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 Krysten’s story:
1.Why did you become a surrogate?
During high school, I remember talking about how I would like to be a surrogate at some point in my future. Surrogacy is something that has stuck with me throughout the years, and I’ve always felt a calling to pursue it. The idea of being someone’s surrogate has always really resonated with me and been super important. I had my daughter early in life and she got me through a lot of difficult times. I couldn’t imagine not having her in my life and I know so many people don’t have that and yet want it so badly. If I could help them with that one little thing, why wouldn’t I? In 2015, my husband at the time suggested I start looking into surrogacy while I was still able to do it. That’s when I found Canadian Fertility Consulting, and everything fell into place.
2. Who supported you most in your decision to be a surrogate?
My husband at the time was the biggest support for sure. He knew how important I thought this was and he was there for me throughout the entire experience. My daughter was also super supportive. She’s very kind hard hearted and incredibly loving, so she wanted to be a part of my surrogacy journey as well.
3. How did you explain surrogacy to your children?
She’s very intuitive and very smart for her age. She was about 5 years old when I started to seriously consider surrogacy. I told her there are lots of parents who want to have a child but can’t have one on their own. Her immediate response was asking how we can help, and I explained that we could through surrogacy. She understood and she’s been there through the whole process. When I delivered my first surrogate baby she was there, and she thought it was the most amazing thing ever. The day after delivery she asked me when we were doing it again, which was super cute.
4. What was the medical process like, taking medications and having procedures?
I had a difficult journey in the beginning. I was matched with a couple and we were one week away from the transfer when the whole match fell apart. That was really challenging because I had already started the meds, so going on and then going right off of them was very stressful. After that I did two transfers for another family which failed, and their medical process was a lot more stringent than what I was used to. They do a Lupron injection a month before transfer and it was awful. Every single time I took it, I would go through a week of flu-like symptoms. I experienced a lot of hormonal side-affects with the estrogen, such as irritability, and I found even brand changes would affect this. The transfer procedure itself was very simple. I expected it to be a lot more invasive and involved, but it was literally a two-minute process and felt simpler than a pap smear.
5. Why did you pick your Intended Parents?
My first Intended Parent’s profile was sent to me, and we were introduced. Once we started talking, we got along great and I thought this was it! Unfortunately, our match fell apart months later. I began going through a few different profiles and wasn’t finding the right fit until Canadian Fertility Consulting sent me a couple’s profile that screamed out to me. I chose them and did a couple of transfer but ultimately, they didn’t take, so they’re working with someone else right now. We’re actually still very close and have become some of my best friends.
After the failed field transfers, I was looking at profiles on the surrogate Facebook page and came across a couple’s profile. I knew it had to be them. I contacted CFC and asked if the couple was still available. Later that evening Robyn messaged me to tell me they were available and interested so we started communicating and the rest is history.
They’re from Spain and the dynamic was interesting because they were self-conscious with their English, as their first language is Spanish. On the first call they had a translator, but they did their best to speak English. One dad speaks almost perfect English. He was always worried about it, but I reassured him I always understood him. The other dad told me he did not speak any English, so as we were having conversations, the fluent father would translate for him. We also used tools like Google Translate to communicate. Through the whole pregnancy he tried very hard to learn and when he came to Canada, he was able to speak some English. They put so much work into our relationship and our connection, it was special that they put in so much effort.
6. What was your relationship with them like?
The relationship was and still is great. I delivered their surrogate baby just over a year ago and we still talk at least once or twice a week. They send me pictures and videos of their little one and last fall my daughter and I flew to Europe to spend a few days with them. We still have a great relationship to this day.
7. Did you have expectations about your relationship with them? Did reality turn out similarly?
I jumped into it blindly in a sense. If I ended up having a relationship with somebody, great, if I didn’t, that’s fine too. My goal wasn’t to create another family for myself, my goal was to help somebody else have their own family. I went into it without any expectations, but it’s been really special that both of my Intended Parent couples have wanted to keep me involved in their lives.
8. What was it like working with Parents from Spain in particular?
We had some communication issues where perhaps I didn’t understand something, and we’d have CFC mediate. Sometimes they were always concerned I was upset if we didn’t communicate for a few days, but being a mom, a wife, and having a family, there was a lot going on in my life and I’d reassure them I wasn’t upset. It was a little difficult with time zones. They are 6 hours ahead so when I was getting off work, I’d have an hour until they were going to bed, so it sometimes made talking difficult. Thankfully I was flexible and able to talk during my work day, but we would schedule typically a weekly or bi-weekly Skype call and chatted each weekend.
9. Was your surrogate pregnancy different than your pregnancy for your daughter?
Very much so. I learned that my 20-year old body handles pregnancy differently than my 30-year old body. With my daughter it was a completely smooth, complication-free, easy pregnancy. My first surrogate pregnancy was challenging. I had debilitating carpal tunnel; I couldn’t even cut my food. I began swelling within a week or two of getting pregnant. Despite the challenges, I decided to do it again, I’m currently 21 weeks pregnant with another surrogate baby, and this pregnancy hasn’t been much easier. I noticed the carpal tunnel swelling much sooner than my first pregnancy but I know now how to properly manage it. I’m doing physiotherapy and chiropody every week, and I’m exercising daily. There’s a lot of things I must do, like making sure I’m taking it easy and monitoring my body to make sure that my stress levels are under control.
10. What was the birth like?
It wasn’t too bad, the birth for my daughter was much worse. For this baby I was in labour about 36 hours and pushed for 2.5 hrs. I was having placenta issues towards the end and was being monitored every week. At 39.5 weeks the doctors said they would induce to ensure there were no further complications with the placenta. Everybody was fine with it, and we were all happy when the Intended Fathers arrived.
I started the induction meds in the morning, and I was having steady contractions and kept progressing quickly. By 10pm I was fully dilated. I started pushing and about an hour and half in, and she still wasn’t coming. I was using a midwife, but the care was transferred to the OB on call due to the induction, as they couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t coming. They realized she was sunny side up, and had to manually turn her, but she was being uncooperative. I’m quite small and the doctor said this is a very large baby at 9lbs 2oz, so they weren’t sure if she would come out on her own. After an hour and half of pushing, the OB suggested talking about a caesarian section. I told her that wasn’t happening, and I was getting stressed as that was the last thing I wanted. I asked for 5 more minutes to keep pushing and 10 minutes later the baby was out.
I had a lot of people with me, the doctors and midwife asked everyone to sit in the waiting room. I had my doula Nadine (also a support person for CFC) in the room with me when the doctor said the baby was crowning, so Nadine ran to the waiting room and told everyone to go to the birthing room. From the moment they got there, they started recording because I wanted a video of the birth, and within 3 minutes the baby was out. The end was a pretty good whirlwind.
11. How did surrogacy change your life?
Surrogacy has been one of the most impactful and humbling experiences of my life. It’s given me an opportunity to appreciate things we don’t really think about. Getting pregnant by accident in my early 20’s was something I thought of as a bad thing. I really took it for granted and never understood the value of what my body was capable of in my youth. After going through the surrogacy process, hearing everybody’s stories and meeting these people, you try not to take things for granted as much.
12. What was the best part of your surrogacy journey?
Without question, the highlight was the moment I was able to hand my surro-baby to her dads. It’s interesting because there was a lot of discrepancy about the birth plan. When I was about 14 or 15 weeks pregnant, we started talking what that was going to look like. What I had envisioned is that when the baby came out, they would put her on my belly, rub her down, take her to the incubator to do measurements, wrap her up, bring her back to me, and then I would hand her to her fathers. It would be the cultivation of the whole process: me giving them the gift of the baby and closing that chapter in our lives.
Both dads were really against it at first, they wanted to be the first to touch the baby. I put my foot down and told them I understood, but that’s something they should have said before I got pregnant, because that was my vision. It was both our journeys and it was what I needed to make sure I could have emotional closure. After thinking about it for a few days they came around and said they thought it was great idea, so that’s what happened. I had a birth photographer in the room, and she captured it perfectly. Everybody in the room was in tears at that moment. It was the best moment of the whole journey.
13. What would you say to someone considering surrogacy?
I would tell them to make sure they have the proper support system in place at home. If you don’t have the support from your family, it can be very challenging. I went through this second journey without the support of my extended family because they weren’t sure if it was a good idea without my husband. It was a struggle at first, and I didn’t tell my family I was doing it again until after I was pregnant. There was a lot of turmoil but ended up turning out fine. If your family is not as loving and understanding as mine is, then lacking this support can be difficult. It’s important to have people who can not only emotionally support you, but also physically assist you if need be. There were times I couldn’t cut my own food, I couldn’t open a can, or even go to the bathroom by myself, There were lots of little daily things that I simply couldn’t do on my own You want to make sure that if by chance something like that happens, you can continue with your life. There was zero indication with my first pregnancy or from any medical issues leading up to that pregnancy that any of these complications would happen, so I was completely blindsided. Luckily, I have support, which I believe is the most important factor of being a surrogate