When my oncologist started speaking to me about my prognosis and the cancer having spread to both ovaries, I know I heard him. I know that I heard him say he would need to remove both of my ovaries, but I am not certain that I allowed what that meant to settle in. I was mainly focused on my surgery, treatment and recovery. My ability to think about the long term became a struggle and was too uncertain. Instead, I remained focused on the present. Fertility and family building were completely put out of my mind, as I was in survival mode and needed to focus on what made me feel strong. I believe I was too afraid to open that door at the time, as I was so emotionally raw. Instead I put it on a shelf for later revisiting.
Over the next several years post diagnosis, my life went through some pretty big changes. My then boyfriend and I had married and bought a home. We got a dog, and settled into our new normal. I was declared “cancer free” and began to feel more comfortable again planning for a long and hopefully healthy future. Now that I was in my thirties, more and more of my close friends and family began having children. Suddenly, the topic I had been avoiding was very much in front of me and I needed to face it.
I went back to counseling to begin exploring my emotions as I felt paralyzed and didn't know how to process all that I was feeling. I opened the door to all the loss, sadness, anger, and resentment I had about losing my fertility. I knew intellectually that I wasn't able to use my own eggs, as I had lost my ovaries. But I held on to perhaps some irrational beliefs in the hope that I could still carry a pregnancy (as I was able to preserve my uterus). I began exploring ideas like should I carry, or would that put my own health at risk? My health was stable and didn't I want to jeopardize that by putting my body through the hormone changes brought on by pregnancy. I also began to explore my feelings around becoming the parent to a child that wasn't “biologically” mine and what did that that really mean to me. After allowing myself time to heal, I came to accept that it wasn't in my best interest to carry a pregnancy and that I needed to start allowing myself to open up to other means to have a family.
After years of avoiding this conversation, my husband and I began talking about other options such as adoption or surrogacy. We had several heart felt conversations about which would be the best way for us to have a family. We chose to educate ourselves about surrogacy. The reason we felt comfortable with this plan was because even though we knew that I could not be genetically connected to our child, we liked the idea that my husband could be. We also liked that with surrogacy we had some more control over things then with adoption. We felt comfortable going through a process from the beginning with a surrogate and being involved as much as we could be during her pregnancy.
We began researching online and meeting with surrogacy agencies. It was hard to find information about surrogacy within my cancer community as both my oncologists and my support network didn't know anything about it. I remember being frustrated, not knowing where to start. I also felt resentful that my peers were easily getting pregnant the “old fashioned” way and here I was struggling just to get educated about a process I knew little about. I was referred by a colleague to Circle Surrogacy. After we met with the staff at Circle, we felt comfortable trusting them to guide us through a journey. For the first time since my coming to terms with my infertility, I felt hopeful.
We started our surrogacy journey in November, 2010 and were anxious about what to expect. We didn't know who are carrier would be, where she would live, or what would she be like. We didn't know how long this process would take us or how much it would cost. We didn't know how hard it would be to find and chose an egg donor. We were guided each step of the way by our program coordinator at the agency, and took each step one at a time.
Before we knew it, we had been matched with an amazing surrogate who we connected with right from the start. We felt really fortunate that she was helping us become parents. Our carrier got pregnant on the first IVF attempt, and before we knew it we were expecting parents. A year to the date of our meeting with our surrogate, we welcomed our little boy into the world.
The day our son was born was truly the most amazing day of my life. After all the loss and upset caused by my cancer diagnosis, we had been able to move forward and figure out another way to become a family. When I looked into my boys eyes, it didn't matter how he came to be. All that mattered was that he was here, he was ours and he made us parents. I am not one to get caught up in the mantra “everything happens for a reason.” Though I can believe that life is what you make of it. I am glad we made the decision to become parents through surrogacy. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Contact Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Jen_Rachman.