How It Really Feels To Explore Surrogacy
“Now this is the story all about how, my life got flipped, turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how my surrogate is going to birth my heir” If you had asked me three years ago what my life would have been like, I assure you I would never have guessed I’d be where I am today. My husband and I had been married for two years (together since 2005) and were exploring the idea of expanding our family beyond the two of us. We were both in our early 30’s, had bought a house, were comfortable in our careers and really, it just seemed like the right time. I went off birth control and it took me a few months to get my period, but we tried that month and low and behold, we got pregnant! We were so happy, but things took a turn two months into the pregnancy when we found out there was no longer a heartbeat and we had miscarried. We were devastated. I instantly knew I wanted to have a D&C procedure to remove the fetus, but this ended up not working in my favour. I unfortunately had some complications from the D&C which then meant I needed surgery to correct what they could, but the chances of me getting pregnant again on my own were not looking good. And on top of this, I also had to have two leap procedures because of irregular cells found on my cervix which made my cervix very weak. If it’s not clear, the year and a half after we made the decision to try to expand our family was a whirlwind filled with many ups and downs, long waiting periods, multiple doctors’ appointments and so much heartache.
But it gets worse…
Right around the time we were given the green light to try to get pregnant again is when I found the lump in my breast while sleeping. It was confirmed in August 2017 by the mammogram and biopsy that I had triple negative breast cancer. If I thought the period in my life I had just gone through was tough, I knew it was going to get even tougher. Right before I began my active cancer treatment, I was given the option to do IVF. It was really a no-brainer for me given the cost was covered by the government in Canada. And so, with my oncologist’s approval, I did one cycle. The day the procedure to remove my eggs occurred was also the day I started chemo – Sept 8, 2017. I did eight rounds of chemo every two weeks from Sept to Dec 2017, had a mastectomy in Jan 2018 and did 25 rounds of radiation finishing in May 2018. During this time, I never lost sight of the fact that my husband and I wanted to have a child and so I started to look into our options. My oncologist told me that I would need to wait a minimum of 18 months before I could try to get pregnant on my own, but I also knew that with the complications I had experienced, carrying a child of my own was not likely. That’s when I began to look into surrogacy. I’ll be honest, my husband was not on board with this as an option in the beginning and I don’t blame him. It’s “weird” and “not normal”, not to mention, it’s expensive. But I see it as an amazing alternative way of having a baby and was therefore determined to show him this view. I met with a woman whose surrogate was just about to give birth and through her I learned a lot:
- You cannot compensate your surrogate in Canada. You can only reimburse them for any out-of-pocket expenses
- There are agencies that support you through the process including pairing you with a surrogate, finding you a lawyer, managing the expense reimbursement process (we pay into a trust, surrogate sends her receipts in, agency reimburses surrogate) and many more services which help make the process as seamless as possible
- The timeline to find a surrogate varies and depends on how “picky” you are. The biggest barrier is geography. Each province has its own surrogacy laws, so you need to be comfortable with them and also how far away from or close to your surrogate you want to be
- It can be emotionally challenging. You need to be comfortable with someone else holding your baby in their belly, you need to figure out what type of relationship you are going to have with the surrogate and you need to make sure you’re on the same page with the surrogate about major decisions you will need to make
- Lastly, it typically cost between $60K-$80K and can even be more if there are failed transfers or if the surrogate needs to go on bed rest. The estimated expense covers the cost of IVF, agency fees, legal fees and reimbursement to the surrogate for expenses (travel, lost wages while attending appointments, maternity clothing, etc.)
The financial aspect was one of the harder points to digest. We knew we either ‘invest’ and have a child through surrogacy or we likely don’t have a child of our own. The woman I met with was so positive about the whole process that it was clear that this was the route for my husband and I, and thankfully I was able to persuade him.
We decided that this ‘investment’ was for our future and one we just couldn’t pass up.
So, in January 2018 we began the process (yup, just after my mastectomy!). We connected with an agency, developed a profile and began to get potential surrogate profiles sent to us. Having never been through online dating, I can only imagine that this is what it feels like – you get a short profile on a person and you need to pick them to either date, or in this case, to hold your child. We were tempted at first by a few women, but we held out, and after just a few short weeks we got an email from the agency saying a surrogate had chosen us! We looked at her profile and were in shock – she was perfect. She lives in a small town in Saskatchewan, has three children, is married, has a normal BMI (body mass index between 20-24) and was in her late 20’s. We instantly accepted and spent the next two weeks getting to know her over the phone before officially selecting her to be our surrogate. We instantly became friends – all 4 of us. My husband and her husband are two peas in a pod and her and I get along great. We chat weekly as a group but we also text as needed. It’s crazy to think that a person can be so selfless and help out a couple in need, but she is doing that. She is amazing! Due to some prior commitments she wants to wait until the fall to get pregnant, and so we are in the stage of finalizing the contract with the lawyer and also getting our wills complete (a prerequisite). I am trying my best to stay as cool, calm and collected as possible through the whole thing and also realize that I’m so fortunate to be where I am. I have survived the year of cancer treatment and have a new perspective on life (cliché I know, but it’s true). I try not to sweat the small things, plan every last detail and rush things along like I might have in the past (I am definitely a Type A personality). I’m enjoying the journey and feel so fortunate to have made new amazing friends throughout the process. In fact, my husband and I just got back from a weekend in Saskatchewan visiting our surrogate’s family and getting to know them better. While it is going better than I could have even imagined, I do have some fears through the whole thing. I struggle that I am not following the “normal” path to becoming a mother and I am sad that I won’t be able to grow my child in my belly. It’s definitely been tough watching all my friends get pregnant and have children around me and I wish I was right there with them doing it.
But that’s not the way my life has turned out and so I’m making lemonade with my lemons!
For now, we have decided to only share the news with a few key people and not openly talk about it until the pregnancy is confirmed (hence why I’m not sharing my name on this post). We are trying to treat it like any normal pregnancy where one typically doesn’t share that they’re pregnant until after the magic three-month mark. And if all goes well, 2019 could be the year we welcome a little one into our family. Stay tuned…