June 23, 2010

Family Ties - A Pleasant Surprise

Occasionally, the horrible, painful, nightmarish situations in life can also cause something good to happen that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. I was reminded of that this week when I received an unexpected phone call.

Before I share more about the call, it would help to explain a bit about my family history.

I grew up with a very, very small immediate family. I was an only child, my mom was an only child, and although my dad has several siblings, most of them didn’t live nearby and I only saw each of them maybe once or twice that I remember while I was growing up.

To put it another way, when R and I got married, the picture of us with my family includes a total of 6 people – the two of us, my parents, a cousin (second cousin or twice removed, something like that since my mom didn’t have siblings) who was about 30 years older than me who I’d only ever met once, and the cousin’s husband. On the other hand, our picture with R’s family includes about 30 people, about 20 who traveled from out of state during the holidays to be there for us.

So you get the gist – I don’t really have a lot of close family connections.

When I was young, I begged my parents for siblings, but no such luck. Then one day when I was about 8 years old, my parents sat me down to tell me something: while I was an only child (my mom’s), I was also the youngest of 4 – my dad had 3 children from a previous marriage. That little bombshell caused some trust issues no small kid should ever have to have with their parents, but that’s a story for another post.

Anyway, it turned out that my siblings were in the tween and teen stages, and their mom had called my dad to say she was putting them on a bus and sending them to him for the summer, so my parents were kind of put on the spot and had to tell me. (There was a lot of acrimony between my dad and his ex-wife, who lived in another state, and he wasn’t able to see them much.)

So I got to spend the summer with them. That was 28 years ago. Other than that, we haven’t had much contact. There was some resentment on their part – as if I had taken their dad away. I understand it, and it doesn’t seem to be there as much anymore (my brother still brings it up occasionally), but it was uncomfortable to bear the brunt of that resentment as a child.

Since that summer, I’ve seen my oldest sister twice (once about 26 years ago and then in December, when dad was in the hospital), my brother twice (ditto), and I haven’t seen my other sister again. We've only talked on the phone a couple times more than that.

It’s always felt weird to know that I have siblings out there, but being raised as an only child, I didn’t have the opportunity to form the normal sibling bonds. As an adult, still living in a different state from them and not having a lot in common, it hasn’t gotten any easier.

So while we were in touch more while dad was in the hospital, I didn’t really share much about the infertility stuff we’ve been dealing with.

And so – back to the phone call – you can imagine my surprise when my oldest sister called me earlier this week and said that her daughter, who’s in her early 20s and has a toddler, would be willing to be a gestational carrier for us.

(Don't get all excited yet.)

Dad’s wife had asked a couple of weeks ago what our next steps are, and I told her that our doctor’s recommendation is to use a gestational surrogate. Then apparently dad called my sister and suggested that maybe she could be the surrogate, not realizing she had had a hysterectomy. So my sister asked my niece and then called me.

I don’t know that it will be a viable option for a variety of reasons, and even if it is, I don’t know that it’s an option we will chose to pursue anytime in the immediate future.

But I was really touched by the call and the offer. I spoke to my niece (who I met for the very first time in December), and asked her if she was sure she wanted to do this and why she was willing to do this for us when we haven’t really been in each other’s lives.

She sounded kind of surprised that she had to explain it to me – she said “That’s what family is for” in a very matter-of-fact, isn’t-this-what-every-famly-does kind of way.

It turns out my family is bigger than I thought. It’s still kind of a hard concept to grasp.


kayjay said...

All I can say is WOW.

That's huge because if you decide to pursue this option, I would think that finding a gestational carrier would be the hardest thing.

Thalia said...

What a lovely woman. So glad you have that option, and that sense of connection to your family.

Anna said...

Well, thanks - you made me cry!

How lovely and wonderful for this woman to make that kind of an offer. I hope this will work out for you. Everything is crossed...

Patience said...

What an unexpected call! I hope things work out for you. What an amazing gift she is offering.

We are heading down the surrogacy path after this final FET as well. Hoping we don't have to go there, but am already doing the research on it.

lastchanceivf said...

WOW indeed. Sometimes human beings surprise us and don't disappoint...it seems to be rarer and rarer these days which is why it can be surprising! I'm glad there is a possible option on the table for you, just in case.

Libby said...

It's just nice to have that door open, isn't it? When a friend offered for us, first, I was blown away by the act of generosity, and then I also felt a bit more peaceful going into IVF #4. Given that you haven't had much communication with this part of your family, I just think it's really neat.

Nico said...

I'm in tears.

Sue said...

That is beautiful! Of course, I think I understand your hesitancy...it seems a little confusing, but maybe that is my natural distrust of most people....but I'd give it a try..keep asking her if she is sure about it, etc, but it sounds really wonderful. Like, amazing. The end result is that whatever way you go about it, you and your husband are going to have a child...and I can't wait to write the comment on THAT post:-)

Hopeful Mother said...

That is unbelievable!!!

mara said...

That is just wonderful news. How nice to have that option even if you don't decide to go down that road.

Peaches said...

Made me smile! What a wonderful and sweet offer!!! Isn't family the best, no matter how they come to you? Surrogacy is a beautiful option to building your family...If you want someone to chat with about that option, feel free to contact me :)

Libby said...

Hi Rebecca,

Thanks for your comments on my blog about Brugada Syndrome. It was actually left up to us, the family, to figure out what exactly happened to my brother b/c the coroner did not look at possible genetic conditions. I was in touch with a cardiologist who researches sudden death in young athletes, and he is the one who gave us the possible dx of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. You mentioned v-fib which was the state of my brother's heart when the EMTs arrived. I've been reading about Brugada, and really, wow, that could fit too. It's been 4 years since my baseline echocardiogram (dragging my feet on that too like all my IF decisions!), but I will definitely ask my PCP what she thinks. Thanks for the information, and I'm glad your FIL and DH got their ICDs before it was too late.