In the wake of our breaking the story of Brooke, a surrogate in Idaho who died in the late stages of pregnancy, I’ve been contacted by women who served as surrogates and had life-threatening complications.
Nancy was a surrogate in Canada who almost died. In her own words, this is her story.
I wanted to be a surrogate. I saw so many stories, beautiful stories, and I so much wanted to be a part of it. The fairy tale of surrogacy was nothing like I had expected. The couple that I worked with was nothing like they presented themselves to be.
I was 46 years old when I became pregnant as a surrogate. For me, things were wrong from the beginning. At three months into the pregnancy I found out I was pregnant, not with twins but triplets. This was a problem for the intended parents as they did not believe all three were theirs. By four months I wanted out of the contract, but I was told besides having an abortion there was no way out.
I went through my whole pregnancy feeling alone and very used. I felt and was treated like a hired employee. This, by the way, in Canada is not allowed. If it had not been for my family, I would not have made it through.
The best was yet to come. At approximately 30 weeks into the pregnancy, I suffered congestive heart failure and my family was told that I might not make it. I was rushed into surgery to take the babies out. I was put into a medical coma and the babies were born. They were fine, but my ordeal was still not over though. I was dead. I had no blood pressure. I was loosing too much blood. They gave me a blood transfusions and I needed eight liters of blood!
Finally, they had to take my uterus, tubes, and ovaries out. I went into menopause immediately. When I came out of surgery I was getting bottles of nitrogen trying to control my blood pressure because it was all over the place, going dangerously high and low. I was still not out of the woods. I was on a ventilator as well. I spent three days in the intensive care unit fighting for my life.
The babies were very small (3 pounds, 2 ½ pounds and 1 ½ pounds) and brought to the neonatal intensive care unit, and needed to stay in the hospital for about three months. I only got to see them on day three. Even my family was told they could not see the babies, yet the intended parents were allowed to see the babies. My contract stated my family and I could see the babies, but they were not allowed.
I was able to see the babies after I got out of ICU, but as soon as the parentage papers were signed, all bets were off. The couple cut me off completely. I was no longer able to see the babies or to know how they were doing. They didn’t even call to see how I was doing.
The cold hard truth hit—I was nothing to them. They did not care about my family or me. They used me and threw me away like trash. I was left broken and abandoned.
I do believe that surrogacy can be done right and yes, there are many good outcomes. But there are many stories like mine that are hidden in the shadows and never see the light of day.
Laws need to change to protect surrogates, but currently the laws are on the intended parents side, protecting them, as they are the ones paying the doctors, the lawyers, and the agencies. The doctors, lawyers, and agencies are the ones making the big bucks. The surrogates are the ones doing all the actual work, and they get very little in return.
For more on the issue of surrogacy please visit our issues page.
- Jennifer Lahl is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.