By: Kelly Rummelhart
One of my favorite parts about discussing my experiences as a Gestational Surrogate are the questions I am asked. Sometimes they are truly insightful and other times I wonder how people can be so clueless. Last week, I focused on the frequently asked questions I received while pregnant with other people’s children. This week, I’ll answer some of the questions I was asked after my two surrogacy births (November of 2008 and October of 2010) and the questions I continue to get.
Q: Have you had them yet? / When are you due?
A: This is an excellent question- for someone who is still pregnant. However, for those of us who have already delivered, it is the biggest kick in the stomach . . . squishy, stretched-out stomach. With Surrogacy it’s even more likely. Most people know not to ask, “When are you due?” when you have a baby in a stroller with you. With Surrogacy, there are no baby/babies to show what you were just up to, so chances are, someone is going to think the baby/babies haven’t arrived yet. Bummer.
Now I know that most women will still look about 5-6 months pregnant after they deliver, that is pretty average . . . the baby/babies are gone, so is the placenta(s) and lots of fluid . . . but for some, including me, it will take months (or years) to not look pregnant. There are also women who will leave the hospital looking like they just went in to visit a friend who had a baby . . . I have some friends like that . . . there are lots of words I could use swirling around in my head, but these are friends, so I will just smile and be happy for their flat stomach. Yes, “happy” –that’s the word I’ll go with.
After I gave birth to Natasha and Anjali, I ran into an older customer who asked when I was due. I was dumbfounded. Sure I had heard it before, but I was a good 26 pounds lighter than the last time she saw me and had about 16 fewer inches around the waist. How in the hell could she not tell? I mean, come on! All I have to say is that it was good that she was in her 80’s and fragile, because in my mind, the only thing I could think about was kicking that cane out from underneath her.
Q: Was it hard to let the babies go?
A: Not at all. I went into surrogacy knowing they were NOT my babies and that my own family was complete, so it didn’t bother me at all to see the babies drive away with their parents. It was quite the opposite. I feel excitement knowing that they were finally parents and were embarking on the coolest trip ever. Their parents entrusted me with the responsibility of preparing my body for pregnancy and growing their babies. When my task was complete, I gave them back to their parents. Never once did I ever have the slightest inkling to keep them. Yes they are cute, but they were never mine . . . and why in the hell would I want someone else’s babies?
I always wonder if people think I’m some cold-hearted lady when I say this, but it’s the truth! (Wait, that sounds bad . . . the truth is it wasn’t hard, not that it’s true I’m cold-hearted!)
Q: Did you cry at all in the hospital?
A: Yes, I’m a total cry baby . . . Oreo commercials, Shindler’s List, Brokeback Mountain, heck, even The Green Mile book and movie . . . not to mention I was full of hormones! First, I started to get all “misty eyed” in the delivery room, both times, watching the dads react to the birth of their twins. To see them so happy, and know that I had something to do with it –it was indescribable!
Another time I started to cry was in my first journey, when the other family members started thanking me (and hugging me) as they were leaving . . . I lost it. I wasn’t crying because I wanted the girls, I was crying because the girls were so wanted. If you had a new grandma thanking you for helping her son and his husband and helping to give her grandbabies, well, who wouldn’t cry at that?
In my second journey, I made the mistake of writing the birth story and goodbye on our private blog the day before they left the hospital. It was all just so touching and trying to get it all down in a heartfelt way made me cry. Again, I wasn’t crying about not keeping the babies, it was more about reminiscing about our journey that started a year and a half earlier and how it was coming to an end.
Q: Did you have post partum depression or any other bouts of crying, etc?
A: I did go through “the blues” but not PPD. The feelings I had are completely normal for surrogacy and had nothing to do with wanting the babies. The first time I didn’t blog about it so much, but the second time around I made sure to take the time to discuss my feelings at length. That way I could let other surrogates know what to expect and accurately document my journey. Here is a link to my blog post: Surrogacy Blues (aka My Longest.Post.Ever). I’m only referencing it here because the post is very long but also very important and I don’t want to summarize or gloss over it.
Q: Do you still hear from the parents?
A: Yes. I have been very lucky both times. I was matched well with men who wanted the same communication that I did, which was for communication to NOT stop on the day I gave birth. I receive calls, texts, emails, photos, and videos all the time. I love it! When I first answered this question two years ago after my first surro birth, I discussed how I’d hear from the dads every week or two and how as time went on, that would probably change. Well, it hasn’t. I have become friends with both sets of IPs and they continue to share with me their journey of parenthood, even after my journey of surrogacy has ended.
I will also send an email or text every now and then to say hi and fill them in about my family.
After the birth, I let the parents dictate how often they contact me. I don’t want to assume months or years later that what we discussed at the match meeting will hold true. I will continue to be here and will be their biggest fan. I will gladly watch videos and look at millions of pictures and, when invited, will make a trip to visit.
Q: Did you enjoy being a surrogate?
A: I can easily say my experiences, as a surrogate, were absolutely amazing. I really believe that in the future, when I look back on all my accomplishments, they will easily be one of the best things I ever did in my life. As a friend of mine wrote in an email after I gave birth to my surro girlies. “You were able to help give a wonderful gift so that two people could experience what you and I know so well… the incredible love and joy that can only be experienced by having kids.” They really were unbelievable journeys for my family, their family, and me. The feelings I had when I saw the parents with their babies in the operating room will stay with me forever.
Q: Do you think you’ll do this again?
A: Here’s what I said after my first journey:
I don’t know. My goal was just to do this one time, but my experience was so amazing and there are other couples that still need help. I know after we got matched, I asked George and Sanj how long they had been with Growing Generations before I came along and it was almost a year! It’s hard enough to find someone who wants to be a surrogate, but then to find someone who passes the medical and psychological screening, and who’s not just in it for the money, that’s were you run into even more issues. I tend to have easy pregnancies, heal quickly, and with my hips, I was made for childbirth . . . put that with the feeling of helping someone create a family they always wanted, it’s almost like a drug -I think I’m addicted!
This is what I said after my second journey:
I don’t know. I’ve thought about it the entire pregnancy. Twenty years ago when I thought about being a surrogate, I certainly didn’t think I’d do it more than once. A few months into my first journey I thought I would do it a second time and Natasha and Anjali’s birth sealed the deal. So when Growing Generations asked me a few weeks later if I saw myself doing this again, I told them yes, but that I wanted a period of several months of not being pregnant. A few months later I was matched and my second journey began. Even back then I thought about a third journey. Would that be crazy? What would people say? Would I be pressing my luck? Would I be too old by then?
I don’t know; I really don’t know. I would LOVE to go a third round . . . there are couples out there who need help and I enjoy being pregnant but I’m not sure how everyone would react. I’m not usually a person who cares what people think but I have to admit, a third surrogacy might push some of my family and in-laws over the edge. However, they know me well, so I’m sure they realize this is something I’m thinking about.
I was asked by Growing Generations months ago if I’d be interested in being a surrogate a third time. Just like my last two journeys, they already had an idea of a great match for me. However, the third time was not a charm because that couple wanted to get started right away and there are some insurance issues, so I had to tell Growing Generations to match that great couple with another surrogate that could fit their time line and who is easily insured.
I have since been thinking about if a third journey is in the cards for me. I’m still not 100% sure. I don’t know if I should try to figure out the insurance problem or if I move into the part of “former gestational surrogate”… with a new tummy tuck.
Q: Knowing what you know now, would you change anything about your journeys as a gestational surrogate?
A: Both of my journeys went extremely well but there are a few things I wish I had done differently:
- More Belly Pictures! In my first journey, I wish I had done a better job at taking belly pictures. I think because I got to see George and Sanj a lot, I didn’t get into the habit. So after the birth, looking back on my blog I was bummed I wasn’t more consistent. I learned my lesson, so the second time I did a great job of taking almost weekly belly pictures starting at the second trimester and I would encourage other surrogates to do this as well.
- I wish I would have done a belly cast for the parents. Something to remember the size of the belly and create a type of art piece.
- I wish I would have had henna art done on my big ol’ preggo belly. Twin bellies are amazing and it would’ve been so cool to look back at pictures of it covered in henna.
- I wish I would have taken pictures throughout the whole journey both times. In my first journey, Sanj did a great job of taking pictures at the transfer and whenever we’d meet up but I wish I had pictures of everything. . . ultrasounds, appointments, etc. That way I could’ve had them on my blog, which continues to serve as a type of scrapbook of sorts. I also wish I would’ve done this during the second journey too. I tried to not take pictures the second time around on purpose –for privacy reasons, but now I wish I had done so. There are some pictures and video that they have and I should probably just ask for copies but I really wish I documented the whole journey in its entirety.
- I had no control over labor but I wish I would’ve made it to my scheduled c-sections both times instead of going a few days earlier. Being able to plan things is always nice, even better when it goes as scheduled.
Kelly Rummelhart writes about her experiences as a two-time gestational surrogate for gay couples. She calls herself a “Uterine Activist” and will be the first to tell you that her uterus is an ally. Kelly also writes at Just The Stork