By: Kerrie Olejarz
February 20, 2008 is a date that changed our lives. It was this day that we lost our little girl at 20 weeks gestation. The devastation was immense and the feel of finality was overwhelming.
Over ten years had passed since our last loss at 32 weeks, a boy, whom we buried at a local Presbyterian cemetery. The analysis from the doctors at the Special Pregnancy Unit came a few days before the 20th. As a result of my inability to produce the protein necessary to support its growth, the placenta was not functioning properly.
Hearing this made it so painful and so final. That was the end of my optimism. The future looked very dark, knowing that my body was not capable to support a pregnancy, ever. There was nothing that could be done to fix this, nothing synthetic to substitute, no help; we were just numb. Knowing this sent me into weeks of uncontrollable sobbing. I was angry with myself for not being able to control my tears; the conscious part of my brain was telling me how ridiculous this was, yet the rest of me became so vulnerable and weak.
During this time, I also received news that the company I worked for was closing down my division and my last day would be some time in July. My now husband unfortunately had to return to work and I was left sobbing the days away until I finally decided to go back to work for the last few weeks and get some normality back. There is nothing like returning to work after this devastation! Some people were slinking around trying to avoid me, and others came over and gave me a big hug (but no words) in an effort to acknowledge what had happened. Normal was far from normal, but I am strong and forced everyone into a quick chat about the impending job loss. I know one of my strengths is helping others feel comfortable, so this was me –taking control of the situation. The second day back at work was normal; my tragedy was forgotten and everyone wallowed in self pity about losing their employment and having to look for new opportunities. I had been successful in making everyone feel comfortable and self absorbed!
Within a few weeks, I had contacted Canada’s leading expert in surrogacy. I can get pregnant in a snap but cannot carry, so working with a surrogate seemed to be the next best option. Working on solving the problem is what I do. I rarely give up on problems and am persistent in finding solutions for the tough ones. “So, good, I have a solution” I thought. Then the package arrived about surrogacy in Canada and within ten minutes of opening it we were back to ground zero. Immediately we did the cost analysis. Yikes, this is not doable; this is the cost of buying a small condo in the suburbs!! So we put the package back in the envelope and filed it away, out of sight out of mind.
I was still determined to work with a surrogate but wondered how we could ever afford it without taking out a second mortgage. Thanks to the internet, I was able to start my research. I spent the bulk of my day at work simultaneously job hunting and researching surrogacy. I continued to come across stories of Dr. Patel in Anand, India, not aware that she had recently outted India and its surrogacy boom on Oprah. Ugh, I cannot stand Oprah and her self righteous blabber. Overlooking my disdain for Oprah, I dug deeper into Dr. Patel’s story and opened up a can of optimism. I continued to find articles on surrogacy in India and the constant in all of them was the financial gain for these women who carry international babies. The other interesting thing I found in my research was that this was an affordable option for Westerners. I thought about this long and hard. I was at first over the moon with excitement that we may have an option here, and then the concern set in. Is this legitimate? Are the surrogates treated fairly? Are the surrogates of poor health, slum dwellers or run and owned by the mafia?
You can imagine that my excitement about this opportunity quickly went away as I started to wonder if this was indeed an option for us that would allow us to sleep at night. I needed to find out more. I needed to be sure that this was ethically sound, morally stable, and ultimately not a scam for our hard earned money.
Fast-forward a few weeks. We were driving down Ford Drive, a two-lane country road between Mississauga and Oakville. We had our Tim Horton’s coffee (a staple here in Canada) and I needed to tell Mark about our possible next option. It is not like me to keep a secret but this was so huge and I wanted to be sure before I said anything to him so I first took a few weeks of reading and research. I sipped my coffee and casually told him thad I’d found an option – an exciting opportunity for us to try and have a baby…in INDIA. Gulp. He turned to me and said “Let’s do it!” I started rambling on at the speed of light about everything I knew so far and he listened and asked questions and I could see a glimmer of hope in him. He was as excited as I was. We had an option and this was going to be so easy!!! We can get pregnant no problem so this option was the best, and to do it out of country made the story a little bit more enticing. We talked non-stop about how we would have a baby next year and the dreaming started.
I committed to Mark that I would start contacting clinics in India that day. Let the emails begin!! When we got home, I showed him a few websites for clinics and then he got nervous. He was scared to death that this was a scam. We needed to work through all of this, the emotional fear and the optimism. Over the next few weeks we contacted, and heard back from, many clinics. Most were very professional and forthcoming with information. Only one (out of ten) seemed sketchy, with an email that read, “Send me twenty thousand dollars today and I am going to Mumbai to get you surrogate soon.” Hmm, it is not often that we give all the money upfront. When we work with contractors, they get a deposit and we pay them as the project progresses. Most of the clinics had a pay-by-progress plan in place and to us this felt fairly transparent. One appealing detail of working with India is that English, our mother tongue, is also their national language for business, so communication was going to be easy.
After a few weeks of communications back and forth with various clinics in India, we decided on one. We were thrilled to have locked down the first of many choices and get rolling…