What Surrogacy Means to Me
After a long night of labor and a herculean push I became a mother. The joy that I felt after they placed my child on my chest is something not adequately defined by the human language. Experiencing that four times in my life is simply miraculous but being able to help another woman experience that is priceless. Surrogacy allowed me the opportunity to carry someone else’s child to help them complete their family. I don’t know if there is any better gift anyone could ever give someone.
The moment I saw the profile and photos I knew they were the ones, so in the middle of a global pandemic we are matched. The Hoffman’s are a beautiful family from Brooklyn suffering from secondary infertility. They were able to conceive their first child naturally but were struggling to conceive a sibling. Despite being in the middle of COVID, things moved rather quickly. We matched in early April, had contracts done in May, and the transfer scheduled for June.
The journey had many highs and lows and at times I'll be honest, I felt like I was on a rollercoaster of emotions.
My first blood test after the June transfer was positive but at week six my beta levels dropped, and the pregnancy was no longer viable. I was utterly devastated for the family and the child that would never make it earth side. The family only had one more embryo left and if that didn’t work, the family would need to decide if the mother would have to go through another round of egg retrievals or if they’d consider going with an egg donor. Thankfully the transfer in September was successful and neither of those options had to be explored. It’s hard to explain the feelings you go through when you miscarry someone else’s child. Ever since I can remember I’ve loved helping others and I think that is why surrogacy just seemed like such a natural fit for me. When that transfer didn’t work, I felt like an absolute failure even though I know it’s nothing I did. It weighed very heavy on my heart and I felt like I let The Hoffman’s down and all I wanted to do was help, it was heartbreaking.
During the pregnancy I kept a weekly journal that I gave to The Hoffman’s after their son arrived. I documented all the things I was feeling, what I was craving, what I couldn’t stand, and I’d always include pictures of my belly or facetimes during our MFM visits.
Then on Mother’s Day morning my water broke at 36 weeks and 3 days. I called The Hoffman’s who were not scheduled to come to town until our scheduled induction on May 27th, and let them know that my water had broken, and they’d need to head to Pennsylvania. Then, I headed to the hospital, not feeling any contractions, and sporting an adult diaper to catch the water that was still trickling and at moments, gushing out of me.
The Hoffman's arrived at the hospital and it was hugs all around. I felt such a huge relief once they were there, I didn't want them to miss the birth of their child. The labor was long. I was put on Pitocin because I wasn't in active labor and things really didn't start to progress until after midnight.
A little after 2am the doctor came in to check me and I was almost 10cm. I had a very small piece of cervix left that they felt would move if I tried pushing. They started breaking down the bed and everyone took their positions. I pulled my legs in tight and pushed. I hear the mother say look at all his hair and I think how is he already down that far? Three more pushes and he is thrown onto my belly screaming. He was crying so much which was such a relief. I grabbed the mother’s arm and looked at her, tears filled our eyes, and that feeling I couldn’t find the words for hit me a thousand times over as the baby she’d been praying about for years was finally placed onto her chest. I will never forget looking over at her in that moment and seeing tears of pure joy just rolling down her face. It was one of the most incredible moments I’ve ever been a part of next to delivering my own children.
I delivered the placenta and then the bleeding began. The doctor’s spent the next 2 hours compressing my fundus and pulling huge clots out of my uterus. Every time the doctor would tell me she was going to pull more clots out I cringed, I had never felt a pain like that before. Then I started to get very cold, like Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Titanic, cold. I was shivering so much that my teeth were chattering. I remember saying “I’m so cold” over and over but nothing they did was helping me warm up. My whole body was shivering and at this point I went into hemorrhagic shock from the blood loss. My heart rate was up to 153, my blood pressure dropped, and my oxygen levels were 67% (normal is >92%). I had lost 2 liters of blood. I don’t remember a lot because I was in and out of consciousness during this time, but I will never forget how cold I felt. I kept hearing everyone calling my name and at one point I remember opening my eyes and seeing my sister, Jenn, leaning over me crying and it was in that moment I thought I may not make it home. I may never see my husband or kids again. I tried to tell them to make sure my family knows I love them, but I didn’t have the strength to speak, so I asked God to let me see my family again.
I was pumped full of fluids, hooked up to oxygen, given a blood transfusion, a fresh frozen plasma transfusion, antibiotics for my fever, administered tranexamic for clotting, and a Bakri balloon with 250cc of fluid with tubing to assist in clotting and to monitor continued blood loss was inserted into my uterus. Around 4:30am, I started to regain color and become more coherent. During this entire time The Hoffman’s never left my side. In a moment when they were trying to bond with their baby, they watched the woman who brought him here fight for her life. I can never imagine how hard that was for them, but their support and love through that means so much to me and the fact that they stayed in that delivery room until after 5am to ensure I was safe speaks volumes to the amazing character and people that they are. I was not just their surrogate; I was part of their family and they were not going to leave that room until they knew I was going to be okay.
I hope you can see from my experience how amazing surrogacy is. Even though I didn't have the picture-perfect delivery that I envisioned I did what I was tasked to do; I brought The Hoffman's baby into this world safe and healthy.
Surrogacy is so many things, it’s love; loving others more than yourself and being willing to sacrifice to help a family grow. Surrogacy is trust; trusting a complete stranger enough to let her carry your baby and in my case their last chance at a baby. Surrogacy is humbling; to be chosen by complete strangers and given the opportunity to carry their child for them is really a gift in itself. The whole time this family thinks you’re giving them the greatest gift, when in reality they are giving you an amazing gift, the opportunity to help. Surrogacy is priceless; there is nothing on earth that can ever replicate the feelings that you feel when you deliver a baby for someone else and you see them meet their child for the first time. Surrogacy is not just about growing a family, it’s about growing families, because if you are matched with the right people it’s not just a business transaction; you become a family!