I feel very blessed that pregnancy and childbirth were easy for me. With both of my children, I was fortunate enough to get pregnant the first month that we tried. Pregnancy was great for me; I felt good, and I loved my changing body. Childbirth was fast, beautiful, and empowering.
When I was pregnant with my second child, my son, I was asked by my midwife if this was my last pregnancy. When I told her yes, she smiled and said, “But you were made for this! Your body does it so well!” It was a comment that stuck with me. Two years later, the comment was still with me.
The thought of being a surrogate kept popping up in my life—a book I read, a dream I had, an online article—I couldn’t escape the idea. So I talked to my husband, did some research, and filled out the paperwork to pair with a company that matched potential surrogates with parents. And thus began my surrogacy journey.
The first step after making contact with the company was to fill out a lengthy application followed by my entire family meeting face-to-face with the owner. She stressed that “our entire family” would be pregnant, not just me, and that my husband and children needed to be sure they understood exactly what was involved in this process. Next was a medical workup and full psychological evaluation to show that I was healthy in both areas and capable, physically and mentally, of carrying out this pregnancy. As someone with a psychological background, I had to admit it was odd to be the “client” for several evaluations and assessments.
Once I was cleared, the next step was waiting to be matched up with a suitable family looking for a gestational carrier. That part actually happened fairly quickly, and soon I was having a phone interview with a couple who had been trying to have children for 15 years. 15 YEARS! That just blew me away. I could not begin to imagine the heartache this couple had suffered for so long: loss after loss, disappointment, and physical and emotional struggles that I had never had to endure. While we were talking, I had such a warm feeling that I just knew that this was the couple I was meant to help. It all clicked into place for me; I wasn’t just meant to be a gestational carrier. I was meant to carry THEIR baby. It was a real epiphany; this was meant to be a calling for me. I knew it in my heart and soul.
We met in person for the first time when the couple came to town to take my husband and I out to dinner to have both families decide yes or no to proceed with this relationship. I was already sure, but my husband, while supportive, still had some questions and hesitations. Those hesitations evaporated as soon as we met. They were a beautiful Nigerian couple—so lovely, so funny and smart and gracious—and their story touched both of us. It was a done deal.
They were fully supportive of how I like to do pregnancy and childbirth: natural, with midwives, and very little intervention. They were both excited to know that I trusted my body to flourish during this pregnancy and happy that I wanted an unmedicated birth. After that dinner, things really got rolling!
Pregnancy and childbirth is different for everyone. I am a birth doula and have attended many births and the number one rule is this: YOU DO YOU. However a woman chooses to give birth is up to her! My choices are not a judgement on anyone else’s birth plan.
Next up was fertility drugs for me. We had to sync my cycle with the egg donor’s cycle, so that when she produced eggs to be fertilized, I would be ready to have them implanted. That took about 4 months of shots: a big needle in my booty and smaller one in my tummy. These had to be administered by my very needle-phobic husband who almost passed out the first time!
Finally, the day of the embryo transfer was upon us. I was so nervous and excited! All of us were. The procedure itself was really simple and painless. The embryos were loaded into a thin tube and placed in the wall of my uterus. We watched the whole thing on camera and it was pretty surreal. Two embryos were transferred in the hopes of at least one staying attached to the uterine wall. We all agreed and chose to implant two because the embryos were “B” rated meaning they had a good chance of staying put, but not the BEST chance (“A” rated embryos). Because of this, we all had to sign paperwork saying that everyone was ok with the possibility of twins. My thought was that I was fine carrying twins if they were ok raising them! All of us prayed that both would stay; a two-for-one deal would be perfect for a couple who had waited so very long.
I was supposed to wait 14 days before going in to take a blood test to determine if I was pregnant. I waited 10 days and then got a home pregnancy test because I just couldn’t stand it any longer! It was positive! So when I went for the blood test and the technician told me that my hormone levels were through the roof, I knew it was twins. And I was right. When it was time for the first ultrasound, the couple was there with me. The doctor told us that he saw and heard two heartbeats and the mother literally fell to her knees crying. All of us, including the doctor, were in tears, hugging and shouting and feeling absolutely thrilled. It was amazing!
The pregnancy was ideal. I felt strong and healthy, put on weight steadily, and ate more than I thought possible. I was following a special diet for twins, eating tons of protein, and drinking SO.MUCH.WATER. At the 20 week checkup, we all went in for the big ultrasound to find out the sex of the babies. We were all taking bets on what they would be. The father was the only one who seemed sure. Since they had suffered so many losses, the couple had not told ANYONE that they were expecting. No one in their family even knew about the surrogacy because they were afraid to jinx it. But weeks before, the soon to be grandmother had a dream in which she saw the father walking with two small girls, holding their hands. She told him about this dream and he saw it as a premonition. He was convinced that the twins were girls. The ultrasound tech turned to us at that point and said, “Well, you are right. Two girls.” The father calmly nodded and said, “Yes. I know.” Talk about chills!! It was just one more sign to all of us that our paths had come together for this reason.
Our goal was to help the girls stay inside as long as possible and reach a good birth weight. Most full term pregnancies are 40+ weeks, but full term for twins is around 36 weeks. I carried this pregnancy to just shy of 38 weeks! I was still working at that point and only stopped because my midwife noticed that none of my shoes fit anymore; I was walking around in sneakers with no laces. She suggested that perhaps I should stop working and rest which was backed up by the fact that my blood pressure skyrocketed at that point. My body was done. My midwife and doctor sent me to the hospital to try and lower my blood pressure to no avail.
Despite my desire for low intervention, we had to induce labor. Fortunately, the girls were ready, because the induction kicked me right into labor. A short six hours later, two beautiful girls were born two minutes apart. I was able to deliver both babies vaginally without pain medication, even though Baby B was a breech baby. She was even born “in the caul” with her amniotic sac still intact until she came out. They were 6 lbs. and 7 lbs. respectively. My husband and the babies’ mother were there with me in the delivery room—witness to the whole process.
I will never be able to put into words how incredible it felt to see the mother hold her daughters for the first time. I couldn’t stop smiling. I had helped complete this family and I was (and still am) so very grateful that they chose me to give them this gift.
“Mother” is a title not to be taken lightly, and it is one that can be defined in a myriad of ways. Though she was unable to carry them herself, the mother I helped was undoubtedly a mother from the moment she undertook this journey. She sacrificed so much to have these girls, and through it all, she knew deep in her heart that she would hold her own children someday. Her strength—her dedication will always be an inspiration to me.
When people hear this story, I often get told that I was a such a blessing for this family. My response is that I, and my family, were just as blessed by this experience. For me as a mother to be trusted enough to help another mother realize her dream of having a family this way…well, that is a unique blessing and an honor. May we, as mothers, always do our best to love and support one another.