Why do women decide to become surrogates? And how does the process unfold? Canadian Fertility Consulting continues this series of interviews with our surrogates to share stories from women just like you. Women who decided to take a leap of faith, change someone’s life forever, and make their dreams come true. This is Ashley’s story:
1.Why did you become a surrogate?
I get this question all the time and it’s always hard to answer. There were a few reasons, but I think the biggest one for me, and I think its probably the same for a lot, is my relationship with my own child. I have a seven-year-old son and he’s my entire world. I can’t put into words how much it means to be his mom. When I discovered surrogacy and that I have the ability to help someone else have that unconditional feeling of: “Oh my goodness, this little human is my everything” I knew that I had to at least try to share this gift with someone else.
2. Who supported you most in your decision to be a surrogate?
My husband. He’s incredible and he’s always been there for me. I’m a 2-time surrogate, and I’m working on my 3rd journey right now. Throughout all of it, he’s been my rock. He’s the first person to run out to the store and get my snacks when I’m having a craving, he rubs my feet, and he’s there when I’m having my hormonal moments. He’s been there for each of the births; he’s just really wonderful. My son is on-board, but he’s decided that the next time I get pregnant he wants a sibling. I’m really lucky though, I have a lot of support from my family.
3. How did you explain surrogacy to your children?
I’ve only ever been a surrogate for gay couples. I explained to him that since girls are the only ones who can carry babies, I was going to help two men have a baby of their own. He was only 4 when we first started so I needed to simplify it a bit, but it didn’t even phase him. Now that he’s a bit older, he loves the idea. He thinks it’s really cool and he’s getting more into it, he came with me to my last transfer and was so curious about the whole process, the embryo, how you make it, how you put it in, he was curious about birth, the whole thing. He’s at that really curious stage, which is really neat.
4. What was the medical process like, taking medications and having procedures?
It’s a lot but its manageable. My first time I was really scared about the injections, obviously its not something most people do, so it’s a little bit intimidating. All of a sudden, you’re taking a bunch of hormones multiple times throughout the day, so you have to be really on top of it. I’m pretty lucky that I do not have a lot of side effects from them up until my current journey. I developed an allergy to the injections where I suddenly broke out in hives. I sent a picture to my Intended Father and he told me I needed to stop the injections right away. Luckily, I was able to switch to suppositories, but it’s still been a bit overwhelming.
My husband has been wonderful throughout all of this. I find that the injections can sometimes be anxiety inducing, one day I’m totally fine but for some reason the next my thoughts turn to: “I have to do an injection and I don’t want to do it, I’m too sore and I don’t want to poke myself”. It’s really great to have someone who will help you with the injections. If I’m doing it myself, I find that it helps to play some really fun, poppy music to jam out to and get in the right frame of mind.
5. Why did you pick your intended parents?
For my first surrogacy, I only got one profile. I was in my car when I opened my email. Once I read it, I thought “Oh my goodness, they’re amazing! It was just this feeling that I can’t explain. I didn’t want to see any more profiles; I just knew they were the ones. We’re still really close.
For my second journey, I really liked his video: he was really adorable and kind of a nerd, and I’m a bit of a nerd myself so I thought: “This will be great!”. For this journey, which is my third and I think will be my last, I was a bit picky with my selection. I was really waiting for that moment where I would read a profile and smile, laugh, or cry. I went through so many profiles! I think I drove Courtney and Robin a little batty, because I kept asking for more. Finally, I came across my current Intended Fathers’ profile and it I felt an instant connection. While I was watching their video, I was cracking up the entire time. They were hilarious and it’s still like that. We’ve been matched since July, and every day they are constantly cracking me up; they’re amazing.
6. What was your relationship with them like?
My relationship with my first couple of Intended Fathers was amazing. We are still very close which is amazing. They’re from Barcelona and they have my little surrogate baby who turns 3 in June and they are on their second one. We tried to do a sibling, unfortunately embryos didn’t work so they’re working with another surrogate now but its wonderful cause I’m actually very close with that other surrogate, so we have created our own little family together. They were super supportive and wonderful. They adore my son and they were involved in every aspect of my surrogacy. They’re just incredible people.
For my second surrogacy journey, I helped a single father who was also from Barcelona. Even though there was a huge language barrier, he was really great. Unfortunately, he cut all contact with me after the birth. I was under the impression that we would have a life-long friendship because he told me many times that I was an important person to him now. About a month after his return to Barcelona with the baby, he cut contact. It was devasting at first, especially when I had just given birth. I also had a really difficult delivery where I had a retained placenta and I lost about 3 litres of blood. I almost didn’t make it, and the doctors were unsure if I would make it out of the operating room alive. After he cut communication, there was a lot of resentment on my part for probably a few weeks where I was processing how I almost died to give him a baby. It was really difficult, but I’ve come to terms with it.
I got into surrogacy to give someone a child and I did just that. He’s a wonderful man with an amazing family and I know that little girl is so loved and well cared for. While I always go into my surrogacy experiences with the expectation to stay in touch after the birth, some things don’t always work. I’ve learned to accept it and move on. I hope that for my current journey things will all work out in the end. My current set of Intended Parents are from Australia and as of now, they call me auntie Ashley to their cat. I have a good feeling about our relationship lasting well after the baby is born.
8. What are the challenges you’ve faced by having international Intended Parents?
I think the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far was the language barrier, especially with my second journey. We never Skyped because he was embarrassed that he couldn’t speak English that well. I tried to encourage him, and I even tried to speak Spanish, but we also looked so ridiculous trying to communicate with each other. Explaining something that is going on physically or emotionally through a translator was sometimes awkward and uncomfortable.,
With my first couple, one of them spoke really great English and the other tried really hard, and the more we talked, the better he got. He was always willing to try and wanted to try and be involved. He always joked that I was the only one who understood him because we picked up this kind of ‘short hand’, where I got used to it. I could figure out what he was trying to say, and he was like: “you’re the only one who understands me”, so that was really sweet.
Beyond the language barrier, the other main challenge would be the issues with surrogacy in Spain. Since Spain is a very Catholic country, gay couples are still not widely accepted, and they are trying to make surrogacy illegal. They are currently making it even more difficult for couples to bring their babies home. It’s also a little bit tricky with signing over parentage. I actually had to sign an adoption form for my first surro-baby in order for them to get the Spanish birth certificate. They needed me to sign a form saying I’m not the mom, these are the dads, and I relinquish all right. I was fine signing whatever was needed to make sure they could get the documents they needed.
9. What was it like when they came from Spain?
With my first couple it was wonderful! They came a few weeks before the birth and we ate a whole lot of Boston Pizza and Tim Hortons and I got them a little bit addicted. They just recently got one in Barcelona and they’re so excited, its actually hilarious. We spent every day together, just walking, exploring, and shopping. When I was tuckered out, they would take my son to the park which is just down the street to give me a little break. It was wonderful and not awkward at all. Once the baby was born, we spent every day together. Saying goodbye was probably the hardest part because I had built this relationship with these people and then they went home and they’re so far away, but overall it was great.
11. How did surrogacy change your life?
Surrogacy changed my life in so many ways. I don’t have a lot of family, as I grew up in foster care. I don’t really have a lot of people in my life other than my husband, my son and a couple close friends. I didn’t really have a family – until now. Thanks to surrogacy, I have this family all over the world and its amazing. My first surrogate couple made a comment to me and they still say it all the time: “We’re not a family of blood, we’re family of heart”. It’s just amazing to have these people in my life. We do not talk every single day, but we talk a few times a week and we Skype when we can. If either of us is ever having a bad day, we always have each other to talk to. I also feel like I’ve gotten this new perspective on a lot of things when it comes to fertility. Even though I’ve done surrogacy for gay men, I have this new understanding about infertility struggles. I also have a whole new understanding of LGBTQ and their struggles and what it means to be a parent as a gay couple. There are these things I never really thought about before so I feel like being a surrogate really opened my eyes. I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences and acquired new knowledge that I’m passing onto my son about being inclusive. Love is love, and we help people whenever we’re able to, which I think are very important lessons to teach our children. It’s just been wonderful, I cannot say enough good things about being a surrogate.
12. What was the best part of your surrogacy journey?
It has to be the moment they see their baby. It’s literally amazing. The moment when my son was placed on my chest after I gave birth was the moment when the whole world changed forever. To see that moment, happen for somebody else and know that I played a part in that for someone else is incredible. It’s also wonderful to celebrate all those little moments throughout the journey. Surrogacy is not just an “up” thing, there’s a lot of ups and downs: there’s field transfers, there’s chemicals, there’s miscarriages, and there’s labour. It’s not always just bright and positive things, so it’s important to acknowledge all the ups and downs. It’s exciting when you reach a milestone, like making it through the first trimester, then the second, and then finding out the gender. These moments are so exciting for these couples because they never thought they would get there, so it’s fantastic to experience it all with them.
13. What would you say to someone considering surrogacy?
Oh my god, do it. Being a surrogate is such an incredible experience, and it’s feeling that is really hard to put into words. It’s so hard to adequately describe because there’s nothing like it. To be able to help someone start or complete their family is unlike anything else.
When you’re a surrogate, you not only develop an amazing relationship with your Intended Parents, but you also gain so many friends through Canadian Fertility Consulting’s surrogacy community. I have friends all over Canada now. some of them I haven’t even met, but I have found my people. You get this amazing support system, these life-long friendships, and added family. You get to do something so unique and so incredible and inspiring because every time you talk about it with others, you inspire someone else to do it too. People come tell me that they think my surrogacy journeys are amazing, and I always tell them that they can do it too. We need more surrogates because there are more people in need than those available to help. To those who are considering, I would suggest taking your time to do your research and find an agency that is the right fit or them. If you feel a calling, jump right in!
14. Would you consider being a surrogate again? Why? Your decision to do surrogacy again, will this be your last time?
For my last birth, I unexpectedly gave birth at home on my living room floor. The paramedics got here just in time and then I ended up needing surgery. Going into my third journey, we weren’t even sure if I would be able to do it. Luckily, I got the all clear and now I’m 8 weeks along. It’s tricky because, as a surrogate, you see all these profiles and you fall in love with them and want to help them all. I don’t think I’m quite ready to close the door 100% on surrogacy, but I feel like after this one my body needs a little bit of time to recover as this will be three pregnancies in three years. My son is 7, so this will be a total of 4 pregnancies, and we are hoping to add to our family, as my son really wants a sibling. I’m only 28, so after we add to our family, I still have lots of time to be a surrogate if I want to keep going. If my body is healthy and I’m healthy, we would consider it again, but it wouldn’t be for a few years until we complete our own family.
Thank you, Ashley, for taking the time to share your amazing surrogacy story with Canadian Fertility Consulting.