Q: Tell us about yourself!
A: I became a mom at 21 and basically my son and I “grew up” together. I was divorced by 25 and a single mom to a 4 year old and pregnant with my daughter. Not the way I planned it but I was determined to parent my children to the best of my ability. It wasn’t easy but I learned a lot about myself during that time which I wouldn’t trade for the world. I met my current husband on a television show called Love Connection and honestly wasn’t looking for a man but my friend asked if I would go to the audition with her and I was chosen for the show. Go figure. We have been married for 29 years and we had Kenedi, the other half of Stop.Sit.Surrogate, together. I had gotten my BS degree in business administration but knew my calling was something else. I did my third surrogacy journey to obtain funds to attend nursing school and became a nurse in 2007. That decision to change careers CHANGED my life and my family’s life.
Q: You were a surrogate before it was really a “thing”! What inspired you to become a surrogate?
A: I had two reasons for wanting to become a surrogate: the first was that I was adopted as a baby by my “parents.” I was the product of an affair between my birth mother and a married police detective. She was unwed, Catholic and in 1965 you were sent away to have your baby and give it up for adoption. My adoptive parents (MY PARENTS) were awesome and truly I lucked out with the decision that was made by my birth mother to allow me to be adopted. 32 years later my birth mother found me and I was so very fortunate to have a relationship with her for 17 years after that until her demise from colon cancer. I did not look like my adoptive parents and was always questioned about it. I had such a longing to know where I came from, who I looked like, etc. Being a surrogate was a way for me to allow IPs who could not have a child on their own experience a biological relationship to their child. My birth mother finding me was the missing puzzle piece I never knew was missing. I wanted to be able to help others have that closure. The other reason I really wanted to become a surrogate was that while our family was complete I did not feel I was done being pregnant. Pregnancy was enjoyable for me & to be able to help create a family was something I longed to be a part of. It’s a priceless moment and such a natural high to be able to see parents meet their child/children for the first time and know that you were apart of that miracle. A super power not many are fortunate enough to experience. I will never tire of hearing journeys that assisted in the creation of a new family via surrogacy.
Q: What do you feel has been the biggest change in the surrogacy world since your FIRST journey to now?
A: The biggest change in the surrogate world since I began my journey in surrogacy in 2000 is the advances made in embryos to only one embryo being implanted and resulting in viable pregnancies. During my 3 journeys, embryos were graded A, B, C, D and it was really up to the IPs and the surrogate to agree on how many embryos to transfer. All of my journeys had multiple embryos transferred. With the triplet surrogacy, 4 embryos were transferred and I remember clearly that the fertility doctor gave us a 15% chance of getting pregnant. Not something you really want to hear after multiple weeks of shots and all the anxious moments leading up to transfer. Give me a challenge and I am going to exceed expectations. I know it had nothing to do with me per say but I and those 3 embryos that decided to stick and hold on for 32 weeks were in a pact to get them to their parents. I think the other difference is the protocols after transfer. I had to have 3 days of bedrest – strict bedrest (only up to use the restroom) after each transfer in a hotel that was paid for by the IPs. The IPs stayed in the same hotel as I in the first and second surrogacy journey. The third journey the IPs lived in the area of the transfer and stayed at their own home.
Q: You carried triplets 20 years ago as a surrogate! Do you still have a relationship with them and their parents?
A: I carried the triplets (2 boys, 1 girl) and delivered them in August of 2002 at a little over 32 weeks. They just turned 20 and one of their dads (the one that they are biologically related to) flew me to Florida for a long weekend to surprise them for their 20th birthday celebration. They stayed in the NICU for 5 weeks to gain weight and learn how to suck but other than that they were in great condition. Their parents made sure I had hospital bands for each child to allow me into the NICU and step down NICU for the duration of their stay at the hospital. I was also able to call and get phone updates on them as often as I wanted. Who does that? These incredible wonderful IPS, thats who. They knew the story of their coming to be and at a pretty young age their perception of me was “their California mom” and their parents embraced that, as did I. I am now referred to by them as Ellen, their surrogate birth mom. Honestly, I am so very grateful for the journey we had and continue to have and feel so honored to have been a part of their story.
Q: You and your daughter (who is also a surrogate) started a podcast to spread awareness about surrogacy (AMAZING!) - What is something you want everyone to know about surrogacy?
A: What I would like everyone to know about surrogacy is that it is a wonderful avenue/process for people to come together to help create a family for those who are unable to have a baby the conventional way. Of course, surrogates receive compensation for their assistance but 9 out of 10 times it’s not about the money. It runs way deeper than that and if someone cannot see or choose not to see that – they should keep their opinions to themselves and not judge others for doing what they are called to do. The reason my daughter and I began our podcast, Stop.Sit.Surrogate is to keep the conversation going, to allow others to use the platform to share their story to maybe help someone else. It’s a conversation, a safe place to share and not to be judged.