I decided to go for it. Hopping over to the website of the agency that my friend Shira used to find her surrogate, I filled out an initial application with the basics: height (5’6″), weight (none of your beeswax), number of pregnancies and deliveries (3 of each); I’m married, have health insurance, and am not a smoker.
I clicked submit and got a pop-up screen stating that I could advance on to the next phase of the application process. Hooray! This brought me to a much more extensive application asking quite detailed information about my medical history, family makeup, my reasons for wanting to pursue surrogacy, how many embryos I’d be willing to transfer (one!!), and my thoughts about selective reduction and termination.
Spending close to an hour and a half answering questions, I filled out the application with confidence. I remember sharing information about my past deliveries, medications I’ve been on and past surgeries. I tried to explain my interest in carrying for someone Jewish without coming across as racist. I answered questions about all the types of people I’d be open to doing this for: straight married couples (yes), gay married couples (yes), unmarried couples (yes), a single man or woman (yes to both)… and HIV+ parent(s). This was the one I just couldn’t get past. I know there are methods to do this in what is understood to be a medically safe way, but, I just couldn’t get myself to feel comfortable with putting such an embryo in my body. I still feel somewhat off about that door I closed, yet I know it was what I needed to do.
It was important to me to take the application seriously, and I poured myself into it. I shared my reasons for wanting to be a surrogate in the form of my experiences at Mayyim Hayyim as well as an excerpt of a poem I’ve carried around with me since I was a teen, embedded in a small, blank, fabric-covered “poem book” my friends and I each owned and used to share with one another at summer camp. Filled with quotes, prose, and song lyrics, we’d peruse each other’s books to collect entries that resonated deeply, copying down their words for ourselves to carry on our journeys.
In my book this one is entered with an unknown source, though I since found that it was published in a book I actually own, and is written by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner:
Each lifetime is the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
For some there are more pieces.
For others the puzzle is more difficult to assemble.
Some seem to be born with nearly a completed puzzle.
And so it goes.
Souls going this way and that
Trying to assemble the myriad parts.
But know this. No one has within themselves
All the pieces to their puzzle.
Like before the days when they used to seal
jigsaw puzzles in cellophane. Insuring that
all the pieces were there.
Everyone carries with them at least one and probably
Many pieces to someone else’s puzzle.
Sometimes they know it.
Sometimes they don’t.
And when you present your piece
Which is worthless to you,
To another, whether you know it or not,
Whether they know it or not,
You are a messenger from the Most High.
And then… I received an email back:
Thank you so much for submitting your long application to our Gestational Surrogacy program. We greatly appreciate your time and attention to detail when completing the application.
Unfortunately, we will not be able to proceed with your application. The IVF clinics we work with will not accept Gestational Surrogates who have Factor V Leiden. Again, this is a rule set forth by the clinics, not our agency.
I am very sorry to bring you this news as it is evident how committed you appear to the process. I am sure you would have made a wonderful surrogate for a deserving couple.
If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me.
I didn’t understand. I specifically spoke with my doctor about my higher-than-usual risk for developing blood clots and knew that she believed I was a good candidate anyway. I saw it discussed online without issue by current surrogates who had the same genetic makeup as I. Why was this coming up as an issue now?
I tried everything I could think of to get them to make an exception or to consider exploring different clinics. They wouldn’t budge. So I researched other reputable agencies and started emailing them all to find out if anyone would take me. What I finally realized was that more than just being confused about the rejection, I was upset about it. I felt as though I had my first sliver of an experience of what it must be like to believe you’re going to be able to have a child, and to find out that you can’t.
The responses started coming in: one rejection. A second rejection. And a third. Another agency never responded.
Starting to lose hope, the email came in: one of the highest-rating agencies I found (and there are many), said they currently had other surrogates with the very same issue. And they said they would take me.