I’m going in for a pregnancy test early next week, and I really hope it’s positive. The thing is, I most certainly do not want any more kids.
Let me explain: I’m working on giving birth to someone else’s kid. Strangers, actually.
Last week, I traveled to a fertility clinic in Connecticut where a doctor placed a 5-day old embryo (not genetically related to me) inside my uterus. For five weeks prior to this, I prepared my body with daily injections, and will continue doing so to ensure a successful pregnancy, throughout the first trimester, assuming the pregnancy takes. It’s just a matter of days until I’ll find out.
I’m doing this because it kills me to think that people have to work so hard to have children, whether because of fertility issues or because they’re not a heterosexual couple. I’m doing this because I like being pregnant, and I’m good at getting and staying pregnant. I’m doing this because so much about making a difference in the world is slow, and uncertain, and hard to measure, and this is so very tangible and real. And I’m doing this to help support and nurture the Jewish people.
Ten years ago I became a volunteer Mikveh Guide at Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education Center in Newton, MA. Two years later I joined the staff and I’ve been the Executive Director since 2012. People come through our doors for all kinds of reasons, finding joy and healing in a small, warm pool of water called a mikveh. Our visitors have had a real impact on me, particularly the ones who have been on some kind of journey to build a family.
I’ve seen women and men in pain over repeated failed attempts to have children, more miscarriages than I could possibly count, and the loss of stillborn babies late in pregnancy. The sadness, isolation, and anger are intense. I’ve also seen the sheer joy when one of these women returns for an immersion in her ninth month of pregnancy, or when a couple brings their long-awaited adopted child to convert to Judaism, or when two men visit with their infant who undoubtedly has taken incredible determination to bring into their family.
Vivianne and David are a Jewish couple in London. They’ve been trying to have a baby for over seven years and turned to surrogacy as a last-ditch effort, if they could find someone Jewish to do it. It was important to me to carry a baby for another Jewish family as well and an organization called A Jewish Blessing connected us with one another. There are many, many factors to consider when making a strong match between a potential surrogate and intended parents, and it just so happened that those things lined up with us, too. So I’m taking my dust-collecting uterus and working on putting it to good use on their behalf.
No doubt, I’m on a bizarre roller-coaster of sorts that I never could have prepared for. I keep going back and forth in my head as to whether this whole thing is completely crazy, or whether the only crazy thing is that it’s not more common. Do I worry about all the “what-ifs” that can happen during pregnancy? Yes. Have I replayed every complicated potential legal scenario in my mind? Yes. Is my husband at least a little bit freaked out by the whole thing? Yes again. And yet, ever since I started looking into all this 15 months ago, I felt pulled to just keep going. I ended up having a harder time justifying why I shouldn’t do it than why I should, so I listened to my gut.
Recently I checked back in with my contact at A Jewish Blessing to find out more about the need for Jewish surrogates. As we spoke, she scanned through her waiting list, counting. She kept going and going… tallying 31 couples waiting for their match. Some of them have been on her list for years. Others don’t even put themselves on it because they know so many people are ahead of them.
She gets inquiries for Jewish surrogates about once a week.
And her list of available Jewish surrogates? She doesn’t have one. I’m only the fourth Jewish surrogate she’s placed in over 12 years.
I made the decision to keep a blog about my journey because, by and large, surrogacy is not known or talked about in the Jewish community. And yet, there are so very many women who are able to carry a pregnancy to term, who can help individuals and couples become the parents they so desperately wish to be. I am hopeful that through my experience, other women may consider carrying a baby for someone else. I think of it like the bone marrow registry. If you got that call that you were a match, you’d at least look into it, right?