My story starts before my actual surrogacy. I got pregnant at 16, and gave birth at 17 to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. I went back to high school the following semester and did two semesters fulltime to graduate, and during that second semester, got pregnant (at 18) with our second child. By 19 I had a boy and a girl, both born healthy, and my pregnancies and deliveries uncomplicated. I wanted to help others experience parenthood and be pregnant again, so I went online where I found people who told me I had to wait until I was 21. It was discouraging, but it was only two years. Not a big deal!!
I then found a couple who were in the UK, England specifically. They told me that they had worked with a surrogate who was 20 who lived in Germany but would deliver in the UK with them. After reaching 12wks gestation with her and paying her quite a bit of money, they found out that the had faked her pregnancy. My heart BROKE for them! But I realized they had said she was 20, and asked them about the 21 year law. They said that since they did not live in Canada, I could be their surrogate at 19. They looked into it and it was completely legal!
I did a bit of my own research and couldn't find anything that specifically ruled out this idea. I was so excited, I was going to get to help someone! I was originally hoping for all expenses to be covered, but my IP's told me that it was illegal on both ends and that the most I could ask for would be 2-3 thousand dollars. I was so naive. The laws in Canada stated that I could only be reimbursed for pregnancy related expenses, so surely, they were correct, this couple who had been through HELL to get to me. They made me feel so special for wanting to help them.
Many people discouraged me from taking the journey, but I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do and that my IP's would have never lied to me. We spoke for over six months before deciding to work together, and a month before my 20th birthday, we did home inseminations so that I could a traditional surrogate for them. We got pregnant the first try! I was so excited to be helping them and then when I went in for the dating ultrasound, the unexpected occurred, two sacs were found. Two babies. Two heart beats. Very healthy.
My own children, at this point, were 2 years old and 7 months old and I was a bit scared, but my IP's said that if anything should happen and I needed help, they would be on the next plane out, they would take care of me. The reassurance did wonders and selective reduction was declined on their part with many promises to take care of me themselves if something like bedrest came up.
At about 10 weeks, my intended mother became a bit overbearing, would text my husband at 4am if it had been a few hours since I had made contact. She was just worried about her babies and wanted to make sure everything was okay. She said that she would send me some maternity clothes from England when she got down to the shops, which was good because I was already showing a bit. The morning sickness would leave me very little energy for running after two very young, mobile children, and they said that any extra hired help wasn't in the agreement. I still hadn't received any money from them, and was paying for everything on my own still.
I had received 300 dollars from them at the 14 week mark after a second ultrasound picture was sent to them.
My Intended Mother was increasingly over bearing and by 16 weeks it had taken an actual toll on my marriage. I was expected to be online with her all the time, but I was still sick often, and had my own children, my own life, to try to live. She explained how hard it was for her, being so far away from her babies and just leaving them in the trust of someone else. I was understanding, but my husband was not. We had fought about it for awhile before that point, he said that I just needed help, they needed to understand that twins was never a conceivable thought, but that I needed more help, whether or not they were wanting to pay for it. But it didn't happen, and our marriage had taken the hit for it. He moved out by the time I had hit 17 weeks pregnant.
By 18 weeks I told my IP's that he had moved out, and that I was on my own and financially I had no idea what I was going to do. They told me I needed to go and find a job. I started to put out resumes everywhere, but finding someone who would even give me a shot at almost 5 months pregnant with twins was hard. I borrowed some money from family to get me through until I got a job. What else could I do? they still hadn't sent a single red penny to me to help with expenses at this point.
We had our ultrasound at 19 weeks and 5 days, the big ultrasound! A boy and a girl. They hadn't decided on names yet, well, they had some chosen but did not want to share that with me, and I chose to respect their privacy. I had too much going on in my life at the time to put much effort into pushing it. I did start to ask them about sending more money though...but it wasn't coming.
At 22wks I had a job interview finally. They wanted a Dr's note stating that I could work on my feet in my "condition". It took 2wks to get in, to see the OB. I was 24wks pregnant with the twins, and the Dr said there was no way they were going to let me start working where there would be physical obstacles at 24 weeks pregnant with twins when I had no support at home after an 8 hour shift to help me. I told my IP's this, and they told me to call welfare or whatever they called it in America that everyone was on.
Conversation had been sparse the last couple weeks by now, and I figured they were just busy planning for the babies. We were, after all, possibly only two to three months away from having two new babies here!! The babies were growing so healthy and so fast, I felt like everything would be okay, my marriage would be fine after awhile, after he realized that sometimes, life sucks. I was still borrowing money at this point and got a personal loan, but it wasn't a big one and I had past due bills that I had to pay off. Paying them off, even if I had to pay it back later, felt amazing.
At 27wks I had a routine ultrasound at the OB's office, they looked so big now and were measuring big. Thank goodness, they would be big, healthy, chubby babies when their parents met them!! It had been radio silence from my IP's for weeks and I was starting to be concerned. I was worried, if I'm honest, something didn't feel right anymore. Something had changed. My marriage was still on the rocks. I was officially on welfare...yes welfare...that huge, ugly, gross word. I kept my apartment where I paid 750$ per month though, no one was taking the last bit of dignity I had at that point by shoving me into a tiny subsidised apartment where everyone around me was either on drugs, playing the system, wanted to steal my stuff...it was a horrifying feeling and I knew it was temporary. But it was quickly defeating me, and because of my contract, they were taking 200/month off of my check, which left me with $689.00 per month...even though I could prove I was NOT getting that 200$ per month.
I sent the pictures of the ultrasound to my IP's, they loved seeing them! Who wouldn't?!
Then I got a reply back that I wasn't ready for. My Dr said that I would probably need my IM to come help now, I was 27 weeks pregnant but I was measuring at fullterm for a singleton and my hips and back started to ache quite a bit when picking my 11 month old son up. But they weren't coming...I was told they were getting a divorce actually. I was on my own. No one was coming to help me. No one was coming for these babies.
What was I going to do?! Where would these babies go?!
I went into a full on panic attack, in the OB's office. I started to get pains all over my tummy, what was going on?!
I was doing a non stress test while texting and the machine went off like a Christmas tree, the nurse came running in. She tried to calm me down but I was in tears...I was bawling my eyes out like a small child. I was breathing so fast I couldn't catch up. This couldn't be real. This wasn't HAPPENING. This happens in movies. Not to real people with good intentions and good hearts. The nurse said something to the Dr, I didn't understand it and I wasn't even there, not really. They brought me something warm, it was warm and hot and rough. The nurse was saying things to me...but I was just watching her mouth. It took only a few minutes, but I had survived my first panic attack. I was so sore. So tired.
The nurse (I'll always remember her face and the look she had on it), came over and asked if I was okay, she said I had had contractions and that I had had an anxiety attack and asked what happened. All I could do was cry and she hugged me and told me to calm down. I told her what my IP's had told me, and showed her my phone, I could barely speak. They weren't coming. Not unless I kept the babies myself for 6 weeks, at my home with my other two children, went to England with them both, got he birth certificate somehow changed and got his name on it (he was not willing to come and sign it when they were born) and then come home...somehow be away from my children for up to 6 months in another country, another continent.
I found out legally that was impossible.
I told my IF that I would have to put the babies up for adoption unless he came and signed the birth certificate. He refused and said go ahead, put them up for adoption.
I was taken aback. Hurt. So hurt...this was all for nothing.
I told him I would need the rest of the agreed upon amount for money I was already put out (1700 dollars Canadian). He sent me two hundred and seventy five dollars.
That was the very last I had ever heard from him. Ever.
At 28 weeks I had to travel 3 hours out of town to a bigger hospital with bigger ultrasound machines to check on the babies and their cord flow. I had to stay over night because of the train times. I had to pay someone to watch the kids, paid for the train, paid for the hotel, paid for the food, paid for the taxi.
At 30 weeks I found a couple who wanted to adopt these babies, and a couple days later when I had another ultrasound, 3 hours away, they attended. They were aware that I could change my mind at any minute, and were very guarded since they had already had a failed adoption, post birth. They could not give me any money to help me, as that is illegal in Canada for adoptions. They could not buy me things. They could not help. They felt helpless. At this point the stress had taken so much toll that I was walking around at 3cm dilated and my pelvis had separated but I was unable to have bedrest because I had no one to help with my children.
My marriage was over by any measure. My husband told me I should have never done this (even though he was completely on board before we had entered the agreement). It was a nightmare all around.
The days felt like weeks waiting for these babies to get big enough to be born, but I only had to get to 36wks and due to my SPD the Dr would induce me.
At 32 weeks I made the three hour trip again, and had to move that week into something more affordable. It was clear that I was going to be a single mom, and once the babies were born and I was free to work again, I needed something I could afford after paying a sitter. The babies were healthy as could be, cord flow was amazing, but I had progressed to 4cm. I was told to take it as easy as I possibly could, but the Dr said I should be able to hold out until 36wks if my uterus stayed as calm as it had.
No such luck though.
At 32 weeks and 2 days, evening, I started to get horrible contractions, I had moved a few days before and everything was fine, if I was hurting I would sit and drink water. I called a friend who lived 45 minutes away and she brought me in. They gave me an IV, stopped the contractions and said I would need strict bedrest. I was at 6cm and needed to take it very very easy. I had called the adoptive mother to let her know and she was travelling up already when they stopped the contractions. She stayed over night and would leave the next day.
The next day I was laying on the couch, watching my two toddlers eating breakfast when all of a sudden, I had a contraction. I called the adoptive mother, who was still in town. Her mom would stay with my kids while we went in and we figured out what the plan was. I had another in the car on the way to the hospital. And another walking into the hospital. In three contractions, I had made it to 8cm. They rushed to get the epidural in place in case we needed an emergency csection, but the babies were coming TODAY.
They didn't have time to put the epidural on, they got it placed and I was 9.5cm and when I laid down I had hit 10.
Baby A was born June 28th at 158pm at 3lbs11oz, 16.5 inches tall, breathing and crying.
Baby B was born June 28th at 219pm at 3lbs9oz, 16 inches tall, breathing and crying.
Apgars were 8 and 9 out of 10.
Over the next few weeks, I pumped for them, nursed them when my exhusband could watch our two kids at my place, held them, sang to them, loved them.
Their parents came to get them at 6 weeks old, and I took pictures. They would be back in two days though, they had to prepare to bring them home.
Two days later, I went to bring some more milk and bring my two children to meet the twins and say goodbye. They were not there though, social services as well as the NICU were both supposed to let me know (still as the legal mother) when they were discharged but both parties failed to do so. I arrived to be told I was not allowed in and that the twins had left hours before.
The adoptive parents assumed that someone had let me know and that I had already said my goodbyes. I took my children home and cried.
Although I was supposed to be seen by a social worker on various occasions, and social services was supposed to ensure I got grief counselling, it did not happen. The system had failed me and there was nothing I could do. At 4 weeks post partum, welfare had cut me off as well, stating that I had my exhusband living with me, but I did not, he HAD been over more than once to watch the kids for me, and on some mornings, when I had a hard time getting out of bed after being at the hospital all night, he watched them so I could sleep. We both showed our separate rent receipts to social services, and they did a "walk through" my apartment and his (while he was not home). He had a girlfriend at the time as well but they refused to speak to her. His bed looked "unslept in" so they ruled that we were illegally living together.
I was not cleared to work yet, so I again, had to borrow money while I recovered from a rough delivery, and all of the emotions I was dealing with, on my own.
The twins are now 5 years old, healthy and happy with their adoptive parents. I have seen them now three times since they left August 2011. When they were 10 months old, again when they were 3 years old, and recently, just before turning 5 years old.
I have their parents on my facebook and am welcome to creep them on their facebook, email them etc. I get a yearly update with a picture of them (which I have asked permission to hang on my wall). My children know of them, they know that they were grown in my belly and that even though they do not live with us, it's okay to love them. They have met them on two occasions and I have cherished pictures of them all together. I have pictures from when they were 3, with three of my children (I was heavily pregnant with my fourth).
It took me just over 3 years to pay off the debt I had accumulated though, debt that I couldn't sue their parents for.
The adoptive parents had to hire someone in England to find their biological father to sign his rights away, in case, he tried to get them back down the road. His wife, the one he was supposed to be divorcing, was the one who happily answered the door, and he gladly signed his rights away.
Two years ago he contacted the twins' adoptive parents requesting updates, updates which he said he had no interest in when the adoption had gone through, I'm unaware of how they reacted/answered, but they did ask me what I thought. Call me bitter, but I told them that his biological children were three years old, and only now, does he care if they are okay...no, I felt that he shouldn't get updates now. She thanked me for my opinion and we never spoke of it since.
I am now, 25 (yes, legally able to be a surrogate! ha), remarried, and am finding the courage to venture on another surrogacy journey with much more local IP's. I am going to be reimbursed for expenses, and am hoping if absolutely nothing else, people can learn from my own mistakes, so that they don't follow my foot steps. It may have only been nine months of my life, but the scars, emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, stayed with me for a very long time.
Surrogacy is something that stays with you forever. The good AND the bad.
My wish is that surrogacy is normalized in Canada, that we have regulation of surrogacy, that maybe one day we can actually be compensated for what we willingly give up in that year (sometimes two or three depending on the journey).
There would be many less train wreck surrogacies, IP's would not be scammed so easily out of THOUSANDS of dollars and many less surrogates would walk away feeling used and taken advantage of.
I have been very fortunate in knowing SO many surrogates who have had WONDERFUL journeys through surrogacy. So so many happy endings! Now I'm just hoping mine is coming!
How is your relationship with your surrogate mother/egg donor, intended parent(s) or recipient couple?
I have not spoken to the Intended Parents since they told me they were not coming for their babies. I have an open relationship with the adoptive couple though.
What advice can you offer to others considering surrogacy and/or egg donation or embarking on their first journey?
PATIENCE. Finding the RIGHT couple is key, and not jumping into things, taking your time is so crucial ... so important!
Finding "a" match is not nearly as important as finding "the" match.
It is a learning process, and is through the entire surrogacy.
Take experience and knowledge from OTHERS. They have gone through this process and are a wealth of knowledge.
Cathleen's story was also featured in the Toronto Star on September 9th, 2011
Surrogate mother’s nightmare
New Brunswick woman finds herself stuck with twins when infertile British couple breaks off contract 27 weeks into her pregnancy.