‘The doctor ruled it ‘a terrible, chance accident.’ We were alone as a little trio, together in this grief.’: Surrogate for LGBTQ couple experiences loss, ‘I want their dreams to come true’

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Trigger Warning: This story contains details and images of child loss that may be triggering to some.

“I knew I wanted to be a surrogate the day I sat feeding my newborn baby, watching the news on TV announcing the Supreme Court had declared same-sex marriages legal in all 50 states. I was so happy for this step toward equality, but still so saddened some people have to fight so hard just to have a family. I realized how incredibly easy my journey to becoming a mom was, and I wanted to be able to make someone else’s dreams of parenthood come true, too. I knew then surrogacy was something I wanted to pursue.

I needed the timing to be right, so I waited, revisiting the thought every so often. Finally, my son was in preschool, I was a few months into a career change that let me have much lower stress levels and much more time at home, and I felt like I could really give surrogacy the time and energy it requires. I did my research and knew I met the requirements to be a gestational carrier (that is, I was between the ages of 21-42, I had a history of at least one full-term uncomplicated pregnancy, my BMI was between 18-32, and I had a healthy and financially stable lifestyle), and in January 2019 I selected a surrogacy agency to work with. My agency (United Surrogacy) has been absolutely incredible and such an amazing resource for support and knowledge as I’ve navigated this process.

Image of letter board and ultrasound images with red flowers
Courtesy of Abi Lowe

They reviewed my medical history, I filled out my profile, and I was then introduced to the most amazing couple of hopeful dads-to-be. Rick and Sonny (names have been changed for privacy, per our legal agreement) are two of the kindest, most caring people I have ever known, and I knew right away I wanted to help them become dads. Their profile was so full of the obvious love they shared, and their hopes for their future family. I still have it today! They live in Israel, where it is not even legal for them to be married (they were married here, in the US), let alone be able to adopt or have a child through surrogacy. Their story vividly reminded me of the moment I had back in 2015, and why I wanted to do this in the first place. They deserve nothing but love and all the joys children bring, and I wanted to help them have this.

We met over Skype, and had many in-depth conversations with the topics varying from our families and relationships, to the tougher-to-discuss topics, like genetic testing, and our views on termination or selective reduction of a pregnancy. Those topics can be difficult, but it was very important to make sure we were all in complete agreement about every difficult circumstance that may arise before it did. After we were officially ‘matched’ with each other, we all also underwent an in-depth psychological evaluation with a trained psychologist experienced in surrogacy. The purpose of this evaluation was mainly to make sure we were all equipped with a healthy understanding of what was to come, and a toolkit of sorts to make sure we would be able to navigate anything unexpected throughout the process.

Woman holding letter board in living room and smiling
Courtesy of Abi Lowe

As a gestational carrier, therapy services are also available to me at any point throughout the surrogacy process or postpartum! After we had all had our psych evaluation done, I underwent a medical clearance exam with our fertility clinic to ensure I was indeed a good candidate for IVF and surrogacy. Rick and Sonny had already created embryos with the help of an egg donor, so everything medically on their end was already set to go! Once I had the ‘OK’ from our clinic, we completed our legal contract (for us, it was fairly easy, as we had already talked through all of the main points of the legal contract and there were no unexpected surprises from each other). With the legal contract in place, I was cleared to start an IVF cycle!

IVF is one of the most intensive, exhausting, and taxing things I have ever done. The shots must be done at exactly the right time, like clockwork, exactly on schedule, and the side effects from the additional hormones can make you feel like a crazy piece of hot garbage. Sleepy, crazy, hot garbage.

However, they are very much a necessity, and I knew the reward of seeing Rick and Sonny with a baby in their arms would be more than worth it. We transferred one perfect little embryo on July 11th, 2019. Even though the embryo was very ‘high quality,’ and I had followed all the necessary medications and my body was perfectly ready, the embryo transfer still only has about a 60% chance of progressing into a viable pregnancy. However, we were in that 60% of successes, and I was pregnant! I underwent many ultrasounds and blood tests to ensure the pregnancy was progressing as it should, and it was. Everything was picture-perfect. I was exhausted and nauseous, sure, but I had been like this while I was pregnant with my son. The nausea subsided around the beginning of my second trimester, and after I felt great! It was so much fun to send pictures and videos of my growing belly to Rick and Sonny, and I loved seeing their excitement and anticipation as our due date grew closer and closer.

Pregnant woman holding up letter board in front of face
Courtesy of Abi Lowe

I was due on March 28th, 2020, but my birthday is March 26th, so I was really hoping for a little birthday buddy! I had hit the point in my pregnancy where my hospital bag was packed just in case, the hospital forms were filled out, and my birth plan was ready. I had an unmedicated birth with my son, and I knew I wanted one again. I didn’t want to be induced, and I didn’t want any sort of pain relief medication. I wanted to be fully aware and present when I got to see them meet their sweet little baby for the first time. Over FaceTime, I got to see the daddies-to-be preparing the nursery and excitedly awaiting this little boy’s arrival! With Sonny and Rick being international, they were planning to get here a few weeks before our due date to make sure they didn’t miss the birth.

Pregnant woman holding up letter board and smiling
Courtesy of Abi Lowe

However, about a week before Rick and Sonny were scheduled to make the 16-hour flight here, the worst happened. I was still feeling great and hadn’t had any concerns or a single worrisome symptom along the way, until the day I didn’t feel him moving. I rushed to my OB and midwives in a blind panic, and they confirmed it: at 35 weeks, there was no heartbeat. My first thought was, ‘How am I going to tell them?’ I had a wonderful support system with my midwives, the surrogacy agency, my husband, and close friends. Many of them offered to call Rick and Sonny for me, but as much as I couldn’t bear the thought of telling them the baby had died, it was worse to think about them hearing it from someone else. With the time difference between us, I sent them a ‘Call me when you wake up’ text, and then stayed up until the wee hours of the morning waiting for their call. I hate the heartbreak I saw on their faces, and I hate that I couldn’t be there to hug them as tightly as I wanted to while we all tried to process this devastation.

The next day, I kept my son out of school to have a ‘Mom and Me’ day before I was induced. I made the mistake of taking him to a kid’s play gym, where I could feel the eyes on me and knew they were all thinking the standard, ‘Aww, she’s about to pop!’ and had no idea the baby inside my belly wasn’t really there anymore. For my own safety (and mental well-being), it was necessary for me to be induced that evening. My doctor told the staff to give me everything I wanted as far as pain management, and I was so grateful to him for this. I did not want to be there, and frankly, I did not want to feel a single thing. The emotional pain was far worse than anything I had ever felt; did I really have to go through the physical pain of childbirth as well? I don’t remember much of that night, but I do remember Jonathan being born, and realizing I had been holding on to the hope it was all a mistake and I would hear him cry that sweet, squawky newborn cry.

Surrogate holding stillborn baby after giving birth in hospital
Courtesy of Abi Lowe

I remember cradling him and trying to make sure I said all the things and gave him all the love I knew his daddies would want him to have. I remember saying goodbye to him with his perfect little face, already the face of an angel, still wet from my tears. I remember outside of those moments I needed alone with Jonathan, my husband never left my side. I remember looking over at this 6’4” man, impossibly curled up on the tiny plastic hospital loveseat, while he insisted it was actually more comfortable than our bed at home. I remember my midwife, who had turned my services over to the high-risk OB for the delivery, coming in a few hours later and giving me the most heartbreaking, healing hug I’ve ever been given, then sitting with me until I dozed off. I am almost positive she had not been home in at least 24 hours at this point, and she still chose to come and sit with me.

I remember sitting in silence on FaceTime with Rick and Sonny, none of us knowing what to say but none of us wanting to hang up. We were alone as a little trio, together in this grief. I remember my family and friends being with me 24/7, showering me with all the love in the world. My postpartum recovery was thankfully a breeze, physically. Emotionally, it has been an ongoing journey, and I am thankful to have the support in my life I do. Jonathan’s death was diagnosed as a cord accident; his umbilical cord was only about 11 inches long (typical is 22-24 inches), and it was constricted at the insertion point with a velamentous insertion (basically, it was attached looking like tree roots into the ground, instead of a solid thick trunk as it should be). Every doctor that reviewed our case and his autopsy ruled it as, ‘A terrible, chance accident.’

Son sitting on pregnant mother's lap as they look at each other
Courtesy of Abi Lowe

Fortunately, his cord accident isn’t something genetic (so Jonathan’s embryo siblings don’t have an increased risk of the same outcome), and everything with the formation of the umbilical cord and placenta is 100% out of my body’s control as a gestational carrier. There was truly nothing any of us could have done to prevent this, and this fact is simultaneously frustrating and comforting. My relationship with Rick and Sonny has remained one I cherish deeply, and in August 2020 (about 6 months postpartum), they asked me if I would be comfortable trying to carry another baby for them. They are still so, so ready to be dads, and I am absolutely honored they would trust me with this again.

We transferred another embryo in March 2021, which sadly resulted in a blighted ovum (where the gestational sac develops without an embryo). I have just recently started the third round of IVF, which, if all goes smoothly, will allow us to do another embryo transfer on July 15th, 2021. The fact this new date is so close to the date we transferred tiny embryo Jonathan 2 years ago feels like a very promising thing; I can’t help but think he is going to be doing everything he can to help his daddies finally get to bring a baby home.”

Mother holding son out in nature
Courtesy of Abi Lowe

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Abi Lowe of Boise, Idaho. You can follow her journey on Instagram. 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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‘You’re stuck with me now!’ The dads and I got closer than I thought possible. ‘Soon, this will be your reality.’: Surrogate births baby for same-sex couple, ‘I’m so blessed to provide joy for families’

‘He was too small to be saved. Have $120,000 cash ready if you want to move forward.’ Our jaws hit the floor.’: Sister becomes surrogate after unexplained infertility, still birth

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