Several years ago, I met Cori on a Christian writers’ website. She was pregnant at the time, and as I became better acquainted with her, I learned that she was actually carrying the baby for someone else. I had heard of surrogacy before, but not usually in a good light, so I was curious. I asked some questions and learned that Cori considered what she was doing as a sort of ministry to families where the wife was unable to carry the child herself. Cori has actually gone through this process six times now. I’ve asked her to share her experience of being a surrogate parent, and we will be posting her interview over the next three days.
Below is the first installment from Cori.
How did you become interested in the surrogacy program?
This happened to me in bits and pieces. When I was 22, I was a new mom and I was visiting my best friend Cathie. She had recently married after being a single mother for over 10 years. She and her new husband decided they wanted to try and conceive. Cathie was already 35 by this point, and the last time she’d been pregnant was 12 years before. After a few months just as they were ready to pack it in and call it a day, she found out that nature had taken its course, and she was expecting. We were sitting in the kitchen and Cathie was alternately lamenting and laughing. Her sister, Maggie, came in about halfway through the conversation and suddenly exploded, “You have no idea how lucky you are! I would give anything, literally anything to have a kid and you’re not even one bit grateful for the kids you have!” Then she stormed sobbing from the room.
Cathie and I stared at each in stunned and shocked silence before Cathie just as suddenly left the room to comfort her sister. After a little while she returned to the kitchen. “Why didn’t Maggie ever tell me they wanted kids? I had no idea. I thought she was like me and wanted to be childless,” she said.
Maggie had been married for fifteen years and had tried for all those years to conceive, to no avail. Cathie looked at me with haunted eyes, “If I’d only known! I wish I could help her. I would have offered to help them in any way I could, even carrying for them if they had wanted me to.”
“Oh what a nice thing to say!” I said.
“No. I mean it,” Cathie told me. “If I was younger, and if this pregnancy was easier on me, I would carry for her.”
Right then, the seed was planted. I already had my first child, and wanted to, at some point have more. Perhaps one day…
But then Terry and I met, and we married in February of 1994. Terry adopted Warrick and soon after, in 1996, we welcomed the first of our children to the world. She was followed in quick succession by three others–another sister in 1997, and two brothers in 1998 and 2000. At that point we were too busy with our own family to really take notice of anyone else’s children or lack thereof.
Then in 2001 Terry was talking to the Music Director’s wife right before they were to get on stage to sing a duet. He teased her about getting pregnant. To his horror, she fell apart and between sobs explained she and her husband had been trying for seven years and were now turning to fertility specialists to try and conceive. Terry apologized profusely — he seriously had never made a gaffe like that before or since.
After she graciously accepted his apology, her husband elaborated, “When we first married, we thought it would be easy. But right now, I would sell my house, or take out a second mortgage, I would really do anything to try and become a father.”
They were about to start a round of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) using their genetic material in hopes that transferring healthy embryos right to her would do the trick and they could finally have the children they longed so desperately for.
It put fertility, pregnancy and family into a whole different light for us. I clearly remember standing outside the church sanctuary waiting to go on stage with the rest of the choir, and listening to Andy tell his friends that he hoped beyond hope this IVF took – for one thing he couldn’t handle one more disappointment, and for another, they were draining all their resources. At that point, the word ‘surrogacy’ raised its head again.
As we drove home from church I told Terry about the conversation. He agreed with me it was very sad, and we both prayed that they would have a healthy baby. I dropped the bombshell on him. “Honey? Do you think if it doesn’t work, you would consider us being a surrogate couple for them?” Of course I then had to explain the whole surrogacy thing. I wouldn’t say he was overjoyed with the idea, but he also didn’t nix it.
After a couple of weeks of waiting anxiously they received the news that IVF had worked and she was pregnant with twins. Thirty-five weeks later they welcomed beautiful fraternal girls into the world.
In the meantime Terry and I bought a house that needed a lot of work, I was busy with the kids, and the whole idea of surrogacy was shelved once more. At that point I had never really considered carrying for someone other than a family I knew, and because I hadn’t done any research I wasn’t even aware there were agencies that handled this sort of thing.
In 2003 we moved to Texas, and I went to the bus stop every morning with the kids. My attention was particularly drawn to a single pregnant mother who walked her six year old to the stop. I didn’t want to be nosey, but I did ask when she was due. “October” was the terse reply, and I dropped the subject.
October came and went and I couldn’t help noticing the belly was gone, but there was no baby. I asked McKenna where her brother or sister was, and she said, “Oh that wasn’t my brother.” At that point curiosity overcame me and I had to ask the mother, June, what happened.
“I am a surrogate,” she said. “That was the second baby I had for someone else,” she continued.
The second. Wow.
I must have asked her a million questions — how hard was it to find a reputable agency? How did they match you? What was the contract like? How long, from beginning to end did the whole process take? She answered each question very patiently.
I came home, and Terry and I talked about it and decided that this was something I should pursue. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first started the search. Would I be too old? At the time was I 35, and I know most doctors agree that after age 35 the risks go up for women desiring to get pregnant. But my body was only the conduit, none of my genetic material was to be involved, so would my age be a factor? Surely the doctors would be looking at the quality, age and viability of the egg of the person I would be carrying for, right?
That is how it started…
Tomorrow, Cori answers nut-and-bolt questions about the surrogacy process.
Cori and Terry have been married for almost 20 years. They have five kids, Warrick 24, Teagan 17, Hayley 16, Garrick 15 and Carson almost 14. When Cori is not running her agency–Surrogate Angels of San Antonio–she works as the Executive Assistant to their pastor, Dr Theo Wolmarans at Christian Family Church.