I’m sorry about the gynaecological pun, but when you’ve been in more stirrups than John Wayne, you do what’s necessary get through the day.
If you missed the first part of this series about my path to motherhood sans uterus, consider reading it here first.
When you were a little kid, you believed something about where babies come from. Depending on the beliefs in your family, your version of the story varied.
Some of us were told stories about God and angels, or a stork bringing the poor little things in a precarious sling of cloth. Maybe you got the super technical talk about spermatozoa and ova, with a little fallopian tube chat designed to make you lose interest in the subject quickly and go back to your Lego blocks.
In my youngest memories, I thought the baby delivery system involved a stork dropping the baby down the chimney, Santa-style. A childhood friend believed babies came from holding hands with boys. My godson is convinced people go to a special “baby hospital” when they’re ready to be parents to simply pick up their baby.
No one ever sits down with children and says, “One day, when you have a person in your life you love to Jupiter and back, and you decide to have a baby together, you might not be able to make your babies the way most folks do. You might have to go to a special doctor and have lots of tests and tons of needles, and maybe even an operation or two, to help you have a baby. And sometimes even the doctor can’t help, and you might have to think about other ways to create a family.”
We are one of those families who needs help to add small people to our home. Luckily for us, we have been utterly blessed with the most amazing fertility specialist around. For the purposes of some kind of privacy, I’m going to call him Dr. Miracle, because he performs them every day.
Dr. Miracle came very highly recommended to me by a dear friend who has two beautiful and healthy children after in-vitro fertilization. Her testing showed that without IVF, she would never have biological children. My friend has nothing but wonderful things to say about Dr. Miracle’s talent and compassion, so I requested a referral directly to him rather than simply to our local fertility clinic.
After nervously sharing with my GP that The Electrician and I had decided to explore the possibility of a surrogacy arrangement and specifically hoped to work with Dr. Miracle, we braced ourselves for what we were warned would be at least an 18 month wait for our consultation with the man himself. I expected it to be much longer because we selected a specific doctor who is in very high demand.
Remarkably, I received a package in the mail shortly afterward with fertility information and an appointment date, less than two months after the original referral. I first misread the letter and was elated our date was just over a year away. Then, while talking on the phone to a friend and loading clothes into the dryer, I realized the date was August of 2014. As in the following month.
I dropped the clean, wet laundry I was holding on the floor.
I was remarkably nervous for our first appointment at the clinic. Every kind of anxiety coursed through me, even so far as wondering what kind of clothes I should wear so I looked like a responsible adult who could successfully keep a baby alive if they decided to help us.
I found out when we awkwardly checked in at the front desk that our local clinic does not perform surrogacy procedures–because apparently I wasn’t nervous enough already.
When Dr. Miracle finally arrived in our consultation room, he introduced himself by his first name and said, “I’m so sorry you find yourselves here.” I was put almost immediately at ease by his manner and by his recognition that his office was a place few people ever plan to be.
Shortly into our conversation, however, he told us that the chances of him being able to help us with a gestational surrogacy were terribly small. Not because his clinic had never performed one before, although that is the case, but because we were highly unlikely to find someone to carry our child. In most cases where someone steps forward to act as a gestational carrier, he explained, the arrangement falls through before the embryos are transferred and no pregnancy ever occurs.
He told us many would-be surrogates are scooped up by intended parents in the United States, where surrogacy arrangements include payments between $50,000-100,000 on average. Few women are willing to carry a child out of the goodness of their hearts when that goodness could be worth a down payment on a house a few hours south of here.
Others drop out because the process can take many, many months to reach the point of pregnancy, because of the difficulty of some of the tests, medications, and procedures, or because the women decide they want more children of their own. For dozens of reasons, finding a gestation carrier in Canada is terribly challenging.
Because we currently had no carrier, and none forthcoming, Dr. Miracle said he did not want to involve us in a process that would tax our hearts and our bank account, only to be gravely disappointed and remain childless. He stated, and rightly so, that it would be a terrible and painful waste to create embryos that never get to grow into our children.
He actually said that he wasn’t willing to take thousands of dollars from us unless there was a good chance of a baby, and he gently recommended we consider adoption, since the odds of parenthood were higher many times over. And, with his promise he would try to help us if we found a carrier and if we wanted to proceed, the appointment ended.
I was gutted. The Electrician and I had already spent many hours researching and discussing adoption and surrogacy, and we decided for many reasons that surrogacy was our preference at this time. The really scary thing was that we knew we could not afford to try both options. If we moved forward into adoption, we would not be able to come up with the money to have a biological child through surrogacy. If we tried for surrogacy and it failed, adoption would no longer be financially viable.
As is often the case when brutal news strikes, we craved comfort food. We ended up stewing over mall food court Chinese food, me stress eating and The Electrician not saying much because there wasn’t anything to say to make it better.
I should explain at this point that I have a long-time friend who offered many years ago to be my surrogate. I know she would have done it in a heartbeat, but due to complications during and after the birth of her son, I could not ask her to risk her health for us. We deeply wanted a baby, but not at the expense of someone we love.
And so, sitting there absorbing the hard news and the riding my plunging hopes farther down than I knew they could take me, I finally threw my hands up and said to my creator, “Hi again. Please give us some direction here, because this is so, so, so hard. If we’re supposed to pursue surrogacy, please give me a sign. If I don’t hear from you, we will look further into adoption.” I didn’t say so, but I was hoping for soon.
We scraped what was left of our meals into the garbage and continued through the mall. I fully believe that when we need something, it happens, but sometimes the wait is tough.
But it happens that not 5 minutes after I pled for a sign, one appeared.
Years earlier, at a very challenging decision point for me, I bought a little plaque that inspired me and helped me get through. There, front and centre in the mall window of a greeting card place, in my favourite colours, was the same phrase printed on a beautiful card:
Sometimes your only available mode of transportation is a leap of faith.
I stood there for a minute, processing the idea that maybe we needed to leap into our dream of a biological child. Still, it was so soon after my call for help that I wasn’t quite ready to accept it as the sign.
We walked on, straight to the painfully expensive chocolatier. Not the purple one, but the one I don’t go to because even chocolate needs a price limit. As I turned to the woman in the apron to request the luxurious truffles my soul called out for, I had a moment. It was one of those times when the whole rest of the world faded to soft-focus, and my pulse whooshed in my ears.
Randomly, in a store I had never entered before or since, this young woman scooped up chocolate and sliced fudge.
Engraved on her tag was the name we have always wanted for a daughter.
In that moment, unable to speak (exceedingly rare for me) I stood across from someone with the unusual name we love for a little girl. It was even spelled correctly.
True story. True, astonishing, wholly comforting story.
So we decided those were our signs–because what else could they possibly be, exactly when I requested them and two minutes apart–and while we were still feeling things deeply, we decided there was hope we might find surrogate.
Stay tuned to read about the next part of our experience. If blessings were snowflakes, I’d be dancing in a blizzard.