Today we venture into the third part of Emily's surrogacy blog. If you're new here, you can catchup here
In this post Emily will discuss her why. Why did she feel drawn to becoming a gestational surrogate and what it means for her family. She also talks briefly about the red tape of becoming a surrogate in specific states and the legal action she needed to take living in Virginia.
Questions and comments are always welcome. Please keep them positive and uplifting.
Originally written Aug 21, 2018
It's been almost a month since my last post sharing the news that we're starting this journey of surrogacy and so much has happened since then! The most relevant to the surrogacy is that our contract has been signed, sealed, and delivered. This means that all the stressful stuff that was in our control is now resolved and the rest is out of our hands.
I said in my last post that I would share my "why" about surrogacy and I will do that today! But first I want to explain a bit more about the reason we have a contract in the first place.
In the United States the laws around surrogacy vastly vary state-by-state, some places county-by-county, and can even be different for married same-sex couples vs for married heterosexual couples. (Meaning we still have so far to go in the fight for #marriageequality and #reproductiverights) That does not even touch on the laws internationally! I found a nice map of each state's laws on a surrogacy agency's website where they define states as "green light," "yellow light," "orange light," and "red light." The state in which the Intended Parents (IP's) and I live is Virginia, and is considered a "yellow light" state. This means "surrogacy is practiced, but there are potential legal hurdles."
During our contract process the IPs had their own attorney representing their needs and protecting them legally. Additionally, we had our own attorney representing our needs and protecting us legally. One of the things that exists in the Virginia law is that the IPs are not allowed to pay me to be their gestational surrogate, in the sense of a job. Rather, any money provided is meant as reimbursement for living expenses. So, a lot of what went into the contract were things considered reasonable reimbursement of expenses, including all pregnancy related expenses, maternity clothes, reimbursement for lost wages and childcare in the case of bedrest (which hopefully won't be necessary) and even a doula for us! There was also a lot of legalese to make sure that the IPs are walking out of the hospital with their baby and their names on the birth certificate when it's all done. And that's the goal! Happy baby and happy parents!
And also this experience gets to be a blessing for our own family and our happiness, too! That is also the goal and where our stories come together.
Many of you dear readers who know me personally have watched me over the years share joys and struggles of being a mother of my own (strong-willed, stubborn, challenging) dear children. The experience of becoming a mother has formed me. I am the clay in the potter's hands. It is part of my passion and purpose. It's sparked a career of which I'm immensely proud, dedicated, and honored to impact the lives of other families. Motherhood is and continues to be a defining moment in my story.
In the past year or so, I've considered how my role as wife, mother, business owner, and hopeful change-maker was in need of some new tools to tackle the challenges of this particular season in life. More specifically, I saw how my husband, Jack, and I continue to have a lot of the same road-blocks to co-creating the life we desire, while our attention is pulled in a thousand different directions. I felt that new tools could lead to prioritizing the values we share and hold dear.
Jack and I both agree that being parents and spending quality time with family is at the top of the list for this life. Recently, in my day planner I scribbled a quote by my dad, as he prepared for a lobster/ scuba diving trip to Key West, saying "don't let life get in the way of having a life." And that's absolutely what's happened for our family.
My family really values traveling and all it offers in new experiences, in history and culture, in being in and appreciating nature. However, due to the strain, of well, everything, those experiences have been few and far between. And when travel has happened, it's has many times been at the exclusion of Jack, as he has stayed back to work while the kids and I go visit family or friends.
Don't get me wrong, we've made some great memories together over the years! We are blessed and privileged with many opportunities to see family and friends in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, and even our move to and back from, Colorado. We've done and seen a lot but our story is not over!
When I first seriously considered surrogacy, I knew that the financial reimbursement could be a tool for my family. A tool to eliminate a decent portion of my student loans that continue to haunt me a decade and a half post-college. I'm grateful for my years in Tallahassee; especially for the people and all the learning done there. I'm also grateful to Jack for working hard with me to pay off that debt. But it's a living expense that gets in the way of having a life. Maybe my dad was paraphrasing Dolly Parton when she said "Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life."
While I firmly believe that life is a journey, not just a destination, I find this quote from Anthony Bourdain is an excellent analogy. Try replacing the word "Travel" with "Marriage" or "Motherhood" or "Life."
"Travel isn't always pretty. It isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that's ok. The journey changes you- it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you... Hopefully, you leave something good behind."
Great Falls, Virginia -2015 It was 1000 degrees and we were hot, grumpy, and together
Earlier this week I introduced you to Emily Smith. Emily is the owner of Doulas of Capitol Hill, and Doulas of PG County, and she recently has begun the process to become a gestational surrogate.
In her last post, which can be read here, we came in the middle of her journey where Emily had just found out that her first transfer was unsuccessful (I feel weird using that word, as it seems so negative. I'll try to brainstorm a more positive language that can be used. Suggestions welcome)
Throughout the rest of the month Emily will share her flashbacks from the very beginning of her journey and we will get to know the process of becoming a surrogate a little bit better.
As always please try to remember that these are very personal stories and comments and support are always welcome but lets keep them positive.
Originally written on July 26, 2018
You guys, I have big, huge news:
I'm going to get pregnant and have another baby! But that's not the important part. The most important news is this baby won't be my own child; I'm planning to be a gestational surrogate!
So, what exactly does that mean? It means I found an amazing family who really, truly deserves to have and hold a baby, but they cannot do this without help. So, essentially this is the most intense babysitting job ever. For 9 months.
Ok, it's more complicated than that, as you can imagine. But here are the basics:
First, I met this fantastic couple, who for now I'll call H. and J. H is the "Intended Mother" (IM) and J is the "Intended Father" (IF). You'll see me use these terms throughout the blog so it's good to know them now. So, I met this couple back in May in a Facebook group for matching Intended Parents with Surrogates. This is called an independent match. We are not using a surrogacy agency.
We Skyped and messaged frequently and found we had some fun personal connections in common. Also necessary was that we agreed on the really important things relating to surrogacy like how many babies to have, compensation, and insurance. I made that sound simple but really, this process was intensive and took weeks for the dust to settle. All the while we continued to get to know each other personally, too.
In mid-June H and J came to our house to meet our family. And again, we had a really enjoyable time together, and shared some new personal connections. Let me tell you, this absolutely felt like dating at this point. What do we wear? Is our house clean enough? Will our kids behave or will we need to locked them in a cage? They did and we didn't ;-) But after H and J left our house, it was clear we were ready to take things to the next level and have a baby!
I should stop now and explain that the future little one will be 100% H and J's baby, both genetically and legally. Their bun, my oven. We'll be doing what is called a Single Embryo Transfer and I will have the honor of helping grow this little one to be a healthy and strong baby born 9 months later to be delivered into the arms of H and J.
I've heard people ask other gestational surrogates "won't you have a hard time giving that baby up?" And the answer is NOPE! Not for a minute. The whole point IS to give the baby to it's parents! It's a little like my role as a doula. I get to help parents welcome their baby to the world and then I get to go home and get a full night sleep. Ahh, sleeeeeep. Different from my role as a doula, I'll have go through morning sickness and pushing a baby out, rather than coaching through it.
Speaking of being a doula, one past doula client of mine gave me a t-shirt that said "Doulas help people out." I think I might have a maternity shirt made with the same, but replacing the word doula with "Surrogates."
Anyway, there is so much to share and other parts that I'm sure people will have questions about. But for now this is where we are:
I passed my uterus interview! This was a vaginal ultrasound held at the fertility clinic to peek at my uterus and make sure it all looked healthy. They also ran blood work and I brought along my records from my past 3 pregnancies. The Reproductive Endocrinologist said I had a "perfect uterus!" This was the first time I've ever received this compliment. lol. Check out the I Heart Guts (tm) pic I made to celebrate.
Contract back from the lawyer! Now we just have a (hopefully) small amount of ping pong between H and J's lawyer and my lawyer to make sure everything is mutually agreed upon.
Then what? Well, we expect as soon as we finish all the contract stuff that I'll start medicine to prepare my uterus for the embryo transfer. And in a perfect world the Transfer will happen in early to mid- September!
But for now (and basically this whole process) we just take things one step at a time. I told the IM that I often tell my kids "patience is waiting with a good attitude." Which is often easier said than done because I know they are SOOOOO ready to be holding their baby like, now. And I don't blame them. I would be too if I were in their shoes!
In the next blog post I'll talk about my WHY of surrogacy (and what about my own husband and kids and how they fit into this story.) Maybe down the road, I'll be able to share more about H and J and their inspiring WHY, too. But that will only happen if/when they give permission (which may be never, and I'll respect their right to make that call). So, for now you'll all be able to read about the surrogacy journey from this side of the story. And hopefully, it will INSPIRE JOY in your life, too!
Colorado Springs 2013 - pregnant with my youngest son
October is infant loss awareness month. A huge part of this blogs purpose is to be used as a portal to tell these stories. Infant loss, stillbirth, miscarriages, these are all extremely taboo subjects in our culture. By telling these stories and hearing these truths we are able to get one step closer in breaking that taboo and normalizing what 1 in 4 women/birthers experience in their lives.
Emily Smith, owner of Doulas of Capitol Hill, Doulas of PG County, and a dear friend of mine, is in the process of becoming a gestational surrogate. So may families that experience loss turn to surrogacy. Emily has agreed to share that story with us here. So throughout the month of October I will be posting her flashbacks on what and when and why she has started this journey. And throughout the following months post October she will continue to share with every new development she encounters on her way to becoming a surrogate.
As this is such a personal and vulnerable story I ask that you keep your questions and comments as positive and sensitive as possible. Thank you.
This is a post I wasn't expecting to write. It's a plot twist that I didn't anticipate or for which I didn't really prepare.
October is Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant loss month and I had been planning to finally announce publicly that I'm on the journey to be a Gestational Surrogate in connection to this month. I thought it would be really appropriate to share this story at this time because so many families pursue the untraditional path of having a child with Surrogacy from a history of their own loss stories, whether that is loss through the heartache of infertility, the pain of miscarriage, or even the devastating loss of a child.
However, I thought I'd be sharing this story with the world from the safe and happy vantage point of being newly pregnant with my Intended Parents tiny little embryo. I had this unfortunate optimism bias because I have had such easily attained pregnancies in the past, because everything looked so good and normal on my preliminary scans, and perhaps, I'm embarrassed to admit, even because of some hubris that somehow I could help turn around my Intended Parents story like a lucky charm. Wouldn't we all wish to wave a wand and fix it for our friends and loved ones who have been hurt and grieved from loss surrounding reproduction?
They say pride comes before the fall. Ugg. :(
Here I sit, nearly one month after the big day of transferring into my uterus one tiny embryo belonging to the Intended Parents and am humbled to say that I'm not pregnant.
6 days post transfer of a 5 day embryo
You might be confused by coming into this story in what seems like the middle. Or if not the middle, an awkward point. You probably have so many questions! Like, what the heck?! When did you decide to be a gestational surrogate?! And why?! And what exactly does that all mean? Who are these Intended Parents? I know you're wondering and are perhaps even a bit appalled by all of this.
Let me reassure you that over the next few weeks I'll be sharing the backstory via "Flashback Posts" thanks to my good friend Ashley at Motherhood Tabuitful for hosting my story. So, all these questions you're asking about the nuts and bolts of what lead up to this moment will be answered over the coming weeks. Promise.
I asked Motherhood Tabutiful to host this story because I think their mission statement perfectly sums up what a Surrogacy journey can be:
I really debated starting out the public telling of this story from such a depressing place of a failed embryo transfer. But after weeks of processing this unsuccessful try, I came to a few personal conclusions thanks to the wisdom of others who have known what it means to feel disappointment, loss, and grief.
1) "It's not all sunshine and rainbows." - While we obviously hope that a rainbow will be there at the end of this journey, as anyone who is trying to have a baby through the path of Surrogacy knows all too well, nothing in life is guaranteed. In fact, many people who have battled infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss, have an unavoidable relationship with odds and statistics. Because they were the 1 in 4 that this October awareness month is for, they are constantly staring down the barrel of statistics and odds, bravely taking the chance to reach their goals. For this story that you're reading about now, the chances of the first embryo transfer being successful were around 46%. With my personal history of easy to achieve pregnancies (super annoying to read on a post about miscarriage and loss, I know.) and all the preliminary scans looking good, I assumed I'd be in that number, and was unfortunately, wrong. The good news (and you'll find that I can be irrepressibly optimistic) is that the odds go up to around 74% ish percent on the second try, and about 90% out of three tries. So, the odds are that this will have the desired outcome. And still, nothing is guaranteed. Acceptance of that is so courageous and inspiring. "You can't change the ocean or the weather, no matter how hard you try, so it's best to learn how to sail in all conditions."
2) "If I'm going to tell the story, I should tell the whole story."- Before the embryo transfer I started reading up on the stories of others who have been the 1 in 4 to experience miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. While everyone is so unique, and comparisons are inevitable for people who need some way to make sense of their own loss, one thing was emerging for me as a thread between all the stories; by sharing their stories, even the deepest, darkest parts, these families were a light to each other. "I tell it because it was meant for more than just us," says author Kayla Aimee*.
3) "I want to weave the suffering into the hope with my life and my words. I want to be a good steward of this story.**" - This quote really struck me when I read it because, well, I want this too! I really believe that our lives are like a story. And I want my life to be a story that's a good read when it's all over. I think sometimes plot twists like this are for helping the characters reach a new understanding and often a transformation. I don't want to say cliché things like "everything happens for a reason." Because according to just about everybody, those sort of statements are the worst thing you can say to anyone who has ever known loss or trauma. I'm sharing a list of other ridiculous and insensitive things not to say to someone who has suffered or survived loss over on the doula blog. BUT, and I know it's a really big 'but,' I do believe beauty can come from ashes. By being vulnerable to share this story at a low point I hope it will crack open wider the possibility of beauty growing in the cracks. One of my favorite authors, Brené Brown, writes "Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we'll ever do."
4) "And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, your story is part of your sisters story is part of many other stories, and there is no telling where any of them may lead.***" - I started out my first chapter of this surrogacy journey back in May. And over the next few weeks I'll share those "flashback posts" to get you caught up. But I think it's really good and humbling to remember that we are all players in one another's lives. That everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. We enter into our sister's life in chapter 30 and she into our chapter 35. The places where our stories intersect and the outcomes of those intersections are a mystery. The unfair reason why some embryos implant and others do not, why some babies live and others are gone too soon. The mystery of it all is almost too much to bear. And sometimes it IS too much to bear. With gratitude, I welcome each reader who will now join in to this story, thankful to not bear it alone.
*Anchored, by Kayla Aimee
**Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal, by Michael Kelly
***The Night Circus, by Erin Morgensttern