TRUE FRIENDS AND PARTNERS ON THE “JOURNEY TO PARENTHOOD” Part 1: The Intended Parents’ Story
My name is Lindsay and my husband John and I live in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC. I work for an educational technology company, and John works in on-air content development for nonfiction television. Like many intended parents, we came to ARTparenting because of an infertility issue.
Though I can produce viable eggs, we needed to go through IVF and secure a gestational carrier in order to fulfill our dreams of having a child. I knew that that would be a life-changing experience. But somehow, I didn’t realize that one of the most life-changing parts would be the special, and I hope lifelong, friendship that I’ve developed with my surrogate.
I was initially referred to Meryl Rosenberg and ARTparenting through a therapist with whom I was working, a counselor who specializes in helping couples wrestling with infertility along what I call “the journey to parenthood.” And let’s face it, it’s a different journey for everyone. One thing I’ve learned is that there are lots of different ways of bringing a baby into this world, and I firmly believe that no one way is superior to the others.
John’s and my first consultation with ARTparenting was in 2015, though we didn’t really move forward until 2016 when we were both psychologically and financially ready. We really, really liked Meryl when we met with her. We were drawn to her direct nature, and her confidence, not to mention her obvious experience. She really knows what she’s doing, and, for a couple who are nervous, as we were, she’s amazingly capable of putting your fears to rest. I remember warning her right from the beginning, “I’m one of those people who’s going to ask a ton of questions,” and she wasn’t fazed at all.
We signed our contract in March of that year, and I went through in vitro fertilization to produce embryos in July. It was in November of that year — right around the time of my birthday — when Meryl phoned and told us she had a potential surrogate match.
I can vividly recall getting on a phone call and hearing Charlotte’s name for the first time — the surrogate whom Meryl wanted us to meet. She sounded great, but we were of course anxious. So we set up a Skype call between us and Charlotte and her husband Daniel. I can clearly remember thinking to myself on that first Skype call, even before meeting Charlotte in person, This is the One. My gut just told me so. I would later learn that, though Charlotte was our first match, we were not hers.
Things moved very quickly after that. We met Charlotte and Daniel in person in January of 2017, and my positive initial hunch was completely confirmed. They came up to the DC area from their home in South Carolina for Charlotte’s physical examination, and to get clearance to proceed. We met, we hugged, and it was an absolutely surreal moment as we realized how much we liked each other immediately — a kind of instant bonding that neither of us had expected, frankly. We spent a long, long time in the lobby after the procedures, just talking and getting to know one another. It was almost like meeting a long-lost sibling — we felt that close.
And as couples, I honestly can’t express in words how easily, quickly, and completely John and I clicked with Charlotte and Daniel. I found Charlotte to be one of the most genuine, open, honest, caring human beings I had ever met — I felt that I had hit the jackpot in being matched with her. I know this doesn’t always happen the first time around when you’re matched with a surrogate, but it sure did for us. And what was such a bonus, was that we were immediate friends, not just partners in a surrogacy arrangement. It was like we had known each other for years.
Shortly afterward, I signed the letter of intent to proceed. To this day I get very emotional when I remember committing to the gestational-surrogacy process at that stage. You have to understand, this was something I had been dreaming about for more than half of my life. John and I had gotten married in 2009, and we had waited a long time to have a baby. We’re both on the older side as first-time parents — I was 37 and John was 44. It was getting to be time to either do it or not do it. So, when we made the decision to go ahead — to be matched with a surrogate who inspired such trust and closeness right off the bat — well, it was almost more than I would have dared to ask for. I guess what I’m saying is that the matching experience itself was a major moment for John and me — and in a very real way, a kind of magical one.
We got to know Charlotte and Daniel even better when they came up to Maryland in April for the embryo transfer. We socialized and even invited them to stay with us in our home after the procedure so we could spend more time together.
Things went well with the transfer. Early in Charlotte’s ensuing pregnancy, when she found out the sex of the baby during an ultrasound at my request so she could be the one to tell us, she sent us a surprise bouquet of pink balloons as a way of delighting us with the good news. And when friends threw a baby shower for me in October, Charlotte and Daniel traveled up to attend! It all seemed so natural — we were all in this together — and there were so many shared moments like that. Charlotte was so considerate in keeping us informed of progress all along the way — she would text us pictures of her growing belly bump. We would Skype in for doctor’s appointments, and when that didn’t work because of poor cell-phone reception, she even set up a private YouTube channel so we could see the baby’s heartbeat. Not one day went by that I didn’t feel her total commitment to us, and trust her fully.
On January 4, 2018, at 11:41 a.m., our baby girl arrived, after just a couple of pushes, right into my arms. John cut the umbilical cord, and, since I had worked with a lactation consultant to induce lactation, I was able to breastfeed little Allie right away — which for me was a very important part of the experience.
Just as one example of how connected Charlotte and I were, even early in the process, I had heard about a children’s book called “The Very Kind Koala: A Surrogacy Story for Children” by Kimberly Kluger-Bell, which helps children understand birth via surrogate. It tells the story of a koala who carries a baby in her pouch for another koala. Well, one day, Charlotte, who had no idea I was thinking of that book, suggested we should get it so that someday I could tell our child about this beautiful experience. It was almost eerie we were thinking the same thing — almost a message that this match was meant to be.
I always wondered what kind of woman wants to serve as a gestational surrogate, and now I know the answer: it’s a very special woman. This journey to parenthood has been the most rewarding one I’ve ever been on. To have shared it with Charlotte — not to mention the whole team of people who supported me and made it possible, including my therapist, my lactation consultant, my physicians, and of course our “team captains,” Meryl Rosenberg and Julie Liss at ARTparenting — well, I just can’t thank everyone enough.
People ask me if John and I would do it again and have another child by gestational surrogate. My honest answer is that our world is all about Allie right now, and another child is the farthest thing from my mind at the moment. Charlotte has indicated she would be happy to serve as a surrogate again for us, and maybe that will happen.
All I know is that we want her to be a part of our lives going forward, and to remain the blessing that she has been to us since the day we met her.
Thank you, Charlotte. And thank you, Meryl.