When I look at my daughter, I am in awe.
Not because she’s a brilliant, independent, loving, and beautiful little person. Although those things certainly make my heart swell with pride every day. It’s because if my life hadn't taken the turn it did only a few years earlier, my sweet and strong-willed child would have been nothing but a figment of my dreams.
My daughter is a shining example of how far the field of fertility has come. She started out like any other kid — an embryo created from her parents’ genetic material. But unlike her friends, she was placed in a glass tube in a freezer while her mum went through chemotherapy and radiation. She spent five years as a “kidsicle”, safely housed in a lab freezer.
And while she chilled on ice, I fought, and beat, cancer. I married her dad. We got a puppy. We bought a house. We tried, unsuccessfully, to get pregnant.
I ached to be like other mums I saw at the grocery store or on the street. Basking in their growing bellies. Anticipating motherhood. Being happy.
Eventually I had to accept I would never have a baby bump. I would never complain about morning sickness, or feel a baby move inside me. For a while I mourned our loss, privately. But that got boring. So when we did our first transfer to my sister, who was our gestational surrogate, I started a blog. I titled it “She’s Having Our Baby” and didn’t write a single post.
Our first transfer took, but ended up ectopic. My blog sat empty. Shortly after the success of our second transfer, I started blogging. I talked about everything. About how hard it was to be expecting without being pregnant. How I’d lie awake at night wishing I could fast forward time. How every time the phone rang, I’d panic something was wrong. How getting pregnant cost us more than the price of a luxury vehicle. And what it was like to be given a gift you could never repay. I also blogged about the colour of the nursery, diapers, and how I’d never be the same after puréeing chicken.
And before I knew it, people were reading, commenting, and asking questions. I shared every shred of knowledge I had so others doing a similar journey had less to worry about. And while I helped many navigate the complexities of surrogacy, I also impacted some who only needed a bottle of wine and a bed to grow their families.
The world of surrogacy in Canada is shrouded in confusion. There is no single resource to turn to for information. So I offered what I learned, from our own experience. For example, many didn’t know that to be named “mother” on my daughter’s birth certificate, we needed DNA tests, a mountain of paperwork, and a judge. Others were amazed to learn I could breastfeed my daughter without ever being pregnant, which I did for eight months.
So while I looked like any other new mum, happily pushing a stroller with a sleeping babe, I was anything but typical. It would have been so easy to say “thank you” when strangers commented on my post-baby physique. But instead, I told the truth. I was thin because I didn’t deliver my baby — my sister did. Sometimes there was an awkward pause. Other times people became emotional. I shared my journey to motherhood with anyone who wanted to hear it, because I’m proud of our story. And I believe the only way to change perspectives and step outside of comfort zones is with honesty and truth.
So how did I change motherhood? One word at a time.