“I am a surrogate. What goes through your mind when you read those words? How do you picture me and the story I am about to share? Do you wonder what kind of woman carries a baby for another couple? Do you base your opinion off the brief, and often exaggerated, portrayals of surrogates in movies and TV? I know what you must be thinking when you hear the word ‘surrogate.’ I must have carried for Kim Kardashian or someone else equally famous. I must have made 100,000 dollars, right? Wrong. Turns out, I am just a regular mom from Ontario, Canada who decided a few years ago to do something for a stranger. Three sets of strangers, to be exact.
Almost exactly 5 years ago, I experienced the most magical and intense love I have ever felt in my life. It was the day my daughter was born. I experienced that heart-bursting joy now I finally had this little bundle in my arms, and she was all mine. I experienced that intense fear I wasn’t good enough to be her mom but also the drive to be the best I could be for her. I knew from the second she was born, she was everything to me.
Now imagine for a minute wanting to have that feeling and month after month after month and if it never happened. Imagine seeing a single pink line on a pregnancy test every month for years. Imagine multiple egg retrievals, thousands of injections, and many failed IVF transfers. Imagine desperately wanting to hold your sweet baby and struggling to just get them from a frozen embryo in a lab to that beautiful, newborn baby. That is the infertility story of so many Intended Parents that need the help of a surrogate to help them become parents. They say it takes a village to raise a baby but sometimes, it takes a village to grow one as well. That is where I come into the story.
Let me stop here and explain a little bit about IVF and how surrogacy in Canada works. In-Vitro Fertilization is the process of taking an embryo and implanting that embryo into the uterus. What this means is I am not genetically related to the embryo I carried. It was created with the egg and sperm of the parents and grown to about 5 days old in the lab. I take estrogen and progesterone to prepare my body to accept the embryo and at the perfect time during a cycle, the doctor places the embryo into my uterus. Science sure has come a long way! In Canada, it is illegal to be paid for surrogacy. I can, however, be reimbursed for all of my pregnancy expenses. This includes lost wages, childcare for appointments, kilometers to the clinic, maternity clothes, extra food, vitamins, and any other pregnancy expenses. While I am not out any money to become a surrogate, I am certainly not putting a down payment on a house by being one. That is a common misconception and while some surrogates in other countries are able to make an income from surrogacy, in Canada it must be altruistic.
In the summer of 2015, when my daughter was just 6 months old, I decided to begin looking into surrogacy. I applied to an agency and was matched with a wonderful family from Toronto. They had one child already but had experienced secondary infertility and now needed a surrogate to grow their remaining embryo. About 6 months later, we transferred their one and only embryo into my uterus. I was so excited, and perhaps a little naive, when my first transfer worked and there was a healthy baby on board.
I am one of those lucky pregnant ladies who doesn’t get morning sickness, so the first few months of pregnancy were great. I was connecting with the Intended Parents and their daughter, feeling great and so excited for the journey to continue.
All of our ultrasounds showed a healthy little girl who was moving and growing. We were all very happy until things took a turn for the worst. At around 15 weeks, I began to have horrible headaches. My midwife assured me everything was fine. After a home visit and multiple phone calls of her reassuring me headaches were normal in pregnancy, I decided to go to the emergency room for a second opinion. Something did not feel right. I waited for hours in the waiting room, insisting something wasn’t right. This was more than just a headache or pregnancy paranoia. Eventually, I was taken into a room where a bedside ultrasound was performed. I knew something was wrong immediately when the emergency doctor told me the placenta was blocking the baby and he couldn’t get a good look. I knew from my ultrasound two weeks prior, the placenta was lying across the back, not the front. I was sent to get a more in-depth ultrasound where the tech confirmed the baby had no heartbeat. I was devastated.
Explaining loss as a surrogate is difficult because I did not feel a loss for myself, but for these wonderful parents who now had to be told their dreams of having their second baby were crushed. I felt personally responsible for their loss, even though I did nothing wrong. I will never forget calling the Intended Mom at 2 a.m. to tell her that her baby had no heartbeat and I had to undergo a D&C. As a surrogate, I needed to let her know and get her permission for the procedure. Since they were not local, I also wanted to make sure I gave them the choice to be present. They chose not to be.
I couldn’t have the procedure until the following morning. It was a heartbreaking night filled with questions and tears and the horrible sinking feeling. I could feel the baby inside of me but knew she was not alive. I felt gutted. My empathetic heart was broken for these parents as I got a small taste of their infertility journey and the heartbreak they had been through up until this point. This was not the first miscarriage they had experienced. I was given the choice to be induced and birth the baby or have the D&C. For me, I decided the best choice was surgery. I honestly just wanted it to be over. This was my first experience having a D&C and it was so tough. I felt like such a failure being wheeled into the OR. I know now there was nothing I could have done to change the outcome but at the time, I felt so responsible. I still think of them often. I feel tiny hints of grief every so often and sadness for what could have been for them. Since this was their last embryo, their journey ended with me.
About 6 months later, I decided to rematch with another family for another journey. I’ll admit I was scared another miscarriage could happen but I am so happy I decided to take the leap. I was screened again by not only my OB but also the Reproductive Endocrinologist to make sure it was safe for me to become pregnant again.
Once I was cleared, I was introduced to C and K, who were also from Toronto. I connected with them right away and our first phone call lasted a few hours! C had gone through two surgeries and eight IVF attempts for herself before they chose to find a surrogate. I will never forget what she said to me on our transfer day. She told me, ‘Today is so hard because this is the moment I have to accept the fact I will never carry my own baby.’ Those words hit me hard. I wanted to hug her and cry with her and reassure her I would be the best belly babysitter ever until I could give her baby back to her. She could trust me. If surrogacy has taught me anything, it has taught me empathy. Becoming so close to a couple and being able to understand their infertility struggles made me feel so much more solid in the choice to become a surrogate. This couple deserves every happiness in the world and helping them become parents really was incredible.
It took two transfers to get pregnant with Baby T. The pregnancy was smooth and his parents and I developed a close relationship. I remember calling C from the car in the summer of 2017 after my water broke in the mall and telling her it was go time! I also remember her showing up to the hospital with about six suitcases for the baby. She was so prepared and so ready to be a mom. She was so close to meeting her son, the excitement was tangible.
After a fairly long early labor, I progressed very quickly from 7 cm to birth in about 45 minutes. I pushed three times and was able to have a successful VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-section). I am so proud of my body and what I was able to do. What I am more proud of, though, was witnessing the very moment this couple became parents. They both were able to watch their son come into the world. I will never forget the look of awe and joy and disbelief when they first saw him. We have a video of the moment Baby T was held by his mama for the first time. Her face melted into these beautiful tears of joy that make you instantly tear up when you watch it. When people ask why I became a surrogate, I describe that moment. It was perfect in every way. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of their journey to parenthood.
Shortly after Baby T was born, I knew I wanted to do a second journey. I felt amazing, both physically and emotionally after birth, and knew that my surrogacy story wasn’t quite finished yet. I was soon re-matched with two great guys from California.
I had an instant connection with Mark and Kevin during our first FaceTime call and we all felt like it was a perfect match. They had embryos ready to go and wanted to transfer quickly. Since they lived across the country, I was able to fly out to California to spend a few days with them and get to know them beforehand. It honestly felt like we had known each other our whole lives. They showed me all of their favorite spots and I met their family and friends. I felt so welcomed.
Carrying for two dads was a much different journey because there wasn’t the same feeling of loss associated with being unable to get pregnant. They were so excited about our journey and looking forward to our transfer. I flew out to California two more times: once for medical clearance and then again with my partner, Brandon, for transfer in April of 2018. Mark and Kevin had even ordered matching lucky transfer shirts for the four of us.
Our first transfer worked and I had another great pregnancy. I felt amazing. I was lucky not to have any morning sickness and developed a close relationship with Mark and Kevin during the process. They still feel like family.
Although I had a lot of false labor, we made it all the way to full term and Ari was born two days before Christmas. Talk about the best Christmas present ever! Even though this pregnancy ended in an emergency c-section, I had a good birth experience and our photographer was able to capture the raw emotion of Mark and Kevin meeting their baby for the first time. Those happy tears of pure joy listening to the first cry, the perfect newborn baby smell, and the way those big beautiful eyes looked up at his daddies. He is so loved. I was lucky enough to visit them over this last summer and we keep in contact regularly.
It has been just over a year now since Ari has been born and I am working on my fourth journey. This one will be a sibling for Baby T. We tried two transfers in the fall of last year, but they were unsuccessful. C and K are currently creating more embryos and we should be transferring in another month or so. Seeing both Baby T and Ari grow up has been such a blessing. My heart feels so proud, watching them thrive with their incredible parents.
Surrogacy is something that has been so special for me. I am a huge advocate for a woman’s right to choose how and in what capacity she uses her own body and makes informed choices about her own physiology. Surrogacy has provided me the opportunity to be in control over my own autonomy while doing something for others. It may not be a choice everyone would make, but it was a choice I made.
Throughout this process over the last couple of years, I have been able to share my story and give people a real-life perspective of what surrogacy really means and how incredible this journey can be. I don’t consider myself a superhero or extra special just because I can grow babies, but I do feel extremely privileged to have been a small part of bringing these babies earthside. My hope is, through education and open discussion, all routes to parenthood will be accepted and normalized. No matter how a baby was conceived or grown, they all deserve to be loved. That’s all that matters.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ariel Taylor from Ontario, Canada. You can follow their journey on Instagram. 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.
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