In this three-part series, we speak with former clients Samantha and Eric, who completed a surrogacy journey last year with Nicole and her husband Kevin. Now the parents of two beautiful children, Samantha and Eric share their experience, while their surrogate, Nicole, describes the pleasure of playing such a significant role in helping them build their family. Read Part 1 and Part 3.
With their match confirmed, Samantha and Eric were ready to move forward with Nicole as their gestational carrier. They were introduced to Leah McFail, who worked with them for the duration of the process as their match manager.
“We’re really with them every single step of the way until the baby is born, and then six months after,” Leah explained.
The first step was for Nicole to complete her medical workup at the fertility clinic.
It’s a day that Nicole remembers vividly: the first time they met in person. “When Sam and Eric arrived they immediately walked past the front desk staff and hugged us, welcomed us,” she recalled. “The staff asked, ‘do you know each other?’ And we said, ‘No, we met through ConceiveAbilities.’” No further introductions were required, and it spoke volumes about their developing relationship.
The connection between intended parents and surrogate can vary widely; there’s no “right” way to interact. The means and amount of communication is just as individualized as the match itself, and sometimes what it looks like is unknown until the process gets underway.
“I wanted a relationship, but I also knew that this was a side path to them becoming parents,” Nicole explained. “Their thing. I didn’t expect them to welcome me into the family, welcome us into the family, but that’s what happened. We gained an entire new family.”
Nicole and Kevin’s boys, who are 4 and 5, had some understanding of pregnancy after an aunt had a baby the previous year. Of course, in that situation, the baby came home to be part of their family. It was important that the boys have as much understanding about surrogacy as their ages would allow, and so Nicole said, “we tried to help them understand that I was just the oven. It wasn’t our baby. It wasn’t their sister.”
For a concept that can be difficult for adults to grasp, the boys seemed to catch on quickly. “They were always very involved in the conversation. If we talked to Sam and Eric, they would be there. We would send them videos of Parker kicking, and the boys would say, ‘we’re taking care of Parker for you!’”
While their relationship developed naturally, Leah was working hard behind the scenes. Match managers are available for support to both the intended parents and gestational carrier, all while making sure i’s are being dotted and t’s are being crossed on all of the necessary documents and administrative items.
“It all boils down to communication,” Leah believes. “We spend all day, every day talking to them, emailing and making sure everyone feels supported. Whatever support looks like to that individual.”
Sometimes it requires hand holding and regular moral support, and other times match managers can step back and watch the relationship unfold.
“With Sam and Eric and Nicole it was obvious from the get-go that this was a love fest. We weren’t at all worried about their communication and being there for each other.”
In spite of the distance, they found ways to make it happen.
“We would text all the time,” Samantha recalled. “She let us know every little thing she did. She really treated the pregnancy as if it were ours.” She and Eric were still processing a major surprise - not long before Nicole's transfer, they learned Samantha was unexpectedly pregnant. Though they were prepared for anything after their previous miscarriages, they ultimately decided, "We have to move forward (with the surrogacy) and whatever happens happens." They shared the news with Nicole, who never hesitated about continuing with them. Because Samantha’s pregnancy was considered high risk, they weren’t available to travel as much as they’d hoped.
“We missed a lot of it,” Samantha said. “We didn’t get to go to the 20-week appointment, and that was very hard. But she would FaceTime us every time she was at the doctor, and when she got ultrasounds she would send us all the videos and pictures. She very much wanted to include us in everything, and we were very appreciative of that.”
“In a typical match, the hope is that the intended parents do try to make it. The 20-week ultrasound is the big anatomy scan, and most people are interested in finding out the sex of the baby if they don’t already know,” Leah said. “That’s also when we arrange the hospital tour. But Sam was obviously pregnant with very restrictive movement. We were actually in the midst of trying to schedule our 30-week birth discussion when I got an email from Eric saying ‘just kidding! We’ll need to reschedule.’”
Their son Logan’s birth caught them by surprise about a month before his due date. Focus shifted to caring for their newborn and ultimately, Samantha said, “we didn’t get down there until Parker was born. We never saw Nicole pregnant.”
In terms of logistics, the match continued without a hitch. “We waited until they were home and settled with Logan, so the 30-week meeting was later than what we would typically do.” But, Leah noted, “It was an easy enough work around. They obviously had a wonderful relationship and had already been talking about a lot of those questions beforehand anyway.”
And while flexibility is part of any surrogacy experience, this particular match took everything in stride.
“Knowing that Sam was pregnant, we had all these different contingency plans,” Leah explained. “It wasn’t something we weren’t prepared for. And as we all know, babies have their own plans anyway!”
There are other incidents you can’t plan for: at 34 weeks, Nicole was rear-ended at a high rate of speed; the accident sent her into premature labor. “That was the toughest phone call I had to make,” Nicole recalled. “I waited until I was calm enough to talk to Sam, but I wanted to let her know.”
Nicole kept Samantha and Eric updated with regular texts until the contractions stopped; both she and the baby received a clean bill of health and were soon released. “A few weeks later, Sam said to me, ‘That was the worst news I could have gotten, but I still knew it was okay. You were so convinced.’”
The final few weeks of Nicole’s pregnancy were relatively quiet, but Samantha and Eric continued to adjust to life with their new son as they prepared for their daughter’s arrival. “Until the babies were born, I was still not sure they were coming,” Samantha explained. It’s a sentiment that many parents share while awaiting a much-wanted child.
It was also a big part of why the pair clicked. “Nicole went into it thinking, ‘our first transfer is definitely going to work.’ And I went into it, ‘how many transfers will we have to do?’” Samantha recalled. “She was so confident. It’s nice to have someone without all the negative baggage behind having babies. She was very positive about it, very confident that this was obviously going to work.”
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.