If you could help a friend in a way that many couldn’t, would you?
New Year’s Eve 2017:
Blake and I are cozied up on the couch, champagne in-hand watching Jenny McCarthy’s highly botoxed face talking excitedly into her microphone. Instead of dressing up and heading out on the town to ring in the New Year, Blake and I are happily spending a quiet night in with our dear friends Amy and Adam in Blake’s hometown of Kingston. With Blake’s parents babysitting, we are kid-free to relax and enjoy an intimate evening. Living in Sioux Lookout means we often don’t see our close friends as much as we would like, but the mark of true friendships comes when, after a year apart, you fall easily back into conversation like no time has ever passed.
As Mariah Carey belts out her performance awaiting the ball to drop, the four of us chat about our year, exchange news about mutual friends and share our year’s ups and downs. We had previously known that Amy and Adam had been unfortunately dealing with long journey of infertility, but that evening, through tears and a few laughs, Amy had shared devastating news that they had found out just that day that their fourth IVF cycle had been unsuccessful. Sadly, Amy told us that they would no longer be doing any further embryo transfers and were now likely going to need to search for a gestational carrier.
Blake, at this point, had been a few glasses of champagne-deep into the evening and had immediately said, “Well Celia can do that! She pops babies out no problem!”.
Now, if you know Blake even a little bit, you know that his love language is certainly not physical affection nor words of affirmation. If you ever find yourself on the receiving end of a hug from Blake, count yourself lucky. They don’t come by often, but if you need your fridge fixed, your dock taken out at the end of the season or a tire changed, Blake will be there without hesitation. He will be there, come hell or high water to lend a hand to any friend in need. He shows his love completely in terms of acts of service, so this was a very natural response!
We all had laughed at Blake’s suggestion and had moved on in conversation as the countdown reached midnight. After many hugs at the end of the evening, we had gone separate ways with promises to keep our annual New Year’s Eve visit an ongoing tradition.
Weeks later though, back at home in Sioux Lookout, I couldn’t shake the niggling thought hanging in the back of my mind about Blake’s idea. Why couldn’t I be a gestational carrier for Adam and Amy? The thought of carrying someone else’s baby had literally never entered my mind before this moment. As someone who delivers babies into the world for a living, it wasn’t that I was naive to what pregnancy and birth entailed. But Blake was right. I had had two previously very uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries. We were absolutely positive that we were finished our family, but I was still young and healthy with a career that allowed us work and financial flexibility. I simply could not come up with a reason why I shouldn’t offer myself to Amy and Adam as a gestational carrier.
After much consideration and discussion with Blake, I had written a letter to Amy and Adam offering to carry their baby. Their response was overwhelmingly positive and soon the four of us were embarking down a road that would change our friendship and our lives forever.
Fast forward through months of conference calls with Amy and Adam, a consultation with a fertility specialist, pages of legal documentation, a psychologist’s virtual assessment of Blake and I, weeks of medications, labs and ultrasounds and I am sitting in an oversized blue paper gown, blue booties and a blue surgical cap in a fertility clinic in Toronto. My bladder is bursting as we wait for our turn to finally undergo embryo transfer. Beside me, Amy and Adam clutch a photo of a five-cell embryo, the ball of cells soon to be housed in my prepped uterus. Oddly enough, although the significance of this event isn’t lost on us, the atmosphere is relaxed as we joke to pass the time. Fifteen minutes later, the procedure is done and I am now the recipient of Adam and Amy’s genetic material and (fingers and toes crossed), their ‘maybe baby’.
Those of you who have undergone IVF, maybe once, or even multiple times know intimately the energy, time and commitment necessary to ensure the highest probability of success that a tiny ball of microscopic cells will land on a cushy uterine lining and will implant successfully. Despite being a physician, I had no real concept of what this entailed. As someone who probably took a total of ten prenatal vitamins over two pregnancies and basically did the bare minimum in terms of prenatal visits in my own prenatal clinic while pregnant with Henry and Alice, I was now religiously taking multiple medications a day including progesterone suppositories and nightly progesterone injections. In my mind, I felt that the success of this pregnancy was now my part-time job and I was determined to give it my all.
After fourteen excruciating days of waiting, the day of truth came in the form of one, followed by four (unnecessary) subsequent positive pregnancy tests. Adam and Amy were elated, I was in disbelief and Blake, who had been 100% confident that the pregnancy would be successful all along, was smug. What a moment of joy! This crazy journey was truly happening.
Now at twenty-four weeks along, that tiny ball of cells that had entered my life back in the spring has blossomed into a quickly growing baby girl, soon to make her entrance in February 2019. My medical mind mostly keeps the pregnancy in a very pragmatic, procedural-like box. But often during those sleepless nights when she’s tap-dancing in my belly, I cannot stop myself from letting my mind wander. I wonder who she will be, this little one, and what her life story will be like. Mostly, I think of Amy and Adam and how the physical birth of this tiny life will be the amazing beginning of their long-awaited family’s journey. It’s beautiful and elating to think about. How incredibly fortunate am I that I have been given this gift to forever have a place in their family’s story.
Of course, pregnancy is never really a picture of glowing skin and thick, glossy hair. There is no sugar-coating the months of nightly injections, the nausea, the heartburn, the insomnia and the constipation that goes along with housing a growing fetus. It’s just that these issues don’t sell magazines 🙂
For me, the real challenge has been letting go of the body that I had been previously been working so fiercely to reclaim. You may recall in an older blog post, I had recently fought to shift my commitment to dedicate time for ME and to get back into shape after having had Henry and Alice. I still fight for my three workouts a week, but my burpees are much slower these days as my belly grows and the pounds creep up. I know that in the grand scheme of my life, this is such a temporary, selfish and minor set-back. I remind myself often that this is simply one short year in my life that will change Amy and Adam’s lives forever.
So, finally, a huge congratulations to Adam and Amy – we can’t wait to meet your little one and a giant thank you to so many of you who have helped us on this journey so far. What a crazy ride life is!