In May 2011 I decided, along with my extremely supportive husband, to become a gestational surrogate. The year before I had done my first egg donation (I have since been a donor 6 times) and it was such an incredible experience. After doing lots of research, I ended up sending in an application to Surrogacy in Canada Online and not long after I had a phone consultation with Sally. She was so warm and full of information and she truly had me excited about the whole process.
My husband and I immediately started reading the Intended Parent profiles on the website and were in sheer awe at the number of amazing IPs desperate to find a surrogate to start their family. After speaking with a few wonderful Intended Parents, we were extremely fortunate to meet an absolutely amazing single Intended Father, who was International. We started by emailing back and forth, and progressed to phone calls and then had a family “Skype Date” together, which the kids thought was incredible. Everything was just so easy and natural and although we met as complete strangers, the connection was instant and we knew we had found our perfect match. Our daughter had just turned 4 and our son was almost 2 when we made our match official, and we were all ready to begin our journey immediately.
In July 2011 I had my screening at Repromed, a fertility clinic in Toronto. I was very nervous as I didn’t know what to expect, but it went great and was nothing to worry about. I had to do lots (and lots and lots) of paperwork before my appointment and a bit during, bloodwork, ultrasounds – including a sonohysterogram. A sonohysterogram is a special ultrasound that checks the uterus to make sure it’s healthy and ok for an embryo transfer and pregnancy. I had a physical done and I also had what is known as a “psych evaluation” in the surrogacy community, but it’s not as scary as it sounds. It’s a meeting with a counsellor/social worker who goes over what to expect during the surrogacy process, answers questions and makes suggestions on things you may not have thought about. After my screening was complete I then had an opportunity to sit down with Dr. Del Valle, who was my RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist) in his office to discuss everything. He explained everything clearly and we worked out a date for my transfer. When I left the clinic that date I had a whole bag of goodies! It was full of some of the medications I would need to take, starting before the transfer to thicken my uterine lining and prepare my uterus for the transfer and hopefully pregnancy.
Shortly after my screening appointment we started the legal contract process. Contracts are usually done post screening to ensure the potential surrogate has passed and is ok to proceed. It is a very expensive step for the IP’s and it’s best to make sure the surrogate can proceed before spending money on the legal side. We each had separate lawyers (IPs cover the cost of both lawyers) who specialize in third party reproduction in Canada. By having your own lawyer/legal counsel you are protected as their “job” is to specifically look out for your best interests in the contract. Our lawyers were fantastic and it was honestly a painless process for us.
In September 2011, on our 5th wedding anniversary, we transferred two frozen 5 day old embryos. My Intended Father had flown into Toronto and was by my side, along with my husband, during the transfer. The energy in the clinic that day was like nothing I had ever felt. We were all so excited, anxious, nervous and a whole mix of emotions… we all just wanted it to work so much. After all of our planning, appointments, etc. we were finally there, the moment of the truth, the moment that would hopefully change my IF’s life forever. We were asked to change into sterile gowns, hair nets and masks, and we had fun taking photos and making fun of one another - anything to keep my mind off of my full bladder that I needed for the ultrasound part of the transfer. When it was time, we were brought into the “OR” and I hopped up on the table and put my feet into the stirrups. Dr. Del Valle came in and we were ready! An itty bitty catheter was inserted into my cervix and into my uterus with the help of the ultrasound (honestly the full bladder is the worst part of it) and as quick as anything we watched on the large screen tv monitor on the wall the two beautiful embryos being transferred into my uterus. The catheter was checked to ensure they weren’t stuck in there, and I was finally told I could go pee… but couldn’t! I was terrified to move or do anything that could affect the embryos! I finally did go, and then relaxed at the clinic for about 30 minutes before we left and headed back to home where my IF cooked us and the kids an incredible dinner so I could lay on the couch with my feet up and relax.
4dp5dt (aka 4 days past 5 day transfer) I started to take pregnancy tests (ok, I really started testing immediately after the transfer). Thanks to the internet you can buy many bulk tests for super cheap. At first I thought they were negative, but when I looked closer in the natural light (before I learned how to “tweak” tests), there was a crazy faint line!! Did it work!? It was so exciting to think about! After a few more tests to be sure, we decided to tell my IF later that night- we promised him that we would tell him as soon as we saw anything, even if it was super early and super faint. My husband went out and bought a bun, and we put the little cheapie test sticking out of the bun and put it in our oven and took a picture. We set up a time to Skype with my IF and while Skyping with him I emailed the photo of the bun in the oven and told him to check his email. It was so incredible… there were many happy tears shed by everyone.
Overall I had a great pregnancy, minus horrible morning sickness that kept me bedridden, but it was the same for my own children so I knew what I was getting into. I did spent close to 6 weeks on bedrest at home very very early on (starting at 5 weeks along), due to hemorrhaging, but my IF was incredible and made sure we were completely supported with assistance with the kids, laundry meals, etc.
Due to my previous births I had to have a scheduled c-section. In 2007 our daughter was an emergency c-section due to a prolapsed cord and I was cut vertically vs horizontal, which meant any subsequent pregnancies had to be a planned c-section to avoid uterine rupture. In 2009 I had a planned c-section with our son and it was honestly incredible compared to my first, my husband was allowed into the room and it was very calm, so I was extremely happy knowing my surrobean’s birth would be planned the same, with the same team of nurses and doctor’s who delivered my own.
My IF arrived about a month before our planned c-section date, to ensure he didn’t miss the birth just incase things happened earlier than expected. He rented an apartment and it was wonderful being able to spend a month with him attending our final appointments and ultrasound, having lunch and dinner dates, BBQ’s with my parents and the kids really just absolutely adored having him around to play with.
In May 2012, with my husband and my IF by my side, I gave birth to a gorgeous baby boy via a planned c-section. Immediately after my c-section we were all in my private room together just enjoying those first few magical moments just the 3 of us. Once the kids were done school they came to visit and meet the baby who had been such a big part of our lives for 9 months. It was incredibly special, to all of us. They had baby snuggles and were just in awe of being able to see what we had all done – create a beautiful family of two.
As the day went on we started to realize that something wasn’t quite right with my sweet little surrobabe. He was sent to a NICU in another hospital about 30 minutes away and spent a few days there before finally being sent to Sick Kids in Toronto. We spent weeks at Sick Kids with my IF and surrobabe while they ran multiple tests to determine what was going on. It is a long and confidential story that I cannot share the details of, but unfortunately there were unforeseen complications with his health (something that could never be detected during pregnancy). He was born with an extremely rare genetic condition and my sweet little surrobabe passed away in his Daddy’s arms at just 8 weeks old.
The experience after his birth is not something any of us could have ever imagined having to go through, especially when you go into surrogacy to create a family. The idea of an extremely sick baby and loss, especially after a full-term birth and healthy pregnancy, is not something anyone had ever considered - we had all of these hopes and dreams for the future. Everything was very raw for a long time after he passed away, I had a lot of guilt and our kids had a hard time understanding what happened, our daughter needed counselling to help her work through her emotions. Now that a few years have passed and the kids are older, they understand so much more. We still talk about when I was pregnant and the time we spent at the different hospitals and smile.
In our time of loss and in the months after it was important to me to focus on the beauty of surrogacy. Yes we all suffered a loss, especially my IF who’s World came crashing down on him, but for 8 weeks he was the most attentive, loving and caring father you could ever imagine. He spent whatever time he had with his son not focusing on the inevitable but instead by making the most of their time together. In 8 weeks he did more with his son than most can do in a lifetime, including travelling the World. I’m incredibly proud and honoured that my family is a small piece of their beautiful story/journey.
One of the biggest questions surrounding surrogacy seems to be about attachment. A lot of people make comments like “I could never do that, it takes a special person” or “I could never give up the baby at the end” and maybe it does take a special person, but it’s important to remember you’re not giving up the baby, you’re giving it back – think extreme babysitting. Gestational Surrogates go into the process knowing that the baby is not theirs. Most surrogates (not all) are done completing their own families and truly just want to give the gift of life to others. They know the miracle of being a parent and want to be able to allow others to experience the same gift of parenthood. With gestational surrogacy it’s also important to remember that the baby(ies) are not related to the surrogate.
Having a surrogate baby is not like having your own children. You love your surrobabe so incredibly much and do everything you can when you’re pregnant to love and protect them just like your own, but after they are born, it’s much like having a niece or nephew, with an extra special connection. For me, the indescribable moments of surrogacy are the first few minutes after you give birth. It’s honestly not something you can fully appreciate until you have experienced it, and I don’t mean that to come off in the wrong way, but I thought I knew what to expect and didn’t. To be there, in the moments when your IPs meet and instantly fall in love with their baby, there really truly are no words. At first you almost feel like you’re intruding on such an intimate moment, but then you realize that you are the reason their family was just created and feel so honoured to be there to share in the magic. Those moments are the reason we become surrogates and the reason many women are surrogates multiple times.
Surrogacy is Life and if you’re able, please consider giving the gift of life. You’re truly giving the most previous gift there is and get so much in return, it will change your life forever! ?