Monthly Archives: November 2011

What I Want to Share

I wish I were brave enough to post this incredible piece on my actual facebook, but I’m still too afraid of social disapproval so I’m posting it here in my safe space instead.  Regardez!

Ah, so beautiful!  As I write this I’m resisting watching it again because I don’t want to get all weepy and emotional.  How can anyone not believe marriage is good?

Not too much is new on the surrogacy front.  I was scheduled to have my medical screening this coming Tuesday, but I had to reschedule it.  We have Aunt Flow to thank for that;  the screening includes a hysteroscopy, a sonoHSG, and an endometrial biopsy, and apparently one or all of those things can’t be done during my period.  I was really bummed about changing the appointment.  I’m so eager to get this process started, and I’d been looking forward to traveling to the clinic ALONE.  There are so few things I get to do all alone! But really I can blame the disappointment mainly on PMS.  The appointment is only two weeks away.  I can wait two more weeks.

We were at my inlaws’ for Thanksgiving, and we passed an entire week there without any of the many family members mentioning the elephant in the room.  Actually, that’s not entirely true: my mother-in-law asked whether or not I’d be able to come to our annual beach trip.  (I probably won’t be in my last trimester until later in the year, so traveling in the summer shouldn’t be a problem.)  I’m glad we didn’t talk about it much, and I’m especially glad it didn’t come up with Louisa.  Things are taking so long to happen that it seems silly to get worked up about it right now.

The only time either of my parents have mentioned it since the awkward phone conversation a few weeks ago was when I talked to my dad last week and he asked “So, have you decided whether to do the… uh… surrogacy thing?”  I sort of snapped at him, something like “Well yeah, I’m going for my medical screening next week so yep, I’m still doing it.”  Then I felt bad, since he wasn’t being rude and he probably felt uncomfortable even asking me about it.  I’m not usually so snippy.  I guess I’ll blame the aforementioned PMS for that, too.  I’d forgotten how irritable I get when I’m not on a hormone-related birth control method.

I went to church today fully intending to make an appointment to talk to the bishop about it, but then I got busy with wrasslin’ my kids and attending to my calling, and it just didn’t happen.  I’m not sure how much longer I can put it off.  At some point family members are going to ask what my bishop has to say about me carrying a baby for a same-sex couple, and in some small way it will be a relief to be able say “He told me not to do it, but I’m doing it anyway.”  Maybe that will push the topic into the realm of things that are so uncomfortable that we don’t talk about it at all.  But that appointment with the bishop is going to be SO AWFUL.  I hate confrontation and disapproval and awkwardness.  I know I just need to get it over with, but I’m scared!

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Praise to the Man

Joseph Smith

One Sunday this last May I substituted for the Primary Chorister.  She asked me to introduce the hymn the children are supposed to learn this year: number 27, “Praise to the Man.”

I was immediately uncomfortable with the idea of teaching this particular hymn to children.  For one thing, the text is archaic and obtuse, riddled with words like “extol” and “dispensation” and “lauds.”  How can a pre-reader like my little Elspeth really grasp the meaning of this hymn?  Then I started to get anxious about the meaning itself, and especially the idea that I would need to explain it to these kids.  Here’s the text of the first verse (the verse I was asked to introduce; the older kids also learned the third verse in later weeks):

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus annointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.

Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven!
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;
Death cannot conquer the hero again.

Yeah, it’s a hymn about Joseph Smith, specifically his martyrdom.  I have trouble believing every good thing the church teaches about Joseph Smith.  There are some pretty messed-up things in LDS History and a lot of them involve him.  I also think it’s weird to be singing an entire hymn dedicated to praising a man.  Shouldn’t songs of praise and worship be directed toward God and Jesus?

So, on said Sunday in May, I focused on the rousing music rather than the text.  I played a really great Pipes & Drums setting of “Scotland the Brave” (on which the hymn’s melody is based), and we sang through the first verse a couple of times.  I tried to explain some of the more difficult words without getting too involved in the overall meaning of the hymn.  I guess it was kind of a cowardly way to bow out of the controversy, but it worked pretty well and it didn’t end up being a big deal.

And guess what has been Elspeth’s favorite song for the past six months!  That’s right, “Praise to the Man.”  She sings it ALL the time, and she wants me to sing it, too, since I know all the words and she doesn’t.  She asks me to sing it everywhere.  At home, when we’re driving in the car, when we’re grocery shopping.  I have to admit that it’s adorable when she sings “Praise to the man who commune wif Jehomah” but we had an extremely awkward moment last weekend when she requested it at a friend’s house while we were eating Shabbat dinner.

It’s not just Elspeth, either; all the kids in our ward LOVE this hymn.  I was asked to sing it at a baptism, all four verses.  The little girl who was being baptized, a girl I hardly knew, called me herself and asked me to sing it.  They all get excited when they get to sing it each week in primary.  So I guess I made an impression when I introduced it.  Last week was our primary program (a special service, held once a year, that showcases the children in our congregation) and it opened with the children walking into the chapel singing “Praise to the Man.”  I’m not gonna lie, I got chills.  Was I feeling the spirit, as we Mormons are wont to say?  I don’t know.  I felt good.  There is just something incredibly moving about the way children sing when they really love the song- that combination of eagerness and innocence.  I’m not sure it was the song so much, but rather the singing.  Maybe I would have felt that way if they’d been singing “hasa diga eebowai” with the same gusto.  Ok, bad example.  But you know what I mean.  I feel the same way when I hear these boys sing “Balulalow.”  What do these feelings mean?  What do feelings ever mean?

Whose business is this, anyway?

via

This has been a difficult day.  Knox is out of town, it was rainy and cold most of the day, Lolita destroyed a couch cushion while I was in the shower.  I just have heavy boots today.

It all started with an email from my sister-in-law.  We’ll call her… Louisa.  I like that name.  And I love my sister-in-law.  We don’t agree on everything (she homeschools her kids, feeds them raw milk, and is pretty letter-of-the-law when it comes to the church), but we’ve always gotten along really well.  I love and respect her, and I know she feels the same way about me.  So, in this email, I know her tone of loving concern is sincere.  She’s worried about my health and the way an extra-familial pregnancy and birth will effect me and my family.  But mostly she’s concerned about whether having a baby for a same-sex couple is the right thing to do spiritually.  She encouraged me to talk to my bishop about it so that I could be sure there wouldn’t be any negative repercussions with the church.

Louisa already talked to her own bishop about it.  He happens to be a doctor, and he mentioned to her the possibility of my contracting HIV (or, as she puts in the email, “getting AIDS”) from the Intended Father’s sperm.  I am really annoyed that he would say this to Louisa, a world-class worrier.  It isn’t even an issue in my particular situation; Urs isn’t HIV positive.  Now Louisa is unnecessarily worrying about something beyond my spiritual health.

Like I mentioned before, my own parents talked to their ecclesiastical leader about surrogacy, too, before they even knew I’d been matched with a same-sex couple.  Getting this email from Louisa mentioning that she also talked to her Bishop about my surrogacy… I’m starting to wish that my family would stop involving all of these men who I barely know (or don’t know at all).  Whose business is this?   It’s mine.  And they’re right that I should talk to my bishop about it.  That doesn’t mean they need to tell their own bishops all about me.

I’m directing my anger toward people who love me, but it’s just displacement.  Really what I’m upset about is the fact that I know no bishop is going to support me in this.  My own happens to be pretty laid-back, but the more I think about it and the more reaction I get from mormon family members, the more certain I feel that this is absolutely not going to be ok with any Bishop.  I just found this blog, A Day in the Life of a Perfectly Imperfect Perfectionist, that addresses the issue pretty directly.  Everything about that blog grates on my nerves, but I have to hand it to Vanessa for clearing up the church’s position.  The fertility doctor she’s seeing is LDS, and he told her that a surrogate he worked with had gotten a letter from the first presidency saying something like this:

“Homosexuals using a Surrogate is discouraged

Single Woman using a Surrogate is discouraged

Unmarried Couples using a Surrogate is discouraged

Woman using a Surrogate simply to avoid the inconvenience of pregnancy is discouraged

People selling their eggs or sperm is discouraged (you are putting your own baby into the world)

Traditional Surrogacy is discouraged.”

This is all hearsay.  I’m not sure I believe that some random surrogate got a signed letter from The First Presidency.  But it’s all too easy for me to believe, since it confirms all my fears.  This is not going to be acceptable.  Everyone is going to hate and reject me for doing this.  I’m going to get kicked out of the church and all my extended family will shun me.  I’m doomed to hours and hours of well-meaning lectures from everybody I know.

But what I’m doing is RIGHT.  It’s GOOD.  It’s NOBLE.  I’m not going to change my mind about it.  It’s a good thing I’m so stubborn.  I guess I’m just going to have to talk to the bishop and be prepared for the worst.

Mothers

So.  On Saturday I talked to my parents.

When they were visiting here, about a month ago, I told them that I was in the process of applying to become a gestational surrogate.  They weren’t particularly enthusiastic, but not negative either.  They both had a lot of questions, understandably, about the process, why I’m doing this, and and what it will mean for me, Knox, and our kids.  My mom encouraged me to make this decision prayerfully.  And that was that.  We didn’t really talk about it for very long.  I’ve been updating them throughout the process; I let them know when I was officially accepted to be a surrogate with the agency.  And when I first found out who my potential Intended Parents would be (Urs and Ingmar) I mentioned to my parents that I had some news, but didn’t want to share until it was definite.  So when my mom called Saturday evening, that news was what she asked about first.

I just told her, straight up.  I said something like “They’re [nationality], they live in [place], and they’re both men.”

She said, “I’m not so sure about this, Nia.”

I told her that I know it’s controversial and probably a bit of a shock for her, but that this couple has been together for more than 15 years.  They’re good, kind, generous people and they want a family.  I told her that I’m excited about helping them do this.  The conversation was a little uncomfortable, but it was necessary.  I could sense her trying to be supportive while also expressing her concerns.  She and my dad were in a temple recommend interview lately and they asked about the church’s official stance on surrogacy.  The Bishop (or Stake President, I’m not sure which) wasn’t sure about that so he looked it up in the handbook.  There’s only one line: “Surrogate motherhood is strongly discouraged.”  I think this really applies to traditional surrogacy, in which the birth mother is also the biological mother.  Or, at least, I’m happy to assume that and thank the handbook for being so vague.  Mom said I should talk to my bishop about it to make sure I’ll still be in good standing with the church.

But the most difficult thing for me to hear was my mom saying, “I think it would be so sad for a child to grow up without a mother.  I think mothers are pretty great.”

Aaaaarrgh!  What can I say to that?  How can I disagree?  I don’t disagree with her that mothers (my own especially) are wonderful.  I certainly value my own identity as a mother.  Will this baby suffer from not having a mom?  I don’t know, I can’t know.  But I’m pretty sure that any child lucky enough to have two parents who love him or her is awfully lucky.  I told my mom that Urs and Ingmar have sisters and mothers themselves, and that they would have a Nanny (since they have careers).  Women will be involved in raising this child.  But of course, none of that is exactly the same as having a mom.  Urs and Ingmar seem like gentle, sensitive, loving people have everything good to offer this baby.  I can’t fault them for both being male.  Besides, not all mothers are, you know, moms.

Anyway, I have lots of thinking to do about this subject.  But the good thing is that my mom’s closing words were encouraging: “Just know that whatever you decide to do, we will love and support you.”  I was so comforted to hear that.  I really thought it might have been a deal-breaker when my mom and dad found out that this baby would have two daddies, and I’m relieved to know that my mom, at least, is trying her best to understand where I’m coming from.

I didn’t really talk about it with my dad.  He deserves a post of his own anyway, so… later!

If We Do Not Doubt

Wow!  One whole week has passed since my inaugural post, and boy have I got a lot of feelings to share.  It’s been an eventful week.

Last Sunday was the last weekend of October, and it was our Stake Conference (or, as I gleefully call it, No Church Day).  But don’t worry- I still got my fair share of doctrine, thanks to a visit from our Home Teachers and an email from my Visiting Teacher.  Both HTs and VT shared a message about The Book of Mormon and the whole “If we do not doubt, we shall not fear” idea.  I have a big problem with the church’s eschewal of doubt in general, but that’s a topic for another day.  The thing that both messages emphasized was the importance of daily scripture study and family prayer.  Or, at least, that’s the point my messengers brought out.  It’s always an uncomfortable topic, since I don’t do these things and I’m not eager to start.  One of the Home Teachers actually got pretty pushy about it, directly asking me and Knox whether we have daily family scriptures and prayers.  This was extremely awkward, especially considering the fact that Knox is not a practicing member of the church.  I awkwardly admitted something like “We haven’t been very good about that lately,” and he urged us to get back in to the habit and notice the resulting change in our lives.

So a few hours later, when I got the email from my Visiting Teacher mentioning this same just-do-it-and-don’t-doubt-it approach to scripture study, I got uncomfortable.  She emphasized the idea that we as mothers need to testify to our children of the importance and truth of the Book of Mormon.  I didn’t write back.  I know she means well and she’s genuinely trying to help me, but I’m so conflicted about this that I don’t know what to say.

I don’t want to testify to my children because one of my biggest parental fears is that I will accidentally brainwash them.  And besides, how can I “testify” when I don’t even know what’s true?  I don’t have much of a personal testimony of the church or The Book of Mormon, and talking about these things makes me SO uncomfortable.  I guess I’m more of a social or cultural Mormon than a true believer.  I’d be ok with that if everybody else would be ok with it.  I’m so tired of awkwardly smiling and nodding when other people talk about spiritual things.  I’m always walking this fine line, trying to agree and support their testimony without actually committing to anything myself.  I know I’m not going to be able to do with with Elspeth and Dean.  Or, at least, I’m not going to be able to do it for much longer.  As they get older they’re going to want to know what I really think.

So anyway, by the end of the day I was feeling pretty drained, but then that night things got brighter when I received a couple of emails from Urs and Ingmar, the Intended Fathers I’ve been matched with.  Hooray!  They sent a ton of photos of themselves, their family, their beautiful island home.  It was just the pick-up I needed, and it helped me to reaffirm my choice to become a gestational carrier.  I wrote back with our family blog address and some more photos and a little message.  Welllll, actually it was a long message- I tend to get pretty chatty in email.  They might have been a little overwhelmed by all the text (their English is pretty limited) because I haven’t heard back all week!  I hope I’ll hear from them soon.  I can’t wait to get to know them better and I hope they’ll be able to come visit soon.

On Monday I got official confirmation of the match, which was fantastic news.  I’m so, so excited about this couple.  Urs and Ingmar (sorry for the outlandish names!  Have to protect their anonymity, too) are so kind and enthusiastic.  I’m really happy to be working with them and helping them create a family.

All week I’ve found myself thinking about the idea of doubt, and sort of twisting it around in my head.  I will probably always doubt God, spirituality, and almost everything else I can’t experience with my own senses.  I’m ok with that.  But I’ve decided I’m going to try my darndest not to doubt my own self, and especially my decision to be a carrier for Urs and Ingmar.  They are the reason I’m doing this.