People sometimes wonder why others turn to gestational surrogacy as a way of building a family. I am happy to add my two cents and expertise to this important topic because I work daily with Intended Parents and Gestational Surrogates. These are lovely, loving people. Here’s why gestational surrogacy is a blessing and here to stay.
For heterosexual Intended Parents, meaning people who wish to be first-time parents or add to their family, there is a long list of medical problems that can lead people to surrogacy including:
- Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome (MRKH), a congenital condition that results in a woman’s uterus and vagina being absent or underdeveloped
- Cancer survivor, which can restrict use of hormones or have resulted in the removal of ovaries or the uterus
- Multiple miscarriages
- Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or other mental health condition that, if untreated, could be dangerous during pregnancy
- Blood clotting disorders
- Unexplained infertility
- Previous birth trauma (hemorrhage, uterine rupture)
- Too many C-sections
- Heart complications
- History of premature delivery, sometimes resulting in the death of a baby
Gay Intended Parents want to be parents, too. They want to be represented genetically. Just like straight Intended Parents.
Surrogates, also called gestational carriers, want to meet the need. And the need is growing day by day. They are not “surrogate mothers.” Surrogates are mothers to their own children, not to the child or children they carry. They are quite articulate about that. They will tell you every time that the child they are carrying “It’s not my baby. I’m just carrying the baby. They are the parents.”
They believe it. I believe them.
Do you? I hope so.
Helping people to build their families is a blessing.
Here’s the thing that people who are anti-surrogacy need to understand. Surrogacy makes sense to Intended Parents and their families and friends. Surrogacy makes sense to gestational carriers, their partners, their children, their families and friends. They all see this as a blessing. If you are a religious person, you might even say that all babies come from God and this is one way that God can help to bring a baby into the world. To ease hurt and suffering. To bring joy. Gestational surrogacy works and is a blessing.
Ending or restricting gestational surrogacy would be like stopping a moving train with your hand. People would get hurt. Badly. But it will keep going.
What we need to do is to ensure that Intended Parents and Gestational Surrogates are safe in the process.
Legislation is needed to protect Surrogates and Intended Parents.
Here in Minnesota and across the United States.
Because gestational surrogacy is a blessing that’s here to stay.
Infertility takes over your life. How can you get to the clinic before your big presentation today? Is today ovulation day? Did you do your injection at the right time in the right dosage? Will your spouse be home from the work trip in time to give a semen sample? How many BBB’s (Big Bellies and Babies) are you going to see at the grocery today? How many blogs can you read today about infertility? How sick of infertility are you?
Infertility takes over your mind, too. It is very hard not to think about. I bet you know what day of the cycle you are on. I remember how confused and angry I was every month when I wasn’t ovulating but my doctor kept pooh-poohing my concerns and my intuition. I could not stop thinking about it, only to be told that I was obsessing, not to worry, and to relax.
I know what you are going through. I am sorry that you hurt and you are scared that the hurt won’t ever end.
Until that moment when the pregnancy test is positive.
Could this be happening?
Do another few tests at home. They are still positive! What does this mean?! Everybody says that you should feel happy about a positive result, right?
Not when you have been trying for months or years.
When you have been in the infertility trenches and you are now pregnant, you are in what I call a
Prove It Pregnancy
Yes, that’s right. A Prove It Pregnancy. Yeah, yeah, other people stay pregnant and have babies. Could that be possible?
Infertility tells you, “Hold on there, honey. This can’t possibly work out well.” It’s the Too Good To Be True Factor. But this could be real. Truly. Really.
When you get pregnant after months—or years—of undergoing fertility treatment, there is shock, disbelief, and excitement. Shhhhhh! Don’t jinx it! That first ultrasound can scare the jeepers out of you. But it might be real. You may not really believe it until the next ultrasound. Maybe not. Maybe later. Am I pregnant? Prove it.
Transferring your care from the fertility clinic to an OB/GYN or midwife care can be disorienting and even frightening. This means that your pregnancy is continuing, despite your fear. Can this really be happening? Yes. I know that you may have had a close relationship with the fertility clinic doctors and nurses. You can learn to trust a clinic that can help you deliver a baby.
Really?! Yes. It is possible.
And there may come a time when you consider investing in the pregnancy and a baby, but fear still may remain. Superstition is normal in a Prove It Pregnancy. Others want to invest in baby stuff. No. Thanks. Maybe. Later. It is okay to put things off.
As one gentleman recently said to me, “I may think about investing in the pregnancy when we get to 26 or 27 weeks. When it seems real.” And a woman I know thought it might be okay to peek at Pinterest. Sure. For just a moment. And honestly, it may not seem real until a baby is warm and squawking in your arms. That’s okay.
It’s a Prove It Pregnancy.
Some things suck when you have infertility. It is really hard to go along and get along with others’ requests and demands for attendance at events. You might have enjoyed spending time with others in the past but now certain things can feel like a hot poker in your eye. Isolating from the world is too much but being selective about what you want to do—or not—can bring you a sense of control. Over something, anyway. I am happy today to offer you permission to say, “No.” Or “Nope.” Or “I don’t want to.” Without any explanations. Here are four things to avoid during infertility treatment:
- Baby showers—I know that you know this one already. Baby showers are not happy and silly when you are aching for a child yourself. #justsayno
- Family gatherings with children—You know that someone is going to ask you to hold the new baby. Or talk about how cute children are and ask you when you are going to have children yourself. I know that families can be tricky and demanding. It is okay to beg off with vague excuses about not feeling well. #throwingup
- Anyone who tells you to relax, it will happen, or why don’t you just adopt—Sometimes this one comes out of left field or even from a trusted person. You are there for some chips and dip and a know-it-all has lots of advice for you. You have permission to let that person know that you are not having that conversation. Then it’s okay to walk away. #stopit
- The baby section at stores—Well, duh. I hope that you will spend plenty of time in the baby section later but it’s just too much right now. Thank goodness for the Internet. If you need a gift for someone, go to the Web. Or let your partner do the ordering. #noway
This is a short list. There are many others. Please share what has helped you. Be as snarky as you feel the need to be. What other types of things and people should others avoid?
The holiday lights are shining and Christmas carols drift through the air. Everyone seems so happy. But it’s Christmas and you are at the infertility clinic. Not so happy. Maybe not so happy at all.
Infertility and its treatment can be confusing and particularly difficult at holiday time. The fact that another year has passed without a pregnancy or another child can be very disheartening. When the dreaded phone call about the latest unsuccessful treatment cycles comes at holiday time, feelings can feel even bigger and worse than usual. Seeing others’s happiness may bring resentment or despair. Even the simple act of shopping for gifts for others can be a trial.
Many families have many expectations about holiday traditions and rituals. You get to exchange gifts with loved ones. ‘Tis the season, put a smile on your face! In the past, you might have loved the holiday traditions. Maybe not this year. This is even harder when there are children in the family but not in your house. And Christmas tends to focus on children’s excitement and happiness.
Many of my patients feel overwhelmed by mandatory attendance at holiday events. Not only is physical presence mandatory but emotional presence seems to be required as well. It is at holiday time that my patients come to me in tears.
“I don’t want to ruin the holidays for my family. But I’m resentful and I feel left out because I don’t have children. I don’t have it in me to pretend to be happy when my heart is breaking.”
At the annual Midwest Resolve conference in the fall of 2014 in Minneapolis in, I gave a talk on depression, anxiety and infertility. There was a lot of discussion among participants about how to handle the holidays. You know what happened? The fifty people in the room all said that they wanted to take a trip to somewhere, anywhere during the holidays. You can consider doing the same. Something different can help your relationship. And it sure as heck can help you.
And what if you just don’t feel that you can attend holiday events but your partner feels just fine? It is important to negotiate with your partner about what you can and cannot do. Maybe you limit the amount of time spent at events. Maybe you stay in a hotel. Maybe you have a secret signal between you and your partner that says, “Time out” or “Gotta go!” Maybe you spend a lot of time in the bathroom; people don’t follow you in there. If you decline to attend, be as honest as you can with your family and your in-laws about why you are staying home this year. Tell them that grieving people aren’t the best party goers and that your doctor gave you permission to take care of yourself. Here’s an important tip for now and other times of the year:
REFUSE TO FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT
If you can go to holiday events and you can enjoy something about them, by all means go. Sometimes acting like things are okay makes it so. It offers the opportunity to be a part of a treasured group. Maybe it would be feel good to do something that has brought you joy and peace in the past. You could get the support you have needed. You could teach others about the infertility journey. Maybe you can take some time off from infertility for an hour or two and just be yourself.
You don’t have much control about infertility. You do have control over what you do with your time. You can do what you want–or need–to do during the holidays. However you do it, use this season as a time to recharge and heal a little. You and your partner might come up with a new ritual that is just for the two of you. It is important and even necessary to put yourself first sometimes. You are always number one to me.
Today, November 17th, is World Prematurity Day. According to the March of Dimes, 15 million babies are born prematurely around the world each year. More babies die from prematurity than from AIDS, malaria or diarrhea. Each year in the United States, 1 in 9 babies–about 450,000–are born prematurely. Prematurity is defined as birth that occurs prior to 37 weeks gestation.
World Prematurity Day is personal for me–I have two preemies. My daughter was born at 26 weeks. We thought that we would lose her on her second day of life. She almost died again 26 years ago today from sepsis but she rallied. There were surgeries, terrible fears, PTSD, and finally, unbelievably, a day when she came home to be our baby after 100 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Preemies aren’t just small babies and they don’t look like little dolls. As you can see, my daughter looked like a science project. I learned a lifetime’s worth of medical terminology. Bringing my girly into my life changed it in ways I am still learning about. For my infertility clients who want twins, I promise you that you don’t want two desperately sick preemies.
To those who are preemie parents, or those of you who know someone who is, thank goodness for the Internet! For parents of preemies up to age 4, check out Preemie-L, a wonderful listserve of helpful preemie parents. For parents of preemies over the age of 4, check out Preemie Child.
Now I’ll share with you the gift that I was given when my daughter was impossibly small and fragile. Someone showed me a picture of their healthy preemie. The message was “Babies grow. Have hope.” So I share this today with preemies, their parents, their friends, and their loved one. Babies Grow. Have Hope.