Trying to Conceive: Using a Surrogate

At 38, after two years of trying to conceive naturally and five long, draining years of infertility treatments, Eileen Livers finally had a baby. Well, perhaps we should rephrase that. Yes, Eileen is the biological mother of a baby daughter (Danielle), but she didn't actually "have" the baby '- Eileen didn't give birth to the baby and, in fact, was never even pregnant. But her surrogate was.

Eileen and her husband, Paul, had worked with top fertility clinics and specialists over the years, including one of the country's foremost experts, Dr. Zev Rosenwaks. "He couldn't prove what my problem was," says Eileen, "but he thought it was my uterine lining, which he thought formed too solidly. I didn't have a problem producing eggs on the fertility drugs, and our embryos were very good quality. But he thought the chances of implantation in my uterus were slim." His recommendation: To pursue pregnancy through a surrogate, who would carry Eileen and Paul's biological child in her uterus.

Giving up on being pregnant herself was hard for Eileen. "I couldn't believe I'd never carry a child; it was something I always just expected to be a part of my life as a woman." Eileen says she felt immensely sad when she realized the image she had of herself pregnant would never be a reality: "I had to come to terms with the facts that I'd never rub my belly the way pregnant women do or hold my husband's hand against me to feel a kick. I felt like I was losing out as a woman and also that we were losing out as a couple."

Eileen didn't try to deal with her grief alone; she went to see a therapist who specializes in fertility issues. "She told me I had to mourn the loss," recalls Eileen. "It wasn't easy, but over time I came to terms with it." She admits it's not something she thinks she'll ever fully accept or be 100 percent okay with, "but now that we have our baby girl... well, of course that makes it all much, much less difficult."

After hiring a specialized lawyer to help them locate a surrogate, Eileen and Paul ended up finding theirs in a most unexpected way. "My mother works in health care in Philadelphia, and she suggested helping us find someone by mentioning it to the obstetrics practices she works with. I was really negative about it. I remember saying harshly and rather disdainfully, 'Mom, that's not how you find a surrogate.' Good thing she ignored me!"

Eileen's mother mentioned her daughter's plight to the women who worked across the hall at an OB/GYN practice. Just five days later, a patient named Patty called to reschedule an appointment and happened to mention that she was thinking of becoming a surrogate. The receptionist didn't know about Eileen, but another woman in the office overheard the conversation and jumped in, saying, 'Oh, my God, the lady who works across the hall, her daughter is looking for a surrogate!'" The patient on the phone '- "the most remarkable woman I've ever met," according to Eileen," '- would become their surrogate.

"Within hours, I was on the phone with Patty," Eileen says. "And within a week, we'd made plans to meet in person at her house to see if we all liked each other." Eileen says she'd never believed in fate before, but now she can't help but believe. "Paul and I were obviously meant to find Patty, and she was meant to find us."

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