Now things are starting to get good. 🙂
Sorry it took a while to get here.
There are many layers to this story.
Let us review: Why did we halt our adoption?
The simplest answer is because we cannot afford to pursue adoption and surrogacy at once.
*For more on why we before 3 weeks ago we never dreamed surrogacy would be an option, and how we were both finally at peace with moving forward with our adoption plans, please see Part 1.
*For more on the Facebook message I received 3 weeks ago from practically a perfect stranger that would rock anyone’s world, please see Part 2.
*For more on our surprisingly spirited 1st reaction to that message, please see Part 3.
*For more on the questions we both had, and the emotional struggle I went through, once the surrogacy option was presented to us, please see Part 4.
It was meeting day.
I have never been so afraid to drive to Panera Bread.
No, I take that back – to drive anywhere.
The 30 minutes leading up to me leaving for my brunch with this mysterious, sweet young woman who may be called to carry our child were filled with prayers, praise and worship music, plenty of tears, trying to re-do my make-up for work (which I had to go to immediately after our talk) several times because of said tears, and possibly me standing in front of a very-full closet proclaiming, “I have nothing to wear! She’s going to hate my clothes and not want to carry my baby.”
I told you I was slightly emotional.
Somehow I managed to dry my eyes, put on some clothes I felt said “I’m open but not desperate,” muster up the courage to get myself out the door and start on my way. The drive is only about 7 minutes to our local Panera, but it felt like 7 days. The whole way there, I prayed. I cried out to the Lord and asked Him to make His presence extremely evident in our booth, to help me not cry the whole time, and most of all, to help me not completely scare the lady away.
As I walked into that very familiar restaurant, deep down I knew that I was standing on holy ground. This wasn’t just a day out at Panera for my normal “pick 2”. It was a day that could very well be the catalyst for a series of events which could change the trajectory of my entire life.
As I stood there looking at the large menu of breads, soups and sandwiches, I waited for a person I had never formally met but with whom felt like was my whole heart. I’m not going to lie. I thought more than once about walking out, speeding off, and messaging her later to say thank you for her gracious offer, but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do this emotionally anymore. I needed to go back to life as it was 3 weeks ago, when we were going forward with adoption and finally on the path to being parents sooner rather than later. Thankfully, I didn’t leave. As much as I wanted to, I knew that wasn’t the right answer. So I stayed and waited for what seemed like an eternity.
As I saw the woman walk through the door, I was gently reminded by the Lord of something extremely important.
He said to me, “Amber, she’s not your Savior. I am. I AM.”
It was then that, for the first time in weeks, I was at complete peace. The pressure was off.
Nothing in my circumstances had changed. We hadn’t even sat down yet to begin our several hours long conversation. What changed was my mindset. In a matter of a few seconds, I was reminded that it wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t safely have children, no matter what the enemy told me. I was reminded that it wasn’t my fault that my husband was having such an incredibly hard time with the prospect of never having his own children; that was his struggle to work out with the Lord. I was reminded that it wasn’t my job to “sell” myself to this woman. I was reminded that, like Esther, He had called me here for such a time as this for the Kingdom’s sake.
Most importantly, I was reminded that none of this was about us.
It was all about Him. We were just the vessels He was choosing to use.
After opening up in prayer, the next 3 hours were spent in a back corner booth, the most secluded spot we could find. We spoke face-to-face instead of only through Facebook messages, which was the only form of communication we’d shared since the bombshell was dropped. Sure, it was a bit awkward at first, but that was to be expected. It didn’t take long, though, for us to feel completely comfortable with each other. The time was spent with this sweet woman of God pouring her heart out to me, telling me things about herself and her past that most would never tell a complete stranger. As one who champions honesty and openness, I was in awe of her vulnerability and deep commitment to the Lord. In the words of Jerry Maguire, she had me at “hello.” 🙂
I was floored that such a tremendously humble, Spirit-filled person was sitting across me from telling me that for the past 6 months the Lord had repeatedly woken up her in the middle of the night with the idea of her being someone’s surrogate. Even more hard to believe, for the past 3 months, it was my name – and only my name – that came to her mind each night when she prayed about what the Lord may be calling her to do.
She appreciated how concerned John and I were about her husband‘s thoughts on all of this and how we genuinely cared about her knowing exactly what she’d be getting herself into before any decisions to move forward were made. We certainly didn’t want to cause a wedge in her marriage; we believe very strongly in being “one” in mind with your spouse. We know the Lord wouldn’t tell her one thing and her husband something else, and if they weren’t united, we would never move ahead. After all, He is not the God of confusion. Surrogacy would definitely affect her marriage and impact her young daughter’s life, and we knew it would be healthy for her to really think things through before any pregnancy with our child. It was also very important to us that we didn’t, even unintentionally, coerce her in any way into doing something she really wasn’t called to do, whether that be now or even at all. We wanted her to be well-versed in everything surrogacy would involve for her – physically and, in some ways more importantly, emotionally – before she gave her final consent to carrying our child or even children, which is very possible with IVF.
As I had done for the past 2 weeks in Facebook messages, I stressed to her that above all, we just wanted the Lord’s will. Of course the prospect of having our own child(ren) through the miraculous gift of surrogacy seemed miraculously, exquisitely wonderful. I wasn’t going to sit there and lie about it to her face. It didn’t just sound like a neat idea of which to be a part. No, it was all my husband, and therefore I, ever wanted and more.
No matter what we talked about when it came to the details of what surrogacy would look like, we were in agreement. It was absolutely amazing. Nothing she or I said scared or shocked the other. I was thankful to hear that her parents were completely on board, if this is what the Lord was willing. As a grown, married woman not that she would have had to have their permission, but since John nor I were out to split up her family, that was encouraging. As for our immediate families (meaning our husbands), both sets of us had thought through many, many things already. She and her husband both are R.N.s at local hospitals, which I have permission to say. In fact, if felt comfortable, she wouldn’t care if I gave away her whole identity. Due to that fact, though, she and her husband were both well-aware of many aspects of surrogacy that many women may not have realized. She knew, yet was at peace. She was willing – and ready – to carry our child, to become pregnant as soon as possible with a child she would carry, and for whom she would care, for 9 months and then willingly have to give back.
“After all, she said, I don’t feel like I picked you. God did.”
I was speechless. As you know, that’s rare.
What was even more miraculous was her response to the one topic I was the most leery about broaching – money. I don’t care who you are, no one in my position that day wants to talk about money, namely how you wouldn’t have nearly enough in your possession (and never will) to properly compensate her (and her husband and daughter) for what she is volunteering to do.
If you recall, one of the main reasons John and I hadn’t already pursued surrogacy through an agency, besides not being able to fully vet the potential surrogate, was the cost. We had been told that the average “going rate” for a surrogate is at least $12-15,000, if not $20-$25,000 just for their time. This of course doesn’t include any of the legal expenses (which we’ve already been quoted at around $10,000), the fertility costs for either parties involved (which thankfully we figured would be at least mostly covered), or the pregnancy itself (cost is dependent upon the surrogant’s insurance, which could also include a surrogacy exclusion). You add all that up, and you can easily be at $50,000, if not $60-70K. Don’t be fooled. My husband may be an attorney, but he is just 30 years old, isn’t in private practice and has close to $40,000 in student loans left to pay. We aren’t loaded. We’ve been saving, but we don’t have that kind of money. You don’t have to be a member of Mensa to know there’s a huge difference between paying out $20-25,000 for an adoption (and getting close to $13,000 of that back over a period of time through tax credits) and shelling out $50-$70,000 and getting none of it back.
When someone comes to you out of the blue saying the Lord asked them to ask you about possibly allowing them obey Him and be your surrogate, though, you pay attention – no matter how much it may cost. You don’t just automatically say you can’t afford it.
So, we talked about it. The two of us had already spoken and laughed about how our husbands are both very frugal people, so I was thankful (as was she) we had that in common. I knew that would help her understand what I was about to tell her. She was thankful to hear that John and I aren’t the type to not live financially responsible lives. I have to admit, knowing they weren’t either was reassuring. I was very frank about our current financial situation, our desire not to go into huge financial debt to become parents. We had been saving for adoption and just barely had enough; anything beyond the $20,000 or so we’ve worked so hard to save up was already going to be difficult for us to pay for out-of-pocket. I was very honest about the fact I knew we wouldn’t be able to give her the usual $25,000 fee to carry our baby on top of all the other expenses. Surrogacy was already going to be a little bit more costly (and also without the ability to recoup any of those costs through tax credits) than we were anticipating with adoption. I was honest about the fact we wouldn’t be able to give her $15,000 on top of everything else. In fact, I didn’t have an exact number of how much we’d be able to compensate her for her troubles and wouldn’t until we knew all the other costs (legal, fertility, pregnancy, etc.) involved. I just knew whatever the number could come back to be, it’d never be what I would want to give her to say “thank you.” As I told her, if the Lord was really in all of this and we all felt we were supposed to go forward, I could give her a million dollars, and it still wouldn’t feel like enough.
As I fumbled through my explanation of our financial situation, she graciously, and continually, reassured me that she wouldn’t want to do it for the money, that wasn’t her motive at all. Praise God. What an answer to prayer!
John and I had continually asked the Lord for this exact confirmation. We felt it was vital that her heart be in the right place; it wasn’t that we didn’t want to compensate her if we move forward, but we wanted to be the ones adamant about her financially gaining from being our surrogate, not the other way around. She made me aware her husband wanted to make sure that they wouldn’t accrue any costs by her doing it, which of course we’d never let happen. I assured her that of course we would pay for everything, that we would never put them in financial hardship for obeying the Lord and helping us in such an astoundingly beautiful way. No, there wouldn’t be any costs for them – no how, no way.
As the hours quickly passed, before I knew it I had to leave for work. I didn’t want to leave. I could have stayed there for hours more, because I knew the Lord was working on my behalf in a tremendously powerful, humbling way. I had just met a remarkable young woman and knew we would always be friends, no matter what happened after that day.
As I gathered up my things, and tried to mentally prepare myself to go to work (not an easy task),
I posed the question, “Where do we go from here?”
It was decided that we would continue to pray (obviously) and let the other know at any point that we no longer felt at peace about things. In the meantime we’d also begin researching more thoroughly into how much surrogacy would cost, since cost was a huge factor for us (me and John) as far as whether or not we moved forward. Like I said before, we didn’t think it was God-honoring to go into a huge amount of debt to accomplish our dream.
She would check on her insurance to make sure there wasn’t a surrogacy exclusion. If there was, we most likely would not be moving forward since there would be no way of predicting the future and knowing any complications with the pregnancy that could arise and therefore come with a high price tag. The surrogate possibility would also be checking into what, if any, fertility coverage she had. We would check into our insurance’s fertility coverage, as well. We’d continue to pray and seek the Lord, get all those numbers, report back to each other, and see where that left us.
As I hugged her goodbye and walked to my car, I knew in my heart it wasn’t enough to do it just because John desired biological children, and ultimately all I ever want is for John to be happy. It wasn’t enough to do it because I have this very real fear sometimes that, once I’m dead and gone, John will regret marrying me and dwell on what we didn’t have together instead of what we did, on what I wasn’t to him instead of what I was. No, if this wasn’t completely, beyond a shadow of a doubt the Lord’s will, He’d never bless it and therefore what seemed like the greatest blessing to our marriage would become our greatest curse. At this point, though, all signs were pointing to it thankfully being the former. As I drove away with tears in my eyes, I couldn’t have been happier, more at peace. I couldn’t have been more excited to see how the Lord was going to work in our lives to accomplish not just our dream but, more importantly, His will.
As I sat at work hoping the time passed quickly, I couldn’t wait to tell John everything that had transpired. I couldn’t wait to display an ultrasound picture in my office of my own flesh and blood, like so many millions of women do every day. More importantly, I couldn’t wait to watch John hold our biological child(ren) and see him cry tears of amazement, joy, and thankfulness instead of the tears of loss, sadness, and grief I had witnessed hundreds and hundreds of times the past several years. I couldn’t wait until the day the fact we couldn’t have children was never even thought of and all the years of John’s sadness, and my consequential false guilt, were redeemed. Oh, how I longed for that day. I couldn’t wait to see how the Lord was going to accomplish it all for His glory and our good.
Little did I know what was going to happen next. Part 6 to come!