It’s no secret that I have no plans to raise any more kids than the two I already have. With a seven-year-old and a nine-and-a-half-year-old in the house, I have not even the slightest vestiges of baby-longing. I do not secretly yearn to smell a newborn’s head or snuggle my infant in a sling. More to the point, I do not secretly yearn to be massively sleep-deprived or to be a slave to a nap schedule or to scan a room for chokeables (remember chokeables?) or to follow a daredevil toddler around a playground. I am totally and happily done with that part of parenting.
But I do have a slightly related secret desire: to be a surrogate (or, rather, a “gestational carrier”: I was recently informed that the terminology has changed to more accurately reflect the role).
It’s not a particularly rational longing (what longings ever are?). And it’s not about wanting to be pregnant again, although I wouldn’t mind being pregnant. And I can say that even after a second pregnancy where I was exhausted and pukey and headachy for the entire first trimester.
Perhaps oddly, I would love to give birth again. Rowan was born via C-section: he was breech, and our two attempts to turn him (via external version) never worked. Isaac, on the other hand, was a VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarean)—he was born at home, in the bathroom, after approximately 11 minutes of hard labour. I now refer to that time as “the best 11 minutes of my life”: I had never felt more powerful or confident in my body. And while I would love a chance to experience that again, a hypothetical 10 or 15 minutes of intense pain isn’t really my compelling reason for wanting to be a gestational carrier.
Maybe my desire to carry a baby for someone else has something to do with the fact that my own family was created in part through a donor, and so I want to, somehow, balance my parenting karma. That’s a nice idea, and I’m sure that it plays a role. But really, it isn’t about paying it forward. It’s simply tied to my feeling that helping someone else to become a parent would be a lovely thing to do. At a more basic level, it just seems hugely pragmatic to me—I mean, I’ve got this body, it could be put to good use… so why not make a baby for people dying to be parents?
At the same time, though, I doubt it will happen. For one thing, there’s some basic biology to consider: I’m 42—well past the age when any prospective intended parents would want to place their bets on my reproductive system. For another, when I think about the various medical interventions that would be involved, and the spectre of all the potential complications arising from so-called “advanced maternal age,” the idea seems less appealing. Frankly, I got pregnant twice by tracking my cycle with a thermometre and via at-home inseminations: no doctors were involved. The idea of multiple ultrasounds, hormone shots, and intimate exams takes the shine off the whole experience for me.
And then there’s the fact that I don’t have any particular set of intended parents in mind. As much as I admire the practicality of being a gestational carrier, in the end it seems realistic only in the context of my intimate circle of family and friends. Family life with two kids and extended family that includes our donor and his kin is already complex and joyous enough. I’m not sure that I have the energy to add a whole new layer of intense and intimate relationships to the mix.
So, the more I think about it, being a surrogate seems less like a real dream and more like a daydream—if I were 10 years younger, if I were at a different stage in my parenting career, if I knew someone who really, really wanted a baby, if, if, if—then maybe. Baby.
In the meantime, I have great respect for the surrogates and the parents who have made something astounding together. I’m thrilled for you all, and just the tiniest bit envious.
Thunder Bay, Ont., writer Susan Goldberg is a transplanted Torontonian and one of two mothers to two boys. Follow along as she shares her family’s experiences. Read more of Susan’s The other mother posts and tweet her @MamaNonGrata.