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Surrogacy - A Path to Motherhood

Sherrie's incredible story of becoming a traditional surrogate for her sister
Note: some names have been changed to preserve privacy

In order for you to understand completely, I will tell you about my family, myself, and my sister, Anna. Then I will take you through each step traveled by sharing the journal entries I have kept for my TS, Jason, from his conception to now.

Sometimes the best place to begin a story is at the ending. I always read the last paragraph first. Prehaps, I think it gives me some insight to the contents that sleep between the pages in wait for me to wake them from their slumber. I too, will begin at the end.

"God balances our souls, measuring the most splendid of gifts by the greatest sacrifice." - S. Ball

I grew up on a large farm in midwestern Iowa, the eldest of eight children. In our house their were three things abundant. Food, work, and love. Ours was a home full of activity. We lived near a multitude of relatives that came and went through our kitchen entry, like it was a revolving door at an airport. We eight children were all one year apart in age (my mom was a saint!) We grew up to be very close to one another.

Sometimes, through the years I could sense people around us while we were all talking, dancing, or managing some family crisis. I knew they were wondering what the secret was to our faithful relationship to each other. I can only say that my father always instilled in us the importance of family. He let us know, in no uncertain terms, that family would be the one thing you could fall back on, would be the most tolerant of your faults, and would love you no matter what. I guess that held true for my family. Thank God.

My sister, Anna, was the seventh in the line of children. Annie was always the quietest one in our house. She never seemed to crave a lot of attention, always had a good sense of humor and a bright smile on her freckled face. She had red hair that wasn't in fact red at all but, more the color yellow-orange, that you would find in the Crayola big box.

Annie grew up to be a beautiful woman, both inside and out. She married her highschool sweetheart, Eddie, after she was diagnosed with cancer. She was only nineteen the first time she learned to know the word cancer. We found out after the surgeon came out of what was supposed to be a routine laproscopy of ovarian cysts. He said, "I think I made a mistake and lanced a cancerous cyst, now it's drained through her. I cleaned it out the best I could but she needs to go to Iowa City."

Two years later the cancerous cells reappeared on her other ovary and she had her remaining tube and ovary removed, leaving her uterus intact for any other tumors to grow in so they stay contained. Annie was devastated. The word cancer made it difficult to stay on a waiting list for adoption, but they did try that route. Annie had resigned herself to be a Godmother, and never a mother by the time she was twenty five years old.

When I was six months old I had nearly died. My mom sat at my bedside and prayed to God that if he spared my life I would someday grow up to do something special in this world. She said Jason was the fufillment of that promise. This may sound corny, but I actually had a premonition that I would have a baby for my sister when she was diagnosed the first time. I had told her about my dream but at that time we had every reason to believe she could still have her own child and I was married to a man that would never allow me to carry someone else's baby.

Sometimes, things are just meant to be, I believe. I divorced that man later, and met my second husband. I told him before I married him that I was considering having my sister's baby. He was supportive of the idea - between the two of us we already had six kids anyway!

Annie went to a fertility clinic at the University of Iowa to see if their was any way she could carry a child in her own uterus. It turned out that her uterus was too thin. We then asked if I could be inseminated with her husbands sperm, again that wasn't allowed. The doctors said that if I were to decide I couldn't give away the child, because it would belong biologically to her husband and myself, the ramifications could be a disaster for our family unit.

We knew what we wanted for many reasons. First, if Annie did have her cancer return at some point, her child would still have a mother and siblings. Second, if anything were to happen to the child, there was a
better chance to find an organ match, etc. if need be. Thirdly, as we are sisters it was the closest Annie could get to having the child being biologically hers.

We thought about it for a few weeks when I came to her with the idea of doing it ourselves. After all we grew up on a farm where insemination was common practice, so it couldn't be that hard.

The three of us made appointments with our family doctor to make sure we were in good health, and to inform the doctor of our intention. After we got the go ahead we went to the local store for supplies. We bought a turkey baster, small plastic bowls, an ovulation kit, and some condoms for my husband and me.

I wasn't sure how many times we would have to try.
I only had one ovary and tube remaining myself after a staph infection I contracted delivering my last child. The kit helped and we inseminated three times during a two day period. I had a sixth sense almost immediately but waited two weeks before I bought a home test. It was barely blue so I ran into the clinic and had a blood test.

The results came back positive! I thought about
waiting to tell them but, since I had never had a problem carrying a child to term I spilled the news
that night.

Now, I invite let you walk with me on my path as a surrogate for my sister.

Jason's journal entry - April 12, 1998
I keep having the same dream. I am all alone in the darkness. My knees crouched to my chest, my face hidden as I huddle in the cold. I feel so chilled and hollow. I cry. I had an ultrasound today. Your parents looked so joyous. I loved to watch their faces. I needed to see their happiness so I could try and impress it upon myself . You are a boy!

It is hard to put into words what I felt that day. I wished I could stop myself from loving. I couldn't stop. I kept thinking he's mine! Mine until the day he is born.

Jason's journal entry - May 19, 1998
I took Taylor to the dentist today. The dentist asked him if he was going to have a baby brother or sister. Taylor responded, "Neither, I'm gonna have a cousin!" I wonder what the reaction will be when they find out the truth?

Annie didn't want anyone to know that the baby I was carrying for her was not her own. She told everyone that she had stored eggs and the child belonged biologically to her and Eddie. I went along with the ruse because I felt like Annie was insecure about not being able to have her own child. I didn't want to ruin her happiness in any way. Besides, I figured it may make giving him away easier if I tried to believe it too.

Jasons Journal entry - May 29, 1998
My hernia buldged out, I'm sore! Bums me out! I worry I won't be functional for my kids. I feel guilty about buying $300.00 worth of maternity clothes. I am anxious about affording gifts for Christmas. I'm afraid I'll be depressed for the holidays.

I guess I have been feeling sorry for myself. I wish I had someone to talk to. I can't talk to Annie, I'm
afraid she'll worry. I don't have my family to turn to because they don't know the child I carry is my own. I am left alone. I have the impression that Annie is purposely ignoring my emotions and needs for her own. I percieve I am putting them out by asking for any help. Today my physical misery is compounded by my apprehension for my children, and for the anguish I feel about you. I don't know if I would make this decision again, even if I knew I could handle the emotions. There is no way of predicting the other situations that arise, no way to know how to handle them. I am going to have to go against my sisters' wishes and tell one of my sisters. I require someone. If I don't unload I feel like I will have a nervous breakdown. Maybe my hormones are making me wacky?

I ended up telling one of my sisters, who ended up telling the rest. The only people in our family who were left in the dark were my parents.

The day of the delivery I finally confessed to my mother because I was afaid of how I would act after the birth. In the end it was healing to get the truth out. My first few months of pregnancy would have gone much smoother if I had more emotional support. I can't tell you how hard it was to keep hearing, "Well, at least it's not really yours so you don't have any feelings for it!"

I can't say if the baby were a GS that I wouldn't have had any feelings for the child I was carrying. It really wasn't anyone else's place to presume my emotions for me. That still offends me to this day.

After my sisters knew the truth they did become more nervous about me and my reactions, so I still had to be careful about what I said. Anna, Eddie and I became much more open with one another. They started to help with my kids more, came over and talked to my belly, rubbed my feet and back, just plain called each day to ask if I required anything which meant a lot.

Another thing I would do if I had it to do over is to require some money. Their are things that need paid for when you're pregnant that you don't really think about. I quit my job because I got sick and dehydrated all the time, I bought most
of my own maternity clothes, my hernia belts, my pads and medications for after the delivery,
I ate differently, and my other kids went without, because I was spending much of my time
focusing on the surrogacy. It would have been a great treat to just take them somewhere after
the delivery so we could all relax. I'm not saying I would have charged much, even $3000.00
would have gone a long way.


Jason's journal entry - October 13, 1998
Well, here it is just a few days before your due date- I am huge! Very uncomfortable these days. Annie has been coming over a lot more lately. I asked her to come over to help me with the transition.

Your parents are really excited, nesting and all that! I talked to your Aunt Cindy. I expressed to her that I fear how I will react in the hospital. It's important for me to allow your parents to enjoy the experience of your birth. I don't want them to be anxious about my emotions. Most of the time I am strong, occassionally I get weak, however, and cry for hours. I realize I will need to keep strength for my children. They will be home after I leave the hospital without you. They will still need me.

I am excited about your delivery, nervous too. None of the family wants to miss a moment. I personally hope for a few hours to collect myself before the masses arrive to visit. Believe it or not, a part of me wants to keep you within me so I won't have to share you with anyone else. I know everyone deserves to meet you. I already know who you are. I love you.

I was at conflict with myself. I knew I would never try to keep the baby for myself. I could never hurt my sister like that. I just couldn't help but love this child like my own, because it was my own. I had no way of knowing how I would react when the moment arrived to give my child to another person. I had no conception of how I would handle the immense pain I
knew I would feel. It was like trying to preconceive how you would behave at the death of your child.

Jason's journal entry - November 6, 1998
The loneliest moment of my life. You and your parents just dropped me off at home. I am alone. The house is silent except for the sound of my heart breaking. Every time I close my eyes I see your beautiful face looking up at me. I feel your soft skin, I smell you. I am happy and sad, as I thought I would have to be. When the nurse placed you in Anna's arms and I saw the look of rapture on her face I knew that joy had just replaced all of her pain. I knew from that moment you would be loved, happy, and cherished the rest of your life. You are a special gift from God. I love you Jason.

The delivery brought alleviation in many ways. I was solaced by the fact that I didn't fall apart. The hospital staff was kind and attentive, allowing Anna to stay in the room with me. Visitors to the suite brought me special thank you gifts that were unexpected, but thoughtful. Anna spent the first night at the hospital, then allowed me to spend the second night alone with Jason. She said I snored too loudly, but I knew she wanted to allow me time to
say good bye to my son.

I cannot express the depth of sadness I felt when I came home without the child I loved, carried within me, and gave birth to. It was as if I had a child die.
I guess in a way my right to be my childs mother did die. As I watched their car driving away that day on the gravel road, I felt like the dust left behind to scatter in the corn fields.

I had to grieve.

Jason's journal entry - November 11, 1998
The story of your birth
I was grateful my mom was there. She was my advocate the whole while. Your grandma was vocal about getting my needs met, and it was her voice I heard telling me to push. She stayed beside me the whole while. She kept the room in order. When it finally came time to push the room suddenly became still, which was odd because it was the fullest room of people I'd ever delivered in! I had Annie tune in the stero. Dr. Lockhart began teaching the audience by telling them what they were viewing and what he was doing. I remember Dr. Lockhart very calmly telling me the cord was wrapped around your neck, and I could feel
him remove it before instructing me to push. It seemed to me your shoulders hurt worse than your head. I could feel the doctor popping out one shoulder, then the other. Afterwards, I opened my eyes and let out a single sigh of relief. It seemed like it took a couple of moments for you to cry but it wasn't long before you had lusty cries! Your dad had to leave the room to
compose himself for a few moments because he was emotionally overwhelmed. After you were cleaned and bundled it was time to get a good look at you.

A nervous nurse said, "Who should I give the baby to first?" Annie replied, "Sherrie should hold him first."

I gazed at your perfect features, gave you a kiss,
and whispered that I love you. Then I said, "It's time to go to your mommy now." Then I handed you to the nurse, who gave you to Anna. Annie turned away from everyone else in the room to face me, then peered into your face. She looked so ethereal in that moment, that I said, "Isn't she a beautiful mother?"

I hadn't even realized I had said the words out loud until Dr. Lockhart looked up at me and answered, "Yes she is, and you are a beautiful mother too." Everyone in the birthing room was in tears, including all of the hospital staff. Dr. Lockhart thanked me for allowing him to be a part of our special moment. I knew the moment would be emotional for me, I hadn't thought about it being so full of sentiment for others.You were born at 7:17 a.m. on November
4, 1998. You look just like I knew you would, I have known you always.
I love you Jason,
Love, Mother

We were extremely fortunate to have the support of our medical staff. Dr. Lockhart was our family doctor. He was our childhood doctor, he was with Anna through her cancer, he delivered many of my neices and nephews. The staff grew up around us, many were childhood friends. It was a small town community with strong small town ties.Ours was a difficult situation in many aspects because it was new to all of us. We just winged it as we went along and gracefully it all turned out. My biggest thought during delivery was that Thanksgiving was coming up and I wondered how Eddie would be able to look at me across the table without thinking about my engorged private area pushing out a baby. Funny huh?

Jason's journal entry - Feburary 17, 1999
Hi pumpkin! you are growing so fast! I got to watch you a couple of times in the past few weeks. Each time I see you , you've changed so much! Some of our family members were having a problem with Annie bringing you over. Apparently, they were afraid I was being
tortured each time I sent you home. She and I talked about it and are fine with our arrangement. I would be much more tortured if I never got to spend time with you, your mom knows that.

I am so grateful that she is willing to share you with me once in a while.

It took adjustment for the whole family. I needed time with Jason to heal, Anna needed time with Jason to bond. Anna was supportive of my needs and became much more assured after the birth. It was important for her to ask me if I wanted to spend time with Jason. I didn't want to her to worry I was trying to keep the position of his mother. It worked well between us because we really tried to put one another in the other's shoes. I also made sure I never pressed my values on her, or ever gaive her any advice she didn't ask for. Sometimes it stung not to be the person she asked, but I had to respect her choice to prefer another.

Jason's journal entry - April 25, 1999
I was viewing a talk show the other day about surrogacy. A family attorney was on the show and said it was his opinion that surrogacy should be banned in every state because it was a form of premeditated child abandonment. He also went on to say it was bad and unjust for any other siblings involved.

I have come to the appreciation that their are many opinions about surrogacy. Not every comment toward my surrogacy has been affable. Some can not fathom how a person could give away their own flesh and blood. Other's believe it is a sin. Many think only God is to decide who should have a child, and if you can't have kids the normal way then you should just adopt.

Fortunately, most people have been supportive. Almost everyone knows someone who cannot
have a child the "normal" way. You have to do what you believe is right for you. Listen to your conscience... that is your soul whispering.

Jason's journal entry - Feburary 21, 2000
I knew the day would come when you would "make strange" with me. We were at your Aunt Nancy's when I took you from her. You looked scared and held your arms out for Aunt Jill. It made me sad. It is wretched when your own baby is afraid of you. I know you're
not mine anymore. It doesn't make me ache any less.

My sister Jill babysat Jason, essentially he was her second mother as far as he knew. I knew I shouldn't take Jason's distress personal. You are going to be emotional, that is o.k

Jason's journal entry - November 26, 2003
You are five years old now and you love to play rough! You even gave me a bruise! July 2003 we had to move. I never get to see you very much anymore. I love and miss you very much. Don't forget me o.k. buddy? Love, Alyssa (your big sister)

Jason's journal entry - November 11, 2004
Sup man? I really miss you. I'm in 5th grade right now, but I don't like it. I know you want everything I have, but just wait until you are a bit older. When you read this I want you to remember all the good times we used to have o.k? Love, your favorite big brother Taylor

Anna and Eddie decided to begin educating Jason about the unique way he came into the world at a very young age. They began by showing him pictures of the pregnancy. Gradually, they told him that my children were his real siblings. They didn't want him to ever get secondhand information and be suprised. Starting a foundation based on the truth gave them a base for introducing more as his age and understanding continues to grow.

My children were thrilled to find out Jason was their brother. They told me they already new because he looks a lot like them.

Jason's journal entry - May, 2005
Today
Today I missed you
but a while-
your laughter, your cry
the dimpled smile.
Today I allowed
myself the tears
for the pain I've hidden
these past six years.
Today I read the letters
that gave you to another.
Today I feel the anguish
of not being your mother.
Today I allow
myself to feel sorrow
for what I have given
in all my tomorrow's.
The bond with siblings
you will rarely see
the future I long for
that will never be.
Today I remember
the time of your birth
and ponder to myself
what price my pain's worth.
Today I can touch you
I feel you neath' my heart
today my soul
is shredding apart.
Today I wonder if Jason
will forgive me as a man
and realize how I have loved him
could he ever understand?
Today I must sit
today I must grieve
for each moment I won't share
and each memory I'll never see.

I love you always Jason, my son.
Mom

Appreciate that your emotions are your own. Sometimes you go along great and one day you
will hurt. I wrote this poem after I was working on the children's scrapbooks and found Jason's.
I keep photo albums, scrapbooks, and a journal for Jason. All of these things I intend on giving him when he is eighteen. I want him to know I have always loved him. I don't want him to think it was easy for me all these years. I need him to know he was conceived because he was wanted and loved so very desperately. In the end I am not regretful that I had Jason for my sister. That is the end of this story, not the end of ours.

"God balances our souls, measuring the most splendid of gifts by the greatest sacrifice."

     
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