Bob was off for the whole week last week. We were supposed to enjoy a trip to Sacramento for three nights with the babies to visit the train museum there prior to Thanksgiving. The especially bad air quality in Sacramento prompted us to cancel the trip. Instead of going, we mostly stayed home so that the babies wouldn’t have to breathe in the unhealthy air unnecessarily as they can’t wear a mask to protect themselves. Since we had two adults (Bob and my mom) at home, I didn’t have to look for extra childcare so I decided to finish the one final thing that would complete the legal process for me as a parent for the twins: adding my name to their social security accounts. Braving the smoky air outside with my mask on, I arrived 15 minutes before the local Social Security office open. The line wasn’t bad. I’d say there were about 15 people in front of me. I finally made it in and got my number at the machine. With a book in my hand, I expected to sit there for quite some time. My number got called after about 20 minutes to go to a window for check in. That means that they’d ask what your business was for on that day at the office and would call you back later to process that particular business. I was fortunate enough to get called to the window of the lady who helped us last time with the babies’ social security number applications. I briefly explained what I was there for and she remembered me. So I was asked to sit and wait. I calmly went back to the seats and opened my book. To my surprise, I got called by my name within the next 15 minutes. It had appeared that this lady decided to help me finish my business instead of letting me wait for my turn like every other person in the room. How nice of her! I had prepared in my folder the babies’ original birth certificates (without my name), babies’ updated birth certificates (with my name), petition for termination of our gestational carrier’s parental rights, and the certified copies of the step parent adoptions. The lady was typing and mumbling to herself stuff. I patiently waited. All of a sudden, she asked me if I had brought any identification to verify the babies’ identity in addition to the birth certificates, such as hospital records, immunization records, or passports. I didn’t. I actually thought about bringing the passports but decided against it. I really thought that the updated birth certificates would suffice. At that moment, I really thought that I had to return yet again to finish this process. Then I told her that I had the certificates of the adoptions. She looked in her system to check if that would do. Luckily, it was on the list of acceptable documents. Phew. And fortunately I read the documents thoroughly the night before so I knew what was what. I showed her where it said I was granted the step parent adoption and where it showed the case number that matched the paperwork. After almost 40 minutes of this, I was able to step out of the office knowing that I am legally the babies’ mother in every single sense. I can’t begin to tell you how good it feels to be legal in every way. I knew that no one could take that away from me before, but to know that I am officially on their social security record brings it to another level. It is final. And it feels good.
WordPress told me that I started my blog five years ago on June 2nd. Including this post, I have published 468 times. I would say I never thought that this blog would last so long and I would write so many posts. How fitting it is that to celebrate this 5th anniversary, I finally received the babies’ updated birth certificates in the mail last Thursday. This whole process of getting my name on the birth certificates took forever. We finally got the orders from the judge in California for the step-parent adoption. The orders got forwarded to our attorney in Annie’s state. Our attorney and her paralegal took their time in getting back to us. And finally we signed some paperwork for vital records to add my name to the birth certificates. When I opened the envelope and unfolded the two birth certificates, I was feeling a bit emotional. Although I know and feel like the babies’ mom, legally I was their guardian. I had no right to apply for a passport for them so I couldn’t travel out of the country with them even if I wanted to. Seeing my name on these birth certificates on this anniversary week of my blog is a very sweet thing. It reminds me of God’s goodness and faithfulness for watching over us all these years. When I started this blog, I didn’t know what was going to happen. God had this plan for us. I couldn’t have foreseen all the twists and turns it took us to get to this point. Here I am. I am so grateful for having these little ones in our family and to see my name and Bob’s name on their birth certificates finally.
I have many things to be thankful for. Having the best gestational carrier is definitely one of them.
In order to have a transfer on October 31, we needed to get the gestational carrier agreement completed and signed by last Wednesday. Annie, our gestational carrier, was great. She received the draft on Monday at noon and read it completely by 3pm. She had a few questions that she had to run by her attorney. Her attorney didn’t get back to her until Tuesday morning. Annie let me know that she and they attorney spoke on the phone and there were a few concerns/questions that our attorneys had to discuss and make changes for. Annie asked if I wanted to know what those concerns were. So we spoke about it.
So this is the tricky thing. Annie lives in a surrogacy friendly state. However, she is only about 40 minutes from a big town in the neighboring state that is not surrogacy friendly. In fact, commercial surrogacy is illegal in that neighboring state. In the contract, there is an item about restricting her from traveling to the next state once she reaches 24 week gestation. The problem is, Annie’s parents live 8 hours away in that neighboring state and her sister lives in the big town in the neighboring state 40 minutes away from Annie. Annie goes to see her parents once every couple of years and she just went in the summer. Her sister sometimes throws birthday parties for her kids and Annie would like to be able to attend. Annie does not plan on being at the next state big town for more than a couple of hours each time, and she does not plan on traveling to her parents’ place in the near future. However, she was worried about the what-ifs. If there is a family emergency such as her parents being very sick, her presence in the surrogacy unfriendly state would be considered a breach of the contract. She felt that 24-week restriction was a bit too early. I was glad that she was willing to share with me. At first I was willing to adjust the restriction to 35 weeks. However, Bob didn’t feel very comfortable with that since 35 weeks is so close to delivery. So we agreed on 32 weeks and that she could only go for a family emergency that requires her presence after 32 weeks and with OB permission. And we agreed that if she was to somehow deliver while visiting her parents, she’d try her very best to deliver in the next next state, as her parents live 45 minutes away from a surrogacy friendly next state. I checked that there is a hospital there with a level 4 NICU.
I didn’t wait for the other attorney to contact my attorney. I took matter in my own hands and presented the case to my attorney and cc’d Annie, agency owner, and Bob. My attorney responded within ten minutes. This is what she wrote:
“Note there is significant risk if she were to deliver unexpectedly in [surrogacy unfriendly neighboring state] since surrogacy is illegal there. If she were to deliver in [surrogacy friendly next next state] , it would be fine. It is a simplified legal process and we could establish parentage fairly easily. If you are comfortable with the potential risk, we can modify the language from 24 to 32 weeks and provide for travel after 32 weeks only in an emergency and with OB approval. However, if Annie doesn’t plan to travel to [surrogacy unfriendly neighboring state] during pregnancy anyway, then I would keep the 24 week restriction but add the exception so that anytime after 24 weeks she can only travel if there is a family emergency that requires her presence and OB approval. There is just a lot of risk with [surrogacy unfriendly neighboring state]. So while I understand the exception language, I would apply the exception for any travel past the 24 week mark.”
I asked her to clarify the legal consequences for delivering in [surrogacy unfriendly neighboring state], she said:
“I’m not licensed to practice there so I don’t know all of the ins and outs of what might occur, but what I can tell you is that [surrogacy unfriendly neighboring state] prohibits any kind of paid surrogacy. Any surrogacy agreement for compensation is void and wouldn’t be enforced. Meaning, you’d have to go through an adoption process. Also, the parties to an agreement could face criminal charges as a violation of the statute is a gross misdemeanor.”
Oh definitely not what we would want to deal with.
So here comes the part where I think and feel that we have the best gestational carrier. I texted Annie and told her that there was a lot to digest, and please take her time and let us all pray about it. It would be okay if we didn’t get the contract done on Wednesday. It wasn’t even a few minutes before she wrote me back with this:
“Kenneth and I are comfortable with the language of 24 weeks and traveling if family emergency with OB permission. A little sacrifice for your big reward!”
Boy that was when I started to tear up. This is a woman who has Bob and my best interest at heart. She is willing to sacrifice her freedom of going to see her family because of us. She understands how important it is for us to stay put in her state and not to venture into the next state where legal consequences are dire. I asked her if she was okay even if she couldn’t go to her sister’s kids’ birthday parties. She was okay with it. I texted her back saying, “Did I tell you already that you and Kenneth are lovely people? You are both so lovely and I am tearing up.” She wrote back, “That’s why we’re doing this together. You and Bob are awesome and we can’t wait for you to hold your baby together!”
Our legal team is awesome. We received the final copy of the agreement with all the changes. We all signed on Wednesday. Dr. E received the letter of legal clearance Wednesday evening at 8:30pm. Because of that, Annie could take her last birth control pill on Wednesday and go to her ultrasound appointment on Thursday. She reported that everything went well with the ultrasound. We got the Okay from Dr. E’s office and Annie will start her estrogen pills today! I couldn’t believe how quickly everyone got the agreement done. Because of that, we are on our way to our transfer on October 31, 2016.
God has carried us through many trials and triumphs during this journey. It was definitely NOT our doing to have come across such a perfect surrogate for us. I trust her 100% on doing her best to take care of our baby. We have already booked the plane tickets for her and her husband to come for the transfer. With all of these things done, I feel so relieved to leave for my trip to visit my grandmother in Asia this coming Friday without much to worry about. This is such an exciting time and hopefully everything will continue to fall into place for the rest of our journey.
Last Tuesday, I looked at the calendar sent by Dr. E and found out that in order to have a transfer on October 31, Annie will have to take her last birth control pill on Wednesday October 5th and have a pelvic ultrasound at a local clinic on Thursday October 6th. And Dr. E would like to receive the legal clearance from our attorney before the scan. So it means that we had about a week to finish reading, changing, and signing the gestational carrier agreement.
Well, let’s just say that we are cutting it very very close.
At that point, I still hadn’t received our first draft of the contract yet. I emailed our attorney and her paralegal about the exact date that the contract would have to be done. They responded to us with a promise that we should have the draft in the next few days. “Few” could mean 2, 3, 4 day, or longer. This is the process: upon receipt of the draft, we would have to read it, make changes, send it back to our attorney for the changes, and then pass the draft to my gestational carrier’s attorney so that the attorney can go over it with our GC. So it could potentially take another week, which means that we would have to push the transfer back.
My immediate response was feeling stressed. It was interesting that I felt that way because in reality an October 31 transfer and a November 7 transfer do not make a huge difference to us. We should devote our time to make sure that the contract’s terms are accurate instead of rushing it. Worrying about it means that I don’t trust God’s timing. If I have learned anything in this process, it is to trust God and His timing. Me rushing things doesn’t get me anywhere. But yeah, my reaction was probably not out of the ordinary. Since we have been waiting for so long, it’s natural for us to want to get it over with as soon as possible.
After that realization, I had just been waiting patiently. Wednesday, nothing. Thursday, nothing. Friday I woke up at dawn with a headache, checked my email, and was pleasantly surprised to find the draft of the agreement in my inbox. Since I couldn’t fall back asleep, I entertained myself with the whole 30 pages of this legal document on my little iPhone screen. Such a fun activity for 5:45am. That day I spent my whole lunch time (and some more) writing down the corrections of typos and changes that were necessary. It was a lot of work. Our donor’s agreement was 19 pages and that was a lot to read. So 30 pages was just so much more fun (not). I was surprised to find that errors included the gestational carrier’s name and her husband’s name at various places being wrong, as they weren’t changed from a previous draft with another client. I thought that it was quite a record to have read all those pages and emailed the changes back to our attorney within 12 hours of receiving the document. My head was literally spinning after focusing so hard on the computer screen.
So why is the document 30 pages long? It includes literally everything needed to protect us and our gestational carrier and her husband: psychological evaluations and testing, insurance, details about transfer, conduct during pregnancy, restrictions on travel due to Zika virus and after 24 weeks to stay in her own state, medical emergencies and how things should be handled, early termination and fetal reduction, delivery details, custody upon birth, parental rights, contact post birth, disbursements of compensation and allowance, compensations for bed rest, D & C, C-section, and other things, health insurance and medical expenses… So can’t blame me for feeling dizzy after reading such a document.
The good news is that the attorney also did her part, made all the changes, and sent the revised agreement to us on Sunday. It’s wonderful to know that she also wants to help us with the deadline as much as she can. Hopefully my gestational carrier’s attorney will go over the agreement with her today so that we can actually have the agreement signed by Wednesday. If not, I am at peace with waiting another week for the transfer.
Either way, we are on our way to a transfer, and hopefully a baby in the very near future!
It’s very encouraging to see progress on our surrogacy journey.
First of all, we received the MitoScores of our embryos. The two day-5 embryos (3AB and 3BB) both have a grade of A, which means that they have a high implantation potential of 81%. The two day-6 embryos (5AB and 5BB) are Bs with an average implantation potential of 56%. Dr. E recommended transferring one embryo with the MitoScore of A.
This is such excellent news. Both Bob and I are so relieved that we have embryos with excellent quality for a transfer.
On the gestational carrier front, we finished a questionnaire and signed an agreement for the escrow account with our attorney. Last week we had a very informative phone call for about 30 minutes with the attorney and her paralegal. As you may know, in order to make the surrogacy legal and for us to take our baby home, legal paperwork has to be filed in our gestational carrier’s state. Our attorney is located in that state and is very experienced with this type of contract. The following are the main points:
- We will receive the draft of our contract with our gestational carrier in the next week or so. We will read it over, make changes, and ask any questions or raise any concerns. Once we are satisfied with the changes, our gestational carrier will go over it with an attorney that will represent her. That should take about a week. We are hoping to get the contract done by the first week of October, and second week at the latest (because I am going to be leaving for Asia at the end of second week of October).
- At about 20 weeks of the pregnancy, our attorney will help us finalize the medical power of attorney which allows us to make decisions for the baby.
- Our gestational carrier’s state laws stipulate that we get a post birth order, which means that a court order is obtained after the birth of a child. The court will direct Vital Statistics to add the biological parent’s name (Bob’s name) on the birth certificate, remove our gestational carrier’s name, and grant legal guardianship to me as the other intended parent. This is done because we have used donor eggs. If we were both biologically related to the child, then we would both be added at that time. The hearing is scheduled every two weeks at the court, so on average we should have the hearing done within two weeks after birth if not sooner. The hearing should take no longer than 30 minutes. We will be asked a list of questions mostly by our attorney and may also be by the judge.
- We can leave the hospital with our baby and go home as soon as the doctor clears us to leave. Our attorney will represent us and we will attend the hearing via phone.
- We should get the court order a few days after the hearing. Then the birth certificate should be amended by Vital Statistics within 5 to 10 business days with only Bob’s name on it as if he has made the baby all by himself. 😉
- A recent change in the law in our GC’s state requires an intended parent who is not biologically related to the baby to file for a second parent adoption in our home state so that I will also be named on the birth certificate. We will need to hire a different attorney in our home state. I will have temporary custody of our baby until the court order is done, which will take three to six months.
- Our attorney stated that the court process is quite simple. She will prepare all the paperwork for us to read prior to the birth so that we just need to sign at the time of birth. She said that there are going to be many other things to focus on at the time of birth so she doesn’t want us to spend the time reading all the legal documents.
- One very important thing that our attorney wanted to speak with us about was the number of embryos to transfer. Our answer on the questionnaire said that we may transfer one or two embryos. She wants us to be very careful with this choice. Our gestational carrier lives in the northern part of the state and lives very close to the border of a neighboring state that is NOT surrogacy friendly. If we transfer two embryos and are expecting twins, the chances for complications and the need for a level 4 NICU are a lot higher with twin pregnancy. The hospital that we intend to have the birth does not have a level 4 NICU. If any complications arise, it is VERY likely that our gestational carrier will be transferred to a hospital with a level 4 NICU that is in the surrogacy unfriendly next state. It doesn’t mean that a singleton pregnancy is a guarantee that it will be free of complications, but the chances are a lot lower. So our attorney wants us to think long and hard about the number of embryos to transfer. And if we do transfer two and expect twins, she wants us to have a plan B for the delivery. Our gestational carrier can still give birth in the local hospital in her state and we can always transfer the baby/babies to the level 4 NICU in the next state if need be. If our gestational carrier gives birth in this other state, the legal ramifications would be great. We don’t want to go there. It all sounds very scary so I have already spoke with our gestational carrier and she is going to try everything possible to stay in her state when she gives birth to our baby.
Dr. E, Annie (our gestational carrier), and I have been coordinating the earliest possible date for a transfer. It would be the best for Annie if we could do a transfer on a Monday. She and her husband can fly in on Sunday, have the transfer on Monday, and rest on Tuesday before going home on Wednesday. She said that this has been a source of stress in her household because they don’t live near any family members so they couldn’t figure out who could take care of their two younger children. She thought about driving the whole family on a roadtrip for the transfer, or even flying the kids over with them. However, she would really want to take this opportunity to take a vacation with her husband by themselves, sans kids. She finally enlisted her 19-year-old son and his wonderful girlfriend who will watch the 3- and 5-year olds. We have now tentatively settled on a date: October 31, 2016. Halloween!!! Hopefully I won’t be jetlagged anymore (after my return from my trip on October 27). I mean, I will still have to figure out other things like buying the medication for her and arranging for local monitoring appointments. Nevertheless, this is an exciting time and I am so grateful for all these forward movements. I am also trying not to let my appointment with the Breast Health Clinic later today dampen my excitement.
Almost time to make a baby!