Ashley’s Story

October 23, 2020

Laying there, I think I could hear my heart pounding, wondering what to expect, was it going to hurt? Could I really be doing this? I was wearing my lucky socks, so guess I was ready. Most people don’t know the moment they become pregnant, but this time I would know the exact second I was with child, heck, I could see the little embryo on the screen staring back at me, trying to make light of the situation I told one of the many people standing around me, “I think it looks like a girl”, we all laughed, but I wasn’t kidding. After the initial ultrasound to make sure everything was ready one of the nurses buzzed into a phone, “Dr. Leonard, we are ready for transfer”. Minutes later, with the loud swoosh of a door, I heard The Barenaked Ladies belting out “JAAANNE”.

Dr Leonard (Dr. name has been changed to protect privacy) had arrived, and apparently, he liked music when he worked as much as I did, it was playing from the pocket of his lab coat. An instant of calmness fell over me as I watched them suck that little 5-day old blastocyst into a little vacuum and hand it through a window to Dr. Leonard. I could see on another screen that they had stuck a tube into my uterus and as Dr. Leonard proceeded to implant that tiny splitting cell into my womb, his pocket had switched songs and now I was listening to Sarah McLachlan singing, “in the arms of an angel”. It was as though time stopped and all I could hear was Sara telling that perfect little embryo, “to find some comfort here”. Yeah, I cried, like, a lot. I’d love to blame it on the hormones but I’m pretty emotional all the time, so tears are a regular occurrence. 30 minutes later I was handed a sonogram picture and told that I was free to go. I texted my partner (who was out for lunch with one of the intended parents) and said “ I’m pregnant, come get me”. They soon rolled up to the entrance of the huge downtown Toronto building, I walked over, slapped the sonogram on the window and said “there’s your baby!!”

We drove off to get our McDonald’s fries, a secret surrogate tradition to “make the baby stick”, we all shared with them. It was Perfect.

So, how did we get there? Let’s rewind to Late March 2020.

There is so much that led up to that transfer day, firstly I had to find a company to register with. My entire life I had planned on doing this for someone and I had decided now was the time, I have a knack for terrible timing, so naturally, I picked the month in which a global pandemic hit, when else would I do it? I made a profile, much like a dating profile. As part of the registration process, you have to pick which type of intended parents you wish to help. You can limit your profile to be sent to heterosexual couples, same-sex couples, single men, and single women. I chose not to close the door on anyone, every person deserves to have a child of their own and by not allowing to hear from all walks of life and situations, I was afraid I would be closing the door to the right person(s) finding me. I decided that chemistry would decide how I would “match”.

On the big day, I got an email that my profile will be live at 12pm one evening in mid-April. Great. Exciting, I hope someone is interested in me…. I woke the next morning to over 40 emails, texts, and WhatsApp messages from across the world, Hong Kong, Australia, B.C., etc. GULP, how am I going to decide? I took my time to read through the profiles, messages, and texts. Slowly, I let the ones who didn’t identify with my values or plans go, wishing them well and knowing that there is someone out there for them. I was able to get the candidate pool down quickly for whatever reason I didn’t dwell on it, if it didn’t feel like it could be right then I told them I was moving in another direction. Eventually, I was down to two couples, but to be honest, it was always the one couple in my heart, and the very few people around me who knew I was on this journey knew too. They were my sort of people, they felt like old friends, I loved them. I wanted to help them become parents, so the day came, when I finally told them in a text, “blah blah blah…….. and ya, I’ll have your baby!”

So OK, I have made the connection, now what. Well, that list is HUGE. here are the highlights:

  • Physical screening for me and my partner
  • Blood screening for disease, drug and alcohol abuse
  • 61-page contract through lawyers
  • Mental screening and counselling for me and my partner
  • Internal physical exams and ultrasound to ensure my body is able to still carry a child well. (It has been 11 years since my body has grown another life)
  • Ongoing monitoring up to the transfer.

October 6, 2020

The Start of Medication for IVF

  • 6 Estrogen tablets – 91 days (end of week 12 of pregnancy)
  • Daily Aspirin- 91 days (end of week 12 of pregnancy)
  • Doxycycline daily- 6 days
  • Daily Steroid 6 – days
  • Daily Progesterone injection -91 days (end of week 12 of pregnancy)

Let me tell you, IVF is hard on you and your body, if you know a woman going through this, stop reading, send her a text, or go give her a hug, she’s going through a lot.

I turned into a full-on psycho, I was angry, sad, and happy within minutes, it’s a roller coaster of emotions that not a lot of people talk about. My partner was amazing and gave me almost all of my injections. Sometimes for no reason at all, I was angry, and had decided I didn’t need his help, “I can do it myself!!” I’d say, and head to the bathroom needle in hand. This ALWAYS resulted in me hitting a vein and blood squirting out of my bum cheek all over the bathroom, making it look like a scene from C.S.I. Miami.

My journey for the first few months was unremarkable, an easy pregnancy, I thought. Boy, was I wrong, in February I started getting heartburn and acid reflux so bad I had to be put on medication. I spent most nights sitting straight up in bed and trying to remember that it wouldn’t last forever, and it didn’t, only about 5 months straight.

Next up, the glucose testing for gestational diabetes at 28 weeks, I wasn’t worried, I didn’t have it before so I’ll be good this time too. WRONG. I failed it and the follow-up test. That hummingbird liquid they make you drink is disgusting, if you like that stuff there is something wrong with you. Lol. I was able to keep gestational diabetes totally under control with diet, I am actually very proud of that. It was a miserable time, I won’t lie, but again, I knew it wouldn’t last forever.

* Here is a little tidbit I didn’t know, which is actually quite amazing, the placenta is what blocks insulin from being released by the pancreas, the placenta is actually made of the BIOLOGICAL PARENTS’ DNA, which means I grew an organ that wasn’t mine, and the little bugger gave me diabetes (referring to the placenta, not the baby).

Next up was the pain, oh the pain, my ribs felt like the baby was going to push my bones right outside my body, I kid you not, I felt like at any point I was going to look down and a tiny foot was going to be sticking out between two ribs. It was so uncomfortable to sit up, I cried daily with it. I would get relief on the days I had a massage and weekly chiropractic, but it would return with a vengeance the next day.

Speaking of chiropractic and massage, I would highly recommend both to a pregnant woman, you need that extra help for the shifts, modifications, accommodations, and changes your body is going through at a rapid rate, and if you’re like me, it will be the only relief you’ll find.

Photo by Serreh Elizabeth Photography

June 30, 2021-The birth

After months of agony, diet restrictions, and travelling to doctor’s appointments the day came, and after labouring for 3 days I was swept off for an emergency C-Section. The entire way through the pregnancy I referred to the baby as a girl, when sonographers would ask if I wanted to know, I would say “you don’t need to tell me, I know it’s a girl, and please don’t confirm to me, we want it to be a surprise” (the intended parents wanted it a surprise and it’s their baby, so I happily complied). As they slid me onto the surgical bed for the C-section the nurse said “ I think this will be a boy!” I laughed and as all the medication made me groggy and slur my words, I replied “sorry, today you are going to be wrong”. This memory still brings a smile to me 🙂 That O.R. nurse was wrong, by the way, at 6:01 pm on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, a beautiful baby girl arrived into this world weighing 7 lbs and 14 oz. That baby will never wonder if she was wanted, and she will always know that she is loved beyond measure and I got to be part of that. I am forever grateful and so proud of what I did. I have absolutely no regrets.

I know surrogacy is not common, so I decided to throw a few tips in to help you if you ever meet a surrogate:

  1. Please don’t ask a Canadian surrogate how much they got paid, it is illegal to be paid as a surrogate in this country, and it minimizes what they have done. There is nothing worse than hearing someone say- “there must be good money in that”
  2. Do not ask if it was hard to give up their baby, it is not hard to give up a baby that was never yours, think of it as extreme babysitting. There is extensive counselling to ensure you are in the right mindset. I loved growing this baby and there will forever be a bond but she was never mine, nor did I ever feel that she was.
  3. Please do not assume that a surrogate shares DNA with the child. There are different types of surrogacy, I was a gestational carrier, meaning there is no relation to the baby, simply put, I was the oven- and yes I baked an exceptional bun!
  4. Please don’t refer to me as her mom, or any surrogate as the mother. It is very awkward to have to correct people in this situation. We are not the moms.
  5. “What about your kids?” – What about my kids? They knew from the start that I was growing a baby for someone else, that it wasn’t their sibling and she would be a special friend of the family forever. They were part of the journey, they pitched in to help around the house before and after the birth. To me, this was an important lesson for my kids. I lead by example, and this was a great example of kindness. I helped someone else when I could, with no selfish motives.