Up Close and Personal with a Canadian Surrogate Mother

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April 21, 2015 • Up Close and Personal • Views: 2566

I’ve got three children of my own, and each pregnancy was exciting, long and exhausting, but the prize at the end was always worth every back ache, sleepless night, and stretch mark. I knew I was getting something out of it. A baby. A BABY! The expectation of seeing this new person was almost more that I could handle each time. What would they look like? Girl or Boy? Nose like mine? All their fingers and toes? I got pregnant for the gift that I got the keep in the end. Why does a surrogate mother do it? How can someone be a “Tummy Mummy”, and be pregnant for someone else, and then give away the gift at the end? What does it take to be a “Gestational Carrier”, “Surrogate Mother”, or Tummy Mummy”? I had to know everything. This surrogate mother (who prefers to remain annonymous) gave birth to her first “Surrogate Baby” just 7 months ago, and I was fortunate enough to steal some of her time to get some of my questions answered. After speaking with her, I am inspired to look into this further myself. Prepare to be awed and inspired by this truly giving person.

When did you decide you decide you wanted to be a Surrogate Mother? About 15 years ago, I read an article about 2 sisters, and one had a baby for the other and it planted a seed in my mind.  About 10 years ago, I started thinking about the possibility of becoming a surrogate. Then about 2 years ago, I realized that I was getting older and not pursuing my dream, and I made up my mind to look into it further. I decided on a Sunday around 12, and immediately began searching the web for information on what the next step would be.pregnant-163611_1280

Why did you want to be a surrogate mother? I love being pregnant! I knew I didn’t want any more children of my own, but I thought it would be a cool way to be pregnant again, and help someone get something that they were having difficulty doing without me.

How old were you when you started this process. I was 40 when we started the process, 41 when I delivered. And I am 42 now. I had heard that the age limit for surrogacy is 38 or 39 or younger in some agencies. I think the agency I am working with sets a 46 year age limit, but it’s not really about your age, it’s about getting a healthy screening. You need to have a healthy uterus and parts that work; your body must be able to successfully carry a baby!

Once you wanted to do it, how did you find someone that needed your “tummy” service? I knew nothing about surrogacy, but once I made up my mind, I knew I had wasted 10 years so it was time! I joined a couple of forums online, and ended up meeting my Intended Mother (IM) in a forum on an IVF website. 

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Did you have a choice in the people that you decided to have your baby for?  I did. The lady I met online suggested that I join the same agency that she was working with, so I did. The agency then sent me 5 or 6 profiles of possible “Intended Parents” (IP’s). All the couples that want a baby submit profiles of what their lives are like, and the surrogates do the same. As a surrogate, it was my choice on who I wanted to pick, then the IP’s can say yes or no to the surrogate. It really is in the surrogates hands. I read through all of the profiles, which included what they do for a living, what their beliefs are, and I was very happy with the couple that I picked.   We just had the same ethics and values. She was the first person I talked to online, and we were both very hesitant about meeting someone online. I didn’t want the process to be like going on ‘Craigslist’ to find a surrogate; that just seemed scary to me, as I just didn’t know enough about surrogacy. So I went through the agency and that process, and my gut just told me that she was the right one for me. My IM lived close to me, and that was important. I wanted a couple who could be a part of the process as much as they wanted to be.

Did the reason that the couple could not have kids influence our decision about whether you would have their baby?  No. My IM had some health issues. Part of me had wanted to have a baby for a couple who had gone through the trials and tribulations of infertility, and all the sadness surrounding this. The couple I had the baby for really didn’t have to go through any of that, their sadness was in a different sense. They still needed me, and I was very comfortable with my decision picking them.

Can you handle this type of thing personally or do you need an agency? My husband and I have differing opinions on that. He was suggesting I do it on my own but I just didn’t feel comfortable, so I would recommend an agency, at least the first time.  There are a lot of rules and regulations with surrogacy, so to me, going with an agency protected me and protected them. The agency screens the couples, they screen the surrogates, they act as the intermediary…”here’s the lawyer”, “here’s the fertility clinic”, they act between you and the services that you need. You don’t absolutely need to use an agency; you can find all of these resources on your own.  Once I decided I was doing it, I was ready NOW and an agency allowed things to happen in a timely manner for us.

Was there a lot of paperwork? Yes, the legal agreement was like 45 pages long plus profiles, medical history, extended family background, etc. You have to be committed to the time for paperwork!

Did girl-18918_1280you get paid to have someone’s baby? It is illegal in Canada to get paid directly for being a surrogate, however you can be reimbursed and compensated for any expenses that you incur during the pregnancy.  So, things like travel for appointments, clothing, food, housekeeping, anything you may need that are deemed medically necessary and are in your contract can be compensated by your IP’s. Everything regarding expenses is written out in your legal agreement through the lawyer, so it’s safe and legitimate. We had an agreement on the maximum amount that could be expensed for things like clothing, vitamins, etc.

Do you have children of your own? Yes, I have three children. A girl, 24, and two boys, 15 and 13.   

Was your family supportive of your decision? Very. My daughter was like “What took you so long, mom?” I was very open about the fact that I wanted to do this. My youngest had a bit of sadness and anger at the beginning, but he just needed to be reassured that I would still be his mommy, and that we were having the baby for someone else. I had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy delivery so it really didn’t affect anyone negatively.

What does your husband think of all of this? He loves it. He loved shocking people with, “So, my wife’s having a baby. And it’s not mine.” Sure makes people stop and think! He gets asked more questions than I do. He loved me being pregnant again, and the whole experience was really easy and positive.

Can anyone be a surrogate? Essentially, yes if they meet the criteria.  All agencies differ and have different requirements for their IP’s and Surrogates. Most like you to be over 21, with at least one child of your own, and you go through a psychological assessment. The assessment was arranged through the agency, (the IP’s paid), and was another benefit of using an agency. Even if you are going privately, I would recommend psychological testing. 

How long did the process take? It was really quick. I decided in September, and was pregnant by the end of December, that’s just 3 months.  That is not typical! Expect a year to 18 month process or longer.

Tell me about the procedure you went through to get pregnant? After the testing to make sure I was healthy to be a subaby-256857_1280rrogate, and the legal paperwork was signed we got to the exciting part! About 1 month prior to the embryo transfer, I had to take a drug by needle called Depot Lupron to put my body into a menopausal state.  10 days later, I started on a drug to help thicken my endometrial lining for a successful embryo implantation. Then they did an internal to make sure my lining was nice and thick, and a few days later, we did the embryo transfer. They put the embryo in a catheter, then stick it up into your uterus and release it, let it go and that’s it! You go home. 2 weeks later you go for a test to see if it worked.  My IP’s and I were able to watch the magic happen and see the embryo’s being inserted on a big screen on the wall. Around this time I also started on daily injections of progesterone in oil and had to use progesterone suppositories three times a day…fun!  My hubby was a big help with the shots, and we would alternate butt cheeks! The needles and suppositories happened daily until we were 12 weeks pregnant. The embryo was created by my IP’s, through IVF, so it It was her egg and his sperm. But there are lots of possibilities when it comes to getting a baby! (sperm donors, egg donors, etc). 

How did you know that you would emotionally be able to handle the process of having a baby, and then not raising it? I didn’t want any more kids, I was very firm on that. I was not attached. I knew it wasn’t my baby. I would never say things like “my baby” or “our baby”. I just knew for sure that I could do it. That’s just what makes a surrogate; they know that it’s just something they can do.

Do you feel any attachment for your Surrogate Baby? I feel like it’s a friend’s baby. I love her like I would love a niece or a nephew. There is a connection there, but it’s not a tugging maternal connection at all. It’s more of an Aunt or best friend’s baby connection.

What has been the hardest part of your journey as a surrogate mother? The Let Down after baby. While you are pregnant, you are on a pedestal; you’re somebody’s hero. Once the baby is born, you aren’t as needed anymore. It’s just an emotional adjustment, and there is a bit of insecurity there. You’re still important to them, but you are important in a different way. You don’t talk as much, the communication slows down, you are no longer ‘being that surrogate’. It doesn’t help that you have just delivered a baby that you didn’t bring home, and hormones are raging in your body.

What did you hope to get out of being a surrogate? A good, successful pregnancy and then to hand over a healthy baby to a deserving couple that needed my help.  Everything went smooth, and went according to plan. It went above and beyond my expectations.

Do you get to see your Surrogate Baby? Yes, I do. I’ve seen her about 8 times in 7 months.

Was it important to you to have a relationship with the baby and the family once the baby was born? No, in fact, I didn’t go into this with any strong pre-conceived ideas of what I wanted our relationship to be like after baby was born. It would be sad to not be part of that child’s life in some capacity, but it was in the hands of my IP’s what our relationship would be like after baby. It was more important to me to have them be as involved in the pregnancy as they wanted to be. I have no legal rights to the baby, so if my IP’s decided to walk away tomorrow from my life that would just be the way it would have to be.

What was Labor Day like? Were the Intended Parents there? It was very quick, and yes they were there. I started laboring early in the day, and they came and hung out at our place until we sped to the hospital. We had a midwife, and it was so quick that no one really had time to take pictures or videos. Thankfully my husband took a few pictures with his blackberry. I was in shock for a good hour afterwards because of the speed, and I was shaking. I wasn’t ready to hold the baby right after delivery, even though they were asking me, but that was because I was in shock. It’s so good to see the picnew-born-615751_1280tures afterwards, and see the looks of shock and awe. I was too in shock to enjoy it then. I had a romantic vision of how the labor would go, and it wasn’t like that because it happened so quickly. I feel like I got a bit ripped off there.

Once you left the hospital was your job done? Yes, and no. I got to go home and sleep in my own bed without having to worry about a baby. I offered to pump breastmilk for the baby, as breastfeeding is important to me. It was my gift to the baby. If they didn’t want the milk I was going to donate it to the local hospital. It ended up being very time consuming, stressful and painful. I pumped for 5 weeks, and they ended up with a 3 month supply of breastmilk for the baby.

Girl or Boy? They had a girl.

What advice would you give to women who might be thinking of becoming surrogates? Go for it, and don’t be afraid.  It’s rewarding. Go online and do research! ( www.ivf.com was my first resource). Contact your local fertility clinic (or one in the nearest large city to where you are) or fertility lawyer and reach out to others who have done it for advice. Once you get the ball rolling things will happen for you.

What advice would you give to people who are looking for a surrogate to carry their baby? Go to a fertility clinic and get online. They can give you all of the information and resources you will need.

Would you do it again? Yes! But only for the same couple. We are in talks for a possible second surrogacy journey.

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How was this pregnancy different than with your own children? The actual pregnancy wasn’t very different. It was just like my other pregnancies. I found it much less stressful and more relaxing than my own pregnancies. I didn’t have to worry about nurseries, or prepping and washing baby clothes, I just had to be pregnant. I had a great pregnancy and I felt great the whole time. I probably took better supplements with this pregnancy, as I am older and wiser!

What types of things were written into your contract as far as restrictions? I did not have any food restrictions in my contract, but I know that some lawyers and IP’s like things to be in there such as limited or no caffeine, processed food, etc. I know my IP’s picked me for me, and they knew I would make the right choices, so they didn’t feel the need to put that in. There were standard things like ‘not cleaning the kitty litter box’, and ‘no extramarital affairs’, but that’s about it. The legal contracts are there to protect all parties involved. Most IP’s have had a very long struggle leading up to the point of surrogacy so want to do everything they can to ensure success.

Did you have to pay for anything? No. My intended parents were responsible for any health care costs associated with this procedure. I did also newborn-457233_1280receive some lovely gifts from my IP’s. So while you don’t get paid, there are ways for IP’s to spoil their surrogate parents, and show their appreciation in some situations. Each surrogacy relationship is different.

Did you get maternity leave? Yes. I got 15 weeks of maternity leave. I chose to take it 7 weeks before the baby was due, and then 8 weeks after the baby was born to be home with my kids in the summer. This was regulated by the government. Not all surrogates are entitled to maternity leave. Some choose not to take it or they cannot afford to take it, but I considered it to be a big perk for me!

Was your employer supportive?  Very.

Most frequent questions you get asked? “You’re not going to have any problems handing the baby over, are you?” Plus, a couple of people wanted to know how much I was getting paid, perhaps thinking I’m doing it for the money.

What have people’s reactions been? Most people were just shocked when I tell them, so I was selective whom I told. People want to know more about it. I did feel a little like a celebrity at times. It’s an interesting topic! I was lucky to not have had to face any negative opinions or unsupportiveness.

I am sure we all know someone out there who is looking for a creative way to get their baby. Well, this story just proves that there are women out there who love being pregnant and will happily grow your baby for you! Tell all your friends about surrogacy. You might just want to get involved in a surrogate relationship at some point in your life.

If you have questions for my surrogate, please feel free to send an email!

To your Happiness!

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Tina O’Connor is an on-air personality and relationship expert who focuses on parenting, sex and lifestyle issues — with a feng shui twist. She is the author and creator of the popular "Be That" book series, whose titles include "Be That Girl," "Be That Mom" and "Be That Kinky Girl," providing women and couples everywhere with concrete strategies to achieve more balance, happiness, peace and success in their lives. Tina holds a BSc in psychology and is a certified feng shui practitioner and mom of three who appears regularly on Global, CTV and Rogers TV stations across Canada. She has also appeared as a guest on a wide variety of radio stations, from CBC to Playboy Radio. With her straight-talking approach and dynamic personality, Tina gives real-world advice with a flair for entertainment. She truly is "That Girl."

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