One of our favorite parts of working with gestational carriers (GC) and intended parents (IP) is hearing their different perspectives - what led them to begin their journey and their experiences throughout surrogacy. We are grateful for the unique opportunity to catch up with Jolynda and Amanda, two best friends with two different perspectives from both sides of the surrogacy journey.
Jolynda is in the early stages of gestational surrogacy. At the time of this interview, she had just moved past legal clearance and was beginning her medical monitoring. She is married with two daughters of her own, ages 6 and 8. Amanda is also married with two children, a three-year-old she carried on her own and a seven-month-old delivered via gestational surrogate.
Throughout the interview sharing their perspectives as a GC and IP respectively, it was obvious that Jolynda and Amanda have deeps roots in friendship. The two met in eighth grade and grew close in high school, and have been mistaken for twins on more than one occasion. Between laughs and finishing each other’s sentences, there was a lot of honest and candid conversation about their experiences with everything from struggles with infertility to communication with their loved ones, surrogates, and intended parents. If you missed their interview in our SurroLove podcast, we’re glad we get to share it with you here.
ConceiveAbilities: What is something our audience should know about the other?
Jolynda: Amanda’s probably the most kindhearted person I’ve ever met. She’s very sweet, she would give the shirt off her back to somebody if you needed it. She’s always a good person to talk to. If you need somebody to talk to she’s always been there. And she’s super, super strong. She’s a great mom, by the way. But she’s probably one of the strongest people I’ve ever met.
Amanda: That’s sweet, thank you! Jolynda’s fun, outgoing, and always has a smile on her face. She’s one of the most confident people I know. And if you know Jolynda, she doesn’t know a stranger ever. Anywhere she goes it’s like she knows everyone. And also I admire her for her diligence, if she wants something she goes and gets it. Nothing stops her.
ConceiveAbilities: How do you stay in touch considering your busy lives?
A: Well that’s been challenging I think, we are so busy. But we try to schedule dinner every so often, or hang out. Tonight we’re going to dinner, but we don’t do it as often as we should.
J: We really don’t, we need to be better about that.
A: Well between the kids…
J: …and teaching…and with my husband’s coaching schedule, it’s just so difficult. But we Facebook all the time, text back and forth, talk on the phone and stuff like that.
ConceiveAbilities: Amanda, would you mind sharing a little bit about your path to parenthood?
A: Oh my gosh, it’s a long story. We got married older, and we decided we both wanted kids so we were like, “let’s start now, no wasting time.” We started trying immediately, and it was not happening, so we did some testing and found out that my husband doesn’t produce sperm due to a possible genetic condition. So we decided to go forward with donor sperm, got pregnant and lost that baby at about 16-17 weeks. Come to find out that baby had a genetic issue as well, so we did another IUI, got pregnant again, lost that baby early on, and I was like, “I’m not going anymore.” The doctor said we usually have to have three consecutive miscarriages, and I was like, “I’m not doing this again, do some testing.” They found out I had a genetic condition, so that’s when we went to IVF with preimplantation diagnosis of the embryo, so genetic testing of the embryos. I got pregnant the second IVF cycle and carried to term, and I have my almost 3-year-old now.
But it was a complicated pregnancy. Lots of bed rest, hypertension, early delivery, and then it got worse after he was born. So that’s when the doctor said, “with your genetic condition and history of your complicated pregnancy, you should not do this again.” But we had embryos left over, so the only logical option was to go with a gestational surrogate. I already had this background knowledge because my friend I had worked with had done it three times, so I kind of went straight to her and was like, “okay, this is what we gotta do, lead me in the right direction.” She helped me. Then we went through an agency and met Jennifer our surrogate, and she was wonderful. We had a great journey, it was just…it was great. And now my son is 7 months old!
ConceiveAbilities: Amanda, did you have any hesitations at first about working with a surrogate?
A: I think I was more interested in the whole process. I had so much knowledge of it so I wasn’t as nervous. I think the main thing for me was the financial burden and the stress of that, because it’s a huge financial undertaking. Then just the unknowns - what if something happens to the surrogate, how is that going to affect us and our family and her family? So those were the kind of things that made me nervous. And I think getting the right match made me a little nervous, but once we met Jennifer we did a Skype and we knew. We were like “this is the one.” There was no questioning it. So from that point on things were very smooth and there was no nervousness for me. I think it helped because I carried a baby, so I no longer had the idealistic view of pregnancy. So I wasn’t like “you have to eat organic, do this, do that” because I knew pregnancy is just survival. And I trusted this lady, do what you need to do I just realized, it’s going to be okay.
ConceiveAbilities: Amanda, do you have any advice for someone who is about to begin a surrogacy journey, either as an IP or a GC?
A: I think the main thing I’ve learned through this process is communication and getting the right match from the beginning, and communicating your specific wants, needs, and desires for the journey from the beginning. How much contact do you want, what does this look like to you, do you want me calling you every day? All those details I think are good because I didn’t have the issue of some other intended moms, who have bigger issues. Things like, “that wasn’t discussed in detail in the beginning,” maybe the surrogate felt they were too controlling, that kind of thing. So I think discussing what that’s going to look like, or what your desires are for the journey and your relationship. I think planning that out is huge.
ConceiveAbilities: Are you still in touch with your GC?
A: Yes! We talk probably once a week, Facebook pictures all the time, texts and stuff like that. We haven’t gotten to visit her but we planned a few times to meet up and they just haven’t worked out with our schedules, so hopefully soon.
ConceiveAbilities: Jolynda, was Amanda’s story what inspired you to begin looking into becoming a surrogate?
J: [Amanda’s] late miscarriage absolutely broke my heart, and I was a phone call away from calling her and saying I will totally carry your baby for you if you need me to.
J: I knew motherhood was something you were absolutely going to get somehow, but I didn’t know if you were to that point yet, so I kind of sat back. Then when everything was fine [after the birth of your son], we had talked and you told me you were doing the surrogacy thing. I had no idea, and I was like “that’s AMAZING!” So I asked a lot of questions, and I followed…
A: I posted a lot on Facebook, on videos, I just loved the journey. It was a journey, it was a learning experience, and I thought it was just so beautiful. I think it’s just a beautiful thing to share with someone.
J: So I had followed her journey, and was just like “that’s really cool.” Then I was at a friend’s wedding, and made this comment to another friend, “I love being pregnant, but daycare’s expensive and I value my sleep. My kids are finally trained to sleep until at least 7:30 am.” [laughing] And she told me, “I just had twins as a surrogate, here’s Kristina Fabis with ConceiveAbilities, call her.” I started talking to my husband and was like, “this would be really, really cool.” What greater blessing is there than to give someone a child? So I was talking to [my husband] Alan and I told him, “I’m going to go ahead and apply, I think I want to.” That was November, and I got a phone call in April saying I had found a match, and I was like, “okay, this is real.”
ConceiveAbilities: So Jolynda, where are you in your surrogacy journey?
J: I’ve been matched and I’ve started meds. I’m on the estrogen patch and about to start the progesterone, which I’m not excited about, but I can put my big girl pants on and I can do it.
ConceiveAbilities: Jolynda, would you talk about first meeting your IPs and how it is you all warmed up to one another and began your communication?
J: Alan and I Skyped [with them], and I’m pretty sure I emailed Alicia while I was still Skyping with them and was like, “this is them.” We just knew. They both cried on the phone with us. My IPs are so cute, you just want to put them in your pocket. But ours was a match from the get go. Then I emailed a couple times because they were on my mind. Then I was on vacation and I swear we texted back and forth a full 24 hours. It was kind of funny because she texted me first and it just said “text,” but it was seriously like talking to a long lost best friend.
ConceiveAbilities: Any surprises so far concerning your journey?
J: I’m surprised how well I’ve done with the shots. I’ve gone my entire life to avoid shots at all costs. I’m 36 years old and still to this day when I go to the doctor and they say “I have to give you a steroid shot,” I’m like “no, I’ll take the pills, it’s okay.” I’ve been able to do a couple of the Lupron shots by myself, which is a huge step for me. Usually Alan does them but I’ve been able to give myself a couple of those, so that’s been a pleasant surprise.
ConceiveAbilities: Jolynda, what part of your journey are you most excited for?
J: I’m most excited honestly about the end. I saw Amanda’s journey all the way through and I saw the relationship she built with her surrogate, and I’m really excited about that. I’ll take my cues from my IPs of course, but they seem like they want to stay in contact and have that relationship, so I’m really excited about the end. They’ve been through so much.
A: Just to give them that baby.
J: Yeah, I think I’m most excited to see them see their baby for the first time. Really excited about that.
ConceiveAbilities: Jolynda, you once sent me a text that read “I think the hardest part of infertility for loved ones is not knowing what to say.” I’ve thought a lot about that text. Amanda, what are your thoughts about that? Any ideas on what people should or shouldn’t say when they offer support?
A: I don’t think anyone intentionally means to be hurtful. But when you’re in that desperate mode of not knowing if you’re actually going to ever have a child or be a mom, you’re hypersensitive to everything. So to me some of the comments that were not helpful were like, “oh you’re stressing too much, take a vacation and relax and it’ll happen.” Or “why don’t you just adopt, it’s no big deal, just go adopt.” Or “maybe it isn’t God’s plan.” Those weren’t very helpful at all I don’t think. The most helpful comments where when people said, “I love you and I’m sorry you’re having to go through this.” My sister-in-law even said something along the lines of “I don’t know how to understand what you’re going through (because she had four kids of her own), but can you tell me what I can do to help you get through this? Help me understand what I can do or say.” So those to me were the most helpful comments. And sometimes I didn’t have a response, just be here and listen to me and don’t tell me to adopt or just relax. When you tell me to relax it becomes my fault that this is still happening.
J: Or the story about my long lost friend tried for years then adopted then got pregnant?
A: That’s not…first of all I’m not adopting, second of all my husband has no sperm [laughing].
ConceiveAbilities: I know you both identify as strong Christians, and I was wondering if we could talk about the inclination that people have to offer religious advice as fertility solutions. Is that something either of you has experienced in your own lives, or witnessed family members struggling with infertility experience?
A: It’s good intentions, but it’s like, this is not going to help. There were even times that my mother-in-law, a very strong Christian too, would say “I’m praying one day you’ll get pregnant, and it’s going to happen.” Those are the comments that are just not helpful.
ConceiveAbilities: Jolynda, does having an IP perspective through your friendship with Amanda help you with your own GC surrogacy journey?
J: I’m glad I have a friend who’s been on the IP side. I have a little foot in mouth disease, so it’s nice to have somebody. I can call Amanda and say, “well I really want to say this to my IP’s, do you think this will be okay, will it hurt someone’s feelings?” For us, getting pregnant and having babies isn’t an issue, and I think when somebody has fertility issues you have to be sensitive.
A: And that relationship between the IP and the carrier is a very different relationship. It’s very fragile, I feel like it has to be handled with care. I’ve seen great journeys, and I’ve seen other ones not go so well. You just have to be very careful about how you handle your communication with each other and your expectations and things like that.
ConceiveAbilities: Amanda, is there a classic sticky issue or phrase that you recommend people avoiding to safeguard the happiness of their match?
A: I don’t have specific phrases not to say. But I know that time and time again the things that I’ve seen is when the IM or IPs just want too much control and can’t let go of it. I’ve seen that a lot where they’re like, “I want you to eat organic, call me every day, don’t drink any caffeine…” I think from a GC side they feel like they’re being micromanaged, and it hurts feelings, and the carrier pulls away. The IPs wonder what’s wrong, they get more nervous, and it’s this back and forth of “this isn’t what I expected it to be.” I think most of the time [when people have frustrations] that’s what I’ve heard, is where the carrier seems to feel like they’re micromanaged or not trusted and it goes from there.
J: When I first started and I told you that I’ve been accepted and I’m going to do this, your first words to me were, “communication, make sure you work out everything from the get go.”
A: There were a few times, like Jennifer went biking when she was 6 months pregnant, but I trusted her. And I prayed about it and I trusted, so I had to let go of it. I knew it’s going to be okay, she’s got this. And I knew not to say anything because it just wasn’t worth it. She has three healthy kids, if she wants to drink tea go for it. So that’s the thing I’ve learned through the process. I think it was easier because I had carried before, but if I hadn’t it would be harder to give up that control. So if I could give any advice to parents, it’s that you decided from the beginning this is the person you wanted to carry your baby. Now you’ve gotta let her carry it, you’ve gotta let her do it. It’s her job and she’s got this.
ConceiveAbilities: Do you think it’s true that infertility and fertility solutions are being more openly spoken about now than they ever have before?
J: I’ve found that the more people I tell that I’m doing surrogacy, the more people I find that are struggling with fertility. One of our former students has been posting all kinds of things and just did a fundraiser to raise money so she could do her first round of IVF. So I texted her [about my journey], and she was like, “you’re amazing, I love you, I wish someone would do that for me.”
A: I’ve learned through intended moms I met and their stories. I felt like, through all that we went through, I thought “I’m the only one who has experienced all these things.” But you’re not. All these other women and families have experienced just as much heartache, and there’s just a lot out there in hearing other peoples’ stories. It’s helpful in helping you not think you’re alone in all of it and that there is hope.
We are so appreciative of Jolynda and Amanda for sharing their thoughts and insights with us. Surrogacy can be a very personal topic, and they were so open about their journeys with us and with each other in order to help people learn from their perspectives and experiences. We hope to catch up with them again, and in the meantime feel free to check out our testimonials for more perspectives on the surrogacy journey.
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.