Even with the deep sense of community and shared experience among our surrogates, no two women have the same surrogacy journey. We love every opportunity we can get to chat with our gestational carriers about how they decided to embark on the path of surrogacy and what their journey was like. Our own Jesse Fiest was lucky to get the chance to catch up with Liz, a first time GC. If you missed her interview on our SurroLove podcast, we’re thrilled to share her thoughts with you here.
Liz took time out of her busy schedule to share her thoughts about her decision to become a surrogate, how her surrogate pregnancy was different than carrying her own two children, and her relationship with her IPs. Liz is married and recently completed her surrogacy journey, and we are grateful for her willingness to share her insights so openly.
Jesse: Liz, thanks so much for taking the time to chat today! So our audience can get to know you a bit, could you tell us where you’re from, where you live now, and how long you have known your husband?
Liz: I’m originally from Barrington, Illinois, and I currently live in Gray’s Lake, Illinois. We’ve been together for…I think we’re coming up on thirteen years, I’ve lost track!
J: How did you first learn about surrogacy?
L: I think it was two summers ago. I had a friend that actually worked at FCI [Fertility Centers of Illinois], and she had posted on her Facebook that they were doing this egg donation thing, for an extra bonus if you signed up on something she posted. And I thought, “well, I could maybe get into that.” So I messaged her, asking what it was all about. She asked me a couple questions and we realized I could not be an egg donor, because I only have one ovary. She told me I wouldn’t qualify for donation, but said “you know what you would be really good at?” And I’m thinking, “I don’t know, what?!” [laughing] She said surrogacy, and I’m thinking, “what the heck is surrogacy?” It’s not something people talk about a lot or is super common knowledge, so she explained it to me and gave me the website to do some research. At first I thought, “that sounds a little steep, sounds a little nutty, I don’t think I could handle that.” But I mentioned it to my husband and we talked about it a little bit. Upon further research, and a lot of praying, and a lot of listening, it just kind of made a lot of sense to me.
J: So interesting. So you had what I would say is maybe a “general population” sort of reaction initially?
L: Yeah! It seemed a little crazy!
J: After talking to your husband and thinking about it a little more, did it slowly become something that made sense? Do you relate to it feeling like a calling?
L: Oh yeah, one thousand percent. It was a calling. At the end of every year I make myself a goal list of things I want to accomplish in the year ahead. Just applying to become a surrogate was something that I was going to write on my list of things to do for the year. But I was still not sure about it and still kind of on the fence, so I left it and didn’t write it down. Well, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep for days. And I woke up in the middle of the night and just remember this nagging voice saying, “write it down or you’ll never forgive yourself.” So I got up, I added it to my goal list, and then I slept just fine. No interruptions. I woke up the next morning thinking, “okay, I gotta do this.” I got a couple other things out of the way I wanted to accomplish that year, and then I think it was the first week of March that I applied to be a surrogate.
J: Wow! Out of curiosity, any other interesting items on that goal list you’d like to share?
L: Just little things. I wanted to do a cleanse. I went vegetarian for a month. I wanted to run a 5k. I knew there were restrictions with exercise and such, so I wanted to get my dead lift to a certain weight, that kind of thing. Mostly health and exercise goals, nothing major.
J: Obviously your husband was integral in your decision making process. Do you remember what his initial reaction was when you mentioned it to him?
L: He knew what he signed up for when he married me [laughing]. He was a lot more grounded about it. He’s the person in my life that keeps me grounded. He said, “let’s research it, let’s pray about it, let’s talk about it, and let’s see where it takes us. God won’t bring us to something we can’t get through and he brought this to you and we’ll work through it, let’s see where this takes us.” He’s the one that does all the reading, so he’s the one that really did the groundwork and the research. He said, “let’s apply and see where it takes us, whatever is going to happen will happen, so let’s just try it out.”
J: What would you say to someone who may have misconceptions about surrogacy, or feel uncomfortable about surrogacy without having done research?
L: I would say don’t listen to the negative media out there. I know there was a story circulating when I first started this journey about this woman, who I don’t even think went through an agency, who decided at eight months pregnant she was going to keep the baby and fled to Michigan [a state where surrogacy contracts are unenforceable by law]. That was a widespread story. I feel like people don’t educate themselves correctly. As soon as something gets posted online [from a disreputable source], clearly you’re not getting information from the right sources. Do your research. Educate yourself. Go to a website. Google surrogacy agencies. Go to an agency’s website, and make a phone call if you want to. There are so many people who you can call and they’ll answer your questions logically and realistically. Everything is outlined on the [agencies’ websites], and they have pretty good information. Go through an agency. It’s safe, you’re protected, you have a team, you have lawyers, and everything you need is at your fingertips. So my best advice is to use that thing between your ears, it’s there for a reason. That’s the best advice.
J: Liz, you have two children of your own. Can you tell me a little bit about carrying, and how your pregnancy was different than when you were carrying your own children? Was there a different feeling, physically or psychologically?
L: One hundred percent, it was so different. When I carried my kids I couldn’t wait. I couldn’t wait for them to be here. I was so excited, and couldn’t wait to see them and hold them and touch them and dress them. I thought it was going to be so fun, which is a total lie by the way [laughing]. I don’t want to say it was a disconnect from the baby, because that sounds mean almost. But there was a certain level of disconnect between me and the baby.
J: As compared to your own children?
L: Yeah, compared to carrying your own. I loved him, I wanted to protect him, I wanted to take care of him, but I knew he wasn’t mine. I knew he’s always been their baby. I’ve said that since the beginning, he’s always, always, always been theirs. And when I’d feel my kids move I’d just get this excited euphoric feeling like, “my baby’s in there!” I didn’t feel that with him. I felt excited, but not excited for me. I was so excited for them, because they waited so long for their baby. And even my kids understood that it wasn’t ours. They were excited for them too. I was over the moon, but for them. Every step, I was excited for them. I was nervous at the end. You get to the end of pregnancy and you never know when the baby is going to come, so I was so nervous at the end that he would come and they wouldn’t be here. But that was the nervousness. It’s very, very different.
J: What was it like when you first spoke to your IPs when you were introduced?
L: Another crazy story, our journey has been full of crazy coincidences. I remember getting the call from Alicia [an agency representative who worked with Liz during matching] when I was at the mall with my friend. She said to me, “we found a potential match and we think you’d click, and we think you’d be perfect for each other. But I know on your application you said you didn’t want international IPs (which I did not), but they’re international.” And before she could get it out of her mouth, I asked “are they from Spain?” It came to my head they were from Spain, I don’t know where it came from. She said, “how did you know that?” I just had a feeling! I told her to send our paperwork. We said when we signed on for this journey that we were going to take it wherever it took us. Wherever we were called, that’s where we were going to go. I called my husband right away and told him I just got off the phone, and they were international. And he said, “are they from Spain?” I was like, “how did you know that? Were you listening in?!” [laughing] He said, “from the beginning you said you didn’t want international, but my first thought was that they’re from Spain.” So I just immediately felt like it was literally a match made in heaven.
All the things leading up to meeting them were just crazy. The way everything worked out was just too perfect. It’s not something that could have been earthly done, you know what I mean? And when we had our Skype meeting, I saw them, and I just knew. There was peace. I was like, “this is them.” They both looked so tired, just the things they had been through. Without going into too much detail, I’m sure you can imagine the things you go through to get on a surrogacy journey. You could just see it wearing on her. She looked sad, like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. The conversation just flowed. There wasn’t any awkwardness. We did a lot of the talking. I was just staring at them the whole time.
J: So you felt immediately at ease and good with them, and that you were a good fit?
L: It was beyond perfect. We hung up the call and my husband and I just looked at each other and I said, “that’s them, right?” and he’s like, “oh yeah.” You could feel it. I don’t even think it was the next day we called Alicia and told her we wanted to work with them and really hoped they wanted to work with us, too. She asked if we wanted more time to think about it, and I didn’t. I knew that was them, ten thousand percent. All of my being told me, “these are them, these are the people.”
J: I love that certainty, and I’ve heard that from other folks, that when you know you know. I saw some photos you posted recently of your family, the IPs, their new baby, and everyone just hanging out. Those were amazing. I almost feel like if someone were to look at those photographs they’d think it was a family, that you must be cousins. It doesn’t look like “you” and “them,” it’s like a family. Do you feel a connection with them even more so now that you’ve carried their child? Do you intend on staying in touch?
L: Oh yeah, we text every day and Skype as often as we can. It was my son’s birthday recently, and they sent him texts and videos. When they came when the baby was born, they had given us all these presents for the kids’ birthdays. They’re not IPs to us. They are our family. They’ve embraced us in such a way and we’ve embraced them in such a way, it’s just crazy. It’s crazy how natural the whole thing was for us. They just are…they are our family.
It can be hard to not tear up when we hear stories like Liz’s. We are humbled by the opportunity to help other GCs and IPs meet their own calling through their surrogacy journeys, and so appreciative of Liz for sharing her story and time with us. If you are ready to follow her advice of taking the first step and starting your research, we are always here to answer any questions you have.
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.