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Burned through the fire

Posted Mar 03 2009 3:57pm

When I set out to find intended parents (IPs), I did not seek to find someone who could qualify as "best friends." I have friends, and I was not looking for my intended parents to fill some sort of friend-void. I did seek to find a couple who I felt that I could consider friends and people with whom, when everything was said and done, I could continue to have at least a friendly relationship, that if I emailed just to say hello, those emails would not go unanswered. Before agreeing to match, I needed to feel that my IPs cared about me as a regular person and not only me as means to have their child.

My overall surrogacy journey has been anything but easy:

  • 1st IPs (Sarah and Paul): 1 FET, chemical (positive tests, negative beta)
  • 2nd IPs (Stephanie and Terry): 1 IVF resulting in Sam
  • 3rd IPs (Mia and Urs): 1 IVF - negative, 2nd IVF - chemical (2 good betas, then downhill from there)
  • 4th IPs (Chance and Apollo): 1st IVF - beta hell again, u/s shows nothing; 2nd and final IVF coming up soon.

Despite the grim track record, I've been blessed to have had four wonderful, amazing, caring sets of intended parents with whom I am honored to have lasting, ongoing relationships. I can truly call them all my friends, which is a word that I don't use lightly. Baby or not, good times or bad, I know that I'm am so lucky to have been matched four times over with IPs who didn't discard me the way some surrogates painfully have been discarded. Was I expecting to have developed such deep, ongoing relationships? No. Not to this level. I did think that we'd remain on friendly terms, but developing new extensions of my family was not expected, and I know how very blessed I am to have that.

As I thought about it more, it begged a question that I posed to my fellow surrogates on Surrogate Mothers Online - as a surrogate, what is more important to you - the ability to have a baby for your IPs or the ability to have an ongoing relationship with your IPs?

I realized that it was a difficult question, as when you get right down to it, no baby brought into this world is ever not worth the effort it took to get them here. Also, as surrogates, we idealistically hope and expect that we don't have to have one over the other. No surrogate should ever be in a position to have to pick and choose between the two factors. We hope that our relationships with our IPs is symbiotic and smooth, in that we can work together cooperatively as a unit and are able to deliver a healthy child or children. One should not be exclusive of the other.

However, unfortunately we know that that is not always the case. Looking ONLY at my situation, do I wish that I would have been able to achieve a healthy pregnancy and carry it to term for each of my IPs? Yes. Of course I do. I can't help but view my relationships with all of my IPs as my silver lining: I may not have been able to have their babies (except Sam), but at least I had and have wonderful relationships with my IPs. There is that, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

And I can't help but view the converse of that and wonder - would I rather have had it the other way around? What if I HAD been able to achieve healthy pregnancies but was discarded before or after delivery? I'm sure I'd think, I may have had terrible relationships, but at least I was able to bring those babies into the world. There is that, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

So holding the two frames of thinking side-by-side -- if given the two options as a choice,  if there was no in between, no happy, symbiotic medium - what would I choose? Which would I prefer? And resoundingly, I can't help but know that in my heart, I'd rather have walked my path of having had 1 out of 5 transfers work and come out on the other end with just one surrobaby (so far, prayerfully), but be richer with 4 sets of intended parents that I can truly consider family.

I also posted a poll in the thread in which I asked my question. The poll is still open and people are still voting, but there is approximately an even split between which of the two extremes surrogates would prefer if only given those two options on the type of journey to experience. The people who voted to have delivered a baby but end up with a terrible or non-existent relationship with their intended parents are generally of the mindset that they came into surrogacy to help a couple have a baby, not to make friends. It is a point that I agree with wholeheartedly even though for my situation, I personally voted for the other option. Many of the people who voted have a baby/no relationship wondered why anyone would rather choose to be left with a good relationship but no child delivered via surrogacy. I can't answer for the other surrogates who chose alongside me, but here is my personal rationale:

Given the fact that I have experienced my own infertility journey, I view being a surrogate as going back into the flames when I've made it out. I'm choosing to return to the world of uncertainty, of fear, of pain both emotional and physical. Even though I knew what I was getting into, after my first attempt at surrogacy ended in a chemical, it damn near killed me. I wasn't just dealing with the too-familiar feeling of failure again; I was also dealing with a thick, cloying layer of guilt. That aspect was new to me, and it is also no stranger to other surrogates who find themselves in similar unfortunate situations. It took a while to rebound mentally from that, and I returned to surrogacy only after I knew I could better compartmentalize my experience with infertility from the voluntary infertility that one accepts when she assumes the role of surrogate. Most surrogates don't know enough to view it as a type of voluntary infertility, and some surrogates never do learn enough to make that connection. It is only after failed transfers, miscarriages, preterm deliveries, and other tragedies happen that that knowledge is gleaned. It is no lesson anyone should have to learn, but painfully, we all know that there are those of us who have learned far too much.

Given all of that, there is no way in hell I would consciously choose to go through all of that, to go willingly back into these hellish fires for someone who would in the long run, would choose to discard me like used tissue. Perhaps it is selfish of me to think like that, but it is what it is. I wouldn't put myself through this for just anyone.

Sadly, there is no way for a surrogate, or intended parent for that matter, to know at the start of a journey how the relationship will evolve through the journey and beyond. We make the best decisions we can at the start and hope that our first impressions of our counterparts are our true impressions. Unfortunately, there are many surrogates and IPs who are mislead. The person they matched with is not the person they end up with at the conclusion of a journey. Speaking now only from the surrogate angle, there are surrogates who had wonderful relationships before and during pregnancy, but as soon as the baby was in the arms of its parents, the surrogates were shut out completely. It is understood that the relationship changes drastically after the delivery. The need to communicate as often isn't there and there is always an adjustment period as everyone settles into their new roles and the way things will be now that the baby has arrived. But to not receive an answer to a friendly email? To never see even a picture of the child they carried? To never even get so much as a thank you? It happens. Sometimes it happens at great cost to the surrogate.

Theirs is a side that needs to be heard, because unfortunately, not everyone has been as blessed as I've been to have relationships which grew far beyond the bonds of a typical intended parent/surrogate relationship.

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