An Intended Parent’s Story
As a patient coordinator here at GAIA, I deal with surrogacy cases on a daily basis. For most people, surrogacy is still much of an unknown process and it’s incredible to think that 10 years ago, I too, needed to look the word up online it was such a foreign concept. I was swiftly and suddenly introduced to the term overnight, after the birth of my first baby, only for it to soon dominate our household conversation for the course of the next 2 years. My personal experience as an intended parent, on the other side of the equation, has provided me with extra insight and sensitivity when dealing with our clients.
My first daughter was born in a tiny village hospital in Italy, unequipped for drama and due to a rare and unforeseen complication during the delivery, it was explained to me that surrogacy would be my only future family-building option. Although a genetic tie wasn’t of extreme importance to me, my then-husband had a job that required yearly relocation, and we were considered unstable and therefore unsuitable candidates for adoption. He also had more of a ‘tribe’ mentality in regards to adding to our already-begun little family, and for him surrogacy was a comforting solution.
Simply arriving to the decision to embark on the journey, in our case, took the longest time of all. There were days I would tirelessly research surrogacy programs, long after putting my daughter to bed, only to delete all my notes the next day and decide it was too overwhelming a step to take. My partner, on his end, would fluctuate between being supportive of the idea, but when needing to tackle the financial realities involved, he would then quickly lose all stamina and we would find ourselves back to square one. Not to mention all the little everyday life happenings along the way that would start and stop the process.
After having attempted a private surrogacy arrangement, which felt reckless at best, we eventually decided to pursue a surrogacy program in Canada. We knew that our chances weren’t great as we already had a happy, healthy child and, at that time, intended parents had to wait to be “chosen” by the surrogate carrier. It felt daunting assembling a profile meant to sum up, in a few pages, the people we were, the life we envisioned for ourselves and the parents we hoped to become. After what felt like an eternity, but which was in reality only about 6 months, we received a phone call from our surrogacy coordinator letting us know that the adventure of a lifetime was about to begin and we had been selected. Meeting Sarah, the woman who was to offer us this extraordinary gift, was more nerve-wracking than a job-interview or first date. She soon put us both at ease though, by her enthusiasm and unflustered demeanour; having all the qualities an intended mother would pray the woman carrying her child would possess. Beautiful both inside and out.
What I remember above all, aside from the obvious joy when our youngest daughter came to light, was the waiting. Waiting to finally decide to begin, waiting to be chosen, waiting for countless reports and medical results, waiting for the phone to ring and for hormone levels to balance, for embryos to mature and for those long, long 9 months to be over. I remember staring in awe at our tandem IVF protocol, almost like the synchronizing of a shuttle launch, as we were explained the crucial importance of timing in our medicine taking. The spreadsheets of instructions and schedules soon papered the walls of our kitchen, so terrified we were of missing something.
The surrogacy process is a delicate dance…for both sides. As intended parent and surrogate. Unsure who is leading, who is following and trying above all not to trip. The days when I felt tired and didn’t think I could manage driving the 2 hours for my daily injections, I thought of Sarah and the 9 months of fatigue she would undoubtedly feel for us. Likewise, I think on her end she was aware of the enormous loss of control an intended parent feels and would communicate with me on a daily basis even when I could tell she had nothing important to say.
As much as our surrogacy journey was straightforward and successful, there were also untold moments of stress and negativity. In the thick of the IVF process, I still didn’t fully understand myself what was happening, while our elder family members stared on in disbelief; too shocked to be outright disapproving. Surrogacy is a process for the open-hearted and minded and we weren’t untouched by the religious and cultural biases of those around us. I lost friends along the way and as we made the decision to be open with our children about our surrogacy experience from day one, our daughters often would choose the most inopportune times to blurt out our life-altering experience in detail, often to teachers or, while waiting in line at the grocery store or to strangers on the airplane. Even the nurse in the delivery room, as our long-awaited, anticipated daughter was born, cast us a disapproving glance and muttered in reference to us “ can’t we clear the flies from the room?”.
Surrogacy isn’t for the faint-hearted, but if you are at the stage where it is a consideration, then chances are you are strong and resilient already. In our case it is an eternally-cherished adventure, central to our family’s story and one I am proud to be a part of. I’ve always said that as much as I wished our family-building had been uncomplicated and easy, staring in the face of technology and feeling so grateful for what science has allowed us, for a complete stranger’s selfless generosity, has been a privilege.
Originally Canadian, Stephanie brings a deep understanding of the gift of surrogacy, having experienced the role of intended parent herself. Stephanie can genuinely understand all issues involved& will accompany you with her wisdom of first hand experience.