This week is National Infertility Awareness Week and here I am posting at the end of it (non-conformist!). I struggled with wanting to post but having no topic and then having a topic but no time. The resulting post may seem useful or not. Happy or not. So here are a few thoughts I have about surrogacy.
- You will realize the degree to which our stories about motherhood revolve around the physical: morning sickness, weight gain, stretch marks, contractions, labor, tearing, healing, nursing, leaking, hormones. Despite having a baby, the end result, there will still be times in which you find yourself mute and still unable to participate in conversations. Articles, stories and conversations about the first few weeks of motherhood almost always revolve around the physical transformation and realities of being a new mother. I get it – the majority of women who become mothers will experience pregnancy, labor and delivery. But it stings for those of us in the minority – will we always be on the fringes?
- You will need to develop a thick skin as pundits, trolls, ethicists, attorneys, anyone with an Internet connection and half a brain (or less) debate the ethics of the method you chose to build your family and declare that you bought your child, took advantage of an economically disadvantaged woman and are pretty much a human trafficker. You try to ignore these comments and opinions because they know nothing of your life and what it is like to live this. To actually make these decisions. While these comments rage on, you look at your little boy playing on the floor in the kitchen and feel incredibly blessed for the gift of him.
- You will cringe as articles that could do serious harm to the already complex reality and confusing perception of surrogacy gain wide-spread media attention. The latest is, of course, the rise of social surrogacy and whether it’s OK for women to choose surrogacy in order to avoid pregnancy or avoid harming their careers or if they are selfish beasts who don’t deserve to parent the children they wish to pursue. I have mixed feelings about social surrogacy, but it makes me wonder if it reinforces a belief some may secretly hold that I and other women who went the surrogacy route are selfish and didn’t try hard enough. At the very least, it hurts surrogacy’s perception and causes tongues to cluck.
- As scientists publish about epigenetics and the role the uterine environment plays in subsequent generations, you will have heartburn and anxiety, wondering if your inability to conceive and carry a genetically-related child will end up changing the genetics of that child and future generations. At the very least, let’s just say guilt over whether you are being a good parent starts very, very early. 8 cells early.
- You feel exhausted thinking about trying to have a second child because that means finding another gestational carrier, starting the process over again and spending a lot of money. You will wonder if going through the process is fair to your first child and if he deserves the resources and time you would spend more. You will again envy people who have second and third children easily, even if it includes popping down to the clinic for embryo transfer. And you aren’t proud of that envy.
But then you realize how your child has pervaded every area of your life. His art is on the refrigerator. You spend more on his clothes than your own. You obsess over his diet and agonize over school choices. You wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without a plan for his nightly routine. His smile & sunny mornings set your day. Frowns & tantrums make you want to hide.
But he is here and he is wonderful. I thank god or whoever for science Every. Single. Day. I am immensely grateful for the technology that allowed me to overcome my severe infertility. I’m forever indebted to the scientists who pioneered and perfected IVF because without them, we would not have our son. And we are forever grateful and humbled by our amazing gestational carrier who went on to carry a 3rd surro baby.
I am in awe of science and stunned, thrilled that it made me a mother. My experience is why, frankly, science can do little wrong IMO.
Surrogacy is unusual. I get that. But you never know what you are willing to do & accept until you are in that position.
I guess my message for NIAW is that surrogacy isn’t easy, but it is worth it.
I wouldn’t have my son otherwise, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Bring on your comments and debates. I welcome them.
Because you don’t know until you are in that position & that is something we would all do well to understand.
It’s National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), the one week of the year in which it is socially acceptable to allow the infertiles to have their say and to celebrate the infertile in your life although as was pointed out earlier in the week, for infertiles, every week is infertility awareness week.
This year’s theme is “Don’t Ignore Infertility,” and I have a few suggestions:
If you are infertile
- Don’t ignore your intuition. I suspected we were going to have difficulty after only a few months. If I hadn’t listened to my intuition, I would have wasted more money and more importantly, time. I pushed for Clomid after only 6 months of TTC. I made our first RE appointment before the prescribed 12 month guideline. If your RE tells you that “maybe pain is normal for you” when you tell him that you hurt so much that you are writhing in the fetal position, crying and fantasizing about ripping out your ovaries with your bare hands because hey, it couldn’t hurt much more, find a new doctor. Six months after starting with our first RE, we moved on to our second who diagnosed me within 5 minutes of our first meeting and told us our only options were IVF-related or adoption whereas the first RE would had had us pursue more useless (though we wouldn’t have known it) IUIs. I’m still a little bitter about that first RE; can you tell?
- Don’t ignore your feelings. There is a lot of pressure on us to be happy and think positively even when life sucks huge donkey balls. I call BS. First of all, philosophically, if you never allow yourself to experience darker, less positive thoughts and emotions, how will you be able to know and fully experience the highs? And guess what, infertility is mostly about the lows: the physical pain your diagnosis might cause you. The toll on your self-worth, your body and your relationships. The hit on your bank account or credit card because many infertiles don’t have insurance that covers treatment; treatment isn’t cheap. We didn’t, and we had to pay a lot. Wondering whether your infertility means that you have been deemed unworthy to procreate and that your DNA, the very essence of what you are, is not worth passing on. Having friends muse that maybe your infertility balances out all the “luck” you’ve had in other aspects of your life such as marriage, school and career. Dreading the infertility storyline in movies, tv shows and books because they always get it wrong and reinforce stereotypes. A lot of lows. So I’m giving you permission to revel in your grief and sorrow. I’m a firm believer that if you don’t acknowledge feelings, they fester. Revel in them. Roll around in them and wrap them around you like a blanket. Here’s the ugly truth: no one else is going to acknowledge your feelings, your reality. And once you’ve indulged yourself, it is a lot easier to deal with the feelings, put them back in their box and even experience some happiness.
- Don’t ignore all the family-building options out there. When we started TTC in 2005, I never in a million, trillion years thought that we would end up having our son through gestational surrogacy. Of course at that point, IVF seemed exotic. However, by 2007 we had a much clearer picture of our situation and we began thinking more about what we were trying to accomplish (having a family) vs how it happened. Let yourself explore adoption, surrogacy, donor egg/sperm/embryo, IVF. What made me willing to consider surrogacy was wanting to make sure we had pursued as many options as possible so that at the end of our lives, we never regretted not taking a certain path.
If you are friends or family with an infertile
- Don’t ignore them. I know it can be awkward figuring out how to handle the infertile. I know that talking with us can be a little like approaching a sleeping lion: you never know what innocent, well-meaning comment will set us off, hissing and snarling or sobbing uncontrollably. The problem is that sometimes, well-intentioned family and friends can decide not to talk about infertility with us and leave that conversational ball in our court. That’s nice but what it often turns into is no contact or little meaningful contact. Send us an email every once in a while. Invite us out. Ask how things are going. If you don’t understand something, ask. Pretend to be interested. Acknowledge our situation. Because while you think you are doing the right thing by letting us have space, it feels like we are ignored. Like we’ve become lepers. Even if you don’t know what to say, a heart-felt, “wow, your situation sucks and I’m really sorry” would go a long way to helping the infertile feel like part of the human race again. Because infertility does suck.
I hope these suggestions help. I’m infertile and always will be; this is the one week of the year I am allowed to be. Here are a few other, better perspectives on NIAW: