(Note: If you prefer listening over reading, scroll to the bottom and listen to this post on SoundCloud. It’s nice having options, eh?!)
A few months ago, I was inspired through a creative writing class taught by author, Amy Impellizeri, to write a piece and audition for the Listen To Your Mother Lehigh Valley show. I auditioned and was selected to read my piece at the LTYM Lehigh Valley show this past Sunday, April 30. It was truly an honor to share the stage with 11 other amazing women whose stories left me at moments shaking my head in solidarity, sobbing or laughing and always feeling so deeply connected to the depth and beauty of the divine feminine and to each other. Deep connection happens when we share from vulnerability and are met with love, compassion and understanding. This is precisely what happened with our group of women.
Surrogacy was definitely one of the most unique things I’ve been able to experience and was filled with tons of joyful moments and just as many, gut-wrenching, painful ones. There is SOOOO much more to my surrogacy journey than what is written here – like the fact that it took me nearly three years, being matched with 3 couples and 3 IVF procedures from the moment I applied to be a surrogate until the moment of Ryan’s birth. Joy, heartache and many lessons wrapped in one long, bittersweet journey. Here is a tiny glimpse into this particular story of my life and a bit of what it taught me. May it serve you in some way.
The last time I first felt a baby kick me from the inside out, that baby was not my own but a baby I promised to carry for someone else. I woke up early that morning, made a trip to the bathroom (first things first of course, especially when you’re pregnant!) and settled myself in at my dining room table to do some work on my laptop. I was typing away when I felt it for the first time – a very firm, make-no-mistake-about-it, “Hey you out there, I mean business”, thump in my lower abdomen.
Chalk it up to the hormones or the sheer joy of knowing I really was carrying life inside of me and not just putting on weight, my hands shot to my abdomen and the tears started flowing. Overcome with joy, I excitedly shot off an email to the baby’s mother with the subject line “YOUR BABY IS MOVING!!” in all capital letters and with several exclamation points!
My desire to become a surrogate had been sparked by watching my sister’s long, gut-wrenching battle with infertility. Having already given birth to a daughter of my own, I knew what pregnancy and childbirth were like. I longed to be pregnant again, to feel another life inside of me. I wanted a chance to experience a vaginal delivery, something I missed out on with the unanticipated C-section birth of my daughter. I also knew that I DID NOT (and I repeat DID NOT!) want the long-term commitment to motherhood that having another child of my own would require. Ultimately, my sister declined my offer. Surrogacy was not the path to long-term motherhood for her, but it was the perfect path to temporary motherhood for me.
So my surrogacy journey began… After LOTS (and I do mean LOTS) of psychological and medical testing, background and credit checks, and meetings with doctors, psychologists and social workers, I was thrilled the day my uterus and I were given the official seal of approval to carry a baby for someone else. I was matched with a couple from Boston – a couple who had gone through 5 years of unsuccessful infertility treatments. You can imagine our joy the day we received the call from the clinic with the news that I was indeed pregnant with their baby.
Even before the pregnancy test confirmed it, I took temporary motherhood extremely seriously. I made sure I did everything possible to protect, nourish and care for that little life inside of me. I exercised more consistently, ate more carrot sticks and fewer donuts, switched to decaffeinated coffee, drank water in lieu of that glass of red wine, made sure I didn’t lift anything too heavy, was extra careful on the steep stairs leading to my apartment and was even more cautious while driving. This may sound crazy, but I felt an even greater responsibility as a surrogate than I did when I was carrying my own child. After all, I had been chosen. I had been stamped healthy and worthy by all the professionals. Trust had been placed in me by many others to mother that baby as if it were my very own. And I did.
My mothering continued through the baby’s birth. After my water broke unexpectedly 5 ½ weeks before my due date, I had to make a series of decisions that I knew would lead to a much lower chance of the vaginal delivery that I had desperately wanted to experience, but as mothers do….I sacrificed. Sacrificed my own longings to help ensure that the baby would remain protected and arrive safely into this world and into the arms of her long-term mother.
On December 16, 2010 I gave birth via C-section to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Her parents named her Ryan Elizabeth. I wasn’t her forever home or her forever mom, but for nearly 9 months, I mothered her. I carried her, nourished her, protected her, gave her a safe, loving home and sacrificed for her. If this is not motherhood, what is? For those 9 months, I was most definitely her mother even if the DNA showed otherwise.
Motherhood can come to us in many ways whether through the easy, fun traditional means, infertility treatments, adoption, fostering or surrogacy. It can also be temporary or long-term. No matter the path we take to motherhood or whether we choose to be temporary or long-term mothers, the mothering is no less real, no less important, no less valid. I was a temporary mother providing a temporary home for a precious little soul. At the moment of her birth, she was handed to her forever parents who would provide her a forever home.
I left the hospital two days after my surgery. As I was walking out, extended family members of the baby were walking in. We exchanged superficial greetings. They were, of course, clearly thrilled about the new addition to their family. They did not ask me how I was doing or offer me a simple word of thanks. They were walking in – into exciting, joyful new beginnings filled with love and happiness. I was walking out – into a painful, lonely ending filled with loss, grief and the realization that I was a vessel that had served her purpose and was now no longer of any use.
I left the hospital that day with an empty womb and empty arms, choking back tears knowing that my temporary motherhood had come to a close. I grieved the end of a very long, exciting journey, the loss of that tiny girl moving inside me and the loss of the delivery I had hoped to experience.
While the motherhood was temporary, my experience and the bittersweet memories of it are permanent. I will always carry them with me. I carry with me a deep appreciation for the miracle of life and the enormous heartache that some must go through to experience it. I carry with me the understanding that no matter how or for how long we become mothers, motherhood is a priceless gift. I carry with me a deep, indescribable joy – a joy that comes from knowing that my unconditional love and service to others birthed a unique expression of love into this world – love in the form of a beautiful baby girl named Ryan.
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