Any woman who has been or wanted to be pregnant knows about the inevitable anxieties that come along with the joy and excitement of the experience. Especially in the early days and weeks, pregnancy is full of “what ifs,” “what’s thats,” and “what am I doings.” I had experienced my fair share of these feelings in my own two pregnancies, but nothing could have prepared me for how these anxieties would multiply, expand, and escalate while carrying someone ELSE’s baby: the baby of my close friend, Hue.
At 9-months into our surrogacy journey, we received our first positive at-home pregnancy tests. We were elated and amazed. The first transfer had been successful and we were all cautiously optimistic, but also overtly aware of the potential for things to go wrong. Despite my positive experiences in the past, I found it difficult to trust that this pregnancy would go the same way.
I think my path to surrogacy was pretty standard, if there is such a thing. My first actions when I decided to make this offer were to do as much research as I could and to seek out online communities where I could read about other people’s experiences and ask my own questions without judgment. These groups had helped me navigate the detailed process it took to get to the embryo transfer date and identify a group of surrogates who were scheduled for a transfer in the same date range as Hue and myself.
The Stakes Feel Higher
The online forums were incredibly helpful for answering any random questions and concerns that popped up. But I quickly realized they were also answering questions I hadn’t thought of and putting new unpleasant worries in my head. With every shared story of hope and success, there seemed to be twice as many stories of chemical pregnancies, failed transfers, and dashed hopes. That, coupled with the knowledge of all that Hue had been through in the many years she had pursued pregnancy, led me to feel more aware of the possibility for something to go wrong than I had ever been with my own pregnancies.
Along with that added awareness, the stakes felt higher. This wasn’t just my life or my family that would be affected. Hue and her husband, Court, were just as invested as I was. I also found myself increasingly aware of the passage of time. I turn 40 next year, and my birthday has been sort of a mile-marker I’ve kept in mind during our plans. Our first canceled transfer had set us back almost three months. I couldn’t help counting time when I thought about the consequences of having to go through more than one transfer. Additionally, Hue and Court had three embryos. What would happen if, god forbid, we had three failed transfers? Would this all be for nothing? My entire motivation for pursuing this had been to see Hue and Court with a baby. What if it didn’t end that way? I found it difficult not to work myself up with worst-case scenarios.
An Initial Setback
So when my second blood test results came back with HCG levels a little lower than the clinic wanted to see, I was filled with dread. Our nurse at the clinic actually used the word “titch” when describing this to us. “It’s just a titch lower than we want.” I had no idea what to do with that. I asked if I should be concerned and she responded that it wasn’t necessarily bad news, but that the doctor would want me in for an ultrasound a few days earlier than originally planned.
My alarm bells were going crazy. And the worst part was, I had to wait an entire weekend before going in for that ultrasound. I tried to avoid the internet that whole time. I had already filled my mind with the possible ways in which a pregnancy can go wrong in the first six weeks. What I needed was success stories, and they seemed to be few and far between. Hue and I were probably thinking the same things all weekend, but what she said to me was, “Let’s just stick with what we know: You are pregnant. Until we find out anything else, all we know is that you are pregnant.” Knowing she’d been there before and could share these coping mechanisms was enormously reassuring. I came back to her perspective throughout the weekend, and it calmed my nerves each time.
Finally, we met at the doctor’s office for what is often called the heartbeat confirmation (or HBC) ultrasound. I could feel my nerves buzzing, and I knew Hue was feeling the same. We were shaky but staying positive. When the cheerful ultrasound tech called us into the exam room, I was relieved at the brightness of her voice. She seemed to be emanating positive energy. Hue held my hand as the tech worked the wand around my belly for a moment. Then she said, “There’s your little peanut!” and the sac appeared onscreen, a perfect peanut-shaped baby.
Hue and I both burst into tears. I felt my whole body heave with enormous relief, and, if I was being honest, disbelief. I realized in that moment, as we watched the baby bouncing around, his heartbeat flickering on the screen, that I had fully expected the worst. But here we were, with confirmation. Hue’s baby was there, flickering, bouncing, thriving in my uterus. I wanted to bottle the feeling and bring it out any time I had doubts.
On our way out of the office, we saw the nurse who had called me the previous week with my numbers. “Numbers don’t always tell the whole story!” she said, as she looked through the ultrasound photos. She seemed just as amazed as we were. “We’ll go with good,” she said as we walked away. We decided to go with GREAT.
The Medical Differences in Surrogacy
So, aside from the emotions and anxiety, how has this pregnancy been different from my own prior pregnancies? To begin with, there were the meds. As someone who has been historically queasy around needles, I had avoided thinking too much about the injections I would be doing for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, starting five days before the transfer.
Progesterone in oil shots, or PIO shots, are common for many IVF cycles. In order to replicate what my body would be doing if I had gotten pregnant spontaneously, I would need injections of progesterone that my body would have otherwise naturally produced. This required a shot in my butt first thing in the morning and again before I went to bed at night. Hue and I had joked for months about our nurse’s preference for the word “rump” and how it made me unbelievably uncomfortable, but when it came time to actually face the shots, I was not exactly laughing.
My husband, who I can quite honestly say is the only person on the planet I would want to play an active role in this scenario, was wonderful. He took his role very seriously and never complained about needing to be home every morning and every night to help me. But eventually, about six weeks into the pregnancy, he had to go out of town for work for a few days. A few of my wonderful friends (and, of course, Hue) had offered to learn how to do the shots and I did consider that option, but eventually I decided I needed to face my fear and do the shots myself.
Honestly, I didn’t feel comfortable putting anyone out so they could come over and put a needle in my butt. So the first two times I did it myself, I had my husband there to guide my hand and talk me through the process. And by the third shot, I realized it was actually less painful to do it myself. Sure, it was a little clumsy and awkward, contorting my body to get the needle in the exact right spot, but that was really the only difficult part. Plus, doing the shots myself made me feel like a total badass! By the end of the 12-week span, I had injected myself in restaurant bathrooms, at my election polling place, at home while my daughters watched, and before going into a concert. I felt good about having autonomy in administering my shots on my own and maintained that practice for most of the rest of the weeks that I had to do them.
Sharing the News With Our Daughters
It’s been a very new and interesting dynamic including so many people in this experience. The first article on The Everymom® was published before we even did the embryo transfer, so a lot of people have been rooting for us, asking for updates, and following along since the beginning. However, we decided pretty early on not to tell our children what was happening until there was a viable pregnancy to share with them.
We knew the medical aspect of the process would be way over their heads and didn’t want to involve them in the details until we felt confident that the pregnancy was moving safely forward. I had obviously thought a lot about how they might react and how we could help them understand what was happening. So when it was time to talk to them about it, I felt well-prepared for my own part of the conversation but totally unprepared for their responses. Like a lot of things with young children, I found myself expecting a big reaction, only to be met with a sort of, well, underwhelming one!
We were sitting at dinner when I began explaining the situation to my 5- and 2-year-olds. I said, “So you know how Hue and Court are always playing with you and the other kids in their families, but they don’t have kids of their own yet? Well, they’ve wanted to have a baby of their own for a long time, but it just hasn’t happened yet. And since we love them so much, we decided we should help them. So I’m carrying Hue’s baby for her! And it’s going to grow in my body until it’s ready, and then when it comes, the baby will go to Hue and Court’s house.”
At this point, my 5-year old, Fiona, gasped, “WHAT?” and 2-year-old Lana followed her lead.
I said, “Yup, there is a baby in Mommy’s belly right now!”
At that, Fiona, who was sitting across the dinner table from me, looked under the table at my belly. “Oh yeah! Your belly does look big!” (Mind you, I was like 12 weeks at this point, and not at all showing.)
I said, “Yes, the baby is in there now. It’s a boy, and he will go live at Hue and Court’s house when he comes.”
Fiona responded, “Well, when he’s at our house, can he be my brother?” My heart skipped. I told her maybe the baby could be like a cousin or friend.
Fiona thought for a moment and said, “Good!” And then, having used up all the attention they had for the topic, both girls got down from their chairs and ran off.
The conversation was over almost as quickly as it had started, and nothing earth-shattering had happened. Scott and I looked at each other, sort of shrugged our shoulders, and said we’d wait and see what kinds of questions they came up with as things progressed.
I assumed the girls would have a lot more questions and curiosities as I started to show more and the pregnancy was more top-of-mind, and there have been moments where they’ve had cute observations and unexpected questions. One day when we were going to Hue and Court’s house for dinner, Fiona asked, “Are you going to give them their baby now?” and I realized I’d have to explain childbirth a little more clearly to her. As the baby has started growing and we’ve been able to feel his kicks, the girls have taken interest in feeling him move.
The moment Fiona first felt his kicks will stay in my heart as one of the sweeter moments of this experience. We were lying in bed one morning and I put her hand where he had just kicked. When she felt the little knock against her hand, Fiona’s eyes got huge and she looked at me and said, “That was incredible!” It was incredible for both of us. Now we talk about the baby and my belly occasionally, and the girls seem completely unfazed by what is happening. I’m excited and anxious to see how they react when the baby is delivered and they get to meet him, and how my youngest, who is obsessed with babies and fondly “pets” them any chance she gets, will feel about the baby not being “hers.”
My hope is that, through this experience and their unique perspectives, they will see that sometimes friendship can be strong enough to create family. I hope they will see that it’s my love for them, and the joy that being their mother has brought to my life, that inspired me to offer this gift to Hue and Court. My girls’ impact on my life gave me the level of commitment and compassion I needed to be a surrogate.
Sharing Pregnancy With a Friend
Having gone through two pregnancies with my husband, I’ve been used to his characteristic level of enthusiasm and engagement. But this time, while he’s obviously still interested in my wellbeing, he rightfully has a little less involvement! Hue has come with me to every doctor’s appointment from the beginning, big or small. She’s seen every ultrasound and listened to every heartbeat doppler. We’ve talked about all the minutiae of pregnancy, and she’s been engaged without being suffocating the entire time. People often ask how much we talk and see each other, and they may be a little surprised to know we talk every day. Every morning we exchange texts with any updates and on Thursdays we celebrate the completion of another week!
Basically, it’s like having a friend to share all your inane thoughts and feelings about pregnancy with, except she’s equally as invested as I am, so I never worry about boring her. The first time I felt a kick, I texted her in all caps. When the baby has a particularly active time, I try to take a video so she can see the alien movements from outside my belly. I was lucky to receive a fetal doppler from my doctor’s office, so I regularly make heartbeat audio clips and send them to Hue and Court. Recently, I’ve started using “BellyBuds” to play Hue and Court’s voices for the baby to hear. I stick the little buds onto my belly and plug them into my phone. Hue sent me a few clips of her and Court reading books out loud, and I play them on repeat. The first time I did this, the baby bounced around like crazy. I felt like he was showing his excitement at hearing his parents.
How I Handle the Emotional Aspect of Surrogacy
At around 22 weeks, I started feeling a little antsy. I was sort of grumpy, listless, almost bored day-to-day. We didn’t have any doctor’s appointments or big milestones coming up so I wasn’t really looking forward to anything. I realized that in my other pregnancies, this was the time when I would have started nesting and deciding on names. We would have been spending weekends organizing baby clothes and nursery items. But as a surrogate, I just… had nothing to do! It was sort of a “duh” moment, but also something I wanted to be mindful of and thoughtful about.
When I first started thinking about surrogacy, some of the biggest questions on my mind were “How will I keep myself from becoming attached to the baby?” and “How can I prepare myself to deliver a baby and walk away with my arms empty?” While I haven’t yet delivered this baby, I can honestly say I do not worry about leaving the hospital empty-handed. I know it may seem foreign to other mothers, but a piece of advice I heard when I was researching this process was that you just never think of the baby as your own. It’s that simple.
A piece of advice I heard when I was researching this process was that you just never think of the baby as your own. It’s that simple.
And it’s true, I just never think of him as mine. He’s always been Hue and Court’s baby, and I haven’t found it difficult to keep myself a little detached. Now, it’s hard to know if staying a little detached from the details is because it’s my third pregnancy or if it’s because it’s not my baby, but either way, I’ve been lucky to have a fairly predictable and straightforward pregnancy that doesn’t require a lot of extra attention. As we wind our way through the third trimester, I look forward to the exciting milestones Hue and Court are experiencing. Setting up the nursery, having baby showers, scheduling a hospital tour, etc. These are all things I loved with my own babies, and it gives me so much joy to see Hue getting to live them, finally, after all this time.
Preparing for Delivery
As the weekly countdown to delivery goes from double to single digits, I find that rather than feeling the nerves I had during my own pregnancies about bringing a newborn into our family, about loss of sleep and how it would change our family balance, I actually just feel genuine and uncomplicated excitement for Hue and Court. I know I will be a part of this baby’s life, that our families will be linked forever, and that we will have achieved what we hoped for at the start of this whole journey: seeing Hue and Court finally hold their baby. Too many years after it was first wished for, 18 months after I first offered to help them, 8 months after that flickering peanut appeared on screen, I am full of love and hope and excitement for baby Deluca to finally go home with his mom and dad.
I’m leaving space for all the unpredictability around the last trimester, all the things that can happen in labor and delivery, and what my emotions will be in the moments after the birth. I’m trying to be present in the moment, but I’m also looking forward to what is to come. I anticipate chaotic family gatherings, quiet baby snuggles, endless outpourings of love from two excited girls, and a beautiful bond between friends that will continue to grow.