voluntary infertility

When I first started out on surrogacy almost five years ago, I was pompous enough to think, "Sure, I had trouble conceiving naturally. I won't ever forget what that felt like. But once the problem was figured out, pregnancy came easily enough with just Clomid. Surely I will be able to get pregnant easily via a measure as invasive is IVF!" Of course, I never voiced this thought aloud knowing full-well how painful fertile boasting is. I did have some degree of fear that the transfer wouldn't work. I was smart enough — and bruised enough — to be wary of any efforts to try to conceive. Still, there was a particular degree of haughty, unwarranted over-confidence present. The next time you hear Smack My Bitch Up, dedicate it to Dumb One Moxie of 2004, mmm'kay?

What a fickle bitch infertility is. I should have known better. I ended up with a chemical pregnancy (positive tests through the 2ww but a negative beta at 14dp3dt). I also ended up with a full diagnosis for my personal subfertility – PCOS with insulin resistance. I always knew something was obviously screwy with my body, but if there wasn't a real name for it, then it wasn't a major problem, right? Wrong. The diagnosis scared the shit out of me, and though I remained confident, an increasing part of me was terrified that my body would be the cause of the transfer not working. So when the transfer didn't work, to say that it messed me up would be an understatement. I know I took it harder than I would have had I not been given the PCOS/IR diagnosis. Then, an endometrial biopsy prior to cycling for a second FET resulted in a horrible cancer scare. Though testing revealed that I was cancer-free, the PCOS/IR diagnosis, the failed FET, and all the talk of hysterectomies and radiation was too much to handle. I wasn't in the right mental space to proceed with that journey. As hard as it was to do, I knew that I should not continue with surrogacy at that time. So, I didn't.

The collective whole of those events sent me into an emotional tailspin straight down into the depths of the worst moments of my inability to conceive naturally. The grief I felt then was infinitely worse than anything I had previously experienced through my struggles. The difference was the tar-thick, rancid coating of guilt that coated the familiar emotions of failure and defeat. Several doctors, including the treating RE, explained that my PCOS/IR was not the cause of the failed transfer and that I was clear to try again. With all the tar in my ears, I couldn't hear that, much less accept it.

Surrogates are supposed to be the answer that makes everything right. When things go wrong, it's hard not to feel responsible. Given the fact that I'd already been through some degree of infertility, it was like reliving that nightmare all over again. I was flung haphazardly and rudely back into my own messy history. It was infertility to a personal degree all over again. When Bad Things happen to surrogates with no previous infertility (which is vast majority of us), they begin to realize that they are experiencing feelings that are similar to the wretched emotions their intended parents have already lived through.

What lies beneath the warm and fuzzies of surrogacy is that whether they realize it or not, surrogates are volunteering for a type of infertility. A few surrogates are lucky – insems, IUIs, and transfers work on the first attempts and they sail through pregnancy without the slightest complication. I don't begrudge these surrogates their successes and I am overjoyed when journeys move this smoothly; beside every surrogate is an intended parent, and success for surrogates means success for the intended parents. After going through whatever it was that brought them to surrogacy, it is a relief for the journey to not have a single problem.


Bad Things happen, and unfortunately, they happen in most surrogate journeys.

There's a wide spectrum of crises on the scale of Bad Things. The continuum ranges from failed transfers and insems, increasing in severity to severe prematurity and late-term fetal demise. For surogates, there is awareness of these risks. We know of the possibility that these things could happen, as our contracts have provisions which dictate how these events will be handled — but what surrogate really goes into a journey expecting such tragedies to befall them?

The past couple of months have been rough on Surrogate Mothers Online (SMO). It seems that there has been an usually high rate of Bad Things. Very Bad Things. While my heart breaks for the intended parents who have had their dreams dashed yet again, I also grieve for the surrogates who are experiencing the loss of innocence. Rather, the theft of their innocence. I ache for my fellow surrogates who are now learning first-hand that infertility is the worst type of thief.

Last night, there was a delivery at 29 weeks. There were several beta hells which ended in early miscarriages in the past two weeks. Three surrogates had first trimester ultrasounds which revealed loss of cardiac activity. Last week, a surrogate's Level II ultrasound at 24 weeks revealed a baby with several deformities that were incompatible with life. She was scheduled for an induction and by the time she delivered, the baby had already died. Another friend of mine is just one month past the delivery of twins. She had spontaneous rupture of the membranes and the doctors had no choice but to deliver. She was just 16 weeks along. Another surrogate lost a pregnancy last week at 16 weeks. Two surrogates were pregnant with twins, and both surrogates each lost one between weeks 16 and 18 weeks of pregnancy. 

A very close surro-friend of mine, Former IM, is 16 weeks along with a singleton. I'm holding my breath with her as she approaches her 18th week. A year and a half ago, she lost twins at 18 weeks.  I'm sure you know the demons that are nipping at her heels.

Though I knew what her answer would be, I asked her just this morning, "Even though things ended horribly wrong with that journey, would you still say it was worth it?"

Without a moment's hesitation, she answered, "Yes, it was." Former IM continued, "It was worth it simply for the journey. It gave me a better understanding. I can't even begin to understand what it is like to not just be able to get pregnant. I now understand what struggling feels like, and I can totally understand now what a loss is like." 

I think most surrogates who've been through hell and back feel
similarly. Of course there are different factors which attribute the difference in
the shape of a surrogate's grief and that of intened parents. But,
grief is grief. Many surrogates find themselves with heavy baggage full
of tragic history.

Is it worth it, volunteering for this strange type of infertility? Yes, yes it is. Just having the chance to help build a family makes it so.

13 thoughts on “voluntary infertility”

  1. oh honey. This post just grabs you around the heart. Thank you for putting such a specific kind of sadness into words and sharing them.

  2. oh wow, I am so sorry to hear about all the tragedy happening on SMO. Its so weird to hear that too, becuase looking in IF land, with so many of the blogs I have been reading, so many IFers have become PG and they are all going so well! Weird how in one realm things are going well and in another, similar realm things are going so bad…
    sucky world this can be sometimes.
    I will be praying for those surrogates and their intended families.

  3. I’m sorry the SMO world is in a bad place right now. That is so much tragedy. My heart goes out to everyone.
    I hope you have a good Thanksgiving Moxie. I am so very grateful to have you as a friend.

  4. I think that knowing you are the pinch hitter, and losing it all, must be its own special kind of hell. How crummy for both parties that so much loss is going on, when there is such a struggle to bring forth new life in the first place.

  5. What you and other surrogates do is amazing. I tend to forget how it is for you, and how much more pressure you even feel sometimes. This post was great.

  6. Wow. Breath knocked out of me. I think surrogates have an awful lot to offer to people like me who are fucking scared to death. I really do.
    And I don’t hope for much, but I’m sending my thoughts to your online community and wishing the seemingly endless rainstorm would pass already. It’s time for some good news around here.

  7. As one of the surros on the bad side of current events over at SMO, although not as bad as some that you personally spoke about, I thank you for acknowledging those wonderful surros that have been dealt the bad hand. I went into surrogacy with that over-confidence you spoke about. I concieved 2 of my 3 kids on different forms of BC. Then my 3rd child was concieved while BFing and paying attention to my fertile times, Or so we thought. She was very much wanted but not so soon after my 2nd one arrived. As a surro, I had one transfer of 2 embies and delivered twins 38 weeks later with only a small hiccup of PIH which put me on modified bedrest the last 4 weeks. I thought to myself, that was sooo easy I must do it again. I found my dream IP’s and we got to work. A year and 3 failed transfers later, I too am feeling a failure. I can now say I have a glimpse of what IP’s go through. Luckily they have all ended in negative BETA’s and not even a fint of a BFP to be seen so no hopes have gotten too high then crushed later. No pregnancies have been lost, so I am thankful for that. But I just so despartately want to give my IP’s the gift that I know that I have been able to in the past, but the failures make it hard to be hopeful at this point. Currently, as we wait for March for our last attempt, I feel that I may just be waisting my IP’s time and money and more heartache! I go back and forth with the idea of just stopping now, but i know that will break their hearts as well.

  8. this is really powerful, kym. so many things can go wrong, as many of us already know, still overshadowed by the chance of things going right.
    if bridges gets back up and running I think you should submit this one.

  9. If I wasn’t so complicated, I would love, love, love, to give the greatest gift of all to a very deserving family. Because all the heartache and struggles along the way, would make it even more gratifying.
    Knowing that me being pregnant causes complications with myself I know it would not be right for me to be a suro let alone possibly have another pregnancy for myself. This saddens me.

  10. I just caught up on you all the way since August (yes, that’s how long I have sucked ass at keeping up with blog friends), though I did know about Chance (and you can guess how thrilled I am for both of you!).
    This is such a thought-provoking post. Thank you for writing it. I think the question of whether it was worth it doesn’t have a single answer. And as I sit here thinking of what my answer might be (though I am not in the position of a surrogate mother), I am realizing that I would just as soon not ask myself the question. I also realize that I have no idea how I would feel as a SM going through loss. It must be a particular sort of pain to feel someone else’s world crumble from a point inside your own body.
    I am so sorry about all the loss and pain in your world.

  11. Powerful, fantastic post. You’ve written about so many things here, so well. I’m left thinking about how my miscarriages made me so much more understanding about infertility and so much less ‘cocky’ about the ease of having a family. I’m really sorry that so many surrogates you know are experiencing loss right now, and my heart breaks for the intended parents.
    You continue to amaze, thanks for letting so many of us connect to another world and a different way of thinking.

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