Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Carrier's Perspective (possible tissue alert)

This is a hard one for me to write. Because even with my veil of anonymity, it reveals something so personal and secretive, that few people in my life actually know about it. Many of my closest friends do not know about it and it was even hard to admit to my husband, but I realized recently how very relevant it is to my journey. And how much it will make me cry to write about it. 

Some recent stories I arrived at via Stirrup Queens showed me the importance of sharing my story. I apologize in advance for any grammar mistakes, for I don't plan on check editing like I normally do for long posts. Feel free to comment, but if you ever meet me in person let's agree not to bring it  up - ok? Alright, here it goes:

When I was barely 16, I gave up a child for adoption. 

There. I said it. Or at least wrote it. 

Surrogacy is not an easy option for me. Wait, I need to rephrase that because surrogacy and infertility are not easy options for ANYONE on any side of the fence, as blog after blog can attest. Let me try again... Like many cases in infertility land, our path to use surrogacy was an extremely difficult one.

For you see, I know the pain of carrying a child in your womb for 9 months and then giving it to someone else. I can pretend that my pain was "more" because the child was genetically linked, but I really have no way of knowing that. The best I can hope for is that the verbal evidence I am given from those "in the know" is what my surrogate will experience: that it's not easy, especially that day in the delivery room, but that the surrogate knows from the beginning that the child is not hers. Knowing that her GIFT will enable her to help her own children - something HUGE that I think most articles on the subject seem to miss, but mothers pick up on right away - helps to ease the worry. At least a little. 

My main nurse in Anand is twice a surrogate. She is always happy with a smile and her recent deliveries occurred when she was about 39 and 41, the last one being only a year earlier. She has worked at the clinic for approximately 9 years. She's not the only nurse that is a former surrogate and I dare say that they would certainly have inside information on what the women go through before making those decisinos for themselves. 

The life and emotional well-being of my nurse is a strong contrast of how my life was a year after giving up my child for adoption. Maybe emotionally she's an exception, but I don't think so. Speaking and reviewing empirical information on former surrogates lets me see how their lives are changed for the better, but I still don't fool myself into believing that the initial period after births are easy-breezy for them.1

When I was pregnant and 15, I listened to people tell me that, "if I loved my baby, I would give it up for adoption." No one told me how the pain would rip me apart. The pain didn't even fully settle till months after, when it was far too late by legal standards to do anything about it, (even though I did try). Having been ostracized by any "good girls", combined with an already deep ability have depression (even before my pregnancy), it's no surprise that I continued making bad choices for awhile. I have no doubt that post-partum equally contributed it's ugly head during those times. 

And then I stopped making bad choices, (at least for awhile). At 19 I was engaged to a man 5 years my senior and became pregnant. While I certainly had not (I promise) PLANNED on being pregnant, after I got over the initial shock, there was a sense that a huge hole in me was in some way going to be repaired. I had to clean up my act for my baby. My marriage lasted for a very brief period, as my husband did not share my epiphany, but my second son helped me heal. Tremendously. 

I won't pretend that I haven't had other ups and downs in my life, many of my own doing on both accounts, but to say that giving up my first-born for adoption didn't have a huge impact on my life would be a lie. My first-born is now old enough to have tried to seek me out and even though I put in the initial papers that he could, he never has. Something that both grieves me and relieves me. It's probably been over 20 years since I dared even open the box containing all of the documentation and correspondence I had during those difficult times, but I still have the box. And it's a big box. It has been a long time since I grieved on his birthday, but there were many, many years that I did. Now, most birthdays go by without even remembering. Not because I don't love him, quite the opposite, but I guess my mind finally kicked in it's defense mechanism that we humans are so famous for. 

Invariably when I see surrogacy articles, I get enraged when I see all the comments about "they are selfish and should just adopt!" Do people think the mothers of adopted children didn't equally grieve? Some maybe less, but many possibly more. (There are more reasons that these comments enrage me, but I will save those for another day.) Do people not know that the amount an Indian  surrogate makes, even though small by western standards, can effectively change her and her families life? The surrogate can start a store or buy a rickshaw for her family to earn more. Things that were never even remotely possible for her prior.

Surrogate mothers choose their paths for a variety of reasons, but as long as it is their choice and they are fully informed, we should not take away that right or even judge it. Not even if the woman is poor and does it simply for the money. A poor woman wanting a better future for her family should not be held to a lower standard than other women. Knowing a little bit about Indian culture, I know that these women don't do it for pure altruistic reasons as I sometimes see touted, but that doesn't make their GIFT any less. 

Surrogacy is hard for me, but the adoption option would be even harder. My baby may have been unplanned, but he was definitely not unwanted. Not any more than my second child. I can not imagine reliving my 15 and 16 year old life from the other side of the fence. Adoption is not even on the table for us for us for many reasons, including simple ones like wondering if we would even be allowed AND our desire to have a genetic child. It was not until my most recent trip to India that I even acknowledged to myself about how my teenage years affected some of my angst of our current journey. 

Does the 40 year old me regret giving up my child for adoption? Surprisingly - no. I don't think the 20-ish one did either. I knew that the 16 year old me could not give a life to a child that even a 20 year old me could give. Even the 20 year old me had difficulties, but I think my second son turned out pretty awesome,. My first son would have had less of a chance and there is a high likelihood that if I had kept him, my second son would not have been born. 

I don't doubt that most surrogates go through pain when giving a child they have carried for 9 months to the intended parents, but I don't believe that most would want to keep the child either. The financial burden compiled with the stigma would be something that we westerners could not even begin to understand. At 16, I may not have understood all the pain that would occur with my decision to give my baby up for adoption, but it was the right decision. For me, my future self, and both of my sons. 


 I can ONLY speak from my experiences with my clinic, there are tons of nefarious ones out there that I hope are regulated out of business soon.

16 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your journey. I firmly beleive that many things that happen to us on our life journey, both good and bad, do happen for a reason. Most of us will never be able to understand as well as you the emotions and feelings our surrogates endure. Thanks for your honesty!

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  2. This is a heartwarming post about love and sacrifice. They go together often!

    Despite the feelings you have carried with you throughout your life, YOU have created families.

    I wish success for you that a woman in India will complete yours!

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  3. I love your honesty. An interesting an enlightening and deeply heartfelt post. What traumatic experiences you have been through. Thankyou very very much for sharing x

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  4. I take off my hat and bow myself in front of you. This is one of the best blog posts I have ever read. Not only because of what you revealed but because of the clarity of your thoughts and knowledge. THANK YOU!

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    1. Awww, thanks. You made me get a little teary-eyed again (but in a good way)

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  5. Definitely heartwarming. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Thank you for your honesty and insight on the perspective of a woman who has given up a child for adoption.I think it is a very brave and loving thing to do.I have recently adopted a yound baby girl and have often wondered what that young woman must have felt keeping her pregnancy a secret and giving her up for adoption.Your comments and thoughts on that topic has only confirmed her love and selflessness in giving up this beautiful child of mine ...

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    1. thanks. I have the utmost respect for adoptive parents as well. The worry you have to go through must be astronomical.

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  7. Thank you for your beautiful blog post. Giving up your baby for adoption must have been the most difficult choice of your life and I pray that one day you can have some peace about it. I have no doubt that that baby brought joy to a heartbroken Mom somewhere, but I am sorry that you had to suffer for it.

    I have been a gestational carrier twice. There was never one moment of sadness handing those babies to their parents. It was one of the most joyous occasions of my life. There is just no way to describe how happy I was to get to help put those smiles on the IP's faces. But I will try to explain it like I did to my second IM when she asked me how I could do it. When I carry a baby for someone else, its like my sister is pregnant. I am so happy for her, I exclaim over every sonogram picture and get thrilled over every kick. Its almost like the pregnancy is not even taking place in my body. I care for this child, and pray for its health and safety every day, because I know that he or she is destined to make a Mama's dreams come true. And today, when I get pictures and updates on those sweet toddlers and pre schoolers, I smile because I can see the joy that they are bringing to their parents.

    I cannot speak for every surrogate, of course, but for me there was never any pain or remorse at all, they were never mine to keep, but I am grateful I got to be there for the journey.

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    1. Thank you SO MUCH for your wonderful reply. It helps me and many others that might read this. You are an unbelievable person.

      Your reply had unbelievably perfect timing as I was just offered by someone close to me to be a surrogate. Will put some of the details in a post today.

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  8. Wow what an emotional post. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I appreciated reading it as a prospective adoptive Mama. It's not often we can get a glimpse into the birth mother's life.

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    1. I think everybody's story is different and how it affects them is different. But thank you. It was a hard post.

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