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** Disclaimer – For privacy and confidentiality reasons, no details will be given regarding the intended parents in this blog. Rest assured, they are no less deserving of a child than I am. They are a beautiful, loving couple who want nothing more than to have a baby wake them up at night, call them “Mama” and “Dada”, run to them and hug them when they walk through the door…. They just have to travel a different route to get there. But, together, we will get there! **
I saw a movie years and years ago about gestational surrogacy. As with most movies, it wouldn’t be any good if it wasn’t full of drama (well, according to producers anyway. After all, even “reality tv” has added drama. Life is typically, well, boring). The movie didn’t end well. But, it planted a little seed in my heart and mind. I was probably 10 or 12 (I just looked it up. I was 10.) with no idea of what it would all entail or even if it would be possible for me, but it intrigued me. The little seed stayed a seed for many, many years. I wanted my own children first and I wanted to be 100% sure I was done having my own children before I even really looked into how all of it worked.
After Isaac (my youngest child of four) was born, 2 friends embarked on gestational surrogate journeys around the same time. That little tiny seed began to grow. I followed their stories on Facebook and fell in love with the love I felt through their words for the families they were helping. What an amazing gift to be able to give someone? My biggest fear in life was to not be able to have children. These deserving people (couples, singles,…. It doesn’t matter) were living my nightmare and I felt so, so much empathy for them that it nearly broke my heart just thinking about it. I love being pregnant, I have had relatively easy pregnancies, I’ve carried 4 babies to full term with only very minor complications, I’ve never had a miscarriage,… The question wasn’t could I help; the question was how could I NOT help. So, I began to research.
The gestational Surrogate Process
There are two routes one can go with becoming a gestational surrogate – independent or through an agency. There are online resources with classified ads that make going independent easier than you might think, however, because I really had no idea where to start, I decided to go with an agency. I contacted a few, but one in Atlanta appealed to me the most – primarily because it was relatively close.
The process is involved, but relatively simple. You fill out a detailed questionnaire and wait for a conditional approval. Once you have a conditional approval (usually happens very quickly), you must gather your medical records from prior pregnancies and get OB clearance to be pregnant again. Then you just wait to be matched with someone who the agency thinks will “mesh well” with you (based on that 1 Million question form you filled out!). This whole process can vary in time/length depending on how quickly you get together the paperwork. I had motivation to move quickly because the agent I was working with had a couple in mind for me almost immediately.
Once you get the surrogate paperwork submitted, you wait to be “matched” with a person or couple who the agency thinks is well suited to you. You talk on the phone and then meet up to make sure you are on the same page for everything. Once you are formally “matched”, you will need a medical screening to make sure your reproductive system looks good and a psychological evaluation to make sure you aren’t any crazier than anyone else (to make sure you won’t run off with the baby, to make sure you are mentally stable enough to handle handing over the baby and still deal with the hormone fluctuations, to make sure you are not a homicidal maniac, you get the picture….). The worst part of it, for me, was getting 8 vials of blood drawn. Apparently I turned green, but all I remember is thinking my face was about to meet the pavement and sweating profusely. Every other test was a walk in the park in comparison to that.
Nothing “Natural” About IVF
Gestational Surrogacy is done through Invitro Fertilization. An egg (in this case, a donor) is mixed with sperm in a Petri dish and then (again, in this case) frozen once the cells reach the “blast” stage (where they divide into thousands instead of 6 or so cells. This happens around day 5.). The embryos are then transferred into the surrogate’s uterus at a specific point in the cycle. Some doctors may use natural cycles, but it has a MUCH lower success rate when you do it “the natural way”, so despite my reservations with putting so much synthetic “stuff” into my body, I really had no other choice.
My cycles was medically stopped with Lupron, I was given estrogen patches (These were GREAT fun when I first started them! I had wild mood swings, little things set me off, I cried easily,….) to thicken my lining since I was no longer ovulating and then I started the progesterone shots. I, thankfully, had very few side effects. I had no physical side effects at all (some people have itching, weight gain,…). I also had to take antibiotics, steroids and baby aspirin (the estrogen therapy can occasionally lead to blood clots and aspirin is a low risk blood thinner). It’s A LOT to put into your body. Especially for someone who rarely takes anything stronger than a cup of coffee for a headache! 😉 All for a good cause, right? I had to tell myself this a LOT (especially when the big needle of progesterone was going into my bum!).
I just went for the transfer at the beginning of May. It was only mildly uncomfortable (and mostly because I had to have a full bladder and an ultrasound wand was pushed against said full bladder over and over for the 15 minutes or so the procedure took). It was actually less uncomfortable than a pap smear because there was no scraping of tissue (LOVELY!) involved.
At this point, I can’t tell you if it worked. I have no idea yet. It’s only been a few days as of the day I am writing this. And, the progesterone I’ve been on for over a week now makes me feel bloated and a bit pregnant anyway. So, if I read into my “symptoms”, it could very well just be a result of the hormones I am on and nothing to do with a baby or 2 (yes, they transferred 2 embryos) living in my uterus.
I hope and pray every day that it DID work. They (the intended parents) deserve for SOMETHING to be easy. I am thinking positively right now. I’ve never lost a pregnancy before. Why would this be any different? But, when Science meets the constraints of nature, nothing is certain. I hope and pray that I’ll be updating that it DID, in fact, work in a few weeks! Regardless, I am in this for the long haul and we WILL make it happen.
Typically, with a healthy gestational surrogate who has a proven record of fertility (and I’d say 4 kids with 0 miscarriages equals a proven records of fertility), it works by the 2nd cycle. I hope we don’t have to go there, but if we do, I’ll be there physically, and emotionally, for my intended parents. And, at the risk of being cheesy, victory will be ours!