ONE SURROGATE'S STORY: A Gestational Surrogate Shares Her Experience
For women considering serving as a surrogate, perhaps the best way to familiarize themselves with the process is to hear about it from a woman who’s been through it. We asked ARTparenting surrogate Ivy of Richmond, Virginia to share her recent experience in her own words.
I have always enjoyed being pregnant – I’ve had three children of my own – and I even enjoy giving birth. I know not all women feel this way, but to me, pregnancy and childbirth are fascinating, amazing times. After I had my third child, who is now 3, I can remember saying to my husband, quite seriously, “I could do this a dozen more times.” In the past, whenever I’ve heard women with fertility problems talking about their challenges and unhappiness, it has tugged at my heartstrings – and actually made me feel a little guilty, that I was so blessed.
Anyway, I realized one day that I could help out my family financially and help another family realize their dream at the same time. I said to my husband, “I think I’d like to be a surrogate.”
He was 100% on board — my husband happens to be a registered nurse, which helps a lot. He said, “Ivy, it’s your body, it’s your choice — let’s just make sure we research it fully.” My mom and sisters were also very accepting about it. When I shared the idea with my mom the first time, she actually said, “I was wondering when you were going to decide to do this. You’re so perfect for it.” I began doing some investigation online, and I happened upon Meryl Rosenberg’s website. She was the first of several surrogacy specialists to return my call, which ended up being typical of how great Meryl was to work with.
The application form was something that Meryl helped me with, and within a few weeks Meryl called and said she thought she had found a possible match for me — a couple from South America, actually — from Chile. At first, I was surprised she was suggesting an international couple, Franco and Carla*, but I learned later that geography isn’t much of a hurdle; what’s important is the personality match, and the matching of circumstances, personality, and philosophy. That’s Meryl’s most important skill, I think — she’s a master matchmaker.
She sent me information on the couple, which included a picture. They struck me from the photograph as kind, sincere people, and my instincts were that they were a perfect match. It turned out I was right.
I actually enjoyed the psychological testing part, which came next — it turns out I enjoy answering questions and taking tests. The medical tests came after that, and the fertility clinic chosen was nearby in Maryland, and everything went smoothly.
After I got a clean bill of health, the intended parents, Carla and Franco, flew up to Maryland, and we all got to meet for the first time. We had an interpreter present, but they spoke enough English, and my husband and I spoke enough basic Spanish, that we really didn’t need translation — we communicated really well. We got along amazingly well, too, and when they left to return to South America, Franco said to me as he left, “Now you be careful!”, which I thought was sweet, and showed how concerned he was not only about the baby to come but about my welfare too.
Six weeks later, we did the embryo transfer, and within five days I had a positive pregnancy test. Can you imagine, Franco and Carla had tried themselves for seven years, had gone through at least 6 rounds of in vitro fertilization, spent I don’t know how many thousands, and hadn’t been able to conceive. And here I was, at age 38, pregnant almost immediately.
As for the pregnancy itself, it was my fourth, and the easiest one so far — a little morning sickness at the beginning, but nothing more, and I went full speed ahead until the last two weeks, staying active, not babying myself, which is the way I like to be.
When my pregnancy began to show, I decided to sit my own three kids down, who at the time were 2½, 6 and 8, and tell them what was going on. As is always best with kids, I told them the truth — that Mommy had a baby in her tummy — but that it belonged to another lady. I even showed them the ultrasound pictures. It became a kind of a non-event for them.
The beginning of the pregnancy was more closely supervised than my own pregnancies, but as soon as eight weeks had passed, I was released into the care of my own doctor, and as with my other births, I chose to use a midwife for the birth. The intended parents were fine with this, as was Meryl — with the stipulation that a doctor be available at the time of birth, should a physician be necessary.
The most amazing part was the birth itself. Carla, Franco, and their extended family arrived in the U.S. on Monday and Tuesday — they brought their two older sons with them — and I went into labor on Thursday of that week, so the timing was perfect. I labored at home for most of the night, and in the morning I phoned Carla to say meet me at the hospital. The plan was for them to be there for the birth, and it was very important to me, personally, that we honor them as the parents by having them present. I felt an amazing bond with Carla at this time, and there was one moment where I was listening to a Spanish-language lullaby on my iPod playlist, and I gave one of the ear-buds to Carla and put her hand on my belly. We were sharing something very special.
When it was time to push, I had a sense that my time with this baby was coming to an end — which wasn’t a melancholy feeling, but a satisfying, proud one. Carla was kneeling on the floor in front of me, and when the baby was born she went right into Carla’s arms. They had hoped for a little girl, and we’d known for several months that indeed it was a little girl, whom they named Angela. Moments after the birth, they called Franco in, and he was handed the scissors to cut the cord. It turns out that this is a strictly American delivery-room custom, but after a moment of hesitation, he did great.
Right away, Carla and the baby were put into a second hospital bed in the room, right next to me. She had been pumping to produce breast milk, thanks to the preparation and medication she’d been given, and she went right to work being the momma of a little girl she had longed to be.
I felt so privileged to be able to do this, and in a way, I felt kind of like a voyeur into the happiness of another couple — but also I felt in a very real way that I had made their happiness possible. It was a very different feeling from having my own child — I felt like I was simply returning the baby that they had given me to care for nine months. I experienced no sense of regret or “giving up” something. I just felt that I had fulfilled a wonderful responsibility, and there was satisfaction in that.
After everything was cleaned up, everybody came in — all of Carla and Franco’s family who had come for the delivery. Each family member gave me little notes and cards, pieces of jewelry, small gifts of thanks for what I had done. It couldn’t have been warmer or more gratifying.
The biggest surprise, as it happens, is how much I feel I gained from the experience — what a blessing it was, how rewarding it felt, how privileged I am to have been able to give something so important to someone. Here’s what I wrote on my Facebook page shortly after: “I’m amazed at how giving something can become a lesson in receiving, and how one can feel proud and humbled at the same time.”
As for Meryl Rosenberg and ARTparenting, she was amazing from beginning to end. She’s fun to talk to, she took care of everything, and any time an issue arose, she found a solution. Meryl made sure I was appropriately reimbursed every step of the way. Most important, she made an amazing match that worked to everyone’s satisfaction in the end.
And oh yes. I’m going to let a few months go by, and then I’m planning on serving as a surrogate once again.