Last July I interviewed my friend Anna (whose name is actually Kristy!) about her and her husband Nate’s journey through seven years of infertility in a guest post titled “You Are Not Forgotten.” At that time they were going through what they believed to be their final round of IVF before exploring other options. You can read that illuminating (and moving) interview here.
Almost one year later, so much has changed. Kristy’s Etsy shop for couple’s trying to conceive is taking off, her time spent trying IVF is over, and her and her husband have found a surrogate to carry their sweet embryos.
Last week I reached out to Kristy (who is now comfortable using her real name) wondering if she’d like to do a follow up post on surrogacy since there’s so much mystery and confusion surrounding the process. She said yes, and I’m so excited to share her story again today.
Ten questions on surrogacy for Kristy and her honest answers below.
Don’t lose heart, friends.
1. The last time we talked, you were on your final attempt at using IVF to get pregnant after seven years of trying. What has happened health wise since then?
Our last attempt was in December of 2015 after three months of prepping my body for that final transfer. Our doctor returned from a medical conference in July 2015 and had a new plan for our next round. It included several months of prep, a mock round using all the medication, and a super painful test to examine my uterine tissue (without anesthesia!). It took three months to get those results and prep for the real thing. Finally in the beginning of December we transferred one beautiful genetically normal embryo into a thick and fluffy uterine lining. The bases were loaded and we were basically “guaranteed” a home run. It felt like a sure thing, even our doctors prepared for success. We waited and waited, then finally went for blood work. Nothing. Completely negative, it didn’t even try to implant or stick around. That was the end of IVF, we felt so strongly that we and our last precious embryos could not survive another round of that madness. It was time to move on.
2. What led you guys to choosing surrogacy over other options?
Our doctor mentioned surrogacy in June of 2015, which led to a complete breakdown on the way home from his office. He actually called and apologized later for bringing it up that early in the process, but it was too late I was already swimming in the fear that surrogacy was where we were going to end up. I tucked it away in the back of my mind as we prepped for our “miracle” round (above) and put all my hope in that. But there were times when I brought the idea of surrogacy out to the forefront and thought about it. I couldn’t keep it there long though because it was tied to so much grief and questions on my end. What would it be like to never carry a child? What will I tell my child if they ask about being in my tummy? How would I get through 9 months of seeing someone else grow my child?
So many questions and so much grief. Grief was a huge part of this process. I had to shed all my dreams of being pregnant, having cravings, and most of all–giving birth. It still makes me emotional knowing I’ll never know those intimate feelings so many women/mothers get to experience. After our failed round in December, we decided to take some time off to simply pray about our next steps. We were tired, weary, and felt so weak. It was Christmas time so we filled up on family, our precious nephew, cut out cookies, and laughter – which really did help.
We returned home in January and left our hearts open to whatever/whomever walked into our life. We were leaning towards surrogacy ONLY because we had embryos left in storage. It felt uncomfortable to both of us to leave them permanently in storage, especially since they had an 80% chance of life with the right uterus. I did ask Nate if someone approached me in the grocery store and said, “I know of this baby you should adopt,” — what would we do? We both agreed that while this was obviously unlikely, if something that dramatic came along we would most definitely go in that direction.
For several weeks we sat and waited without expectation or a plan. Just simply waited and listened for what’s to come. It was refreshing and terrifying.
3. Was it hard to find someone? What does that process look like?
This is the first question everyone asks (literally 100% of the time). Finding someone to carry your child is not an easy process, you don’t (shouldn’t) post it on Craigslist or your local Facebook “for sale” site. It’s a whole new kind of matchmaking. During our time of waiting “without expectation,” we called a surrogacy lawyer to find out legally what’s required. It was very helpful to know the requirements for carrying (it varies from state to state). So many friends and family volunteered their wombs. I got texts saying “my womb is your womb” or “I want to give you this gift’ and emails from people feeling so called to help us create a family. It was so beautiful and moving to know we were so so loved. We had to make some hard decisions, there are many complicated layers to gestational carrying and it’s often recommended not to use a close friend or family member because of the complex relational dynamics that could arise over the next 9 months (and the years after). So, we were back at square one, but I was so sure someone would present themselves. I started praying for this women, for her heart, her courage, and her family. I knew she was out there, I knew I was about to meet her. I can’t explain the feeling, but it still gives me chills to know I was so certain her appearance was coming soon.
Long story short, Nate went out for a beer with someone from church and I ended up meeting them later. During our conversations our friend said, “You know K (that’s what I’ll call her) from church did this for someone else years ago.” Nate and I paused and looked at each other. I asked our friend to make sure he had the story right and demanded he call his wife to confirm. Within minutes we had confirmation that K had indeed been a carrier in the past. I asked for our friend to put me in touch with her. We had only been going to this church for a few months and even though I knew what she looked like, I didn’t know her well enough to talk to her.
A week went by and eventually I had her number. I called her, heart pounding, feeling awkward about talking to someone I didn’t know AND still figuring out how to ask her to carry our child. She answered and all my nerves disappeared. We talked about her experience in the past, what it was like to carry a child and hand it over after birth, and about all the prep and requirements to be pregnant with someone else’s child. She was so open and easy to talk to. We laughed a lot, and at times I was talking so fast–not just out of excitement, but because this was someone who was speaking to the dark and hard places of my heart. She was rapidly softening the parts that I had protected, grieved over, and kept hidden.
Then it came time to ask the question. It rolled right off my tongue with no hesitation. I knew she was the one. I asked, “Would you consider doing this again?” She paused for a second and then readily said, “Absolutely.” She went on to tell me she just told her husband a few days before that she would like to get back into surrogacy and then I called. K said she has felt called to be a surrogate since she was in high school and has always wanted to help couples have a family. She agreed to carry twins and to pump us breast milk for 6 months after birth, thank you Jesus! I basically ended the phone call with “You’re hired” to which she said “Do you want to meet me before moving forward?” It was then I realized maybe I need to slow down a bit, but it just felt so good to finally find something that feels so good.
After I hung up, I filled Nate in. He was vacuuming (bless his heart) upstairs and just happened to be in the future baby room. We were so overwhelmed by what just happened that we weren’t sure what to do with all the happiness. We hugged and cried and looked around that room, feeling more hopeful that one day it would look much different.
4. Now that you’ve found someone, what happens next?
Once we all met and decided to move forward, we contacted our lawyer and started the paperwork process. It’s been over three months and we are still in the contract phase. It takes a while to move through all the little details involved in this. After we get a contact drafted and everyone signs it, we have required counseling to do together, medical preparation for K, and then comes the transfer!
What I didn’t mention is that when K agreed to do this she had a 4 month old! So before moving ahead with anything medical related, she needs to be finished breast feeding. She will be done this Fall which is why our transfer isn’t until then. It’s great timing because we can move through all these steps and stages of the process without feeling rushed.
5. What are questions you are finding people want to ask but don’t know how?
1. Will your baby(ies) look like you? Yes. All the genetic material is ours (it’s our embryo). She is the vessel that will help bring them to life.
2. What is the difference between surrogacy and gestational carrying? Traditional surrogacy is when the surrogate uses her eggs and they are just fertilized by sperm. So the child will have some of the surrogate’s genetic material. Gestational carrying is just that, carrying. It uses none of the carrier’s material, just a nice cozy womb.
3. Isn’t all of this just weird and uncommon? Yes and no. There are pieces of this process that are weird, sure. But believe me, some of the things I was doing before to get pregnant were even more weird. This actually seems legitimate. Uncommon? No. Surrogacy and gestational carrying is actually very common, you just don’t hear about it that often. Since finding K, I’ve heard of several other women in my area that had children via surrogacy and others that were gestational carriers!
4. Is it hard to know you won’t be pregnant? Yes, of course. Birthing a child is something I think is so beautiful, so I grieve that I’ll never know that feeling. I was always told I would be such a cute pregnant woman (believe it or not, I’ve been told that many times in my life. Who says that?) and when I was young, I used to stuff pillows up my shirt to see what I’d look like pregnant. All things I’ll never see in real life. I’ll also never nurse a child, another hard thing. However, I do know what it feels like to be pregnant. I was pregnant three times, not for long, but long enough to know what it feels like to puke, crave all things fried, and never want to get out of bed. That is the closest I’ll ever get and I’m okay with that. There are also pros to not giving birth, for one, that dreaded post-partum poo. Sounds absolutely horrifying, no thanks.
6. What are your fears going into this process?
Surprisingly, I don’t have many fears. I feel K was brought into our lives for a reason and no matter what happens, this experience was meant to be. There is always the fear of what if it doesn’t work and what if something happens to the baby(ies), but those fears were there when I was carrying. Knowing K has a healthy cozy uterus that four other babies enjoyed in the past brings me so much more hope than fear.
7. Will you and Nate attend or be part of the birth? What does that look like?
Good question. I want to say yes! At least we hope to be. Those details we will work out with K, but I’m hoping we (or at least I) can be in the room and experience the birth process.
8. What happens after the baby (or babies!) are born? Will K remain a part of your lives?
K will always be a part of our lives. But this is one of those complex issues that goes with surrogacy. It’s one that we had to talk about together and write into a contract. Our lawyer has all kinds of “worst case scenarios” of people who haven’t fully thought this through. However K is so respectful of us and our desire to be parents. She is always saying things like “you’re the parents,” never trying to take ownership over this process. We have no worries about K’s involvement in our child’s life. She goes to our church so I imagine she will see them every Sunday and she mentioned having a “aunt-like” relationship with them. We need a village to raise children and sometimes we need a village to make children and we are so so thankful she is a part of our village.
9. If you’re comfortable sharing, what is the financial strain that goes along with surrogacy?
Surrogacy is not free. It comes with a price, monetarily and emotionally. K and I hate talking about money, however it’s a part of the process. As K says, it’s like day care for nine months. Exactly, it’s just like that. There is also cost for all the required testing, the medications, prenatal appointments, and the birth. But as cliche as it sounds, this process is priceless.
10. Any advice or words of encouragement for parents who are considering surrogacy?
Call me. No seriously, talk to someone who has been through it. Find someone to share their story and answer your questions. I was following several blogs which helped me (us) make some important decisions. Be brave. This is not an easy option, or a quick fix. It comes with new and different challenges to push yourself through. But if you’re considering surrogacy then you’ve been through a lot already and you know how to do hard things. You know what it’s like to not have answers, to grieve what will never happen, and to put your trust in someone else.
Surrogacy is not the end or the last resort, which is how I saw it for so long. For us, it’s just the beginning. The beginning of something so much more beautiful than we could have ever imagined. You can have that too. As our embryologist told me in our last phone call, “We [the medical team] are all looking forward to your time in the sun.”
I can feel the warmth already.
You can make donations to help fund Kristy and Nate’s miracle here.