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Birthing Another Woman’s Baby Has Been My Greatest Gift

The first time I ever considered being a surrogate was on Mother’s Day. A close friend of mine had miscarried her first baby a few months before, so I texted her the “Happy Mother’s Day” I knew she wouldn’t get from most people. Sitting in my toy-strewn living room, those distinctive baby smells of milk and diapers surrounding me, I felt the absence of them for my friend. I was glad I got to be there for her, but it made me wonder if there was more I could do. 

I didn’t take for granted that I got pregnant easily, was able to enjoy all nine months, and had smooth births. My mom lovingly calls me Fertile Myrtle, and it’s an apt nickname. I got pregnant with our oldest the first month we started trying, and was able to birth our other two babies at home with a midwife. My pushing stages never lasted more than twenty minutes. I wasn’t just a low-risk birther, I was a downright boring one. In the best way, my midwife assured me. 

But my luck with fertility felt like a gift I had done nothing to deserve, so I wanted to share it if I could. When I moved to California in 2017 with my husband and three young kids, pursuing surrogacy was at the top of my to-do list. 

California is one of the friendliest states for surrogacy in the U.S., and it shows in the amount and quality of resources there. I found a local surrogacy agency that did personal home visits and had regular get-togethers for their surrogates. With their help, I connected with my intended parents — the biological parents of the surrogate baby I would carry. 

By May of 2018, I was a potential surrogate. I had filled out all the paperwork, gotten the initial medical clearances, and spent the day reading over my intended parents’ profile for the 50th time. It was pages upon pages of questions and answers all about their life and hopes. As my kids played in the California sunshine and wiped muddy fingerprints on my shorts, I pored over the words they chose to share with me. 

My intended parents lived overseas, where English was their second language, but their desire to have a child needed no translation. The same absence I had felt for my friend, I felt for them. We spoke over video chat for the first time the next week. Nerves rolled in my belly like baby kicks, but we agreed: we would work together to complete their family. 

The next year, in May 2019, I was 8 months pregnant with baby June (my nickname for her, since June was the month when she was due). Our journey was a quick one, filled with the luck I’d always had when it comes to pregnancy — the luck that made me want to help another family in the first place. After the trials of egg retrieval and fertilization, my intended parents had a mere two embryos. Genetic testing revealed that only one was viable. If our first embryo transfer — a procedure with at most a 50-60% success rate — didn’t take, my intended parents would have to start the entire process over. 

That single embryo grew into the baby I was one month away from delivering. 2019 is the only Mother’s Day I’ve spent with June, and the only one she’s spent away from her mom. I laid with my phone’s speaker nestled against the swell of my belly. My intended parents’ voices floated across the room and through amniotic fluid as baby June and I listened to them together. I assured her she’d be with her mom and dad soon. Her answering movements fluttered across my abdomen. 

This past Mother’s Day was the fourth one since then, and June’s birth is a distant memory — snapshots, rather than an unbroken reel. A cool breeze on my face from my intended mother fanning me during labor, then her soft cries in my ear when we embraced each other afterward. Our combined warmth as we cradled June against me so she could nurse. Each one is a suspended moment in time, with my intended mother and I separate from the bustle around us. 

We can’t know what motherhood will do to us before it happens. The ways it will crack us open and leave us different than we were before. And it was the same with surrogacy.

It was a privilege to be part of another woman’s journey to motherhood, with all the trust and intimacy it required from both of us. Through pictures and videos her parents send me, I’m able to watch in wonder as June grows through each milestone I’ve seen my own kids go through three times over. I’ve gotten to see her mother love and be loved by her. 

Up until I was in labor, I thought carrying and delivering another woman’s baby was the greatest gift I could give. But then the parallel paths my intended mother and I were on merged for the time we were in that hospital room — and in the quiet spaces between those moments, I realized it was just the opposite. 

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