Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Screening, The Bishop

Sounds like my kind of party.

Ah, the holidays.  I am totally exhausted, and it’s still another week before Christmas.  I don’t remember being this tired the week before Christmases past.  I mean, I always end up being involved in a lot of music during this time of year, and of course I spend time planning/buying/wrapping/mailing gifts.  But this year it’s like Christmas on steroids, despite the fact that I’ve totally cut out some traditions, like gifts for neighbors and acquaintances, and the annual Garretson card/photo/letter.  I think it’s because I’m more involved in the kids’ preschool this year- I’m in charge of Hanukkah gifts for Elspeth’s teachers, and things are also starting to heat up with this huge fundraising auction I’m co-chairing, even though it doesn’t happen until the end of January.

Anyway, enough boring stuff!  I have two news items: my medical screening at the fertility clinic and my meeting with Bishop Ellsbury.

The screening went great.  I traveled to a northeastern city to visit the clinic that Urs and Ingmar have developed a relationship with.  I actually lived in this city about five years ago.  It’s a wonderful place, and I was happy to go back for a night.  I had dinner with some friends, a couple who are in a similar situation to ours (he has left the church, she hasn’t) and it was so nice to see them and catch up and talk.  Then in the morning I had my screening.  The staff at the clinic were kind and professional, and the procedures were pretty quick and painless.  They did a hysteroscopy, and I got to see the inside of my uterus!  It was incredible.  Well, my uterus wasn’t that incredible, really, but the process was and the fact that I was seeing inside one of my own organs in real time… wow.  Amazing.  Honestly, when people ask how my trip went I have to stop myself from telling them all about the hysteroscopy.   I didn’t stop myself when my inlaws asked; I just blurted out “I got to see the inside of my uterus!!!!” and then there was a very awkward moment of silence.  They’re not science people.  They weren’t impressed.  They probably just thought I was being gross.

So the next step is to wait for all of my tests (blood, urine, and endometrial biopsy) to come back.  Then I’ll start taking hormone injections to sync my cycle with the egg donor’s, but I don’t think that will happen until at least mid-January.  They said we’re probably looking at a February transfer, which is great timing; I’ll have a chance to get the aformentioned auction behind me before I get knocked up.  And I’m so excited!  Everything is seeming more and more real. I’ve also signed and returned my contract, and that’s one more big step in this thing.  Urs and Ingmar have been emailing back and forth with me, and they are unfailingly positive, supportive, and enthusiastic.  I love them!  I know it’s weird, but I am actually looking forward to starting those injections.

Anyway, moving on to News Item Numéro Deux:  With Christmas and tithing settlement keeping Bishop Ellsbury tied up until the end of the year, I decided that today was my last chance to talk to him.  So I did it!  And I’m so glad I did.  It wasn’t nearly as awful as I imagined (though it might get awfuler in the future).  Bishop Ellsbury’s laid-back personality is a big part of why everything is okay so far.  I’ve got lots of nice fuzzy feelings toward him right now.  He’s not excitable- definitely not a pulpit-pounder.  He smiles and laughs a lot, and I think he’s a genuinely happy and kind person.  Kind of an easygoing father type character.

So here’s how it went down:  I just laid it out there.  I said something like “I’ve decided to become a Gestational Surrogate.  I’m going to carry a baby for a couple who can’t have children of their own.  The baby won’t be related to me, it’ll be theirs.”  He nodded, said ok, kept a poker face.  I continued: “And the parents of the baby are both men.”  Still a poker face!  He must have been surprised- I mean, most people don’t think about reproductive technology on a regular basis.  But he kept the same calm, friendly demeanor.  I told him that I’ve made this decision and I feel good about it, but that a few concerned family members suggested I talk to my bishop to be sure there wouldn’t be any repercussions with the church.  He said he’d have to consult the church handbook and talk to the stake president about it.  I said that’s fine, it’s what I was expecting.

And that was about it!  I’m expecting to hear back from him pretty soon, and I may even have to attend a meeting with the stake president.  But I’m glad I’ve at least taken the first step toward legitimizing myself with the church.  We’ll be visiting Knox’s family for the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and it’ll be nice to be able to say “yes, I’ve talked to my bishop about this.”

Things are happening!  Things are looking good.

Surrogacy in Big Love

Knox and I have been watching Big Love.  We just finished the second season.  That right there tells you what kind of Mormons we are.  Most LDS people hate the show with the passion of 10,000 burning suns.  It’s about a fundamentalist family, the Henricksons, who live in the suburbs in Utah and sneakily practice polygamy.  Mainstream Mormons get all riled up at any suggestion of a link between The Church and polygamy; we’d all rather forget that our ancestors had a lot in common with modern-day residents of the Yearning for Zion Ranch.  And apparently in later seasons of the show there are depictions of temple services that Mormons hold sacred, so that’s another point in the “The Liberal Media Hates and Persecutes Us” category.  Plus it’s HBO and that’s a dirty, worldly station that has sex and swears and other yucky stuff.

I would never tell any of my Mormon friends that I watch this show.  In fact, I hid the DVD case when we had an LDS babysitter, and I felt like we were taking a thrilling risk when we watched it in our bedroom while we were visiting Knox’s parents over Thanksgiving.  It’s ridiculous.

But anyway, imagine my surprise when surrogacy became a (minor) plot point in the show!  My own two worlds, Mormonism and Surrogacy, collided on HBO!  Back in 2007!  I like the show, and I generally think it’s very well-researched and accurate.  But I wasn’t crazy about the way the writers dealt with surrogacy.  I think a little backstory is in order here.

Margene, the sweet young thing of the family, is Bill Henrickson’s third and newest wife.  She’s the one standing behind the chair in the photo above.  She’s cute, naive, a little silly and shallow.  She’s also pregnant with her third baby.  Margie befriends an LDS neighbor, Pam, and the two really hit it off.  But their friendship is strained by the lies Margie has to tell to keep her plural marriage a secret.  Because Bill is officially married to Barb, Margie appears to be unmarried and she worries that Pam will judge her when she finds out about the pregnancy.  Are you following?  Margie doesn’t like looking like the neighborhood harlot.  So she tells Pam that yes, she’s pregnant, but actually she’s a surrogate for a really great infertile couple!  (Yeah, there are so many holes in this story.  Margie isn’t very bright.)  Margie expects Pam, who is infertile herself, to be enthusiastic about the idea.  Instead Pam turns cold and says “You’re having a stranger’s baby?  Well, who am I to judge.”   This response seemed unrealistically negative to me.  Because Mormons believe so strongly in family, I have a hard time believing that there are many Mormon women who would immediately act like surrogacy in itself is wrong.  But then, the issue is more complicated from the point of view of a woman who has had fertility issues (like Pam) and I haven’t talked to anyone who fits that bill.  So perhaps it’s not so far off the mark.

Later, Pam asks Barb (first wife, remember, but Pam doesn’t know that) what she thinks of surrogacy, and specifically what she thinks of Margie being a surrogate.  This is the first Barb has heard of the story, and she’s surprised. But she answers with the party line: something like “I think surrogacy is a great option for a worthy heterosexual couple who can’t have children of their own.”  This sounds more like it.  Most Mormons (including the women in my family) are on board right away if we all agree that the parents of the baby will be a man and a woman.  Pam reveals to Barb that she wants to ask Margie to carry a baby for her, and that she’s prepared to offer her $50,000.

Then things get messy.  Pam asks Margie to be her surrogate, and when Margie hesitates Pam breaks down sobbing, revealing that she’s worried her husband will leave her if they don’t have a family to share in the celestial kingdom.  Confronted with Pam’s emotional display, Margie panics and agrees to be Pam’s surrogate.  Once she’s said yes, she realizes that hey!  She would like to have a calling, and this is something nice she can do: being a surrogate.  Bill and the other wives answer with a firm NO WAY.  They end up “coming out” to Pam and revealing that they are polygamists, and that’s how Margie gets out of the surrogacy deal.

My first issue is that it’s implied that Margie will be a Traditional Surrogate: Pam mentions a “pre-insemination” party and talks about the baby being her husband’s but not Pam’s.  Traditional Surrogacy is when the surrogate’s own egg is used, making her the biological mother of the child.  This is almost never done now that IVF is so successful and egg donors abound.  Another problem is the money.  $50,000 is WAY more than most surrogates’ compensation; it’s almost twice as much as what’s in my contract.  Once again, that would have been an easy thing to fix if the writers had been more careful, but it also bothers me that they felt the need to mention it.  It’s kind of sticking all surrogates with a price tag, and an inaccurate one at that. And because they imply that the baby would be Margie’s biological child, it brings up the whole uncomfortable baby-buying idea.  Messy.

From a Mormon Doctrine standpoint, Pam’s hysteria doesn’t make sense.  I mean, it makes perfect sense if she really wants a baby to save her rocky marriage, or if she’s afraid her husband will leave her because he’s desperate for children.  But bringing the afterlife into it doesn’t work.  Mormons believe that the power of procreation continues after this life.  The idea of the celestial kingdom would bring Pam comfort; she would know that even if she can never have her own children in this life, she’ll have that opportunity in the next.  Her husband would know that, too, so nothing about heaven would make him want to leave her.

In some ways Margie fits the surrogate mold: she’s young, healthy, married with a couple of kids.  She’s kind and generous.  But she’s also silly and impulsive, and I got the impression that she liked the idea of surrogacy because she didn’t have much else to offer the world.  Associating surrogacy with Margie, of all characters, makes it seem frivolous;  I thought the writers took a serious issue and treated it flippantly.  And then they didn’t even do a tiny bit of research to get all their facts straight.  And what a shame.  It could have been so beautiful.