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
Ive been following Katie and Christina on Instagram for awhile now. They have the most beautiful little family and I love being able to take a small peak into their world. I reached out to them about this project because not only did they have to go through IVF to meet their sweet girl, but because they have the unique perspective of going through it as a same sex couple. I'm so excited that Christina got back to me and allowed me to share their story on here and I hope it gives hope and support to both IVF families as well as those in the LGBT community!
Before Kennedy, Katie and I started out as a couple in love. It was 2012. Girl meets girl. I was 22, Katie was 24. We met online through a dating website. We were so embarrassed to tell anyone we met online that it wasn’t until this year we finally came out with the truth. Some of our friends had already suspected we met through the internet, but we never confirmed it. Instead we had so many confusing, made up stories of how we met. It was hard to keep straight what story we had told people.
The first time we met was at a park by my house. I walked over there after I finished work at a restaurant I worked at in town. I made her a milkshake before I got off of work to bring with me to the park. I wasn’t sure if there was chemistry at first. It wasn’t until our next meeting that I knew Katie was the one. She showed up with flowers on my doorstep and that is when I knew. After that, our weekends were spent taking turns driving an hour back and forth to each other’s houses.
After we met, we just couldn’t stop seeing each other. One date led to another. We just clicked. We were married about a year after meeting each other. We moved in together. We started to save money for our future. Last year, we moved to a bigger town and bought our first house. It was time to start our family.
Katie and I started our Reciprocal IVF journey thinking we would make our dreams become a reality. I had always wanted to have kids but Katie didn’t want kids until she met me. She told me she wanted to carry my egg so we could both be a part of the process. We agreed this would be the best way to have children. As we embarked on our baby journey, we came across the saying, “her bun, my oven.” We thought this was an easy and clever way to explain how we wanted to make our family.
After our first IVF appointment, we already had in mind what we wanted. We wanted to implant two embryos and we hoped to have one boy and one girl. We also wanted to implant two embryos and hoped at least one would take. We never imagined implanting two embryos would cause problems later in our journey.
Our first round of IVF was exhilarating. We were so excited during the entire process. The day we received all our shots in the mail was like Christmas morning. We couldn’t wait to get started. It’s a long process of medications before we have embryos ready to implant. I mapped out who had what shot on what day and if we were supposed to take it in the morning or evening. In the beginning, it was mostly me who did the all the shots. This prepared my body for an egg retrieval. Meanwhile, we started looking for a sperm donor online. This took us several days. It’s hard to pick someone that will play a genetic role in your child’s life. We tried to find someone who resembled Katie as much as possible but also had similar interests. This sounds easier said than done.
The day of egg retrieval was terrible. My body was in so much pain. I was told many women feel moderate pain but of course I felt intense cramping. The pain continued after my surgery. It hurt to stand up, walk, and go the bathroom. I wasn’t focused on the pain though. All we could focus on was a phone call to see how our eggs fertilized. We were told we wouldn’t get a phone call until the following morning. However, Katie got a phone call from the embryologist later that day who asked if he had permission to open our second vial of sperm. The eggs weren’t fertilizing and he wanted to try the second vial. We both went into panic. What if our eggs didn’t fertilize? What if our dreams were crushed? The dreams of us holding a little boy and girl in the hospital vanished from my head. My heart sunk. We were left wondering what happened until the following morning.
The next morning we got the phone call we weren’t hoping for. Out of the 13 eggs that had been retrieved, only 2 had survived. The embryologist had to perform rescue ICSI on the two remaining eggs and hoped they would fertilize. He informed us of the low percentage of eggs that survive this surgery so late after retrieval. Immediately after our phone call, we starting searching the internet for any information we could on surviving embryos from this procedure. We found more sad stories than happy ones. We hoped these two embryos would be our miracle babies and our dream could still come true.
The following day, we got the news we didn’t want, one of our eggs didn’t make it. We still held onto hope for our last remaining egg. I was still giving Katie shots of progesterone each night preparing her body for our embryo. Every night we went to bed wondering what would happen tomorrow. This process had lost its excitement.
Sadly, we got the phone call that our last egg didn’t make it. The news was devastating. Day after day we had been holding out hope that we could still have a healthy baby from this procedure. We were left feeling empty inside. We broke down crying on each other after we got that last phone call. We didn’t know what to do. All we could do was cry. Katie had to go to work the next day but I was on summer vacation. I was left with my thoughts the days after this disappointing news while Katie had work to occupy her mind during the day. I don’t know how many hours I spent crying. I tried to not show how depressed I was and tried to get all my crying out during the day while Katie worked. My body felt weak from being depressed.
I turned to the internet for answers again. I had come across another option, embryo adoption.
Embryo adoption seemed like it could be the choice for us. What I liked about embryo adoption was that we could get 3 embryos and we could get our money back if it didn’t succeed in a pregnancy (if your health/age/history qualified, which we did). Unfortunately, this process is so expensive that money played an important role. We would have to borrow money from my mom to even do this procedure. We also considered that Katie’s body was ready for an embryo. We were still doing progesterone injections each night, not sure of our next decision. Our time was running out and we needed to make a choice. This could be our answer.
We moved along with the process of embryo adoption. We signed papers. We went back to our clinic for implantation. That morning we sat in the waiting room of our clinic. We weren’t smiling. We sat, staring at other couples in the waiting room wondering why they could have their dream and we couldn’t. Our names were called and we were walked back to our exam room. We sat, waiting. We didn’t even speak to each other. We were both consumed with our thoughts. Our nurse walked in. She was our nurse from our previous procedure and wanted to be with us during implantation. We had grown close with her and she was devastated as much as we were when our first round of IVF failed. As soon as she walked in, I burst into tears and she hugged me. I looked over and Katie was crying too. This was supposed to be a happy day so why were we both so sad? After talking with our nurse who consoled us, we decided to try IVF one more time.
We tried to stay positive but this time we were cautious more than ever. Katie looked to the internet for support. She found many blogs about IVF and other fertility stories. We both found this helpful. Hearing from other people who have gone through we went through was comforting. They had success and we would too. We looked into more detail when it came to a sperm donor. I found out as much as information as I could from the company after we narrowed our decision down to three donors. We were going to choose the right donor this time. The last donor we chose had problems during fertilization. This would not happen to us again.
We did the same needle routine. We prepped our bodies with shots. Egg retrieval day came again. I was in pain, again. After, we waited for that phone call the following morning, again. We were relieved when we didn’t get a phone call the day of egg retrieval as we did during our first round of IVF. The next morning, the embryologist called with great news. 18 eggs were retrieved, 9 went through ICSI the day of retrieval while the other 9 were left for regular fertilization. In the end, 11 embryos were fertilized! Two of those embryos were grade A embryos. The embryologist rarely gives out an A on embryos but she said these two were fantastic.
Embryo transfer day was so exciting. It was like Christmas again and we could celebrate! We sat anxiously in the exam room eager to have our two embryos implanted. We watched the ultrasound screen as these two little flickers of light were implanted into Katie.
Just as we had our minds filled with excitement again, we were faced with turmoil. Our second embryo miscarried. It was a morning I would never forget. Katie panicking and crying in the bathroom with blood all over the floor. I tried to stay strong and hopeful that we didn’t lose both babies. We were able to get an appointment with our IVF clinic that afternoon. The worked dragged on, followed by an hour and half drive to our clinic that seemed to take forever. What a relief it was to hear our one baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound. The huge blood clot we saw on the ultrasound sitting next to our tiny baby was terrifying. Our baby was still so small and the blood clot was four times the size of the baby. We were told the blood clot could take over the baby and end the pregnancy. It was unlikely our baby would survive.
However, the day came where our pregnancy had progressed enough to transfer to an OBGYN and leave our fertility clinic. That was an exciting day but we tried not to get excited. We knew the risk of losing our baby was still there. Yet, we had gotten far enough along to transfer to another doctor. It was hard to not feel a little bit of happiness.
Luckily, our baby got bigger and the blood clot kept to itself. We spent the entire pregnancy very cautious. I know parents worry but we were beyond worried. We worried about every little thing. We tried not to get excited about anything. Every ultrasound we had was a focus on the blood clot. We didn’t want to buy anything for the baby because we weren’t sure we would have one. We tried not to talk about all our fears because it wouldn’t ease all our worries.
As Katie’s pregnancy progressed, we started to feel little moments of joy. I remember feeling Kennedy kick for the first time. I wanted to cry. I couldn’t believe a little baby was inside there. A baby we both created. It was an amazing moment. All my worries and fears faded in that minute.
Our gender reveal party was an exciting time in our pregnancy. We had made it this far to find out our little baby was a girl. We had friends and family all around us as we all anxiously waited to find out the gender.
Finally, Kennedy’s birth day was here. Kennedy had been facing the wrong way the entire pregnancy so we scheduled a caesarian section. We scheduled it for her estimated due date. It was a date we had memorized already and we felt it was meant to be that day. We checked into the hospital to only find out Katie shouldn’t have drunken orange juice earlier that morning. It was frustrating, yet comical, that the day we were so anxiously awaiting for would now be delayed. We went from having a planned caesarian at noon to have a caesarian at five o’ clock that evening. We had to leave the hospital, go home, and wait around the house.
After we checked back into the hospital everything seemed to happen fast. Before I knew it, it was time to go in. Everything felt different. It’s hard to explain the feeling of being in a room, sitting by Katie with a mask on, holding her hand, expecting a baby to come out at any time from behind that curtain. Then, the doctor stated the baby was out. I didn’t hear crying at first which worried me the most. I had so many worries going on in my head that day. Luckily, it wasn’t long after I heard crying. I was walked over to see her and it was amazing. I can’t explain how it feels to see your daughter laying there. It was overwhelming. This little girl you had once seen as an embryo. This little baby was created in a tiny dish. She was amazing and she was a perfect product of us. I just couldn’t believe this baby was ours and she was actually here. I felt a huge relief. I was no longer thinking about the pain from fertility procedures and needles, the mental pain I felt when our first round of IVF failed, or all the money we had spent on the process. Kennedy was all I could think about. We had our family now and our dream had become a reality.
In the days following after Kennedy was born, I thought back on our process when I held her. It’s amazing to think she started in a dish and grew into this baby. I can’t believe what science has allowed two moms to do. I feel she is the perfect combination of me and Katie and we both got to be a part of making her. I also thought back to our little one we lost. The one that put Kennedy’s life in danger at the beginning. I thought back to the very beginning feeling we had when we finally had a successful egg retrieval, successful fertilization, and a successful implantation. I remembered the feeling of finding out we were pregnant and picturing us with our two babies in our family photos. I remembered the morning Katie had lost so much blood I thought we lost both babies. She was crying but I tried so hard not to cry so she was less worried. I remembered anxiously driving to our IVF clinic an hour and half away to hopefully find out if we still had a baby, but also knowing they might not be able to tell anything because they might not be able to pick up a heartbeat. Then I remember hearing the heartbeat for the first time and being so relieved. Every single day we were on egg shells, scared to even have Katie move, because we didn’t want anything to happen to our other baby. I remembered the day we walked out of the ultrasound room at our IVF clinic and all the doctors standing in a row in the hallway to say congratulations because we were far enough along to be transferred to an OBGYN, and giving us a gift. We were surprised because the blood clot was still very big resting right up against our baby. We just had to keep thinking positive and hope it didn’t bother the baby since it was continuing to grow. I remembered our first ultrasound appointment at the OBGYN and finding it hard to believe there was a baby in there because the pictures did not look like a baby, more like a seahorse holding a pool noodle. The most amazing ultrasound we had was seeing all her body parts and seeing her shove her face toward the camera (although it looked like a skeleton head shaking its head at the camera). There were so many moments I reflected back on to lead us to this moment in the hospital.
Katie and I have so much love to give Kennedy. We were already worried before she was born, but after she born, we worried about new things. Now we would watch her sleep, worried she would stop breathing. We worried over how she was put in her car seat. We worried about her weight gain. We were just permanent “worriers.” Even now I realize the worries will never go away. Being a parent means you will always be worried about your baby (no matter how old they get).
No matter what journey you take to make your family, we are all amazing parents doing what is best for our babies. Undergoing fertility treatments is hard. During our process, I always tried to push my thoughts toward the future. I thought about how hopefully, someday, we would have kids. I wondered what they will look like and what they will sound like. I wondered about their personalities. I thought of family pictures we would take where everyone would look so happy. The stress, heartache and money that was spent conceiving them would not even be a thought, but a thing of the past. My eyes would water thinking about these things but it kept me going. I just kept telling myself, one day happen. I didn’t know how long it would take, but it would happen for us.
We spent thousands of dollars making Kennedy. This is nothing compared to what some couples have spent to have a baby. Once we had Kennedy, the money spent just became a number and nothing else. There are so many options now to becoming a parent. Whatever road you chose to go down, be positive. Be there for one another. Having a baby has created a tighter bond between the two of us. We are now a strong team and teamwork has become a key part to our marriage. Teamwork was something that still needed improvement in our marriage before Kennedy was born. However, the process to create Kennedy tightened any weak areas in our marriage.
To every person out there who had done IVF, it truly changes who you are. The journey we go on is like no other. I am so happy we decided to try again because if we didn’t, Kennedy wouldn’t be here. I do still think about the “what ifs” with embryo adoption. We almost went through with it and I wonder if we would have two babies by now. I wonder what they would look like and how they would be quite a few months older than Kennedy is now. I think about our little boy or girl we lost who was supposed to be here with Kennedy right now. I think about all the tears, worries, and stress in this journey. I think about all the joy we will have now that she is here. I don’t know how it feels to be a mother who has a baby the male/female way without any labs or doctors helping you make your baby, but I do know the feeling you have seeing a baby you once saw a picture of in a dish. That feeling is the most amazing feeling I will ever have. I am so grateful for the help of science and for being alive in a time that has a process such as this. Reciprocal IVF made our dreams a reality.
We had such a challenging road to get to where we are today. A year ago, I started to think the road was never-ending to have a baby. I know some of you who will read this are still on that road and have been on it for way longer than Katie and I were on it. I admire those who continue to go down this path and keep trying despite the emotional and financial turmoil it puts you through. Stay strong.
We started our Instagram account to help TTC couples and LGBT couples. When we were struggling to make our family, we sought out Instagram accounts and blogs of families who were undergoing fertility treatments to help make their family. Reading blogs and following many families on Instagram gave us hope for our family and got us through our toughest times. The online community we have found has been incredibly supportive in our journey. It’s amazing to find others who are feeling the same emotions you are during a hard process. We hope we can help others too.
you can follow along more with their story and their family over on instagrom @babybaillymamadrama