What I Learned As a Gestational Surrogate
By Carey Flamer Powell
In October of this year, I gave birth to someone else’s child. He was not biologically related to me in any way, but he grew inside of me for 9 months. His mothers are two wonderful women I am now proud to call part of my chosen family. Over the course of almost two years, we experienced three egg retrievals, two embryo transfers, countless medications and the loss of a twin. Through this wild and crazy ride called surrogacy, I learned some very valuable lessons I’d like to share with you:
1) Surrogates are Bad Asses
Being a surrogate isn’t just about having a working uterus. Before you can become a surrogate, you and your spouse must pass rigorous medical and psychological screening, as well as comprehensive background checks. If you don’t want someone poking and prodding you and going through your life with a fine-toothed comb, don’t apply to be a surrogate. Once you do become a surrogate, there are countless appointments, mood swing-inducing medications and very large injections (more on that in a minute). You will sacrifice time with your own family while helping to create someone else’s. There will be times you will wonder why you ever wanted to be a surrogate in the first place.
2) People Can Be Jerks
Any surrogate will tell you that answering questions about surrogacy comes with the territory. People are naturally curious and most people genuinely want to understand surrogacy. I don’t mind answering those kinds of questions and in fact, I enjoy it. Unfortunately, what many surrogates experience is negativity from friends, family members or even total strangers who don’t understand or agree with surrogacy (or what they think surrogacy is). I’m sure there were people who thought I was a surrogate “for the money”, even though the truth is that I could’ve made more per hour working fast food. Many people asked me how I could possibly “give up” the baby once he was born, which was strange to me because in reality, I was just giving him BACK to his parents. In my experience, the two best qualities of a great surrogate are a big heart and a very thick skin.
3) Parents via Surrogacy are Bad Assess Too
Once the decision to use a surrogate is reached, you can bet that the individual or couple has been through hell and back trying to have a child. Whether they are gay, infertile, cancer survivors, or otherwise unable to carry a pregnancy, nobody arrives at surrogacy as their first path to parenthood. Many of those who have a child through surrogacy do so after years of struggle and many thousands of dollars invested. It has been said that gay parents are some of the best parents, because they truly have to plan to become parents. The same can definitely be said for parents via surrogacy. They are inviting another person into their lives and trusting her with the life of their child, with no guarantee of a healthy baby at the end. Becoming a parent via surrogacy is not for the faint of heart.
4) Surrogacy Injections and Medications are No Joke
My first self-injection of progesterone took me over an hour to administer. I was in a hotel room 2,000 miles from home, the night before the embryo transfer that would hopefully result in me getting pregnancy with someone else’s baby. The medication in the syringe was progesterone (a hormone required to maintain an early surrogate pregnancy), suspended in sesame oil and delivered through a needle as big as my hand. Yes, AS BIG AS MY HAND. I stood in the mirror, willing myself to insert the needle into my hip, but I was shaking and sweaty and ready to pass out. After what seemed like days, I finally got up the nerve and injected the thick liquid with my eyes closed. I won’t lie, it hurt going in. It hurt even worse a few days later, when the hard lumps from the sesame oil formed in my hip muscle and had to be massaged out with a heating pad. And it hurt REALLY bad as those lumps accumulated on both sides of my hips over the course of 10 weeks of daily progesterone injections that were required to keep that precious baby growing inside of me. But I did it, and thousands of surrogates do it every day.
5) It’s More Worth It Than You Can Imagine
I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on a gorgeous afternoon via C-section. One of his mothers held my hand in the operating room as he was born. Several members of his extended family waiting anxiously in the recovery room to celebrate the arrival of this child, who had been hoped and prayed for by so many for so long. Besides the birth of my own daughter, being part of his birth was the most incredible moment of my life. The experience of being a surrogate impacted me so intensely that I started my own surrogacy agency and now spend my days helping others build their families through surrogacy. I believe that surrogacy has made me a better parent, partner and person. Surrogacy has also shown me how incredible it can be when the lives of perfect strangers collide and result in a miracle. For me, that’s been the greatest lesson of them all.
Carey Flamer-Powell is a former gestational surrogate and founder of All Families Surrogacy, LLC in Portland, Oregon. http://www.allfamiliessurrogacy.com
Photo Credit: Megan- Baby Shoes