The first time I really thought about surrogacy was during the early 1990’s when one of my favorite TV shows included a story line about a surrogate mother.
Being a surrogate is an incredible gift
I remember being very intrigued and thinking that would be such an incredible gift to give someone, if possible. At the time, I did not have any children of my own and had no idea what pregnancy would be like for me.
Ten years and two children later, our family was complete – although I was really struggling with the finality of saying that out loud. My pregnancies had been easy and without complications. I felt great when pregnant, and I simply was not ready to say I would never be pregnant again. That was when the idea of surrogacy popped back into my mind. I thought it would be a great way for me to be pregnant one last time while allowing someone who could not carry a child themselves to go through the process vicariously through me.
Thinking about the intended parents I wanted to help
Once I put my plan into action I started thinking about the kind of people I wanted to help. I knew I wanted to help someone who did not already have children. I really was hoping they would live fairly close so they could be involved in the process. I matched with a couple who live only 30 miles away, which for me was perfect. We spent a great deal of time getting to know each other before we started the IVF cycle. Not only did we share many of the same values with respect to family and education, but it was clear to me that they were going to be great parents.
Talking with family and friends about gestational surrogacy
After I met with their fertility doctor and was given the approval to proceed as their surrogate, I decided it was time to talk with family and friends about my plan. The first people I talked to were my own children. I told them in a way that made it easy for them to understand. I compared surrogacy to baking cookies for a neighbor. I told them it would be as if she had all of the ingredients for the cookies but her oven was broken, so she brought the cookie dough to our house and we baked them for her. My daughter was nine at the time, and she completely understood – although she did ask if we could keep one of the cookies. My son was four, and while he understood, he simply wanted a guarantee that we would not be bringing any babies home afterward.
Telling my extended family was easier than expected, and most were immediately supportive. When I would tell friends what I was planning to do, the response was overwhelmingly positive. The few that initially questioned my choice came to understand and, I believe, respect my decision. Many needed to be educated about the difference between types of surrogacy. Once they understood that I was planning to become a gestational surrogate and would not be biologically related to the baby, they stopped asking why and started asking how they could help when and if needed. I am fortunate to live in a close-knit community that always rallies together to help and support one another.
Researching gestational surrogacy and IVF
I had done plenty of research on surrogacy, and knew the pregnancy would be achieved through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Anyone who has been through the IVF process can tell you that it is a much bigger commitment than achieving pregnancy the old-fashioned way. There are many doctor visits, exams, hormone injections, etc.; however, as with the pain of childbirth, the memory of the IVF process has definitely dimmed over time. The required medications and visits to the fertility center are such a small part of the process that they seem fairly benign in retrospect.
A big thing to consider when thinking about being a surrogate is how many embryos you are willing to transfer. We had agreed to transfer no more than two embryos per attempt. That decision went out the window when, on the day of the transfer, the embryologist told us that based on embryo quality the best chance for a successful outcome was to transfer three. We were nervous, but really thought that one was all we would get.
Success on the first try!
In less than a week I started feeling little twinges and pulls and began to think that the transfer may have been a success. It wasn’t until my first blood test ten days after the transfer that we knew for sure I was pregnant. In order to make sure my pregnancy hormones were rising appropriately, I had a second blood test two days later, and third one two days after that. By the third test my levels were so high that the nurse just said, “Oh yeah, you are definitely pregnant.”
There is a range for where the levels/numbers should be in a normal singleton pregnancy, and mine were starting to leave the charts. This meant there was a good chance I was carrying multiples but we couldn’t know for sure until the first ultrasound which was scheduled for two weeks later. Once that day arrived we all went to the appointment and held our collective breaths while the doctor confirmed that I was indeed carrying multiples. My intended parents were not only going to be parents but they were going to have babies! We were all in shock but super excited.
Contact throughout the pregnancy
Soon after the pregnancy was confirmed I was released to my own OB/GYN for the duration. As far as twin pregnancies go I had it rather easy. Aside from looking and feeling like I was done around six months, (when in reality had three more to go), I really had no complications to speak of. I felt great, stayed active chasing my own kids, chaperoned field trips and kept up with my family’s hectic schedule.
Throughout the pregnancy I was in constant communication with my intended parents. Because we lived so close to each another they were able to attend all of the doctor visits and see the progress and growth firsthand. If we had time, we would often grab a bite to eat before or after appointments, go shopping or just spend a time hanging out together. It was fun getting to know them and seeing their excitement and anticipation build.
When the day arrived for the babies to make their grand entrance, I was nervous and incredibly excited. I was being induced early in the morning and knew it could take a while. Once I got settled into my room, my intended parents arrived and we all settled in for the duration. Shortly after 2:00pm the nurse checked me and said she was calling my doctor asap – it was time.
Because we were having twins, the delivery was to be in the operating room in case the need should arise to do a c-section, although there was no concern for one at this point. By the time everyone was suited up, the OB arrived, and I was moved to the OR, it was almost 2:30pm. The OR was packed with extra nurses, a pediatrician, a second OB, the anesthesiologist, and the rest of us, and we were ready to go. At 2:47pm, “Baby A” came into the world. He weighed 5lbs.13oz, was 18 inches long, and I’m pretty sure he was crying before he was all the way out. He was absolutely perfect!
The other twin was still quite high and her water had not broken yet. In addition to this, the two OB’s were working together trying to keep her head down. She finally started to move down a little, my OB was able to keep her in position by himself, and so everyone was comfortable with the other OB leaving. While my intended parents and husband were oogling over the first baby, the rest of us were just passing the time waiting for stronger contractions to start so “Baby B” could make her debut. It wasn’t long before my OB began to feel a hand that wouldn’t stay out of the way, and he was having a hard time monitoring her heartbeat. It kept dropping and then he couldn’t even see it on ultrasound. They gave me oxygen which helped her, and we began to wait again. What happened next was anything but uneventful…
Delivering twins was anything but uneventful
The second bag of water broke, and almost immediately her heartbeat dropped way down. She was in distress, she was still high, and it was time to get her out. My OB tried to use the vacuum, and then the first thing he saw coming out was her cord. The casual atmosphere of the room turned into a scene right out of ER. The doctor jumped up, told everyone, “We need to crash her!” This meant there wasn’t enough time to pump up epidural (which was slowly wearing off) and they were putting me under. He turned to my husband and intended parents and said, “Go out of here, and take the baby with you!” He called the second OB back in, and by this time they were putting a gas mask on me. My vein collapsed and they lost the IV that had been going so they had to start a new one, which I’m pretty sure the second OB just held in place herself for a while. The last thing I remember before going out was hearing a couple of things crashing to the floor in everyone’s haste to get this over, and hoping the baby was going to be OK. In just about ten minutes, the nurse poked her head into the room where my crew was waiting and told them that at 3:27pm “Baby B” had entered the world weighing 6lbs.1oz, 18 1/2 inches long and was doing just fine.
I was moved to a room a couple of hours later, and while I was groggy I was able to see my family and the new family I had helped to create. My husband was there, my parents were there with my kids, my son (who was four) climbed up onto my bed to give me a snuggle, my daughter who had waited in the waiting room almost all day was hugging me, and my intended parents were there – each holding a baby.
All was well in the world.
My intended parents and I spent the next two days together in the hospital. Each morning when they arrived they would go to the nursery, get the babies, and head straight to my room. The perfect little family convoy. It was wonderful to have that time to hang out and visit with them and see how perfectly they all fit together. It was also nice because it gave my parents an opportunity to get to know my intended parents and my kids a chance to see the babies when they visited me each day.
I was released from the hospital after a four-night stay and had a very quick recovery. I am convinced this was because I was able to rest and get plenty of sleep instead of having to care for a newborn 24/7 the way most post-partum women do.
The emotions and feelings I experienced over that year and a half are almost indescribable. I set out on a journey knowing that I wanted to help a couple have a family who could not otherwise do so, and yet also knowing that I was doing it somewhat for me because I so enjoyed being pregnant. What I did not realize before was what a profound impact this journey would have on me.
I have felt a joy that is beyond what I could have ever comprehended beforehand.
I am so grateful to my intended parents for trusting me with their precious cargo and allowing me to be their surrogate. As to my own family, I cannot thank them enough. Their sacrifices and support meant the world to me. I am so grateful to have had an experience I will cherish and treasure for the rest of my life.