I called Jen one night and told her the opportunity I had been praying for was just dropped in my lap.
Surrogacy kind of has a bad name in Utah. Maybe not a bad name, but it’s so foreign that people are immediately scared of something they don’t understand.
My journey was FILLED (to the brim) with love and support from my neighbors and friends. But some of my best surrogate friends have received exactly the opposite.
You see, our church (The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints) (or Mormons) doesn’t have a very clear stance on surrogacy. It’s official stance is only that “Surrogacy is discouraged.”
3 little words are all we get from the men we look toward for guidance.
In the past 2 years on this journey I have come to realize that Surrogacy, in the traditional sense, in discourage. Traditional Surrogacy involves the Surrogate using her own egg, and being artificial inseminated with the biological father’s sperm. Luckily for us, Traditional Surrogacy is also illegal in Utah.
I am a Gestational Carrier. Meaning NONE of the physical DNA comes from me. It either all comes from the parents or one source can come from a donor.
So while we use the term “surrogate,” We really aren’t!
(A true surrogate was someone like Mary. Kind of ironic that a church developed around the outcome of that surrogate journey looks down on surrogacy, right?)
I have been lamenting nonstop on ways to make Surrogacy (GC) more mainstream in Utah. To gain some love and acceptance for those facing nothing but opposition from those who don’t understand.
Isnt it human nature to be scared of something you don’t understand?
When I had the opportunity to sit down with a reporter from the Deseret News, I knew without a doubt that I wanted the chance. But because of confidentiality agreements, I knew the article couldn’t be about the baby and the family I just helped. I needed another angle.
I needed Jen.
2 best friends, 2 surrogates, Both underwent IVF on the same day, Both pregnant with boys, Both babies of the same (non-American) nationality, Delivering 2 weeks apart, Both Mormon.
I knew the story needed to be about us, and about how NORMAL we are and how NORMAL surrogacy just fit into our (Mormon) lives.
The interview was HARD. We wanted to share so much more than we were contractually allowed to share. We thought about every word out of our mouths so it sounded right. We communicated with just looks when we didn’t know how to answer a question the “right” way. All the while, I thought of every possible way that the author could twist and contort our words into something we DIDN’T mean. It was a stressful evening, for me. I worried about how much would be shared about the babies and families we helped. I worried if the article would have and overall positive attitude. (We shared a lot of our sad times and a lot of our happy times. She could have chosen just one side to show.)
When she emailed me to say her editor was requiring the country that my IP’s were from, I made up a country and hoped they would understand.
Then we she announced she needed to take our picture, we both looked down at our 3 month post partum bellies and groaned.
But weeks later, the article is published and I couldn’t be more proud.
Thank You Cathy. You delivered EXACTLY the message I wanted to share.
We are NORMAL people. We are moms. We are friends. We are just offering help where we can.
Two women, nine months and the gift of family
By Cathy Free , Deseret News
Published: Wednesday, July 11 2012 12:16 p.m. MDT
Ryley Eaton, left, and her friend, Jen Holt, became surrogate mothers to “pass along the joy of becoming a family,” says Eaton. (Cathy Free)
MURRAY — The tears came late at night when the hospital room was quiet and she was alone for the first time in months.
There were tears of happiness for the couple who were finally cuddling a baby of their own, the boy she had given birth to just a few hours before. And there were also tears of sadness — not because she regretted her decision to become a surrogate mother, but because one of the most wonderful experiences of her life was over.
“When you’ve been the focus of somebody’s life for nine months and that suddenly ends, it hits you hard and it hurts,” says Ryley Eaton. “The couple whose child you carried has lived and breathed you for months — your life and well-being has been their entire focus. But once the baby is here, that all ends. Before you can blink, the journey is over.”
Eaton, 29, was relieved to find a small support network of women who have also made the emotional journey as surrogate mothers, or, as they’re legally known in Utah, “gestation carriers.” Once a month, about 20 members of Utah Surrogates gather at a restaurant or park to share tales of what it’s like to give the gift of family to couples unable to conceive on their own.
“Our conversations definitely raise a few eyebrows in restaurants,” admits Eaton, who wanted to meet for a Free Lunch of chili verde burritos at Restaurant Morelia in Murray with Jen Holt, another surrogate who has become a good friend. “There are so many misconceptions about what we do that it’s nice to have somebody to talk to who understands.”
The emotional highs and lows of surrogacy are worth it, says Holt, 32, to pass along the same joys she has experienced while raising her four children, ages 3 to 13.
“To see the look on (a couple’s) faces when their baby is handed to them and they become parents after so many years of heartache — nothing can compare to that,” she says. “It’s a life-changing moment.”
A volunteer photographer for “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” a charity that provides keepsake photos of infants who were stillborn or died shortly after birth, Holt appreciated seeing a happy outcome for the parents whose child she carried after in vitro fertilization.
“I saw an aunt struggle with infertility for years, so this is something I’ve always thought about doing,” she says. “After I was done having kids, I decided, ‘Why not go through another pregnancy — this time for somebody else?’ ”
After meeting with an attorney who specializes in reproductive law, Holt was put in touch with a local couple and became pregnant through IVF a few months later, at about the same time as Eaton, who had agreed to carry a child for an infertile couple from China.
As the mother of a 3-year-old son, “I love every aspect of service,” says Eaton, “but I don’t have a lot of money and I’m not handy with a saw. However, I love being pregnant and I do have a uterus that works. This is something I could do that would make a lasting difference in another family’s life.”
Although their spouses were supportive of their desire to become surrogates, Eaton and Holt became accustomed to shocked reactions from people wondering how they could “give away” the babies they were carrying.
“It’s hard to explain,” says Eaton, “but from the very beginning, I knew that he wasn’t mine, so I wasn’t as attached. Once he was born, he felt more like a nephew or the child of a close friend.”
Today, she and Holt carry photos of the boys they delivered and they hope to fill up several photo albums in the years to come.
“They’re not required to keep in touch with us, but we’re each lucky in that we’ve developed a lasting connection,” says Eaton, who plans to go through IVF again so that the boy she brought into the world can have a sibling. “We’re in their photo albums, too. Playing a part in giving them a family has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
Have a story? Let’s hear it over lunch. Email your name, phone number and what you’d like to talk about to email@example.com
Cathy Free has written her “Free Lunch” column since 1999, believing that everyone has a story worth telling. A longtime Western correspondent for People Magazine, she has also worked as a contributing editor for Reader’s Digest.
Copyright 2012, Deseret News Publishing Company