I’ve been blog absent for a while, my apologies to my five faithful readers. In the absence we’ve been getting to know our new town better, had visits from the grandparents, celebrated three October birthdays, received high honor roll report cards and realized that the winter here will require long johns. Say what?!
Today I want to talk about one of the birthdays we celebrated in October. October is a busy time here because both Bug and Bee were born in the tenth month. I told you we celebrated three birthdays though and the third is the one that is a bit different and the one this entry is about.
Most people are surprised to learn that in addition to my three kids, I am also the surrogate mom to two beautiful girls. They are another little piece of my momma heart. A very special spot reserved for the sisters that I carried for nine months to place into their momma’s arms.
The idea of being a surrogate came to me when I was young after learning that someone very close to me gave a child up for adoption. She later shared the letters sent to her by loving couples desperate to have a child of their own. I was so touched by these letters and could feel the pain and longing in the words of these men and women. It seemed so unfair to me that so many good people with loving hearts were unable to have children. My little twelve year old self wanted to help, but even at that age I knew that adoption was not something I would be able to do. Those letters were never far from my mind though and when I heard about surrogacy a short time later I knew that being a surrogate would be part of my story at some point. I learned as much as I could about surrogacy and determined that being a gestational surrogate was the path I would take. There are two types of surrogacy; traditional, where the surrogate uses her own egg and the sperm of the (intended) father and gestational, where the surrogate carries an embryo created using the (intended) mother’s egg (or an egg donor’s) and the (intended) father’s sperm (or donor sperm). As a gestational surrogate the only thing I contributed was my uterus for my intended parent’s sweet baby to grow. Their bun, my oven.
I remember telling my husband on our very first date that I wanted to be a surrogate one day. He was sweet and dumb and apparently already head over heels in love with me, because he said he thought that was wonderful. Ha! He later admitted that he thought it was something that I would no longer want to do after having children of my own. He had no idea of how stubborn I am at that time, he would never make that same mistake now 13 years later. The funny thing is that my first pregnancy was all kinds of awful for me. I suffered with what I thought must surely be the worst morning sickness on the planet for the entire duration. I would later be diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidum, the same thing it appears Kate Middleton is currently enduring. It was awful and not at all what I thought pregnancy would be like. Instead of indulging in cravings and gaining weight, I watched as I began to lose more and more weight and struggled to find anything that I could eat or drink and keep down. At twenty weeks we excitedly went to the doctor to find out if we would be having a son or a daughter. The news that we were having a girl was overshadowed by the news that I was in danger of losing the pregnancy due to the fact that my cervix was short and thinning out. It turns out that my debilitating morning sickness had probably saved my baby because it had forced me to be on a modified bed rest from the start since I could manage little more than trips from the couch to the bathroom. I was put on bed rest at 20 weeks and had bi-weekly ultrasounds from that point forward. In my 7th month we noticed that Pi was not growing and I added another concern to my growing list; intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). This seemed a cruel blow as I was already struggling with overwhelming guilt and worry because of my inability to stop throwing up. I hated the stories I heard about women who found relief in crackers, seltzer water, ginger, etc. Nothing worked. Nothing. In the end we were very lucky and our six pound wonder was born at term healthy as could be. I joke that she has been full of drama and heartache from the positive pregnancy test, but worth it all…most days.
When Pi was about a year old I brought up the idea of being a surrogate to my husband and he was adamant that it was no longer an option for me. I knew he was worried about me and my health, but I could not let go of this feeling that being a surrogate was something I had to do. We agreed that all pregnancies come with risk and that it was important to us that our daughter have a sibling, so surrogacy talks were shelved until we had a second child. Thankfully my pregnancy with Bug was not nearly as complicated. It was this pregnancy that I was finally diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidum. I was still puking upwards of 20 times a day, but I was reassured that it wasn’t my fault. Even better I was introduced to a magical little pill called zofran. I was finally able to eat and actually gain a little bit of weight. Best news was that my cervix was perfect and the concern that I would need a cerclage to stitch it up was lifted. I had, for the most part, a normal and happy pregnancy. Bug was delivered at term a whole pound heavier than Pi. SUCCESS! It was within six months of his birth that I once again broached the subject of being a surrogate and my husband finally realized that this idea was not going to go away. So, a few months before his first birthday I reached out to a surrogacy agency to find out what I needed to do.
Most people, when finding out I was a surrogate, want to know if I carried for friends or family. They are usually shocked to find out I did this for strangers. For me, carrying for someone I didn’t know made the most sense. The agency I worked with had me fill out tons of paperwork and presented questions and situations that I hadn’t thought about before in my quest to be a surrogate. Are you willing to carry multiples? Are you open to selective reduction? Would you be willing to abort if the baby you were carrying had a disorder and the IPs requested it? I completed my application and sent it into the agency and waited.
It wasn’t long before I was matched with a wonderful couple that lived about 45 minutes away. I was emailed the letter they had written to their potential surrogate and felt that they were the match for me. After an hour long conference call with them and the agency I knew they were the right couple. Within two months of our initial conversation we were in the process of our first attempt at getting pregnant.
The thing about surrogacy that most people don’t understand is how it is not only a 9 month long “job”, but rather spans the course of at least a year and is demanding of every person involved. In this case that meant my husband and children were also along for the ride. My IM (intended mom) was planning on using her own eggs and we decided, along with our doctor, that a fresh transfer would bring the greatest chance for success. The IPs had tried for nearly 8 years to have children at this point. The year before they tried IVF and become pregnant with twins that she would miscarry due to an autoimmune disease that would not allow her to ever carry a pregnancy to term. They had several embryos frozen from that attempt, but knew the odds of frozen IVF pregnancies were not as high as fresh transfers. Together the IM and I started a regiment of hormones to sync our cycles and prepare both of our bodies; hers to create as many eggs as possible and mine to become tricked into getting pregnant. Daily injections of high doses of hormones were met with moodiness, horrible migraines and hot flashes so intense that I often found myself with my head in the freezer. On the day of the egg retrieval the doctor was able to get 12 eggs that would eventually grow into 6 beautiful embryos. We did our first transfer the day after Christmas with the two best looking embryos and I stayed in bed for 2 days willing my body to accept the embryos and hoping that we would start the new year ahead with a positive pregnancy test. Sadly, this was not our time and I wasn’t pregnant. The disappointment and letdown was far more intense than I was prepared for. We were all so sure that this would work and when it didn’t I was heartbroken and felt like I had let everyone down. I will never forget my IM telling me that she wasn’t giving up and that this was not my fault. I will be forever grateful for her kind words to me when surely her heart was breaking.
We did try again, in fact we tried again right away and this time I knew even before I took my first test that it worked. I was in the grocery store walking past the fresh seafood and the sudden and overwhelming need to vomit made me laugh and cry all at the same time. I bought a test right then and cried with pure joy when two lines showed up. We did it!! I called my IPs and told them to both get on the phone and I will never forget their excitement when I told them we were pregnant.
We saw one beautiful and healthy heartbeat at 8 weeks and it became more and more real. At 12 weeks we hit a huge milestone when we moved out of the first trimester and past the point in which past pregnancies had been lost. It was real. When we went for the ultrasound to find out the sex of the baby I knew as soon as the tech checked that they were having a girl. After a million and one scans with my own pregnancies I was pretty good at reading these things. The ultrasound tech was kind enough to let me tell my IPs that they were having a daughter. The pregnancy was mostly smooth and while I struggled with HG, I managed for the most part with zofran and actually gained more than 15 pounds of pregnancy weight. Huge success for me.
On October 30, 2006, I had the honor of giving birth to a beautiful baby girl with her momma’s eyes. It was amazing and as close to magic as I’ve ever come close to experiencing. There was not a dry eye in that room and I will forever remember the moment that I placed baby A in her momma’s arms. She was a baby so loved and so wanted by so many people. I watched in wonder as they examined every inch of her tiny and perfect body, counted toes and exclaimed over her tiny delicate curls on her head, her rosebud mouth and her long fingers. I watched as two people became parents. It was incredible and beautiful.
Even before A was born we talked about doing this all over again so that she would have a sibling. When she was eight months old we once again started the process. We decided to try a frozen transfer in June of 2007 and hoped that we would fall into the lucky percent that it worked for. It didn’t and we were crushed once again. We tried a fresh transfer shortly before A’s first birthday. This time it worked and I wanted to see my IM’s face when I told her that her little girl was going to be a big sister. We agreed that I wouldn’t test prior to our blood test, but I just knew I was pregnant and couldn’t help it. Sure enough two bright pink lines showed up and I called my IM to see if she wanted to have lunch. I struggled to keep emotion out of my voice and apparently did such a god job of it that she was convinced I tested and it was another negative. I wore the shirt she had made for me when I was pregnant with A that said, “Yes, I’m pregnant. No, it’s not mine”. Her face was priceless and we hugged and cried and laughed. On June 19, 2008, another sweet baby girl was born and she added another branch to their family tree. I loved seeing A, who was only 19 months old, holding her tiny baby sister and watching their parents gaze at them with wonder and love. My surrogate journey was complete and their journey as a family of four was just beginning. My heart was full.
Mine is a happy story of surrogacy. That is not to say, of course, that there weren’t bumps and issues along the way, but in the end there are two beautiful little girls here in this world. And I am able to say I had a small part in making that happen. I am proud of that. I am thankful that my husband stood by me and supported me even when some of our own family were unable to do so. I am glad that this is a part of my story, that it is a part of my family’s story.
Three years to the day (within 10 minutes actually) after I gave birth to A, the final piece to my family’s puzzle was born. My sweet baby Bee shares her birthday with my first surrogate daughter. Circle complete. Momma heart full.