I want to share a story about a remarkable woman, who single-handedly re-calibrated my definition of generosity. It’s a story about my girlfriend and her journey through surrogate pregnancy. It’s about how our experience opened my eyes to some unrealized heroes in our society, who literally put their lives on the line.
A few years ago, Hailey decided to become a surrogate mother after looking into the possibility of carrying a baby for a close relative. That particular need didn’t come to fruition, however, the idea led to curiosity. That curiosity led to the love of my life scouring the Internet for facts and touching stories until the early hours of the morning.
The more research she did, the more she learned about countless women who were desperate to fulfill their destinies as mothers, but couldn’t due to circumstances beyond their control. It touched her on an emotional level that I, as a man, couldn’t even begin to fathom. Her sincerity and sympathy made my heart warm, and I felt myself fall in love with her a little more.
She decided she wanted to find a couple that couldn’t have a child naturally, and deliver one for them. This was one of those times where we agreed to disagree, at least in the beginning. She was adamant in her desire, while I felt leery about the whole idea. I didn’t want her taking on the burdens and responsibilities of pregnancy… for complete strangers.
I was also concerned about disrupting our lives on that level, injecting unnecessary stress into our relationship, and exposing our young children to such a confusing situation. I carefully expressed my thoughts, and told her I honestly did not want her to do it. I also assured her, that I would ultimately stand by any decision she made. I promised to support her and help in any way I could from beginning to end.
Hailey quickly found a couple who needed help, made the commitment, and began setting things in motion almost immediately. I was beyond scared. Everything was happening so fast, but I stayed true to my word, and backed her up every step of the way.
The process was intense, and involved a plethora of screening devices designed to gauge and examine everything from your mental and physical health to your lifestyle and the roots of your family tree. Both of us… poked, prodded, interviewed, and analyzed.
We gave blood and urine to eager nurses, and described what we saw in inkblots to attentive psychologists. We took tests, check-marked boxes, and signed our names hundreds of times. We vowed that we never shared intravenous needles, tortured animals, lit forest fires, or had sex with extraterrestrials.
They were thorough.
The clinic even called one afternoon demanding I explain why I tested positive for opiates. It was a legitimate prescription for Hydrocodone. I’d just had surgery on my leg and really needed them… I had to prove that immediately though, and I rushed out to fax them the papers. Eventually they declared Hailey fit to carry, and I was deemed capable of providing sufficient support.
The arduous series of events dragged on for months, and involved several trips from Providence to Boston. There were awkward meetings with the hopeful couple over “get-to-know-you” lunches and, of course, the mandatory group counseling sessions the four of us had to participate in.
There were painful nightly injections in the stomach and a menu of vitamins and supplements for Hailey to withstand and consume. With great discipline in her prescribed routine, she manipulated her hormones into an environment conducive to pregnancy. I imagined what it would be like to put myself through such things, and I knew two things were true.
One… I would never put myself through anything like this to help someone I barely knew.
Two… my girlfriend is, genuinely, a better person than I am.
Hailey’s resolve never wavered during the whole experience, and I started to feel like I was part of something special. I was fascinated and impressed by her. I was in awe and I was in love, as my eyes and heart opened to an immense and perfect mixture of generosity, courage, and strength. I was still uncomfortable and nervous about what she was doing, but I remained completely supportive.
It did turn out to be difficult… far worse than her three natural pregnancies. For the first few months, she could hardly be on her feet for more than a few minutes. Exhausted, she would sleep twenty hours a day, and always felt sick when she was awake. I did the best I could to make her as comfortable as possible, while she continued to amaze me and reiterate something I’d known for a long time… the love of my life was a very strong and special woman.
There were no complaints emanating from her often-dry lips, as one might rightfully expect. There was no second-guessing her decision to sacrifice her body and lifestyle, for the better part of a year. She shouldered the burden admirably in her effort to enrich the lives of this family. In spite of everything, when she was awake, she usually had a smile on her beautiful face.
Things did get a little better during the second trimester, and Hailey was able to function a little more, but this was a short-lived reprieve. The weakness and lethargy came back even more debilitating than before, and eventually led to doctor prescribed bed-rest for the last several weeks.
The harsh pregnancy, of course, was just a prelude to the excruciating physical pain of actually delivering the baby. The pain, in this unique experience, accompanied by the emotional perplexities of handing over the life you’ve nurtured for nine long months. Somehow, she got through all of that! Somehow, she did it!
A healthy little girl was born.
My aura defined proud in that delivery room… seeing the pure and contagious bliss on the faces of these parents, who had bonded with us through the preceding months and become our friends. I was elated. I thought our long and difficult journey was over… but I was wrong.
The day after they released her from the hospital, Hailey’s heart rate and blood pressure escalated to dangerous levels. She was dizzy and hot, sweating profusely, and her vision became a kaleidoscope of blurry colors. Scared to the edge of complete panic, she called 911… an ambulance rushed her to the emergency room.
They admitted her into the hospital immediately, and when I arrived with our five-year old son, to join her side by yet another hospital bed, it was obvious she was in some real danger. There was a quiet intensity in the air, as doctors and nurses alike kept a close and constant eye on her vital signs… trying to control them. She was genuinely scared, and icy horror started rushing through me. Now, I was feeling dizzy myself, and thinking…
“I’m going to lose my love.”
They diagnosed her with Preeclampsia, and told her she could have died. It was a living nightmare for both of us. Hailey was needle-fed magnesium through a steady, hypnotic drip, and wondering if she was going to live or not. She cried… imagining her own children growing up without their mommy, and her heart broke for them.
Every second that ticked by yanked our emotions in a new direction. I spent every day by her side, consoling her, and telling her that everything was going to be all right, even though sometimes I wasn’t so sure. When it was time to leave every night, I’d linger. I’d rub her hair and give her soft kisses. I’d hold her hand and tell us both, that nothing was going to happen to her. Our fingers would slip slowly apart, as I’d back out of the room, hoping I’d at least make it to my car… before the tears came
After five unbearable days and nights filled with troubling thoughts, her treatments were a success. Hailey regained her health steadily, and returned home to some very relieved children… and me.
We went through this ordeal, because she understands the infinite joys and rewards of motherhood, and she felt an irresistible need to share that. Hailey knows what a special gift it is to be a parent, and raise a child. She sympathizes greatly with those who desperately want that magic in their life, but can’t make it happen on their own. She made the bold decision to help and followed through with the most selfless display of sacrifice, conviction, and bravery I’ve ever witnessed.
I admire her. She’s a wonderful mother, an amazing woman, and an impressive human being. To me she’s a goddess. She followed her heart, and brought a happy, healthy baby into the world. A loving family is complete because of her, and that’s a gift very few people would be capable of giving.
Think about it.
Would you be willing to make such enormous sacrifices for the benefit of others… for people you don’t even know? Would you disrupt your life for the better part of a year, and endure such pain and discomfort for so long? How many of us would really put our own health and lives on the line to such extent for the causes we feel passionate about?
It’s this author’s belief, that surrogate mothers are heroes in our society, and I’m sure the countless families that have benefited from their unique generosity would agree. Women like Hailey, and countless surrogate mothers like her, are pillars of strength, beacons of inspiration, and harbingers of good will.
We’re both proud of what Hailey did, and there has never been any regret, but we have to acknowledge the fact that she could have died for her cause. With that said, we both agree, this was a one-time experience for us. So, if you or your partner ever consider involvement in a surrogate pregnancy, you should both take time to understand the full extent of the beauty… and the risks.