The road to surrogacy (by Stephanie Church)

Sometimes we find ourselves in a place in life where we know we belong. A place we feel proud to be a part of, somewhere that seems to be part of the plan. I can’t say I would’ve ever expected or dreamed I would be here 10 years ago when I was just trying to conceive my first son. Or even five years ago after I had my two sons. Certainly not 18 years ago when Libby and I met at Umass Amherst.

My friendship with Libby is one of the most lasting friendships I have had in my life. Although we have been at very different places at different times in our adulthood, our friendship has been a constant in both our lives. There were times in our early twenties when we talked every single day, visited each other monthly, and shared our funny young adult triumphs and tribulations. There were times later where the life of a busy mom and the life of a young single woman made it difficult to have the same sort of connection. But through it all, we remained true friends. Really, what brought us back together to be extremely close again was the fact that Libby chose to confide in me and me only when she and Jeff were in the ‘pre-contemplation’ stages of parenthood. Jeff and Libby are a wonderful couple who appreciate each other. They enjoy each other, share interests and experiences with happiness. After marriage they were both anxious looking forward to parenthood, but also wanted to enjoy each other. Of course their plan was perfect and I supported Libby telling her- ‘you should wait until after you travel, enjoy your time together because once baby comes everything changes’.

Once they decided to really start trying for a pregnancy, Libby asked me lots and lots of questions every time we spoke. The first few months of disappointment seems completely normal to me. As women, we all fear that something may prohibit us from having a child- the one thing many of us know for sure we want. I would light-heartedly support Libby on the very day each month that she knew for sure it wasn’t her month.

Unfortunately, the roller coaster of disappointment became too long and painful for Libby and Jeff. Libby found herself trying things she never thought she would try, consuming herself in her fertility, and her many options. It was very hard to see a friend go through these struggles, knowing that she would be a wonderful loving mother. Her losses were terrible, painful to be a part of. I encouraged her to share her wonderful news of pregnancy with her family on Christmas, only to receive the call of loss a few days later. Luckily, Libby has a wonderfully supportive family, and she needed their support more than ever.

I saw Libby and Jeff try to move on, try to make new decisions. They are so fortunate to have each other, make decisions together, looking ahead instead of behind. Of course it was devastating to hear that her IVF was unsuccessful but she also had some strange swelling. I thought maybe it was the hormones, but luckily she sought medical attention.

I can’t imagine the pain of knowing immediately that her health was in jeopardy and needed to be addressed immediately. That news put a halt on her well planned out future. Shortly after hearing that news, she confided in me yet again ‘I know you are going to think I am crazy but I am going to talk to Jeff tonight about using a surrogate. I know it could take up to a year, so I want to be prepared’. Immediately I said I had thought about being a surrogate in the past- but why?

My pregnancies were wonderful times in my life. I loved watching my body change, I had what most would call easy pregnancies. Of course the last few weeks were uncomfortable, but still wonderful. My births with both boys were great. Difficult of course, but it seemed my body easily adapted to the task at hand. Now I am immediately getting excited about the prospect of being pregnant again, because Nathan and I have already decided our family is complete. I am excited about the idea of carrying my friend’s baby- the excitement on both sides.

Our discussions over the next few weeks were exciting and complicated. Calling doctors, figuring out the details of where and when. But everything happened incredibly quickly. Doctors appointments, hormones, the transfer in NYC, the wonderful news 10 days later.

A co-worked asked me- does this pregnancy feel different to you than your own? My immediate answer was yes— and I was surprised by my answer. Very different- in this pregnancy I knew A LOT. In my own pregnancies, my first midwife appointment wasn’t until 10 weeks. By that time I had ultrasounds, a lot of labwork, and a lot of nervous days. Carrying baby G is exciting, but nerve-racking. Every feeling in my body since the transfer has been obvious- leaving me often hoping it is okay, it is normal, although my heart knows it is. The biggest stress is thinking of how much I only want to be part of their joy, never part of their loss.

I am now 15 weeks pregnant, and it is obvious to all who know me. I have gotten ‘compliments’ of how I look great with my chubby cheeks :). I have gotten many kind compliments from people once they know that I am a surrogate for my best friend, but I often respond- she deserves it. As I was laying at NYU in a reclined position after the transfer, I watched Jeff holding the rattle Libby brought back from India. He said ‘I can’t believe this is going to be our babies first toy’. I immediately felt the grief that was masked by this joy and anticipation. Unfair cannot begin to explain how we came together and got to this point. But yet Libby and Jeff look ahead with acceptance in their hearts, joy, gratitude, and excitement. I am honored to be part of this journey.