Erika:The first thing people always ask after telling them about our baby plan is, "Who's going to carry for you?" For a long time, we didn't know the answer to that question.
Years ago, before we'd decided how we would try to build our family, that was the same question I would ask myself. Regardless of how we were going to proceed, the fact remained that someone else was going to be the one to carry our baby.
Ten years ago... even five years ago, the thought of leaving that responsibility in the hands of someone else was terrifying to think of. How were we going to be able to put all of our faith and trust in another person to take care of our baby for the first nine months of its existence? I had to believe that whoever we decided on was going to be someone that God had been preparing for years before that. I'd asked some people in the groups I'm a part of and they all said the same thing, "You'll know when you know."
During that first year of finding out that I couldn't get pregnant, one thing I did (the only thing I could do) was pray for the person who would eventually bring our child to us, whether through surrogacy or adoption. It's kinda surreal praying for someone you've never met before, but who you know is out there in the world somewhere, living life, and would one day be led into our lives. With surrogacy, we knew that person was going to have to feel called to do it and know in their heart that they were meant to do this.
So, last year, once Luis and I decided on a fertility clinic, we had to decide whether we would be working with an agency or "going indie." For this first time around, we decided working with an agency (although more challenging financially) would help us feel a bit more at ease about everything. They would help us with the matching process, help us maneuver through all of the mounds of paperwork and really make sure all of our bases were covered. It's been comforting to know that we have support from the agency and can go to them with all of our questions.
After deciding on an agency (we'd met with two and decided to go with the one that was local and had experience working with our clinic) the first step was to create a profile. I've never done online dating, but I suppose it's kinda similar to that. Our profile contained responses to several questions regarding our background, personality, expectations before, during and after a pregnancy, a personalized letter describing our story, and a few photos. ...I really have to say that our letter was a perfect blend of the two of us. We took about 30 minutes to each write our own. We let each other read them and then we combined them into one Super Letter that came straight from the heart. We're kinda really proud of it.
The hardest part was finding flattering pictures to add to our profile. What do you do when all of your favorite photos together include either weird faces or weird costumes? It took a while to sort through, but we found some decent ones. I think we used one from high school, one from our wedding, one from our last trip to Europe, and one where we're awkwardly carrying Poh in our arms... kinda like a baby.
For about a month or so, during this time, we'd been looking through the profiles of potential surrogates. They'd answered similar questions, so we looked through and wrote down which ones seemed to be the best matches. We found four potential profiles. We looked for things like age, birth history, and preferences before, during, and after. None of the four hit every point we were looking for, but we were willing to at least meet with them. The very next day the agency told us that all four were no longer available and had just been interviewed by other intended parents. ...Heart sank.
However, the agency said that there was a new person who had just been cleared (medically and psychologically) and they appeared, at least on paper, to be a better match for us. Her name is Tina. They sent us her profile and, honestly, she really did match better than the others. Her responses on every single point were in line with our own. We read a letter she'd written, as well as a letter from her sister which was really heartfelt. Her sister described her compassion for others and I felt that I was really able to get a sense of who she was. ...My heart felt a bit lighter.
Towards the end of March we set up a meeting/interview.
It's kind of weird to call it an interview, but at the initial meeting we needed to ask all of our big, crucial questions, as well as ones that would give us insight into the type of person she is. We'd compiled a list, like two typed pages, front and back. Some of the questions had already been answered in her profile, but we figured they could serve as conversation starters. Many people in the surrogacy world describe this first meeting as a cross between an interview and a blind date. We knew we had to walk into that meeting, not just ready to ask a million questions, but to go in with an open heart, ready to really listen in order to get a sense of her character, her intentions, and her heart.
The initial, "Nice to meet you's," were the only awkward bits of the whole experience. Once the conversation started, we barely looked down at our list. (Although, that may have been partially due to the fact that I folded mine about 50 times out of nervousness.) The questions we started with naturally led into questions we'd written down and other topics we hadn't even thought of. There was never any awkward silence or weirdness between any of us. We seriously just let the conversation flow.
Another awesome thing was that we got to meet her husband and children. I don't think we were expecting that, but it helped show us that they had really thought this decision through as a family. Her two kids, ages five and three, were absolutely adorable. Every few minutes they would come out from the other room, where they had been playing quietly, and give their mom a hug. The youngest would find decorative sculptures and fruit from around the office and present them to her as a gift. So cute! At one point they were behind us racing on sliding chairs. Having them there really helped lighten the room and make our conversation much more comfortable. Additional topics that came up because of them were favorite Mexican desserts, kindergarten, and the tooth fairy.
Going into the meeting we were actually more concerned with her wants, needs, and expectations. But she came into it thinking the same about us. At one point she said, "This will be your baby. I want you to experience it the way you would if you were having it yourself. I want you to be at the appointments, feel the baby kick, and be there in the room for the birth."
For me, it was really apparent that she was coming into this with the best intentions. She said that she was hoping that this would serve as an example to her kids as to how meaningful it can be to sacrifice yourself for someone else and what it means to be a blessing in someone's life.
The last question we asked was what she was most looking forward to. They said that after having spoken to other gestational surrogates about their experiences, and asking what really made it all worth it, they both agreed that they were most looking forward to the moment at the very end... "Seeing you hold your baby in your arms for the first time."
And I think that's when we knew.
Leaving the meeting I was actually worried that they would think we were crazy. Like I imagined them walking to their car saying, "Nope! I am not going to carry their weirdo baby."
But that didn't happen. Within days of each other, we'd both contacted the agency saying we'd like to move forward. And now here we are, a few months later and less than a week away from our first transfer day! During these last few months we've all gotten to know each other better and this real sense of trust and friendship has developed. We're excited to be at this point! We completely trust her and know that our lil baby blast is going to be in the best of care.
"We prayed for the person who would take care of you in your beginnings. We prayed that she would be a woman with a heart of kindness, compassion, and integrity. We prayed that she would be gentle and loving in spirit. We hoped that she was a woman of faith who would pray for you and for us and for God's many blessings."
---excerpt from a letter to our baby