Editor’s note: Kymberli Barney is a senior moderator and PR representative for SurrogateMothersOnline.com. Her blog, The Smartness, is dedicated to parenting, infertility, and surrogacy. She is on Twitter.
I became a surrogate because of my own history with infertility.
In more than two years of trying, my husband and I were never able to conceive naturally. Following a diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and treatment with an ovulation-inducing medication, I was able to conceive our twins (now age 11), and later, two singletons (now ages 9 and 7).
Given infertility’s broad spectrum, I conceived relatively easily. Contrary to popular belief, having children does not cure infertility. The emotional battle of the condition often continues long after the physical war is won.
I was overjoyed to have completed my family, but I was still acutely aware of just how difficult our road could have been. I knew there were other people out there who were enduring far more invasive treatments than the few pills and injections that I needed. Yet, they were not bringing home healthy babies like I did. This is what led me to become a gestational carrier. Had my husband and I needed to pursue this as a family-building option, I could only hope that someone would have wanted to help us in the way I wanted to help others.
In 2007, I achieved my goal of delivering as a gestational carrier. In a gestational surrogacy, the carrier undergoes the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process. She gets pregnant with and delivers a baby conceived from the intended parents’ (or a donor’s) egg and sperm (as opposed to a traditional surrogacy, in which the surrogate’s own egg is used).
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The pregnancy was two-faceted. On one hand, it was uneventful in all the ways that a healthy pregnancy should be. On the other, there was the extraordinary nature of the surrogacy relationship. The newly established friendship between the intended parents and me continued to grow. They attended each of my obstetric appointments, and they marveled over how quickly their child grew within me.
The intended mother and I chatted on the phone several times a week. It is common for intended mothers to worry about whether the baby will bond to them after delivery, and she was no different. She was comforted by my belief that babies bond to those who care for them, not to those who carried them.
I’ll never forget the look in her eyes -- and in the father’s eyes -- when their son came screaming into the world. Too overcome with happiness and relief to speak, their eyes said what their voices couldn’t: Thank you.
In the years since the delivery, I am often asked how it feels to have given away a baby I carried for nine months. My answer is always the same: I didn’t give the baby away; I gave the baby back. He was never mine to begin with, and my intent from the very beginning was not to add to my own family but to help build someone else’s. I often liken it to babysitting: I cared for him with the same devotion that I cared for my own children, but it was layered with knowing his parents were expectantly waiting for him.
Seeing them with him in their arms for the first time was the most anticipated moment of the experience for me. It meant that this time, infertility didn’t win.
Though often invasive and costly, assisted reproductive technology (ART) gives hope to those who are unable to conceive or safely carry their own pregnancies. I consider it an honor to have been such an integral part of another couple’s pathway to parenthood.
As the adage goes -- it takes a village to raise a child. Sometimes, it also takes a village to create one.