1000 Miles for 2014: August (and a win!)

Ok, I’m two days late, but I’ve got good news: I’m ahead again!  I finished up the month of August feeling really good with 116.4 miles.  That means that after my trail run on Sunday morning I was at a total of 684.6 miles out of the 663.9  Eat my dust Pace Bunny!

I also had a 10K race earlier in the month.  I was super excited to participate in the Hop River Run here in Andover, CT. At first I was a little nervous because I hadn’t been training at all and was afraid that I would either a) take it a little too easy and end up disappointed in my finish or b) take it too hard and end up hurting myself.  There was an option of a 5K, which was run last year and the previous year’s results looked like I’d do well, or a 10K which would be a first time race. I had a hard time deciding; do I opt for the shorter but faster race or the longer but slower race?  In the end I went for the 10K and I’m glad I did!  I easily set out with the lead pack and before the second mile had pulled away from the crowd.  Two men were ahead of me in sight until the turn around.  I remained in third place, running all alone, until the finish.  I held a solid pace the entire way.  I finished third over all and first for the women.  I was about 30 or so seconds ahead of 4th place and about a minute to a minute and a half ahead of the second female.  My time was 44:26.  Not great, but a solid run and not bad for a first time event.  It certainly boosted my ego and reignited that fire to get me out the door and running.  I needed that more than anything. I also won a nifty running cap with LED lights in the brim in lieu of a trophy.  Super cool.

It’s been hot, it’s been humid, but I’m going to push on through the rest of this year and complete my goal.  Only 4 more months to go!

1000 Miles for 2014: July

I’ve slacked this month. I was tired. I was injured. I was hot. And now I’m playing catch up with the Pace Bunny. PB is at 579.2 miles as of this morning, while my four mile trail run put me at 568.2.

It’s hard to stay with your goals, especially if you fall behind.  I’ve always been a sore loser and usually would come up with all kinds of reasons and excuses to quit right now. But this time I’m not going to.  11 miles behind isn’t an impossible gap. But I know I’ll never close it and ultimately fail if I don’t keep at it. And every day that I don’t run puts almost 3 more miles between us.

2014 ain’t over yet!  If you’ve fallen off the horse with your New Year’s Resolutions, get back up, renew your attitude, and push on!

Let’s do this!

1000 Miles for 2014: June

Believe it or not but I’m still at it! While I’m a measly half mile ahead of the “pace bunny”, I am ahead nonetheless.  I’m now at 504.5 miles!

I’ve also loafed the Sworkit app into my smartphone and have been doing workouts (most core and yoga) on there. I like the app because it has a social networking vibe (you can follow and “like” users and workouts, this post to your profile like a “wall”, & you can comment in forums), you can create your own workouts,  and you can search workouts based on target areas or type. I also like that a lot of workouts are about ten minutes so I can fit them in randomly throughout my day… if the kids are busy I can do two or three, if not, one for now and another later on.

Keep on keepin’ on!

It’s Not Me, It’s You: Break Ups in a Surrogacy

If you are  on the giving end or receiving end, it doesn’t really matter; break ups are sucky for everyone.  And whatever the reasons are, it feels like it’s not enough, as if there needs to be more explaining, and closure can be hard to find for a lot of people. Breaking up a surrogacy relationship isn’t any different.  In fact, in some ways it’s more difficult than dumping that creep from college.  Emotions are already running full throttle during a surrogacy, so when wrinkles turn into speed bumps (or even all out spike strips), putting on the breaks and calling it quits before spinning out of control is often the best option.

The relationship with my Intended Parents wasn’t going well.  Even before the embryo transfer, things just didn’t feel right.  At first it was the interpreter, Wayne.  I didn’t like him personally.  I cringed whenever I had to speak with him or spend time with him.  He was just a jerk; making the situation all about him, flashing the Armani tag in his shirt, trash-talking his own wife, and bragging about money and a job he didn’t even have.  Then there was the fight the night before the transfer.  I witnessed Wayne wrestling the Intended Father, Steve, in the hallway of the hotel right after I had heard him throw an iPad at his own wife (which hit the wall between our rooms).  Then after our stay we discovered some tidbits of info about the family that left me feeling a bit uneasy.  For one, Wayne is not anyone’s brother-in-law since he’s NOT married.  Oh, and his “wife” ISN’T the sister to the Intended Mother, Sara, but, maybe a cousin…they weren’t real clear on giving us the rest of that story.  And if that wasn’t enough, I learned that Sara had NEVER had a miscarriage.  The three (or ten as reported in some places) miscarriages that were reported to the fertility clinic were in fact elected abortions because at the time she and her husband “weren’t financially ready for children”.  And, they used the fact that they had never had a miscarriage as the reason why my miscarriage of their embryo had to be solely MY fault.  They were very hurt by the miscarriage, as any parent would be, however, the way it was handled was borderline abusive.  They would go weeks without speaking to me at all, to then randomly call me (or show up at my house) to demand to know what I did to cause the miscarriage.  As a gestational carrier it was horrible.  It was anxiety inducing.  It was torturous.  On one side I knew that it wasn’t me, that I didn’t do anything.  The doctors told me so.  Statistics told me so.  It was normal, actually, it was almost expected.  But on the other side I felt like a huge failure.  I had failed.  I wondered if my running had caused it, if I had picked up my daughter weird, if I had missed something important.  I agonized over the why of that miscarriage.  Despite how they made me feel, I planned on trying again once my cycles returned.  But, then things escalated.

The Intended Parents and Wayne came over for a visit.  They were supposed to stay in town for a few days and I was a bit excited to show them around where we lived.  But during dinner they announced that they were leaving that night.  We understood that they had things to do (and a second surrogate carrier to visit in PA) so we didn’t want to take it personally.  When the check came at the end of the meal, my husband handed over cash and paid the bill.  He figured that they had paid last time, so he’d pay this time.  Also, he was the one that brought along our three kids, ordered a ton of food including appetizers, and picked the restaurant.  No big deal, right?  Wrong.  The IPs and Wayne threw a huge fit and our table became the center of attention in this packed restaurant.  There was lots of yelling and pointing and carrying on.  The waiter was yelled at.  Managers were called over and yelled at.  There was a loud discussion over who got to pay.  In the end my husband’s cash won out over their credit cards.  Then the argument continued out in the lobby when Wayne squared off with my husband.  “You’re lucky you’ve got kids with you,” he spat at him, “otherwise I’d knock you out right now!”  Poor Hubs.  He tried to diffuse the situation by explaining that he was just trying to be friendly by taking his turn with the bill.  But Wayne responded with “You have three kids!  You don’t have the money for this!  If I’d known you’d insist to pay then I would have made sure we went to McDonald’s cause that’s what you can afford.”  And that was the last I heard from him.

I contacted my agency and told them the situation and that I no longer felt safe working with this family.  I kept getting “Are you sure?” type Emails back in response.  Being both polite and firm with the agency was more difficult than I had anticipated.  I finally made it clear to them that I would not be continuing with the family.  The response back from the agency was strange.  First I was told that I was at fault because I was misinterpreting their motives and their culture.  I was urged to reconsider because they had been so nice to me, giving me money and buying me things.  I was told that I was lucky because no other set of parents would be so nice or tolerate so much.  But, once I was firm about the break up I  was told I wouldn’t be put back on the surrogate roster because my “medical history was incomplete due to my previous homebirths”.  Later, almost two weeks later, I was finally asked for a termination letter from my lawyer.  Also, between those two weeks I received phone calls from the family’s fertility clinic wanting to know when I was ready to come back in for a second transfer!

I’ve been trying to break up with this family for nearly two months now and I’m honestly not sure if they fully get it yet.   I keep getting mixed messages from everyone from my agency to their doctors to the lawyers which indicate that they may not have even been told.  And every time I tell someone that I’m terminating the contract I get a shocked response, as if surrogates never break up with IPs, which only makes me feel worse.  Throughout the process I’ve constantly been second guessing my choices and constantly being bullied into making new ones.   But, I’ve come to realize that any relationship that is this difficult to get out of is an unhealthy one, be it that creep from college, Intended Parents in a surrogacy arrangement, or a boss.  You should never have to repeat yourself or your reasons for breaking it off, and someone who keeps coming back for more explanation, more closure, more you is not getting over it or moving on, and that’s not healthy.  Get away from these people fast, and don’t look back!

I’ve contacted my lawyers about the situation and (I think) they are handling it, though I don’t get much feedback from anyone.  I’ve since moved on from everyone involved and am starting over with a new agency, new doctors and will be using a new lawyer.  I’m jaded now and I’ve told the new agency so.  I’ve also closed off some doors on who I’ll consider being a surrogate for.  But I’ve also learned a lot about the surrogacy process as well as people in general.

Number One: Ask questions, even the straightforward ones.  Even the embarrassing ones.  Ask them.  And keep asking them until you are satisfied with the answers. Make people explain themselves and expand on their answers until you have the full story.
Number Two: It’s ok to set limits, to have expectations, and to be selective.  It doesn’t make you a bad person to say no or to turn someone down.  It doesn’t make you a bad person to keep searching for that person or situation that matches your morals, ideals, and dreams.
Number Three: Trust your gut.  If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.  Act on your gut immediately because letting things drag out makes everything ten times worse for everyone.

1000 Miles for 2014: May

We are now half way through the year and, despite my ups and downs over the last few months, I think I’m doing okay.  I ended the month of May with 117.7 miles. That means I am at a grand total of 435.6 since the start of the year with the pace bunny trailing at 416.3.  (Wait, why aren’t we at 500 yet? It sure feels like I’ve done 500 this month alone!!) Hooray! I am still ahead of the game, for now.  I haven’t had a whole lot of motivation to run, probably due to lack of purpose.  Thankfully the local 5ks will pick up and give me something to look forward to!  Keep running, friends!

P.S. How are your New Years Resolutions coming along?

Mommy Shame & Explain Your Age

I was at the school yesterday to drop my son off for preschool, but we were a bit early, so I let him out of the car to play around the small gazebo a bit before the teacher came to let him in.  While we were waiting, one of his classmates and her mom and two very small siblings came over to join us.  The four kids played and the mom watched and warned them periodically about random potential dangers.  I couldn’t help but notice that she was at least forty and the children were indeed calling her Mommy.

“Wow, three kids! Are they all yours?” She smiled and nodded enthusiastically.  I understand the risk for complications go up with age, and this lady had three under five.
“Bet you’re a busy momma. Were your pregnancies tough though?”
“Well, umm, no,” she seemed a little stunned and confused.  “I had a great doctor, and everything was fine.”
“Oh, that’s good. It’s not hard dealing with all their energy?” She smiled and shrugged, but didn’t really answer.
“Well, at least you got to live your life first, right!”

Okay, okay. I know, that was pretty insensitive of me; politically INcorrect; a big social no-no. But don’t worry. I didn’t actually say those things, because, well, that would just be wrong and rude. Oh, and I was the mom with three kids. The older mom only had one. And she was the one to start the conversation. 

“You have three kids?” she asked. I smiled and nodded.
“Aww. But you’re so young,” she whined.
“It’s good though to have all that energy, I suppose.” I smiled and shrugged, but didn’t really answer.  Then she nodded toward my oldest.
“But did you get to finish school?”

Yep. That happened. And her eyes sort of bugged out a bit when I told her I didn’t get married or have kids until after I had graduated from college.
I understand that I look like a teenager, and I understand that there is a stigma in this country regarding young mothers. But seriously, do women really have to go out of their way to be offensive?  According to this site the average age of first time mothers has increased to 25 (2013) from 21 (1970).  So the people who accuse me of being too young to be a mom were most likely conceived, or gasp, conceived their children, when they were younger than me when I had sex for the first time. In the United States there is a sort of checklist that women are half expected to complete before starting a family:
*age…check. I was 25 when I conceived my first child.
*education…check.  I was done with high school on time and achieved a bachelor’s.
*marriage..check. Yup, I even did that!

But, really, why was this checklist created in the first place? I mean, is anyone really too young to be a mom? Is it really anyone’s business what milestones a woman has reached in any particular order?  Does shaming and embarrassing the young (or perceived young) mother ever help her?  Does it help the asker feel better about themselves?  And if it is considered taboo to make comments or ask such questions about an older mom, then why are so many people so bold and brazen enough to make these comments and questions about younger moms?  To me it is a form of harassment. It may be said with a smile, but there is nothing nice about it, and it is never delivered as a compliment.  It is a point blank judgment, and a harsh one at that because that “Aww, but you’re so young” doesn’t mean “You look great!”, but rather “You screwed up, didn’t you?” Whether I was 20, 30, or 40 years old when I birthed my children really doesn’t matter. My age, my choices, and even my foibles have absolutely nothing to do with you, so please don’t ask, please don’t comment, and please don’t make me feel like I need to explain or defend myself.

Phone Call from a Kidnapper

I was cleaning up lunch when my phone rang.  It was a Connecticut number, but I didn’t recognize it.  I answered the phone, unsure if it would be one of my siblings or parents. Instead, it was a voice I didn’t recognize.
Me: Hello?
Voice: Yes, hello? You can hear me?
Me: Yes. Who is this?
Voice: Oh, ma’am, I got your number from your brother to call for help.
Me: What?  My brother?  What happened?
Voice: He’s ok.  He was in a car accident in Hartford this morning.
Me: Oh my God! Where?  Where is he? Where are you?!
Voice: He is ok. I need his name to verify.
Me: Wait, who? Who?
Voice: Your brother. I need his name to verify.
Me: I have two brothers. Oh my God. Is it John or Sean? Where is he?
Voice: Yeah, yeah. It’s Sean! Ya see, my brother was going to the gas station in Hartford and Sean hit his car. Nobody got hurt, but my brother’s BMW is smashed.  The damages are going to be about $6000. Sean started to argue with him about the money and before I knew it they started fighting. That’s when my brother pulled out his gun.
Me: What?! A gun – Are you serious?!
Voice: I know, I know. He’s ok though. I wanted to help, so I convinced my brother to just  calm down and take him here and to call for help.
Me: Ok, ok. What – what do you need? Where is he?
Voice: Ma’am, just stay calm. My brother needs the money to fix his car. He will let Sean go if we can get $1000 up front.
Me: Um, ok. Okay.
Voice: You have that much?
Me: Well, I have some in cash.  I’ll have to go to the bank for the rest.
Voice: Okay. You get the rest – ma’am I hear that you have people around you. Are you not alone?
Me: Yeah. Those are my kids. I have three little kids – toddlers and babies.
Voice: Ok.  You cannot call the police or anybody.  You cannot involve anybody or Sean will get hurt. What I’m going to need you to do is go to your nearest Wal-Mart or Stop & Shop -
Me: I have to take my kids some place first. I have to take them to my neighbor before I do anything.
Voice: Your kids are fine. Just put your phone on speaker. Go to Stop & Shop and get a Western Union -

That’s when my oldest chirpped.
“Who is that mommy?  Why does he have a GUN?!” I tried to quiet him down, but he was very afraid. “What’s happening to Uncle -” I clamped my hand over his mouth.

Voice: Hello? Hello? Are you there?  You cannot hang up or your brother WILL get hurt.

“Mommy! Just turn that thing off!” He reached across and hung up my phone.
It was now time to take my son to preschool, so I ignored the constantly ringing phone and packed up all three kids. My phone alternated between ringing and pinging with text messages. I knew I would have to find a police department. I attempted to calm my frightened kid as I sent him into school. I tried to explain to him what was really going on, but he was clearly scared anyway.

Below are screen shots of my phone with the kinds of messages he sent as well as the numerous ignored phone calls.





Finally on the last call I answered.
Me: So what’s the deal?  I just spoke with him.
Voice: I know!  I didn’t think you were believing me, so I had him call you.
Me: Yeah, but he’s fine. He’s at work.
Voice: I told him to say that. Look, he is going to die.
Me: I think you’re bull shitting me.
Voice: What you don’t know is I’ve had my gang watching you for days! I know everything about you. If you don’t get me my money, not only is Sean a dead man, but you’ll be shot right in the head. Just watch the news tonight. His body is going to be on it.
Me: Yeah ok. What’s my name then? What town am I in? Fuck, prove something.
Voice: I don’t need to prove anything. You are letting your brother die! And I’m coming to kill you next.
Me: Oh, screw you Jose. This is nothing but a poor excuse for a scam. A very bad one at that. Jesus, you think I’m stupid? You’re a horrible person with nothing else to do except try to lie and scare money out of people.
Voice: FUCK YOU, BITCH! You think this is a fucking game?! I don’t play games. You won’t be laughing when I come to kill your whole family. I’m starting with your kids. You can watch. Then I’ll shoot you in your fucking skull.
Me: Ok dude. I’m home for the rest of the day. Come and get me.

Then Voice hung up and it was silent. I was buzzed, amped up and shaking from adrenaline. The fingers grasping my phone were tingling. The kinds of things people are willing to say to strangers is disgusting. The kinds of things people are willing to do for money is disgusting.

I went to the police to report the calls and the text messages. My town is too small to actually have a police department, but we do have a Resident State Trooper, so I spoke to him. I explained the scam, but he seemed confused.
“How did you know it was a scam?”
Well, for starters, I don’t have a brother named Sean. Also, I did a quick Google search on the phone number and found several links reporting it as a scammer in the state.
“Really? I haven’t heard of that.  Well, just don’t answer your phone next time.”
Gee, thanks Officer. How about you at least take down the information – I’m trying to report a crime here!

The officer didn’t strike me as completely with it, and I’m fairly sure that the wee scrap of paper the details were as scribbled down on were tossed as soon as I walked out the door. The officer clearly didn’t see the point in reporting the scam of I didn’t get hurt or fall for it; which is why I’m writing about it here.

There is a man with a Hispanic accent calling people and telling them their lives ones have been I’m an accident. While he seems concerned at first, his story quickly devolves into a kidnapping stunt requesting a Western Union transfer. Some people have already fallen for the scam, and dozens have reported similar calls.

I knew it wasn’t real from the git-go. I had just gotten off the phone with my father who told me about my real brother’s car troubles and how he had to drive him to work. Also, my brother would never have a reason to be in Hartford, CT. But, my number is a Hartford number and I’ve kept it,  even though I sing live in the area anymore… so the guy was just taking guesses in the dark. I played along on purpose to try and possibly get some information from him and to try to get him on the phone for the police.

(203) 400-5383 is a scammer. No matter how convincing or frightening the caller may seem, they do not have your loved one and are simply trying to extort money. If you end up having to deal with them, or any phone scam, spread the word and the number. Hopefully through word of mouth and networking no one else will fall victim to these thieves.