Surrogacy is often a topic considered taboo and surrounded by myths. At least, these were some of the experiences I encountered before and during my own surrogacy journey. It has since been my goal to help educate others and dispel some misconceptions. After all, every journey has a unique story and I would like to start by sharing my own.
Growing up I was part of a traditional household with two loving parents and two amazing people I’m proud to call my siblings. I was only a young child when my dad’s health took a turn for the worse, and he was in need of a kidney transplant. For years I saw him struggle with the required care he needed as one kidney functioned at only about 10% and the other completely failed him. During this time our family dynamics changed significantly, but my parents did everything within their power to keep our family thriving— hoping their children could remain unaffected by the distress. Observing their efforts impacted me greatly in developing some of my own core attributes. After three years of daily dialysis treatments for my father, we received the call every patient waits and hopes for- it was time to receive not only one, but two kidneys. As excited as we were, the news felt bittersweet for we were told it was from the unfortunate death of a 3 year old boy.
As the years passed by, these memories triggered the notion that one day, when I grew up, I would want to step up and do something greater. After my father passed at the age of 57, I realized I was meant to do something while I was alive and well. And so here began my surrogacy journey.
It was 2016 when my husband and I interviewed with the agency I chose. That day, after long talks, nearly 3 hours of a psychological evaluation and wishes for my agreement, I walked away with a sense of elation as I was about to embark fully in the process of carrying a baby for someone else. I soon matched in early spring of 2017 with a wonderful single mother who lived a little over 60 miles away from me. I found it exciting to know that we’d be in close proximity and that she could be involved in the process.
But who knew fate would test our patience and determination by having us wait 10 months with 2 failed cycles in between to finally achieve a positive pregnancy result. During these months, our faith and solidarity bonded us even closer. We sank in the disappointment of my first failed pregnancy as it resulted in a chemical pregnancy. I felt my heart aching as I tasted a small sliver of what it felt like to not conceive, and yet I felt it was nothing in comparison to what my Intended Parent had gone through for the last 6 years.
As the second cycle failed just a week shy of our transfer date, I was raging in anger and wallowing in hurt. Why on earth was this happening to us? All I wanted to do was help another family. I wanted to honor my dad; I wanted to do something great. Was I not going to be able to accomplish this? And why was fate being cruel to my intended mother, as she had been through so much already. Why couldn’t she just have her wishes come true? These were just some of the questions and thoughts that raced through my mind.
Once our third transfer took, we felt beyond blessed – and not only was it one baby, but two! Having a confirmed and viable pregnancy brought about a new level of closeness and new found commitment to each other. Of course the hormones may have elevated my feelings, but beyond the hormones was the opportunity for us to get to know each other and find ways to grow these babies in a healthy and happy surrounding. Although it was me doing the heavy lifting (pun intended), my intended mother played a significant role in how I was supported. Her support encompassed having cared for my health and wellbeing, the vision for delivery, and the relationship thereafter. Overall, I felt this journey was really meant to be about her and I was willing to support her as best I could. Even though we both knew we had no guarantees of how things would turn out, what was wonderful about our relationship was that we were both willing to try and work at it with all we had.
Considering all the risks that can take place when carrying multiples, this one went as smooth as could be. The babies grew on par; healthy and with no complications. It wasn’t until my last few weeks of pregnancy that my symptoms of swelling and high blood pressure landed me in a state of pre-eclampsia and caused the babies to be delivered early via C-section at a mere 35 weeks and 1 day. Despite preterm labor, the babies were born in good health. Combined, they were just shy of 12 pounds.
Knowing that my mission had been complete and that these two beautiful souls had now come to earth made me feel fulfilled. I gave thanks to my father for helping me in carrying out this mission in his honor and for watching me from wherever he was.
While I felt that my journey had been close to perfect, I didn’t know that giving birth was only the beginning of being profoundly tested— emotionally and physically. Immediately after delivery, I began suffering complications. I had excessive blood loss and had to undergo an emergency blood transfusion. That alone didn’t aid me and I had to further undergo a second emergency intervention— an embolization. I had an arterial bleed where the next option was to have a procedure done through my femoral artery where a medical foam was pumped in the hopes of stopping it. A few days later I developed a condition called ileus and I had to have an NG tube placed down my throat and I was no longer able to eat or drink until my condition improved. During this time, I was so debilitated that I was in full need of assistance from my mother and husband for basic necessities like sitting up in bed or scratching my back. The nurses helped me with my daily physical therapy. My blood levels continued to decrease and I was given a second blood transfusion. After 11 days in the hospital, I was finally discharged and able to go home to continue my recovery. I was informed it’d be at least a few months before I would be able to feel like myself again. I walked out anemic and with strict orders to rest as much as possible, remain on one level of my home, and receive treatment for physical therapy.
Emotionally, I was shell shocked and drained. It wasn’t until about 6 weeks post-partum that I had a catch-up conversation with my intended mother and I was told that she had given one of the babies up for adoption. My heart sank, my jaw dropped, and the tears started rolling down my face. “Why?” I thought to myself. “After all we’ve been through?” As more information was given to me, I came to terms knowing that he was already with an amazing family and that everyone felt grateful for all I had done. My intended mother feared what our relationship would look like moving forward and expressed that she’d still like to have me be a part of her family, including establishing contact with the adoptive parents and getting updates about the baby boy.
I needed time to heal both physically and emotionally. On a physical level it took me about 5 more months to recover. Sometime during my recovery I went through yet another scary episode, where I literally delivered my own decidual cast in the bathroom. It was huge and weighed a good few ounces. While this is rare, I felt that it was so fitting for it to happen to me since all sorts of random things were taking place for me post-partum.
Emotionally, I went through all the stages of grief. Anger, sadness, hurt, even guilt. Through the help of my friends and family, a therapist, and even more conversations with my intended mother, I started to heal.
Whether or not I was happy or agreed with what transpired, I have learned along the way that although it was part of my journey, it does not define my journey.
I have chosen to hold on to the sweet memories of growing those precious babies and giving my intended mother the gift of life. Others have told me to look at the silver lining and that I have now made two families happy and complete. At first I wasn’t particularly keen on this perspective because it was not how I expected it to be, but after meeting the wonderful adoptive parents, I couldn’t agree more. Once I met the new couple I instantly felt connected to their personalities and could see how loving and wonderful they were as parents. These babies are so blessed to have so many people around them who love them and truly care about their wellbeing.
As time has passed, I have reflected on what I have learned along the way. I have learned that whether we are part of traditional families or modern families, love has no boundaries. I learned about the power of vulnerability in relationships. We each shared our hearts and souls with complete strangers who are now some of the most significant people in our lives. And ultimately, I learned about the willingness to sacrifice and give unconditionally for the greater good…the chance at life.
Michelle is the founder of Surro Fairy and the author of her first children’s book The Surro Fairy.
She currently lives in California with her husband and two beautiful children.
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