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Surrogacy Stories: Shawna’s Gift

Surrogacy Stories: Shawna’s Gift

I’ve known Shawna for almost 20 years and she is one of the kindest, most level-headed women I know. When she came to me to ask more questions about surrogacy, I could not have been more thrilled.  She ended up matching with an amazing couple who documented their entire journey on video. Shawna is now the business/finance manager of Gifted Journeys and I am delighted to share her story with you this Mother’s Day month.

Here is Shawna’s story, in her own words:

I began to think about becoming a surrogate a few years before actually doing so. I had been an egg donor in my 20s and was so fulfilled by the experience. After having my own children, I knew what a gift it would be to be a surrogate for someone that was not able to carry their child for themselves. 

I brought the idea up to my husband, and he was not supportive to start. His concerns were about our children and how they would feel about it, what the response would be from friends, family and neighbors, how it would affect our family’s day-to-day life, and how it could affect my health.

His first two concerns I was not worried about and was able to work through with him quickly. I knew that my children would be supportive. They are both empathetic, and I knew that they would see how what I was doing was helping others. I knew that talking it through with them and answering any questions they came up with would be all that was needed for them to be at ease with their mom being a surrogate. There might be people in my community who would not be supportive of my decision, but honestly, I did not really care. If someone judged what I was doing as a negative thing, they were not necessarily people that I needed in my life. My friends and family would all be supportive and I would talk through any concerns they might have.

His last two concerns took longer to address. For the most part, I had not had difficult pregnancies with either of my children, with the exception of separating my pelvis when I was seven months pregnant with my daughter and ended up on modified bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy. He knew that this could happen again and was worried about how I would handle the day-to-day life of having two children to care for if it did. I let him know that there would be a contract between us and the parents of the baby that had benefits included to cover the housekeeping and childcare if I were to be put on bed rest and unable to take care of things myself.

So, a little over two years after we started talking about the possibility of me being a surrogate, we were matched with a couple. Prior to being officially matched, the couple’s doctor reviewed my pregnancy and relevant medical records and then had me come in for additional testing to make sure I was a good candidate. I also took a psychological evaluation to make sure it was healthy for me emotionally and not just physically. Once we got the thumbs up from everyone, we completed the legal contracts and then started medications.

Having been an egg donor in the past with daily injections of hormones, I thought it would be easy as pie, but I was in for a surprise. There were intramuscular injections of hormones that made knots in my hip area that lasted for months. Then there were the oral medications (easy) and the vaginal suppositories (gross!). I knew, though, that this was all going to be worth it in the end.

The transfer was special. The doctor brought out a straw that contained two embryos. The father and mother both spoke to the embryos before they were inserted. When the doctor had the straw placed perfectly, he pushed the plunger, and I swear it was almost as if there was a small flash on the monitor when they made contact with me. We cried and laughed and hoped for the best.

Ten days later it was confirmed: I was pregnant!

The biggest concern I had at that point was that pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) had not been done on the embryos. (PGS testing ensures that embryos are chromosomally “normal” before transfer and minimizes the possibility that there will be any major genetic problems with the baby. This greatly reduces the chances of miscarriage.) Unfortunately, such screening carries some small risk of destroying the tested embryos. The couple only had three viable embryos, and the hopeful mom had to go though nine IVF cycles in order to get just those three viable embryos. Because there were so few embryos, they did not complete the testing out of fear of losing any of the embryos they had. Fortunately, at 10 weeks gestation I was able to have a blood test completed that ruled out three of the major chromosomal anomalies that occur with eggs that come from women who are the same age as this mother, and the fetus was deemed healthy.

From there it was smooth sailing. My pregnancy was uneventful in the best possible way. The parents got to know my husband and our children intimately. We lived about six hours apart, so we did not see each other often, but they did come to visit us several times. We soon became like their extended family.

I was 37 weeks pregnant when my doctor said I could go into labor at any time. The parents immediately jumped into the car to make sure they were here for the birth. As it turned out, they could have waited, since I ended up not going into labor until 5 days later, but it gave us all some cherished time together.

The labor was easy–just a few pushes and they had their beautiful baby girl in their arms. There is no way to describe how special that moment was. Tears of joy were shared by absolutely everyone in the room (between my agency coordinators and the intended parents and their family there were nearly 10 people in the delivery room including me!). It was a blessed event that I will never forget being a part of. It will always be one of the defining moments of my life.

Featured photo: Shawna (center) during her surrogate pregnancy with husband, Steve (right) and Gifted Journeys founder, Wendie Wilson-Miller (left). Photo courtesy Shawna.

GO HERE TO READ ALL OF THE SURROGACY STORIES IN THIS SERIES.

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Wendie Wilson-Miller is the owner of Gifted Journeys Egg Donation and Surrogacy and All Families Surrogacy. She is also the president of the Society for Ethics in Egg Donation and Surrogacy (SEEDS), and the co-author of the book, “The Insider’s Guide to Egg Donation: A Compassionate and Comprehensive Guide for All Parents-To-Be,” published by Demos Health in 2012. A native of Southwest Washington, she has lived in Southern California since 2000.

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