As a top fertility doctor at Vios Fertility Clinic, Dr. Angie Beltsos has helped thousands of families from all over the world have children using IVF and surrogacy. Sadly, when her daughter Elena didn’t survive, Dr. Beltsos became the patient. She, her husband and her three children decided as a family to use a surrogate to complete their own family. This is her surrogacy journey.
ConceiveAbilities: How did you choose surrogacy to build your family?
Dr. Angie Beltsos: When some women decide that they're going to use a surrogate, it's a very sad, and traumatic decision for them to have to make. They might feel guilty or feel like their body has rejected them; some women go through some of this internal turmoil. It’s hard to accept that her baby is going to grow in this other woman. So I think you have to sort of find your way with that, work through some of those feelings and identify what the ideal situation is in picking a surrogate when you're having some of that internal conflict. Others, such as gay men are very excited because they never thought they’d get to be parents. Now, with opportunities like surrogacy, they can have a family! There’s a lot of different directions and emotions that lead to picking a surrogate. When my husband and I picked our surrogate, it was us surrendering to the process, embracing it and really having fun. Because of my personal experience, I tell people to find the person that you're going to do this journey with and celebrate what you're doing together.
ConceiveAbilities: Can you tell us more about your own personal surrogacy journey?
Dr. Angie Beltsos: It was incredible! Our surrogate, her husband, and her family were so much a part of the whole process of the baby growing. She delivered in Savannah, Georgia and we live in Chicago. Each time our surrogate had a doctor visit or ultrasound, I would bring one of our older children with me to go to the visit and really try to normalize the experience. Support is really important, whether you're using a donor egg, a donor sperm, or using someone's uterus to help you through the process, and your family being open and transparent about it can be healthy for you. I think you have to just really celebrate and embrace the process, surrender and just take life by the horns. If you dream about a family, don't ever give up on that - whatever it takes!
ConceiveAbilities: Since this is not just her decision, but rather a family decision, how important was it for you that your surrogate’s family be supportive?
Dr. Angie Beltsos: Our surrogate, Jodi, had told her husband, “By the way, I want to become a surrogate.” He was willing to be part of her decision and be supportive and this was important to her. They thought they were going to do this altruistic, incredible thing for a couple that does not have children. When they met us, however, we already had three children. In our particular story, we had a fourth child, Elena, who unfortunately didn't survive. She was born early and we lost her. So Jodi asked us, “What do your kids think of you doing this?” and learned how much our whole family wanted this baby. Most surrogates match with intended parents but, in our story, Jodi matched with our intended family, all of us.
Jodi and her husband had two older children, two girls, and they were all supportive of her decision to be a surrogate. Her mother was a part of our story too and she was very involved at the delivery. They sent us this box right around the third trimester. They instructed us to open it on a Friday night, so we opened this box and it was a baby shower for our family, from her family. Her daughters had made little gifts for each person at the party, our kids and us, and sent us games to play and gifts for the baby. Jodi’s mom had made this beautiful blanket with our baby’s name on it. The girls made paintings to hang in the nursery with the baby’s initials and they made all these beautiful things for the nursery! One precious gift that they included was a necklace. The necklace was a bird, a dove that was flying away, and included a story about our baby, Beatrice, who is part of their family and celebrating their family, but that she would fly away soon. The bird represented Beatrice and how they would let her fly home to us.
ConceiveAbilities: Thinking about this gift Jodi has given your family; how does it make you feel?
Dr. Angie Beltsos: We absolutely love Jodi. When our baby was born, her family was in the room afterwards with us holding the baby, loving her. She brought a photographer, so we could take those first day pictures. Our surrogate was just recovering from giving us this most precious gift, so we wanted to celebrate her first day of life together. Jodi’s husband, who is this tough guy in the Army, cried when it was time for us to leave. The people in your life that take care of your child, whether the child is an embryo or toddler, are very invested in the success and the health of the child. It's magical and it's important. So don't be afraid of it, embrace it. You'll find that that journey becomes even more precious, even many years later.
ConceiveAbilities: How has your personal experience through your surrogacy journey helped you help people throughout their own journeys?
Dr. Angie Beltsos: You don't have to have gone through something to be compassionate. There are really incredible doctors that may not have that personal story to add. Empathy, however, when you yourself have gone through it goes a long way. Losing a pregnancy through miscarriage and going through my own surrogate journey provides me a very unique vantage point for my patients. Although I have been trained medically to help care for you, I have also been trained personally. My war wounds and successes have helped me be a better doctor!