Last week I was at Lamps Plus ordering a ceiling fan for the nursery I’m putting together in my house. Don, my helpful salesman warned me it could take at least eight weeks for delivery, but looked at me (and my nonexistent baby bump) with confidence that that was in fact, plenty of time. Actually the baby is arriving in eight weeks, I explained. He looked at me with confusion, but I decided that this wasn’t the person I wanted to explain my medical history to, so I just smiled and let him think that I was seven months pregnant.
As I write this, I am expecting a child in two months, via gestational surrogate (my husband and my own embryos, carried by a surrogate). It’s been a four-year journey that has had emotional and financial ups and downs, and it’s a miracle that it is working. I’m superstitious still, so I don’t feel comfortable saying, “it worked,” until we have a baby in our arms. I feel very uncomfortable when other women post their ultrasound photos on Facebook. I’m just “not there.” This four-year journey started at the office of a high-risk pregnancy doctor who, after reading through as he called them, my “complicated” medical records, declared – with no bedside manner – that it wasn’t safe for me to carry a baby and, “was there anyone who could be my surrogate?” Up until that moment, that thought had never occurred to me or my husband. I knew IVF was my only option to get pregnant, but not carrying either? It never occurred to me that that could be a possibility.
Over the next several years, we saved money and got a loan in place. I did two rounds of IVF to freeze embryos to use for said “surrogate,” and did two fresh IVF cycles once we found our surrogate. (And if all these terms mean nothing to you, don’t feel bad. They didn’t to me at first, either. It’s not until you’re deep into the process that you eventually become an expert.)
Over those years, we investigated several options to find our surrogate, including international surrogacy (India, Ukraine, Canada) until finally in January of 2013, I got a text from a friend in Oregon telling me she had a co-worker, a nurse, who wanted to be my surrogate. She introduced me to this amazing woman who had had easy pregnancies herself and wanted to help someone else.
A year and a half after that first text, this amazing woman became pregnant with our child. Yet even this was no easy task. Two previous transfer attempts with her had failed. But, “third time’s the charm,” as they say.
So it’s been pretty weird, and at times, fun for me to stump people when they think I’m pregnant. But it’s also a lonely place. I make eye contact with other pregnant women when I’m in the baby section of shops, wanting to let them know that we have something in common, but they don’t know. They can’t tell. I don’t have a bump.
So here we are, seven months in; so close to the finish line. I read the online websites and magazines, and there’s never a mention of women who aren’t physically pregnant. Maybe an embedded article deep in there if you do a keyword search on these websites for surrogacy or adoption, but if you’re looking at your weekly email from The Bump app, there’s only mention of the aches and pains of seven months. I don’t envy those women or my brave surrogate who are getting bigger and more uncomfortable every day. I feel grateful that I don’t have to go through that physical discomfort. I can literally keep myself busy doing my normal day-to-day things without slowing down. However, I miss out on those middle of the night kicks my surrogate tells me about and desperately tries to video record for me, but it doesn’t translate at all via video. I want so badly to connect.
But I can’t help feeling a disconnect; a blue feeling of being part of a club that I know I’m in, but no one else knows by looking at me. I long to feel equal to other women who are having babies. We recently met with a prospective pediatrician, and when she went to the waiting area to meet us, she walked right over to the very pregnant woman sitting next to me and introduced herself. My husband and I corrected her, and she was incredibly gracious, but I definitely felt very uncomfortable for a moment.
My husband and I also attended a baby care class. I looked around the room at all the very pregnant women, most of whom were getting up and pacing, peeing, kept insisting on opening the door to let in some air (even though it was freezing in there!). There was myself and one other girl in there who didn’t look pregnant. We two “skinny girls” gravitated towards each other and made friends, and it turns out, she too has a surrogate. We all share a similar experience.
Ultimately, I just need to be grateful that I can experience this at all. There are plenty of women who have gone through many more rounds of IVF than I did; women that have miscarried; women who have had rough pregnancies; and women who can never have children. My experience is a miracle and I need to remember that. I’m most looking forward to having the baby in my arms and feeling the connection that is my own.
Update: Our baby girl was born three weeks ago and she is thriving. And I do feel the connection. I’m now a mom – equal to all the other new moms out there; dealing with the joy, the feedings, the sleepless nights, and worrying about keeping my child safe and happy. I’ve now become a source of information and motivation to other women I know who are having trouble conceiving a baby. I couldn’t be happier to share my knowledge and hope that it helps someone else. After holding my breath for 9 months (actually more like 4 years), I can finally exhale…and show off my post-baby body!
Related post: 5 Things Not to Say to a Gestational Surrogate