Sunday, March 30, 2014

What's it like to BE Happy?

I remember the feeling.. the warm sunshine on my face, the little kicks in my belly. My girls nearby, playing tag on the campus green or the stretch of grass alongside our favorite ice cream spot. For as much turmoil surrounded my stay in Michigan, I can say that the time that I spent there was one of the few times in my past that I can remember being truly happy.

I was doing something good. I was being the type of person that I've wanted to be my whole life; someone who made a difference.

Chaos swirled around me, and most of the time I woke up each morning with another phone message from a lawyer or healthcare provider, but even with the threat of litigation, the medical complications that we were finding more and more information on every day, I was still HAPPY! 

My family was HAPPY. My girls were HAPPY! Even when my daughter was overwhelming me with food stealing and 'toddler' behaviors, and I needed some relief from her constant energy, I was still HAPPY! 

That sounds crazy to me. To be overwhelmed and stressed and at the same time to be so exuberantly happy. Many times I would look at myself in the mirror and think that I must have finally lost my  mind, to be so happy when everything facing me had the potential to bring very bad things my way. 

But somehow I never lost the faith. It wasn't until after S was born, my personal internal struggle with giving her up, and after the whirlwind of legal paperwork and the finality of court where I gave up my parental rights that the situation really overcame me. 

How was life when I was happy? 
I can't lie. I loved it. I was happy, and so were my children. We were able to work together, and enjoy our adventures together. We were a cohesive family unit, working together to get to the other side of our situation. 
Living that way gave me a great insight on how my life could be if I chose to be happy always. I was able to see that being happy was more of a mindset and a mentality than it was simply a set of favorable circumstances to keep me from spiraling into depression and despair as I had done in the past. 

But inevitably the stress and grief of giving up a child for adoption was too much for my psyche to deal with. Leaving Michigan was one of the hardest things that I ever did; driving away from the hospital where the child that I carried for so long was sleeping peacefully within the walls of, knowing nothing of what I was doing and where I was going. 
Coming home to nothing was just as hard. My family went through a very difficult year after we returned to New England. We have been back for almost 2 years now, and are just starting to realize again that 'normal' is something that happens to us too, not just everyone we know. 

One thing that has happened over the last two years as a result of the hardships that we've had is that our once very healthy lifestyle has been compromised. It's hard to do yoga in a hotel room, and eating out doesn't exactly allow for an organic diet. But this was our reality, and it's how we've managed to stay afloat during this transition. Now we are living in a stable home again, and I have a brand new baby niece who's mommy is excited about learning how to make her family more healthy. I want this for us; for all of us. I want us to be healthy and happy, like we were way back when. The situations are different, but that's even better of a reason to be happy this year! 

During the next 3 months my sister and I will be transitioning our household back to the healthy place that gives my heart hope for a healthy future for my children. I hope that you will follow along as I research and explain, implement and experiment with different health choices. My goal is once again have an organic diet (on a budget!) as well as utilizing my most essential healthy oils and supplements for internal and emergency health aids. *I am not a doctor and do not advise on health conditions or make recommendations for treatments of any ailment* I will be starting to practice yoga again, and offering my favorite YouTube videos. I will be meditating for joy and peace and sharing some free meditation resources as I come across them as well! 

In September 2014 I will be releasing BEHappy 2014 as a transformational program for others who want to harness the power of meditation, holistic health and good nutrition to BE Happy in 2014!

If you are interested in following along with the program in it's beta testing phase, please let me know! 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The big release!

After 3 days of watching, the book has made its Amazon debut! Kindle is available now, paperback in a few days I'm told.

I apologize for the short and sweet post, I've been sick.. no rest for the weary!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Surrogate Musings

Have you ever thought about how every single thing in your life really does lead you exactly where you are supposed to go?

Some people have asked me why I want to build my dream off of the dramatics of a surrogacy gone haywire? Why not start over and build it all from the ground up like I was planning to do after the surrogacy.

The answer that I have for them is that I believe that one small life can impact the world in a huge way. I want to be a part of that impact. If S had not been born, I may not have found the strength to push forward and build the life that I want for my family. I was stuck in a mediocre existence before she came along, and her influence has pushed me to be a stronger and more corageous woman. I am no longer afraid to voice my opinions and make them known. I believe in choice as intensely as I believe in breastfeeding and carseat safety.

S made me who I am today. Everything that I believe has been reinforced or defined by her existence. I know so many others who are inspired by her. I have been contacted by individuals around the world who tell me that S has touched their hearts and that they are better individuals for her life being in this world. THAT is powerful. THAT is motivating. That a single child can have such a positive energy in the world before she even enters it captivates me. It reminds me that we all have the ability to be inspirational. We all have the ability to spread joy and happiness.

For we are all surrogates. We are surrogates to the ideas and inspiration of others as we spread awareness, promote our passions, work to change the world and inspire others to do the same. We carry the ideas, methods, and inspiration of others in our everyday life, as if they were our own. We all are surrogates.

I am a surrogate to S. I am also a surrogate to the ideas of natural pregnancy advocates, breastfeeding advocates, holistic practitioners and teachers, philosophers and psychologists. I compile my surrogate knowledge in an attempt to help families of all different shapes and sizes to live the way that will benefit their family, their life, and their resources the best way that they can. Through education they can learn what exactly that is.

My birth daughter gave me that gift. That is her legacy. I want to share this idea with the world. So, although I have many projects in the works, I hope to release, in about a year, another book called Surrogate Musings. It's still a work in progres, but I'm excited about getting it started.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

End of life when it's your baby.

I came across this today: 

Baby Blick Only Made a 10-Day Stop on Planet Earth but His Very Presence Spoke Words That Will Last Lifetimes

It was something that hit me in an unexpected way. This entire journey for me has always been about life. But there was a point where I wasn't even sure that S would have one. I remember coming to this realization days after the big ultrasound that had started our whole mess. There was still so much that was unknown, and I didn't have any way of knowing for sure if S would survive. Even with an amnio, I wouldn't have known for weeks if she had some genetic anomaly that would have meant she wouldn't survive the pregnancy. I had no way of knowing that her medical issues didn't include something that would mean she wasn't going to live past the pregnancy. It was a very difficult reality to come to terms with, especially in light of the pressure that I was under. 

I've maintained for quite some time that knowing what I know now, I would never have gone forward with a contract with the intended family. However, I can't say that at the time when I signed the contract I was necessarily in the same mindset as I am now. At one point I didn't know for sure what I would do if I was to find out that my child, or a child that I carried was diagnosed with a fatal or life threatening condition. As a doula and birth advocate, I had read stories of women faced with this particular circumstance, but I had never been in those shoes myself. I would love to say that I knew that I would be able to make a decision in favor of what the contract read, but to this day I have not had that experience. 

Experience is a tricky phenomenon. Given knowledge, we can estimate what we believe would be the 'right' thing to do, or even fathom to project what we would do in any given situation. But when the time comes for us to experience such, often the route we take is not what we believed we would. I've seen this now firsthand, although I don't know that I would have believed it if my situation had never occurred. I've said that I would have gone forward with pregnancy termination if I knew for sure the baby would die, such as in the case of anencephaly or Trisomy 18. But when it came down to it, and I was faced with the prospect of carrying a child that I knew would die.. I don't know that I could have. 

It is heartbreaking to think about the prospect of burying your own child; even moreso when you feel as though you are the only one who wants him or her to survive. A call to perinatal hospice and a trip to a funeral home will leave even the strongest of individuals in a place crippled with grief over the potential outcome of such a sad situation. Even stronger is the challenge of 'what if they are wrong' and 'what if my baby is strong, and survives'. 

Little Zion reminds me so much of my S in the picture that his parents shared with The Blaze. For the first year of her life, I called her my little rhesus monkey because she was so tiny and bald. 

Zion survived. He fought for 10 days and passed peacefully with his family in a loving and supportive environment. 

If S had been handed a similar fate, would I have made a different choice? If her holoprosencephaly had been diagnosed before birth, would I have made a different choice? I can't say for sure, but my heart tells me no. Even if it meant putting myself under the emotional distress of carrying, caring for, and saying goodbye to her, I would like to say that I would have the same decorum and respect for life as these parents did. They gave their son the best possible, knowing that his life would be shorter than anyone hoped for. That is love. That is faith. That is what I strive for. 

S is still surviving. 20 months so far, and getting bigger and better every day. Sometimes they surprise us :)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fire Within- A Surrogate's Journey

Writing has always been soothing to me. It seems like I say things better in writing than I ever could hope to in real life.When I was younger I would write notes to my parents, telling them how mad I was about some teenage injustice. When I broke up with my first boyfriend I wrote a 5 page letter and burned it in my back yard. I have always loved to write.

It was suggested to me many times that I should write S's story, to remind myself, and tell her about what happened before she was born. Everyone I met on my journey would tell me that it sounded like something out of a Lifetime channel movie. Heck, I thought that myself.

So when I was pregnant, I started writing little notes. I dedicated a notebook to the baby, and saved everything that I could get. Medical charts, social work notes from the hospitals, my records and hers. I would write in my notebook what happened, not usually very specific, but enough so that I remembered the big events. It turned into a box, and now that she's no longer with me, that box helps me to remember my little angel.

When I was first introduced in the eye of the media, I spent a lot of time explaining things, and trying to make people understand my feelings on the matter of surrogacy and my personal feelings about my situation. There were some misconceptions made, incorrect data reported in the media, and of course we all know that once something is put on the internet there is no taking it back. Of course, stating that you did something for money isn't just a little 'something'.

So when I was approached about writing a book to tell the whole story, I said yes.

Fire Within: A Surrogate's Journey is the insider edition of the Baby S story. If you want to know about what I was doing before I got pregnant, it's in there. If you want to know what the date was that I moved to Michigan, it's in there. If you want to know how I feel about this entire escapade, do I need to tell you where to look?

My Facebook page is here: Fire Within

I'm not here to tell you what to think of me. I'm not even here to beg you not to think that what I did was wrong. I am asking you to take a good read into my side, and think about yourself and what you really think about your morals. If you would have made a different choice than I did, well as much as it doesn't give me much faith in humanity as a whole, I won't hate you for that. I just ask that you embrace on thing..

We're all human.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Forever a helper

I've always been the type of person to help people. Right now, it's my sister. She's really more like my best friend, but we have had a very special bond since very very early in life, and I see her, as well as a few others in my inner circle, as family as opposed to just being friends.

The point though, is that I'm known within my own circle to be the helper. I'm the one who people turn to when they need help. If I can help them, they know that I will.

Right now it's my sister. She came to me a few months ago, pregnant and in a bad housing situation. Even though I have been struggling myself, I couldn't turn her away. Currently she and her boyfriend live with me, as do my 11 year old nephew and the baby who is 3 weeks old.

A couple years ago it was another very close friend. She has two children who were living in another part of the country while she tried to get her life together, and she was having a hard time. Today her children are home with her and she moved into her own place just a few months ago. She tells me all the time that if it hadn't been for my constant barrage of inspirational texts, memes on Facebook, and conversations we had when she felt like giving up she might not have gotten this far.

My desire to help people is not something that has come with age. In elementary school I was best friends with a student with Spina-Bifida. I volunteered for a long time with a wheelchair sports team in my local area. I've had to use food pantries, and donate whatever food I don't use back so that others can eat too. I was the annoying kid who didn't ask for candy on Halloween but donations for charity. I have always looked for whatever little way I can help. Perhaps it is that desire to help others that led me into childcare. I love teaching people, and I love watching little minds grow. I love nurturing life; it's what I've done for as long as I can remember.

What I want to do is help people. It's been what has driven all of my career work in childcare, as well as the motivating force behind my surrogacy dreams. Helping others is what keeps my heart and my soul  happy and allows me to move forward with my own sometimes seemingly meaningless existence.

I have this huge vision.. a life's yearning that I can't pull myself away from. The details are so vast and scattered that at times it seems like an impossible dream.And yet every corner I take and every new situation that comes to me seems to be directing me towards at least trying to make this vision into a reality. I see creation in every step along the way; a path leading me towards everything that I"ve ever hoped for in my personal and professional life.

You may ask what is stopping me. I"m not entirely sure of the answer. I know that many of my feelings are controversial, and I also know that the path that I am currently headed down is not entirely the path that I am hoping to find myself on. Special needs children hold a special place in my heart, that's for sure. But they are not who I have yearned to help since the moment I realized how profoundly  my children had changed my life.

Young, fresh, vulnerable babies.
They are the ones who I feel need the most protection.

As they enter the world, they are so helpless, and yet they carry with them the future of our entire world. Special needs families go through an identical transition as their small charges enter the world. A new experience opens where a brand new life entrusts everything to their caregivers. The child cannot survive without the assistance of the parent, and the parent is biologically attuned to the needs of the child. However not all beginnings start well, and tragedy surrounding childbirth is far too common. Emotional neglect of children as a result of improper postpartum support is running rampant. You can see it in the eyes of children who grow up with emotionally distant parents and never learn empathy or compassion.  The world is lacking in these things these days, and they don't give our children a very good chance of growing up to be mentally stable and have the ability to sustain healthy relationships with each other. How is the world supposed to survive from the brink of destruction as we are seeing today without the solid framework of a good support system?

I want to be that support. I want to build that system for people who don't have it anywhere else. One day I will say to those people "come, let me help you to be the best parent that you can be and give your child the best chance of a successful life; regardless of their ability level."

My friends have become my family, and through my own personal development I have come to believe that the support of friends and family is the only thing that will help the postpartum family unit to survive. This is what my dream is all about. After all, our children are worth it.