I start to get that feeling deep down in my gut, like I could cry. I hate everything I’ve made so far. I only had two hours to work and I’ve gone through an hour. I’m panicking, I’ve been working on the press. I decide to mix some paint, I mix some white with thick medium, some yellow. I start adding paint. I start some new pieces, with paint and collage. The creativity finally starts flowing. I stop self-critiquing, I start arriving in the moment, enjoying myself, liking what I’m making. I cover up a lot, next time I won’t cover up so much. I want to keep working but times up. I think about the week ahead and realize it will be difficult to get back into my studio. I woke up this morning at 4:30 to Jack wailing, I gave him Tylenol and a bottle of milk. I thought I should go work, but I was too tired. Before I had the babies I was in my studio every day. I worked for hours at a time. My biggest concern was not being able to work. But as the months went by and I saw how fast the babies were growing I took comfort. I knew one day soon they will be doing their own thing and I will be doing mine. This makes me sad too, if I was younger I would have more babies because it is a wonderful experience. But then I would never get into my studio. It always feels like time is running out. I need to get back to meditation.
One year ago we were at Tahoe Forest Hospital, the night had been long. Jack nestled on my chest, I could hear the fluid in his lungs as he breathed. Fiona on Alan’s chest hooked up to an oxygen monitor, she had a lot more fluid. Malissa was in the next room recovering from a traumatic delivery. Although if you asked her she probably wouldn’t describe it like that. I can’t wait to see her, I ask the nurse is she OK? How is she feeling? The nurse, says she is fine and she is pumping to get the colostrum. Yesterday Malissa and Tom came to visit us. She walked in the door, gentle and sweet, we hug. Her husband has the same relaxed vibe. Jack and Fiona welcome the visitors. I will tell them they were carried for nine months in Malissa’s belly when they are old enough to understand. People always ask me, “isn’t is weird to let Malissa see the babies?” It’s not, we are very comfortable with the situation. She texted me this after they left: “Thanks Alan and Jenny! These are the times that make being a surrogate that much more rewarding. To see two healthy, happy, beautifully growing little kids and two happy wonderful parents. I couldn’t of asked for more. You are both doing an amazing job with your babies. Love you all! Thank you for sharing your family with us.” Malissa, Tom, and their kids feel like family to me. I love them. As Tom and Malissa left and walked down the stairs we saw him rub her back comforting her. Back in the kitchen Alan and I hug. We think how lucky we are to have found Malissa. While we were pregnant I read a lot on the internet about surrogacy, and was upset by how many people made comments about how if a woman can’t have a baby naturally that should be the end of it. People talked about how it was wrong to use a gestational carrier. I let that confuse me, I felt ashamed and didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, just a few of my closest friends. Malissa was always proud from the beginning. Her whole community was rooting for us. They supported her the whole way, cooking her meals and helping out however they could. I envy her close knit community. It’s a beautiful thing. It took ten years for my husband and me to have babies. Every new step we took that failed I was ready to quit. But we kept going, through fertility treatments, miscarriage, finally after two surrogates that didn’t work out we met Malissa. It didn’t work the first time and I was devastated. But we all decided we had to try one last time, and this was REALLY the last time. This is how Jack and Fiona came to us.
Buzzzzzzz Fiona’s hand grabs at her ear, through her striped Hanna Anderson hat she tries to pull off her hearing aid. “pat pat pat” I say which is what I’ve learned from Early Start to teach babies to keep their hearing aids in. She’s whining and tired, it’s almost morning nap time. “Just one more bite, you’re almost done with your cereal.” I take off her hat, take out her hearing aids. As I carry her to the play n pack she’s whiny and I say “SHHHH” but she can’t hear me. I put on the sleep sheep but she can’t hear it. I give her Tiger and she starts sucking her thumb and cuddling tiger. A few minutes go by and Fiona is whining and whining, I go back in the room where the babies are napping and she’s dropped her Tiger out of the play and pack. I feel myself getting really stressed and annoyed. Take a deep breath. Give back her Tiger, Jacks doing fine, “take your nap babies” I say and shut the door. Yesterday at the non-party birthday party I was babbling back to Willa, My Friend Bettina’s eight month old baby girl. I had a brief moment where I had to question if she could hear me or not. Of course she can, she has perfect hearing, but I’m so used to thinking about Fiona’s hearing loss and if she has her hearing aids in or not it seeps into my interactions with hearing babies. I feel so much pressure to make sure I’m using the hearing aids as much as possible so Fiona will learn language. I feel guilty when I don’t put them on, when I just let Fiona “BE.” I let her head breath. I read as many books as I can when Fiona and Jack are in their high chairs, I always have her hearing aids on in her high chair. She still misses so much. There is so much time she is not wearing her hearing aids. I want to believe that’s OK. I feel like she’s still learning so much, she’s still learning about communication, she’s not learning as many “words” as Jack, but in time she will catch up.
I see my reflection in the window with the glow of the computer screen on my face. It’s still dark outside. The house is asleep. The kettle is humming. I go over to turn it off before it beeps and graze my little toe on the corner of the high chair, the plastic pinches and scrapes, “Damn!” Then just like clockwork as I’m buttering my toast I hear the babies on the monitor starting to babble. My coffee is nice and hot, my toast warm with peanut butter and banana. I’ll let them babble until I finish my breakfast. Today Jack and Fiona turn one year old. Super yard Baby fences section off the house like a spaceship. Toys scatter the floors, some of which feel more like torture devices than playthings, the sharp plastic corners dig into the bottom of my feet and make me cuss. The frustration of these things does sneak up on me. Then I start to get mad at things I normally could deal with, like lately I’m trying to teach the babies how to treat books. They put them in their mouths and have already destroyed “Quack Quack with Jemima Puddle Duck”. So I start to use the word “no” which has been put away until now. Fiona puts “Polar Bear Polar Bear” in her mouth, I say “no Fiona not in your mouth” and gently pull the book down. Her lip curls, her eyes squint and she starts to cry the saddest little cry I ever did see. We repeat this sequence about 5 times, now I think maybe it’s too early to teach this lesson! Today since it is their birthday I took both babies out of their cribs at the same time, took off their sleep sacks and pajamas, and was able to change their diapers on the floor of the nursery because it was just pee. I dressed them in their birthday outfits, Fiona is a Lady Bug, and Jack is a Bumble Bee. Then I scooped up both babies and carried 45 pounds of baby up the stairs to the kitchen. I see my black dog Billy, part Border collie but looks like a wolf, trotting down the street. I don’t know how she got out last night, I hope she didn’t kill anyone’s cat. It’s time to make the cake now. How will I take care of the babies, make the birthday cake and clean the kitchen? Take a deep breath, make another cup of coffee.
The intuitive healer slid her hand under my tailbone and pressed on my stomach gently. She moved to the top of the table and cradled my head breathing deeply. I smelt something awful. I think it must be sewer or something dead under the floor boards. No, it’s coming from the healer, it’s her breath. I try to hold my breath so I won’t smell it. She finally moved to the bottom of the table and held onto my feet, “I see a being, it’s a boy” she said. “The spirit must be trapped in your face, that’s why your cheek is twitching. We need to move the spirit into your heart, focus on moving the energy into your heart.” For a brief moment I believed her. Is it the baby I’ve been so desperately trying to have, or is it one I’ve lost that I won’t let go of? But that thinking didn’t last long, I can’t wait to get out of here. The healer started to move back towards my face and pressed on my twitching cheek, oh no, I thought to myself, that smell, just hold your breath, don’t open your mouth, it’s almost over. “Today it’s $75” she said. “I offer a full intuitive healing session though you should come back for.” I gave her the $75 but felt ripped off and never went back.
Baby Boy Homer also has a birthday in February, the 26th. He would be 28 years old. The nurse told me I needed to hold him before I left the hospital. She handed him to me all wrapped up in a blanket. His eyes were big and brown, his cheeks round and soft, but his skull was large. He had been born without a brain, at least that’s what my teenage mind remembers them telling me. He wouldn’t be able to live for very long. I wasn’t allowed to keep him anyhow, my mom said. She told me at the hospital she almost turned back home while I was being driven away in the ambulance. She didn’t know I was pregnant. No one knew. Baby Boy Homer died a ward of the state. I’m not sure where he spent his last days or how. I moved on with my teenage angst and we never talked about the pregnancy.