Using a Surrogate: Our Experience

surrogate mom surrogacy experience

Surrogacy was something that was miles away from our “this is us” radar. It is muddy, surprising, and beautiful all tossed into a blender and served best shaken, not stirred.  In terms of Facebook status, I would choose the “it’s complicated” option.

In my younger days, when I closed my eyes and thought about getting pregnant, I imagined I would have one of those “too much wine” nights with my husband. The ones where you break out the slow jam mix list, and opt for lace over the ol’ cotton comfies.

Then, a few weeks later, I would be staring down at the sight of double lines on a pregnancy test. I imagined waddling over to a maternity section in the store and trying to sausage myself into a pair of elastic-banded pants. If I squinted really hard, my imagination would take me to the hospital labor room where I pushed, threatening possible bodily harm to any passersby, until greeted by the crescendo of that sweet glorious cry of our baby.

The Reality of Infertility

Instead, my reality was…best forgo that crazy wine night because alcohol decreases fertility, so they say. That slow jam mix made my ears twitchy since it had been played out of favor during the past seven years of us trying to get pregnant. Lace? WTF is that? It went into the “bad news” bucket filled with negative pregnancy tests, IVF IOUs, and my diagnosis of early-stage uterine cancer.

After my hysterectomy, those images in my head of what was supposed to be stayed just a dream.

Wait, that’s super sad and kind of depressing, right?

Here’s perspective.

Not having a choice actually opened up new ones I had previously shut down as pathways to parenthood. We tried adoption. I’ll spare the details but it didn’t work for us at the time.

In that process, though, someone approached us about becoming a surrogate (gestational carrier) for us. We had two remaining frozen embryos and took a chance.

Like a beaming light from the fertile heavens, there was a positive pregnancy test. Surrogacy gave us a chance at parenthood.

Damn It, There Are Those Feelings Again

Next thing I know I am in the maternity section buying clothes for another woman. I was so thankful to be given the chance to provide clothes for a woman who was carrying our child, but deep down I felt less of a woman. Then I felt guilty for being upset that I would not be wearing the crappy clothes that I would otherwise have worn ad nauseum for months.

Like a beaming light from the fertile heavens, there was a positive pregnancy test. Surrogacy gave us a chance at parenthood.

I watched someone else carry my child and rightfully complain of the many aches and pains that accompany a pregnancy. I was angry at my body, yet in awe of her body’s ability to do what mine could not.

In the nine months that followed, there were many more unexpected situations that triggered these conflicting feelings; I’d have mood swings, from being overjoyed to mourning what would never be. Sometimes these moods would overlap.

There is no act greater or more selfless than providing an infertile couple with a child through surrogacy. (Second to donating a kidney or other life-saving organ; that’s kind of a big deal, too.) I held my surrogate’s leg as she labored our daughter, and my husband and I watched in awe as our child was born. It was amazing, it was terrifying, and my appreciation for her is boundless.

No Two Surrogacies Are Alike

Our first child was born through a compensated surrogacy. There is a contractual agreement in place to compensate the surrogate for the costs associated with the full gestation of carrying the child, plus an additional surrogate fee.

Recently, we were offered the opportunity for a compassionate surrogacy. In this contractual agreement, the IPs (intended parents, as we are called), pay for all costs pertaining to the pregnancy just as in a compensated surrogacy, but the surrogacy fee is graciously waived. Typically, this is offered by a friend, relative, or otherwise kick-ass kind of person.

Our bank account shuddered at the thought of trying again for a second child. Experts say that cost is the number one barrier to building a family people dealing with infertility. We were no exception to that financial barricade.

When my husband and I were approached with the offer of a second surrogacy, a compassionate one no less, you would have thought we had won the lottery. No way could this happen again, we thought. But to our surprise, this was happening, people.

Surrogacy is a very personal decision and should be met with deep thought, research, and reality-checks of what you can withstand emotionally.

We all went through the battery of testing, psyche evaluations, and contract signings. I had had a partial hysterectomy, so since I still had my ovaries (go ovaries!), I got back on the fertility meds. I scraped up enough money for a stimulation/retrieval cycle, said a few “Hail Marys” to my little ovaries-that-could, and with the help of science and blessings and luck, three miraculous embryos were made.

But, then, so quickly, it all ended. Our surrogate decided not to move forward with the surrogacy and just like that the hope of a second child deflated like air out of a balloon. We’re not sure what will happen next; we’ll toss that in the “to be continued” bucket.

From both of our experiences, reflecting on the highest peaks and deepest valleys of our surrogacy journey, I can share a few notes for people considering this path.

Practice Surrogacy Self-Care

Whatever you choose, surrogacy is a very personal decision and should be met with deep thought, research, and reality-checks of what you can withstand emotionally. Self-care during any stage of your infertility journey is invaluable. Try to find a balance between support from others who have done it and a professional counselor you really vibe with. Find your own sweet spot of self-care.

Be Honest and Keep Talking

If you find a surrogate, make sure the door of communication is never closed…ever. Both parties should be at peace with every “what if” scenario. Talk and talk some more…then talk again for good measure.  You should all be on the same page, spouses and partners included. Most importantly, be honest about your limitations and what you may be feeling. It will not always be a nirvana situation, but it can (and hopefully will be!) a miraculous baby situation in the end.

Expect the Unexpected

Anything can happen. This is true in life, love, and well, infertility. Minds change, curve balls get thrown at you, hormones and feelings get a little weird sometimes. You can’t plan for the unexpected and you certainly can’t stop it from happening. Know what you have control over and what you don’t. This makes a big difference.

As for my husband and me, surrogacy was a 100% no-regrets decision that we made together. It made me a mom. Although it was complicated, it was the best risk I ever took.

Candace Wohl

Candace Wohl

Candace Wohl is a freelance digital marketer, writer, speaker, infertility advocate, mother through surrogacy, and co-author of the blog, Our Misconception. Candace and her husband were also featured on MTV’s True Life, “I’m Desperate to Have a Baby,” a documentary on couples struggling with infertility. Her writing and their blog has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, and many other publications. Follow their antics on Instagram @Ourmisconception or Twitter @rmisconception

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