I’ve always said that everybody has a story. When I taught journalism students, the first exercise was to write a piece about the person sitting next to them – someone they’d just met – using the aspects of newsworthiness as a guide. The stories that ensued were always fascinating. Welcome to a new part of Mediamum, that I look forward to producing regularly – What’s Your Story?
Imagine my excitement and awe of discovering my good friend Sarah is not only a caring, loving and kind mother, wife, and friend, but also a surrogate. Then my awe of her evolved into realising that you’d love to hear her story too:
1. Tell us about yourself
I am a 30 year old stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to 2 wonderful little boys. I am married to the greatest, most understanding, loving guy that I have ever met, we have been married for almost 9 years now.
2. What introduced you to the idea of surrogacy?
It all started when I was about 10 years old and I ended up in the hospital with an ovarian cyst. The doctor told my mom that that I would never be able to have children, which at that age I quickly accepted and moved on. When I was about 15 my mom and I were watching some talk show about surrogacy and I remember thinking in that exact moment, “If I can ever have kids, I will do that for someone else.” That was the last that I thought of it until about 9 years later.
After our second son was born we knew that we were done having children of our own, but I felt a tugging inside of me, something telling me that I wasn’t done with pregnancy. I decided to become a Doula and as I was researching something came up about surrogacy and suddenly my mind was flooded with memories of my promise to myself that day on the couch with my mom in front of the TV. I knew I had to do it.
3. What was your family’s response?
I remember the moment that I saw the surrogacy advertisement online and started researching. It was about 1am and my husband was in bed next to me while I typed away like crazy trying to figure out if surrogacy was even possible for me. I knew that no matter what I would find a way! The next morning I talked to Jason and told him about my long passed promise to myself and about all of the information that I had found online; much to my surprise, he said yes! I didn’t even have to go through my list of rebuttals that I had spent all night gathering inside of my head. Later I told my mom and my best friend and they were really excited and thought that it was a good idea. I had no clue that everyone around me would be so supportive, it was nice to have everyone dive into my crazy plan head first with me.
4. Tell us about your first surrogacy journey.
Ah, my first journey, it was honestly like a dream. It was everything that I had hoped it would be and a whole lot more.
I went through quite a bit of screening to be approved for the surrogacy and then I was matched with a couple from Israel, we talked on the phone and I think all 4 of us just felt a great connection and decided that the fit was right. In the following weeks I endured some physical exams and mental health evaluations.
After a few weeks we headed out to Connecticut to have two beautiful little embryos implanted into my uterus via IVF. At the first ultrasound we saw two beautiful little hearts beating away inside of me… and I almost passed out. It was twins!
My intended parents visited us a few times during the pregnancy and we talked weekly about how I was feeling and how things were going with the pregnancy. I video taped the other appointments for them so that they could see their babies growing. At the end of the pregnancy the parents moved into an apartment a few blocks from us to await the birth of their children and they stayed until the girls were 1 month old and then they headed back to Israel.
5. I have known you well enough to be able to tell you feel a lot of connection with the parents of your first babies. How would you describe that connection?
I feel like my first surrogate family is a true part of my family. We talk often still and we exchange pictures of our children. They loved my boys from the start and would always ask about them during our conversations even before they had met them. They are some of my closest friends in the strangest way… there is just no way to describe our connection, because it is so unique. I think about them all the time and miss them dearly.
6. How and why did you decide to undertake another surrogacy journey?
From the beginning of my first journey, before I was even matched I just knew that I would be a surrogate again. After my first surrogacy was over I had tried to match with a few other couples, but none of them really felt right for us. After a couple of years a couple contacted me that I had been waiting to work with since the very beginning. It was my aunt and uncle (by marriage). They hadn’t been ready to move on to surrogacy when I did my first journey but now they were and I knew that this was the right fit for me.
7. What are the best and worst things about being a surrogate?
I think the worst part would probably have to be after the pregnancy is over; you spend 10+ months talking to someone every week and sometimes several times a week, hanging out with them and bonding and then suddenly the contact drops off a bit because they have a baby (or two) to take care of and you have a life too.
The best part is really hard to say, I guess it would have to be that moment when the babies are born. There is this indescribable moment where they are meeting their babies for the first time and you are the one doing the introduction. I remember looking up at my intended parents’ faces and seeing this look, this look that can’t even be described. It is this loving, meeting your baby for the first time after waiting a lifetime kind of look. I cannot even begin to describe what an honor it is to be in the room for that first meeting.
8. What qualities make a person best equipped to be a surrogate?
It is really hard to say, but personally I think that a surrogate should be someone who loves being pregnant (maybe that’s a given?) and someone who is willing to allow their intended parents to be a big part of the pregnancy, it is one thing to be pregnant as a couple but it’s a whole other thing to be two couples dealing with one pregnancy. I think that surrogacy should be done out of the love of your heart.
9. How do your own children understand that your pregnancy is not ‘yours’?
With my first surrogacy it was easy, the boys’ were very young and hardly even noticed that I was pregnant, they didn’t ask anything about it. I explained to them what was going on, but they didn’t really seem to care and didn’t ask any questions.
This time has been a bit different, they really want to have a little brother or sister so they were asking if we could keep this baby. I explained to them that this isn’t our baby it belongs to J & C, they get it and they decided that we don’t need to keep this baby, they just want me to have another one after this.
I think that because surrogacy has been a part of their lives and we have had many discussions about how families are made, they understand more than the average kid.
10. How do you handle the congratulations and enquiries people make in public about your pregnancy? Do the kids correct people when they talk about an upcoming baby brother or sister etc?
Oh man, this is the hardest part of the pregnancy I think. I don’t like lying and I try really hard not to do it but do I really need to be honest with every lady at the grocery store who asks me about “my baby?” I base my reaction on what is said, so a simple “ah, congratulations!” will get a “thank you!” from me, because I am very excited to be pregnant and congratulations isn’t an odd thing to say to a surrogate. The truth comes out usually when people say things that are more in-depth like “oh, how sweet, so now you will have 2 boys and a girl!?” or, “you must be so excited to finally be having a girl!” I guess I play it by ear, sometimes I correct them but if I am in a hurry I just say “thank you” and move on with my day.
I remember one time on my first journey when we were in the grocery store and someone had stopped me to talk about my belly and we were chatting (because I am too nice to just walk away, I guess) and the lady said “oh, so you will have 2 boys and 2 girls?” and my oldest son who was 4 at the time told her “those babies aren’t ours” and then I had to spend a half hour talking to her about surrogacy in the frozen section at the store. The boys will easily correct anyone who tries to say that this baby is ours and I am glad, it shows that they understand.
So that’s 10 questions – but what is there that we haven’t talked about that you think is really misunderstood?
I want to add something, something that I am ALWAYS asked when I talk about surrogacy. No, I didn’t want to keep the babies and no, I didn’t miss them when they were gone. I wasn’t sad that they went with their parents, that was always the plan, if I wanted a baby to keep I would have one but you can’t just go around keeping other people’s babies. I make this comparison for people; if your neighbor’s oven was broken and they needed to bake a cake, you let them borrow your oven, do you get to keep their cake? You knew it was theirs from the beginning and you knew you would have to give it back.
There wasn’t any point in my surrogate pregnancies when I felt like I wanted to keep their babies. I could compare my feelings for my surro-babes, as I lovingly refer to them, to the feelings that I have for my best friends’ kids; I love them in a special way, I care about them, I like to see pictures of them and hear about how they are doing but my feelings for them could not be compared to those that I have for my own children. I feel closer to their parents than I do to the children, if that makes sense?
I hope you enjoyed reading some of Sarah’s story. Sarah has let me know she’d be happy to answer any questions you have in the comment feed below – she’ll be watching and nothing is out of bounds (she has me as a friend, after all ;)). She’s keen to clear up any mystery or misconceptions (sorry for the pun) people might have – and understands completely how fascinating and curious surrogacy is to most of us. So go to it!
My sincere thanks to Sarah for being open, willing and such a fantastic interviewee and a great friend!