FATHER’S DAY SURPRISE
I’m having the best adventure of my lifeBy Jon-jon Rufino |Philippine Daily Inquirer
My surrogate was pregnant for only seven-and-a-half months at that time, and in her e-mail to me while I was in the grocery, she assumed that the mild contractions she was having then would be “relaxed” by the doctor, and that she’d be only advised a few days of bed rest.
I called her mid-dinner to ask how everything was, only to learn that her gynecologist had advised immediate delivery.
I had to ask my dad’s friend Jean Marie to help me get on that evening’s 10:30 flight to San Francisco, and I left for the airport with food still on my plate and just a few clothes in a bag.
Luckily, all the baby stuff given me by friends had been already packed. I didn’t know it at the time, but even as my flight took off, my son, Lucian Balthazar, was being born at 10:36 p.m., and Lilith Macaria followed at 10:39 p.m., Manila time.
I’d always known that I wanted to be a parent at some level, and this might have had something to do with the brainwashing—I mean parenting—I got from my mother in particular, who sat me down at 13 and told me that if I ever had an “accident” with any of my friends, it would be okay as long as we got to keep the baby.
Little did she know that there would be no chance of that happening.
When I did come “out” to her a decade later, one of her first questions to me was, how was I going to provide her with grandchildren.
Even I myself have had a burning desire to share my curiosity about the world with my future children. I told one new friend from North Carolina that part of the reason I became a parent was that I wanted to have a captive audience to explain the different kinds of clouds to.
Human desire–and right
In any case, it’s a natural human desire, and I’d argue, a right. I always thought I’d do it when I was in a stable relationship, with a partner who wanted kids as much as I did. But before I turned 35, I just felt that I had done enough in my life, seen enough of the world, that I could slow down and pursue this dream alone or with someone, and not feel the slightest bit like I was sacrificing my freedom. Hurrah for slightly older first-time parents.
In November 2009, in the US, I started meeting with different agencies and signed a contract with one before the new year.
By March, I was in the US again to meet with the first surrogate I was to work with, a lovely single mother of teenagers from Arkansas named Julie. It was also during this time that I made a new friend through Facebook, someone who was as excited about what I was doing, whom I had great attraction for.
The dream of the picture-perfect gay family became tangible, and I realize now that my attraction to him and my attachment to the dream made me turn a blind eye to all the signs of incompatibility. But no regrets. Everything is a learning experience.
Julie didn’t get pregnant, and we tried again with another couple from Colorado twice, unsuccessfully.
I finally met a wonderful couple from North Carolina. These were people that I think I would be friends with even without the surrogacy process, as we shared the same political and religious views, namely, that religion interferes too much with government and lawmaking as it is.
I witnessed our doctor implant the last four of the frozen embryos in Megan, and two weeks later, I got the second best call in my life, confirming the pregnancy. But we had been there before, so I knew better than to get too excited.
However, at the nine-week mark, I got the best call saying that the ultrasound confirmed twins. On my birthday two weeks later, I couldn’t hold back any longer. I decided to throw a big party and announce to my friends and family that we were having twins.
A boy and a girl
My parents were behind me every step of the way, though they requested that because all this was against their religion, I spare them the details of the medical procedures. But, at the end of the day, their curiosity took the better of them and they demanded to know all the details.
In February 2012, I flew to North Carolina again to visit my surrogate for her ultrasound that would determine the fetuses’ gender. It revealed the dream result—a feisty boy who was kicking and punching in there, and a girl who wouldn’t stop doing back flips.
I found out after that our surrogate “cheated” a little to be able to give me a show by eating chocolate before the ultrasound, having been advised by friends that it would perk up the babies.
Her gynecologist told me that since they were twins, he expected their birth to be around July 10, on the 38th week.
Those 30-plus weeks spent waiting for the twins were the slowest in my life. I can remember what I was doing on each of those weeks: corresponding with Megan, reading everything I could online and in my Kindle, and comparing what sized fruit the babies were then. (Babycenter.com is the best.)
And then Father’s Day happened, and I had to catch a flight one day ahead of my supposedly leisurely scheduled departure. When I got to San Francisco, my smartphone already had the pictures of the kids.
One red-eye flight across the continent later, and I was in the rental car company of Raleigh-Durham, driving straight to the hospital room of my surrogate, ready for a shower and a trip to the nursery.
Megan escorted me to my first view, slightly less than 24 hours after the twins were born. I was told there had been no complications at all, though since it was premature birth, the hospital was taking every precaution.
I was given Megan’s pumped colostrum to mix into the baby formula, and I fed Lucian his first meal of 10 milliliters. Lilith had a heartier appetite; she’s had it since.
I left the hospital that night at 7, with the nursing shift, and checked in at a nearby motel. I picked up my boyfriend the next day in the airport, and we gave the babies their every meal that coming week, until they reached their prescribed birth weight. In time they were discharged from the hospital.
By this time, my mother was able to send over my sister’s nanny, Dia, who my eight-year-old niece graciously gave up for my benefit.
When my house rental was available, my mom and stepdad came, followed by my sister and her daughter Chiara.
Four months later
For three more months, we stayed there, watching the babies grow, picking up pumped milk from Megan every morning, which was a wonderful special arrangement she had agreed to.
Baby shopping in the US was so much fun, and I’m still using now, one year later, many of the gadgets I found in Buy Buy Baby or Amazon.
I had no difficulty with paperwork in the US, getting a birth certificate and a court order declaring me the sole legal, natural and legitimate parent, though the Philippine consulate there required quite a bit of work from Manila. But four months after their birth, with all their proper documentation, we landed in the Philippines.
The trickle of friends who visited me in the US—my high school classmates Leon de Ocampo and wife Cara, Gilles Reyes and wife Jenny, my triathlon partner Bea Locsin, and my favorite New York buddy Marean Pompidou with daughter Philippines, with all my siblings, Kris, Vicente and Maddie, Carissa and Kevin, and Robbie—ensured that there would never be a dull moment in Raleigh, or that we’d run out of extra hands to help with the kids.
But when I got to Manila, of course, I was thrilled to have visitors every day, starting with my father Cary, who was coming over every morning before work, and every afternoon after work before their 7 p.m. bedtime.
I’ve heard some friends complain that this time goes by too quickly. I, in contrast, expected it to be tortuously slow, viewing the infant age to be the chore we must go through before enjoying the reward of, say, five years later when you can finally have conversations with your kids.
The first thing I was mistaken about was underestimating how amazing every experience with your own children would be. They had me from the very first smile, and I could swear that Lucian was smiling when I held him on day one.
They have very different personalities, as different as their looks.
From the beginning, Lucian enjoys interacting with people, and as soon as he could, discovering the world.
Although they both love it when I carry them and run around or throw them in the air, Lucian prefers crawling about on his own. And he’ll charm anyone with his smile.
Lilith is a bit more demanding, wanting to be carried and held when she says so, enjoying her toys, but she is also more generous with her hugs.
She doesn’t mind being held forever, though she enjoys her “air time” even more than Lucian.
Funny, how their names seem to be so apt. Lucian is named after light, upon the suggestion of my cousin, Pia Bayot Corlette. And he is indeed the lightest and easiest boy to handle, save for his sleeping habits, which is perhaps my first major failure, or perhaps just minor mistake as a parent.
With all the arms wanting to hold them, they have grown accustomed to being carried or patted to sleep, unlike in the case of some of my friends, who leave their baby in the crib, with the least attention or fuss, for the nap. My kids need to be pampered.
Lilith was named after the legendary first wife of Adam, who defied his instructions on how to please him by pointing out that she was made at the same time as he was and of the same stuff as his, and therefore, was his equal.
I named her after that character because I wanted to make sure she could tell her boyfriend, “You’re not the boss of me.”
And indeed, this early, she is the one who makes demands, while Lucian usually tolerates her as she takes whatever toy from him. Recently, however, he has started to fight back.
Being a first-time parent, of twins at that, I waited eagerly to witness that special magical relationship between them, but it took three months before they even acknowledged each other’s existence with a smile or a laugh.
Even now, they hardly play with each other, though once in a while Lucian will flash Lilith a smile, or Lilith will give Lucian a hug, but they are rarely affectionate at the same time.
They compete for my attention every time I walk into the room, as to who gets to be carried first. Lucky, for now, I can handle both, but they are the best kettle bell workout I’ve ever had, and have every day.
So yes, everything has changed. How could it not? I’m embarking on the greatest job, and adventure of my life, and loving every minute of it.