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My Path to Motherhood
The path to surrogacy is not straight-forward. It’s emotionally uncomfortable, logistically complicated, and prohibitively expensive. As a breast cancer survivor, I always knew fertility would be a challenge for me. Prior to starting chemotherapy, my oncologist had warned me that its toxicity would likely age my ovaries to an unknown extent. Unbeknownst to me, the question of my fertility health would prove much more complicated than that.
As a 24-year old, survivorship was focused on optimizing my health to minimize recurrence. This strategy was of course embraced by my team of doctors, but they were ill equipped to advise me on how to go about it. I resorted to podcasts, wellness journals, and any other reputable source of information I could get my hands on. The idea of starving any lingering cancer cells in my body felt empowering. I began intermittent fasting, and avoided simple carbs, sugars, and alcohol. I became fixated on the source and quality of the food I ate as much as the food itself. I exercised religiously and built my routine around my wellbeing. This sounds great in theory, but in practice, I drove my mind and body into a perpetual state of stress.
Anyone trying to get pregnant knows that stress impedes fertility. If you had asked me then, I would have told you I wasn’t stressed, because I really didn’t feel it. I was happy, energized, in control. But 2 egg retrievals, 2 IUIs, 4 rounds of IVF, and 2 miscarriages later, my husband and I realized it was time to reassess. I found myself an integrative medicine physician who could run more extensive labs and figure out the root cause of my infertility. Lo and behold, my lab results said it all - I was stressed, and my body was in no state to support a healthy pregnancy. My sex hormones and thyroid levels had gone flat, and my cortisol levels were all out of sorts.
Simply put, this was not my time, at least not for me to get pregnant - I had to improve my health first. The next day, we started to explore surrogacy.
The idea of surrogacy had made me nervous for a few reasons: Would my husband and I be missing out on the beauty and intimacy of pregnancy and birth? Would we have a harder time bonding with our baby after it was born? Would my maternal instinct still kick in without the hormones from pregnancy? Would we be uncomfortable with people knowing the challenging journey we went through to have a family?
We were fortunate to speak with a few friends of friends who had gone through the surrogacy process. Ultimately, my husband and I both realized that as uncomfortable as surrogacy seemed, it would be nowhere as painful as the devastation following each miscarriage. Through our diligence process, we learned that the waitlist for a surrogate when going through an agency is roughly 4-12 months, depending on the agency and your matching criteria (i.e., geography, age, race, marital status, number of children, level of education, employment status, support system, surrogacy experience, etc.). The less particular you are, the shorter your wait time. We decided to put our name on two waitlists, with two separate agencies. We knew we wanted multiple children and we had no idea how long it would really take.
The first agency successfully matched us in 4 months. Given the travel restrictions due to COVID, we first met our surrogate over the phone for an introductory call. From the moment we met her, we knew she was an angel in every sense of the word: kind, selfless, thoughtful, and generous. On the next call, we met her husband as well. He was incredibly supportive, enthusiastic, and excited about the opportunity to help us start our family.
Working with a surrogate is unlike any experience you will have. It’s its own type of relationship that you can’t explain or understand unless you’ve been through it yourself. That’s a pretty cool thing. My husband and I did our best to focus on the silver lining of surrogacy. No morning sickness, no fatigue, no side-effects. In many ways, it is a luxury and a privilege to relinquish the responsibility of pregnancy to another woman - a woman you know has had healthy pregnancies in the past. I had worried the lack of control over her nutrition would cause me anxiety. But she clearly had the right level of health needed to carry her own three healthy children, so why should I question it? Instead, we pushed ourselves to let go and spoil her and her family as much as we could - towers of Levain cookies, pizza dinners at Frank and Pepes, and the softest Eberjey pajama sets.
10 months later, our baby boy Mauricio was born. My husband and I were both in the delivery room, along with our surrogate’s husband. The birth went as smoothly as it could have. I had the privilege of cutting the umbilical cord and calling out the gender. We laughed, we cried, we hugged. It wasn’t awkward or uncomfortable. In fact, the relationship we had organically cultivated made the experience feel both straight-forward and surreal.
Today, I feel proud to share that both of my children were born (9 months apart) thanks to two angelic women and their supportive families. Surrogacy is a gift and a blessing. So much so that I just might do it again even if I get my health to where it should be to bear children. I also recognize that it is a privilege that most women struggling with their fertility are unable to even consider. But my intent in sharing my story is to make this journey feel a bit less daunting, and a bit more fun. I couldn’t be more grateful to those people who walked me through the process and shared their own experiences with me before I embarked on my own surrogacy journey. I hope that more parents-to-be gain the confidence and faith to explore surrogacy without shame or fear. Fertility is a fickle thing. My door is always open to anyone who is considering surrogacy and wants a brain to pick.
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