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Gwen's Surrogacy Journey

May 30, 2024 7:17 am

Gwen & Kyle, far right, with their children Jacob, Abram, and Marcella. In the center, Sol and Robin, holding baby Gabriel.

"After having my three kids, I knew for sure I was done," Gwen said.

Well, not exactly.

"But I've always had really good pregnancies. Easy deliveries. Fast deliveries," she said. "I guess that's part of the reason I kept having kids."

Empathy is another.

"I have friends who have dealt with infertility, losses and miscarriages, and that just tears my heart out," said Gwen. "So I started toying around with the idea of surrogacy, and soon enough I had done it three times."

We followed up with a few questions, and Gwen generously answered every one.

Can you describe how you got started with becoming a surrogate?

Often times if people are interested, they'll reach out to an agency. That's how you get connected with other people. I did that as well. Then I joined Facebook surrogacy groups and did lots of research (about a year's worth). Oh my goodness, there's so much to learn. But I learned pretty quickly I didn't want to go through an agency after being on the Facebook groups and hearing parents looking for a surrogate say how much they wanted to move forward but they couldn't afford the agency fee. They just didn't have that kind of money. But I found out there was a way to cut out the middleman and do an independent journey where you're matched with people. Yes, there's all kinds of legalities to abide by, you need your own lawyers and have to go to court, and there's a lot more work on both the intended parents' and surrogate's side of it, but you cut out the middleman.

Did you ever look at what stood in front of you and feel overwhelmed?

It can be a lot. It's like a part time job. Once you start getting into it, you realize all the things you have to do just to get to the point where you go for your embryo transfer-there's insurance, there's writing contracts, it's the expense part asking how much you want for this and how much you want for that, finding the lawyers, sending all your medical records. For a couple of months, you always feel like you're on the phone with somebody or emailing people.

We understand your first surrogacy was for a couple in the area. How did that come to be?

I had just mentioned to my neighbor that I was thinking about doing surrogacy, and she was like, 'Really? Because I have this coworker and she's looking for a surrogate!' Everything kind of just fell into place really nicely, right in my lap. And after the delivery I realized I wasn't ready to be done. I went on to one of the Facebook match groups and that's how I matched with a couple from New Jersey.

And how did the matching work out?

We're so close with this family. I've talked to them just about every day since we first found each other in August of 2019. I delivered their daughter Emmie in 2020. And then they asked me to be a surrogate again with a boy embryo so Emmie would have a brother.

No pressure there, right?

They said, 'We would love for you to be, but if you say no, we support you. We understand, we love you. Just pray on it.' My husband was more like, 'Kinda thought we were done.' But I couldn't imagine them asking somebody else to give Emmie their brother. It would break my heart. A totally selfish reason, right? But they're like family now. The kids call me Auntie Gwen and my husband is Uncle Kyle. But a big part of it was worry. My husband and my oldest son were worried about me going through surrogacy one more time. I'm one of those people who just says, 'Faith over fear. It'll be fine. It's fine. We're fine. Everything's fine.' Sometimes that works out really well. Other times I probably should put more thought into things.

Would you describe your husband as being supportive of your choices?

Oh, gosh, he's just the best. I mean, he's one of those guys where I just come up with these crazy ideas and he's like, 'Okay then, that's what we're doing. I got you; let's do this.' I'm so thankful for him. And he's the most amazing labor coach ever!

We initially reached out to you when you entered our March Facebook contest. You posted a beautiful picture of the baby boy you delivered for the New Jersey couple, along with a comment that indicated that this birth wasn't your typical easy delivery. Could you share that experience with us?

So labor was amazing. I had hardly any pain at all. I was super relaxed. I do natural births, so I'm just up, walking around. And everything's pretty normal. Kay (Women's Care Midwife Kay Weina) was an awesome support. I mean, I loved everyone who delivered the babies before, but Kay was just so attentive. It was like having a doula there, only without having to pay for a doula. She's right there, helping me make decisions, making sure I'm comfortable. It was just awesome. So she said, 'Okay, I think it's time to push' and I was like, 'Alright, cool.' So it was maybe two pushes, and he was out. And it was not difficult at all. And he came out being super healthy. We already had known he had the diagnosis of having Down Syndrome. So sometimes when babies with Down Syndrome are born, it can be a little bit scary because they can need extra support with things like breathing and eating. But Gabriel was awesome. He had no issues. His vitals were great. He was stable. I thought I was stable. Kay thought I was I was stable. But . . .

Uh, oh. Wanna keep sharing?

Right when I thought everything was awesome, my nurse Megan (and I used to babysit Megan when she was a little girl!) said I was losing a little more blood than they liked. I was like, 'Okay! I'm fine! Whatever!' They kept checking. After about an hour I wasn't feeling so great. I don't know how to explain it. I just kind of crashed. They decided to give me some medication (Cytotec, which dissolves under your tongue and is disgusting) to help with the bleeding. Once it finished dissolving, I started shaking really bad. I couldn't control it. And then I got really, really cold, painfully cold. The teeth chattering kind of cold. I thought it was the medication, but they thought it was me losing too much blood. That's when I got scared.

My husband was there. The intended mom, Robin, was there-she lost the first three hours with her newborn baby because she stayed with me. That's the wonderful person she is. I told her, 'Please, just go and be with your baby. That's where you need to be.' She said, 'That's not where I need to be. I'm not leaving you.' I mean, how hard was that? You have this brand new, amazing baby, but you know, your surrogate's trying to die on you. So Kay was gone and Megan called her and let her know what was going on. And she's like, 'Well, you need to call whoever the OB is on the floor right now and have them come and assess her right away.' I already had one IV in and needed a second one, but because I was shaking and dehydrated they were having difficulty getting that in. That wasn't fun either.

So now I'm feeling like I'm going to pass out. But in my mind I felt if I passed out, I wasn't ever going to wake up. At that moment, I looked at all the signs on the wall and was reading them over and over to keep my mind active. I'd read the time on the clock on the wall again and again. Earlier my seven-year-old felt something bad was going to happen. Before I left she said, 'Mommy, what if you don't come home?' And I told Marcella that would never happen. And then I just remember praying, saying to God if it's my time to go, it's your choice and I trust you. I trust You, Holy God. But for the sake of my children, please keep me here.

So the only OB on the floor was Dr. Schloesser, and she was in surgery. It was probably only five minutes before she arrived, but it felt like an eternity. She came in and could tell I was in distress. I had also lost the energy to talk. I was so depleted that they would ask me questions and all I could do was nod my head. And of course, there was so much I wanted to say, starting with 'If I'm going to die, please tell my family that I love them.'

I had spiked a fever, my blood pressure was increasing, heart rate through the roof. Schloesser said she thought I was hemorrhaging and that I had retained some placenta and she was going to have to get it out. I knew what was coming-I didn't have an epidural-but I really didn't have a choice because it was that or an emergency hysterectomy. She said it was going to be really uncomfortable. And it was. It was awful. I think they said I lost twice as much blood as I was supposed to.

The next day when Robin and I had the chance to process all of this, we both talked about how we had prayed. Her prayer was to not let anything happen to me.

Can you tell us a little about Gabriel?

Well, you can see what a beautiful boy he from the picture I posted, right? He was born at 38 weeks and he just turned 38 weeks, so Robin did this really cool picture with Gabriel saying, 'I'm out as long as I was in today.' He's almost nine months and he's doing so good.

Now that your surrogacy journey is over, would you have changed anything?

There is nothing that I would change. Everything happens for a reason. Would I have preferred to not have the traumatic incident happen right after Gabriel was born? Absolutely. But God kept me safe as we prayed.

What is something you learned about yourself throughout this journey?

I am stronger than I ever knew I was. While labor was easy, the transition into the scary stuff was extremely hard. It was a moment where I felt close to God; it only strengthened my faith.

How did this journey affect your own family?

These types of things make you realize how quickly your life can change. While we always make sure to say our 'I love you's,' it definitely made us appreciate all the moments and time we have together. There have been moments even up until today where we reflect and share tears about it; it's all part of the healing process.

Finally, how do you put into words the difference you have made in the lives of others by taking this journey?

That's a hard one for me to answer. I do not feel anything I did was extraordinary. I simply did what was in my heart to do. I love talking about surrogacy and I am always happy to help those looking into surrogacy. I often get messages and questions from strangers about how to proceed with their own journey and that has been one of the best parts, aside from bringing 3 awesome children into the world.

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Coda, from Robin:

I can't even begin to imagine how Gwen felt . . . how scared she was. I know how scared I was watching what was happening to her and I am certain my fear was nothing compared to hers. 

I have never seen someone shake the way she was and she had 10 blankets on her. I held her hand, I had my lips on her forehead and she was burning up. The whole thing was surreal. Kyle and I would look at each other, tears in our eyes, and the fear of what may be passed between us without words.  

Gwen told you we prayed. That I told her I prayed that nothing would happen to her. That is true. What I didn't tell her (and she is finding out as she reads this) is that yes, I prayed to G-d that he wouldn't take her. I told him that I didn't want him to have to take anyone, but if he did . . . to take Gabriel and not her. Her family COULD NOT lose her. I COULD NOT lose her. Gwen is selfless and this story could not end like this. Thank G-d our prayers were answered for the good! Faith over Fear has been our motto since the beginning. We held on to that. Faith won once again. 

You never know what life has in store. The fact that 5 years ago I didn't even know Gwen existed boggles my mind. How we went from total strangers to family. We always say we are girl soulmates. It's 100 percent true! Everything happens for a reason. I truly believe that. Had I been able to carry my own children I would not know the Morans. A life without knowing them is not something I would ever want. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the nurses and doctors that sprung into quick action that day. It's because of you (and of course G-d) that we are here writing this with smiles. The nurses that took care of all of us the next few days were also amazing! Your facility is amazing as are the people who care for the patients. Thank you! 

I am counting down the days until we are together for Gabriel's 1st Birthday!

Emmie can't wait to meet her little brother.

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