September 18, 2012

Spotlight on Surrogacy

I met Tiffany Burke back in January, when my community suffered the tragic loss of a little boy.  I wrote here about how inspired I was by the way the mothers here came together to support the boy's family.  Before I even met Tiffany, I could tell that she had an amazingly big heart.  Tiffany is a professional photographer, and when I suggested the family might like photographs of the memorial service, she offered to do it at no charge, and on short notice.

I went too, and that's where I met her in person for the first time.  She was amazing that day, taking so much time and care to get these photographs.  She has an amazing eye in any situation, and after spending the car ride home with her and another woman I knew that they were good people.  In fact, I liked them so much that I sent them what could have been one of the strangest Facebook messages they'd gotten as of late:
Hi ladies! At the risk of sounding like a total weirdo, I am reaching out to you guys. I really enjoyed meeting you guys (despite the circumstances) and talking last week. I have met a bunch of Moms around Sudden Valley, but I haven't really felt like I connected with that many of them. I do not really have a regular group of girlfriends in Bellingham since we moved back up here three years ago, so I feel like it's silly to meet people who I think are cool and not try to see them again. When we're little kids, we just walk up to other kids we meet on the playground and ask to be friends. Parents arrange playdates, or they see each other at school. As grown ups, I've found it's not so simple, and maybe it should be! So, if you don't think I'm too strange now, I would love to get together for a girls' night out or coffee or lunch or something some time. Thanks again for the ride home!
Luckily for me, they did not think I was a total freak and although we haven't managed to get together yet, I have become friends with them in the Facebook world and enjoy chatting with them and seeing them once in a while around the neighborhood.  Tiffany has a big personality, a big smile, and a generous soul.  No one is perfect, but she is exactly the kind of person you'd want in your life, and an amazing photographer to boot.  Before I shot a friend's wedding last-minute, she invited me over for a couple of hours and gave me all kinds of tips and showed me photos so I would have at least a tiny idea what the heck I was doing.

It wasn't very long after I met Tiffany that I found out that she was taking hormones in preparation for In-Vitro Fertilization.  But, there was a twist.  You see, Tiffany was trying to get pregnant as a surrogate for her brother and his wife.  After they had their first child, her sister-in-law Natalie almost died, and in the process she underwent an emergency hysterectomy.  Not long after, Tiffany felt called to offer to be their surrogate.  I started following their blog, A Belly for Me, A Baby for You and became a fan of their Facebook page.  The first time didn't take, but the second time, they got the news they'd been hoping for!


Natalie & James get the good news - their baby is on the way!
Tiffany and her family have decided to share their surrogacy journey with the world for many reasons.  Tiffany's husband Sean is a filmmaker, and they are in filming their journey to create a documentary film.  Why?  In Tiffany's words from their blog:
"Our goal is to help educate people on this world of surrogacy, infertility and to stop the silent suffering from all the women and men out there who have ached to be parents and hit constant emotional speedbumps along the way to their family planning. For every 100 mean comments on an article, we are receiving incredible emails from women who are feeling strength from our story, no longer feeling alone and feeling inspired. We don't want surrogacy to be considered bad or weird. Just like adoption should not be. People plan and make their families in all different ways now. When there are loving families and parents for children to grow up in, I just don't see what all the negative fuss is about. I hope our story continues to reach the people it needs to. Including the negative, judgmental ones. You never know who's mind you may open by speaking up about something so controversial.
As a reminder - I used to think that if you can't have children naturally, you should adopt. I was adopted, two of my brothers were and I have always ached to adopt. My husband and I will be adopting through foster care after the surrogacy. But, I had never been on the other side, I had never heard the hearts of these mothers. I had never taken the time to understand or to even listen. I just thought "my way" of thinking was the righteous one. Walk a mile in someone's shoes, then make up your mind. I never thought I would believe in IVF or surrogacy, let alone be a surrogate! The world is a very interesting place when you choose to open your mind and see it from another person's perspective. 
With all the mixed feedback coming in from the CNN article, it has motivated me even more to get this film made. We know we can make a beautiful film that shoes the ups and downs of surrogacy, infertility and the ins and outs in a medically accurate way. We still have lots left to film, lots more interviews and of course, the birth."
I believe this is a journey worth sharing, for many reasons.  After reading some of the comments on the article Tiffany mentioned in her post, I was shocked and upset about the level of ignorance and mis-information people have about surrogacy and what it means.  I think Tiffany is giving an amazing gift to her brother and his wife, and I admire her and her family for doing it.  It hasn't been easy, she has been very sick (blame twins!), and there are many challenges that come along with the journey.

Here's the thing.  In order to make the documentary a reality, they need backers.  That's where you & I come in.  Every dollar helps, and they have 13 days to reach their goal.  You can find all the information you need at their Kickstarter page:

I would love it if you'd go take a look, share it on your Facebook page, Twitter, or blog, get the word out any way you can, donate a few dollars if you have them.  It would mean a lot to me, and to them!

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