Surrogacy wasn’t the plan. Then the surrogacy didn’t go as planned.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Surrogacy wasn’t even on the radar for us. When it became a reality, I still hoped that each step of the way, somehow my fate would change and that by some miracle I wouldn’t need to go down the path of surrogacy again for a sibling journey.
Pregnancy is power. Our culture bestows esteem and honor upon women who conceive and carry children with society fawning over and idolizing the rising tide of our bellies. Pregnancy is empowering. My sense of identity in being a woman had been wrapped around this superpower. The creation of this started in elementary school in sex-ed class when I first learned how it all happened. Innately even as children, we understand this wonder of pregnancy and life.
I was promised that when I grew up and went through puberty, that if I wanted to, I would be able to tap into this power. I would be able to create life and a family. I would be welcomed into this experience of womanhood that could only be understood by women. All I had to do was decide and it would be easy – like snapping my fingers. I was warned that, if I so much so touched a boy, I would get pregnant. In my most fertile years, I feared pregnancy. Then in my thirties, knee deep in infertility treatments, I realized I would need to readjust my image of “Woman female Goddess of fertility and creator of life”. I allowed myself to grieve that part of female power I would never be able to feel. I can’t count the number of times I cried and apologized to my husband that this part of the marital vows ‘I do’, I couldn’t do.
At 23 I was engaged and married at 25. Looking back that was young. In the first part of our marriage, I raged against having children and felt sorry for anyone that did. I was told it as a trap, and I should save myself and wait. I was also in my twenties trying to figure myself out and wasn’t ready. When my brother was born when I was nine years old and with that kind of age gap, I automatically became an insta-mom. I never bucked at my responsibility and took it on fully and willingly. I got praised for being such a good sister. When I got married, I was finally without that responsibility, and I just wanted to be free and explore.
I didn’t think of my fertile years because in my mind it was just going to happen. Finally, around 32, my family doctor asked what we were doing about that family planning part. We chuckled and laughed but at that point I think we were informally trying for a year. He suggested I go to the fertility clinic. I just made a face. He said, “just in case”.
Walking in the first clinic, I remember feeling so incredibly offended that I had even stepped inside this kind of place. The fertility doctor started studying me, little did I know this would start a journey that would consist of 4 clinics, span over 8 years, countless alternative therapies, a 10-day silent retreat, spinal surgery and not one a single positive pregnancy test or even a miscarriage. At one point the doctor said, a miscarriage could at least give us hope that I could get pregnant. Over the years I went in and out of clinics. I tried to relax. I tried to forget about it. I tried to be aggressive. I sat there meditating and manifesting in my mind’s eye and telling the Universe my desire but feeling like the Universe must have had blocked my number because nothing was working. Once you’ve been part of the infertility world a long time, it is hard to rejig your mindset from failure to success. That trauma sinks into your muscle memory. Even when I walked into the clinic for my last IVF, it was relieving knowing that I could win at the retrieval and someone else could carry the emotions of the transfer.
There is still guilt I carry from one of first few appointments at the fertility clinic. I had been going for, I’m not sure, maybe three months. They were checking my lining and hormones and the doctor jumped out of his seat and said, ‘you’re ovulating!”. He was so excited, and I remember him asking if I wanted to get the shot to help release the eggs. I was in such denial and still offended by the whole idea of the clinic that I said no. Later in the afternoon, the nurse called with instructions. My husband Marcin and I were supposed to immediately start trying over the next 3 days. I never told him till day three and by then it was too late. I always wonder, what if I had just followed through? At the time, I was still working through those emotions of fearing the power of pregnancy and the transformation that would come with it. That was the only time that ever happened. Never again, in clinic two, three or four did I have a doctor jump out of their seat and tell me I was ovulating naturally.
Somehow 7 years managed to go by and by the time I got to 39, I knew we had to take drastic measures if there was going to be any hope of creating a family. We had to put all our eggs into one basket and if that didn’t work, we would walk away. We drew the line. We would become #childlessnotbychoice. In making the choice to do the surrogacy journey, I made a choice to be a parent. The goal was to create a family and I didn’t feel sad to not be pregnant because I was more excited about the stages of parenthood than just the pregnancy. I was ready to take on the parenting project and let go of pregnancy.
I was lucky enough to have a friend who had been offering to be our surrogate for three years. It took me that long to say yes. I must have unconsciously known that it was not going to be an easy journey. Before we signed legal contracts with our friend, I talked with a woman who had been through a successful surrogacy journey. She described it as “a beautiful experience”.
What I had failed to acknowledge was that that her journey had been through an agency and with a surrogate who had done surrogacy already. They had a support system. I did not. I was the support system. The words “beautiful experience” haunted me and my surrogate throughout my entire surrogacy journey as it set up an impossible expectation. Both of us referring to those words as they cut the relationship like knife. Surrogacy is a beautiful experience if you have the support and the ability to just be the excited intended parent without being the project manager. Really how hard can a pregnancy be as so many women do it all the time?
These words diminished the magnitude of what we were entering as we walked the path of an independent journey.
Before you go independent, or “Indy” – stop and think about your reasons and if has anything to do with money then go save some more and find an agency like Canadian Surrogacy Community to guide you on your journey. You don’t need to do this alone even if you are already matched with a surrogate, there is a program for that as well.
Here are 5 reasons why I wish I had used an agency and not gone independent.
- Naiveness. As an intended parent who after 7 years of infertility finally decided to say yes to a long-standing offer by a friend to be our surrogate, I didn’t want to go to an agency because I had thought they would just take my money and do nothing. I think we were all naïve thinking, “it’s just a pregnancy”, “What could go wrong?” and “it will be a walk in the park” (even our surrogate thought this). We all thought after the birth, we would just go back to the way life was. We all thought that after the birth, we would be hunkering down in a cabin in the woods celebrating the birth of this baby sharing the fruits of our/her labour. I didn’t want to see the red flags and I didn’t know what to look for. I failed to recognize the expertise an agency would bring to the table in helping everyone navigate the medical challenges in the journey. I didn’t realize how an agency could support a surrogate better than we ever could.
- I am not your therapist or 5 people in one. What I didn’t realize going down the independent journey with a friend was that I was going to be wearing many hats. The longer the pregnancy went on, the harder it was going to be to change those hats. I was a friend, an intended parent, the partner for the surrogate (she’s a single mom), the money manager, a wife. I bent over backwards trying to be the most perfect and supportive friend but failed, losing myself in the process. I supported her, while my husband had supported me emotionally so I would not fall apart. He was working so hard to cover the costs that I wanted to shield him from everything that was coming my way. The hard part was the back and forth with our surrogate. She wanted us to be there one minute and in the next minute told us she was independent and didn’t want us and that she found someone else to support her because we were not enough. Then was back again a moment later wanting everything. Trying to navigate the emotional rollercoaster of a pregnant woman is not something I had been prepared for and even more so when it came to the one who was carrying my child.
- I became the agency. I thought I could do this better than any agency out there and really what were those fees for in the first place if I had a surrogate already? What I didn’t know was there were programs specifically set up for already matched couples. It was then their job to support her and us. An agency could have helped mitigate the constant medical emergencies that seemed to happen every three weeks. I created the monster of being fearful – of being taken advantage of – and as a result I couldn’t just enjoy the journey, I became the agency.
- No control. We all failed to recognize that a surrogacy and pregnancy will overtake everything. In our case, with so many medical complications, it was hard being on high alert all the time. We could have prevented this by simply having someone in our court helping us through the chaos. As an intended parent, and a woman, it is the only time in my life I had zero control over what was happening. To me the definition of surrogacy is surrender.
- Not everyone has good intentions. Lastly, if you are not in luck and don’t have anyone close to you to be a surrogate but find someone off Facebook (this really does happen in real life) you have no idea if what this person is saying is the truth! I’ve heard stories from intended parents who have come to Canadian Surrogacy Community telling how someone had previously scammed them out of their money or worse. In their desperation they were willing to do anything. This is a disaster waiting to happen. You don’t know anything about her. You don’t know the red flags to look for, if she is telling the truth or if she really is serious about the process. Let us not mince words here, we are creating a life and the outcome of what happens in utero are lifetime consequences. Is that something you are willing to take on or even put an innocent child through? A woman is more than just a uterus, she is a part of your story and your child’s story.
You need to just to be able to enjoy the beautiful experience that is surrogacy, surrender and trust.
Pregnancy is a powerful experience, are you willing to give this power to just anyone?
Surrogacy is love.
Surrogacy is empowering and it is beautiful, and, in that surrender, we need to let go of our ego and reach out to a community.