Aloha! I’m Ashley, an experienced repeat pregnant surrogate navigating the COVID-19 crisis while currently 24 weeks into my pregnancy. My intended parents (IPs) are a married couple from China awaiting their first child after a decades journey. At the beginning our surrogate journey started out tough with low HCG numbers and a worry the first few weeks if this would be a viable pregnancy. I was also dealt with a couple SCH’s (sub-chronic hematomas), which are common in IVF but can pose a risk to the pregnancy. Luckily by the 8th week all issues were resolved and we were confident of a healthy pregnancy! Since I am concurrently a surrogate AND a Program Manager at a surrogacy agency, SurrogateFirst, my personal and professional life co-exist.
How has Covid-19 Impacted Your Lifestyle?
Covid-19 has changed my lifestyle quite a lot during this surrogacy. While I believe that I am quite healthy I have never had to deal with the flu before and I am worried about this epidemic. I am also part of the surrogacy world as the Program Manager at SurrogateFirst agency and have had to make several changes that are normally part of my job. Before official government restrictions were enforced I had to:
Reduce travel which has been the most disappointing not being able to travel and support my Surrogates and Intended Parents with their journeys. I now order my groceries online and through different delivery services to help self-quarantine.
Participate in Social Distancing and end ALL in person meetings and events for professional business and socially. My mother, husband, and daughter are all part of the high-risk population and I fear having an event that forces us to seek emergency care at a hospital and be exposed to Covid-19.
Consider the financial strain it has put on all my clients..and my family. It breaks my heart to see our Intended Parents and Surrogates worry about their careers, family, pregnancies that Covid-19 will financially bring. We have seen cancelled cycles requested by IPs, surrogates postponing their journeys and both falling into short term uncertainty to fund basic living costs. Personally, my husband's work was mandated to close for at least the next 30 days. Although I am relieved he will be less exposed to the virus I am fearful of the long term consequences of losing his income.
How about the Baby and Me?
There is a balance of our household continuing having the necessities we need, while also making sure that I do not put this baby at risk. That is something I always have in the back of my mind. It’s not just me, it’s a baby whose parents have been trying over a decade to conceive. A baby that they have waited so many years to hear his heartbeat and see him grow.
Everyday I try hard to keep positive by looking forward to solutions. My gym has closed but I have tried to continue to walk and keep active. Instead of unlimited electrons our family goes to remote areas to go walking and get sunshine. I am using this opportunity to build lifetime memories with my children. We don’t let the media consume us - we limit the amount of news and Facebook posts that can become hazardous to our mental health.
Currently I speak to my Intended Parents every few days to make them feel secure as I understand their fears since they are from China, the country that saw the biggest impact early on. I think it’s important for me to remember they are not here, they have no control over their babies safety and for me to address their anxiety with calm confidence. During this scary time for them I am trying to be supportive and over communicate that I am being safe and responsible. They were even willing to help with part of my grocery delivery to keep me and my family safe. It is in everyone’s interest that I stay healthy; my family and Surro-family both need me to stay healthy.
My Experience of Surrogacy & Finances
Currently, I have so much to be thankful for though. I can work from home and continue to help our Surrogates fulfill their dream of becoming a surrogate and our Intended Parents to find the right match. My compensation from this journey is offsetting a proportion of my husband's lost wages without us having to spend our savings. Honestly, it is not the first time surrogacy and its blessing have helped save our family. During my first journey my husband landed in the hospital and was out of work for 5 months. Had it not been the compensation from surrogacy and our community we could have been without a home. For me surrogacy has been a lifesaver to carry my family through challenging financial times and I am grateful for that.
Pregnancy, Doctor Care & Covid-19
It is important to note that based on recent research published about Wuhan, China infected pregnant mothers and the few US cases from the CDC there were no instances of passing the virus on from mother to infant - no vertical transmission. Also, there was no virus found in the amniotic fluid or breast milk of infected mothers. In previous coronavirus (SARS in particular) there was also very low probability of any cases of mother's transmitting the virus to a newborn.
I am still seeing doctors and they take many safety precautions for everyone’s benefit. Some of our surrogates are completing virtual OBGYN appointments, but I am still physically visiting the doctors office. They allow me to take the last appointments of the day to minimize exposure. We are noticing that OBGYN’s have stopped most appointments other than pregnancy appointments. They are practicing social distancing and I usually only see one other patient in the waiting room. The OBGYN’s have also asked that patients to limit to one support person. I have chosen to not bring anyone to do my part in minimizing potential exposure. Experiencing all these new protocols and strict requirements makes me feel confident that the medical professionals are taking this very serious and have the right precautions to serve us even during this critical time.
What About Giving Birth?
As an agency we do have a plan in place in case the travel restrictions are still in place when I go into labor. It's important for me to know that this was setup and that all legal documents and guardianships are in place beforehand. I will have a temporary power of attorney and guardianship as the Program Manager and not the Surrogate. Giving my IP’s confidence and reassurance is key to helping them feel comforted and confident the safety of their unborn child is top priority. In my unique case I personally will take the baby home with me, but that is because it is what I requested, and I am the agency representative. We do not expect our surrogates to be responsible for the babies they have carried. Please note that I have gone through a psychological assessment to ensure that I am mentally equipped for this scenario if it were to occur.
In conclusion, being a repeat surrogate has prepared me for uncertain circumstances, as no two surrogacies are alike. Surrogacy is always filled with ups and downs. The current coronavirus pandemic and giving birth perhaps at the peak of cases in the US is unprecedented and fraught with uncertainty, but I am thankful for the support I receive from my Intended Parents, family and Agency. I knew coming into surrogacy that I was taking on the ultimate responsibility to bless this family with a baby and whatever circumstances the next few months bring I am confident I will be able to handle successfully!
Wish us luck and pray for me and my family! If you would like to ask me a question please click here!
By Ashley Mareko