“It is always interesting to look back, there are times when you can see glimpses of what was to come, yet at the moment it was a mystery. Many experiences in my life have come ‘to me.’ That is the best way I can explain how I ended up being a gestational carrier – not once, but twice!
I grew up in an average family. I have three sisters, although there are years that separate us all. By the time I was preparing to leave for college, my youngest sister was born. I left for college to the neighboring state and shortly thereafter I met the love of my life. Little did I know it at the time, but he and I would go on to create a really beautiful life together. My husband and I have been together for sixteen years and were married in 2009. We have grown into adults together and have two amazing children. Hand in hand, we have navigated life’s hurdles, finishing college, major home renovations, fertility struggles, family circumstances, and a thousand-mile move away from everyone we knew and loved. Communication has been our forte; it was a benefit we met as young adults, we have had time to establish a solid foundation.
After our very traditional wedding, we came back to our newly purchased home that needed a full renovation. This was a significant test in our relationship; we had differences of opinions and it was a learning experience, but the end result was beautiful. This home had a wonderful balance of early 1920’s charm with wooden trim and archways with a brand new updated kitchen and a second bathroom. This was the home we brought our puppy and two children home to. We made many memories there; there were times of great joy and times of heart-wrenching sadness, but it was where we called home together.
Prior to the birth of our second child, we were giving serious thought to the idea of moving. Not just moving within the area we knew, the place my husband was born and raised, but a big move. We talked about the fact that our children were young and we were starting to outgrow our home. Within those closed-door conversations, we agreed to allow whatever was meant to be happen. As the weeks went on, conversations were had with my husband’s current employer and they approved a transfer. I was currently working as an insurance broker in New York and was looking for what I could do in our new location. What I started to notice was surrogacy continued to find its way into my online job searches. It wasn’t just one time, it happened over and over again. The seed was planted.
I brought the idea of surrogacy up to my husband. I remember so distinctly, sitting on our bed holding our newborn, thinking maybe this is something I should do. I asked him if it would seem strange for me to be pregnant with someone else’s baby or if he thought this was something I could even do. After several days of thinking it over, we decided we would walk down this road, and should something stop us, then it was not meant for us. We were in the process of moving out of New York and I figured I would find an agency that could assist me in navigating this new road. I filled out the application and was contacted by someone at the agency. They answered questions and told me the state I was moving to was better, as New York prohibited gestational carriers.
After our move we continued the process; it is very lengthy. I had to have medical records reviewed, blood tests, a home visit, paperwork, and a psychological evaluation. As the months went on, I seemed to pass each milestone. Eventually, the agency had found a couple that matched our preferences and we were set up for a video call. The day of the call is one I will remember for my entire life. I was so nervous, it felt like a blind date and so much was at stake. We had already exchanged letters, so we had an idea about each other, but would we get along? Would we click with each other? Before you get to this point, you are asked many questions about your ideal match: preferences regarding the pregnancy, what you would like your relationship to look like, location to each other and so much more. Needless to say, by the end of our call, we both knew it was a match.
I was elated, the parents were so kind and I could feel their love. They would be first-time parents and their energy and passion for expanding their family was one I could relate to. This process is taxing in so many ways – financially, emotionally – and you have to hurry up and then wait. Finding your match was one big checkmark off the list, but there were still so many more steps to go. Once we matched, I flew out to the fertility clinic the parents had chosen and met the doctors who performed more exams. What became a challenge at this point was the communication between all parties, as we had several different time zones to deal with. A while later I got the call from the clinic – we were all set to go and I would be starting my med schedule.
As with anything new, I had the jitters. I was filled with many emotions – excitement, fear, nervousness. And then I had to start my intermuscular injections. The needles were 2 inches long and very intimidating. For my first one, I set out a bag of frozen peas, a heating pad, the two different needles, the bottle of progesterone, the alcohol pad, and gauze on a small towel on my bed. I can recall my husband and kids were in the room and I kept taking deep breaths. I prepared the needle and my skin and eventually I just jabbed the needle into the designated spot. It was the first of hundreds.
Eventually, it became easier as the area became numb to the pain. I followed the protocol with patches, pills and shots all throughout the day. As we got closer to the embryo transfer date, we were trying to sync my cycle with a fresh egg donor. When trying to create an embryo this way, many things have to line up perfectly and in our case, it did not work out. I was not ready for the embryo transfer at the time it was created, so the clinic had to freeze the embryo for a short time before I was ready. When all of my labs and internal ultrasounds looked as if they were ready, I flew out to the West Coast, leaving my one- and three-year-old and my husband. I spent five days in a hotel resting and hoping for the best.
I had the embryo transfer on Wednesday and by Monday I had a positive home pregnancy test. As with any positive test, the wave of emotions is intense – there is hope and excitement, but it teeters on the unknown. As much as this is science, it is also a miracle. There are no guarantees. My husband and I suffered two first trimester miscarriages before successfully having our daughter, we know the heartbreak that can come when you imagine what the future looks like from that first positive test. With surrogate pregnancies, there is a plethora of testing, so for the following weeks I had my blood tested and we saw the numbers were rising. At our first ultrasound we were able to see the baby was growing well and the rest of the pregnancy went smoothly. The parents came to the United States a few days before I was set for my repeat C-section. It was amazing to see them and their reaction to my 9-month pregnant belly.
Heading to the hospital for delivery was a mixture of excitement and nervousness. Although this was not my first or even second time having this procedure, it was still a major surgery and one that takes time to heal from. My husband was amazing by my side and held my hand through the entire process. That morning seemed like a blur; I recall changing into the hospital gown and the consistent parade of doctors and nurses coming into the room to prepare. Next thing I knew, we were on our way to the operating room and this baby was about to be born.
The Intended Parents were allowed to be in a room immediately off the operating room, so after she was born she would be brought to them. As I laid on the table, I asked the doctor and nurses if I could see her face for a moment before they took her. I can remember the pressure and the doctor commenting on what a big baby she was and how I would probably be thirty pounds lighter just from delivery. Next thing I knew, we heard her crying and they brought over this new, perfect baby swaddled and cleaned to meet me. I kissed her cheek, welcomed her to the world and told her to go meet her daddies.
I could hear the door open and I heard the parents speak; they were asking if I was okay. This journey, to expand your family, but needing help from a village of people is not for the faint of heart. I am forever bonded to this family. I have hopes of being in attendance for their most special days. In the hospital, we each had our own rooms and the parents came to visit with us as often as they could. More memories forever etched in my brain are the times when they would wheel her hospital bassinet into my room and then I witnessed them bonding as a family.
The way they both held her, the gaze onto their newborn, they both assisted in changing her diaper and the way they held each other. It was in those moments every hard part of pregnancy disappeared. Many surrogates will tell you these are the moments that open you up to another journey and they are right. The family and I spoke about completing a sibling journey when I was in the hospital, they even asked the doctor just hours after my C-section. The doctor made a comment about how my insides were very healthy and he believed I could carry again. We were all thrilled for a successful outcome and the idea for the future.
Fast forward a few years, my family was dealing with my parent’s divorce and my children starting school. Our life looked a little different and the timing of a second journey wasn’t in the cards for us right then. The parents understood and found another wonderful carrier to bring their second baby into the world this past year. They found someone geographically close to us and we were able to visit with the baby when they were here. It was so nice to see the new big sister, the baby I carried, so grown up. I told her I loved her a million times that evening. Unfortunately, this was when the pandemic was shutting down international travel and they needed to return home immediately. I am thankful for that evening we spent together and I know it will not be our last time.
It was around November of 2019 when the thought of carrying again came back to me full force. It was like a visitor just showed up at my house carrying their bags, waiting to be let in. I told my husband I felt as though my journey bringing life into the world wasn’t done. Having gone through this once before, I began to think about how I would go about this differently. If I were to be open for another journey, I wanted it to be a family closer to me physically; I wanted them to experience as much of the pregnancy as they wanted. I also felt the pull to walk this journey alongside another mother and I knew I didn’t want to go through an agency again.
Those were my parameters and I took to social media to find a matching group to post my introduction. Putting up a post in a group like this can be overwhelming; I was inundated with messages. There are so many people who are looking for their match. I held firm in what my ideal next match would be and spoke in depth with a few couples. For one reason or another, they didn’t seem to be the best fit and we wished each other well. I was in the mindset that if I did not find a family who fit for us, it was not something I was meant to do again.
We celebrated the new year and got back into the swing of school. One day I came home from putting my children on the school bus and refreshed my social media page to find, front and center, a post that mimicked what I wrote. This post was different than the rest and I messaged the poster and told them I think we were looking for the same things. We agreed to chat on the phone that evening. Two hours later, we were wrapping up our conversation and I knew I met my match. Later that month, they flew in to meet our family.
As with the first journey, there were lots of medical exams, a psychological exam for myself and my husband, and paperwork to complete. We started this process before the pandemic started. Then, as with the rest of the world everything stopped – including fertility treatments. Many women I know who had already started medications had to stop and we were all waiting. It was a tense moment; it was out of our control.
After a few months, the clinics were able to open and I was set to start our med protocol. I had nerves for sure, but I knew I had done this a hundred times before. As the transfer day grew closer, my doctor’s visits became more frequent, but it was so different than the first. No one was allowed to accompany me to any appointments, I was wearing a mask and had to answer the same five questions every visit. It was bizarre. This pregnancy has been smooth thus far, but it has been different than what I had envisioned. Being pregnant during a pandemic hasn’t been the easiest. The isolation from others and having to work as well as be my children’s teacher has been a struggle.
Surrogacy is a special road; it has hills and valleys, smooth roads and gravel, but it leads to this extraordinary rainbow. For me, I know this is the last journey I will take and I feel very confident in my decision. I am so honored and thankful for the opportunities to grow these babies and I am thankful to be able to watch them all blossom and bring goodness into the world. No matter how your family has been made, love is what matters most.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lauren Keiffer of Atlanta, GA. You can follow their journey on Instagram or Facebook. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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