Just as different stories bring intended parents to the decision that surrogacy is their path to having children, surrogates enter the journey with their own backgrounds, experiences, and personal connections to pregnancy and fertility.
My husband and I resolved long ago that my own two children were the only babies we would be bringing home. I was fortunate to have very uneventful pregnancies and deliveries, fulfilling my desire to experience natural childbirth with both children. Contrary to some other experiences, I thoroughly enjoyed both pregnancies and births. I knew that perhaps it was something I could offer to others.
Working with a respected surrogacy agency, the journey was relatively seamless. It can, at times, feel more formal than emotional when you have to negotiate with lawyers, take psychological exams, and make sure everyone involved is aware of your menstrual cycle, but it also makes it feel like a transparent process where both parties are involved in how things move forward.
The process of matching a surrogate to intended parents has been described as a cross between a first date and a job interview, which I find very fitting. In our case, we had never met before and had one hour to go from very superficial conversations about our jobs and backgrounds, to philosophical discussions about how many embryos each party is comfortable transferring, or in which cases might each party consider terminating or reducing the number of fetuses. After that short time, you’re asked to decide if you want to forever be part of each others’ lives. We were fortunate to meet parents who we knew were similar to us in many ways and whose story was important to us.
As with my own pregnancies, everything went according to plan. Nearly all surrogates I have met decide to go down that path because they look fondly on their own pregnancies. This, however, is no guarantee that a surrogate pregnancy will be so easy on your body. While we experienced a textbook transfer, and subsequent twin pregnancy, some women find the surrogate pregnancy to be even more challenging than their own. All agree, however, that once the journey ends, the moments of watching parents hold their babies for the first time make any challenges fly quickly out the window.
The twins’ parents live nearby and were able to attend most of the monthly and, eventually weekly, appointments. They took time to get to know our own children and we quickly learned that we had even more in common than we could have realized in our short match meeting. When the time came – at 38 and a half weeks – to deliver the babies, they were both breech and we were facing a C-section. The hospital allowed both my husband and the mother into the operating room. It was a surreal experience, especially since I had never even had an Epidural with my own children. There were at least a dozen people in the room and everything happened quickly. It’s hard to recall all of the details of the delivery, but I will not forget watching their mother hold her babies for the first time, after having waited so patiently to be that close to them.
My own children, who were 4 and 5 at the time, found the process fascinating, even assigning nicknames for the babies before they were born. They never questioned why I would do this, or who would be taking the babies home. It reminded me that our children are constantly shaping their world view. What they experience develops their sense of how things operate in the world. While adults have a hard time understanding why someone would choose to do that, or may think it unusual, my children saw it as simply another way that families come together. This may have been one of the most valuable things that our family took from the experience.
Carrying a child for someone else brings a roller coaster of emotion. You feel protective over the lives that have been entrusted to you, equally protective of yourself and your family in the physical and emotional journey you are on, anxious about doing something wrong, annoyed at some of the questions it stirs up with strangers, and thrilled about being part of such a journey. The support network I developed with other surrogates quickly became my rock and my inspiration. There are not many people who can identify with the frank conversations about which injections of hormones you take and where, or why people can’t understand that you’re not “giving up” a baby.
Getting to know these women is a constant reminder that we each have our stories. Some have gone on to carry for other families, or for the same parents another time. Others have tried, but have struggled to carry a second time. As for me, complications after delivery made for a difficult recovery and I likely would not be able to carry again. This has never been a disappointment, however. Just as I knew I would not carry any more of my own children, I am perfectly content having brought two healthy boys into the world for a loving family. The experience forever impacted who I am and the ways I view starting families. In short, any path is the right path and our own journeys as parents or our role as support systems can sometimes help others find their way.
To read more about my life experiences and my journey, see my blog here.