As New York celebrates a new dawn, with legalization of compensated surrogacy on Monday, February 15th, read on to hear from a New York mother, Cynara, and from a gestational carrier, Sara, about what it's been like to complete a surrogacy journey to-date. Two side with one mission. Joyful, still, but better days are ahead for hopeful parents and surrogates in New York.
When I imagined becoming a parent, one of the recurrent fantasies involved lovingly rubbing a growing belly and feeling the tiny life my husband and I created growing and somersaulting inside. I recall having these pleasant daydreams that only increased in frequency once we found out we were pregnant for the first time. I couldn't wait to bond with my baby and feel that sense of connection that would only grow in size as the weeks and months passed. But, unfortunately, that was not my journey to parenthood.
After several miscarriages over 10 years, my husband and I threw what we considered our "Hail Mary" pass – we decided to look into working with a gestational carrier (surrogate). Aside from the financial worries and the anxiety of not knowing whether it would work was the discovery that compensated surrogacy was not legal in New York.
My husband and I were shocked and somewhat despondent. I felt betrayed by the state that I always considered to be the bastion of inclusion and progressive ideals. How could Georgia, my home state, have more progressive family planning laws than New York?!
In learning of that obstacle, I had yet another hurdle to feeling connected to the life we wanted to bring into the world. Not only was I not going to be able to carry my own child, a loss in and of itself, but now I would not be able to feel connected to the pregnancy at all. Sara, the amazing person we matched with, lives in Ohio. That's hours away from our home in Brooklyn, New York. That decision meant that I would miss doctor's visits, the ability to feel Sara's tummy as our baby grew, or even talk to our baby in utero. And the scariest and most worrisome concern that clouded the experience was whether we would even have the ability to make it to the hospital in time for our baby's birth.
Not only did multiple flights to and from Ohio for us and for Sara and her husband mean added financial burden, it created more complexity and uncertainty to an already uncertain situation. What we also didn't consider was what would happen once our baby was born and what else we would miss out on as a result.
Bringing a child into the world is a very intimate endeavor and while everyone's expectations and needs may differ, we fell in love with the Vecchi family. Sara, Matt and their boys became as important to us as our own families.
If we lived in the same state, I know that the Vecchi family would have been present at every birthday party and special milestone. I want that possibility for other New York parents. I want them to have the ability to rub the belly of the person that is carrying their child. I want them to be able to easily take off a few hours to attend a doctor's appointment. I want them to have greater certainty that they won't miss the birth of the child they've so desperately wanted. That's an experience you can't get back and one you will never forget. And, I want New York families through surrogacy to have the opportunity to enjoy a lifetime of connection to the women and their families that gave them the most remarkable gift ever – the gift of parenthood. That's why it was so important to me to fight for this legal right. I cried tears of joy when the law was passed, because I knew what a difference it would make to families like ours.
My surrogate journey with the Charles-Pierre family has been hands-down one of my favorite things I have done in my life. Matching with someone to embark on this life-changing journey with you is a big deal, especially with people I had met only once face-to-face. After a couple of long phone calls, Cynara and her husband offered to fly out to meet us before we all began our partnership in earnest. We were so glad to have that opportunity, but it would have been wonderful to have the chance to interact in-person several times before making such an important decision. Matching with someone within your own state would likely make that opportunity much more feasible.
Once you have gotten past the anxiety and excitement of finding a good match, you prepare for the transfer. I can actually speak from experience when I say that a transfer in your home state takes much less coordination. I certainly didn’t mind the flights we took or the stays we had out of state for both our medical evaluations and for the transfer itself, but it meant a greater expense for intended parents to cover and more organization on our end to take care of responsibilities at home while we were gone. An in-state transfer took about the same time as a workday, and I was back home to pick up my sons from the babysitter that same evening.
After learning the transfer was successful, we began the longest part of our journey: nine months of slowly growing a baby. This is where I feel we missed the most. We kept in contact via text and occasional phone calls, and they came out to attend a couple doctor appointments and tour the hospital where we were to deliver. It would have been wonderful to be able to have Cynara there for more of the appointments, and these visits would have provided us more time to establish a deeper relationship.
When it comes to the highlight of the whole experience, the birth, you want to be very comfortable with your intended parents. This kind of closeness came naturally in our experience, but I could easily see this being something that would only come from spending more time together, especially for those who may be more introverted in nature. The biggest challenge we faced with the delivery was getting the intended parents here in time! Natural labor happened a week earlier than expected, so I had to quickly call and give them a heads up that I was heading to the hospital. From that moment, they had to get their things, get to an airport, get a flight, fly, and then travel to the hospital from the airport. We were lucky that my labor slowed after they arrived, but there were so many variables that could have led to them missing the actual birth. I was so relieved to hear when they touched down in Ohio.
One of the things that hangs over me now is how distance keeps us apart. I recognize that not every surrogate or couple may desire to remain in close contact, but I know that we are also not alone in wanting to be involved! If we were closer, we could be there for birthday parties, dance recitals, sports competitions, or whatever else the future may hold.
The legalization of surrogacy in New York has opened the door for these kinds of bonds to be formed between countless families in the future. Women like me who have a desire to help families who would not otherwise have their own children will now have that opportunity. Parents like Cynara will now have the option to partner with someone closer to home and be able to extend this close and special relationship past the delivery of the baby if they so choose. This legalization allows, and maybe even encourages, the relationships which I feel make the surrogacy experience so special.