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
A collection of posts from different humans all over the world, sharing their stories about the struggles they have faced in their individual journeys to motherhood.