What It's Like to Be a Surrogate: A Mom of 3 Shares Her Journey

pregnant woman

Kassandra Wilsey always knew that one day, she wanted to be a surrogate mom. Wilsey, 30, was raised by lesbian parents, and growing up in the gay community, she saw couples struggling with infertility issues or simply not being able to conceive at all. "My mother said that as far back as age 8 or 9, I would say I wanted to be a surrogate," says Wilsey, who now lives in Simi Valley, California, and is married with three children of her own. "I'd ask, 'Why doesn’t someone have a baby for them?' And my parents would say, 'Well, you know, that does exist.'"

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After the birth of her two boys, now 4 and 5, Wilsey, who is a professor at California State University Northridge, felt like the time was right to reach out and help a couple become a family. That couple ended up being Matt and Britt, a same-sex married couple in San Francisco. Wilsey acted as a gestational surrogate for their son Greyson, now 3. She had a daughter of her own after that, and now, she's expecting again, with a brother or sister for little Greyson!

She told CafeMom her story.

So you decided you wanted to be a gestational surrogate. What came next?
I reached out to my lawyer, a family lawyer, and she said she’d put the word out to see if anyone was looking for a surrogate. (Another way people get matched is through an agency, which is almost like Match.com but for surrogates.) As a surrogate, you are allowed to choose what type of family you are being a surrogate for. I wanted to be a surrogate for a same-sex male couple. I didn't want to be dealing with my own emotions and also those of the other woman -- the pain that she would likely be going through for not being able to carry her own child.

I met a couple of people through the lawyer, and that felt weird, like, "Why should I get to choose who gets to have a child?" It was hard when you didn't mesh with families.

But I met Matt and Britt through our lawyer and we did an online Skype. By the end of the Skype I was like, "You guys are great, I love you!" We just all clicked so well.  

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Okay, so you all like each other. Then what?
Well, then it's contract time. The contract is a 24-page document covering all aspects. For instance, I like an epidural during labor, so I had to make sure that was okay with them. For some, it might be a deal-breaker. But I called the guys and I asked them and Britt was in the background yelling, "Get the drugs!"

I have no parental rights; it's not my DNA. Once the contract is done, things get easier. They already had their doctor, they set up an appointment. I had to go through a psychologist first who talked me through, found me mentally sound to be able to do this process. They don’t want anyone doing this who’s just doing this for financial gain. You have to prove that your current financial situation has been stable for the past three years because they don't want people being exploited.

How does the medical part work?
Well, you're put on a slew of hormone meds that change the lining in your uterus so it's a certain thickness, giving the embryo a better chance of implantation. Basically, it fakes your body into thinking it's pregnant. Injections in your belly, upper buttocks. I take about 10 different pills a day. You have to get checked by the doctor, two to three times a week. Once they say the lining looks good, they take the eggs [from a separate egg donor] out of the freezer. In our case, both dads gave their genetic materials to each egg, to create two different embryos. So the eggs would be half-siblings.

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Then they put both eggs in. They take 10 eggs out of the freezer in each round. They do genetic testing to make sure there are no abnormalities. When it’s time to implant the eggs, it’s like an intense Pap smear. Then it’s two days of bed rest after that, and then you take a blood pregnancy test seven to 10 days later. If the levels went up, that’s a good sign. Seven to 10 days after that, you go in for an ultrasound and find out if you’re pregnant.

How often would you communicate with Matt and Britt?
We’d communicate a few times a day at a doctor’s visit, usually several times a week. We ended up working out a close relationship. I didn’t want to get too close to the baby. When they came in for the ultrasound they were obviously so excited, but I didn’t want to get too mushy-gushy about him. It was hard to keep myself removed without being too removed.

When you were pregnant, what would you tell people who congratulated you in the checkout line?
It depends. Sometimes just a simple "thanks." I do try to tell people more often than not, though, because I want [surrogacy] to become more normalized, demystified. I live in Southern California, so we’re a pretty progressive, liberal state. Most of the time, people are just really curious. They want to hear all about it, and they have questions.

What do your husband and kids say about this?
I've known my husband since I was 12, so this was not a shock to him. This is kind of what I do. I got him into working at a food bank and donating blood. When I said that [being a surrogate] was something I wanted to do, he was like, "Of course you do." Obviously, he saw the financial compensation as being good for our family, and as long as I wasn’t at risk health-wise, he was all for it. And he loves Matt and Britt -- they all got along so well.

As for my kids, I told them, "Some mommies and daddies can't get pregnant on their own, so they need a mommy belly to carry the baby. They're using my belly to grow the baby and then I’ll give the baby to them."

That was fine for them. Mostly, they were just really concerned about how the baby comes out!

When Greyson was born, who held him first?
I honestly can't remember if I held him first or Matt or Britt did. But I do know I held him on my chest at some point. But the guys also did skin-to-skin with him right away.

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Did the baby stay in your hospital room?
The hospital we were in has the policy of surrogate babies either being with the birth "mom" (me) or having the baby go to the NICU. Since I wanted some distance from Greyson and his dads and I wanted them to feel free to do as they pleased in the room with Greyson, we thought it best to have Grey in the NICU even though there was nothing medically wrong with him.

I still breastfed Grey the whole time in the hospital in order to get my milk supply in, since I was going to pump milk for Grey and ship it. I ended up pumping milk for a little over three months.

What's the biggest challenge of surrogacy?
People say, "You must love being pregnant!" No, I don’t! I’m often very sick, so the physical part of the pregnancy is the most challenging. The days where I’m so physically tired that I feel like I can’t go to the park with my kids. You have to take care of yourself and this kid and you worry, I hope that my family isn't having too hard a time because I decided to help this other family. But [a pregnancy] is such a small blip of time compared to what you're doing in the grand scheme of things.

Did you have reservations?
My reservations were just about the unknown. What if I truly fell in love with this child as I had with my children? Would I be strong enough to cope with the loss of "my child"? ... What if something went medically wrong and I lost the ability to have more children, or worse, my life? Thoughts like that went through my head a lot. I just had to keep reminding myself how rare that extreme of medical problems were, and just trust my instincts about Matt and Britt and trust in my own strength.

Did you feel a sense of loss after Greyson was born?
My heart never felt a sense of loss, but my physical body did. I had about a week after Greyson left that I just couldn't stop crying. It was like my physical body was mourning the loss of a child, but emotionally and rationally, I was so happy. I just had to stay busy with my own family, but that was a real struggle.

What has been the best part of this experience?
Seeing Matt and Britt become parents. Watching them the first time they got to see the ultrasound. Watching them when Greyson was born. We're Facebook friends, and it’s so wonderful to watch how amazing they are as parents. Just knowing how much I love being a parent myself ... I can’t imagine not having that in my life. So to be able to give that to them feels like the most amazing gift you could give someone.

 


Image via iStock.com/g-stockstudio

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