I am the owner and creator behind Whimsicals Paperie, a company all about connection, intentionality, joy, and beauty in the everyday little things -- and I found surrogacy to be much the same. As a business owner I want to not only share about the company, but also share personal stories that share those values. We could all use a bit more beauty, joy and connection in our lives, and I hope this story brings some of that to yours.
My daughter was born in 2008. Within her first year of life, my husband and I both knew that our family was complete, and we've been a little family of three ever since. I don't remember the exact year when I began thinking about surrogacy, but I remember hearing an advertisement for an agency seeking surrogates and thought about how amazing it would be to carry a child for someone who wasn't able to carry their own. I had really loved being pregnant, found the experience to be fascinating and full of wonder, and thought it would be incredible to carry a child for someone else. I also didn't think that I would qualify to be a surrogate. I was older than the age the advertisement specified, and our daughter had been born preterm and in need of immediate medical care from a series of congenital anomalies. I was sure that those things combined would disqualify me, and I spent the next 3-4 years with the dream in the back of my head.
Our family of three in 2008
Enter February 2019. I was selling at an annual pop-up shop hosted by a friend and chatting with a customer named Judith that I had met the year before. We connected as she was a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) nurse and my daughter had spent a lot of time in the NICU after she was born. This time our conversation moved into her new job as a reproductive lawyer and her work with surrogates and intended parents. I mentioned that for years I had wanted to be a surrogate, and through that conversation with her I discovered that I wasn't too old (I was 38 at the time) and that my daughter's medical situation also wasn't an immediate disqualification. The memory of walking into my home that night, sinking into the couch, and looking into my husband's eyes as we discussed the possibility makes my heart leap still today. I knew that if this was something I wanted to do, I needed two specific people on board - my husband and my daughter. His smile was immediate as he told me that it sounded like an amazing thing to do, and encouraged me to pursue it. The next morning I spoke with my daughter, who was 10 at the time, explaining to her what surrogacy was and asking how she felt about it. Her first question was, "So wait...this wouldn't be our baby, right? Like it wouldn't be my brother or sister?" Once I confirmed that for her she shared her relief with me--because she didn't want a sibling--and her support of me being a surrogate.
Judith and I set up a day to get breakfast together soon after and she was so graciously willing to answer all of my questions and talk through the pros, cons, and how to begin pursuing being a gestational surrogate. For context, a gestational surrogate carries a child that is not genetically her own using IVF. A traditional surrogate (not as common) uses her own egg but carries the child for someone else. I was a gestational surrogate. Judith herself was not only a former nurse and a reproductive lawyer, but due to a complicated surgical delivery of her first child, Judith's second child had been carried and born via a gestational surrogate (you can read more about Judith, her story and her practice here.) Judith answered my seemingly endless questions and told me how to begin researching and reading up on surrogacy. Over the next few months I devoured everything I could find on surrogacy. I read about other women's personal experiences with surrogacy, both from surrogates themselves as well as from intended parents of children born via surrogacy, and connected with a premier neonatologist to speak about the congenital medical issues affecting my daughter. Doctors had told me since her birth that her medical challenges and preterm birth were not caused by something I did or did not do during pregnancy, but it took me a long time to not blame myself. Surrogacy was actually a big step for me in accepting that sometimes difficult things just happen - there isn't always a rhyme or a reason. All the information I read and found solidified my desire and hope to carry a child for someone else.
Pregnant with my daughter in 2008
Within a few months of my first conversation with Judith, she reached out to me asking if I was still interested and saying that she had met an intended mother she felt might be a good match for me. In the meantime I had decided I wanted to pursue surrogacy independently rather than through an agency, and knew that I wanted to carry for someone living in my home state of Colorado. I wouldn't be involved in raising this potential child, but I did have the desire to keep up with the family, be friends, and be a part of their lives going forward. One of the biggest things that I learned through the entire process of surrogacy is just how important finding a good match is between surrogates and intended parents. The process is complex, deeply personal, requires vulnerability and has many emotional and physical implications. I know from accounts of other gestational surrogates that there is a huge spectrum of relationships between surrogates and intended parents. Surrogates can carry for a parent or parents that live in their region or parents that live in a different part of the country or abroad. Some surrogates and parents want a personal and ongoing relationship with each other, and some don't. Surrogates and intended parents need to agree on lifestyle and health practices, pregnancy and birth decisions, communication techniques, possible medical interventions, and a large myriad of other considerations.
My husband still laughs about the first time I met the intended mother (I will call her Carrie) in person. We didn't know each other at all and had spoken on the phone only once. She was driving through the area on her way home from a weekend trip away, and we decided to meet at a nearby park to talk about me carrying a baby for her. We were both nervous about meeting a stranger in the park to talk about something so personal, but hit it off instantly. I knew from that first phone call with her that we had a good connection, but after spending that couple of hours with her, our connection was solidified and we both knew we wanted to move forward. We spent a sweet couple of hours watching her 2 year old son play on the playground and talking about everything from my diet and health to her son and desire to have another, our jobs (she a physician, me an artist), our backgrounds, and why we were both pursing surrogacy. Carrie shared her son's adoption story, and the journey she had been on to adopt another that ended in heartbreak when the adoption fell through at the last moment. She shared about being a single mom, and her deep desire for another child and sibling for her son, and her wish to use embryo donation to have another child. I shared about my family, my experience with pregnancy, my daughter's medical challenges, and my family's support of me pursuing surrogacy. I don't think most matches happen this quickly or seamlessly, and we both feel so thankful to have been introduced to each other so early in the process. It's a big deal to chose someone to carry your child, and it's a big deal to decide on a family or person to carry a child for. There's only been a few times in my life that I've met someone and so quickly knew that they could and would be a dear friend...meeting Carrie was one of those times.
My family meeting Carrie and her son in March 2020 (just days before the world shut down)
Over the course of the next year we started walking through the steps, including psychological clearances, medical checks and clearances for me, talking through and working out a contract, the process of obtaining frozen embryos, and finally beginning the IVF med cycle. We had hiccups along the way (a couple hospital stays and an unexpected major surgery for my daughter, delays in getting embryos, a global pandemic) that made the beginning stages of the process longer than anticipated, but it was happening and we were moving forward.
Next time - injections (LOTS of them), pregnancy, and a pandemic. Read Part 2 here.
Thank you for joining me! If you have questions about the process or story, please let me know and leave a comment. I'm so happy to talk about this experience and in writing I am trying to answer a lot of questions that people have asked me at different points along the way. If you are wondering something, someone else probably is too! Let me know and I'll do my best to address it either in the comments or in the upcoming blogs.