“So are you just doing this out of the goodness of your heart or…?”
The ultrasound technician glanced at me expectedly. I paused, knowing what she meant but unsure how I wanted to respond. This was my third ultrasound in as many weeks and each time the small talk varied.
I am fine with the curiosity about my “situation”. Hey, I get it.
But it was that “or” she left dangling that made me pause. What it meant was, am I carrying a baby for a pair of perfect strangers out of the goodness of my heart? Or was I getting paid to do it?
As though if the latter were true, the former couldn’t be.
“Uh, yes and I’m being compensated as well.” I finally replied, making sure to put extra emphasis on the “and”.
I remember shortly after I gave birth to my son, the nurse helped me walk to the bathroom and as I sat on the toilet she knelt before me, wiping the blood from my inner thighs and kindly showing me how to assemble that glorious postpartum “diaper” of mesh underwear, a giant pad, an ice pack and witch hazel pads.
She performed this task as though it was the most natural thing in the world to be doing for someone she barely knew, a perfect stranger. At no point did my awareness that she was at work earning a paycheck make me question the generosity of her spirit.
It is no different for a gestational carrier.
Today I stopped at the post office to send a card to the intended parents on the other side of the world. Contained inside are the ultrasound images of their baby that I received at my first prenatal visit last week. (I have now graduated from the fertility center and am receiving care from my regular OB).
It’s not in my “job description” (read: lengthy contract) to do this. But it seemed to me that the original ultrasound prints should be proudly displayed on the fridge of the excited parents-to-be.
I want to do all I can to help them feel connected to the pregnancy and to foster the relationship between our families.
We email back and forth, sending pictures and sharing about our lives. The weekend after the Mankato Marathon I sent pictures of the little cheer station that our family set up along the course. Funnily enough, they sent us pictures of a half marathon they’d participated in on the same day. I enjoy learning how similar our day to day lives are even though geographically we’re worlds apart.
They worry about bothering me knowing that I am, after all, pregnant with their child and a full-time working parent of a toddler. So I do my best to regularly initiate correspondence. I have compassion for how difficult it must be to have such a lack of control over something you’re so invested in.
I tell them things like, “I ate two pieces of garlic bread at 2:00am last night!” You know, important details they need to know about the pregnancy.
This is more than a business transaction. It’s a meaningful and life-changing journey for my family and theirs. If all goes well, much more so for their family.
Trust me, the pay isn’t at all excessive when you consider what is being done – the sacrifices and the risks. In fact, I’d say it’s low. And for good reason. No one should or would do this just for the money, it wouldn’t be worth it.
Through the fog of IVF hormones and first trimester fatigue (for those who are wondering, I am just beginning week 12 of pregnancy), I am doing my best to make this experience a beautiful one.
In the same way a labor and delivery nurse can greatly enhance the childbirth experience for a mother, I know that I can enhance this couple’s experience of becoming parents by the manner in which I carry out the task – with thoughtfulness, openness, a little humor.
I’ve never been one to simply go through the motions. It’s not only about the end result, it’s also about how we get there.
So yes, I am being compensated (deservedly so) and I am doing this out of all of the goodness that is in my heart.