Mommy is a Surrogate

IMG_4518

If you have a family of your own and you’ve ever contemplated becoming a surrogate, then you’ve probably wondered how you might address this topic with your children.  For me, it was much simpler than what I had expected and I’d love to share some quick pointers or insights on what that was like for us and our kids.  Before I go any further, keep in mind that at the time I was embarking on this journey, my youngest was not quite 2, my middle child was 4, and my oldest was not quite 6.  The way you approach this with your children might look and sound different depending on their ages and your circumstances.  For us, I was carrying for my sister in law who had battled cancer and couldn’t carry her own.  My children saw her go through that battle and they were excited that their mommy was helping her have a family and that they would get a baby cousin.

  1. They accepted the news better than anyone else we told.  Many adults have preconceived notions of how things are “supposed” to work or what they would consider to be “normal.”  To many of us, we define “normal” as how we were brought up or raised.  Children are so moldable and they look to us for a model of how to live.  When we told our kids about this, we simply told them that Aunt Amanda’s belly was broken.  Aunt Amanda and Uncle Reid wanted a baby, but Aunt Amanda couldn’t carry the baby in her broken belly.  Sometimes, when a mommy’s belly is broken, a doctor will take a cell from the mommy and a cell from the daddy to create something called an embryo, which is the beginning of life for a baby.  Since Aunt Amanda’s belly was broken, the doctor was going to put the embryo in Mommy’s belly so Mommy could carry the baby safely for Aunt Amanda and Uncle Reid.  When the baby is done growing, the doctor will take out the baby and give him or her to the mommy and daddy.  My oldest two definitely understood.
  2. If you are uneasy, talk to a psychiatrist or a psychologist.  This was part of the process for us that we couldn’t avoid even if we wanted.  The fertility clinic we went through required all of us to talk to a psychiatrist and a psychologist.  During those sessions, we asked about how we should share this information with our kids.  They were very helpful and reassured us that the kids would likely take it much better than the adults.  They told us that the only reason kids sometimes have issues with surrogacy is because they may fear that you will meet someone else who wants a baby and decide you will give that person one of your children.  She said that thought could be easily prevented as long as we front load our conversation by explaining that they belong to me and my husband and that we will never ever ever give them away.  The baby in my belly was not mine to keep and was made with the cells of two different people, so the baby belongs to them.  My daughters never questioned this at all, but we did make sure we explained this to them ahead of time.
  3. Use children’s books.  We purchased two different books and we used both to help explain what surrogacy is, the process, and the “why” to our kids.  Our kids still pull the books out for us to read them with them from time to time.  When we first told them about surrogacy, we read the Kangaroo one with them and had Aunt Amanda there with us as we all read it together.  (I will link the books we used at the bottom of this post.)  Please excuse my middle child not wanting to share the book in the video below.  She was a full on threenager at this time…  Ha ha!
  4. Turn this into a very visible lesson on serving those we love.  Unfortunately, my sister in law was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at a very young age.  Due to this, she couldn’t carry her baby.  I volunteered to carry for her, and my husband and I explained to our children how this was an opportunity for us to help people we love and care about be able to have a family as well as an opportunity to give a person a chance at life with incredible and loving parents.  We talked about how sometimes, serving others requires sacrifice and an understanding that there are things far more important than our comforts.  We talked about trusting God to bless us through this process and take care of us.  As they continue to grow, I’m going to talk with them a lot more about obedience.  I felt called to do this, but with a calling often comes what feels like a risk.  But truly, I felt like there was more of a risk for me if I wasn’t obedient.  What if I didn’t do this and they never got to have a family and Adalyn never got to have a life?  What if I didn’t do this and I felt like I could have helped and chose not to help?  Living with that seemed harder than the risks associated with following through and embarking on this process.  FullSizeRender 2
  5. Be honest about the process.  We never said the baby got in my belly through magic, or that everything would be easy.  We told them about the sickness I would feel.  We told them I would be on medicines that would sometimes make me feel a little out of control of my emotions.  We told them Daddy would be giving Mommy shots and we let them watch a few times.  They also watched my husband rub my hips after my shots and they tried helping out with that a few times too.  When they asked me if it hurt, I told them it did, but that it was worth it for their little cousin and for their aunt and uncle.  I told them I’d do the same thing for them if I’d had to and that when you really love someone, sometimes you choose to take the boo boos for them.

    IMG_8861
    The rectangles on my belly were Estrogen patches.  The heating pad was providing some relief from the many knots and bruises I had from Progesterone injections. This was also around the time I was giving myself shots of Lupron in my stomach.
  6. Include them in the conversations, the pregnancy, and meeting the new baby.  My oldest went to a couple of doctor’s appointments with me, which led to some deeper conversations with her during the car rides home.  It was a great opportunity for us to talk and for us to learn from each other. As my belly grew by the day, they would wrap their little arms around my belly and hug me.  They talked to the baby, they felt her move, they gave my belly kisses.  We all loved her from day one and we all had the mindset that while the baby in my belly wasn’t ours, she was still ours to love and our responsibility to make sure she was taken care of.  IMG_1786  IMG_2002All 3 enjoyed celebrating the whole time with us – from finding out the pregnancy took, to seeing the pictures from the first ultrasound, to finding out the baby was a girl.
    IMG_9901
    The girls loved finding out their little cousin was a girl!

    My parents brought the kids to the hospital the day after Adalyn was born. The kids brought little presents for Adalyn and enjoyed getting to hold her in their sweet little arms.  They love visiting with Adalyn and we look at her pictures and videos all the time.  We are especially thankful for FaceTime since Aunt Amanda and Uncle Reid live a few hours away.

    IMG_2116
    Adalyn with her mommy and her big cousins.

To hear a little more about their response to the surrogacy, watch the YouTube video below.  My husband and I did another video about his response to the surrogacy, (click here for that video) where we had some comments from people asking about how our kids responded to the surrogacy.  I asked my daughters if they wanted to do a video, and they jumped off of the couch excited to get started!  So, this video is definitely not the best quality, but it will give you the skinny.  Feel free to share and ask us any other questions you can think of.

Children’s Books:

Sophia’s Broken Crayons by Crystal Falk

The Kangaroo Pouch by Sarah Phillips Pellet

Accomplishments vs. Relationships

IMG_4354.PNG

We’ve all seen the minivans with “My Child is an Honor Student,” listened to others talk about how their kid was a reader before Kindergarten, seen pictures of the neighbor’s kid winning beauty pageants, and watched our coworker’s child score the winning shot at the basketball game.  All of these things are good things and they truly are something to be excited about.  I just wonder, as parents, how much we focus on the accomplishments rather than the relationships.

We even do it to ourselves.  We’re always seeking more.  Whether we want to climb the corporate ladder or gain more “likes” on a social media post, we strive to keep accomplishing.  But when we prioritize accomplishments over relationships, I think we miss the point.

Think about it…  Who do you want to be around?  Do you want to be around someone who has more jewels in their crown, or do you want to be around someone who will listen when you’re struggling?  Would you prefer to work with someone who is always trying to surpass you, or someone who is working alongside of you?  Do you want to marry the guy who makes 6 figures and comes home and props his feet up, or the one who works hard all day making half of what he is worth, but who will give all of the kids baths, feed them dinner, and sing them to sleep while you have some much needed time out with your friends?

When you talk to your kids, is the focus on accomplishments, or is it on how to have great relationships with others?  We sign reading logs, we pay for tutors, we do all the lessons – swim, cheer, football, all of it and there’s nothing wrong with those things.  In fact, I encourage so many of them and there’s a lot to learn when we focus on these types of skills.  Determination, perseverance, grit, goal setting, reflection, and so much more all can come out of these types of intense focus.  It’s good for us and it’s good for our character.  But while we’re doing all of that, let’s also talk about how to listen.  Let’s talk about empathy.  Let’s talk about putting the needs of others before our own comforts and enjoyment.  Let’s talk about giving up our turn so someone else can have an extra turn. Let’s talk about conflict.  Let’s talk about how we respond when something doesn’t seem fair.

Let’s remember that accomplishments should never require us to sacrifice relationships.

I’ve taught a ton of kids.  I’ll never forget their faces and I could definitely write a book on all of the hilarious things they have said and done.  Some of the most impactful kids I have ever taught were not the kids on the honor roll…  They were the kids who worked well with others, who loved to play and pretend and be themselves with whoever wanted to join.  They were the kids who weren’t afraid to share their ideas, but were glad to change their way of attacking a problem or conducting a project when they heard a better idea.  I’ve taught kids who would give up their spot in line at special events so the students with special needs could see better, be closer, or get the treat first.  There aren’t a lot of bumper stickers for this kind of kid, but this kid will be happy and fulfilled.

Sometimes, I catch myself wondering what my kids will be like when they grow up.  I wonder what kind of job they will have, if and who they will marry.  I wonder if one of them will be a musician, or if one might be a runner or an engineer or a writer.  I have to retrain myself to think a bit differently.  I also want to focus more on what kinds of acts of love they might show towards others.  Instead of wondering if one of my girls will look like me, or become a teacher like me, or play the piano like me, I wonder if they might adopt a foster child that needs a home, or if they might be someone’s date to Jesus Prom. I wonder if my son will rub his wife’s shoulders when she has a hard day.  I wonder if he’ll help the elderly lady put groceries in her car and be able to make friends with the coworker twice his age.  I wonder if my kids will know how to work well with others and if they’ll put others before themselves.  I wonder if they’ll smile at the shy kid when they pass him in the hallway.  I wonder if they’ll choose the kid in gym who never gets chosen.  Instead of wondering so much about the accomplishments they might achieve, I want to wonder more about the character they will have and how their lives might impact the world around them.

What do you want to accomplish?  Goal set and do it.  But more importantly, what kind of relationships do you want to have and how will you leave a legacy for all who know you?

 

 

Strong Women Stories

I’m lucky.  I have been surrounded by some pretty strong women my whole life.  I want to start a movement where we showcase the strong women in our lives.  I’ll show you what I mean…

10570422_10201655287218752_6226627991813959178_n
My memom, grandfather, and my dad when he was a baby.  1950’s.

This is my “Memom.”  I know it’s not a typical name for a grandmother, but she wasn’t a typical grandmother either.  She was a mother of 5 kids, my dad being the oldest of the 5.  When my grandfather was 40, he passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack, leaving my memom alone to raise 5 children, ranging from ages 5 to 17.  Not long after he passed, my memom invited anyone she knew who had experienced a loss in their family over for Thanksgiving.  She was a widow herself, yet she served each of the families who came to her home and every family left with a pie.  I didn’t know that story about her until after she had passed.  My other grandmother had lost her 18 year old daughter and was one of the women who left that Thanksgiving with a pie on her lap from my memom.  A piece of my memom lives on.  I bet that life wasn’t easy for my memom, but it didn’t keep her from rolling up her sleeves and serving others.  I’m thankful I come from people like her.  She was strong, even when she must have felt weak.

So, who is a strong woman in your life?  Let’s start sharing their stories.  Join my challenge!  Here’s how:

  1. Post a picture on Instagram of a strong woman in your life.  Tell us what makes her strong.
  2. Tag me on instagram using rachel.removetheveil
  3. Use the hashtag #strongwomenstories
  4. Follow me on Instagram.
  5. Search  the hashtag “strongwomenstories” and get ready to be inspired.

 

Mommy Messed Up….. On Purpose.

Mommy Messed Up……  On Purpose.

I.  Lost.  It.  “It” being my sanity.  The event that tipped me over the edge that day wasn’t major.  It wasn’t major at all.  I wasn’t hurt and nothing terrible had happened to me or anyone I loved.  Up to this point, I had made a million mistakes as a mom.  Many were unintentional – just “mistakes.”  There’s a difference between mistakes and sins.  Mistakes are exactly that.  They happen on accident, because we don’t know any better.  I’m willing to bet that millions of us moms are willing to accept responsibility for our mistakes, but how often do we call out our own sins?  Or when we do, do we rename those our “mistakes” as well?  I don’t think “sins” and “mistakes” are in the same category.

The silly and petty thing that sent me over the edge was my 2 year old.  She had been potty trained for about 6 months when one day, she just started peeing her pants again.  Constantly.  I was watching kids in my home at this point and it was a brand new thing.  Looking back now, I know she was going through a potty training regression, which is extremely common when there is any kind of change in the home.  For 3 days, she peed her pants at least once per hour.  It blew my mind.  Potty training is a lot of hard work and I worked HARD at getting her trained.  She had been doing so well and all of a sudden, none of my rewards or consequences were working at all.

After peeing her pants for the hundredth time, I put her on the toilet, grabbed the sticker chart I had made for her on the wall, and tore it to pieces in front of her while yelling at her.  She looked at me with eyes full of tears, cowered, and cried.  It was at that moment when I thought, “I’ve just traumatized my child.  What have I done…”  I knew better.  I’ve taught kids all over and from all walks of life and I KNEW behavior management.  I didn’t care, and I lost it.

Part of me wanted to justify my behavior.  I’d worked so hard and I knew she was capable.  I was going through a lot with quitting my job, being a work at home mom, living in a new area that I didn’t know, and struggling financially.  All of those things were explanations for why I was stressed, but they weren’t excuses for bad behavior.

A small voice inside of me urged me to hold her, tell her I was sorry, and tell her I was totally wrong.  So that’s what I did.  I listened to the small voice and I held my small child on my lap in the bathroom floor.  I cried and I told her that Mommy was angry and Mommy was wrong.  Mommy would help her and Mommy won’t hurt her ears anymore.  I asked my little 2 year old girl to forgive me even though she didn’t have a clue what that word meant.  I knew she grasped the concept of forgiveness better than I did when she put her little arms around my neck and told me she loved me.  Isn’t that exactly what Jesus does with us?  Little ones are often times quick to forgive.  I don’t want my kids to lose that.

IMG_4149

I think a lot of us were raised to respect our authority and that part of that was accepting that our authority was always “right.”  I’ve had many teachers, leaders, and so forth who never said they were sorry and if they did, it was often for a “mistake” rather than being deliberately in the wrong.  It’s kind of hard sometimes to admit when we’re wrong to our children.  We want them to think highly of us and to think of us as their model for doing what’s right.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that admitting and taking responsibility for when we are wrong, even when it’s embarrassing, is far more admirable than always being right.  It also models for our children the importance of accepting responsibility and learning and growing from our own shortcomings.

Admitting when we are wrong to our kids is good for all of us.  It teaches them to have mercy and forgiveness, models for them how to take responsibility for their actions, shows them humility, and how to have a growth mindset.  For us, we get a big dose of humility and a chance to learn and grow from our mistakes.  I’ve had the most growth and reflection in my life when I’ve messed up.  When I do something perfectly, I don’t have anything else to perfect.

Remove the veil.

I’m still doing things wrong.  They aren’t always “mistakes” either.  I nag my kids.  I spend too much time on social media and not enough time with them.  I don’t always show them grace.  A few weekends ago, I wanted my middle child to learn that the way she was talking to adults wasn’t ok.  I gave her consequences in an attempt to make her learn her behavior wasn’t acceptable.  In all honesty, it wasn’t acceptable.  But instead of focusing on motivating her to learn and grow, I focused on the punishment.  I could see my lively child beginning to change, but it wasn’t for the better.  I heard her crying in her room and I asked her why she was crying.  She told me it was because she knew she was a mean person and she didn’t want to be mean anymore, but didn’t know how not to be.

What if I had just left her to her own thoughts and had never gone back to check on my 5 year old?  What if all I cared about was that long-running consequence.  Would I have helped to destroy her character instead of building it up?

At that moment, I remembered the sticker chart incident.  I went and held her and I told her that I was sorry I left her alone.  I told her that I was like her when I was her age too and that I still struggle to respond out of love sometimes and instead, react out of anger.  I told her that I wanted us to help each other.  I told her that her behavior wasn’t ok, but that mine wasn’t either.  I told her there was nothing she could ever do that would make me stop loving her.

IMG_3427
The “spice” of our family.  Both of us.

I want my kids to see a solid parent.  I want them to look at me and think I’m strong and that I work hard.  That doesn’t mean hiding my struggles.  In fact, I think it means the opposite.  My husband and I try not to argue in front of our kids, but one of the most pivotal times in our marriage was when he told our daughters that he and I got in an argument and that he said something hurtful to me.  He told them why it made me sad, how it made him feel, and how he should have responded.  He was real with them.  Mommy and Daddy weren’t perfect and we didn’t have a perfect, fairtytale relationship.  We didn’t always see eye to eye and we can’t hide our conflict.  We have to learn from it and be better.  We used this incident to teach our children about conflict, humility, forgiveness, and honesty.  My daughters never thought poorly of him either.  They respected him more, and so did I.

My kids are still young.  That means I have a lot more sins and mistakes ahead of me.  I’m going to try to be better, but I’m also going to try to always be real.  I’m their mom.  I think the reason they see me folding laundry and washing dishes, working at their school, and taking them with me on errands 90% of the time (rather than seeing someone who is pampered and polished)  is because they need to see women who work hard and serve.   I don’t want them to grow up entitled.  I want them to roll up their sleeves and serve the ones they love.  I want them to love what they do and work hard.  I want them to mess up and grow.  I’m removing my veil of “perfect mom” and hoping they will remove their veils too, knowing that growth and learning has some of the best impact when it stems from humility and truth.

IMG_2424
My crew.

My Husband’s Response to Surrogacy

When I met Micah, I was 15 years old.  We met at a Fazoli’s in Ashland, KY in our American Eagle gear with breadsticks in hand.  I doubt he looked at me back then and thought, “This is going to be the mother of my children,” let alone, “This chick is going to look great carrying my sister’s baby in her womb one day.”  But here we are, 17 years later with a ton of memories, a used mini van, 3 kids of our own, and a story to tell.

I’ve received tons of questions from people who are curious about surrogacy.  I’ve talked on the phone with curious women who were contemplating surrogacy, but unsure of how their spouse might respond.  Micah and I decided to do this video for anyone who might be curious about how this impacted our marriage and how we supported each other along the way.

Feel free to check this out and share it, pin it, and ask us more questions.