My LIfe as the Spouse of a Serial Surrogate Mother
I was once asked by an author who was researching an article for a monthly periodical what it’s like to be the spouse of a surrogate mother. Since I’m not used to espousing my opinion on this particular subject matter, I thought it would be appropriate to divulge this, especially in light of the fact that Dawn has a seemingly endless stream of blogs, articles, and posts in which she shares her surrogacy journey from the surrogate’s perspective freely and openly.
The very first time I even heard the word “surrogacy” was some years ago. At the time, we had only one child, and Dawn mentioned that at some point, she wanted to become a surrogate mother to help those who were unable to have kids of their own. I hadn’t a clue what surrogacy was, but the mere thought of her carrying someone else’s baby did not sit well with me. I knew it would be a number of years before this could ever become a reality, but nonetheless I felt a bit inadequate. Why would someone want to carry a baby and then give it to someone else? Was creating our own family not enough?
Soon I realized the selfishness of my orientation, but I still was unsure about whether I advocated her directly assisting others by offering to carry their babies. I remember the very first time we met a couple who were interested in having a baby via surrogacy. They had found us online, lived in the bay area, and we agreed to meet for lunch. It was a sunny, mild San Francisco day, and since we wanted to bring our kids along, we ate a family friendly Italian restaurant at the Embarcadero Center. We met the very first proposed recipient parents inside the restaurant near the entrance. They seems pleasant enough; they were a straight couple in their mid-20s, and were unable to have their own children. But during the meal, it was obvious that it was she who wanted the baby via surrogacy; her husband spent most of the lunch taking an extraordinarily passive role in the conversation, and seemed more interested in gazing around the restaurant than discussing this life-changing event with us. She, in contrast, genuinely was engaging, and asked the requisite questions you might expect a perspective recipient parent to ask a proposed surrogate mother. She also seemed interested in our kids, which was important, since Dawn was interested in doing a traditional surrogacy, where her own eggs would be used instead of those fromr an egg donor. How are kids looked and behaved was clearly an important element to her. Obviously, these were not recipients I had an interest in working with, and fortunately, neither did Dawn.
That first encounter was my first in-depth conversation with a couple who wanted to have children so badly (at least she did) but for certain reasons, were unable to conceive and carry a pregnancy. I saw the excitement of hope in her eyes, that expression of optimism, in that woman’s eyes knowing that she was taking the first step to creating her own family. Even though we parted ways, I gained a fuller understanding of the struggles infertility causes to so many people randomly. There often is no rationale why one woman has physiological issues conceiving while the woman standing next to her has no reproductive issues whatsoever. I now understood what would compel Dawn to become a surrogate mother, and now, was completely in favor of her doing a surrogacy, but only with the right set of recipient parents. I knew it would be an arduous, painstakingly slow process to find a recipient whom both of us could agree would be the right fit, one that would involve many emails, phone conversations, and meetings in person.
I was quite leery of the online websites dedicated to matching surrogate mothers with recipient parents. Fortunately, my concerns were drastically reduced after Dawn chose her first recipient. This single male recipient was an incredible person, and after speaking with him prior to Dawn committing to being his surrogate, I had absolutely no reservations about her carrying a baby for him. But it was still an uneasy feeling, knowing that she would be contributing her eggs and carrying a baby for someone other than me. And this uneasiness intensified a bit when Dawn travelled a good distance out of state so she could attempt an insemination with him at his house, instead of ours. Admittedly, even though this recipient was clearly the most ideal imaginable, I still was a bit worried: Dawn was traveling alone thousands of miles away to stay with someone whom neither of us really knew well, staying there for several days for the purpose of doing an insemination. Although this recipient was stellar, I still couldn’t help but worry.
Fortunately, Dawn did touch base with me several times during her trip, which re-assured me.. And ultimately, thankfully, that insemination was successful, and she became pregnant with a girl. It was a bit awkward though, knowing that someone else’s baby was growing inside of Dawn. I became more accustomed to that thought as her pregnancy progressed, recognizing that she had been entrusted with making sure that baby is well nourished, and that it is thriving as best as possible. This huge responsibility was taken on with complete confidence by Dawn, and she succeeded in being the best “house” possible during the entire pregnancy. The only relatively taboo thing she did during pregnancy–and she did this with the complete consent of the recipient–was consume raw sushi, something she did though out each and every other pregnancy she had. This was the only vice she enjoyed during pregnancy, and the end result was a completely healthy, full-term baby girl.
Being the spouse of a surrogate presents some very unusual circumstances during delivery of a surrobaby. When surrobaby #1 was born, Dawn had a standard-sized hospital room. Logistically, this presents some unusual scenarios. We — meaning Dawn, myself and the recipient parent — all got along quite well. But imagine all of us spending several nights together in a small hospital room. Besides Dawn’s hospital bed, the furnishings were quite minimal. Both the recipient and myself had separate chairs that pulled out into beds, but the focus was primarily on Dawn and the new surrobaby Dawn had given birth to. I slept as well as I could, given the seemingly constant interruptions of nursing staff coming into the room, monitoring both baby and Dawn, and I became acclimated to having the recipient parent in the room. The hospital stay was brief; both Dawn and the surrobaby were released from the hospital two days post-birth. We said our good-byes to the recipient and baby daughter Dawn had carried. It was the end of my first surrogacy journey as the spouse of a surrogate mother, and it was a complete success.
Dawn was so content being a surrogate the first time that she wanted to help out another recipient. She began her search once again online using one of those recipient parent and surrogate mother matching websites. One of the people she found were a same sex male couple who lived not far from us in Los Angeles. A few emails were exchanged, and during the course of those emails, these prospective recipients learned that Dawn’s first recipient was a good friend of theres! met them at a nearby restaurant. they lived close by, residing just over the hill from where we lived in Los Angeles, about a 15 minute drive. As it turned out, they began emailing each other, and then realized they were friends of Dawn’s first recipient! That was quite a coincidence. After that meeting, Dawn invited them to dinner at our house, so they could meet us all. They seemed like extraordinarily nice people, based upon what Dawn had said about them, and I was looking forward to meeting them and assessing if they would be a great fit for Dawn as the recipient parents for her next traditional surrogacy.
They arrived at the house, albeit one a bit later than other due to work commitments, and they were as wonderful as Dawn had described. We chatted over dinner about their lives, and learned about each other’s dreams and goals pertaining to surrogacy and other facets of life. I was impressed with them, and was completely on board for having them as Dawn’s next set of recipient parents.I had come a long way from my days where I was apprehensive about having Dawn assist others complete their family via surrogacy, and now was fully committed to supporting her decision to do so.
Dawn had a major concern about these new recipients. She was frightened that our privacy would be invaded. For some reason, she envisioned recipient parents who lived in such close proximity to their surrogate mother to make random surprise visits to check on her, our house, our kids, or whatever else was on their agenda. I re-assured her that even though they lived nearby, they were friends of our first recipient, and I felt no threat of that type of behavior from these recipients, as they seemed completely down to earth and rational. It took a while for her to believe me, but as the surrogacy process began with them, she realized I was right.
After one attempt, Dawn became pregnant with surrobaby #2, which happened to end up being a boy. Months passed as her pregnancy progressed, and all was going well. One of the more challenging aspects of having a partner who is carrying a baby for someone else is having the often times arduous task of explaining this to others, such as parents of our own children. One a number of occasions, we would be out at a social event while Dawn was clearly showing her pregnancy. One evening, we were at the home of one of our daughter’s parents for a holiday party, and saw other parents whom we knew well. One particular couple, who were gay and whose daughter was our daughter’s best friend, learned that Dawn was pregnant as a surrogate mother and were so happy that Dawn was doing this great deed. Some other people overheard this conversation, and suddenly seemed as if we were talking about the plague, having difficulty grasping the fact that another parent from the school was — heaven forbid — a surrogate mother. One parent we knew kept asking questions about surrogacy, and I could tell that she couldn’t believe that someone in her circle of school parents would do such a thing. It caused her great discomfort to even discuss this subject. Whilst I had thought proudly that our neighbors and friends in the local community had a more progressive outlook on life, I realized that, while many did, there were a few others amongst them that did not.
A few weeks later, it was time for delivery for this surrobaby boy. Dawn does not give birth without some external assistance, and typically give birth commencing with an induction. This time was no different. Dawn and I arrived at the hospital, and she was assigned a room, where we spend a good portion of the day waiting for the IV drip containing petocin to start her contractions. Knowing that this process takes a good number of hours prior to the drugs taking effect, we instructed the recipients not to arrive at the hospital too early, as there would be no reason for them to be there prior to Dawn giving birth. Late in the afternoon, I called them and instructed them to come to the hospital, even though it would still be a few hours before Dawn gave birth. They arrived, and the plan was that I was to summon them into the delivery room once Dawn was in the late stages of labor just prior to giving birth. In the meantime, I was with Dawn, watching her contractions progress slowly, while the recipients were calmly sitting in the waiting area reading some books, although I can not imagine how anyone waiting for their baby to be born could focus on anything else except the arrival of their baby.
Dawn’s contractions were occurring closer together, and becoming more intense. She became rather cognizant of her demeanor and the increased volume of her moans as the baby was closer to being born. At one point, she told me that because of this, she changed her mind about one critical promise she had made the recipients. She suddenly did not want the recipient parents in the room during birth, and preferred that she give birth on her own and then have the recipients come see their baby afterwards. I knew that could not let that happen; part of the joy of being a recipient is watching your own child being born, and not merely being escorted in after the big event. Plus we agreed that they could be in the delivery room during childbirth. So I re-assured her that everything would be fine, they would understand if they heard her scream in pain during labor, and that she was giving birth to their baby, not hers. Dawn still was resisting them entering the delivery room, but when the time came, and I knew childbirth was only a few minutes away, I quickly sauntered into the waiting room and summoned the recipient parents, quickly saying, “I think it’s time.” They quickly followed me into the room, and with only about two minutes two spare. They had the good fortune to watch the birth of their baby, and seemed mesmerized by watching this miracle happen. Each seemed proud as each held their baby for the first time.
Since the hospital knew that Dawn was giving birth to a baby that would belong to two recipients, they gave Dawn a larger than average room she and the rest of us would stay at for the duration of her stay. This room had a fold-out sofa bed, an extra chair bed, and more than ample room for us all to stay comfortably. I, as I did previously, felt a little awkward about all of us staying in the same room. But the two recipients were extremely friendly and respectful of me during our stay together. The stay was there was otherwise uneventful, and their baby and surrogate mother was released from the hospital two days after giving birth.
A bit of time passed between surrogate baby #2 and #3. Dawn opted to carry for a straight couple who also was a friend of recipient parent #1. I always have told her that she needed to experience surrogacy while working with a conventional straight couple, which she had not done previously. I explained to her that this sort of relationship would assist her in the future relate to other straight couples who may come to the agency as clients; she would know first-hand how it was to have recipient parents who were a straight couple, and use that experience to help other surrogates relate to their traditional coupled clients. We met these recipients at a restaurant in Los Angeles, where they had traveled with their family to meet us. They seemed very excited about the prospect of having a baby via surrogacy, and were thrilled that their surrogate would be the same one their friend recipient #1 had. After meeting these people, I was completely on-board with having Dawn carry for them. In the following months, Dawn would travel to their city to attempt to become pregnant. As usual, I was a bit apprehensive about her traveling to what essentially was the home of strangers, but eventually I got used to the idea of her going there alone. After all, I did meet them, believed they were worthy people, and agreed to having them as her next set of recipient parents. It took several long trips there, but finally she achieved pregnancy.
During this particular pregnancy, there was some contact between Dawn and the recipient parents, but not a lot. Emails were exchanged periodically, an occasional telephone call here and there, but the relationship clearly was not as close as it was with the previous two recipients.
Unfortunately, the doctor this time around believed that Dawn’s baby was too big to deliver vaginally, a decision which the ultrasound MD concurred with. So she was scheduled for her first C-Secion, an event she wanted to avoid like the plague. Now, there was no way around it. The recipient parents travelled to Los Angeles a few days before this procedure so they could attend. On the day of delivery, we met the recipients at the hospital. Dawn was hooked up to the monitors, and asked about whether the C-Section was absolutely necessary. The response was based upon the information they had, it was the best option and in the best interest of the baby. Of course, everyone wants what is best for the baby, so Dawn was in no position to change what was planned. At the last minute, I was not completely convinced that the baby was as big as everyone said, and told Dawn that it was not too late to change her mind. Even the hospital staff agreed that if she would prefer to be induced, they could certainly do so. But since everything was in place for the C-section, she proceeded that with that as planned. The result was a healthy baby boy, her surrobaby #3.
These recipients had their own room at the hospital, as well as an apartment to stay at during their visit to Los Angeles, so there was no need to share our room with them. We ended up seeing the recipients on a few occasions before they left Los Angeles to return home with their baby.
Since then, neither Dawn nor myself have had much contact with them., while we remain very close to the other two sets of recipient parents. The bonds we have established with those first two are strong; we have seen each of those two sets of recipients at least one time since the birth of their surrobaby, and have plans to see them again in the future.
Being with a serial surrogate mother has opened my eyes to others who are unable to have kids on their own, and has made me realize what a special gift Dawn has given to others. I couldn’t imagine her not being a surrogate mother, and look forward to the next chapter of her surrogacy mom life.