My sister is 4.5 years older than me. People think we are twins. We look alike, act alike, and even sound alike. She is my best friend, and my most favorite person in the world-next to my husband of course! My kids are her kids and vice versa. I always tell my sister I would give her my kidney if she needed it, and if I die in a plane crash all my worldly possessions would go to her. Would I carry a baby for her? Would she carry one for me? We have never been faced with this situation, but I like to think if we were-it would be the most beautiful expression of love imaginable.
I have several patients who used a surrogate when they wanted to have a child. They struggled with the idea of doing it, and now struggle with the idea of telling people. They feel shame. They worry what the public perception will be. They hide their truth.
Robin had a baby girl 7 years ago. It was an uncomplicated pregnancy and easy delivery. She had planned to have 5 children and they would be exactly 2 years apart! She began trying to conceive when her daughter was 14 months old. 5 years later and she was still not pregnant.
Robin is a career woman, but she is also very focused on having a family. Robin has undergone 6 rounds of IVF. Every time she is scheduled for a transfer- it is cancelled. Robin, it seems, has less eggs than she should at this age. For this reason, it is difficult to extract eggs from her in order to create an embryo. In addition to this, she has thin lining in her uterus which makes it difficult for an embryo to attach. Robin was encouraged by her doctor to consider adoption or surrogacy. She had 2 embryos frozen from previous attempts.
Robin’s younger sister stepped forward and offered to be her surrogate. This sister is not married, and has no children of her own. Robin had always freely spoken about her sister in session. They live down the street from one another, finish each other’s sentences, share a wardrobe, and are best friends. Robin was very upset by this idea. Will the baby really be mine? Will my sister think that she is the “real mother”? How will I explain this to my baby once he/she grows up? I really wanted to be the one to be pregnant, and connect with my baby. I will feel cheated out of this experience and am not sure I can watch my sister be pregnant with my baby. Robin began to mourn the fact that she would never be pregnant again and decided to stick with one child and be happy with what she had and not yearn for what she could not have.
Months passed and Robin reached out and asked if she could come in and talk again. For some reason the idea of not having another baby was not something she could make peace with. Over that prior weekend her sister had sat her down and reiterated what an honor it would be to be able to be a surrogate for Robin and her husband. For the first time Robin realized it was a genuine offer, and one she should consider. She was afraid and worried for the health and safety of her sister.
After 50 min of processing her feelings and being as honest as she could be, Robin decided to move forward with the surrogacy idea and accept her sister’s offer. 4 months later, Robin’s baby sister was pregnant with Robin’s baby. Her little boy was born 9 months later and the love between Robin and her sister has grown even more, if that was ever even possible.
Robin’s story touches me more than most because I am stricken by the love between two sisters. What a gift this baby will be for the entire family, and what a bond it will create between these sisters. Surrogacy does not need to be a dirty ugly secret. It should be applauded and talked about. It is the most generous act one person can do for another. I know Robin and her sister intend to scream their story from the rooftops and make sure that baby knows how he came into this world. It is not a strange and odd story-it is a beautiful and hopeful one. I wish Robin and her sister all the luck in the world!
Aviva Cohen received her master’s degree in social work from Loyola University. Her specific area of focus is perinatal loss, fertility, Postpartum Depression, and work/life balance issues. Through her own personal struggles, Aviva has a depth of perspective in the area of pregnancy and loss that many do not. Aviva co-founded The Blossom Method in 2013 as a center for moms to connect and share their struggles and private pain.
The Blossom Method is a therapy practice in the heart of Chicago offering support, encouragement and hope to women and couples facing challenges as they start or grow their families. We provide a unique combination of therapeutic and counseling services, as well as education seminars, events, and one-on-one or group support.