Written by Stacey Ashe
The thought of carrying and delivering twins is exhausting, but the idea of carrying those twins and handing them over to another family is emotionally and physically overwhelming. But that's what Charlotte mom Stacey Ashe did - 3 times - as she worked as a surrogate. In this 8-part series, Ashe dispels the myths and and shares the truth about being a surrogate and how someone becomes a mom.
noun : a person or thing that takes the place or performs the duties of someone or something else
Let’s talk surrogacy.
Now, if this terms makes you think of turkey basters, piles of cash, and crazy news stories, you’ve probably seen a few too many talk shows! In reality, there are many people that use surrogacy as an option to have a child, and it’s much less dramatic than people think.
And while many people think of surrogacy as an option for couples who cannot get pregnant, few think about the actual surrogate – the person who carries and delivers a baby for that couple.
I’m one of the people who has been a surrogate.three timestwins each time.
I’ll let that sink in for just a moment.
Yes, I carried six babies that weren’t mine, and I gave them over to their parents at the end of long pregnancies and went home to my own children.
I will start by saying that I really don’t like the term ‘surrogate mom.’ To me, ‘mom’ is reserved for those who have the crazy, wonderful, overwhelming, and awesome job of raising children. It’s a title that needs to be earnedjust carrying babies is the easy part, and doesn’t get to earn the term ‘mom.’
“How did you get into this?” is the question I am asked the most by people. The answer, however, is not so simple. My husband and I looked into it for lots of reasons, but the biggest one was realizing how blessed we were to have two healthy pregnancies and children ourselves, and wanted to be able to give that gift to someone else.
As a mother, I can’t imagine the devastation of wanting to have a child and not being able to. As I reflected about my own pregnancies and how easy they were for me, I thought, "Why not help someone else to experience what we had?"
Most people assume that I became a surrogate for a family member, but before we began the process, we were all strangers. With the help of an agency we were matched with couples, and they weren’t strangers for long - nothing brings you closer than carrying someone’s babies!
I hope through this blog to share some insight into the realities of surrogacy. There are many misconceptions, which I learned first hand from the many crazy questions that I got while I was pregnant with all three sets of twins and the reactions I received.
My hope is to dispel some myths and get at least a few people to realize that it isn’t really such a crazy thing to help someone else earn the title ‘mom.’
Part Two: The Spark
Curiosity is piqued when others hear I carried babies for someone else, and one of the first questions I am often asked is, “How did you decide to become a surrogate?” It’s kind of a complicated answer, and the path to surrogacy wasn’t a linear one.
When our oldest son was a baby, we moved up north, and I had trouble finding a job. That’s when I found out having too much spare time alone can be a very bad thing for a girl with the internet. I started researching ways to make some extra money, and found that many women donated their eggs for additional income. I figured that I wasn’t using my eggs at that point, so why not let someone else?
After much research, I still couldn’t quite wrap my head around the thought of someone else carrying a baby that would sort of be mine, and my thoughts wandered .. what if my son someday fell in love with a girl who was born using my eggs and wanted to get married or something? Mind blown. I just couldn’t do it.
But while researching egg donation, surrogacy results came up a lot as well. I had a pretty easy pregnancy the first time, and I thought it could possibly be an option, but I explored it no further. Then, shortly after deciding that egg donation wasn’t for me, it turned out we used the eggs ourselves - we were pregnant with our second child! That put surrogacy on the back burner so we had plenty of time to think about it. But it was always in my mind.
After my husband got over the notion that I had completely lost my mind, he agreed to look into it, At that point I’m pretty sure that he was still thinking this was something crazy that would never happen. He knows me better now! Once we moved back to Charlotte, I started looking into it more seriously and got in contact with an agency in Boston.
My husband and I both had to undergo extensive psychological testing and lots and lots of interviews before we were accepted (and no, I’m still not sure how I ended up passing those psych evals!). It’s definitely a lengthy and intrusive process to go through, but makes total sense. I probably should have gone through all of this testing before being able to have my own kids.
From there, things started to fall into place.
That’s where it all begannot the path I expected to go down, but I never seem to end up down the path I thought I would - I usually end up somewhere better!
Part Three: Picking Parents
Questions swirl surrounding surrogacy, and once the obvious ‘wow’ factor has worn off, people are often curious about how a potential surrogate gets matched up with a potential family.
To ensure a successful process, surrogates and families need to be on the same page when it comes to the pregnancy, delivery, and important decisions. Topics that a ‘normal’ pregnant woman probably doesn’t really consider before, or even during her pregnancy are discussed and decided upon.
So, did I get to pick the parents of the babies I carried? Yes.in a sense.
This is something that depends on the route you go to find parents. Each time I used an agency, and they did the initial matching process. It went something like this: I fill out a paper and answer around 100 questions covering topics that I never would have thought about on my own. Each couple (intended parents, as they are called) do the same.
The agency then gives my information to a couple they feel like could be a good match. If the couple agrees, the agency gives their information to me to review. If we also decide that it could be a good match, we get phone numbers and talk, and go from there. Each time I also met the intended parents in person before a final decision was made, but after the phone calls it was pretty much decided.
At this point in the process I was always most happy to have gone through an agency.
Some things in the process are kind of difficult to talk about, but really need to be brought out in the open before a contract is drawn up and the process is set in motion.
Topics the agency covers include: If there are health concerns for me or the baby, who gets to make decisions about what happens? If the baby has an abnormality, what will happen? When the delivery happens, who gets to be in the room?
It’s really important that both parties are on the same page, because you definitely don’t want to find out you aren’t if a tough situation arises. Therefore, these are things that the agency had us the potential parents think about and answer before matching us based on similar wants and needs. So it’s a little more than us just ‘picking the parents.’
We have been very blessed to really get along with the parents we had the opportunity to work with, and have even been able to see the kids grow up! This isn’t the case with all arrangements, and it’s just another example of the benefit of having things worked out ahead of time.
Luckily, we found parents who really wanted the same things we did, and were able to have a great experience!
Part Four: Family Relations
The topic of the babies I carried is always the most interesting. Of course, the question I was always asked was, “Did you get attached to the babies while you were pregnant?” For the most part, I gave sort of a canned answer of, “Well, it’s a different kind of pregnancy. It’s just physical, and not all of the emotional and mental stuff.”
That’s pretty much true.pretty much.
I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any attachment. But it’s not like you think.
I had two pregnancies with my own children, and I can say for certain that those were not like the surrogate pregnancies at all. Yet with the surrogate pregnancies, while I didn’t necessarily feel attached to the children I was carrying, I did get attached to the families.
Each relationship was very different, and each evolved in its own way. But this topic is something that is resolved before any pregnancy happens. Parents and surrogates discuss what type of relationship they want post-pregnancy. Some families just want someone who will carry the babies and then not be a part of their life, which is totally fine. With others parents, they wish to continue the relationship and the surrogate truly becomes part of the family.
Each one of my surrogate journeys fell along that spectrum somewhere.
I have been a surrogate to twins three times and I have three very different relationships. There is one couple that we receive annual Christmas cards from, and we get to see how the kids are growing, but that’s about it. And that is fine.
With the other two, we have been so blessed and really feel like a part of their families. My oldest son and I attended the christening of one set of twins, and we have seen them several times since then as well. The twins know that I carried them, and as they were leaving last time we saw them they told me they loved me.I can’t even describe how special that felt.
The last set of twins I was lucky enough to carry has resulted in two of the most amazing friends I could ever ask for. They live over the ocean and far away, but it doesn’t feel that way. We are remarkably close.
For me, I was able to keep my feelings separate while I was carrying these beautiful children, but there is no way I could have done it and not had some sort of attachment to the families. This is something that binds you together, no matter what.
There is nothing more personal than giving birth, and to do it for another family truly will bond you. I feel like I share something with each of them that no one will ever be able to understand.
So, when I tell folks “No, I didn’t get attached to the babies, “ there may be a little more to that story.
Part Five: Sharing the News
Sharing the news of any pregnancy comes with thoughts of when to tell, who to tell, and how to tell. In that respect, surrogacy is really no different than any other pregnancy. However, the answers to those questions require an extra layer of consideration.
There are rules that mandate what a surrogate can share, such as who the parents are, so that information is not offered up. And what I chose to share totally changed from my first pregnancy to my last.
With my first, I was fairly quiet about things, and didn’t really say anything when people asked about when the baby was due, if I was having a boy or a girl, and things like that. By the last pregnancy, however, I liked to have fun with people. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised by that!
I can’t even count the number of times I would tell someone, “Yes, I’m actually having twins, but they aren’t mine,” just to see the look on their face as they tried to process that information. I understood by the last time that I was kind of a circus side show, and I figured I might as well have fun with it. My husband got in on it too, telling people that his wife was pregnant with twins, but they weren’t his. Yeah, that gets a pretty good reaction too!
All the fun and jokes aside, one of the harder parts was trying to explain to family and friends before any contract was signed or before any in vitro ever took place WHY I would want to do this. And I still have a hard time putting it into words. Most people didn’t get it, but they were supportive, and for that I am very appreciative. Then trying to explain to people why I was doing it again and again was hard - it just didn’t make sense to other people.
By far, the hardest part in sharing the news was with my final pregnancy, when I carried for an amazing gay couple. We live in the South, and I attend a pretty conservative church. At church, I didn’t tell people who the parents were. I really only told people I was close to for fear that others really wouldn’t support our decision.
But several months after the twins were born, I actually spilled all of it on a personal blog and was amazed at the support that I received. Goes to show that people don’t always act the way you think they will.
Part Six: Postpartum Good-Byes
The end of a surrogate pregnancy is probably the strangest part of the entire experience.
It’s when all of the craziness of the past year settle into one place, and even though I always knew it was coming, it was crazy hard to be at the end of the journey each time. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t want to give the babies to their parents, or I ever thought of sneaking out of the hospital with two bundles under my gown. It’s simply that after going through something so emotional with a family, it was hard to see it end and know that our relationship was never going to be quite the same.
Stacey Ashe has been a surrogate three times (delivering twins with each pregnancy!) and is the mother of three amazing children of her own - two boys, and one girl. Stacey and her husband recently adopted their daughter from China, id a Registered Nurse, and is studying to be a Nurse Practitioner. She's not your average mom, and likes to stay busy all the time.