Leslie Worthen has a lot of things going for her in her life. She’s been with her husband since she was 19 years old, has three beautiful teenage girls, and she has a rewarding job as a nanny. But Leslie also has a sense of altruism that made her realize that she could share her gift of well-being with others. Through her work with couples and families, Leslie had seen the devastating impact of infertility on others. She knew she could help, and so she did.
The call to be a surrogate — especially when you’re someone like Leslie who has a loving family with older kids already — is unique. She has already experienced the joy of having her own children and being able to watch them grow. Her empathy made her the perfect person to become a surrogate for hopeful parents who desire that same joy.
Why was the time right for your family for you to become a surrogate?
LW: I’m a mom of three teenage girls and I’ve been married for 17 years. My husband knew I wanted to become a surrogate for a long time and he was on board from the very beginning. While there are many reasons why I decided to be a surrogate at this time, the main reason is that my girls are older. They understand what’s going on and that it’s not our baby. Also, I’ve always worked with kids and my own kids know more than most about the dynamics of how families are brought together. At this point and at their age, I knew they were able to understand what was happening and why my husband and I wanted to do this. We’re a tight family, so it was really all or nothing and they were totally supportive from the very beginning.
When did you first consider becoming a surrogate?
LW: I thought about it probably for seven or eight years. While a nanny, I worked with a lot of families with twins. Also, I’ve worked with several mothers who were experiencing secondary infertility trying to conceive their second or third child. Watching them go through the process and have positive transfers or negative transfers and the struggles along the way was heartbreaking. Being able to have three kids myself, I felt I could bless someone else with that.
Is there someone in your life who inspired your journey?
LW: A lot of people, including all of those families I worked with. I also have some family members that have struggled with infertility and I have a friend that is a two-time ConceiveAbilities surrogate! I’m so grateful for her influence and guidance. She pushed me to get going faster instead of just thinking about it. She’s been a great support through the whole application process and, now, pregnancy. So it’s not just your family that needs to be there for you, but also your friends.
What experience with infertility impacted your decision to become a surrogate?
LW: I think seeing the heartache and disappointments that people close to me have gone through stirred emotions for me also. I’ve been with them through the whole process of observing the efforts to conceive and then the pain of coming home knowing it failed. These emotions pushed me to begin my surrogacy journeys. Plus it’s been 12 years since my last pregnancy and I was ready for something new!
You had a few experiences throughout your life that were pointing you towards surrogacy. How did you know that the time was right?
LW: My husband and I sat down with the girls and we explained that this is what we wanted to do as a couple and as a team. We went through the pros and cons of me doing this. We talked about the timing: they are older, we are more financially stable, my husband and I both have great jobs, and we bought a house. I told them that I was ready to move forward, so it was like, “Let’s go!”
How did you talk to your children about surrogacy?
LW: My oldest was so excited to just be involved; she wanted to know if she could dress me, which I loved! She’s also an artist, so she wanted to paint my belly — moments like these that we can share together are so special! My middle daughter is all about the medical aspect and what happens with your body during pregnancy. She immediately started to watch videos of babies moving in utero, and she calls it the “Alien Phase.” The baby of our family, who was 12 at the time, is just along for the ride! It’s good they’re older because they understand.
Was there anything that you were unsure or anxious about?
I think age was a big topic. I’m 36, so I was always worried that my age was going to be a problem, but it seems like it’s more common nowadays for women to get pregnant later. So far, everything’s been great; I just need to take more tests and more precautions that I did when I was younger. In addition to my age, there was, of course, the anxiety of wondering, “Is the transfer going to take?” Thankfully, it did on the first try!
What was the reaction of your own family?
LW: Our family has been involved and informed from the start of the matching process. I’ve always been open about being a surrogate and, since we have family members who have struggled with infertility, everyone has been very supportive of my journey!
Has anything been surprising to you after starting your surrogacy journey?
LW: I knew there were emotions involved but I didn’t realize how strong my bond with the intended parents would be. You have to have a connection with them for the whole process to work. I’d say that anyone thinking of becoming a surrogate should be prepared to have a lot of good days and bad days but, in the end, they’re all worth it! Some parts of being a surrogate are more fun than others! Remember: the meds are what make it possible to do what you want to do!
What’s been the best part of the surrogacy process for you so far?
LW: Oh my gosh. There are so many! The fact that I’m doing this amazing thing for another family and this intense, emotional bond we have with each other is indescribable. It’s been great having our families come together and it feels like it was all meant to be. That’s been amazing!
How did the matching process go for you as a surrogate?
LW: That part was amazing since ConceiveAbilities’ match success is around 99%. My husband and I met the intended parents separately, since I was on vacation. We had a big, humongous Zoom meeting and, instantly after that meeting, we called each other and said, “We’re set! We know it’s a yes!”
Do you have any advice for someone who is considering becoming a surrogate?
LW: Being a surrogate definitely takes your whole heart. You have to be a hundred percent ready physically, mentally, and emotionally and you have to have support before you start. A great surrogate is someone who loves kids and has a full heart to give this gift to another family. It really comes back, however, to the support system and that’s the main thing. If you have the support from your friends and family, and you’re ready for this amazing journey, go for it!
How do you talk to your friends, family and your community about surrogacy?
LW: That is definitely something surrogates have to prepare for. There are funny questions like, “Is it yours?” So, you have to explain that gestational surrogacy does not involve your egg, nor your husband’s sperm, it’s just your body taking over this process for another family. People have asked, “How can you give away your child?” and I have to explain that it’s not mine. Surrogates know from the start this baby is for someone else, with no genetic relationship to the baby. I have had people ask me questions like “How could I do that to my husband?” and “How could I put him through all of that?” People wonder about how my body changes and how that affects him. In general, people are curious and that is a good thing! I understand their curiosity and do my best to explain it as best as I can.
Were there any resources that helped you talk to your children about surrogacy?
LW: That’s one reason I picked ConceiveAbilities. I narrowed it down to two surrogacy agencies and I researched like crazy. ConceiveAbilities simply has the most resources available to their surrogates and covers topics on everything it seems! I just talked to my intended mother about chiropractic care and then this article popped up about chiropractic care during pregnancy. ConceiveAbilities has given me the best support. That’s definitely why I picked them.
Leslie is even more sure now than she was at the outset that surrogacy was the right choice for her and her family. The unanimous and loving support her three girls and husband have given her made Leslie know that she was meant to be a surrogate.