Good Question: What if the GC wants to keep the baby?

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IPs will ask about this particular issue from time to time : What if the GC wants to keep the baby?

We talk with them about how rare it is, especially when it concerns gestational (and not traditional) surrogacy, and that the agreements are written to prevent this from happening.  They still worry about it, despite our assurances that this has never happened with our agency, and that the attorneys we refer our clients to are all exceptionally knowledgeable about surrogacy laws pertaining to the states in which they practice.  

Emotions in the surrogacy community were quickly rattled when an Iowa surrogate brought her case to the state Supreme Court a couple of years ago to keep the baby she was carrying for her IPs, the legally and contractually recognized parents of the offspring.  In February, the Court agreed with the IPs and said that the parties entered into the surrogacy agreement voluntarily, and the gestational carrier did not allege she signed it under economic duress.

In May of this year, she appealed to the Supreme Court of the United Sates, who just declined to hear the case.  This is great news for not only our Iowa IPs and GCs, but sets a precedent for possible future appeals to SCOTUS challenging the enforceability of surrogacy agreements. Thankfully the Iowa Supreme Court ruling stands, rendering surrogacy contracts as legal and enforceable.

Advances in state laws pertaining to surrogacy have been remarkably positive in recent months, and we hope the trend continues.  It should be up to the willing participants who wish to build their families – and those who wish to help them do so – to enter into an enforceable agreement that cannot be challenged or nullified by outside sources.

Intended Parents M and V: Our Story

Shriya and Mike – summer 2018  Shriya pic 2 – summer 2018

We have been together for over seven years and we always knew that we wanted to have a family. Family is very important to us. Once finished our respective graduate studies, we felt we were ready to start the journey. We explored a few options (adoption, surrogacy etc.) but surrogacy felt like the right match for us, in part because it enabled a genetic connection.

That being said, cost was a concern for us as we were both just starting our careers. Because of this, we briefly considered international surrogacy, but we ultimately decided that US surrogacy was a better option because of the legal clarity, the structure and transparency of the process. This provided considerable peace of mind – which was really important for us. In addition, the ability to meet, interact and stay in touch with the GC was another huge benefit. While the quoted price of domestic surrogacy was higher, it was definitely worth it and we didn’t encounter any financial “surprises” along the way.

We were connected The Surrogacy Center through a friend, and our initial call with TSC was just to learn about the process generally. After hanging up the phone, we both remarked how much we liked them — they were very kind, patient, and thorough in their explanations. We talked to another couple that had worked with TSC before, and they had extremely positive reviews, so we decided they could be a good option for us, even though there are local surrogacy agencies in MA where we live.

In order to match us to a GC, TSC had a long discussion with us about our preferences for the pregnancy and desired relationship with the GC. After a couple months, we were notified that we had a potential match. We went out to WI and met with her and her family. It felt like a good match, but after a few weeks a complicating factor arose preventing us from working with her. TSC helped us through this rough patch, and got us connected with a new GC within a few months. She and her family were lovely, and we were very excited and thankful to get started.

While we were waiting for the match, we had selected a fertility clinic and egg donor. Fortunately, we were able to get those aspects completed in parallel and avoid delay. Legal paperwork (both with the fertility clinic and with the GC) also occurred during this time and was relatively straight-forward and painless.

After meeting the GC, we stayed in regular contact with her and her husband primarily by text, but also with occasional Skype calls. Our first attempt at embryo transfer was a momentous and nerve-wracking affair, and unfortunately, unsuccessful. However, we were able to try again in short order and just before Christmas, we learned that the second transfer had resulted in a pregnancy. We were elated.

During the next nine months, we stayed in frequent contact with the Surrogate, who gave us careful updates about all her medical visits and her experiences dealing with morning sickness and fielding curious questions from her daughter. We appreciated always knowing the full picture. At week 14, she sent us a surprise package in the mail that revealed the baby’s gender. We loved telling all our friends, family, and colleagues that we were expecting a baby girl. It was an extremely exciting time, and it was quite touching how excited people were for us. At the 20-week ultra sound, we “saw” our baby girl for the first time.

As we got closer to the due date, we planned our logistics. TSC helpfully gave us lots of advice about what to bring and where to stay. Our daughter ended up coming a couple weeks earlier than expected, so I am glad we were prepared. We arrived in time for her birth, and held her just moments after she was born. We were in love with her immediately.

We stayed in the hospital for a couple days. The hospital gave us our own room where we could bond with our baby girl and learn to handle and feed her. Meanwhile, the surrogate was recovering just a couple doors down the hall, which meant we could introduce our daughter to her and her family. We all got discharged on the same day. We took a bunch of photos and said our goodbyes and headed back to Boston, now as a family of three.

Our surrogate very kindly offered to provide breast milk. Our daughter grew healthy and strong, steadily improving her percentile on the growth chart. Thankfully, our daughter had a very easy temperament and slept well, which made us well-rested parents (relatively speaking). She is now almost a year old and is full of personality.

During this time, we have stayed in regular contact with the GC and her family, keeping them posted on our daughter’s growth with frequent photos and stories. We have started making rough plans for a second pregnancy with her, so needless to say we were incredibly happy and thankful for our experience working with her as well as TSC.

A Few Words from an Experienced Gestational Carrier: Amber

One of our amazing GCs shares her experiences about being a repeat carrier.  This is good information to know for anyone who is considering another journey!  Check out her story:  

Amber

Hi, I’m an experienced surrogate on the beginning of my second journey.  I chose to become a surrogate mainly because of my pure joy in being pregnant.  I also feel a sense of satisfaction in fulfilling another’s dream of having a family.

Our family is from southern Wisconsin.  We both work full time with 2 young children.  Our family is complete at 6, which includes our dog and cat.  We enjoy the outdoors, whether it’s fishing, hiking, hunting, or just simply being outside.  We are extremely lucky to have been matched with wonderful couples that have very similar personalities to my husband and myself.

Surrogacy can be a complicated process. So, working with the right match makes the process go a lot smoother.  Both of my journeys took 2 rounds of IVF to get a successful pregnancy.  Perseverance and patience aided in my journeys more than anything. There are some ups and downs, but the outcome makes everything worth it.  Knowing you are playing a key role in someone’s life, while being mindful of one’s own health, is an important mindset to have.

This journey is one I would take many more times if possible.  Happy incubating!

Amber 😊

Gestational Carrier Profile: Trista

Trista NFirst and foremost, how are you feeling in general, after recovering from your journey?

GREAT!  The delivery was slightly more difficult than my own children but that was due to the fact that it was twins.

What made you decide to pursue surrogacy in the first place?

Throughout my life I have interacted with so many people that couldn’t have children that I knew would be wonderful parents.  After I had our son I knew that I wanted to help others have the same feeling of being a parent.  After our daughter it was all I could think about.  After a few years of looking into the process and discussing it with my husband we decided to go ahead with the process.

When you shared the news with them, how did your spouse/significant other, loved ones, friends, coworkers, etc. react?

At first my husband was concerned with my desire to be a surrogate but after much investigation and discussion he understood my desire and we decided to move forward.  Our children just loved the idea.  The Mother’s Day that I was carrying the twins my son made me a card about how he loved me because of how I was kind to others by helping other people become a family just like we were.  Most other people were surprised but grateful that of what I was doing to help someone else out.

What were your expectations before you began the process?

All I knew was that I wanted to help a couple become a family.  I was so excited I couldn’t wait to get my call that they had found a match for me.  And when that call finally came I couldn’t wait to meet them.

Describe the matching process and how you felt when you first met your IPs in person:

I was so nervous getting ready that morning.  I fretted about everything.  My biggest concern was that they wouldn’t like me or how we would get along.  The ladies at the agency were amazing at helping me calm my nerves by meeting with my husband and I first and giving us an idea of how the meeting would go down.  Then the sat with us as they brought the IPs in.  Once we got to start talking it was amazing how much we had in common.  I could tell that we would be perfect together.

What was the most unexpected part of your journey?  Is there anything that surprised you?

TWINS!  I had always hoped that one day I would be able to carry twins and when I found out at the first ultrasound that I was carrying twins it was amazing!  I was so happy that I could help them get not just 1 but 2 babies!

Describe the pregnancy overall – did it match your previous pregnancy experience(s)?  What, if anything, was different (other than the obvious fact you were carrying babies for someone else)?

Other than the tiredness which I am sure came from the twins it really felt the same.  I loved being able to record the heartbeats and send the pictures to share how great the boys were doing.  Each doctor visit was like Christmas where I could send the IPs more information.

Were there any funny moments during the pregnancy you’d be willing to share?

I was about 32 weeks along at my son’s championship baseball game.  It was July and super hot.  All of the other parents of my sons team knew I was pregnant but I was never forthcoming with the fact that I was a surrogate unless someone asked or said something about the baby.  That day one of the other mothers made a comment about how I probably was so ready for the baby to be born.  I explained that they had to wait until their parents arrived in a few weeks and that they were not allowed to come before then.  All of the parents were so surprised and excited to find out that I was carrying twins instead of a single and that they were not even my children that they stopped watching the game and started asking me questions.  I work with the public so this type of thing happened to me all the time.

How did everything go on delivery day?  Please describe the emotions and feelings you experienced when the babies were born and shortly thereafter.

Delivery day went great!  The boys waited until their parents had arrived and had settled into their hotel.  We even had the weekend where my IPs got to experience my community’s summer picnic and meet some of my family that they had not before.  The morning I went into labor I was so excited.  My husband drove me to the hospital and our IPs met us there.  Labor went smoothly and everyone was just waiting around.  Because I was delivering twins I had to deliver in the OR in case a C-section was needed, which luckily we did, as after baby 1 was born we had some issues and baby 2 didn’t want to come the right way.  My doctor did a C-section at which time the parents and my husband had to leave the room which was scary but necessary.  My epidural didn’t work so I had to be put out but when I woke up I got to see each of the parents with their babies.  They were so happy.  I just knew that I had done the right thing.  It felt so great.  A few days later when we were discharged from the hospital we helped them load the boys up.  I knew that we had a great relationship.

Please share any advice you would give to potential GCs:

Do it!  The process has a lot of waiting.  A LOT!  But it is totally worth it.  Seeing how happy our IPs were and watching them hold the boys made me feel complete.  The parents continue to thank me for helping them have their family.  To be honest I feel like it is me that is the lucky one.  I got to help them become the family they have dreamed of but couldn’t have.  The ability to help others dreams come true is the greatest gift I could imagine.

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Intended Parent Profile: D and M (International IPs)

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In this blog series, The Surrogacy Center asks our Intended Parents and Gestational Carriers who have completed a surrogacy journey to discuss their experience with us.  We hope this will provide insight to prospective IPs and GCs who are just starting to look into surrogacy as a way to either build their families (IPs) or help others in doing so (GCs).

Introducing our first installment: An interview with these two wonderful dads who are the proud parents of beautiful twin boys A and M!

Twin M 11 months Twin A 11 months

First and foremost, how has parenthood been treating you?  Is it everything you dreamed it would be?

Having 11 month old twin boys is extremely exciting and becoming parents the most exciting thing in our lives. A dream became true!

What made you decide to pursue surrogacy in the first place?

Surrogacy is the only (reasonable) way for us to have biological kids.

What were your expectations before you began the process?

We tried not to have too many expectations as we understood that every journey is different.

Describe the matching process and how you felt when you first met your GC in person:

She was the perfect match which was clear from the very beginning. The Surrogacy Center chose the right person. We are grateful for her who made our family complete.

What was the most unexpected part of your journey?  Is there anything that surprised you?

We feel blessed because all went well. Smaller unexpected parts on the way you forget once you hold your babies in your arms.

How did everything go on delivery day?  Please describe the emotions and feelings you experienced when the babies were born.

It was just overwhelming and you cannot find words for how we felt. It changed our lives forever. We were all crying because we were so happy. You are just grateful. It was truly the best decision in our life.

Please share any advice you would give to folks who are researching surrogacy to build their families:

The most important thing is to work with a good agency. They will guide you through all situations (expected and unexpected ones). We absolutely recommend the Surrogacy Center. They were extremely supportive and dedicated. They made our journey so much easier.

Additional thoughts, comments, and observations about your journey and/or your experience with any of the folks you worked with along the way:

All folks we worked with were recommended by the Surrogacy Center. You have to trust them and all goes well then.

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Interested in Becoming a Gestational Carrier? An Open Letter to Potential Surrogacy Applicants

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There are many women out there (you may be one of them) who have considered helping a couple or individual who can’t otherwise conceive a child build their family by serving as their surrogate.  It takes a particular type of strong and resolute woman to follow through with providing such an amazing gift to another family, but we do find that there are scores of women who have had this thought cross their mind and have wondered “is this the right thing for me to do?”  The short answer?  If you meet all of the qualifications, then yes – it certainly is.

One of the most frequent questions encountered in the surrogacy agency domain is “do I qualify to be a surrogate?”  Of course, this is the most important question from the onset – because if there is even one red flag that prevents a woman from becoming what we refer to as a “Gestational Carrier” (a surrogate who carries an embryo that is not created from her own genetic material, so she is not genetically related to the offspring), she can be disqualified before she even applies.  We like to try and avoid this, which is why we apply a set of criteria and guidelines established by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), as well as some of our own standards that we believe would apply in confirming that a woman can be an ideal Gestational Carrier.  So, what are they?

If you happen to be a healthy woman between the ages of 21-45 who is considering becoming a Gestational Carrier (just for purposes of brevity, we will call them “GCs”), you may begin doing some research to see if you qualify.  You have just crossed the first guideline off of your list (appropriate age) – congratulations!  Many of the GCs who apply state that they absolutely love being pregnant, so that definitely helps.  In all likelihood, you probably enjoyed the pregnancy experience immensely.  This will no doubt give your potential Intended Parents (and your own family) a sense of comfort.

Next, you must have given birth to at least one child and have agreed that your family is complete and you do not wish to bear any more of your own children.  Ideally, the births of your child(ren) went off without a hitch and you delivered at term and without any complications.  You must have a healthy BMI and be generally healthy overall, so no medications that can interfere with pregnancy, no grave underlying medical conditions that would make a pregnancy risky, no smoking or alcohol abuse, etc. (we know these are obvious, but nonetheless they bear repeating).  It doesn’t matter if you are married, divorced, single, etc. – but you must have a stable home environment and have at least one person who you can lean on as a support person throughout the process, whether it be a spouse, parent, sibling, friend, or coworker.

Other considerations to bear in mind are that you may not have had more than 5 previous deliveries or more than 3 c-sections.

So, if you’ve gotten this far and have met all of these qualifications, you would make a fabulous GC.  Great!  However, there are a few other things to consider before you apply. The other ingredients to add to the mix would be your altruism (like feeling a “calling” to do this or REALLY wanting to help a family), your mental preparedness (Am I ready for this? Do I have my family’s support?  Would it take a toll on them in any way?) and your understanding that this journey can be a long process (on average 15 months to 2 years), so you must be committed.  But if you have gotten this far, you probably are.  Now you just have to fill out the paperwork, which can take some time – but we are here to help guide you through this process.

Once a GC enters the program, she will have to agree to receive a psychosocial evaluation along with her spouse (if she has one) to confirm that she is ready (both physically and mentally) for the journey.  This is not as daunting a process as it sounds – and many GCs actually enjoy the process.  It is quite rare that a GC “fails” to be recommended by a mental health professional for continuing the process (though it *can* happen), especially if she has already gone through a lot of these questions in her own mind, and has met all other qualifications.  So, no need to worry!  This will also help the agency with the matching process in order to help deliver the best possible match with Intended Parents.

If you’ve gotten this far and you happen to BE that woman between 21-45 who has thought “why not me?” – then it may be time for you to take that next step.  Gestational Surrogacy in the midwest is common (most of our GCs are from Wisconsin and Minnesota) and the laws here are generally quite favorable.  Signing on with an agency will ensure that you will be supported every step of the way – logistically, emotionally, legally, and financially (yes, you DO receive compensation!).  Bonus: We work with Intended Parents from all over the world, so you may get to travel a bit.

In conclusion: Thank you for considering becoming a surrogate in Wisconsin, Minnesota, or any state that does not prohibit it.  Any agency – and certainly many IPs – would be lucky to have you!

 

 

Seeking an all-inclusive surrogacy package? Look no further.

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As a detail-oriented person and consummate planner, I often find myself in situations where I think “wouldn’t it be easier if A, B and C were packaged TOGETHER and followed a more simplified process?”  I’m all about efficiency; a believer in streamlining processes to make it easier to follow the main path with as little chance of diversion as possible.  The Surrogacy Center has adopted this efficiency in partnering with the International Egg Bank and Midwest Fertility Center in Downers Grove, IL (outside of Chicago) to offer an all-inclusive surrogacy package for Intended Parents (IPs).  The new partnership between these organizations is the result of months of planning where the product ended up as a “one-stop-shop” of sorts, where IPs can experience complete coordination and management of their surrogacy journey under one umbrella: The egg &/or sperm bank, fertility clinic, surrogacy agency, attorneys, escrow, etc.  This new partnership was introduced at the Men Having Babies conference in Chicago in mid-April, and has already generated much interest.

Imagine being able to compartmentalize all of the components in your surrogacy journey into one binder, where each tab is coordinated and planned to work seamlessly with the next.  IPs will be able to choose from three competitive packages with all-inclusive pricing to include donor eggs, laboratory & embryology, surrogate medical embryo transfer, gestational carrier recruitment and compensation, and escrow account management.  Legal fees and insurance fees are not included in the package estimates, but are clearly laid out and explained at the start of the journey so that IPs will know exactly what to expect.  Our amazing Gestational Carriers (GCs), who mainly hail from Wisconsin and Minnesota, will be just as thrilled to have all of these components managed together, and will need only to travel to the fertility center twice (as in typical surrogacy journeys) – once for a medical clearance appointment and once for the transfer.  Then, as is typical, she will be monitored by her own OB and clinic, who will communicate regularly with the fertility center throughout the pregnancy.

Putting all of the train cars together on one track with choices about which direction to travel will no doubt be a draw for many IPs, though many others who already have established relationships with their own clinics, attorneys, etc. will choose to not cross silos, which also works well.  No matter which surrogacy path they follow, our hope is that people building their families through surrogacy are offered as many choices as possible to make their journeys efficient and enjoyable.  Preparing for parenthood can indeed be stressful, but it can also be fun and there are moments not to be missed.  Our job is to make it *more* fun and *less* stressful.

If you would like more information on the all-inclusive surrogacy package program, please visit https://www.internationaleggbank.org/surrogacy/ to fill out an inquiry form, or call Lori at 888-261-5918.

Surrogacy Options in the Midwest

We are each often not granted our every wish in life, and most of those disappointments, while painful, are taken in stride by most people.  However, the issue of being able to choose to have children is one that is so personal, so culturally powerful and so public that it takes on mythic proportions for many families.

The availability of surrogacy as a potential option to consider has become a very powerful arrow in the quiver of reproductive technology.  And the impact is magnified when you consider the nature of the gift the surrogate is offering the intended parent(s) as well as the possibility of becoming a biological or legal parent for a person who has been denied that biological choice.  For us in the Midwest, we are blessed with a plethora of altruistic women in Wisconsin and Minnesota who are committed to offering someone else the opportunity of having a family as healthy and robust as their own via gestational surrogacy.  They are eager to form a partnership with a family that has been denied the chance to have a child without great risk to themselves, or who are in a same-sex relationship where they need the support of another gender to help them achieve their dream of parentage.

In my tenure facilitating matches of generous gestational carriers (GCs) and the intended parents (IPs) who are seeking a vessel to carry their precious embryos, I have been struck by the shared dedication to completing the biological imperative of raising children by both sets of ‘parents’.  The desire to give back in a big way that all GCs express is matched by the desire and focused dedication to becoming a parent that the IPs demonstrate.  In combination, these two commitments create such a powerful partnership that the shared goal is cherished that much more.

If you’ve been toying with the idea of considering surrogacy to complete your family, I believe you will find this journey an incredibly powerful one – not without risk, but with the potential to make your desire to share your life with a child that you choose to nurture through this process as fulfilling as any biologically automatic family.  For gay or straight, singles or couples – there is someone out there who is waiting to help you achieve your dream of having a family.

-Jeanne Ferguson, MSSW, LISW

My Surrogacy Story by Delia

At my 20-year high school reunion I reconnected with an old friend. We kept in touch after that and got to be close again. She eventually confided in me that she and her husband got married “late” (in their 30s) and had been having a very hard time getting pregnant. After about a year of watching them struggle I told her that I would have a baby for them. We were both surprised that those words came out of my mouth, as my own children were teenagers and I had never had any desire to be pregnant again. She went home and discussed it with her husband and he thought that would be too “weird”. But I am the kind of person who gets an idea in her head and then needs to pursue it until I can make it happen… So I started to research surrogacy online. I found a great agency in Maryland, Creative Family Connections, that accepted carriers up to age 42. Once I had all materials turned in the agency sent a case manager to my home, to meet me and see if I’d be a good fit for any of their waiting Intended Parents.

They felt like they had a very good potential match for me in-mind – a gay couple from the middle east who had been waiting a year for the right candidate to come along. We did our “match meeting” via Skype, with an agency person on the “line” as well. We all liked each other and decided to move ahead with the process. That was in April 2012. By August 2012 I was ready for my embryo transfer and my husband and I met the IPs in Connecticut. Their clinic of choice was Connecticut Fertility, as they had done research and found that Dr. Doyle had very high success rates. We spent all our time with them while in CT – they picked us up at the airport, stayed at the same hotel, ate meals with us, came to the transfer appointment (and were in the room, holding my hands while the doctor inserted the two embryos – one from each father’s sperm and donor eggs), etc. We had a wonderful time together and were all so excited and nervous. We were extremely fortunate that my transfer was successful the first time, as many carriers try more than once to get pregnant. We were all a little bit disappointed to find out that only one of the embryos had “taken”, though, as the dads were really hoping that they would only have to do surrogacy one time to complete their family and have children with each of their genetic material.

The dads and I did FaceTime calls about once a week, and were in touch via email and Facebook. I sent photos as my belly changed shape and size. They were sad to be so far away and unable to attend OB appointments with me, but my OB’s office (Clinic Sofia in Edina) was wonderful and allowed them to be on FaceTime when I had ultrasounds.

We found out that it was a girl, and that the due date was May 1, 2013. The dads arranged to be in Minnesota two weeks before the due date so that they could purchase all the necessary baby equipment and supplies beforehand. The first night they were here we all went out to dinner and then walked around at the Mall of America. A day and a half later my water broke in the middle of the night and we all met at the hospital. It was time!
I gave birth to their baby girl (E) in the late afternoon on April 19. The dads, my husband, the doctor, and I were in the delivery room together. I had specified in my contract that the dads were not to video or photograph me (or the baby coming out of my vagina) while giving birth. They held my hand. My husband and I were both crying when she finally came out, and the dads were in shock. I had been given an epidural (my first ever – at my insistence from the beginning), so needed a little help from the “suction thing” to help her come out. The dads saw her little cone-shaped head (temporary but startling to them) and didn’t know what to think. Baby was whisked off to the side with the dads and nurses, for her APGAR tests, etc.

The dads and E had their own room in the hospital, down the hall from mine. Friends came to visit me but I didn’t feel like I could ask the dads if they could see the baby, so I didn’t. I did feel kind of self-conscious during the rest of my stay, wondering if the cleaning people and nursing assistants thought I had lost my baby or something (since I didn’t have a baby in the room with me).

The dads, E, and one set of grandparents stayed in MN for another 2 weeks, to finalize the adoption (here in MN the IPs – at least at that time – had to adopt E from us because I was considered the mother since I gave birth to her, and my husband was considered the father because he was married to me). I cried a lot at the hearing, but not because I was sad that she was officially becoming their baby; I think it was a combination of ‘hormone meltdown’ and just being sad that my ‘project’ was finished.

The following year the dads and E were going to be in NYC for her 1st birthday, so my husband, sons, and I met them there and spent a wonderful day together celebrating. On her 2nd birthday they were back in Minnesota, for the birth of their twins via another surrogate. We had a birthday party and spent lots of time with all of them while they were in town for about four weeks. When they left they said that they wouldn’t be in the US for E’s next birthday, so if we were going to continue the tradition it would have to be in their country the following year. I feel very fortunate to have been able to do that – and spent 10 days traveling around their country and celebrating E’s birthday with her whole family. It was amazing and wonderful.

They are now a very busy family of 5. We keep in touch about once a month or so now, via text or Facebook. It was sad for all of us when E’s 4th birthday came around and I was unable to go back to the middle east to celebrate with them. Hopefully we’ll all see each other again in the next year or so. We have become like family and I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.