‘Each test was negative. ‘But I did everything right.’ I was so discouraged. My heart was aching for the intended parents.’: Woman details surrogacy journey, ‘It’s all worth it’

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“In 2014, I started the process of surrogacy. I knew for many years it was something I wanted to do. My pregnancies were perfect. I had two children already. After my second son was born, I ended up getting my tubes tied. I was newly married and my husband and I had five children between both of us. We were a Brady Bunch family. We knew we didn’t want any more children.

After bringing it up to my husband, he fully supported me in starting the process of surrogacy. May 30, 2014, was the beginning of my search for an agency. I ended up finding one located near us. I filled out the application they had online and shortly after, I received a call to meet with them. I remember that meeting like it was yesterday. I was so nervous. I had no clue what to expect! The purpose of the meeting was to get an idea of who I was and why I wanted to be a surrogate. I also provided them with more background information on my pregnancies.

The woman at the agency told me all the caseworkers not only had been surrogates themselves but many of them more than once. I knew right then and there, through this, I would have an amazing support system with other women who had actually gone through everything I was about to do myself. I decided to join Modern Family Surrogacy in El Cajon, California. They added my profile to their system so the intended parents could see all the surrogates available to match with. On June 11, 2014, I was picking up our kids from school and I got an email from my agency saying there was a couple and they loved my profile, they wanted to have a phone conference. I called my husband right away and we were both so excited. I told the agency I would love to meet them.

During our phone conference, we found out they were a lovely couple from Shanghai, China. They had tried for over 10 years to have a child of their own. After so much heartache and loss, they decided to adopt a little girl, but they really wanted a son, so they decided to turn to surrogacy. I have to admit I was very nervous about the distance at first. I had always envisioned having a couple living in the states and being present for all the appointments, ultrasounds, and birth, but I was willing to go above and beyond to make them feel as involved as much as I could. We also knew surrogacy was illegal in China and they had strict childbearing laws. But after bringing this up, they reassured us the laws are not as strict and the child would be okay if he or she was brought back to China.

Courtesy of Kristal Brown

The intended parents told me at the end of our conference call they would love for me to be their surrogate and I said yes. On June 16, 2014, the surrogacy process started. After being matched with my intended parents, my husband and I had an HIV screening, testing for other diseases, drug and alcohol screening and a background check had to be done. I had to do a personality test on the computer, as well as a phone interview with a psychologist. These are meant to help you see if being a surrogate will serve a positive, functional purpose or a negative, dysfunctional purpose in your life, as well as check your mental health status. I passed all of these with flying colors and then it was on to the signing of my agreement with the attorneys.

When you are a surrogate, you get an attorney who represents you as well as the intended parents. The attorneys help with all the legal things that are necessary with surrogacy such as the legal agreement, contract, etc. On July 17, 2014, I had my first appointment with my intended parents’ fertility clinic. The clinic was about 2 hours from where I lived and was located in LA. For my first appointment with the clinic, I had to get a medical evaluation. The fertility doctor gave me a urine sample, blood work, pelvic exam as well as an ultrasound to check my uterus — all the results come back perfect.

Unfortunately at this appointment, the doctor found a lump on my thyroid (on my throat). I could not move forward until I went to a specialist to get it looked at and I was devastated. I knew at this moment the process was going to be potentially set back months, depending on if it was cancerous or not. Thankfully I got great results for my thyroid nodule and they were not cancerous and I received my release letter. On August 11, 2014, we found out our intended dad was coming to meet us and on September 7, we met for the first time. When we first got to dinner, he surprised our boys with a hot wheels track and got our girls some beautiful silk clothes. My husband even got a little present and they gave us some delicious cookies.

Courtesy of Kristal Brown

Our dinner went amazing and our intended dad was so sweet and excited to meet us. We talked about what we did for a living and about our families. At the end of the dinner, they gifted me with a beautiful pearl necklace. As soon as we got out of dinner, I made sure to message our intended mom and thank her. It was something so unexpected. Her response was, ‘You are welcome. This is my wish. Very happy you love it. Your help is the best gift given to us. Gratitude.’

Going through this process, I never expected anything in return from them. I just wanted to give them a healthy baby. I remember being so thankful we were matched with such a down-to-earth, amazing couple. Finally, on September 9, 2014, I received my official medical clearance, which meant we could start the legal contract phase. On our honeymoon, October 6, 2014, we received a draft of my surrogacy contract. My husband and I knew at this very moment this was really happening and we wanted to take as much time as we needed to make sure all parties were protected in this contract. It was probably one of the most important contracts we were ever going to sign in our life.

Courtesy of Kristal Brown

On October 11, 2014, we signed the contract. I was sent my tentative dates for my upcoming cycle. The list was long and included all the dates I would need to start/stop medications, how much I take of every medication, and when my labs would be. This cycle list was my life for months. If I did not follow it, I risked having our transfer date canceled or even delayed. I remember when I first received the big box they ship to you with all your medications. I felt so overwhelmed, like I was going to mess something up and I hadn’t even started yet.

That day, I had my husband give me my first injection. I could not build up enough courage to do it myself. I was shaking. After the initial injection, the needles only got bigger and every night at the same time for months my husband would inject me with all the medications I needed to take, rub the big welts I had on my backside out as best as possible, and help me put a heating pad on my bruised and sore bottom. Without his love and support, I would have never been able to do everything I had to do to get through my journey.

November 4, 2014, I was devastated. When I went to my mid-cycle scan, the doctor found a uterine polyp that grew after my first initial appointment. I had to have it removed before our transfer day. When I heard this, I was absolutely crushed. Because of the polyp, our transfer had to be set back until late November or possibly early December. Emotionally, I was drained. November 6, 2014, I had my surgery to remove the polyp.

Courtesy of Kristal Brown

We later found out our transfer date wasn’t going to be set back and it was scheduled for December 8, 2014. The bad news was I had to start all my injections again. After taking labs and going to my second mid-cycle scan, we were told our transfer date was confirmed. Before my transfer day, I was beyond nervous. I did all the superstitious things you read surrogates do before the transfer day

I made lucky shirts, socks and ate pineapple. My friend ended up coming with me and she was so happy to tag along for support. When I was waiting in the room before the transfer, I had so many emotions. All these months of injections, sore knots, bruises, appointments, labs, and delays led up to this very day. They wheeled in this incubator and inside was the embryo.

The nurse let us look inside and it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. The embryo transfer catheter was loaded with the embryo and with the ultrasound they watched the catheter drop the embryo in my uterus. At the very moment, I was pregnant until proven otherwise. After our first transfer, I had never been so anxious to take a pregnancy test in all my life. It literally consumed me every minute of the day. You normally have a two-week wait, and then you take an official blood test to see if HCG is found in your blood. I ended up taking three at-home pregnancy tests.

Courtesy of Kristal Brown

I was worried because each one came out negative. I knew I needed to wait for the blood test, but part of me just knew something wasn’t right and I was not pregnant. My heart was aching for my intended parents. December 18, 2014, I got the call — I was not pregnant. My heart sank when she told me. I was super discouraged. I felt terribly sad for my intended parents. I just kept thinking, ‘I did everything right, I took all my medication and injections when I was supposed to.’

The nurse said to me, ‘They have lots of frozen embryos and it’s important to remember IVF does not always work on the first try. Many couples find themselves going through transfers during multiple cycles before becoming pregnant.’ My next step was to wait for my period and then start the injections again. Fortunately, the failed transfer did not mean my journey was over. It was merely a roadblock or detour on our path to building a family for my intended parents. After our first transfer, we faced many challenges and I ended up having three more mock cycles and at that point, I had been taking injections for 5 months.

Courtesy of Kristal Brown

I was emotionally and physically drained, but I knew it would all be worth it. We found out our final transfer day was set for April 6, 2015. While we sat in the room waiting for the doctor to come in, the nurse let us look inside the incubator and see the embryo. Just like last time, it was super emotional and amazing to actually be able to see this embryo that’s going to be put into my body. Then the doctor came in and the embryo transfer catheter was loaded with the embryo, and with the ultrasound they watched the catheter drop the embryo in my uterus. Again, I was pregnant until proven otherwise.

I took two home pregnancy tests, and both tests were positive. I was so happy for my intended parents — we had literally been through so much. This time around, I knew I was pregnant, and on April 16, 2015… after the longest 2-week wait ever, we found out I was pregnant and my due date was December 22, 2015. April 28, 2015. we had our first ultrasound and I was 5 weeks and 6 days pregnant. We heard the baby’s heartbeat and it was the most magical moment. Then on April 29, 2015, I was making dinner and I started cramping. When I went to the restroom I started bleeding and passing three-inch blood clots.

Courtesy of Kristal Brown

Every blood clot I passed, the only thing running through my head was, ‘What if it’s the baby?’ I went into panic mode, shaking, not knowing if I was having a miscarriage. I didn’t know if I should go straight to the ER or call my doctor. I finally got ahold of a nurse at the fertility clinic and she said it’s very unlikely I had a miscarriage. I just had an ultrasound the day before showing everything was fine. My numbers are high and progesterone levels are a little low, but nothing of concern.

After the call, I just broke down crying. All this hard work trying to keep this baby inside me and I could have lost it within minutes. At the moment I felt a lot of pressure because my intended parents had so much hardship in the past and present. Thankfully, the bleeding stopped. This was one of the scariest moments in my journey. I had a lot more emotional ups and downs compared to my own pregnancies. There is a weight of carrying someone else’s child that’s much heavier than your own.

Courtesy of Kristal Brown

Thankfully the rest of my pregnancy was perfect and I updated my intended parents throughout my pregnancy. We used an app to communicate and I would send them every appointment update, ultrasound, and baby bump picture. When it was time for our delivery, my intended mom flew out from Shanghai. We were lucky because I was able to schedule an induction for my delivery and my intended mom was with me the entire time. My delivery didn’t go as planned. My husband ended up getting food poisoning and had to leave the hospital. I was beyond worried because he was my support, my person.

Courtesy of Kristal Brown

Just as he left, I was told I had to have an emergency c-section after they broke my water and started the Pitocin. I was 5 cm dilated for 7 hours. They usually only allow 6 hours with no change but my doctor knew a c-section was the last option. My body was not kicking in and dilating on its own so it meant the baby was too big or my body just didn’t want to dilate without the help of the Pitocin. The doctor decided it was best for me to get a c-section due to the chance of infection for me and the baby.

In my head, this was not supposed to happen. My husband and intended mom were going to be with me. I was going to deliver naturally and that was that. But nothing always goes as planned. My intended mom rose to the occasion she stood by my side the entire time. She held my hair when I was barfing my brains out, held my hand, and sang to me the entire time during my surgery, and as soon as her son came out, I had to beg her to go see him because she was more worried about me. On December 20, 2015, at 9:41 p.m., a beautiful baby boy was born.

Courtesy of Kristal Brown

Once I was out of surgery in recovery and then put in a room, I was able to see her with her child for the first time. I was handing a child to a waiting parent in this intimate, emotional exchange, watching someone’s dreams come true right in front of my eyes. That was the moment I will never forget. My surgery took much longer than expected. I had lost a lot of blood due to complications and I ended up needing a blood transfusion.

Courtesy of Kristal Brown

The next 2 days, my intended mom stayed with me in my room and she let me breastfeed the baby. For me, I will always cherish the time I got to spend with her and the baby. It was a perfect ending to my journey. On December 22, 2015, baby and mom were discharged from the hospital. She wrote me a note on a card and once they left I read it and just sat and cried. I wasn’t crying because I missed the baby. I knew I just helped complete a family.”

Courtesy of Kristal Brown

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kristal Brown from Riverside, CA. You can follow their journey on Instagram and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories about surrogacy here:

‘What kind of woman carries a baby for two men?’ I decided to help a stranger. They say it takes a village to raise a baby. Sometimes, it takes a village just to grow one.’: Woman becomes surrogate to help couples battling infertility

‘I was 6 weeks postpartum from a pregnancy that ended with me giving the baby up. ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I sat, tears rolling down my face.’: Surrogate says ‘there is no greater joy than making somebody else a mama’

‘The magnitude of your child being born. No words. She did this for us, TWICE.’: Mother overcome with emotion watching surrogate deliver second daughter, ‘I gained a bond I never even knew existed’

‘It’s time! NOW!’ Everything was a blur. My mind racing, I was carrying someone else’s dreams.’: Surrogate delivers woman’s child after meeting couple that ‘felt like fate’

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