Today we sit down with @Kristy, and hear about her surrogacy journey.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
I'm Kristy! My husband, Joe, and I have two kiddos, Aubrey and Tyler. We live with our goofy cat and energetic lab retriever in the Cleveland area, where we've been for the last 10 years. We're about to move to the Indianapolis area, though. I grew up in Indiana, and we are so excited to move closer to family. Professionally, I am a licensed social worker with a background in community mental health, collegiate swim coaching, and human resources. Personally, I'm very family-oriented, and I love staying active and being outdoors. Running, hiking, and just playing outside with my kids are some of my absolute favorite things.
What inspired you to become a surrogate?
Before my husband and I were even thinking about having kids, I coached a couple different youth swim programs. I learned that a mom of a couple of my swimmers had been a surrogate twice for the same family, and I was so surprised! I didn't ask her too many questions about it because I didn't want to pry, but she told me that she loved being pregnant. I barely thought anymore about that for years. Then, after my son was born, and we felt our family was complete with our two kids, it was a thought that I just couldn't get out of my mind. My pregnancies had been very easy and healthy, and I had enjoyed being pregnant. I had friends and family members who'd had miscarriages and struggled to build their own families, and I started to feel more and more strongly that I wanted to help another family in this way.
How did you know it was the right time for your family to embark on your surrogacy journey?
Before having kids, I had moved out of the direct practice social work field into collegiate coaching, and for a while, I really thought that I would spend my career there. Anyone who is familiar with competitive swimming knows the intense time commitment involved. The long days and travel were accompanied by a lot of flexibility at different points during the year, but by the time I became a parent of two, I realized that college coaching probably wasn't going to be the right fit for me. So, after 5 years, I took a step back from that and became a stay-at-home mom to my then 1 and 3 year old. I knew that I would get back into the workforce as they got a little older, but I needed to re-evaluate what that would look like for me. It was a while after that when I ultimately decided to pursue surrogacy. Becoming a parent had absolutely changed my life in the best way possible, and I wanted to help someone else experience the joy of parenthood.
How did your partner, friends and family feel about your decision and how did they support you?
When I first told my husband that I was thinking about surrogacy, he was understandably hesitant about it - mainly being concerned for my own health and well-being. We talked about it a lot, researched more about it, and after seriously considering it for at least a year, I applied to be a surrogate with ConceiveAbilities. I told other family members and close friends more about it once I was in the screening phase and it seemed like it might actually happen! My parents were very surprised, but also very supportive. My sisters and friends had lots of questions, but also were so supportive. That meant a lot to me. For the most part, any hesitancy that others had was only due to not really understanding the process and all of the support involved. Once people understood that the baby wouldn't be genetically tied to me in any way, and that I'd also be supported emotionally throughout the process, they seemed to come around.
Tell us about matching with your Intended Parents.
I was definitely nervous for our "match meeting" with our Intended Parents! I wasn't sure what to expect or how it would go, but we got to hear their story and learn more about them - and I knew right away that I absolutely wanted to help this couple have the baby that they had waited so long for. We had a lot in common, and I felt like I could be myself around them. We had similar values and were on the same page about all of the important things - communication, termination, and what we wanted the relationship to look like.
How does it feel to be able to give the gift of family?
Oh my gosh, it is the best feeling ever! After giving birth to "Bro" (the nickname that our intended parents had given to their little embryo), I just felt indescribable joy. I was so happy for our Intended Parents, relieved and extremely grateful that everything had worked out so well, and just so proud. It still is almost hard to believe that it's possible to do this for someone else, if that makes sense - but it is an amazing feeling.
What has been the most rewarding part of your surrogate experience?
The most rewarding part has been the relationship with our Intended Parents, and knowing that we helped them grow their family. They were so sweet to invite me to a virtual baby shower (thanks, Covid!) that their friends threw for them when we were in the third trimester of the pregnancy - and it was absolutely incredible just seeing how excited all of their friends and family were for them, knowing that this baby would be born into this incredible support system and have an impact on so many people.
How did becoming a surrogate change your life?
I now have such a better understanding of so many aspects of the fertility/family building world, and of assisted reproductive technologies. I feel like I am an advocate for surrogacy whenever I have the opportunity to share about my journey with others. During my journey, I had gotten back into the workforce and taken a role in human resources, but my passion for all things related to surrogacy had grown so much! So, earlier this year, I applied for a job at ConceiveAbilities. Because of my background in social work and mental health, I was offered a position as part of the mental health team. I am just so grateful to now have this opportunity to continue to promote surrogacy and be part of the agency's support system for our surrogates and intended parents!
What is something you wish you had known or was surprising to you about becoming a surrogate?
I felt confident from the very beginning that I would be able to handle the emotions and stresses that might arise during my journey, but I didn't realize just how much support ConceiveAbilities provides all along the way. I also didn't realize just how much support would come from our community of surrogates - our "surro-sisterhood." I also was a little unsure about how I would feel after delivering "Bro." The pregnancy felt very different from my own pregnancies, though, in that I didn't feel the same kind of attachment. My goal wasn't to have another baby - but to help another couple become parents. Ultimately, like I described above, I just felt so much joy after the delivery - and I am still amazed about that! I've noticed that some friends and family have seemed hesitant to even bring up the surrogacy journey, like they think it's hard for me to talk about - or that it was hard to "give up the baby." But it isn't and never was like that at ALL. I loved doing it, and I love talking about it, and I hope to do it one more time!
What advice would you give someone thinking about becoming a surrogate?
If you're thinking about it, ask all the questions! There are so many resources, and it's absolutely worth looking into. Is your own family complete? Is this the right time in your life to commit to this? Is your heart in it? Then go for it, and apply! The need for gestational carriers is only growing, and there could be a family out there waiting for someone like you. It just might be that you were meant to bring a baby into this world for someone else.
Tell us about your experience with ConceiveAbilities.
I had an incredible experience with ConceiveAbilities, and I know I chose the best agency out there! Funny enough, one reason I chose ConceiveAbilities was that it was one of the only longstanding agencies I found that wasn't headquartered out in California - so it felt more "local" to me. It wasn't until after I was already pregnant in my journey that I reconnected with the mom of my former swimmers who was a surrogate, and learned that she had also been with ConceiveAbilities! All along, I felt supported, and I appreciated the relationship that my husband and I built with our Intended Parents so much.
Any other wisdom on being a surrogate that you think would help someone on their journey that we didn’t ask?
I think occasionally there is a fear that intended parents might be controlling, demanding, or completely taking charge of the relationship, as if the surrogate is their employee - and I would say that this is almost never the case, and definitely not with ConceiveAbilities. The relationship between a surrogate and Intended Parents is a partnership, and it's based on mutual respect and so much trust. I want people to know that the experience of being a surrogate isn't scary! It's so, so rewarding, and it'll change your life as you're changing someone else's. I also get a lot of questions about how surrogacy might impact your kids. From my own experience, even though my kids were young, they didn't have any trouble understanding that the baby in my belly wasn't ours, and wasn't a sibling. My kids also got to know our Intended Parents, and they understood that I was just helping grow the baby for them for a little while. They still ask about "Bro" and love seeing pictures of him as he's getting bigger and bigger!
Thanks for sharing your story, @Kristy!