By JILL WOLFE
I always dreamed about having two or three children, and practiced writing their names in cursive and bubble letters on napkins and notebooks. I couldn’t wait to meet those beautiful faces I’d spent years dreaming about. I always believed that if you work really, really, really hard for something, it will happen. And it eventually did — just not at all in the way I had envisioned.
My husband and I were set up on a blind date in Chicago. We didn’t start dating immediately but became great friends. Over the course of a year of friendship we fell in love. Once we started dating, we were engaged nine months later and got married. We couldn’t wait to start a family.
After six months of trying we went to the doctor, who suggested fertility drugs. All of our friends around us were starting to get pregnant and I could feel my anxiety climbing each month it didn’t happen for us. What was wrong with my body and why wasn’t this working? Anytime someone recommended something they’d heard from someone else who got pregnant after trying for a while, I added it to my regimen: Yoga for fertility, acupuncture, a chiropractor, herbs, working out, not working out, etc. IVF became a roller-coaster for me.
I would start off the month hopeful, then the dreaded two-week wait. Each day that went by I felt less confident. Do I feel pregnant? Would I feel pregnant? The closer it got to the pregnancy blood test the more anxious I became. Meanwhile everyone around me was getting pregnant.
I felt like I was on a boat in a river while everyone else’s boat was passing mine and mine just stayed still. It didn’t matter how hard I paddled, my boat wouldn’t move. Then the dreaded call came. Negative. I was devastated. Another dream gone. The doctor suggested we try again, telling us that sometimes it takes a few times. So I had to get back on the roller-coaster again. And again and again and again.
I am a person who needs answers. So I created them. Shame, blame, isolation — I felt them all. My friends were supportive and incredibly empathetic as their bellies were expanding and their babies were kicking inside of them, but that only helped so much. I knew a few people going through IVF, but most of them got pregnant after one or two tries. My husband promised we’d be parents and that there were many other ways to become parents in this world. Mostly, I just felt sad, hopeless and desperately jealous of every pregnant person.
One day at the fertility clinic, I ran into an old friend from college who was using a surrogate to carry her child. We decided to give it a try. We worked with an agency who matched us with our angel surrogate. When we met her it was evident how much she loved being a mom and how caring and loving she was.
After the second round of IVF, she became pregnant with our oldest daughter. I felt like she was walking on a tightrope carrying an egg on a spoon. We spoke every day. She told me about what it felt like to have our daughter kick inside of her. While I was nervous something would go wrong, she was calm and positive. We will always be beyond grateful to her.
When our daughter was born, I was in the room and my husband cut the cord. It was beautiful. Afterwards, our surrogate wrote us a letter, thanking us for letting her care for our daughter for eight and a half months. She said seeing the look on our faces when we saw our daughter for the first time was a feeling she would never forget. Six months later she wrote us offering to do it again.
Our youngest was born almost three years later. Our surrogate is truly our angel. She is an incredible human being. She is kind, compassionate, selfless and we are the luckiest people in the world to have her in our lives. We’ve been on vacations with her family and though we don’t see them as often since the kids are all growing up, they will always have an incredibly special place in our hearts.
Looking back on the process, I wish I had had more faith that if you really want to have a family you will. For so many years I started to believe that it would never work out for us. I felt sad, isolated, hopeless and desperated. There are now more resources out there to help with this. At the time, surrogacy was not well-known and fertility still had shame attached to it. The more people share their stories, the more helpful it is to those going through it because then they know they aren’t alone.
For loved ones, they need and want the tools to help care for their friends and family experiencing the pain of trying to bring a child into this world. To all those going through infertility right now: whatever your journey looks like, I send you hope and strength to believe that whatever family you are meant to have, you will have it and when you do, I promise it will be the family that was meant for you.
Jill Wolfe is a board member of Uprooted: A Jewish Communal Response to Fertility Journeys. She lives with her husband and two children in Minneapolis.