Last summer, the Browns unsuccessfully tried another fresh IVF cycle (and did not freeze any embryos). In November, the couple tried again with the last frozen embryo from their original fresh cycle from which they conceived their daughter. “I’m now pregnant with our second child, due in late August,” says Judith. “This experience forced us to confront some serious issues very early on in our marriage. Now we’re much more than best friends, we’re life partners.”
SURROGACY: A GRACIOUS HOST
When Carla Long married her husband Herb in 2004 at the age of 39, it was no secret that they wanted to get pregnant immediately. What the couple didn’t know was that the fibroid surgery Carla had nearly five years earlier would stand in their way. “The scarring in my uterus, and the multiple fibroids that had grown back, made the risk of me trying to carry a baby very high,” says Carla, vice president of affiliate distribution for Si TV in New York City.
But they soldiered on after the crushing news came from one expert after another that Carla could not carry a baby. “I could possibly bleed to death if a baby could even attach to my uterus, which was highly unlikely. If we wanted to have a baby of our own, the only way was to use a surrogate.” “It was tough,” says Herb, CEO of Capstone Risk Management in New York and Washington, D.C. “A few friends and family members volunteered to be surrogates but then dropped out at different points in the process for medical reasons or because they had a change of heart.” The Longs’ informal surrogacy process dragged on unsuccessfully for nearly two years. Then they sought professional help.
Diane Hinson, founder of Creative Family Connections (CFC), matched the Longs with an ideal surrogate. Although 50 percent of the surrogates at the CFC are African-American, the couple and the surrogate can be from completely diverse ethnicities. “There might be a black woman carrying for a white couple or vice versa. We always ask if either side has a preference. People are going to have a year together so we want them to be comfortable with each other,” says Hinson, a legal expert in the area of assisted reproductive technology.
There are two types of surrogacy: “traditional,” when the surrogate uses her own egg and carries the baby to term, and “gestational,” meaning the surrogate is only the carrier, as was the case with the Longs. Their surrogate carried their daughter Makana, the product of Carla’s egg and Herb’s sperm.
The extensive vetting process used to select a surrogate includes a psychological evaluation, and an interview to learn whether the candidate is willing to carry twins or triplets, and whether she is willing to terminate the pregnancy if there are congenital defects. “We cover the parade of ‘horribles,’” says Hinson, who notes that the surrogate must also be a mother herself before carrying a baby for a couple.
The Longs started with the same steps as the Watleys, which included Carla receiving fertility shots. “Simultaneously, our surrogate (who lived in Atlanta) took fertility drugs to get her uterus ready for the transfer,” explains Carla, now 46. “Next, my doctor retrieved my eggs and fertilized them with my husband’s sperm. Once this was complete we had four viable embryos. Two of them were transferred into the surrogate. We prayed for implantation to take place, and it did.
“When the delivery started it was like everything had come full circle,” says Carla, who talked or exchanged texts with her surrogate every day during their pregnancy. “I lost it and started crying and thanking my surrogate with all my heart. I had the entire delivery room in tears.”
“You may get all excited when the agency matches you with a surrogate, but it doesn’t always happen on the fi rst transfer or with the first surrogate,” says Carla. “It’s an emotional roller coaster. When you finally get the right surrogate, the transfer takes place and you pray that the embryos implant. Once they implant, you pray that she doesn’t miscarry. Because you’re not doing this the natural way, the risks are always much higher. We didn’t breathe easy until after the fi rst trimester with Makana.”
“Being supportive of your spouse is very important, but you should also deal with your own feelings,” says Herb, now 44. “One friend forced me to talk about it, which helped me deal with the issue more effectively with Carla. This experience has definitely made our marriage stronger.”
The Longs wanted a sibling for their daughter, so after Makana was conceived, they froze the remaining embryos. When Makana was 2 years old, they tried a transfer with another surrogate but it didn’t work. After the fourth try with a surrogate was unsuccessful, the Longs are now considering adoption. “Between being emotionally and fi nancially drained, we just couldn’t do it anymore,” says Carla. The Longs had spent over a quarter million dollars in medical, legal, and other costs not covered by insurance. “You experience the same highs and lows as if you are trying to get pregnant the natural way.”