Sunday, 26 July 2020
At the time of writing this, I am approaching 3 months into being an active IP on my surrogacy journey and, to be completely honest, I feel exhausted!
Let me explain why.
I begin most days with a 6 am alarm. As the relaxing tones emanate from my phone on the bedside cupboard, the songs of Radio 1 begin to play from the speaker in the kitchen downstairs. I go about my morning ablutions whilst Tor paces back and forth between me and the front door. It’s morning walk time. I gather up the water bottle, bag of treats and begin the dance of trying to put the collar on the dog – he’s so stubborn! We eventually leave and bundle ourselves into the car. Where shall we go this morning? We meet new faces almost every morning. I smile at passers-by, nod to say good morning. The usual discussions take place which revolves around the state of the weather and how playful and boisterous my dog is! These morning dog walks allow me the time to be one with my thoughts, to mull over the events of the past few days, weeks and months. At many points throughout the day, I will take the time to check the various surrogacy social media pages on Facebook, for there are many. Usually, a post from an IP will signify that they are “matched” or in a GTK (Getting to know). I take the time to congratulate them and wish them well on the next step in their journey.
It’s shopping day. I throw my re-usable bags onto the back seat and set off to the supermarkets. I collect my “COVID-secure” trolley, which has just been cleaned by the trolley guy and make my way into the unknown. I traverse the aisles and try to keep my distance, but can’t help but notice a young mother passing a small apple to her toddler in the baby seat. This brings a smile to my face as it stirs a myriad of emotions within. She catches my eye and I smile and dissemble as I make my way past. At many points throughout the day, I will take the time to check the various surrogacy social media pages on Facebook. Someone is bound to have posted a conversation starter for all to get involved and share their thoughts. Some days IPs or surrogates post beautiful stories of the baby they have just had. I take the time to congratulate all involved and wish them all well on their futures as new families.
I tend to have some appointment scheduled on a Wednesday. Not out of design, purely by accident. I smile and listen attentively throughout the zoom call or telephone conversation. I usually set aside some time to work on my blog for the following week. Documenting the events which have taken place in the previous week. This gives me time to digest each event and spill my thoughts onto the digital page. At many points throughout the day, I will take the time to check the various surrogacy social media pages on Facebook. Some days there will be a new member who has joined one or many of the groups. Usually, they post an introductory piece to explain who they are, where they are from and at what point they are on their journey. I try and make a point of welcoming them to the group and wish them well on their journey.
Washing day. Not the most exciting of rituals in the week, but essential none the less. Weather permitting, I may even mow the lawn and do some gardening. With the summer holidays in full swing, I have even contemplated a little bit of Garden DIY and knock up a pallet planter to hang on the outside wall. Possibly an herb garden or wildflowers for the bees. I smile and wave at my neighbours as they too go about their gardening chores. At many points throughout the day, I will take the time to check the various surrogacy social media pages on Facebook. Surrogacy expenses seem to be a hot topic in many of the independent groups. I try not to get involved in these heated debates about whether it's polite or not to ask a surrogate for a break down of her costs. After all, its none of my business how she calculates how her time and energy should be quantified in monetary terms.
This means pizza and horror film night at my friend Jules’ home. Jules is a single mum. I love our Friday evenings together. Whilst we speak quite regularly throughout the week, this time allows me to update her on my journey. She makes the most perfect coffees and I have now finally plucked up the courage to tell her I prefer sugar, not sweetener… It's only taken me 4 years to tell her! But the best part of Friday night at Jules’ is getting to see her beautiful and confident daughters. The eldest is soon to start her GCSE’s and is finding her way through being a teenager. The youngest is a cheeky little lady with the most infectious laugh and adventurous personality. Both girls, polar opposites of each other, but a testament to their mother’s perseverance and sacrifices over the years. We all smile and laugh as we watch the Guinea Pigs “popcorn” in their playpen and talk about the events of the week. At many points throughout the day, I will make the time to check the various surrogacy social media pages on Facebook. Posts usually consist of “end of the week” positivity posts. Many share their plans for the weekend ahead. I usually get involved and share my intentions.
Social Night. SUK frequently hold a social on a Saturday evening. During the current crisis, this has led to online-only socials to keep us all safe. A highlight of my week as it allows me to meet other IPs and surrogates through the medium of Zoom and “Life Bingo”. I’ll set the scene. A 5x5 grid of events, activities or even random objects. All participants are split into “rooms” of 4 or 5 and you discuss who has achieved or represents the questions set out on the Bingo Card. A thoroughly enjoyable night of humour, friendship-building and information gathering, as you switch between 4 or 5 rooms throughout the night. I smile intently as I listen to others discuss their week and journeys. We swap anecdotes of our journeys and aspects of our lives. Where we live, what stage we are at. Most comment on Tor, who is usually fast asleep on the sofa behind me.
When the social ends the afterparty begins. Usually, only a handful of families attend. The usual faces. All wonderful, bubbly characters. Stalwarts of the SUK community. Many IPs who have completed surrogacy journeys or, like me, are either waiting to find their perfect match or are a “listy” (the colloquial term for those who are on the waiting list to become full members of SUK). Then, of course, there are the Surrogates; heroes of our time who have all given so much to so many in order to provide precious life for those who would otherwise be lost. The night usually ends at 1:30 after the numbers have diminished and many have given in to the lure of sleep. After I shut off my laptop, I take the time to check the various surrogacy social media pages on Facebook. I may search for someone who I have met during the evening, and send them a friend request. Gosh, I’ve never had so many friends on Facebook!
Before I conclude I would point out that this is not intended as a “pity piece”. This is an aspect of the journey which I feel should also be highlighted and I fully respect that many others share the same anxieties and fears. Whilst I go about my day-to-day business no-one sees the true impact of what it means for me to be an IP. I mask my worries with a smile.
Coupled with this are my concerns that as I am not yet a full member of SUK, I feel like I shouldn’t give too much of myself - it’s such a long wait until my membership is granted. Yet, at the same time, I worry that if I am not active, who will know I exist? I worry that when the time comes and I am allowed to submit my profile for surrogates to see, will anyone pay my story any attention? Will my profile stand out to someone who will be willing to accompany me on my journey and bear my dream to reality? During the afterparties, I generally sit on the side-lines and listen on as conversations build and flow. After all, what would I say? Will anyone be interested in anything I have to say? I don’t know anyone that well. I hope they don’t think I’m not interested in being part of the conversation.
I’m single. I worry that this may put some surrogates off and, therefore, reduce my chances of someone picking me even more. On top of that, am I strong enough to work twice as hard to make up for the fact that I am on my own?
I worry that the odds are against me. Every day I see new IPs join the many independent social groups and post their introductions. However, the number of surrogate additions appear to be much lower. Even when there is a new surrogate post, I worry that if I message them privately would they take offence? Will I come across as too strong, or too forward?
I also worry about getting older. “You’re 33, you’re still young” people tell me. I don’t want to be an older parent; I want to experience the youth of my child whilst I’m young and healthy. At the same time, I am eager (or impatient?) for my journey to move faster than it is. “Good things come to those who wait,” they say. Well, how long will I have to wait? My whole life has revolved around patterns, routine and order. Calendars and timetables of where to be and when. This journey has no set path. The frustration of not having authority over my direction of travel. Everything left in the arms of chance. Powerless.
When I participate in independent social groups, I worry that I’m not active enough. At time of writing this I haven’t even created embryos, so worry that making a connection at this stage would result in frustration for any surrogate, as there is still a wait ahead until I am truly ready. I am hoping to have created embryos in the next few months, but first, I need all the medical checks and to find an egg donor. I worry whether I’m healthy enough and will I be able to create viable embryos, or will it all be for nothing?
The worst emotion of them all is the jealousy, and the guilt tied to it. I often see posts of new matches, teams in GTK’s and families with their new-born. The tale of the milestones which eventually lead to the pictures at birth. The feeling of joy for all those who have gone before me, finally fulfilling their dreams of happiness, knowing that they too have most probably been in my present situation. However, the joy on this occasion is also accompanied by envy. The feeling of wishing I too had what they have. The smiles on their faces. I want those happy tears running down my face. The skin-on-skin contact. The unpayable debt which is owed to the heroes who helped.
These thoughts and feelings consume every waking moment of every single day. No-one sees my tears, for I cry when I am alone with my thoughts. But I know that with positivity, perseverance, and probably a little (a lot of) patience, my dad dream will become reality.
Tomorrow is Monday, and It all starts again.
Until next time, keep the Dad dream alive!
Read more from my Dad.Be blog here
Follow me on Instagram @stephens_surrogacy_adventure