The Off-Site Bakery: Meeting Auntie Stork


I believe in miracles.

Two year ago this past Christmas, The Electrician and I experienced the greatest miracle of our life together thus far: we found a gestational surrogate. An awesome gestational surrogate.

Our doctor at the time made it painfully clear to us that finding anyone willing to be the oven to our bun was exceptionally unlikely. Finding someone amazing became something so far outside the realm of possibility we hardly dared to hope.

At the time, we were just stepping into the emotional minefield that is the path to surrogacy. We were still weighing our options but were yearning for at least one biological child. As my part of the process–because it would have been really awkward for my husband to actively search for a uterus–I was quietly asking everyone I could trust if they might know a person who would be interested in being a gestational surrogate.

To recap, in case you missed the earlier posts in this series, a gestational surrogate is a woman who grows a baby that is not genetically related to her. In our plan, we would transfer an embryo created from my one of my eggs and a member of The Electrician’s swim team to someone else’s uterus.

Under Canadian fertility laws, our surrogate cannot be paid, but can be reimbursed for documented expenses, such as maternity clothes. She would basically be the most incredible volunteer to ever walk the earth.

I know undergoing the physical and emotional strain of pregnancy and its aftermath to hand over the baby to someone else is a massive commitment. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when nobody we know jumped into the ring, offering her uterus for our cause.

A friend I’ve known since actual childhood and I were messaging on Facebook, reflecting on our happy marriages and an earlier bonding experience when we had both been devastated by terrible relationships.

When I asked if she might happen to know anyone who would be interested in exploring he possibility of being our surrogate, I expected the same answers we’d been getting all along:

“Sorry I don’t, but good luck.”

“I would totally do it for you, if only ______________.”

“I don’t know how someone could give away a baby.”

“How much does it pay? Isn’t surrogacy crazy expensive?”

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

None of these responses are intentionally offensive, but all reflect our reality: normal people who are limited in our options for creating our family, functioning in an environment where surrogacy is misunderstood at best.

I believe I stopped breathing for a full minute when my friend’s response to my standard question about knowing a potential surrogate was, “I DOOOOOO.”

Within minutes, I had a number to text, awkwardly introducing myself as a friend of our mutual friend, and as a uterus-free person in search of a womb.We made a phone date for a day or two later. I think waiting for that call was the closest I’ve ever been to dying of anticipation.

So much needs to line up for a gestational surrogacy relationship to work. The intended parents (that’s us) need to be confident their carrier will take care of herself before and during the pregnancy, and that she will be reasonable to interact with throughout the process. They need to be certain the person they are trusting to care for their most valuable treasure is not only up to the task but will also come through the process happy with her decision to carry a baby she will not raise.

Of course, the surrogate also has to be extremely careful. We have all heard stories in the news of babies being abandoned by their intended parents, or of surrogates who are left pregnant when people change their mind. The Electrician and I would never do either of those things, but the media so often portrays surrogacy as dangerous moral and legal ground for all involved.

Less dramatically, but just as importantly, the surrogate needs to feel comfortable working with the intended parents and their family, and to feel confident that the child will be raised in a way she feels good about.

My first call with the woman we now call “Auntie Stork” went remarkably well. All the questions we prepared for each other, awkward as they sometimes were, spurred productive conversation. I was surprised by how smoothly things went. By the end of the conversation, we had plans to meet with our mutual friend over a snack about two weeks later.

A couple doesn’t want someone who is “sorta okay” to carry their child. My hopes were so very high after that first phone conversation; I was deeply worried through the wait until our in-person meeting that our potential surrogate would not be what we hoped, that some deal-breaker would come to light and we would have to start our search over.

I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous about meeting a person as I was that day. It turned out that Auntie Stork was even better in person than the fantastic impression I got from her over the phone.

As we were standing up to leave at the end of our snack and chat, I told the woman all our hopes were riding on to take some time to think things over, and that she could contact us any time. It is one of the biggest decisions she will ever make, and we didn’t want to put any pressure on her.

She replied, “I’m in. I pretty much decided after our first phone call.”

I had to sit down. I couldn’t find any words, either. People who know me understand speechlessness is a true rarity.

If there was a checklist of qualities a person would hope for in a gestational surrogate, Auntie Stork ticks every box, and then some. Imagine our absolute delight at finding someone who is an incredible human being on every level to carry our baby. She is intelligent, hard-working, and already a devoted mother to her son. We are lucky that she is in great health and is willing to undertake such a huge task, one that is as emotionally and physically demanding as they come, to help people she has only known a short time. She embodies kindness and generosity that is rare and remarkable.

Imagine, a woman willing to go through a pregnancy for a baby she will not raise to make someone else’s dreams come true. We appreciate her more than I can express.

The Electrician and I are as lucky as unlucky people can be.

Stay tuned.

 

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