I remember when I first started looking into surrogacy, there was a woman on a message board I belong to who had a line under her name that read, "Retired from pregnancy, not surrogacy." I didn't really understand it at the time, but I do now.
One of the first questions people ask me about surrogacy is, "What happens after?"
Well, the simple answer is that the baby(ies) go home with their parents and I go home to my family.
For some women, their good-bye (or lack of good-bye) at the hospital will be their last contact with this family that they became a part of for a year. For some women, they may carry on and sometimes think, "Oh yeah, I carried a baby for someone." For some women, there may be a longing, an emptiness because they don't get to know what comes next for that child. For me, the "what happens after" is beautiful.
This past November, I received an email from my first IM telling me that her children (I carried twins for her) were talking about how "Emily carried us in her belly." She wrote in her email that the children wanted to Skype with me, and how she would love for them to be able to talk to me while the topic was in their minds. She also told me that she didn't want me to feel obligated. I smiled. I smiled because these two three year old children already understand their beginning. I smiled because of the kindness thier showed in not wanting to put me out. And then I smiled because I was going to get to talk to these two fanatastic little people that I cared so much about!
We Skyped one Saturday morning. The kids played with their cars and gave me all the attention a three year old can. I was able to talk to them for a few minutes, and spent the rest of the time talking to their mom.
This family became part of my extended family during the year that we worked together. We learned about surrogacy together as we went. We shed tears of frustration, anticipation, and joy. We only see each other about once a year, and send occasional notes, pictures, and Christmas cards. We do not keep in touch regularly, but we are always there.
Two days ago, I received an email from my second IM telling me about Isabella's Christmas, and what was going on in their lives right now. She sent me pictures of Christmas, and I couldn't help but smile at the dark, wavy hair of her little girl.
Her family has become my family. We live only a few hours apart, and we see each other a few times a year. She has always sent me pictures, and I have recently started sending her pictures of my children too.
When Jason and I got married, both of these families were in attendance. My first IM went with me and held my wedding dress up as I used the restroom. We laughed that it was so comfortable for her to be there with me (this was nothing compared to giving me a shot in the butt!). My second IM put her hand on my belly and nearly cried with the joy that her daughter was there with us on our special day.
I did not become a surrogate to make a new best friend. I did not become a surrogate to have a baby and then go on my merry way. I became a surrogate to make families grow. I do not have a problem handing a child over to his/her parents because I love the family, not just the child.
I always tell prospective IPs that I ask for two things "after" the surrogacy. The first is that my children are able to see the baby in the hospital so they know the baby made it out okay. The second is that I would like a picture of the family we helped to create.
In both cases, my children not only were able to see the baby, but they were able to hold and kiss the babies.
Not only did my children get to see the babies, but I was able to hold, and kiss, and love the babies.
Not only that, but I was able to be in the room when all the IPs saw their children for the first time.
Not only that, but they all invited me to be there when the baby first came out of the nursery.
In both cases, they didn't just send me a picture of the family, they sent me many.
Not only that, but I have seen and played with all of these children.
Not only that, but we still keep in touch.
After all that I have been through in the last four years, I have finally learned what it means to be "retired from pregnancy, not surrogacy." These living children are a legacy of surrogacy. As long as they live, as long as their parents tell them the story of their beginings, I will never be retired. As long as I live, I will be a surrogate. And it is far from an obligation, it is a blessing and a joy.
I am a surrogate. I don't just grow babies, I grow families.