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
Aimee reached out to me via Instagram. She said that she wanted to tell her story but was having a hard time finding the words, and even wondering if her story was worth telling. That broke my heart because every single one of your stories is worth telling! Her comment further cemented in me the fact that this blog and this website are necessary. I'm so thankful that she reached out and opened up because I know her story will help someone else dealing with loss and that is worth everything.
“This isn’t a viable pregnancy”
I felt all the air rush out of my body in that moment and then the shaking began. It took a few seconds to realize the shaking was because of the sobs escaping my mouth. Tears streamed down my husband, then boyfriends face. The doctor continued, it had stopped growing at around 6 weeks. Maybe we could try again when the timing was better, she said to me. I walked out of the office like a stone.
I didn’t even know that I needed to worry about my pregnancy, thoughts of loss hadn’t even crossed my mind. When we went in for our early ultrasound at 9 weeks, we were excited and all smiles and it wasn’t until the tech said things weren’t right and left the room that I began to get scared. When everything was said and done, so many people told me “lots of first time pregnancies end in miscarriage and go on to have successful pregnancies”. After research, I realized it was more common than people think, especially first time pregnancies. I was utterly devastated by the loss, but felt hope that we would go on to have a successful pregnancy.
And we did, about 3 years later we welcomed a little girl, but not without some challenges and a whole lot of worry. Where the first pregnancy I didn’t even know to worry, this time around I couldn’t think about anything but. I felt cheated. I never got that carefree pregnancy with excitement and joy. I was so incredibly stressed out the whole time. Family encouraged us not to tell people until 3 months. They made comments like “we are excited for you, but don’t want to get too excited.” They meant well. It still added to the stress. Nevertheless, it all worked out and we had a beautiful baby girl who was healthy. We felt like the stars were ours!
Around the time many people ‘averagely’ begin to try again, we actively started trying again for another baby. Our little one was two at the time and it felt right. It took almost no time at all to get pregnant. We once again shared the joy with family and close friends, who were ‘cautiously optimistic’ for us. I worried, but the worry was less. After all, we had a healthy baby girl already, so my body surely knew what to do. I was about 5 weeks along when the spotting started and immediately I was wrecked. I couldn’t believe this was happening again. I tried to remain hopeful when we went in for an early ultrasound to see what was going on. I knew from experience that there was not heartbeat able to be seen. We mourned another loss. I hadn’t even really told anyone this time, so not many people knew what was going on.
This went on two more times in that same year. Each time, we thought we had figured out what was going on. MTHFR defect. Low progesterone. Each piece of the puzzle was worked on, and each time we had a loss. I stopped even telling close friends I was pregnant. I was almost embarrassed to tell anyone. 4 miscarriages. 3 in the same year only months apart. Some of my closest friends still don’t know how many times I was pregnant. My family refused to get their hopes up and that drove me deeper down. Each time my parents would say “Don’t even tell us, we don’t want to get our hopes up before we know if it’s going to be ok”. They didn’t say it to be mean, they were grieving too.
My poor daughter. She really didn’t understand why mommy was sad and mad all the time. Not to mention what the up and down of hormones in my body was doing to me. The feelings that I had inside were so conflicting and made me feel so bad about myself. I was so so sad, but also angry at the world. I felt mad at my body for not doing the right thing. I felt like less of a woman, why couldn’t it do the one thing its biologically supposed to do. I felt guilty, a lot. The guilt would eat me up sometimes. We had a child. So many others tried harder and longer and I had what they wanted and why wasn’t I satisfied? That feeling ate me up. I felt utterly selfish to want more. I felt guilty for my daughter. Here she was, perfect and healthy and I was sad and unable to play with her. I wanted to scream at myself. You are wasting her childhood, I would think in my head. I never talked to anyone about those thoughts because I felt like a monster saying that stuff out loud. It was a lonely time.
It took more time than I’m proud of, but I got to a healthy place where not only together with my husband we decided, but mentally I decided, that if we never had another baby it would be ok. That seems like such a silly thing to write, but I had to actually get to that place of knowing that it would be ok. There was a time I didn’t think it would be, or that I would be ok. I allowed myself to enjoy our life and the memories we’d build as a family of three. I even allowed myself to venture thoughts about the future and what that might look like for us. I never wanted my daughter to feel like she wasn’t enough, she was so very much enough. We toyed with adoption someday and weren’t opposed to it. I got physically healthy, quit a job I hated and began working for one of my best friends. We bought a house and just began to live our lives. I was finally able to start participating in it again.
We made a decision to try- one last time. That if it didn’t work out, we would just be done and move forward and life would be ok. I don’t think I would have been able to try again if I hadn’t gotten to that place. You may think it’s silly for us to even tempt fate again after all that loss, but somewhere deep inside me was a knowing that it was going to work out however it was supposed to. I medically had gotten a few more answers about my low progesterone and was in the best mental and physical shape I’d been in in a long time. And we welcomed another baby girl a year ago this March.
I get that not everyone’s story has a happy ending. I like to believe that if it didn’t work out the way it did that I would have stayed in that healthy place of knowing that life would be ok. I found that talking to others when we were going through it helped and I vowed that I would always be a safe place for others to turn to if they had similar thoughts or feelings around loss. The taboo around miscarriage still exists and it is such a lonely place for women and men to navigate. Maybe they won't feel so alone one story at a time.
I am a full time, working mom taking care of two spirited girls with my husband, trying to find balance in life. We live in sunny Arizona with our 4 pets.
You can connect more with Aimee on Instagram @jaynaim1