TRUE FRIENDS AND PARTNERS ON THE “JOURNEY TO PARENTHOOD” Part 2: The Gestational Surrogate’s Story
My name is Charlotte, and my husband and I live in South Carolina. I have two wonderful little girls — the oldest is my stepdaughter, who recently turned seven, and our little one, Natalie, will soon be four. Her world is great right now because she just got a brand-new, unicorn-themed bedroom!
When I’m asked, what inspired me to serve as a gestational surrogate, I have to say that it was the circumstances of my own life. What I mean by that is, when my husband and I got together, his daughter, who would become my cherished stepdaughter, was just a little under a year old. We knew we wanted to have more kids in the future — or perhaps just one more — and when Natalie was born there was this wonderful feeling of… completeness to our family. Holding the two of them together, and knowing we were a solid family unit of four — well, I almost can’t describe the emotions, kind of a mixture of gratitude and satisfaction and utter happiness. I really wanted to help other couples experience the joy of having a family.
I tend to be a person who researches everything, and when I first began thinking about being a surrogate, I wanted to know everything about it. I quickly came upon ARTparenting’s website and decided pretty fast that I wanted to work with them. Meryl and Julie are absolutely amazing. Any time I needed any help with anything — from the very beginning of my decision to serve as a surrogate through to the birth of Lindsay’s and John's little girl — both Meryl and Julie were hands-on available, competent, knowledgeable, and 100% “go-to,” at any hour.
I know that maybe not all surrogacy arrangements go as smoothly as mine did with Lindsay and John, and not all surrogates and intended moms become such good friends as Lindsay and I did. But if I’m being honest, I have to say everything really was wonderful. To use Lindsay’s words, kind of magical — we had no issues whatsoever. It was a great experience from start to finish. As Meryl herself says, a great surrogacy experience begins with a great parent–surrogate match. And thanks to Meryl’s expertise, that’s what we had.
I remember being in the first group session with the psychologist — all surrogates are evaluated psychologically, a policy I support 100% — and they asked Lindsay and me what we were expecting out of the journey as far as relationships were concerned. I remember saying I wanted to see how the relationship would grow on its own, organically — that I didn’t want it to be fake in any way. And that is exactly how Lindsay’s and my friendship and partnership has evolved.
I think one of the most revealing things about our relationship is that Lindsay and I would be friends anyway if we had just met outside the context of a surrogacy arrangement. We’re simply very similar people. We’re both easygoing and open personalities, we’re both verbal about our feelings — and we like sharing and honesty. Even our husbands — though husbands by definition may not be as invested in surrogacy as women — have similar personalities and got along well.
One funny anecdote involves my daughter Natalie, who was only three when I was pregnant with Lindsay’s baby. Because their baby as an embryo was created on July 4, we began calling her “Baby Yankee,” like Yankee Doodle. While my older daughter wasn’t terribly interested, Natalie would always want to be my little helper during the pregnancy, and would run up to and say, “Is Baby Yankee doing okay today, Mommy?” She had a really cute relationship with the whole thing. There was one moment when someone asked me, “Will Natalie be sad when you give the baby away after it comes?” My response was, “I’m not giving the baby away. I’m giving the baby back.”
I don’t want to be a complete Pollyanna and paint a ridiculously perfect picture of the whole experience. While, like most surrogates, I do enjoy being pregnant, morning sickness can be a killer. And we did have one moment early on, about seven weeks along, when I had really bad cramps following an ultrasound. I was rushed to the ER, only to discover that thankfully it was nothing. But during the process, whenever I was tired or not feeling great, the anticipation of seeing Lindsay and John’s happy faces in the delivery room would always turn me around.
Apart from the rewards of the experience itself, and the fact that I’ve made a lifelong friend in Lindsay, what I feel great about is the opportunity to share my story here with other women who might be considering helping someone else as I did.
My principal advice is to be completely honest with your feelings — to spend a lot of time deciding exactly why you want to do this and what your personal reasons are, and then to research the process thoroughly, to investigate online. Most important, work with someone like Meryl Rosenberg at ARTparenting who knows the ins and outs of gestational surrogacy like no one else.
My openness in my community and among my friends about the experience has resulted in women in my region contacting me about their own issues — friends, or friends of friends, who have been dealing with the hurdles of infertility, and who tell me they’ve learned so much about their own options by hearing my story. I find that very gratifying.
Read Part 1: The Intended Parents' Story