You never know what someone is going through. Isn’t that the truth?
Sometimes it’s the kindest, most beautiful positive personality in the room who is holding a struggle or a secret that makes every day just a little harder.
When I met Nicole & Zach, I assumed they had the perfect life. Both stunning. Both smart. Both kind. They just don’t make good people like this anymore. But a few months after I had my daughter, when I was at a work function with my coworker Zach, and his wife, Nichole, my oversharing personality and poking of questions that I tend to do, led them to share with me their struggles with creating a family.
Nicole couldn’t give birth. Her body is missing a pivotal piece to that puzzle. As a woman, our one true flex on a man is that we’re able to bear his children. Not that we must – I’m all about women’s right to choose their family plan, and I do think more could be done to empower that in our society. However, as I watch my now 4-year-old play mommies and daddies, almost every day, it seems engrained in us from a young age, that we SHOULD be able to be a mommy if we want to, because we can, until one day maybe you’re told you can’t.
And how unfair is that? Becoming a mother changed me. It saved me in ways I never knew it could. It fixed parts of me that I didn’t know were broken. How unfair that my beautiful seemingly perfect new friend couldn’t experience what I experienced with the same closeness that I did? That just didn’t sit well with me.
In that moment, true to form, I offered myself up as a surrogate seemingly in joking banter, but I would come to find that I wasn’t joking. They weren’t joking. We realized we could make this happen for them – maybe. Hopefully. So, the journey started.
It was December 2018 when that conversation happened. No one prepares you for the long road ahead of any process, but certainly not surrogacy. I don’t think it’s this long for everyone, but typically, if something isn’t working you will likely get rematched. Not us. I am stubborn as hell and not a quitter, and they are just as determined as well. Paperwork. Contracts. Health screenings. Counseling. Lawyers. Doctor visits after doctor visit, just to even start the process. And then, to get my body prepared for a transfer, we could have never anticipated the length of that process, or the fact that sometimes, oftentimes, it simply isn’t going to work.
Needle, patch, pill, any combination of any medication – it was a true science experiment. Canceled transfer after canceled transfer because my uterine lining just wasn’t showing up to work everyday. Our fertility doctor almost reserved that I was just simply not a “good surrogate candidate”, but I was not about to take that answer. After all, I had my daughter perfectly normally just a couple years prior. And then one day, I was suggested to undergo a uterine biopsy, where a small tissue sample would be taken from my uterus to determine optimal transfer timeline – twice. That was almost as uncomfortable of a procedure as giving birth, but we press on.
174 hours after ovulation. That was my optimal window. In May of 2021, 174 hours after ovulating, it was go-time. We transferred him.
We were elated. 5 or so canceled rounds prior to this point, it had to work. And then I was pregnant! And then, 5 days later, I wasn’t. Another thing no one tells surrogates is the heartbreak that ensues when a transfer fails. It’s a responsibility of my body to keep this embryo safe, and I failed it. I failed them. They also don’t tell you how pivotal it is to be seeking consistent therapy throughout this process. If you are planning to be a surrogate and leave this blog with one message – start therapy at the beginning of your process. You may not need it, but if you do, you REALLY do. We cried, we were all broken. We felt defeated. But if there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I’m never going to give up on anyone. We decided to try again. Meaning, I decided. They would have let me quit years ago, but there was no way I was giving up on them. Not yet.
Another thing that no one tells surrogates is that stress levels really matter for successful IVF or IUI protocol. 2020-2021 were slightly stressful situations for everyone, I need not remind you. For me, I lost my job. My living situation changed. My children couldn’t be at school. Stress doesn’t even begin to describe what I was going through. But with the support of Zach and Nicole, and other general positive developments in my life, as 2021 came to a close, the stress was subsiding. After one more excruciatingly frustrating canceled transfer, we would try ONE more time.
And on January 13, 2022, we transferred her. To say it felt like I carried the weight of the world, their world, is an understatement. However, I knew if we could just get past this part, confirming and keeping the pregnancy, my body knew how to do the rest. And the day after the transfer, as I put my makeup on, my body told me I was pregnant, I just knew. Nicole was reserved, but I knew. Day after day, pregnancy test after pregnancy test, blood draw after blood draw, the levels rose. Rising progesterone levels are what you want – and rise they did. She was there, for me to grow and protect for 9 months.
I have always loved being pregnant. AlthoughI have a sarcastic humor that may make you think otherwise, I was so elated to be pregnant, even more so for Zach & Nicole. Every day was equally filled with nervousness, anticipation, trepidation, and excitement. It was like every day we grappled with believing it was true but protecting our hearts if it became untrue. I knew that Zach and Nicole were raw and broken from our previous loss, So I trusted my body, and assured them every day that everything was perfect. And it was. I wanted them to feel kicks, learn about my weird cravings, go to appointments, whatever they wanted to do. Doing the whole process together was beautiful and felt so right. I hope that more surrogates and IPs can find ways to experience the process together. Not every day of pregnancy is fun, but every day is mind-blowing, and I wanted them to feel like it was happening to them, not to me. And then, 39 weeks and 2 days later, after lots of tears, laughter, joy, nerves, and crispy chicken wraps from Red Robin, she came. Small but mighty, 6 lbs 2 oz, 5 hours of labor, on September 26, 2022, she was here. She was theirs.
Surrogacy is not something I ever expected for my life. All I knew was that I wanted to make a difference, an impact, on someone one day. I never expected it would come in the form of a 3 yearlong battle with my body, my mind, my patience, but it was all worth it. As I watched Nicole and Zach clutch their daughter in their arms that Monday morning, all I could feel was gratitude for a beautiful journey that would change the course of the rest of my life. Care for others. Help others. If you can, give. You never know what someone may be going through, and maybe, just maybe, you can help.