After years of trying to get pregnant, Anna and her husband’s prayers were finally answered. Anna was miraculously pregnant with their first child, however, Anna went into early labor at 25 weeks. Their daughter was born a preemie, and although she has grown into a happy and healthy young girl, the experience left Anna and her husband with the question of whether or not they should pursue trying to have another child on their own or look into other options. Once they learned more about the risks that surrounded another pregnancy for Anna, they decided to move forward growing their family through surrogacy. Anna and her husband are currently in their third surrogacy journey and, now as parents of three girls, they will be welcoming their first son this winter!
Samantha is the surrogate who is currently carrying Anna’s son. After witnessing two of her sister-in-law’s surrogacy journeys and learning about the gift of surrogacy, Samantha knew she also wanted to become a surrogate. Samantha made the decision to pay it forward and help others who were hoping to expand their families late last year and, after deciding on ConceiveAbilities as her surrogacy agency, things moved very quickly for her. Now in her 15th week of her surrogacy journey, we’re catching up with her and her intended mother, Anna to talk about their experience so far.
The surrogacy journey begins…
Anna: We had tried many rounds of IVF and I did get pregnant after years of trying, but I delivered our daughter Nora at 25 weeks. When we wanted to continue to grow our family, there was going to be a high risk that I would deliver early again. Since we already had embryos, we decided to choose surrogacy to help grow our family.
Samantha: I had been discussing the idea of doing service for another family and had been discussing it for a while with family and friends. Since my sister-in-law had been a surrogate, it was always in the back of my mind that this was something I could do for someone else. For my keeper, I had a completely normal pregnancy and delivery and was blessed with a beautiful baby. However, I was talking to my mother about how I would feel if I were the one struggling with infertility and being told I would have zero chances of carrying my son, wondering how I would feel. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what kind of pain these families go through and I feel like that really pushed me to look into options of becoming a surrogate.
Samantha, you were inspired by your sister-in-law throughout both of her surrogacy journeys. How did that push you to really consider becoming a surrogate yourself?
Samantha: Yes, I live in Indiana and my sister-in-law lives in another state, but I was there and got to see the process before, during and after. Watching her preparation ahead of time really helped me see the level of commitment I would need to have to move forward with applying to become a surrogate. You really have to be committed because you have to respond to people in a timely manner and go to meetings and appointments and take medications. You have to be all the way “in” and believe me when I say the real work begins after you have that first transfer and as you go through the first trimester. Her surrogacy journey really prepared me for my own.
What led you to ConceiveAbilities?
Anna: We actually chose ConceiveAbilities because my OB-GYN had the same fertility issues I was going through and she has used a surrogate to deliver her second baby. ConceiveAbilities came highly recommended as a surrogacy agency, so deciding to use them was easy for us. We definitely trust these people and their process.
What was your experience like throughout the application process and then matching with your intended parents?
Samantha: The application process went so fast, literally just like snapping your fingers. I was thinking it would take a lot longer with all the preparation, but it ended up being only about three weeks! It was mid-to-late November when I started talking to my ConceiveAbilities Match Manager, and then we started the process right away. My first Match Meeting wasn’t supposed to be scheduled until after the holidays, however, we ended up with a meeting on December 23rd because the Chicago area intended parents really, really wanted to talk to us, and so we made it work! About an hour after our call, we matched with the intended parents, Anna and her husband. It all happened so quickly!
What was the Match Meeting like for you?
Samantha: On our initial call with Anna and her husband, we discussed what we did for a living and chatted about our personal lives. I already knew that they had other children which was something that I didn’t know I would want in intended parents, but I appreciate it so much now since they’ve gone through the surrogacy process before. They were very respectful and it was ultimately apparent that they just wanted me to have a really good pregnancy. To be honest, they are the dream intended parents because I knew they weren’t going to be stressed out throughout the process. Rather, they help me and guide me through this since they had already experienced this journey twice before.
Anna: We had already gone through the experience before and didn’t want to waste any time in bringing our fourth child into the world, so we started the process right away. We matched with Samantha and, as she described, things moved super fast! There were literally no roadblocks along the way, and we felt it was just meant to be. While this is our third surrogacy journey, it’s Samantha’s first, so we really want to make sure that we take the time to nurture our relationship with her because it’s such a special time in both our lives.
What were your expectations of the relationship with the intended parents?
Samantha: You just never know what special requests people might have or what could be asked or requested of you. It could be things like a request for a specific diet or checking in at the same time every day. I just didn’t know but, ultimately, Anna and her husband just wanted to make sure that I was following my OB’s advice.
You matched before Christmas with your intended parents, and on the same day you got your IUD removed. How quickly did things move after that?
Samantha: Yes! I got my IUD removed at the end of December and on the same day we matched with Anna and her husband. Then, at the end of January, I had my one day workup and got a call from the intended parents’ lawyer to discuss legal details of the match. However, there was no back and forth between us, so both medical and legal were all done within a week! By the end of February, everything that needed to be completed was done. I was put on birth control for a month and then I started the IVF medications around April. The round of medications lasted about four weeks, and we had the transfer at the end of April.
How did the transfer go?
Samantha: The transfer date was the last Friday in April. The transfer was a lot smoother than I thought it was going to be and I even got to see the embryo before they did the transfer. Since Anna and her husband already have three daughters, they were able to choose to use one of their viable male embryos because they really wanted a boy!
Once you did the transfer, was there a waiting period or did you “feel” like you were pregnant right away?
Samantha: It's just that feeling, that presence that you’re aware of… like a fluttering sensation. It also helped that I watched the embryo being placed, so in this case, I think I always knew the transfer worked.
When did you find out you were officially pregnant and what was that experience like and how did you tell your Intended Parents?
Samantha: We did two blood tests to keep measuring my estrogen and progesterone levels and make sure that nothing needed to be changed. On day nine or ten after the transfer, we did a blood test and it came back with a higher HCG threshold than we needed, so that was really encouraging! I was tested again 48 hours later and the numbers had gone up by 40% or so. At the same time, I had been taking home pregnancy tests, but I didn’t tell my intended parents the good news yet because I didn’t want to get their hopes up. Around day eight, Anna asked me, “So… Do you feel pregnant?” They weren’t stressed at all, just excited since if this didn’t work out, they had other embryos. However, I was too scared to tell her just yet! Once I got to the six and a half weeks and we confirmed the heartbeat, I felt relieved and excited. Then we went back for the eight week ultrasound, and all looked really good — he was growing just as he should!
How far along in your surrogacy journey are you now?
Samantha: I’m fifteen weeks now, and so far this feels exactly like my first pregnancy. I’m a little nauseated at times, but I never really feel sick. It’s all just super normal and good! I’m looking forward to continuing this journey with Anna and bringing another baby into the world to grow their family.
Anna, what do you want people to know about starting a surrogacy journey?
Anna: Conversations surrounding surrogacy need to be normalized. I think in today’s day and age, you almost always know someone who had a child through the help of a surrogate or someone who has been a surrogate themselves. In talking to our other gestational surrogates, all of them had had a friend or family member who was a surrogate which inspired them to become a surrogate for someone else. It is the best gift someone could give a family like ours and we are so thankful for each of our amazing surrogates!
If you’re even just thinking about it or considering surrogacy, I would one hundred percent recommend doing it. If nothing else, this whole process has taught me that you can’t control everything, so relax and let go. Just enjoy the experience!