Yesterday I talked a little bit about my own IVF journey. Today, we hear from Whitney Anderson, infertility advocate and mom via surrogacy. We’ve also got a special interview with Kymberli Barney, surrogacy advocate, former surrogate and all-around badass.
First, let’s hear from Whitney and her journey to parenthood via surrogacy! Whitney is an advocate for infertility, surrogacy and repeat pregnancy loss. She was honored as an “infertility hero” by RESOLVE in October 2012 and her blog was a finalist for the Hope award in 2011 and 2012. She is currently serving as the co-chair for RESOLVE’s Infertility Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. Whitney and her husband love to travel and can’t wait to introduce their children to new cultures. Whitney works for a private college doing web and social media work and she lives in Salem, Virginia with her husband, Erick, two children and a Weimaraner. She blogs at Whitney and Erick; you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Tell us a little bit about your story: what brought you to the surrogacy family-building path?
Whitney: We ended up pursuing surrogacy because I suffer from a complex reproductive immunological problem that doctors don’t know how to treat yet. This was determined after 7 years of trying, 6 IVFs, 5 miscarriages and some strange results on immunological testing. IVF helped me conceive, but repeat pregnancy loss is what haunted me. Surrogacy is definitely not something we imagined in the beginning, but it turned out to be an incredible path.
What was your decision-making process like? How was your husband Erick involved in the decision-making process?
Whitney: When my doctor first mentioned surrogacy, neither of us really wanted to think about it. Later, when we truly realized it was our last hope, we embraced it fully. My husband and I were completely together on our decision. However, we were pursuing private adoption along with surrogacy. Surrogacy just happened to be what worked out first for us. We did want a biological child, but we wanted to be parents most of all.
What surprised you the most about choosing surrogacy?
Whitney: What surprised us the most about surrogacy was the amazing relationship we would develop with our gestational carrier. She actually found us through my website because I wrote an article about pursuing surrogacy independently. We became really close with her and her family and feel so lucky that she came into our lives. She is now a devoted “aunt” to my two children and I have two special little nieces, too!
What are your words of wisdom for those still on the family building path? What advice would you have for anyone considering surrogacy as a family building option?
Whitney: My words of wisdom to those still in trenches would be to seek support — find others going through the same thing so you don’t feel so alone and isolated. My advice for those considering surrogacy is that it’s possible to do on your own without an agency. At first, we felt hopeless because we had heard how expensive it is, especially after years of paying 100% out-of-pocket for treatment. It’s expensive no matter what, but way more affordable without an agency. You still need the stars to align somewhat, but it is possible to make it affordable. I have information on my website about how this all works.
What’s next for you? Where can interested infertility patients go to learn more about you and your journey?
Whitney: What’s next for us is to enjoy our twins and get back to regular life without infertility consuming us. I plan to stay involved in infertility advocacy and I’m co-chairing RESOLVE’s Infertility Advocacy Day in DC next month. To learn more about me and my journey, you can check out my website at www.whitneyanderick.com, where I blog about my life as a new mom, infertility, my hip dysplasia ordeal, our travels and everyday life.
Thank you, Whitney, for sharing your surrogacy journey with us!
Next up, let’s talk with Kymberli Barney, someone who has experienced infertility then went on to become a surrogate for other families.
Tell us a little bit about your story: what brought you to the world of surrogacy?
Kym: I have first-hand experience with infertility, which is an uncommon trait for surrogates. Following a 2.5-year, gut-wrenching effort to get pregnant naturally with no success, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). With the assistance of Clomid, my husband and I were able to conceive twins and later, two singletons. On the grand spectrum that is infertility, ours was resolved with relatively little intervention. Unlike many mothers who have resolved their infertility, our journey was neither terribly invasive nor expensive. I couldn’t help but continue to feel a connection to my kindred who were still in the struggle. I saw surrogacy as my way of “paying it forward.” Had my husband and I needed to go to the extreme of surrogacy, I could only help that someone would have wanted to help me in the way I hoped to help others.
What was your decision-making process like? How was your husband Frank involved in the decision-making process?
Kym: Like most people, my initial understanding of surrogacy was limited to its most basic definition. I (wrongly) assumed that all surrogates were family or friends of the people who needed them. It wasn’t until after my first pregnancy in 2001 that I realized it was something that I could do, too. I was a moderator for a “pregnant with multiples” message board when a surrogate who was pregnant with triplets joined. I was amazed, and I bombarded her with a ton of questions almost immediately! I knew from the start that one day becoming a gestational carrier was something I wanted to do. I also knew that I would need more facts than feelings to convince my husband, Frank, that I hadn’t completely flipped my lid! So, I learned as much as I could about it. I joined Surrogate Mothers Online, where a few experienced surrogates took me under their wings and began building the foundation of my surrogacy knowledge. I ordered and read books written about surrogacy. There were very few blogs at all in those days and even fewer written by surrogates and intended parents, but I read as many as I could find.
After a solid month of study, I brought up the idea with Frank. Like I expected, he had a ton of questions, most of which were understandably based upon common misconceptions. I was prepared with all the right answers, and it didn’t take him more than a moment to agree that it was something he wanted to do, too, and for the same “paying it forward” reason as me. He did need the facts, but it ultimately, it came down to his feelings, as well! He was my rock throughout my surrogacy experiences; I would never have done it without his support.
What are the most common misconceptions people have about surrogates and the surrogacy path? How do you counter those?
Kym: I think the most obvious misconception about surrogates and the surrogacy path is also one of the more controversial aspects about it — the money factor. People are quick to assume that surrogacy is an “easy” way to make a lot of money relatively quickly. This just isn’t so. It is true that average base compensation for surrogacy ranges from $20K-$40K (depending largely on experience and locality), but this money is not guaranteed, and it certainly doesn’t come easily or quickly. A surrogate can be matched with intended parents and trying to get pregnant for months before she ever sees a dollar for anything other than reimbursement for her expenses (like gas to and from appointments, childcare, missed work reimbursement, etc).
Furthermore, most women do not become surrogates because they need the money, and the intended parent/surrogate dynamic is not predominately a rich/poor or an educated/uneducated correlation. Also, prospective intended parents do not have to be filthy rich in order to fund a surrogacy journey. The media tends to lean on these misconceptions quite a bit, because that’s the aspect of surrogacy that tends to garner a lot of attention. I try to debunk these misconceptions by balancing out the skewed facts with the real facts when and where I can, whether it is on my blog or through other social media channels.
What surprised you the most about being a surrogate? The biggest challenge?
Kym: Though I’d waged war with and won my own struggle with infertility, what most surprised me was just how badly those battle scars would continue to hurt as I joined in alliance with my intended parents against their infertility. I can honestly say that I was far more affected by infertility as a surrogate than I ever was in my own quest for motherhood. I didn’t expect the journey to be sun-dappled frolic through a flowery field of fertility, but I didn’t expect to endure as much loss and heartache as I did, either. As a surrogate, I experienced failed IVF transfers, chemical pregnancies, and weeks and weeks of invasive medical procedures with no baby to show for it on the other end — none of which I encountered in my own family-building efforts. I experienced sort of “voluntary infertility.” A challenge was compartmentalizing my own emotional infertility from that of my intended parents; I had to be strong for them and for myself at the same time. Baby or no baby, I still consider having had just the chance to help my three pairs of intended parents attempt to have a baby worth it all.
What are your words of wisdom for those still on the family building path?
Kym: The mantra that got me through all of my own infertile days and the ones I voluntarily went through on behalf of my intended parents is “every day is one day closer.” It brought me great peace knowing that on any given day — whether the day’s events were bad or good — I was still one day closer to resolving infertility in some way. I couldn’t predict what that resolution would look like. Would it be adoption? IVF? Donor egg? Childless living? I didn’t know, but I wanted to believe that wherever my road lead me (or my IPs), it would be to a place that I could be at peace with my destination. And it that belief it also left me open to changing my pathway if Plan A turned into Plan B and Plan B had to be scrapped for Plan C.
What’s next for you? Where can interested folks go to learn more about you and your journey?
Kym: I had one successful surrogacy journey in 2007 and several unfortunate misses from 2008-2011. I have officially “retired” from surrogacy, but I continue to be a fierce advocate for it as a family-building option. My way of paying it forward now comes in the form of taking prospective surrogates and intended parents under my wings being a source of information for them.You can read more about my surrogacy experience, infertility advocacy, and parenting after infertility on my blog, TheSmartness.com, as well as contact me via my contact page. Please do not hesitate to reach out if I can be of help to you!
Thank you Kym for this eye-opening look at surrogates!
I hope you’ve found this information helpful as you consider different paths on your own family-building journeys. Tomorrow, we talk about the Adoption Option!
#NIAW Interview Series:
“Resolve to Know More About…”
(All links will be live at the conclusion of the interview series.)
- » The IVF Option
Keiko Zoll, The Infertility Voice
- » The Surrogacy Option
Whitney Anderson, Infertility Advocate & Kymberli Barney, The Smartness
- » The Open-Hearted Adoption Option
Lori Holden, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption
- » The Mind/Body Connection
Joanne Verkuilen, Circle+Bloom
- » Empowered Treatment Options
Rhonda Levy, Empowered IVF
- » The Resolving Without Parenting Option
Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos, Silent Sorority