We are, for lack of a better term, laying in wait. Waiting for two baby girls, twins currently nurtured by our surrogate, Angela. We are holed up in Nanaimo, and in case you didn’t know about Nanaimo, maybe you better listen to Kate sing this song, because it’s weird. We are calling “home” this cute little cabin at a woman who fancies herself a yogi’s home, and our surrogate has a little cabin, 20 feet away from us. I say our host fancies herself a yogi, because I attended one of her classes yesterday- and well, for more on that, see below*.
We are here waiting, with Angela. Waiting with Angela, the woman who offered her uterus to grow our twin baby girls, because breast cancer ravaged my body and my fertility and my baby-making plan. Now it is time, she is but days away from giving birth to the two baby girls who were conceived of the eggs and sperm we preserved before I did chemotherapy to save my life.
I am grateful we are able to do this, but there is so much. So much. Words unspoken. Feelings unsaid. So much.
I’m grateful to be so close to our surrogate. I was so glad to attend the midwife’s appointment this afternoon. So profoundly grateful to be here, sharing this time, at these appointments, knowing this process in this intimate way, being introduced by our surrogate to all the important people.
I have to be introduced, in this process, to the caregivers. I have to be introduced because someone else is the centre of bringing my babies into this world. Think about that for a second.
I’m away from my people. Far from my friends. Not close to my mom. Miles from my support networks. It’s hard to be so far from everyone who knows what my voice sounds like when I need a hug, from everyone who knows what kind of food I need when I’m stressed, from everyone who knows all the inside jokes about my life. It’s hard to be away, and to also be on the brink of life-changing moments.
Here we are, lying in wait, with a bag packed with baby clothes and tiny diapers. Lying in wait, for babies genetically ours but developing in someone else’s belly. I am anxious always, to know how Angela is feeling. To hear about her evening. It is so lovely to have her so close. To know I can pop in at a moments’ notice.
And I am also cautious. Cautious to share my feelings. Careful to frame my gratefulness to the many caregivers. I am holding so many emotions carefully, below the surface, because they are unintelligible, because I wouldn’t want to seem ungrateful. I am cautious, because there is no roadmap for this territory, and because I don’t see anyone here, who knows what this feels like, from my perspective. I don’t see myself reflected in anyone’s eyes, in anyone’s experience, in anyone’s language. I am far from home.
I am cautious, because my people who know what its like to think about babies after cancer are far away. I am cautious because I feel misunderstood, and I also want to protect that misunderstanding, and want people to know, that they can’t possibly understand, unless they had babies after cancer with a surrogate. So many conflicting feelings.
I am lying in wait.
Today we had a midwives’ appointment. I feel a bit out of the loop, a foreigner adrift in a language I do not speak. They talk of this and that option, of this procedure and that one, of this doctor and that one.
I am acutely aware both that most new moms don’t know this language, and that if the woman who was visibly carrying child was the one who did not speak this language, everyone in the room would slow down and explain. And also, I know that my nerves, my feelings of inadequacy, my confusion stem from this situation. I know, intellectually, that I know how to be a good mama. But knowing that doesn’t meaning feeling that. I feel like I don’t speak the language, I don’t have the knowledge, and I am woefully inadequate. I feel like my babies are being gipped, because I don’t know everything.
And feeling this way at the midwife’s appointment, when I really like the midwife!
She says we don’t have to stay in the hospital: I had no idea. I say I didn’t know (how, pray tell, would I know?) and she admonishes, “well of course, they’re you’re babies.” Obviously.
Not so obviously.
Our surrogate says she can’t believe she forgot to tell me. But she can’t be expected to be both professional doula and doting surrogate in the same breath. It’s bigger than her. Bigger than me. Bigger than this process.
The feeling in my chest screams, they’re you’re babies, and you should have known.
And I am an academic, and so I theorize. My experience is unintelligible. There are not words. No discursive space. I have to tell only one kind of hopeful, happy story, a story in which I cannot wait for babies, in which I am a grateful subject, in which all will be well, in which my eyes smiles. Someone told me recently, about some feminist scholar who writes of us all, as unmothered daughters of the patriarchy. Mothered by out of control mothers, mothers situated in the patriarchy.
I want to be in control. And so when she says, I can take my babies home whenever I want, I think…. I want to take my babies home, so all these people with this discourse that feels so foreign on my tongue melt away, and stop telling me what to do. I think, I want to take my babies home, and I want the doulas and friends I know, and I want my mom, and I want my familiar couch, and I will figure this out without this weird language.
And then comes the discussion of breast feeding. Angela explains I want her to pump. But there is a question, around if she can’t, about the colustrum, about how important it is for those wee ones.
No one else will breast feed my babies. At the thought of it, my heart stops. I need to feed them. That is what is best for them. I will hold them tight against my skin, and I will give them a bottle, and they will thrive.
But still. My voice feels gone. I feel like a bad mother for saying so. I feel ungrateful for saying so. I feel judged.
I try to remember Allison, a cancer friend who had a surrogate. No, she told me. No, you’re not a bad mother, she told me. No, she told me, that is you being fierce. Be fierce, I tell myself, like Allison said. Be fierce.
Sometimes, in all these appointments, I feel like no one is advocating for our babies. I feel like I am failing. Like I am not being fierce.
But I am their mother. As the mother of the babies, I have a plan for them. A plan for them after birth. I am their mother. I have to keep remind myself, I am their mother. They are my babies.
Friends remind me that no, our surrogate is advocating for them because they are in her body, and that we chose her and trust her. Only the closest of friends can say this, and it is then that the tears fall, because I so wish they were in my body. And it is then I wish we were closer, that we were sitting on the seawall together waiting, instead of on the phone. And it is then I wish we were closer, that my people were a bike ride away. I know she is advocating. But it should be me. It should be my body.
And so we wait.
We wait for little Luna Juliette and Sienna Skye. We know they will be bilingual, we know we will love them. We want to know what they will look like, how their hands will feel, curled around our fingers, how their tummies will look, full of milk. We want them, warm in my arms. Nowhere else. Just simply, with me.
We lay in wait, and I feel weirdly in/visible, and we lay in wait, and there are yoga politics, and I cannot wait to pack up our baby girls, and hug Angela goodbye, and begin our lives as parents, and be close to the people who matter.
Because right now, we are laying in wait. And it’s hard. But we are doing it, and this is our post-cancer story, a story of pregnancy with a surrogate, of motherhood how I thought it wouldn’t be, of babies I want to have in my arms.
And so, we are lying in wait.
Baby girls, I cannot wait to hold you, kiss you, love you. Mijitas, mijitas, I cannot wait.
*On my experience trying yoga at the place we are staying: I was so excited to attend this yoga class, to witness and try out this yoga, to practice in a new space. And she began the class of four by telling me that in “real yoga” they don’t drink during class, that’s just a “hot yoga fad.” She then proceeded to say, many times, what they do in “real yoga.” Umm. Look dude. I know there’s a hundred opinions about hot yoga, and Bikram in particular. But I love it. It saved my life. My Bikram community and practice held me close through chemo, accepted and witnessed my tears and sorrows and my triumphs and joys, in ways that no other community did. It works for me. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It is right for me, and I know it’s not right for everyone, but it is right for me. And I came into your yoga, which is not what I love, not where I’m comfortable, not my place of solace and comfort and warmth and safety, with an open heart. It was a risk for me to come into your yoga. I know you think Bikram can’t be a place of solace and comfort and warmth and safety- but I promise you, for me it was all those things. Accept that which I love- that which I was so excited to tell you about when you asked- as something that works for me, not as something that “is not real yoga.” Sure, she apologized afterwards, but the dye was already cast. Sorry, but once you discredit my safe place as “not real,” I discredit you because I no longer trust that you can know gently in this world, that your knowledge can intersect with mine in kind, light-producing ways, and that you are someone from whom I want to learn: after all, you called my safe place “not real”. I wish to surround myself with people who honour what I love, know we are all different, respect diverse practices, dreams, and needs.