Sometimes, things go wrong

Sometimes you do everything.

You take the meds.
You center yourself.
You avoid stress.
You think positive thoughts.
Your lining in extra thick.
You say “when i’m pregnant” instead of “if I get pregnant”.
You tell yourself you are made for this.
You tell yourself your body is perfect.
You feel love.
You take more meds.
You drink water.
You eat healthy food.
You eat 3 meals a day.
You talk about the future.
You test your levels.
Your body is perfect and ready.
You take a trip.
You thaw an embryo that has been waiting for you.
You think more positive thoughts.
You tell the embryo you love them.
You tell them embryo, welcome to their new home.
You follow the restrictions.
You continue to eat healthy.
You pee on 30 pregnancy tests.

but you don’t feel pregnant…

You get a positive BETA.
You tell people you’re pregnant.
You pee on more sticks, because

you know your body,… and you don’t feel pregnant.

and then you get your second BETA,

and it’s less than half the first one.

because, you’re not pregnant, and your body has played a horrible and cruel joke.

and you wonder if you did something wrong, because you are supposed to be the hero in someone elses story, and you’ve let them down.

why did my body fail me this time?

Brookes Story

It was Mardi Gras weekend, February 2001, and I was a few weeks shy of my 21st birthday. I was a sophomore at The University of Texas. It was a festive night out, but for some reason, I was not in the mood to drink. I could barely sip my beer because I felt a tightness in my chest. I could not sleep that night, and I found it so hard to breathe, that I had to prop myself up on several pillows just to get air. The next day I went to the doctors office. They did a chest x-ray and found my lungs were filled with fluid. They rushed me to the hospital.

I was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Basically, my heart was weakened and became enlarged in an effort to pump harder. They don’t know what caused it. Later we found out that I had genetic predisposition to this condition, but they did not know how or why it came on so suddenly. Usually this is a death sentence for people, but because I was young, and otherwise healthy, and because of a new drug on the market called Coreg, the doctors said I would be able to probably lead a pretty normal life. Just a few little adjustments to keep my heart healthy, and one major one. I would never be able to have a baby.

Of course this was a shock to hear. I was devastated. I had always assumed that I would just have kids whenever I thought the time was right. Probably 2 or 3. Now I was being told it wasn’t really an option. I mean, it was an option, but an option that would have a good chance of killing me. I immediately thought of Steel Magnolias, and how the Julia Roberts character wanted a baby so bad, that she had the baby against her doctor’s wishes. Then she dies. Nope, I thought. Not worth it. Not me. As much as I was upset to hear this baby news, I was just overwhelmingly grateful that I was going to live. As a 20 year old kid, I had never thought too much about my own mortality, and now I was in a hospital bed, talking about life expectancy with multiple doctors?! No, I was going to live. I was going to enjoy my life and appreciate it. And I made good on that promise.  Not one day has gone by in the 16 years since then where I don’t feel extremely grateful and  lucky just to be alive.

I still knew I’d always be a mom, but I would just have to find another way. I read everything I could about surrogacy and adoption and continued to read studies about pregnancy outcomes in cardiomyopathy patients. I was in no rush though. I knew a lot of this stuff took a lot of time and money and I wasn’t anywhere near ready. I knew that when the time came to think about having kids that it wouldn’t be easy, but that I would have options.

A few years later, in 2005 I moved to New York City to pursue my ambitions to work in film and television and to reunite with my best friend turned boyfriend (and future husband!) Joe. It was a great time. We were young and broke, but in the most fantastic city in the world as far as we were concerned. We got married in 2006 when we were 25 years old. Everyone we knew thought we were nuts. In NYC, 25 is basically a child bride. Most of our friends didn’t wed until their early and mid thirties. But we knew what we wanted. We knew each other well and we were in love, it was a no brainer.

The early years of our marriage were fantastic. I was getting jobs working on tv shows and began working my way up, and beginning to make decent money. Joe started writing online and getting more and more recognition and eventually getting hired to blog for a living. We began to settle into our life in New York. We made lots of friends, went to fun parties, did fun weekends away at the beach with friends and travelled abroad on vacations. We wanted kids, but the thought of starting the process, with so many unknowns, was daunting. Plus, all of our other friends our age were single and having fun and working long hours at their jobs, we were already married, so we were ahead of the game in a sense!

But as the years went by, we began to talk about our kids more often. We would name them. We would talk about what they would be like, their little personalities, their talents and dreams. We would talk about it more and more with every passing year. Then babies started showing up. Not our close friends, but friends of friends. I’d see a baby picture on Facebook and melt. I started feeling very jealous of people who could just decide, “ok, let’s have a baby” or of people who could just get accidentally pregnant and have a happy surprise. That would never be us. We had to do some work. So we decided to get started.

I read Dan Savage’s book “The Kid”  that he wrote in 1999 about the adoption of his son. It was an amazing story of love- with a happy ending. But it really opened my eyes about all of the hurdles there are in adoption. Before reading this, I assumed like many people, that there are tons of babies that need homes, and not enough people to adopt them. But it is just not true. People wait years to adopt babies. The demand is greater than the supply. Some people never get selected.Yes, there are many kids in the foster system, who need homes. Many of these kids are much older, and have special needs and most have suffered real emotional trauma. These kids need help and love too of course, but it’s different kind of commitment and training. Not every person who wants to adopt is equipped for that.

Any idiot can have kids, but if you want to adopt, you really have to prove yourself. You have to be interviewed, have references, take classes, have your home inspected, write essays. You also have to pay- potentially a lot of money. But the real kicker, the real heartbreaker that I could not get past was, that you could do everything right. You could be a perfect candidate, you could pay, you could be chosen, and then a birth parent could change their mind even after the baby was born, and there’s nothing you could do about it.

It’s this lack of control that really got me. How cruel it felt. To not have any control about your situation, just because you can’t have kids. You are always at someone else’s whim.

So I started looking at surrogacy. Yes, I liked the idea of having a baby that looked like me (I was a cute baby!) But more importantly, I liked the idea that the baby would be mine. Meaning, I wouldn’t be taking a baby away from a mother who might have mixed feelings about letting her go. I liked that no one could change their mind, because the baby would be ours. I knew that having a surrogate meant giving up a lot of control, I would be his/her mother, and that I could control.

Joe, my husband, felt that same way I did. I did most of the research, but we came to the same conclusions. We wanted a baby and we would figure it out together. The more I researched surrogacy, however, the more I got discouraged again. The laws seemed really murky and unclear. Surrogacy was not even legal in New York! And the COST. I just couldn’t believe it. Sites were saying that you needed $100,000 at least!! WTF, I thought! So, you can’t have a baby unless you are rich??

After my initial research, I got very depressed. It didn’t seem like this would ever be something we could afford. We had good jobs, we had IRAs that we contributed to, but we didn’t have anywhere even close to that in our savings. We didn’t have a house, we didn’t have any assets really, even if we cashed in what little stocks we had, we would be no where close. So I put this on the backburner again. We focused on our careers and our friends and i tried not to think about the baby stuff.

I kept up with my research, however. We continued to save our money every year, I thought I could maybe find a way to do this if I just got started. I found a surrogate message board online. I started chatting with a woman in Colorado who wanted to be a surrogate. She was 25 and a mom of 2. She seemed really smart and nice and we began emailing back and forth. I found a clinic near her house, and made an appointment to get checked out. Joe and I flew out, met her family and began talking about making this a possibility. Everything was going smoothly until I got a call from the clinic saying that she was not a good fit for a surrogate. That’s all they told me. No explanation, nothing. I had already spent thousands on the tests at this clinic (surrogacy and IVF is not covered by my insurance). Now we were back to square one, but worse than square one, because we were out several thousand dollars. I got the call from the clinic when I was at work. I ran out the door and met Joe at Bryant Park. We just sat there and cried. I felt so down and hopeless. And just when it felt like things couldn’t get any worse,  a homeless man walked by and threw a muffin at us. It was something out of a movie. It so absurd that we just started cracking up laughing. At least we never lost our sense of humor!

Then we had some good luck. Joe got a fantastic job offer. It was a super cool job where he would be on TV every day and get to do really fun work with great people. And it paid. A lot. Not only did he have a huge salary now, we would have great insurance that would cover the IVF part of the surrogacy process. Because we now had the money, and because I was still so traumatized from what had happened in Colorado, we decided to hire an agency to find us the perfect match. We decided to work with an agency in Texas, because Texas is a surrogacy friendly state and we have family and strong ties there.

It was fun getting to look through profiles of people who were already vetted, so I knew they had a background check, were healthy, probably not psychos, etc. Because it was Texas, or perhaps because of the spiritual aspect of surrogacy, there seemed to be an overwhelming amount of very religious Christians as candidates. I come from a religious family and was raised in the South, so even though I am not religious, it is definitely something I am familiar with and comfortable around. However, in this case, I became a little uneasy. When doing a surrogacy contract, you are forced to think about a lot of worst case scenarios. When to terminate a pregnancy, what if it’s a threat to the mother (or surrogate’s life?) what if it’s going to be born with severe birth defects? Many of these women’s answers to these questions were guided by what they thought God would want, not what was the most pragmatic, and this was something I was not comfortable with. I needed to be on the same page as someone when it came to the big matters.

Then I found Chelsea. She liked Nirvana, loved books and considered herself a Buddhist. I was in love. She was young and intelligent and knew how to write well and had a good sense of humor. I was stunned that she had 3 kids and was only 23! And still with their father! I had never heard of a relationship where a  teenage pregnancy (much less 3!) turned into a healthy, loving marriage. But Chelsea was unlike anyone I’d ever met, and still continues to impress me. We chatted on the phone. She seemed nervous, but I was thrilled. She was into natural childbirth, and had clear ideas of how she wanted a surrogate birth to go. I just wanted a baby and for her to work with us. So as we talked about preferences, and ideas about childbirth, I told her, “honestly, whatever you want! We just want you!” Birthing Center? Sure. A tub? Why not. Midwives, Doulas? The more the merrier!

A few months later Joe and I flew to Ft. Worth to meet Chelsea and her husband, Curtis, and their kids. We had a great time. The kids were so kind and smart and well behaved, which only confirmed my suspicion that these were awesome people. They clearly were doing a great job raising their kids and had good judgment. And for me, that’s all that’s important. If someone else is carrying your child, you cannot monitor every little thing- especially from a different state. You just have to do your best in selecting someone who you trust, who has good judgment and trust that they will make the best choices, even if they aren’t the exact choices that you would make.

The process took a while, coordinating doctors visits, getting the right evaluations, contracts, etc. It is a process. During this time we didn’t really tell a lot of people what we were going through. We didn’t want to potentially have a public heartbreak. Even with the best conditions, IFV rates (in surrogacy or not) are 70% at best. That means that there still was as 30% chance at best that it would take. Joe and I are both cautious, so we decided to keep the experience on the DL until we knew everything would be fine.

I flew to Austin in June and we implanted one of our embryos (we had 2 good ones) in Chelsea. Immediately she was convinced it took. I was afraid of getting my hopes up. We had a fun weekend in Austin eating Mexican food and shopping at the Herb Bar and just hangin out. I was so accustomed to disappointment that it didn’t seem real that this could actually work. I made Chelsea swear to not tell me the results of her (many) pregnancy tests until we knew for sure at her 2 week doctor visit. I wanted to be 100% sure.

Two weeks later Chelsea told Joe and I the news via Skype. She was pregnant and we were finally going to get our baby girl. I was overwhelmed with joy. I cried. Joe cried. I couldn’t wait to tell our friends and family.

Throughout the pregnancy, I was still super cautious about telling people. I had a good friend suffer a very late term miscarriage, so I knew that there were never any guarantees. We told our family and a few close friends. I visited Chelsea a few times during the pregnancy, but mostly we just texted and talked on the phone. The beginning part of the pregnancy was super tough. Chelsea was having bad reactions to the injections and she was in a lot of pain. Our doctors, however, insisted that nothing could be done and any change in course of her medication could cause her to lose the baby. I didn’t know what to do. I did not want to cause another person undue pain, especially one who was going out of her way to help us, but I couldn’t do anything to risk my child’s life. It was a terrible position to be in, and one not that most mothers never find themselves in. Most mothers are accustomed to sacrificing their health and comfort for their children, but to force someone else to do if for you is a moral quandary that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Fortunately for us Chelsea soldiered on and kept me in the dark about the misery she was going through (thanks Chelsea). The pregnancy progressed smoothly, and our bond with Chelsea and her family grew.

Its funny, for Chelsea, she was constantly explaining our situation to people, because the evidence was on her body. She was educating the general public about surrogacy on a daily basis, and for me, I was about to be a mom and no one knew! I could go out and travel and drink and see my friends, and generally live my life as I always had. I hired someone to paint our nursery and when the painter asked when the baby was coming, I just said, oh, 2 months. He looked at my stomach confused, but I didn’t see the need to explain.

I had a baby shower. My friends planned it and just wrote a little note on the invite “Brooke and Joe are using a surrogate, that’s why she has no bump and is drinking tequila.” It’s funny how no one really questioned it. It’s very strange. No one in my family or friend group has had a baby via surrogate before, yet everyone just accepted it as a given. I would have been happy to answer questions, but not that many people had them. Or maybe they did, but were just being polite. That’s fine by me too. My good friend Alice came over to my house during this time, she was very pregnant and was complaining about the normal aches and pains and general uncomfortableness of pregnancy. “You’re not missing anything,” she said to me. And I believed her. While I did feel a little bit guilty about not having to go through the pregnancy and childbirth experience, I was also relieved. It’s like I gotta get out of jail free card. I got the baby and didn’t have to go through the physical stuff?! Fantastic. No, I couldn’t feel sorry for myself about “missing out” on that experience. I was incredibly lucky, and I knew it.

The week before June’s due date, I headed to Texas. We had a few false alarms and Joe flew down and back a few times. He only had a limited paternity leave, so we didn’t want to waste it before the baby was born. So we waited. I rented a crappy motel in Ft. Worth, and spend most days hanging out with Chelsea and waiting. I felt weird to be taking off work, but not taking care of a baby. It seemed I had so many hours, and there was nothing I could do but wait. I know it’s irrational but I really thought the baby would never come. Chelsea and I made multiple trips to the midwives, did every natural and homeopathic remedy in the book. June just would not come! My mom flew down and kept me company in my sad hotel room that faced a Hooters and a highway, so that was nice.

Then it happened. I got a call in the middle of the night. Chelsea was in labor. I rushed over to her apartment and she called the doula and midwives. My sister rushed up from Austin and Joe booked the next flight out of New York.

The birth was amazingly special. Chelsea, her husband Curtis, my mom and my sister and the midwives and I were all there through the night hanging out, helping Chelsea, and my sister was keeping joe in the loop with texts (he was on the plane.)

Then she was born at 7:03. Or maybe it was 7:08. She didn’t make any noise and I was terrified. Then she let out a cry and I feel like I exhaled for the first time in several years.

The midwives helped Chelsea and they handed the baby to me. She was beautiful. More beautiful that I expected. I was shocked. It was surreal and fun and happy and the best morning of my life. Joe arrived shortly after the birth and held her for the first time. He was so nervous! It was sweet. Chelsea’s kids came and we all ate breakfast together in the birthing center suite.

And then we were parents. Joe and I always joke that we can’t remember what life was like before June. It’s funny, it seems like she’s always been a part of our family. It’s so hard to talk about your child in a non cliche way, so I won’t even try! She is the light of our life and the best thing that ever happened to us. I honestly believe there has never been a better baby! She is well behaved, gorgeous, funny and sweet. And most likely a genius.

Meeting Chelsea was the best thing that happened to us on our journey to become parents, and we have been so lucky and blessed to have met her! And we are excited about doing it all over again!

International Women’s Day, My experiments in equality

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
-Anne Lamott

I sat on the title for this post for a long time.
“Sexism experiment”
“The problem with a dirty name”
“My own social experiment”
“How to loose a guy in a month”
“My body, my choice”
“Nature Vs. Sexism”

But in the end, I decided to post on international women’s day, so I shall honor that.

Let me start by saying, that I do intend to “throw people under the bus”. But hey, like Anne Lamott said, you should have behaved better, and I won’t hold back my story, my feelings, or my writing for anyone. I also have no apologies for being blunt or honest about parts of my body. Just throwing that out there. I am not ashamed of any part of my body or any way that *I* choose to handle *MY* body.

Months ago I started a low key social experiment, I stopped wearing make up to work. The first day, I had just woken up late and decided not to take my make up bag with me to do on my break. I just went au natural. I got so many comments on how I looked different, tired, that my face was broken out, and that I looked better with make up on. So I did it again, and again, and again. Then randomly, one day I wore make up, not a lot, just enough to look different but not to actually tell I had make up on. And I was told how beautiful I was, how rosy my cheeks looked. The next day I went all out on make up. I was told I was wearing too much. I went without it, and told I should wear it. All by my male coworkers. I started to reverse the roles. I told them they looked tired, and that maybe they should start wearing make up. I got laughed at. I asked them why it was different for them than it was for me, the only answer they had was: “You’re a woman”.

The next month, I decided to try something else. After reading a new study showing that bras actually increase your chance of getting breast cancer, I stopped wearing them. right away I got remarks, but not what I expected. People started asking me if I put on weight, if I was pregnant again, if I should really be eating that. You see, I am a small chested woman, so without a bra making my chest look bigger, my chest and stomach are about the same size. Not wearing a bra made my boobs look smaller, and my stomach look bigger. These comments came from male AND female coworkers, on a daily basis. Always without couth. Always without thought or care of my feelings. It was perfectly okay to tell me that I looked fat, even months after giving birth. It started extending further, my family told me I looked fat, and I started to believe them. My self-esteem started to drop, and hasn’t truly recovered. But I refuse to start wearing a bra again. I’ve had days here and there where I felt ashamed, and put a bra on, but I took it off within hours. Why am I going to put myself in pain, and increase my chances of literal CANCER for other people to enjoy looking at me?

Last month I started a new experiment, I knew I needed time for this one, that I wouldn’t be able to put it into play until summer. I stopped shaving. As a young girl, I was taught as we all are that we need to shave, and that body hair on a woman is gross. When I came of “shaving age” I was obsessed with being “beautiful”. I shaved my legs, my privates, my arm pits, my arms. I wanted no body hair at all. I thought it made me beautiful. I look at my husband, or my brothers running around with body hair and wonder why their hair is natural, but mine is disgusting. When it physically hurts to shave, when I spend way too much damn money on a razor, when it literally doesn’t improve my happiness or quality of life at all, why do I do it? So I stopped. I just stopped. I figured I wouldn’t see the full extent of my social experiment until this summer, when I was in tank tops and a bathing suit and everyone could see my awesome leg and armpit hair. But after only a week, my own husband asked me if I was going to shave. When I explained to him that I was not and why, I was met with backlash. Will writing this and calling him out create more backlash? Probably, but that’s exactly why I need to talk about it. He said I needed to shave, and when I asked why he didn’t need to, he said because I wasn’t disgusted by his body hair, but he was disgusted by mine. That if I was disgusted by it, he would shave it. But it still didn’t answer my question, why was my body hair disgusting to him, but his wasn’t disgusting to him? Why is it, that when I stop doing as I’m told, and I let my body, MY BODY be natural it’s disgusting? We haven’t talked about it again, but I continue to rebel against what society has always told me. And you know what? I’m so comfortable! My skin is no longer red, and bumpy. No more cuts, or ingrown hairs. I feel, for maybe the first time ever, totally empowered by my own body.

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And yes, I do plan on dying it a crazy color when it’s long enough. Because it’s my body, and I want to.

So what does feminism look like to you? Are you a feminist? Have any of the above things ever happened to you? Have you ever questioned why you do some of the things you do? Do you actually enjoy them? Are you stuck thinking that you have to do something, just because you always have, and not because you actually want to? Question your everyday things. Fight back when people continue to tell you what you should do, man or woman. Keep moving forward, it’s the only way to show other people the inequalities that are at play every single day. So go out without make-up. Burn your bra. And stop buy $18 razors that hurt you. Or keep doing them, because YOU WANT TO. Be you.

Happy International Women’s Day. Today, Tomorrow and everyday.

What will you tell your children about 2016?

What will you tell your children about 2016? What will you tell your daughters? What will you tell your sons?

Will you sit your daughter down, and tell her that 2016 was a year to remember? That it will be written about in history books? Will you tell her that you were scared, or that you were angry? Will you tell her that you had a voice? Will you tell her you posted memes on facebook and twitter? Will you tell her that you stopped the conversation, stopped talking to your friends or family because their opinions were different than yours? Will you tell her you called your representatives? That you were a force to be reckoned with?

When you talk about womens problems, will you tell her to keep her mouth shut if a man forces himself on her? That it’s better not to anger him? Will you give her a whistle? Tell her to yell “fire” instead of “rape” because no one will blink if she does the latter? Will you tell her to cover up the body that you grew? Will you tell her that men “just can’t help” themselves? Will you tell her to fight like hell, give her a weapon and pray to whatever god you believe in that she never has to use it? Will you tell her about the man who could just grab anyones pussy because he’s famous? Or will you tell her that it’s ‘normal’ for boys to talk about her body like that behind closed doors?

Will you look your daughter in the eyes and tell her that even though you can’t take organs from a dead body without their permission, she can’t have an abortion, that her body belongs to the will of people who have never faced that problem. Will you tell her that there is no real separation of church and state?

When she tells you about her first boyfriend, will you tell her “not until your 30!” When she’s hot from running around outside with her friends, will you make her wear more clothes than your sons? When she comes home crying because a boy made fun of her, will you tell her that it’s because he likes her?

If she says she doesn’t want children, will you tell her that her life cannot be fulfilled without them? If she has children will you tell her that her career and personal prospects in life are no longer relevant?

What will you tell your sons?

Will you tell him that he doesn’t need to clean up after dinner, or help with dinner, because that’s his sisters job? When he comes to you about his first girlfriend, will you smile and laugh and say how cute it is? When he cries, will you tell him to suck it up? Be a man? Grow some balls?

When he’s old enough to understand, will you tell him that he holds all the power? Will you tell him, that he has a choice? Will you tell him that he can be an oppressor, or choose to fight against it? Be the strongest ally for his sister? That even though he doesn’t know her struggles, he can acknowledge they are there, and chooses not to partake?

What will you tell your children about 2016? Will you tell them that you had a voice? Will you encourage them to have a voice? Will you stop the vicious cycle, or will you continue it?

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What will you tell your children about 2017…

The best is yet to come: 2017

“I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”
-Vincent Van Gogh

The new year is really just an arbitrary construct of time. But non the less, it’s easy to keep track of when things happen in your life based on the new year. It’s easy (for some) to say, “I’m going to start doing *insert goal here* on the first of the year”.

I’ve never been a resolution type of person, I set goals for myself often without time limits, and without major events being my start (like the new year).

I’ve been working on goals steadily the past few months, and been talking to Curtis about new goals. Here is what I hope for in 2017:

  1. To succeed in my transition to my new job. I just started at Central Market. I’m nervous, I’m excited, and I’m ready to work my ass off to succeed. They offer so many opportunities including leadership training, and chances to transfer to other stores in major cities (including Austin).
  2. To make plans, one way or another, to have another surrogacy journey, or not. I currently feel like this is a bit up in the air. There are really only two couples I’m interested in carrying for. One couple has expressed that they are not in a place to have a baby right now, and the other feels a little reluctant to talk about it right now. I’m okay with this either way. I’d love to experience another journey, but I’m cool with just living my life too. Whatever the way the wind blows, I’ll follow.
  3. I want to get more involved in the community. At Central Market there is a multitude of opportunities to volunteer for the community, I plan on volunteering a lot. And I plan to continue to be involved in politics, on both the state and federal levels.
  4. Curtis and I have been talking about becoming ‘minimalists’. It’s a long process, it’ll be hard, but we are making plans, and are going to take steps one day at a time. Downsizing, not ‘consuming’ so much, being happier with less. We’re also talking about finding alternate transportation, lowering our carbon footprint, and continuing on our path of healthy/clean eating. They will all take time, and they are all things we’ve already been working on, but the journey continues.
  5. I have another trip planned in August to go home! This time Curtis and the kids will be coming with me. For about a week to go to my family reunion and I’m trying to plan to be there for the fair! The kids haven’t been home since 2013.
  6. Yoga, yoga, yoga. Curtis and I both started doing yoga this year. We are so into it. It makes us feel amazing and we enjoy doing it together. I’d really like to step this up, and also start jogging again, god I actually REALLY love jogging!
  7. Get my business up and running. I finished my Doula Certification this year, but with my job at the Marriott, I haven’t felt ready to actually start my business and live my dream. But I am ready, and I am motivated.

So who knows what 2017 will hold for me. Who knows what it will hold for the world. Whatever the future holds, I embrace it with open arms and an open mind. In the past year I learned how to LIVE instead of just being alive. I hope to keep that momentum going in the coming year.

I wish you and your families health, happiness, hope and love in 2017.

2016: A year to remember

I remember coming into 2016 and thinking, ‘wow, this year is going to be such an amazing year’, and I wasn’t completely wrong. I met almost every personal goal I set for myself a year ago.

Curtis and I celebrated our 10 year “anniversary” in January, and our 9 year wedding anniversary in December. We also made a few steps toward being debt free! Yay!
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In March, almost two weeks “overdue”, I gave birth to little June bug. The day before my own daughters 9th birthday, Brooke and Joe finally got to hold their daughter. My pregnancy, labor and post-partum were all amazing. I ended up with another family that I never expected going into this, and I love them all so much.
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I told myself last January “up or out”. That I would move up in my career or find a new job. Well, I got a raise in April, and then after some stagnation I decided it was time for something new. I started my new job at Central Market right before the new year.
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Not only that, but I also completed my Doula Certification this year! Zen Mama Doula at your service!
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I went home in June and got to see NYC, June bug, and my mom get married. It was amazing.
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A friend took me to see one of my heros. Bill Nye The Science Guy!
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I got involved in politics and made my voice heard. I stood up for things I believe in.
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I said yes to things I was afraid of, and I catered the birthing center for a short time. I made new friends, I saw new things, I went new places. I lived. I spent more time with my family, I laughed more, I loved more.

2016 was hard for a lot of reasons. People died, people suffered, and human rights were questioned. But in my personal life, 2016 will be a year I will always look back on with a smile. With no regrets.

So here is to 2017. May it bring my family and I just as much joy and adventure.

When you feel like you don’t have a voice, find one.

Tonight I had a very humbling and eye opening experience. I attended an Anti-Trump protest.

I’ve never attended a protest before. I’ve thought about it lots of times, I cared about causes. I’ve written my pieces on social media. But I’ve never gotten involved, I’ve never thought my voice mattered.

I’m in mourning. Yes, mourning. At first I was in shock, then I was depressed, then I was angry and then I was bargaining to no one for this to be a nightmare. I’ve gone through this cycle a couple times in the past three days. Trying to understand, trying to process, TRYING to accept.

I turn on the news and see people protesting, and I feel the pull. I need to be a part of this. I need to have my voice be heard. But I’m scared. I’m scared that I don’t matter. I’m scared of being attacked and looked down on before of my beliefs, and I’m scared of “the system”. But then I stop. I am a white woman. I am privileged. How do the minorities feel right now? People I love. LGBTQ. Hispanics. African Americans. Muslims. Illegal immigrants. The disabled. I am a woman yes, and my rights are being questioned. Yes I have reason to be afraid. But others have it worse than I do.

Then I look at my children. “No” I tell myself. Not my children. Not my country.

So I looked into rallies. I looked for one in Fort Worth, my own streets where I feel safe. I find what I’m looking for, and I work myself up about it all day long.

At 6;30 I get dressed in my favorite shirt that shows the phrase “Feminism is the radial notion that women are people.” I grab a bandana as I’ve been instructed to do in order to cover my face. I take my ID incase the police ask for it, I tell friends where I will be and I set out the door. My husband decides to follow to protect me and document the event.

When I get downtown a fight is breaking out. A man with a confederate battle flag in hand is screaming at the peaceful protesters. He grabs a sign out of someones hand and throws it to the ground. A protester tries to grab his flag in retaliation. He jabs at them with it. The police come over and break it up before it gets out of hand and instructs the man to cross to the other side of the street. This is before I even join my fellow protesters.

I stand quietly at first, unsure of what to do or say. Curtis is with the media, not with the protesters. I am alone. Maybe I made a mistake? My adrenaline tells me that is not the case.

Standing on the stairs of city hall people are chanting. “Love trumps hate”. “Not my president”. Calls of “Show me what democracy looks like” is met with “This is what democracy looks like”. The chants change every few minutes. “Who’s streets?” is met with “Our streets”. “What do we want?” is met with “Justice”. “When do we want it?” is met with “Now”. The crowd claps in rhythm with every chant.

There are many signs being held up. Many saying things about the electoral college. Love trumps hate signs. I’m standing next to two young men holding hands on one side, and an older Hispanic woman on the other side. I walk around the crowd and introduce myself to a few people, without asking they tell me one by one why they are there. “End the racism! End the hate!” the crowd starts chanting as we leave our place on the steps and move into downtown. Some cars honk and show solidarity. Some by standers applaud and hold their arms up in support. Everyone is recording us on their phones. The media is everywhere. Some people are being interviewed. We chant and clap and walk peacefully on the sidewalks, the police guiding us safely the entire time. I’m thankful they are there.

Some people scream at us “FUCK YOU!” or “TRUMPS AMERICA!” It feels like a setback, but we get louder. “LOVE TRUMPS HATE!” I don’t have a sign, so I hold my hand up with a peace sign.

I meet a woman who looks to be my age. She has a little girl in a stroller. I tap her on the shoulder and say thank you. She says “It’s her future. She needs to know that we show love, and that we fought for better.” I hold back tears as we walk past a family with three children, what must all of the children think of us and our opposites? We get back to city hall and there an angry loud man, telling us to go fuck ourselves. That he voted for Trump and we lost and we were whine asses and we needed to get over it. We again chanted “LOVE TRUMPS HATE” to drowned him out.

Before we left, the organizer stood up and gave a beautiful short speech. And We all convinced them to hold another tomorrow.

My husband asked me, “What do you want to come of this?” and to put it simply,
I just want to be heard, and to not feel alone.
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What Makes A Family?

Though my Journey to carry June, and to give Brooke and Joe a daughter ended six months ago, our Journey together is far from over.

No I’m not talking about another baby (although that IS going to happen). No, I’m talking about this time in between new babies, and the relationship we have developed.

This past weekend Brooke and June came to Austin, it’s the first time they’ve been to Texas since June was born. Brooke E-mailed me a couple weeks ago and told me when they would be here and asked if we would like to visit. I was overjoyed! Of course we would love to see them! After replying telling her I would ask for time off of work, I sat back. I ended up being stuck in my own head. What if she was just being nice? What if she was worried that if she came to Texas and didn’t say anything to me I would be upset? What if she didn’t ACTUALLY want to see me?

She’s never given me any indication that any of these things are true. But we have a rare, and abnormal relationship. How many people have someone in their life that gave birth to their child, and isn’t their significant other or blood family? It’s different, and there are no hard or fast rules on how this relationship should be. We are in uncharted lands, wandering around, just figuring it out as we go.

I expressed my concerns to my best friend, who is in her own strange lands. A birth mother who has an open relationship with her daughter and the family raising her. She said that she often felt the same way, that my feelings were normal but that didn’t mean they were right. Her daughters parents loved her and enjoy the time they have together.

So was I being crazy? Does Brooke like to see and spend time with me? Or am I an attachment that’s hard to shake off?

Curtis, the boys and I drove to Austin (Emma got in big trouble in school and stayed with her grandmother for the weekend). I was nervous and excited to see Brooke and June, and also Brookes family. I walked up to the door and of course was met with big hugs from all. Junes grandmother had her when I walked in, and she handed her right off to me. There were many moments during the day when Brooke would have June in her arms and say “Oh look Aunt Chelsea wants to hold you!” and would hand her to me with no warning or without me asking. It was so nice. We talked about my new Doula business and I mentioned needing head shots done for my site. Alex (Brookes sister) pulled out her camera and took pictures of me, and my boys, and June. It was lovely. I met many of her friends who stopped in throughout the day. I was introduced many different ways:
“This is Junes Surrogate.” “This is the woman who gave birth to June.: “This is Chelsea, she birthed June.” It made me giggle how nonchalant she was about it.

 

We stayed up late eating, drinking wine, talking and playing card games. We talked about babies and how wonderful of a sleeper June Bug is. We talked about her moving to Texas someday and of Curtis’ future in films. We talked about Joe and we talked about my business. Her and her sister gave me the advice that I’ve been hearing a lot lately.

Be Confident.

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We finally went back to our hotel around 11 and we all slept like rocks. The next morning we got up and met Brooke and her brother for breakfast. Curtis held June (which he hadn’t really done, poor baby was afraid of his voice), and we enjoyed the little Austin Café. I was so sad to say goodbye, but I realized we already had our next TWO visits planned!

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Maybe I don’t all the answers on how our relationship should be. Maybe there isn’t “a way”. No matter what, I love seeing June and all of her family. I love them in all the ways you would love your own, even if they are different than you. I love to watch our relationships continue to grow and I look forward to all of the time we have together in the future.

I knew that I was giving someone else a family, I never knew I would get one in return.

Dear 15 year old me.

Dear Chelsea 2006,

Can I start by saying, get your shit together! I know you hurt, I know you’re struggling. I know that you feel all alone, that you cry yourself to sleep (when you do sleep) and you feel like all hope is lost. I know that 2005 was a hard year. I know you feel like it was the hardest year. For you, so far in your young life, it was. Even ten years later I often think about 2005 and all of the happiness and pain it brought. But Chelsea, you have no idea what’s in store. I have no regrets. So don’t worry about the little mistakes, don’t stress over the things out of your control, it all shapes who you will be.

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June 2006

 

This month you will get the biggest news of your entire life. It will rock your entire world. It will set your heart on fire. It will test your strength. But please my darling, know that you pass every test. You already know her name, this child you’re not yet aware of, growing inside of you. I promise you that she is worth the morning sickness, worth the cramps. She’s worth the stress and worry. I know that some people are going to do everything in their power to talk you out of having her, they’ll tell you that your life is over. They’ll tell you that you will never amount to anything and they’ll tell you that you won’t be a good mom. It’ll hurt, a lot, because it’ll be people you expected to support you, to love you. I am here to tell you:

I AM PROUD OF YOU! You are strong, so strong beyond your years.

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Pregnant with Emma, December 2006

 

You will be strong from the moment you see that blue line. You’ll march over to Curtis and tell him you are going to keep your baby. You’ll tell him that he can run and never look back. You won’t let him stay with you just because you’re pregnant. You won’t rely on anyone. But Chelsea, he loves you. He loves you so much more than you know. You’ll break his heart a couple times, and I hate you for that. I know that you don’t feel worthy of such love, I know that you don’t know how to love someone the way he loves you, but try. Try every single day, because he’s worth it. And guess what? Ten years later, he’s still here.

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You can do this. March 2007

 

Pregnancy is hard babe. Like, really freakin’ hard. But I know you’ll fight as hard as you can to be healthy for that baby girl. You won’t know it for many, many years but this pregnancy doesn’t just make you a mother. Someday, you’ll be obsessed with the thing you’re so scared of. Watch the damn birthing video! Stop being so stubborn! Ignorance is NOT bliss!

I know it’s your least favorite thing in the entire world when people say to you “babies having babies”. It pisses you off. ‘You are so not a baby, you’re like, so mature for your age.’ And yeah, although this is true to an extent you really are just a baby, having a baby. Don’t be mad, this too shall pass.

But not too quickly. Don’t rush. Slow down. You will miss these days. The days of baby Emma. Of fresh faced Curtis before the military. Sometimes, you’ll miss home. I don’t want to give away your entire future, but I’ll tell you this. You will see the world and all of it’s beautiful wonder. You will meet amazing people who change your life and shape the woman you become. You will have more babies. You will marry Curtis and fall madly in love with him more each day. You will change peoples lives. Yeah, you. You have made a difference in the world. And at 25, I promise you, we’re just getting started.

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The future. January 2016

 

I know you feel helpless right now. I know you cry yourself to sleep. I wish I could just wrap my arms around you and tell you how wonderful the future is. How all of the tears and sweat and blood and hard work pays off. It pays off more than your wildest dreams could have imagined. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are going to have an amazing life. Don’t worry about what other people think of you. I promise that it doesn’t matter. All that matters is your family, and yourself. Believe in yourself.

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You still have all this to come.

 

XOXO
Chelsea 2016