As busy Moms of all types, we tend to forget that when we stop and take the time to truly see our children, they show us the kind of generosity, love and acceptance the world needs more of. Mix up a little surrogacy into a child’s world and what do we get? A little of this and a little of that and a lot of simple truths.
My kids were one of the reasons I wanted to be a surrogate in the first place. When a child hears about something happening, it has a different impact than when a child sees something happening. To me it was about teaching my children a kind of life lesson they couldn’t learn any better way. Our children watch our every move and learn from how we treat others. As the old saying goes, our actions speak louder than words.
We involved Frank and Norm in asking the kids if I could grow a baby for them after I knew I was already pregnant. They read the kids the Kangaroo Pouch (A children’s story about surrogacy) and they asked permission to borrow their mom’s belly to help them have a baby. One of my twins Emily, is always about as honest as they come. At the time of conversation, she was three. Her answer was swift as she offered her youngest brother up for grabs – “You can keep Cole if you want a baby.” We tell Cole about this and laugh now that he’s six and no longer up for the offering.
I remember my oldest daughter Madelyn was having friends over for her birthday party that year. She was turning five. I was 20 weeks pregnant with my first surrogate baby. One of the moms who was dropping off her daughter smiled at me when she saw my belly and asked when I was having the baby. Before I could even open my mouth to respond, Madelyn pipes up, “She’s not having a baby, she’s growing a baby for Frank and Norm.” It was then that I realized she totally understood what was happening. I used the proper language when talking to her, so she truly never saw Baby Luca as Frank and Norm’s child.
There were so many moments throughout my surrogacy journey that my children made me smile and laugh. From belly rubs, to late night reading to the baby inside my tummy, to questions and curiosity about how baby got in there.
But the experience that really hit home for me, was when Madelyn came to the birth of my second surrogate baby – Nico. She wanted to be included and she was so fascinated with how babies came into the world. I made a choice to allow her to experience something not many 7 year olds get to experience. When my water broke in the night I woke her to tell her it was time to have the baby and we gathered some things up and went to the hospital. It was a long night with little progression. Every step of the way she was with me… rubbing my back, holding my hand, playing with Luca as he ran around the hospital. In the end, I ran into some troubles and everyone had to be whisked out of the room. At the time, I had no idea what was happening with my child. I remember slipping in and out of consciousness while the doctor worked to save my uterus and stop the bleeding due to retained placenta. I remember crying out to Norm for my kids. I can’t even write this without my eyes welling up with tears. Later when I was resting and out of danger, Madelyn crawled into bed with me and never left my side again. I was unaware of the epic photos the birth photographer was capturing. It was many months later that I could look at the photos Frank sent me. As I was flipping through I saw a photo with Madelyn sitting on the floor outside my hospital room, standing guard. She had this worried look on her face. She was not leaving that spot outside my door until she knew I was okay. I remember the tears flowing freely as I slowly saw picture after picture of the sheer intimacy and adoration my child had for me in those painful and difficult moments. I cried that day for the fear I knew she harboured for what may have happened to me. I cried that day for the pure happiness I felt that one tiny little being could love me so much without wavering. I cried for the sacrifices we both made to be in that hospital room helping Frank and Norm. Not for one second do I regret my decision to have her there. She was my rock. I couldn’t have done it without her. In the wee hours of the night as I rested in my bed, the only thing on my mind was that innocent, perfect child laying all curled up beside me. She was my hero. I felt such immense pride as I went through picture after picture of the day Nico was born. Pride for what I had done, but pride for how I was able to experience it with all my children in their own way.
My story is personal to me and is such a unique experience I hold dear. But I wanted the stories of others to share here also. So I asked among the community of amazing women whom I’m friends with and whom I’m helping through their own journeys in my program. These are the beautiful antidotes I received.
HILARITY – Marcie is one of my newer surrogates to the program, but we’ve known each other for almost two years now. She has known for a long time she wanted to help create a family and we’ve spent some time talking about what she wanted from her journey. When her life came to order and she was ready she moved forward and found her perfect match. Then she told her son Donovan who is 11. His answer – simple and hilarious. “I gave Donovan an overall idea of the process. I said, they take the sperm and eggs, put them together and freeze it. That’s called an embryo. Once I am ready and the embryos mom is ready, we take a couple trips to Toronto. Then they would put that embryo inside of me. Then when the embryo turns into a baby and is ready to be born, we come home together and the baby goes with its mom and sister back to Quebec. His only reply was: Like… in you? Like… in your… oh my god… mom just do it… I don’t need to know anymore.”
CURIOSITY – Karen Peerenboom is a surrogate friend of mine who carried twins for a couple. She talked about how her choice to be a surrogate sharpened her daughter’s questioning skills. “My daughter became super interested in all aspects of pregnancy. Even now, a year after the twins were born, she asks about pregnancy in a variety of ways (Was the dog ever pregnant, what if Anna from frozen had a baby etc.) She loved meeting my IP and was thrilled to be part of our team. She would talk to the babies in utero and she will still now ask about the babies and how they are doing.”
TRUTH – My friend Ashley Synyshyn was very vocal during her surrogacy journey and blogged some amazing pieces. One of them was entitled, “Talking To Kids About Surrogacy.” The link for the blog is here for anyone who would like to read it! https://yourtemporaryhome.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/talking-to-kids-about-surrogacy/ It is very heartfelt and touches on some amazing points when approaching surrogacy with children. The main theme in her blog is about treating her children as equally important parts in the journey. They always told the age appropriate truth to them, debunking the stork myth and replacing it with a simple version of kindness and choice. Ashley said, “Ruby (3) and I were just talking about the babies that have been in my tummy and we got to Riley (my surrogate baby). I said and who did I have Riley in my tummy for? Who is her mommy? Ruby’s response: You had baby Riley in your tummy for Courtenay. Good girl mommy!”
SADNESS – Andrea Benoit is another surrogate friend I met along my journey. She shared her version of how her kids experienced surrogacy.
“Essentially, I held nothing back from Cole. Told him there are all kinds of families and some people have a mommy and daddy, but sometimes people can have two mommies or two daddies. After meeting with my IFs the first time, I was super impressed with how they interacted with him and that was what really made me 100% sure I was doing the right thing.
As my belly grew, my son learned that mommy had a baby in her belly but it wasn’t ours. They had given him a plush mommy and baby kangaroo, so I often used them to explain what would happen when he was born. I told him I was the mommy kangaroo and the baby kangaroo was just being taken care of by me for his daddies. Then I would have the baby kangaroo hop out of the pouch to go play with a couple of his other stuffies. I explained that baby would go to live with his family and it would be ok for him to miss him, but that he would go on to have exciting adventures with his daddies.
Afterward, when Cole met Joey at their hotel, he was in total raptures over his adorable little face. He loves babies…he’s absolutely obsessed with them, and he mostly just admired Joey until it was his turn to hold him. He also asked to feed him at one point.
The lack of contact afterward really bothered Cole. He wanted to know if baby Joey was okay, if he liked living with his daddies, if he would ever come back and play with him. Every time we drive by the hotel, he says “That’s baby Tricky’s house” (Tricky was his in utero nickname). I show him pics whenever R posts them but I don’t think he really remembers him anymore.
Having Archer (my second child) right afterward, he was constantly worried “his” baby wouldn’t be allowed to stay with us. Hence, I let him use the possessive with our baby, so he would feel secure knowing that the baby would be ours to keep. He also knows the difference between the doctor putting a baby in my belly, and daddy and mommy making a baby together.”
COOPERATIVE DECISIONS – Renee Leighton is a mother of two children and has matched through my program and on her way to her first transfer in a few days. She had this to say about what she told her oldest daughter… “My daughter has been involved in my journey from day 1. I first explained to her that not all families are made the same way and that sometimes people need help to have a baby. I also made sure to explain how the embryos are created and had a brief age appropriate description of the transfer procedure. I explained I would help the baby grow until they’re born and ready to go home with their parents. She’s 7 so she understands everything well and didn’t hesitate to tell me that I had her full support during this journey. Lucky for me she was home during my first Skype chat with my IFs and they patiently watched as she showed them every single stuffy she owns! For her, there was no other couple that compared and she wouldn’t even consider anyone else (even after chatting with a few others) so she really helped make a difficult decision easy. We decided to surprise them with a picture message that my daughter drew herself and my IFs reactions were priceless. I’m so elated that I get to share this journey with her and at the very least I hope it inspires her to help others.”
SIMPLICITY – Alyssa Monsigneur is a very local surrogate to me. It was so lovely that I got to meet her whole family in person at my house when she was first considering surrogacy. She matched shortly after with an amazing couple only 20 mins from her home. It has been a match made in heaven and I’m so proud to help them as they venture through their path together. Alyssa shared what she told her son Leland… “I told Leland, 6years old, that all mommies have a kangaroo pouch called a uterus. My kids met the IPs before we explained anything so they knew who we were talking about. I told him IMs pouch doesn’t work and IM and IF really want a baby so mommy was going to put their baby in my pouch so it could grow and become strong enough to go back to his mommy and daddy. He asked how? I told him Doctors use science to put the baby in my pouch.
On transfer day, he asked why my IPs were coming over, so I told him today was the day they would put the baby in my pouch. At the end of the day he asked if the baby was in my uterus! LOL! I told him it was but it might not stay there, that’s why mommy was resting. He asked if they cut me open and put it in there, so I explained with all girls the baby goes through the vagina. We had pictures of the embryo and the ultrasound where you can see the puff of air so I showed him. I again let him know that the baby might not stay in there so we just had to wait to see if it worked and if it didn’t we would just try again. I tried my best to be as honest to him about it and he seemed satisfied with all my explanations. I think he thinks it’s neat how they use science.”