Growing up I was always taught that “when two people love each other they make a baby." I was fed the idea that having children was a passageway into a lifetime of joy and fulfillment. I was never taught that the road would encounter every emotion known to the human race. In time, I would learn that the idea that we can just “make babies” isn’t true at all. The truth is, sometimes babies are made that just can’t be born. Sometimes people love each other enough to change course. Sometimes we want something so bad that it hurts. Sometimes our dreams are bigger than our realities. Then sometimes all the stars in the world align and a new heart beats and a baby is born.
I remember the first time I had a miscarriage. The entire room seemed to be closing in on me as my midwife told me and my husband a story about how she believes babies that don’t make it flow right back in line. She told her story so sweetly and with such certainty. I can’t remember her face but to this day I can see her hands make the movements of the story in the air. It was such a comforting feeling at that time to think my baby would just get back in line and I would see him or her soon.
That wasn’t my last miscarriage. I found myself answering the question: “How many pregnancies have you had?” so many times that you would think I would be used to it. I never got used to it. Every single time I filled out a medical intake form I would stop and stare at the question, gaze into the sky and count on my fingers. I would remember and relive every single time I was pregnant, every single time I had lost a pregnancy, and every single time I gave birth. My number is six. I have been pregnant six times with seven babies, and of those seven babies, I have had what is referred to as “three live births."
Each of those babies had a heart. Each of those babies were real. It has taken me some time to reflect back on those experiences and appreciate what each one has given to me. Heart number six had a name. She was born of a dream that will never die. She was brought to life by a woman who traveled over 11,500 miles across the world to pursue her dreams of motherhood. She was placed safely inside of my womb right next to her sister. Heart number six had a name, but out of caution, was always referred to as “Twin A."
Heart number six grew and grew until the blood work came back positive. She grew and grew until the ultrasound couldn’t deny her. Heart number six grew and grew until her kicks were undeniable. Heart number six grew and grew until her heart was stopped. Then heart number six stopped growing. Heart number six was no more and I was told she would just “reabsorb." I like to think she only stopped growing in the physical sense. I like to think that as I reabsorbed some of her back into my body, that she continued to grow with me and her sister. It’s just another story I tell myself about the hearts we have had.
When I first sat down to write about why and how I became a surrogate mother, the story was dense and full of raw emotion. I realized this had little to do with my surrogacy journey and had more to do with all of the birth experiences that I have had prior to that point. I took a few days and read the story over and over again. I spoke to my husband about it and even brought up pieces of it with my doula sisters in efforts to help me clarify, or pinpoint, the moments that made my birthing experiences so powerful for me.
I quickly realized that becoming a surrogate, for me, wasn’t so much about opening my womb for another woman, as it was about healing the wounds I had ignored and pushed aside during my own reproductive and birthing journeys. Becoming a surrogate was a way to feed my desire to extend my love and support to another woman who was on her journey into motherhood. Surrogacy allowed me to love and give wholeheartedly and build myself, my husband, my family, and most importantly, another woman. I was also able to forgive myself, and appreciate and value my own birth journeys.
When it comes to birth and making babies, I have faced so many different situations: abortion, traumatic labor, miscarriages, empowering births, and the birth of a sleeping angel. No matter the outcome, each time I had a birthing experience, I opened my body, my mind, my soul, and my heart to the realities of reproduction. It wasn’t always easy. Actually, very few moments were easy. Trying to understand your body in such a sensitive time is hard. I remember so many times where I felt alone, afraid, confused, and unsupported.
I chose to become a surrogate because even though all of these experiences can be extremely painful, I believe that everybody who wants them deserves an opportunity to experience them. My road through pregnancy and birth were so powerful to me. I wanted to help someone else reach their goals and find the power within them. The idea that I could be a small part in someone else’s journey toward parenthood was so exciting and humbling for me. The surrogacy seed had been planted in my head years before I had even given birth for the first time. Throughout my experiences with the pregnancy and birthing process, the seed continued to grow into a goal that would intensify over the years.
After my husband and I had our second child and we knew our family was complete, I asked him (for probably the millionth time) if I could become a surrogate. I think it’s worth mentioning that births don’t just empower women, but they empower men as well. My husband had supported me through an amazing birth experience, and his ideas, values, and beliefs on the pregnancy and birthing process had evolved tremendously over the course of our marriage just like mine had. Even though it was my body, it was our mutual decision to pursue surrogacy.
Once we made it through the process with a surrogacy agency, we were provided the profiles of several intended parents. We read them both individually, and our hearts both knew which option we needed to pursue. We arranged to meet with the couple while they were in town for egg retrieval. The moment we sat down to talk, we all knew that were all destined to work with one another. I felt calm and confident in my decision.
Everything was perfectly smooth in the beginning. We got pregnant on the first try…with twins! The potential issues or concerns we were prepared for all seemed to be non-issues. It wasn’t until my second trimester screening that we discovered some problems. We lost one of the twins during week 22 of pregnancy. Every day after that was scary. The intended parents, my husband, and I continued to focus all our positive energy on the second baby girl for the next 11 weeks. Everything continued to show as perfect until, one day, I went into pre-term labor. Due to the history of the pregnancy, and the loss of the second twin, we were unable to wait for the arrival of the parents. I was immediately induced as her parents frantically jumped on the first flight they could.
At that moment, I felt like everything that I had worked for my entire life up to that point was falling apart. I was so scared I was going to have another traumatic birth. I was disappointed that I was going to give birth without the intended parents there. I had to rely so heavily on my husband to get me through that moment. I had to surrender. I gave birth to a sleeping Twin A first. The nurse wrapped her and I held her on my chest and thanked her for holding on long enough for her sister to grow. I cried. I prayed. I told her how much she was loved and what she represented for all of us. A few hours later, her sister arrived.
I didn’t have that magical moment where I was able to give birth to a baby and a mama all at once. I didn’t have that moment where I pushed one more time and out came a beautiful baby into her loving mother’s arms. At first I felt disappointed in myself, and I felt like I had let my couple down. Those feelings all changed the moment the baby’s mother arrived and I saw her face, and watched fear turn into relief. I watched her breathe her first breath as a mother. I saw the face of a woman who saw her baby for the very first time. In that very moment I was reborn. That’s when I truly understood what a gift it is to give.