a bit of a back story prior to getting to the good stuff.
On Tuesday December 14, 2004 my life changed again. This was the day I first met Lucas and I knew what I wanted to do with the abilities I had acquired. Lucas came into the studio with his mom Teresa and older brother Alex. The first images I took of Alex were priceless, even though he was in tears a majority of the session. He cried and cried and I just laughed. I didn’t laugh because I thought it was funny, I laughed because I loved what I was doing. I was meant to be the button pusher on this specific day. I have a fondness for Alex that is also unlike many other sessions I’ve shot, but I’ll be honest with you, Lucas is by far my favorite! I know it’s wrong to pick a favorite child or a favorite session, but I really don’t care, I will say it on a daily basis, Lucas is my favorite!
The session of Lucas went similar to any other session with the exception of Teresa giving me a little extra information about Lucas. She let me know that he had neurological regression and he wasn’t on the same target level as other babies his age but the thing he could do was drool and smile. Two of my favorite things in babies. His eyes captured me and just held me as if to say “You’re welcome to come into my soul and learn from me. Really, it’s ok.” Who would have guessed that someone so small could have such a large impact on the rest of my life?
I was told that if people were added to a session, I needed to charge an additional session fee; I thought I needed to break the rules and get Teresa in a few of the images. From that day, I’ve been able to get Teresa into almost every session of Lucas because I thought it was important. Not because she ever uttered the words “can you take an image of me?” How many adults really want to have an image of them self anyway? I know I don’t.
Teresa and I didn’t talk much during that session and the boy’s father, Kevin, brought them to their next; so there was so much that I didn’t yet know that would be such a life changer for me. I thought I was doing so good too, I had retrained myself to shoot with an eye I’d never lined up behind a view finder, I had gotten out of my parents house and I was back in a studio again. Little did I know, I had not yet begun to do anything and the life changing aspects were still to come. Some good and some devastating. All I knew at that very moment, was I wanted to see Lucas again because there was something about him. I couldn’t quite place it but it was just something I needed in my life.
Every time I would shoot a session for Lucas, I would get the same incredible smiles and drool. His eyes would always have that “come on in and let me teach you a few things” and I would learn something from him every time I saw him. Shortly after this session in September of 2005, I learned he had a sister. Ariana was five years old and she too had an undiagnosed regressive neurological disease which was robbing her of her childhood. How was it that I never asked Teresa if she had any other children? I just assumed that since she had brought Alex and Lucas that she only had two boys. I’ve searched endlessly tonight for the CD with images of Ariana and I’m not able to locate the files. I’ve moved multiple times since I shot the images of her and just can’t seem to find that one missing CD. I will be sure to update this again once I do have those precious images of Teresa’s angel though.
There was a gap between sessions of Lucas because of the loss of Ariana. Something no parent should ever need to deal with. In that time, I had a lot of time to reflect. I had nearly a year-long pity party where I felt my life couldn’t get any worse. I know it sounds trivial in the grand scheme of things but it was so dramatic to have everything I had worked so hard for gone in the blink of an eye (I know bad pun). It was during these many months of reflection that I knew what I needed to do to fulfill my life. I needed to become a special needs photographer and hone my skills on what I can do to create history for these families that have much larger burdens than I could have ever handled.
I thought the last post was getting a bit long, so I separated them into two different posts. How can someone not love that face, and those eyes? They are captivating and just priceless. By the time I had taken this image, so much had changed. I moved out of the studio and into my own house with a studio for the simple fact I wanted to provide a service “Portraits with Purpose” I wanted to give to those that had children that needed the history created and I didn’t want to charge for my services. Don’t get me wrong, I still charged for some sessions, just not for sessions in which history needed to be created because time was definitely limited. This was now my specialty and I wouldn’t go back and make any changes. When I lived in New Jersey, it was all about the money, how many sessions I could shoot in any given week and how many canvas prints I could push so I could buy Jayde something that she most likely didn’t need. Now I had changed the way I looked at these images and realized I was creating history instead of creating a profit. Shame on me for ever thinking making a profit on anyone and everyone was the right thing to do!
So do you now understand my love for Lucas. The fact his eyes captivate me and his smiles melt my heart. The drool is just an added bonus!
Teresa posted on her Caring Bridge site that “Lucas has contagious whole-body giggles & a strength beyond what I imagine. The lessons they’ve taught are worth more than any schooling. They are lessons of the heart; heart tears.” How can someone so young, someone so small touch so many lives when he is in constant agony? How can he laugh when he should be crying? To this day, I still don’t understand the strength Lucas has and the strength he provides to those around him. He is, in my eyes, a true hero!
I don’t know exactly when it was but I began to refer to Lucas as “My Lucas.” It was such a natural progression that I can’t really pinpoint when it happened either. Someone would ask what I was doing and I would indicate, I needed to take pictures of “My Lucas” today and they ultimately knew exactly what I was talking about. Lucas was shaping me into a better photographer and all around better person. Anyone that really know me, will be able to tell you that I generally have one emotion and that’s happy. Nothing really touches me, nothing moves me, I generally just keep to myself and am “unmovable.” Except when Lucas is in the room. When he is in my presence, I am able to experience so many other emotions. Bizarre, I know!
Teresa so graciously allowed me into her little family and I allowed them into ours. I took Christmas pictures, was invited to birthday parties, attended karaoke parties, was there for laughter and tears, I was honored when Teresa invited me to her wedding not only as a photographer but also as a friend. I was called when Lucas lost his first tooth because this was a milestone Teresa had waited endlessly for. Now besides the contagious crinkle nose, drool-y smiles I would get upon saying his name, I would get to experience the gap tooth smile we had so eagerly awaited.Lucas had his seventh birthday party at a bowling alley and I saw so many smiles and so much excitement from Lucas. It was such a wonderful day and again I was so blessed to be asked to join them on this special day.
Now to the part I really don’t want to discuss. Lucas isn’t doing so good. He is in the hospital awaiting a very complicated surgery tomorrow that the doctors have never attempted on anyone else before and it is unknown what will happen during or after surgery. I’ve taken the following information directly from his Caring Bridge site because I could never begin to explain the things Teresa can so eloquently state:
The future – on monday he will undergo and very extensive and intricate cervical spine fusion surgery lasting up to 10 hours.
His rib will be harvested for proper bone fusion, he will enter the world Christopher Reeves, minus the vent, with some crazy headgear called a halo where barbaric nuts and bolts are screwed in his skull. We hope that with Lucas’s history of weakened bones, it holds. After the surgery, he may regain what he lost but it’s doubtful. The main purpose of the surgery is to prevent further damage, mainly keep him alive. If his cord gets damaged further, he’ll stop breathing and end up on a vent or worse.
It is the best of the worst options. I try to stick with the old tried and trued saying that everything happens for a reason but I’m not sure I’m on board with paralysis in a kid who is already in a wheelchair due to other undiagnosed developmental delay. I guess the good news that we are already well eqipped to handle this. It would be much different but equally devastating if Lucas were a normal healthy 7 year old.
Did I mention that Lucas also has what appears to have a tumor in his brain? We’ll figure out the status-quo of that issue at a later time. Right now it’s on the back burner with his hip dislocation.
Gillette, now part of my medical heart, has built-in compassion and caring that can only be replicated by other specialized childrens facilities. Their kindness has kept me from jumping over the edge of insanity. I’m still teetering though. When I asked the pediactric neurosurgeon how many surgeries like this he has performed. He smiled nervously and said “none.” Trust is imperative.
So now I’m going to be selfish! I’m not ready by any means to take Lucas’s last images. He needs to make it through this surgery just as he has many others. He needs to open his eyes and smile when he hears his name or when someone says “Ouch!” If he is in the halo, it will just be part of his Super Hero costume and it will be decorated appropriately.