If you are on the giving end or receiving end, it doesn’t really matter; break ups are sucky for everyone. And whatever the reasons are, it feels like it’s not enough, as if there needs to be more explaining, and closure can be hard to find for a lot of people. Breaking up a surrogacy relationship isn’t any different. In fact, in some ways it’s more difficult than dumping that creep from college. Emotions are already running full throttle during a surrogacy, so when wrinkles turn into speed bumps (or even all out spike strips), putting on the breaks and calling it quits before spinning out of control is often the best option.
The relationship with my Intended Parents wasn’t going well. Even before the embryo transfer, things just didn’t feel right. At first it was the interpreter, Wayne. I didn’t like him personally. I cringed whenever I had to speak with him or spend time with him. He was just a jerk; making the situation all about him, flashing the Armani tag in his shirt, trash-talking his own wife, and bragging about money and a job he didn’t even have. Then there was the fight the night before the transfer. I witnessed Wayne wrestling the Intended Father, Steve, in the hallway of the hotel right after I had heard him throw an iPad at his own wife (which hit the wall between our rooms). Then after our stay we discovered some tidbits of info about the family that left me feeling a bit uneasy. For one, Wayne is not anyone’s brother-in-law since he’s NOT married. Oh, and his “wife” ISN’T the sister to the Intended Mother, Sara, but, maybe a cousin…they weren’t real clear on giving us the rest of that story. And if that wasn’t enough, I learned that Sara had NEVER had a miscarriage. The three (or ten as reported in some places) miscarriages that were reported to the fertility clinic were in fact elected abortions because at the time she and her husband “weren’t financially ready for children”. And, they used the fact that they had never had a miscarriage as the reason why my miscarriage of their embryo had to be solely MY fault. They were very hurt by the miscarriage, as any parent would be, however, the way it was handled was borderline abusive. They would go weeks without speaking to me at all, to then randomly call me (or show up at my house) to demand to know what I did to cause the miscarriage. As a gestational carrier it was horrible. It was anxiety inducing. It was torturous. On one side I knew that it wasn’t me, that I didn’t do anything. The doctors told me so. Statistics told me so. It was normal, actually, it was almost expected. But on the other side I felt like a huge failure. I had failed. I wondered if my running had caused it, if I had picked up my daughter weird, if I had missed something important. I agonized over the why of that miscarriage. Despite how they made me feel, I planned on trying again once my cycles returned. But, then things escalated.
The Intended Parents and Wayne came over for a visit. They were supposed to stay in town for a few days and I was a bit excited to show them around where we lived. But during dinner they announced that they were leaving that night. We understood that they had things to do (and a second surrogate carrier to visit in PA) so we didn’t want to take it personally. When the check came at the end of the meal, my husband handed over cash and paid the bill. He figured that they had paid last time, so he’d pay this time. Also, he was the one that brought along our three kids, ordered a ton of food including appetizers, and picked the restaurant. No big deal, right? Wrong. The IPs and Wayne threw a huge fit and our table became the center of attention in this packed restaurant. There was lots of yelling and pointing and carrying on. The waiter was yelled at. Managers were called over and yelled at. There was a loud discussion over who got to pay. In the end my husband’s cash won out over their credit cards. Then the argument continued out in the lobby when Wayne squared off with my husband. “You’re lucky you’ve got kids with you,” he spat at him, “otherwise I’d knock you out right now!” Poor Hubs. He tried to diffuse the situation by explaining that he was just trying to be friendly by taking his turn with the bill. But Wayne responded with “You have three kids! You don’t have the money for this! If I’d known you’d insist to pay then I would have made sure we went to McDonald’s cause that’s what you can afford.” And that was the last I heard from him.
I contacted my agency and told them the situation and that I no longer felt safe working with this family. I kept getting “Are you sure?” type Emails back in response. Being both polite and firm with the agency was more difficult than I had anticipated. I finally made it clear to them that I would not be continuing with the family. The response back from the agency was strange. First I was told that I was at fault because I was misinterpreting their motives and their culture. I was urged to reconsider because they had been so nice to me, giving me money and buying me things. I was told that I was lucky because no other set of parents would be so nice or tolerate so much. But, once I was firm about the break up I was told I wouldn’t be put back on the surrogate roster because my “medical history was incomplete due to my previous homebirths”. Later, almost two weeks later, I was finally asked for a termination letter from my lawyer. Also, between those two weeks I received phone calls from the family’s fertility clinic wanting to know when I was ready to come back in for a second transfer!
I’ve been trying to break up with this family for nearly two months now and I’m honestly not sure if they fully get it yet. I keep getting mixed messages from everyone from my agency to their doctors to the lawyers which indicate that they may not have even been told. And every time I tell someone that I’m terminating the contract I get a shocked response, as if surrogates never break up with IPs, which only makes me feel worse. Throughout the process I’ve constantly been second guessing my choices and constantly being bullied into making new ones. But, I’ve come to realize that any relationship that is this difficult to get out of is an unhealthy one, be it that creep from college, Intended Parents in a surrogacy arrangement, or a boss. You should never have to repeat yourself or your reasons for breaking it off, and someone who keeps coming back for more explanation, more closure, more you is not getting over it or moving on, and that’s not healthy. Get away from these people fast, and don’t look back!
I’ve contacted my lawyers about the situation and (I think) they are handling it, though I don’t get much feedback from anyone. I’ve since moved on from everyone involved and am starting over with a new agency, new doctors and will be using a new lawyer. I’m jaded now and I’ve told the new agency so. I’ve also closed off some doors on who I’ll consider being a surrogate for. But I’ve also learned a lot about the surrogacy process as well as people in general.
Number One: Ask questions, even the straightforward ones. Even the embarrassing ones. Ask them. And keep asking them until you are satisfied with the answers. Make people explain themselves and expand on their answers until you have the full story.
Number Two: It’s ok to set limits, to have expectations, and to be selective. It doesn’t make you a bad person to say no or to turn someone down. It doesn’t make you a bad person to keep searching for that person or situation that matches your morals, ideals, and dreams.
Number Three: Trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Act on your gut immediately because letting things drag out makes everything ten times worse for everyone.