By Crystal Henry
My journey to surrogacy began as I lay in my toddler’s bed nursing her for the last time. I was feeling a little sad to think that the body I had used to grow and nourish two beautifully silly children was going to be retiring. It seemed a shame to waste all those stretch marks on just two little monkeys.
So I started to think about bringing the joy I felt for my own children to another family. It was probably my obsession with my own pregnancies that led some very well-meaning relatives to beg and plead with me not to do it. After all I was the person who subscribed to every email I could about my developing baby, so that I could let you know the exact day my baby got fingernails. The well-meaning relatives witnessed the instant bond I felt with the little lives I carried the second I knew of their existence, and they just “knew” that I wouldn’t be able to “give this baby up.”
But the funny thing about motherhood is that it’s actually just a frame of mind. The first time I got my own double pink lines I started shrieking for joy. I was alone in my tiny bathroom, and I was completely enamored. On the way to meet my husband for lunch, I started talking to my belly like a lunatic. The moment that the prospect of motherhood entered my life I was in love.
And when that pregnancy ended at 13 weeks I felt the loss of those twins deep in my soul. I still mourn for the kisses that I was robbed of and the little hands that I dreamed of holding at night. Some people couldn’t understand why I would feel so deeply for two babies who were no bigger than a fig. But motherhood doesn’t begin in your womb. It begins in your heart.
I thought I fully understood this concept. After all, I knew people who adopted and seemed to love their adopted children as much as I loved my bios. But that love wasn’t actually clear for me until I became a surrogate.
I transferred one lovely little embryo on a sunny day in November. I made jokes on the table as the embryo’s parents stood at my shoulder witnessing their one and only chance of a biological child get squeezed into my lady bits with a glorified soda straw.
I left the appointment feeling the weight of responsibility for this little speck. I was Horton the Elephant, but that’s about it. I felt no motherly instinct whatsoever.
I took my prenatal and ate lots of veggies, just like my own keeper pregnancies. But instead of reading all the emails about fingernails and fruit sizes, I just went about my business. I wasn’t trying to pick out names or dream up nursery themes. I was just babysitting, and I almost felt guilty.
When we lost that pregnancy, I cried hard tears. But I didn’t cry for myself. I cried because two people I care about were mourning the loss of their first child. The death of a baby, no matter how small, is never easy for anyone. But this loss felt so different than my own. I felt exactly the same as I did when I sat in the waiting room of the doctor’s office with a friend who was miscarrying her own child. My heart broke for the parents.
We transferred again, and now that I’m nearly halfway through the pregnancy, I have an even better understanding of a mother’s love. After a lot of soul searching, the couple I’m carrying for decided to try an egg donor. So the mother of this child will neither carry it, nor will it share her DNA. But I can say with 100 percent certainty this child is growing in her heart every single day.
I see the same hopes and fears in her that I had with my first baby. She’s making burp cloths and dreaming about taking her little one to the beach.
Before this surrogacy I probably still thought that adoptive parents must love their biological children differently than their adoptive ones. But now I can see that motherhood has nothing to do with who carried the child for 9 months. It has everything to do with the child who carries her heart forever.
I was what you call an “oopsie” baby. Meaning my mom and pops got down, but weren’t exactly expecting that double pink line that popped up Christmas Eve 1983. Nevertheless, I can honestly say I have never once doubted that I was very much wanted and loved by my entire family.
I’ve heard my whole life how much I was cherished and adored since I was a scrawny little alien embryo with a tail. I was told this so much by my own mother, that I was completely railroaded into thinking that pregnancy was a beautiful and magical journey. So much so that although my own pregnancies were riddled with vomiting, sleeplessness, back pain, gruesome stretch marks and thigh chafing, I still saw myself as a glowing earth goddess.
I’m so warped that after I decided never to bring home another infant, I decided I really wanted to make some for other people. I couldn’t bake a cupcake to save my life, but I am actually pretty good at baking children. In a non-Hansel-and-Gretel kind of way.
This post was originally published in October, 2015.
Crystal Henry, author of Naked Salsa, is a freelance writer glad to be back in her native Texas land. She is a University of Florida alumna who stays true to her Florida writing roots through her work with Our Town Magazine and her award-winning column, Naked Salsa. She is a boobs out breastfeeding advocate and semi-crunchy mom whose work has been featured on sites such as Scary Mommy, eHow, LIVESTRONG and ModernMom. Her world-domination-smart husband and two hilariously inappropriate little girls constantly provide fodder for her #preschoolproblems blog. But having two newborns of her own broke the baby fever that once burned deep within her. Instead she is renting out her oven to another woman’s bun and documenting her surrogacy journey with humor and honesty through her blog, Her Eggs My Basket.