Surrogacy Stories: Joy and Tragedy
When I founded Gifted Journeys, an egg donation and surrogacy agency, in 2009 (and later acquired All Families Surrogacy in 2020), I never could have foreseen the huge range of experiences I would become witness to over the years. I have had the honor of helping many hopeful parents become families over the years, and couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling career. Throughout 2021, I’m sharing the very personal stories of some of those families in a special exclusive series for Vancouver Family Magazine called “Surrogacy Stories.”
Danielle’s surrogacy story is an especially emotional roller coaster ride that requires you to hang onto your hat. As is the nature and complexity of life, you will experience both tears and laughter as you read about her surrogacy journey.
Danielle’s story, in her own words:
My four children give me and my husband deep joy and love every day. I chose to become a surrogate because I wanted to give other hopeful parents that same joy and love. I was referred to Gifted Journeys as the best agency to fulfill that dream by a long-time friend who was also a surrogate with them. The ease of communication and transparency with the staff when I reached out to them made it a no-brainer that they were, indeed, the right choice for me.
Before I started my journey, I had to pass intense screening to insure I was emotionally and psychologically suited to the process. Once I passed that screening, Gifted Journeys introduced me to the most wonderful couple. V and W were a same-sex couple who had been together for 17 years, had recently gotten married, and were more than ready to start their family to become dads. My whole family immediately connected to them and saw how much love they had to give. At risk of sounding corny, let’s just say it was “a match meant to be.”
I didn’t mind the multiple appointments that being a surrogate requires as the fertility clinic staff was always so nice and easy to communicate with, but the daily shots you have to take for the first 10-12 weeks were awful for me. I didn’t bruise like I know some of my surrogate-sisters do, but the areas where the shots went in were always so sore. (I had to give the shots to myself because my husband was too freaked out that he was going to do it wrong.)
V and W shared an egg donor and fertilized half of the eggs retrieved with each of their sperm so that each of them had embryos with their own genetics. We discussed the option of transferring two embryos, one of each of theirs, in an attempt to create a twin pregnancy. I went over the possible risks of this with my doctor and ultimately decided that I was on board with the plan. It was both crazy and exciting when we all found out that both embryos successfully implanted. I was finally going to find out how it felt to have two little babies wiggling around in my belly!
I honestly didn’t feel any different carrying twins versus a singleton, and carrying for others didn’t feel any different than carrying for myself. I felt so blessed that V and W trusted me to be the “womb mate” for their miracle family.
Due to the position of the twins, and for our own safety, I ended up having to deliver via cesarean section instead of vaginally. This was scary at first, as it was a completely different experience than all of my previous vaginal births. However, it went smoothly and everybody was safe, so it was a very small inconvenience in the big picture. I delivered a healthy baby girl and boy to some very happy dads! Seeing their faces holding their babies for the first time is a memory I will cherish forever. Other than the births of my own children, this was one of the most incredible and unforgettable moments of my life. Let’s just say there were a lot of tears of joy on all sides.
V and W were staying nearby at a hotel after the birth and waiting for their children’s birth certificates to be ready before traveling back to their hometown. Since they were so close, I was providing breastmilk for the twins and visiting them daily.
One day, shortly after the birth, while the new family of four was still staying in their hotel, their story turned tragic. For reasons we still don’t fully know, W woke up one night unable to breathe. V started performing CPR on him and called 911. Shortly after arriving at the hospital, W was pronounced dead, just one short week after becoming a dad. V was now celebrating the birth of their children while simultaneously mourning the loss of his husband.
I felt like I was living a nightmare. W had waited so long for this moment. I was heartbroken, angry, sad, and in denial all at once. I couldn’t believe this was happening. They were supposed to be starting a whole new chapter of their lives. W had said I had become like family, like his own sister, and that we were going to always be a part of one another’s lives. It just seemed so unfair.
I stayed strong for V during this time. Wendie (owner of Gifted Journeys) came to stay at the hotel as well so that we could help care for the babies and give V space to breathe and make arrangements for getting W’s body home. V’s dad and W’s sister came to help as well, and all of us bonded and surrounded one another with love and comfort.
Though it’s been a difficult and entirely unexpected journey, V and I have the most amazing relationship now. We are very, very close in the way that both tragedy and joy bonds you to another. We talk every week and video chat so that I can see the babies grow up. They still know and respond to my voice, which is such a magical experience. They are happy, thriving, incredible little humans who have a dad who loves them so much. V will say they saved him from falling into the darkness of losing his best friend and the love of his life. With his deepest grief also came the extraordinary love of his children, in whom W’s spirit will always live on.
Surrogacy has helped me connect with how profoundly lucky I am to be able to help others achieve the dream of having their own children. I’m planning to have one more surrogacy experience to help a final family before retiring my uterus for good. I cannot imagine a more rewarding and respectful thing to do for others and am always happy to share my personal experience with any women considering going down this path.
Featured photo: Danielle holds V’s and W’s twins shortly after their birth, and before the death of their father.
Go here to read all of the Surrogacy Stories in this series.
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