By Liz Henry
Two and a half years ago I began a journey that would change my family for the better. I committed to being a surrogate. I met a family whose lives my own family would change. I set down a path into the unknown, but hopeful, world of fertility. I carried and delivered two healthy boys to the arms of their parents. Those boys are now 16 months old and I continue learning from the experience, well beyond the end of the pregnancy.
Being a gestational carrier, or surrogate, is one of the most rewarding experiences a woman can have. It’s also one of the most challenging — physically, mentally and emotionally. If it’s a journey that you’ve considered, there are some things to think about as you weigh the options. And if it’s never crossed your mind, maybe it’s worth a look.
1. The kids will be alright – As adults, our perspectives have been shaped by every experience, large and small, that we have encountered. Carrying someone else’s child may still seem “weird” to some. Our children, however, are in the early stages of shaping their worldview. Things that seem different to us will only seem different to them if we present it that way. Perhaps the greatest lessons I learned as a surrogate were from my children. They, more than anyone, embraced the journey as just another way that families come together. The fact that there is no singular definition of a “normal” family is one of the most important lessons children can carry with them.
2. To each his own – Not everyone understands surrogacy, and not everyone supports it. There are many reasons why people may disagree with it, and that’s okay. Do your research. Know the pros. (More importantly, know the cons.) Make an informed decision and hold fast in why it’s the right path for you. Others will support you. Those who don’t are missing out on being part of something incredibly life-changing.
3. Patience is a virtue – The process to become a surrogate is not, nor should it be, a quick one. When so much is at stake, you want to know that thoughtful decisions are being made on all sides. At the same time, it’s so exciting that it’s natural to want things to speed along. Being able to temper the excitement with an appreciation of the pace needed to execute such a monumental plan is a valuable skill.
4. All pregnancies are not created equal – Nearly every woman who chooses to be a gestational carrier does so because she enjoyed the pregnancy experience. I have yet to meet a surrogate who had a horrible experience in her own pregnancies and can’t wait to give it another go. While logic may say that one good pregnancy predicts another, it’s important to remember that there are no guarantees. Surrogacy is a journey that you enter for many reasons. Positive experiences in the past may certainly influence a decision, but should be weighed with many other factors.
5. What goes up must come down, and then back up – This journey was an emotional and physical roller coaster that, for me, had far more highs than lows. With an eye toward the end – bringing a family together – it was easy to put the challenges into perspective. There is nothing that can compare with watching parents witness their children’s birth. No matter the discomfort during the pregnancy or the complications after the birth, having the honor to be part of such a powerful experience was and is something beyond words.
As surrogacy grows in popularity, it also grows in controversy. The mixed bag of legal standing it has across the world makes it an easy topic for debate. More than anything, it’s important to be informed. Working with a trusted agency made all the difference in the world for me. In addition to adding the twins and their parents to our extended family, I have learned from many other strong women along the way. It may not be right for everyone, but it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Liz Henry is a nonprofit professional, community builder and referee to two boys. Her adventures include being a surrogate to twins and spending a year with her family in Puerto Rico.
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Photo by: Simona Balint