“I'm afraid she won't live past age 5. Mom, Dad … it's best you prepare yourselves for the inevitable.”
Imagine hearing those words as a parent from the doctor you trust. My wife Amber's parents heard that terrible prognosis for her cystic fibrosis.
Yesterday, Amber and I heard a different story, “The heart rate is 179 beats per minute. Baby K is on the way.”
Funny how life is full of surprises. We are nine weeks into our surrogate pregnancy, and everything is looking great. Amber never thought she'd be at this moment. Faith and science have little ways of making dreams come true.
Our surrogacy adventure has not been without trials and tribulations. For most, creating a baby is easy, but for some of us, cystic fibrosis makes it nearly impossible. Yes, you can have a child if you have CF. After a bilateral lung transplant, having a child is more complicated. In fact, Amber lost a transplant friend, who had her child after the operation. Amber didn't lose her friend during the pregnancy, but the pregnancy caused elevated hormones that made her friend fight harder to keep her lungs. She lost that battle after a valiant fight for many years.
Naturally, when I talked with Amber about creating a baby, we often remembered her friend. We saw how happy she was to be a mother. Amber wanted this; I wanted this. In fact, we had the go ahead from the Duke University medical staff to proceed but, ultimately, we weighed creation versus creation and loss -- the possible loss of Amber during the process. It's an issue to consider for any CF patient who has had a bilateral lung transplant. We weren't worried about passing on CF to our child -- both parents have to carry the gene. Our worry, however, was on Amber being there -- to be this child's mother -- after doctors told her she'd never be one.
For Amber to carry a child, a massive number of doctors would need to be involved. Because of the amount of medication she takes, the likelihood of a bad pregnancy or a birth defect -- while not high -- was still higher than the odds we wanted to gamble against. We opted for tubal ligation, but never gave up hope. We had friends who stepped forward and volunteered to be our surrogate and then canceled at the last minute. Other extremely close friends would say, “I can't be your surrogate because…”
The adventure was frustrating. We cried in each other's arms all the time.
All we wanted was to have a happy, healthy baby. All Amber wanted was to have something normal -- do something normal. It's a struggle she still has today, and I must constantly remind myself to wear her shoes. Still, we never gave up.
Our options to create our family were adoption or surrogacy. We talked about adoption for more than a year and Amber's fear was rejection, but not of her lungs -- of her child. She feared the child would want to search out who their birth parents were. Seems strange but adding in Amber's experiences of being from a broken family and the rejection she still feels, from time to time, from some family … coupled with knowing adopted friends who wanted to find their birth parents, we knew adoption was not the route we wanted to choose. Amber also wanted me to have a biological child -- again something we cried together over daily for many months. At times, she felt like the world was against her -- but little did we know God was forming a plan, guiding us one step at time to having our first child through surrogacy.
For about five years, we were with a surrogacy agency and the experience was beyond horrible. The doctor couldn't remember our names. The agency couldn't locate medical records, and they seemed like they were stringing us along for more money, rejecting a viable surrogate, and extending the process. In addition to not remembering our names, the doctor couldn't remember that Amber had CF, and the clinic refused to talk to me even though my biological embryo was frozen in their facility. In addition to this, they made Amber cry each time she had to call them because they would ask standard questions they already had the answers to and said they would require her to have mammograms and physicals before she could carry the child. We would remind them during each phone call that Amber would not be carrying the child and that we had a surrogate. This fact didn't seem to sink in because they would not proceed until Amber had a full workup and a battery of tests that were “standard for a woman carrying that intends on being a surrogate.”
We finally left that facility after having our frozen embryos stored there for more than four years. We found another surrogacy agency -- worked with them for seven months -- and now we are nine weeks into our pregnancy.
It's because we held each other close, remained patient, and never wavered from our dream.
We transferred our care to one of the best doctors in the business, have a great surrogacy agency, and have an amazing surrogate who has become part of our family.
Looking back, I can say, “Whew, it's been an adventure!” I like to think there is always a way to accomplish anything. Sometimes it's going to be difficult, other times easier than I thought. For this adventure, having a child became possible with the belief that the glimmer at the end of the tunnel was bright enough to grab and hold onto. Amber has -- and continues to make -- many sacrifices in her life, and I do the same for her every day. It's important to talk openly. Every couple needs their partner to be there for them like I am for Amber, and she is for me.
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