You Are Not Alone: A Surrogate Mother’s Experience

I felt him take his last breath inside me. A high-pitched sound rang in my ears as I watched them scramble to find the faintest semblance of a heartbeat. I knew it was no longer there. As a surrogate mother, you are preconditioned to not get attached. “This isn’t my baby,” I would tell myself. I tried forcing myself to not form a connection with this life that was lost as it was coming from my womb. “But you were a life, and you were someone’s child…”

Having been pregnant before, I decided to take on the journey of becoming a surrogate. I researched surrogacy agencies and decided to go to an independent agency. From there I was matched with a couple who was from and lived in Russia. We went through all the correct procedures, and it was not long before I was told the couple had another surrogate mother they were working with as they wanted to have multiple children. As fate would have it, their other surrogate also lived close to me. Shortly after I was pregnant with one of their children, and the other surrogate was pregnant with two.

Time passed and we could not have asked for more smooth sailing pregnancies. We both enjoyed being pregnant and often exchanged tales of our past pregnancy journeys. We were excited for the lives the couples’ children would live, and she and I were delighted to have formed the comradery we did as fellow surrogate mothers.

Veteran’s Day rolled around and I had my usual anatomy scan. As we recorded the session, I noticed the technician continuously went back to the baby’s heart. I asked if everything was okay and she simply nodded, not saying if something was wrong. But I felt it, I knew something was off – but she was the technician, and medically, I did not know much to say otherwise. Physically, however, I knew something was not right.

Later that night I expressed my concern to my husband. We decided to watch the video from the scan earlier that day, our eyes both desperately searching the television for an answer. “But we don’t even really know what we are looking for,” he said defeatedly. So, we decided to call it a night and head to bed. I knew something was not right.

The next morning, I still was not feeling well and went to the doctor. They prescribed antibiotics. A few days later, on Friday the 13th, I knew something was not right. I ran to the bathroom and right then, right there, a large splash hit the floor. “Did my water just break? At 23 weeks, did my water just break?” I stood there, questioning, paralyzed. My daughter called 911 and I was rushed to a local hospital with my mother. Crazy thoughts rapidly raced through my mind as I tried and tried to silence them. I heard myself trying to slow and calm my breathing. I could feel my heart thump out of my chest as I worried what could possibly be wrong. “Is the baby okay?” I worried, “did my water just break? What if something is really, really wrong? What if the baby isn’t okay? What if….?” We finally arrived at the hospital…

Nonchalant, passive, unconcerned. The doctor treating me did not seem worried at all. He passed the incident as a ruptured cyst. “No way,” I thought, “there was too much water to have been a cyst. Does he think I am fabricating this whole thing?” I began to grow more and more anxious the more and more indifferent the doctor seemed. He left the room. I begged the nurse to check again to make sure everything was okay.

She lifted my gown. I could see the color flush from her face. She would not make eye contact with me but locked in on my mother with a distressed look in her eyes. I was bleeding. The doctor was called in the room again. The energy in the room went from solely my anxiety bubbling to the entire room scrambling trying to make sense of the situation.

I do not know how much time had passed, but it felt like a lifetime. I had given birth a few times before, but this pain was excruciating and like nothing I had ever felt or experienced. My body was not ready to deliver this baby. As I felt the baby’s last breath and watched in numbness as the doctors and nurses tried everything they could to save his life, I knew it was over. I felt the discomfort as my uterus closed on the baby’s arm, and because of this, they were unable to perform a C-section. They had to dilate me to deliver because all the amniotic fluid left my body. Eventually, his tiny, lifeless body made its way into the world. Though he was not mine, I felt like a monster to not show any care or loss for this child. As a mother, the thought of losing a child sent waves of pain throughout my body. I could not just get up and forget about him. Everyone in the room formed a circle around me, and I held the baby close to my body. He was someone’s child, and he was going to be a life in this world. He deserved peace. He deserved love.

After trying to bring myself back to reality, what I did not anticipate were the days to come. The couple whom the baby belonged to went radio silent. We did not hear a word from them. We reached out to the coordinator of the surrogate agency, and they informed us that because of their culture, they did not view him as a life before 32 weeks in utero. As far as the hospital went, for any fetus over 20 weeks born in the United States, one is expected to have a service and to name the child. I felt beside myself. I felt like I failed the couple, and I failed the baby. I ran myself crazy blaming myself for his death. I decided to conduct an autopsy to determine how and where I went wrong. We found out the baby had a congenital heart defect, and it would’ve been a high-risk pregnancy had it been carried out full term.

As the woman who delivered the baby, I had to complete a death certificate. There was no communication with the parents. We did not receive their blessing for anything. We decided to proceed with having a service for the baby, and I gave him the name the parents would have wanted him to have.
Does this normally happen, and people don’t talk about it? Maybe surrogacy isn’t the thing for me. Is there no protection for the surrogate if she experiences something like this? I sunk into a dark space. Even though he was not my baby, I still felt a sense of loss as a mother, and even more saddened because his parents wanted nothing to do with him. I did not want to move, eat or even go close to anything that had a lightsource. I blamed myself, I lost trust in people, I felt angry, hopeless, depressed. I received backlash from other women who were aware of my experience. “You should have never allowed yourself to get so close to the baby,” they would say, “you should not be having these feelings.”
“But I’m still a mother, and there is a mother out there who lost her child!” I would fight back in my thoughts.

I knew someone else through a surrogacy agency who lost a child. We felt outkasted as if we were not allowed to mourn a loss for another mother, so we mourned together. We exchanged stories and sentiments and through talking about our experience, we realized that we were not alone in the life altering journey we underwent, and our feelings and emotions were indeed valid. In realizing we were not alone, we were able to rise out of the dark, depressed abyss we fell into.

Simple Surrogacy was founded by Surrogates and Donors to ensure that surrogates are fully supported. We ensure we protect our surrogate mothers so they are never left alone to deal with this type of situation. Verbiage is included in our contracts that cover how a loss is handled across cultural differences. We also encourage our surrogates to speak up about their experiences. You are never alone, and the more your experience is shared and heard, the more you help others realize we are all in this together.

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