This journey of grief and love isn’t one I expected.
Had someone told me a year ago that I’d be trying to grow my family through surrogacy, I would have dismissed the idea outright. Not only do I like to be in control, but I falsely assumed that surrogacy was only available to A-list celebrities and multi-millionaires.
But then, while trying for baby two at the age of 35, I unexpectedly found myself with no uterus and limited options for growing my family. I didn’t initially embrace surrogacy, but as I came to terms with my new reality, I began to see surrogacy in a new light.
On December 24, 2018, I received devastating news. My doctor suspected uterine cancer. Her recommendation: removing my uterus. This was not the Christmas present I was hoping for.
While I wanted to grow my family, I also wanted the son I already had to grow up with a mother. So, I followed the doctor’s recommendation and had the hysterectomy.
As I grappled with my mortality, and all that I was losing and could potentially lose, my husband threw himself into research. He explored treatment options, potential outcomes, and every solution to grow our family once we came out on the other side (as he was certain we would).
When he first suggested surrogacy, I dismissed the idea. I was in a state of mourning and I couldn’t mentally handle the thought of another woman carrying my child.
I had concerns, too. Could we afford it? What would it be like? Would I have the same connection to the baby that I had with my son? Would the gestational carrier (GC) manage her health the same way I would?
I also felt guilty and selfish for not jumping at the idea of surrogacy. I had options that weren’t available to a lot of families. My guilt only grew after the post-surgery pathology report came back showing that everything was benign. I didn’t think I had the right to mourn my lost ability to carry a child when the alternative could have been so much worse.
Despite my apprehension, I spent the next several weeks reading everything I could about surrogacy, from first person accounts to agency websites to studies. What would it actually be like? How would it work? And the more I read, the more open I became to the idea.
Eight weeks post-op, I decided to meet with a fertility doctor and made plans to extract my eggs for surrogacy.
Deciding to move forward with surrogacy was only part of our decision. We also had to decide who would carry our baby. One option was my older sister, who had selflessly offered to be my GC. But could I really ask her to do that?
There are advantages to using a known surrogate, such as cutting out the surrogacy agency fees, but no agency also meant that we couldn’t benefit from the agency’s experience. We’d be in charge of managing all of the schedules and timelines.
We also had to consider the things we’d rather not think about. Would I rather go through a pregnancy loss or the disappointment of a failed transfer attempt with my sister or an agency carrier? And what if there were complications that cost my sister her life? Could I rob her children of their mother? Would I feel less guilty if it were my sister who lost her life versus someone I’d only recently met?
I had to decide if I felt comfortable telling my older sister things I did or didn’t want her to do during the pregnancy, too. This was uncharted territory for our relationship. Would we come out the other side closer or would it drive us apart?
In the end, the sibling bond I hoped to give to my son was the deciding factor. I wanted my son to have the same strong bond of love with a sibling that had led my sister to extend her offer to me. Accepting my sister’s gift meant that my children’s relationship would start from a place of the same type of love I hoped they’d share throughout their lives. The beauty of this idea outweighed all of my other concerns. We officially asked my sister to be our GC, and she agreed.
In the lead-up to transfer day, there are days where I’m overcome by a deep, debilitating grief. While I love that I’ll have a special birth story to share with my future child, I’m sad to not have a traditional story.
I’m sad that my second child won’t be able to look at pictures of my pregnant belly and talk about the time they lived there, the way my son does. I’m sad to not be able to spend those first 9 months getting to know things about them as they take up residence in my womb. I’m sad that my son won’t be able to rest his head on my tummy and feel his sibling move.
But I’m also overwhelmed by the love and generosity offered by my sister, and by other women who selflessly agree to carry another family’s child.
I don’t know how this will turn out. I don’t know if I’ll end up with a second child after the first attempt, or if any of the 3 embryos I have will develop into a healthy baby. Everyone’s journey through infertility is unique, and while I wish I could have had a simple pregnancy, I’m grateful that science, circumstances, and the love of my sister have made this journey possible.
Megan Lentz lives with her husband, precocious son, and two mischievous pets. She spends her free time (ha!) reading science fiction, writing, and studying up on the answers to random questions that only a 4-year-old could think to ask.