Infertility comes in all forms
Sometimes the only solution is to turn to a special woman to help; a woman who is willing to give up her body for a short time to change the lives of others forever.
An article written by Sharon Kirkey and published by the National Post showcased new research that infertility was on the rise. The study estimates up to 16% of heterosexual couples where the woman was between ages 18 and 44 are experiencing infertility — a near doubling since the previous time infertility was measured in the nation in 1992. Yet infertility appears to be rising among younger women as well, the study finds. In 1984, about 5% of couples with a female partner age 18 to 29 were infertile. By 2009-10, the prevalence for the same age group ranged from 7% to 13.7%.
In Canada alone it is estimated that 650,000 people of reproduction age are affected with some form of infertility. Gay marriage has changed the face of families. Surrogacy and Egg Donation allows same-sex couples to explore the options of having a family genetically related to them. Now being gay doesn’t mean you can’t be parents.
Infertility: It’s Real, And It Hurts
The Huffington Post published a blog written by Kylie Blenkhorn, entitled: Infertility: It’s Real, And It Hurts. In it, she highlights some of the very real feelings that accompany the struggles of infertility.
Women feel like their struggle with infertility is a dirty little secret, meant to be hidden away and never admitted or discussed. Like there must be something wrong with them because they are unable to do the one, most natural, thing their bodies were designed to do. The simple act of getting pregnant, portrayed by the media as an effortless feat that, at times, is hard to prevent is joked about and spoofed, making light of the situation. Meanwhile, infertility is treated as a bad-mannered obscenity. The thought of speaking the word out loud in public is looked down upon, often whispered in hushed tones. Enough of that crap: Infertility is real. It is real and it hurts something fierce.
Then you have “secondary infertility,” as they call it. That’s when you were able to get pregnant once but are faced with problems getting pregnant a second time. I guess you could say I am sort of stuck in the middle, one of the “lucky” ones inflicted with both infertility and secondary infertility, although I managed to find the gold at the end of my rainbow. Although it took five years to get pregnant with our son, and we did seek out medical assistance in hopes of achieving it, it didn’t work. I somehow got pregnant naturally. I can’t tell you how nor can I even say we were “trying” because we had both thrown in the towel and were finally beginning to come to terms with the reality of never having a baby. We hadn’t ruled out adoption, but we were still too beaten down, the wounds still too raw, to even consider opening up that can of worms.
Then, miraculously, by some sort of divine intervention, the universe decided we had endured enough punishment for a while and magically, unexplainably, I became pregnant. A rough, complicated, high-risk nine months later, we got our reward: a beautiful, healthy little boy. Does that mean I forgot about all it took to get there, the pain of the five-year hell ride, disappeared? Hell no. The memory of that tumultuous roller coaster ride is forever burned in my brain and is now part of my son’s story.
People are quick to judge and often quip, inquiring, “How can you still be upset by it? Look at the beautiful child you finally ended up with!” And yes, I feel like a humongous asshole for even getting a little bit sad that I got my period this month, while chasing my toddler around the house, while my best friend is still riding the torturous roller coaster, struggling to make those two pink lines appear for the first time. In my head, I know I shouldn’t allow myself to feel disappointment ― and don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful for what I have got: a spunky, hilarious, blonde little monster I love more than words could say. But tell my heart that because it still hurts. Even though, astonishingly, I was able to get pregnant with my son, I’m not magically cured; I certainly wish it worked that way.
You don’t just forget about your infertility once you have a baby in your arms. The pain remains inside you. Sure, it begins to dull and fade while you are overjoyed and in bliss over the little bundle looking up at you, the one which you worked so hard to get and are instantly head-over- heels in love with. But it isn’t gone for good. It sticks with you like a jagged, unwanted scar that you can cover up with a bathrobe but that is all too real and ugly as it grows red, inflamed, drawing your eyes to it immediately, as you emerge from the tub.
It is there when you pass a family of four at the park, watching the two siblings chasing one another down the slide, shrieking with joy. It is there when you are at the grocery store, quietly loading your groceries into your cart and the sweet, elderly lady behind you asks if the blue-eyed beauty in the car seat is your “first,” and you nod your head, all the while thinking “and likely my only.” It is there every month when you begin to feel the twinge of cramps in your mid-section and the ache in your breasts, followed by the crimson reminder that nope, once again, this isn’t our month. That new four-letter word, glaringly present as you go about your life, a semblance of normality.
How being gay and wanting a family is a unique struggle
My palms are sweaty, my nerves are shot, and my mind is racing as I sit on the couch, staring out into space. My husband’s warm hand touches my shoulder and his gaze says it all. I know it’s going to be ok eventually, but right now I need to be not ok. We had just heard from a potential surrogate that she chose another couple to help become a family. The fact that we were her second choice only makes the wound feel deeper and more painful. The magnitude of “could be” scenarios blur into a whirlwind that flushes itself out of the window that I’m still blankly staring out of.
I always knew I would be a father. Even in my selfish teens and 20s, the fantasy of the picket fence and kids playing in the backyard was always very vivid to me. That picture took on many forms as I grew older but I was never quite clear as to HOW that future would come to be… until I met my husband. As the years in our relationship past so fluidly, the vision of our family came more and more into focus. A year ago we finally decided take that first step on what would be a long journey to becoming fathers.
Gathering information was step one. Our research had us creating pros and cons lists between adoption vs. surrogacy and then between traditional vs. gestational surrogacy. We decided on gestational surrogacy because the few but horrific stories of surrogates who changed their minds and “keeping” the baby spoke for themselves. We thought that by removing the genetic link to the baby, a surrogate would feel less connected or emotionally invested in the baby they were carrying.
We also thought it would be great if a friend of ours could be our donor. Having been a “known donor” myself gave me a unique perspective on donor-child relationship. Besides, what better way to bring friends closer than making babies together? Luckily, our donor was more than happy to help.
Next step was finding a fertility clinic. For convenience, we chose a clinic close to us. We thought the “experts” would lead us through the process and easily guide us towards our intended end. Setbacks began when the clinic realized the rules of assisted reproduction are a little different for gay couples in Ontario. Every step we took forward, the clinic would learn of some new bylaw, which set us back and added months to our timeline. At one point, we were even risking the chance of losing our donor. Goodbye inconvenient clinic, and hello clinic with extensive experience in working with gay couples.
A huge sigh of relief came once we had frozen embryos, sitting, waiting to be the little humans we would hold in our arms one day. The search for a surrogate was already underway and for us, this proved to be the most difficult challenge yet. Our criteria for a surrogate were fairly reasonable. We wanted someone close to home so we could attend appointments together; someone done having their own kids; with a good support group; young, healthy, and easy going. But how do we judge these qualities from a bank of photos and very carefully worded profiles provided by an agency? The answer is, you don’t. You need to meet the person who might some day carry your baby and you need to judge the level of crazy for yourself – because let’s be honest, it DOES take a little bit of crazy to want to do this so altruistically for complete strangers. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a little crazy!
After months of fruitless searching and chats, I began to feel desperation setting in. What if we’re being too picky? What if it takes us years to find the right person? I don’t want to be raising young kids well into my retirement years. I began compromising on our criteria and so we finally got a match with girl who agreed to meet us for coffee. So much about that meeting didn’t feel right… yet I was willing to go forward if she was. I was willing to suck it up for 9 months if it meant we’d be a family. I didn’t want to go back to the search and feel that defeat all over again. My husband was gracious enough to entertain my darkness but deep down, he knew we’d be making a mistake. When she chose a different couple, it was truly for the best… and yet, I felt so incredibly crushed. Maybe we just weren’t meant to be parents after all.
I didn’t give up on my search but I lost the passion, hope, and optimism I once had. I thought we’d be further ahead on our journey. I thought I would be closer to realizing my wish of simply being a daddy.
Only in retrospect can I say that good things really do come to those who wait. Soon after these dark days we DID meet the woman we were waiting for – and who was waiting for us. The universe aligned itself perfectly for us and our surrogacy journey was magical, beautiful, and incredibly fulfilling (but that is another story altogether). We are now proud fathers of two amazing and energetic boys – both gifts to us from the same devoted and compassionate surrogate mother.