In the surrogacy world, women who become surrogates share a special and unique bond as #SurroSisters. Maggie and Jessica are not only Surrosisters, they are sisters in real life. After Jessica completed two successful surrogacy journeys for New York families, her sister Maggie was inspired to follow in her footsteps and become a surrogate. Jessica, a Pennsylvania resident, recently gave birth to her second surrobaby on the east coast and Maggie is currently matched with her intended parents from Illinois and embarking on her first surrogacy journey in Colorado.
Nazca Fontes, founder of ConceiveAbilities, interviewed Jessica and Maggie on All Things Conceivable: A Surrogacy Podcast, to share why they became surrogates, how they talked with their husbands and why matching with the right intended family is so important.
NF: Jessica, what made you want to become a surrogate?
I thought about becoming a surrogate well before my first child was born. I got the idea to look into surrogacy probably based on TV shows like Friends when Phoebe was a surrogate. It was almost like it was produced in my head over the course of my adolescence. I set it on the back burner, but once I had my first child and realized how much I loved being pregnant, that's when I pretty much said I was all in. I started doing more research on surrogacy to learn about the process of becoming a surrogate.
NF: Maggie, how did you feel about Jessica becoming a surrogate?
I was really curious about the impact on her emotionally and physically. I didn't really have a whole lot of information to go off of, so I started asking her questions that you might not feel as comfortable asking a surrogate going through the process. But because Jessica is my sister, I didn't really have any of those hesitations and I could just go ahead and ask them all.
NF: Jessica, how did you husband react when you told him you wanted to be a surrogate?
He didn't really know what surrogacy meant and immediately questioned why. After some explanation of what surrogacy actually means today, he was much more open to the idea. Having an open and honest conversation about it definitely helped him understand the difference between what I call “old school surrogacy” and a modern surrogate mother. A gestational carrier is just a woman who carries a baby that's not genetically related to them. They're hosting someone else's egg and sperm or donor egg and sperm. They are not genetically involved. A surrogate mother is just the oven, as most like to say in the surrogacy world.
NF: Maggie, what motivated you to become a surrogate?
I saw how amazing Jessica’s surrogacy journeys had been. And I had gotten a lot of really sweet questions from my friends who were having some challenges conceiving who knew that Jessica was a surrogate and had seen me during my pregnancies and had jokingly asked me to be their surrogate. I didn't hesitate for a second in thinking absolutely I would, 100%. So if I would carry a baby for one of my friends, I thought why would I not carry a baby for someone that I just didn't know yet? I also feel like there are these moments in life that I never really experienced before kids, when your heart skips a beat. The moment they are born, but also the small moments that make your heart just skip a beat and you get to watch someone's heart, literally just melt right there. What an amazing experience to be in the presence of that and have something to do with it.
NF: Your sister was in Pennsylvania, you are outside Denver thousands of miles away. When did you know the time was right to follow in your sister’s surrogacy footprints?
I had really started thinking of it as an option for me after I had our second son. My work is pretty flexible as a therapist and I had a really great work life balance. I was in a really great emotional space. My relationship was supportive and safe and we weren't planning on any travel. You can't really be traveling all over the world when you're a surrogate, which is something that we love to do, but with our kids being so young, it felt like a really good time to be able to take a break and do something for someone else.
NF: Maggie, did your husband react differently to you becoming a surrogate mother?
We had first-hand experience because of Jessica so we had already really talked about it through her journey. You have to go into surrogacy with an open mind for sure, yet you also have expectations. I was just curious if those expectations were met for Jessica and it was an overall incredible experience for her. So there weren’t a lot of concerns, only a lot of positives. So when we talked about it, he was really supportive.
NF: Jessica, how did you know the time was right?
When my son was four months old, I decided this is what I wanted to do. I knew for sure that I wanted to be a surrogate. That same day I jumped on my phone or a computer and started researching some agencies and that actually led me to ConceiveAbilities. I had experienced the pregnancy, I had experienced the delivery and I had experienced the birth and those first few months of having a baby. I was kind of back on that train of wanting to be pregnant again. I definitely was more on the surrogacy path than thinking about having another baby of my own. So timing plays a huge role in where you are in your own life versus where your plan for surrogacy lies.
NF: Maggie, how important was matching with your intended parent(s) in the process?
ConceiveAbilities did an amazing job in connecting us through Matching Matters. I honestly didn't know if I would be connected to a family very quickly because we did have a lot of our own personal requirements. You go through a pretty lengthy process of what value system your family holds and matching those with a family that you're going to be a surrogate for. When we got matched with our family who live in Oak Park, we had an initial meeting and we hit it off really well. You can usually tell within the first few minutes, few seconds even, if you're clicking and connecting, and I really did feel very connected to them. I felt like their midwestern values and ours really aligned. We have an excellent relationship where we're able to communicate and we're able to support each other. But we also have our own supports in place as well, so that if we're struggling, we don't necessarily need to lean on each other all the time. We're different people, in different parts of the world coming together for this one goal and one purpose that we're both really passionate about and I respect their grit and tenacity to have a family. That takes a lot of resilience to go through.”
NF: Jessica, you have had the opportunity now to work with two families, both from New York, and have two distinct relationships built. How was your experience with your intended families?
They were both equally great, just very different and very positive. My first journey was with a single intended mom who had already had a baby. Our relationship was very laid back and easy, not overbearing or overwhelming. We had very similar personalities and we could be open with each other, and yet neither of us felt this urge to be overly communicative. She always made sure that I was comfortable and reminded me of how grateful and thankful she was. We still text on birthdays and holidays and she shares photos and updates about the baby I delivered. We have a very positive relationship to this day.
After having such a great first experience, I didn’t know how I could top it. For my second journey, I wanted a couple who was having their first child so I could have the excitement of firsts with them and I wanted a couple so that the experience would include my husband. I wanted him to have somebody to connect with through the journey versus just kind of him being almost like the third wheel. When we first met them, it felt like we had been friends before we even went through the whole surrogacy process, like we had known each other prior to being connected through ConceiveAbilities. My husband definitely connected on a much different level than the first journey, because he could bond with the intended father and share this experience with another man becoming a father. They have a special relationship.
NF: Maggie What would you tell other women considering becoming a surrogate?
I would tell other women looking to become a surrogate to make sure they understand their motivations and know there is a possibility that some expectations might not be met. Do you have the supports in place? Do you have the coping skills to be able to manage an intense emotional experience? If you're able to answer all of those questions confidently, you will have an amazing experience. You're going to learn something one way or another, and you're going to have tremendous personal growth no matter what the outcome is.
NF: Jessica, can you describe the moment of delivering your surrobaby to the intended family?
If you ask any surrogate, their most exciting moment is going to be delivery day. Part of the motivation in being a surrogate is that pure gift of handing a baby over at the end, whether it's a nine month journey or a two year journey. At the end of the day, to be able to see the look on your intended parents’ faces as they receive their new gift of life is life changing. The experience as a whole, just being able to witness the pure joy and contentment on your intended parents’ faces when they see their baby for the first time is pretty much indescribable.