Marisa faced a traumatic pregnancy wrought with complications and kidney damage for the birth of her first child, and doctors warned her that a second pregnancy had the potential to kill her. You can read the details in part one of Marisa’s story here. Below is part two:
After my doctor warned me that I should never, ever, get pregnant again, my husband and I turned to surrogacy as the answer to our prayers for a second child. Once we made the decision to pursue surrogacy, I spent much of my spare time researching procedures, timelines, costs (ohhhh the costs, there are many!), legal contracts, and the emotional aspect of it for everyone involved. I spoke with women who had been gestational surrogates (those impregnated via IVF), and with other intended parents about their journeys, how they got there, and how they found the experience. I also spoke to fertility clinics, lawyers, potential surrogates, and surrogacy agencies.
Perhaps most important of all I had appointments with my own doctors to discuss the how egg retrieval would affect my kidneys and diabetes if we were to have my eggs retrieved instead of relying on a donated egg. Thankfully, I got the green light from my medical team.
Finding a Surrogate
When I spoke with our lawyer, I was surprised to discover that in Canada it is illegal to advertise that you are looking for a surrogate, and it is also illegal for an agency to charge a fee to match you with one. This makes for a tricky scenario for everyone involved. How are you supposed to find a surrogate if you can’t tell the world you want one and there are hurdles for surrogates to being matched to families who want one?
There are websites for surrogacy agencies, but again, they can’t charge you to match you with a surrogate, which poses problems that I won’t address here. What I will say is the agency that we chose ended up being a good choice for us. A lot of intended parents struggle to find a surrogate, but with our agency we were able to get matched quickly. It doesn’t always happen this way, but we happened to find the perfect match on the first try.
Our surrogate’s name is Stephanie. Her and her husband have 3 children of their own. I’m going to talk about them more in my next post but they are truly amazing people. There just aren’t words for how kind and selfless they are.
How the Surrogacy Agency Works – Including Costs
Once we were matched with Stephanie, our surrogacy agency helped to get us in quickly to a fertility clinic that was selected based on my medical history, and in the meantime, the rest of their process began.
The surrogacy agency deals with all financial transactions between our surrogate and us. In Canada, it is illegal to pay someone a set amount to carry your child, but you can reimburse them for expenses incurred directly as a result of being pregnant. These things can include food, gas for getting to appointments, medications, maternity clothing, wages for missed work for the surrogate or their spouse (if their spouse is required at legal or medical appointments), child care, updated wills, life insurance, and their lawyers’ fees to name a few. Stephanie submits her receipts monthly to the agency, and we keep an account with the agency that she is paid from.
In addition to the agency’s fees and reimbursements for our surrogate, we had our own costs, which included legal fees (for an in-depth surrogacy contract prior to fertility treatment), our own missed wages, travel, and childcare. Because there is no fee for matching with a surrogate, you pay fees to the agency after you have made a viable match. The biggest bill of all came from the fertility clinic. That one hurt!
I’d say the cost is the main negative part of choosing surrogacy. The cost is so incredibly high, and no doubt we feel it is worth every one of the tens of thousands of dollars it adds up to. Unfortunately, that also means surrogacy isn’t an option for everyone. Financially you have put an enormous amount into process and even so, there are no guarantees. We had the advantage of having financial help with the whopping grand total, but if we hadn’t, this option never would have happened for us.
Fertility Treatments and In-Vitro Fertilization
The most difficult part of the journey was retrieving my eggs via fertility treatments, and the dreaded two-week waiting period after the embryo was transferred to our surrogate through In-Virto Fertilization (IVF), meaning, that time waiting for the embryo to implant and a positive pregnancy test. There is so much riding on the results. With your egg retrieval you hope for enough eggs to feel comfortable that you will end up with viable embryos for transfer, but not too many eggs that their quality is poor. With the two-week wait you are simply trying to not think about the fact that you just want it to be test day when you can find out if it was successful. Every moment is spent praying for it! Emotionally you can’t help but be hopeful, scared, and frankly a little bit crazy.
After our first egg retrieval, we were able to successfully conceive several embryos but had a failed transfer. This meant that the embryos transferred to our surrogate did not result in a pregnancy. It was such a huge disappointment. I was not prepared for the waves of devastation I felt. I felt defeated, and I was overcome with a wide range of sadness, grief, anger and bitterness. I had a hard time finding the motivation to accomplish anything. I felt like after all we had been through the universe owed us this. We had come so far but it just didn’t seem fair, yet somehow we still had hope. I felt bad for Stephanie because I knew she was also disappointed and going through her own emotions as well, and there was nothing I could do to make her feel any better. We had all done exactly what we were supposed to do, but even though you don’t go into the journey with that mindset, there was always a real possibility that it wouldn’t work.
After the failed transfer, we knew right away that we would do a second egg retrieval. In total, I took about 7 weeks off of work for the two retrievals. I ended up needing two egg retrievals, and I took a total of about 7 weeks off work. Everyone I work with was so excited and hopeful for us, including my boss (sincerely, who has a boss like that?!?). My co-workers were all interested and sent me text messages while I was away wishing us well, and reminding me that it would all be worth it when we had our next miracle baby.
As luck would have it, the second round was the one that got us where we are today. Our surrogate is 21 weeks pregnant with our second child as I sit and write this. Just typing those words make me smile and feel like I’m going to burst! There is no less cheesy way to put how I feel.
You can read part three of Marisa’s story by clicking here.