This weekend was the SAI surrogate's retreat in Los Angeles. The retreat is paid for by the intended parents and is truly a gift for the surrogate mothers of SAI to get time to bond with each other, and talk about our experiences while enjoying a nice holiday without our kids. My flight left on Friday afternoon at 1pm. The flight was a little bumpy coming in to LAX airport, but other than that the flight was smooth and I had a lovely conversation with a woman on her way to visit her son at UCLA. I always cherish the conversations I have with people on airplanes. Its my belief that every flight I take, God puts me beside someone who could either benefit from knowing me, or who I could benefit from knowing, that our souls would enjoy the brief meeting and then continue on our way. The mother of the UCLA student gave me pause to think about my children in the season of life that they are in now, and to appreciate how quickly it goes by. When I landed I checked my phone because I was supposed to meet up with another surrogate mother named Daisy who was also flying into LAX, where we would then carpool together to the Hilton hotel in Universal City. My phone lit up with a text from her saying that she had missed her flight, and I reassured her that I would be fine, and to not worry. I grabbed a cab and told Maximo the grandfather from Mexico City, that I needed to go to Universal City..to the Hilton hotel. He smiled and pushed up her very large rimmed glasses and said "Ok you have credit card?" I said "Yes I do." He said "Is it good??" and then followed that with a hearty laugh,popped the trunk to load my suitcase and camera bag.
I had forgotten just how much I hated LA traffic...the ride along the 405 freeway swiftly reminded me. Not only did cars sit stopped along the freeway, but motorcycles weaved in and out of traffic, and blinkers served more as warnings to the other cars to speed up and close the gap rather than as means to let you over. When I arrived at the Hilton in Universal City, it's safe to say that I felt nothing short of Royalty. The bell man opened my taxi door, and lifted me gently from the vehicle by my hand. There was a long red carpet from the car door to the glass automatic doors of the hotel, and upon entry I was greeted by one of the largest chandeliers I have ever seen. The woman at the front desk welcomed me very kindly and gave me my room key. I would be in room 1556 on the 15th floor. As I stood in the elevator with my bags, watching the lights on each floor slowly go up, I noticed that there was no 13th floor in the hotel. The lights jumped directly from 12-14. My roommate had not yet arrived, and I took the time alone in the room to remove my boots, and sprawl possessively across my bed. The comforter was heavy and made from down feathers, and I let myself nestle into the covers. I missed my kids, but I was excited for the weekend to start. My roommate Antoinette arrived shortly after, and we hit it off instantly. Our personalities seemed to mesh nicely and we gathered our White elephant gifts for the gift exchange that night and headed to the ball room where our dinner was to be. Some of the girls had already arrived and I greeted Monica and Bernadette with hugs. It was so great to meet the SAI team in person. We had spoken on the phone and through email often, but there's something about seeing someone eye to eye that just makes that relationship real. Monica and Bernadette are so nice, and Bernadette's laugh was contagious. You couldn't help smiling as she laughed, even if you weren't in on the conversation. I helped myself to a plate of watermelon turkey, the most amazing mashed potatoes, and some grilled veggies. Afterwards we exhanged white elephant gifts and I ended up with a White elephant scarf and a gift card to TJ Max. Score!!
I think my favorite part of this retreat was the individual time I got to spend with each woman, to hear her story. Sometimes her previous or surrogate experience sounded like a nightmare with IPs going back on their agreements, or never sending any updates on how their baby was doing, and sometimes the surrogacy story was just as she hoped, with healthy and happy babies and friendships that either stay or fade exactly as the surrogate hoped. I thought about my own IPs this weekend frequently, and about how lucky I was to have such a good relationship with them. We communicate often and are always very open about things. Seeing all of the beautiful bellies made me emotional and so excited for my own transfer hopefully at the end of this month.
I can only describe the bond I felt to the surrogate ladies as similar to what I felt surrounded by other Marine Wives during a deployment in that no one had to explain what they felt, or why they felt it...bc we all understood. We all knew. We were all on the same roller coaster. I didn't realize how much I craved the support and the community of women in surrogacy until this weekend. I made some friendships I have a feeling will be lasting, and now have a whole slew of women who are here to support me as I continue on this journey of surrogacy.