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Monday, October 30, 2017

Surrogacy Journey

So I'm doing this thing. I'm going to be carrying a baby for a mom who can't carry her own. No, this isn't a joke. Yes, I'm serious. Yes, I'm aware of the risks. And no, this didn't come out of the blue....

~ 9 Months Ago (March, 2017)

I saw an ad in Instagram for surrogacy. I was surprised at the amount that was listed for compensation and saved the ad to look into further later. At this point it was just a curiosity thing.

Later, I looked into it. The ad was from an agency based out of Portland called All Families Surrogacy (AFS). The more I looked into them the more I fell in love with them. A relatively new agency, but clearly run by devoted and loving individuals whose lives were personally touched in various ways by surrogacy, and who were committed to providing a unique surrogacy experience for Surrogates and Intended Parents (IPs) alike; based on the best service and care available, and focused on a positive, safe and informed experience for everyone involved. And best of all, they were specifically supportive of ALL loving family situations, not just traditional ones.

Over the next several weeks, I kept thinking about surrogacy and AFS. All the time telling myself, of course I would never consider actually doing something like this. It's crazy. It's risky. It's hard. I hated being pregnant. But, still, something nagging in the back of mind just couldn't let it go. And so I did what I always do when I can't let something go... I researched, I googled, I read, and I soaked my mind with every drop of knowledge and opinion until it poured out my conscious. And the more I researched and thought about it, the more I was compelled to look into it further.

The next step would be to inquire with the agency, fill out their questionnaire, and see if I met the requirements. So I did. Meanwhile, I had my first discussion with Ryan. He's been with me long enough, I'm sure he was surprised, but not really surprised. I mean anyone who really knows me isn't surprised at just about anything I decide to do, no matter how atypical or crazy. And as my best friend Venissa put it, "On one hand, I'm shocked, and I can't believe it.... on the other hand, if I were to think about all the people I know and had to pick the one person who would actually be suited to do something like this, there is no one else who makes more sense than you." He had some serious and valid concerns, and we had many long talks about all of them. Ryan is very cautious, pensive and calculated. This sort of proposal at this stage in our relationship was analogous to 20 year old Loralyn surprising him with going sky diving for his 21st birthday. Luckily I had done the research and could answer any questions he had and involved him early enough in the process that he had plenty of time to think about and consider it before coming to a conclusion while I was seeing if I qualified. And I told him from the beginning; "If you are not ok with this, then I can stop the process right now. I can't and won't do this without you. If it's not something that you are comfortable with, which I would totally understand, then we can close this door." And truly, if at the end of the day he didn't come around to it, then I would have respected his decision. With something like this where the risks and rewards are both very high, there are no wrong answers. Obviously though he decided that he was supportive of moving forward.

Meanwhile I was still on my own path of considering this life-altering decision. I had an informational video conference with AFS, and asked a ton of questions and concerns I had, while they ran down the process in detail. One of the questions I asked was "How many women like me - simply inquiring about the process - actually make it through screening, matching and successfully become a surrogate?" The answer was shocking, and more than anything else, settled my determination to see this through. Roughly 5-10%. Less than 1 out of ten women who express an interest in becoming a surrogate mother actually end up doing so. At that point, I felt that the universe had directed me to this place, in this moment, for this purpose. The odds were against me; the chances that I would pass all screenings and this would happen were so small, I felt compelled to see it through. I felt strongly in that moment that I was meant to do this. If I was not, I would be disqualified as the majority of women are.

~ 6 Months Ago (April, 2017)

The next step in the process was opening ourselves up and signing over a slew of documents to go through a rigorous screening process that included a full release of medical history, background check, home visit and psychological evaluation. This step took quite a while, and was the most likely step to be disqualified as a surrogate.

~ 2 Months ago (September, 2017)

I passed all screenings, moving me forward to the next step; profiles and matching. I put together my profile, trying to be as honest about who I am, what my family means to me and what values we hold dear and firm about my expectations and wishes of the process. This stage happened very quickly; I went from just finding out I had passed all initial screenings to having my first profile to review all in a week. The first profile I was sent was a single woman from China who was pursing surrogate to help her create her own family after her husband divorced her because after unsuccessful attempts to carrying their own children. Her story spoke to me; my mom raised me herself so I immediately felt connected to her situation; and in her culture which is very male dominated, to overcome a disgraceful divorce and painful fertility issues determined to pursue her dream of a family on her own was inspirational and empowering. She had secured a girl embryo and two boy embryos, and was going to try for the girl first; she was already referring to the baby as "she". This further endeared me to her, as in her culture males are normally the "preferred" sex. There have been many other things that make her and her immediate family stand out as progressive thinkers, affirming the match even more.

Now (Nearly November, 2017)

Last week I took a short, one day trip up to Portland for my uterine evaluation with Oregon Reproductive Medicine. I've had to get a slew of labs run, and everything from here on out has to be monitored extensively. My thyroid was within normal ranges, but was a tiny bit high for what the want (they want it to be at 2.5 or below and mine was 3.19) so I am now on medicine to lower it. I am on a special kind of birth control. And sometime at the end of November, if everything goes well, I will start a complicated and extensive hormone schedule to put my body into menopause, repress my own reproductive system and prepare it for the embryo transfer which we hope will be sometime in January.

Meanwhile, we are officially in contract negotiations. This is probably the most important part of the process, as it is the absolute last word and legally binding document between me as the surrogate and the Intended Mother (IM) and it contains every last wish, preference and agreement in regards to every foreseeable situation, outcome and circumstance.

So that's a wrap on how this all came to be. Please feel free to ask any questions; as with anything I do, I am a firm believer in doing your research, feeling secure with your decisions, being in control of your body, and being an advocate for yourself. I hope that sharing my experience will leave others with a better understanding of this process, and clarify or invalidate misinformation that may be out there about surrogacy.

In a later post I intend to cover more of my feelings about surrogacy and specifically why I feel the need to be and ultimately decided to be a surrogate, and all of the considerations that went into this.

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