Women's History Month Feature: The Bravery of Surrogates
What is surrogacy?
Before we get into the nuts and bolts. Let's take a moment to celebrate the part of the people that the fertility industry couldn't do without... the women! Moreover, the surrogates (gestational carriers), and egg donors. It takes true bravery, courage and sacrifice to help create life through surrogacy especially when it’s not biologically their own.
At Global Fertility Connections we wanted to dive a little deeper and better understand what it takes to become a surrogate and why a woman would want to help give the gift of life to others. Lucky for us, our very own business development manager, Janae Krell was a surrogate (to triplets!) and we'll share all the details.
What brought you to surrogacy? How did you hear about surrogacy?
I first thought about surrogacy when I saw my older sister struggle to conceive, and then when she did conceive, she was unable to carry to term. It was heartbreaking to watch your sister go through that, and unlike my sister pregnancy came easily for me. So after having my four children, I spoke with my husband and offered to carry her baby for her. She wasn’t ready at the time, but with her blessing I looked into agencies and was able to get connected with another couple (who I did carry for).
How did it feel going through the process of being a surrogate? Did you have any worries or fears?
I am a person who does my research when looking into anything, so I knew the majority of risks involved with IVF and surrogacy, such as embryos splitting, bedrest, the possible need for a C-section, however I just thought everything would go according to the “plan” I had in my head. Looking back that was pretty naïve of me, because essentially nothing went according to anyone’s plans, though thankfully everything did work out for the best in the end.
The surrogacy process itself was simple on paper, but you don’t really prepare yourself for all that it entails. I mean, of course it sounds amazing to help another person or couple grow their family, but you don’t realize the amount of work that goes into preparing the body for an IVF procedure. There are blood draws, medication protocols, pills to take, daily injections, and then the embryo transfer itself. As a surrogate there is so much pressure you put on yourself at that time, knowing these people are relying on you to carry their child. This has to be successful. You do everything according to the doctor’s plan, and sometimes the transfer is successful, but sometimes it isn’t, and then you have to start all over again (if possible). So while also great, the process is also a stressful one.
What was it like carrying someone else’s baby? How was the relationship with the Intended Parents throughout the journey?
Going into surrogacy, my husband was always a bit worried that I would get attached, as I am a very feeling person. However it wasn’t the babies I grew attached to, it was the Intended Parents. We had a nice relationship throughout the pregnancy, and since they lived about an hour away they were able to drive down for all the doctor appointments, ultrasound scans, and take part in everything pregnancy related. The surrogate pregnancy felt so different from my own, first since it was my first time carrying more than a single baby, and then experiencing horrible morning sickness. Even the little things felt different, such as their kicks. Whenever they would squirm and kick I would share it with the Intended Parents, telling them what their babies were doing. I think it really helped them feel part of the pregnancy, which I thought was important for them.
That feeling when the parents saw their babies for the first time is forever ingrained in my mind. I will never forget that day. The tears in that room. The buzz in the air. These two beautiful people were holding three tiny babies, just beaming from ear to ear with tears streaming down their faces, and thanking me. It was a complete high of sorts. I did that. I helped people become parents, when they couldn’t carry a pregnancy to term on their own. I tear up just thinking about it.
What’s the one nugget of information or one line that you would leave behind for the next surrogate to carry a baby for IP’s?
My advice to anyone looking into surrogacy, whether as a surrogate or as intended parents, is to do your research and be your own advocate. If something seems off or doesn’t feel right, trust that feeling and speak up. You are in charge of your story.
Interviewed by Ama Gordon, Global Fertility Connections Co-Founder