One Sister's Story
by Joan Merchlinsky
My sister and I have always
been the best of friends. In fact, I can't remember anything that we haven't
shared over the years, from the same bedroom growing up, to a beautiful baby boy
born almost three years ago.
The decision to become a surrogate for my sister was a very easy one for me - in
fact, she was the one that needed convincing. Admittedly, it did start out as a
joke -"Oh, don't worry, if you can't have one of your own, then I'll have one
After various treatments and surgeries and one heartbreaking attempt at in vitro
which ended with my sister finding herself without enough eggs for a successful
transplant, the joke started turning to serious conversation.
I still didn't have any doubts about wanting to do it but would my husband be
able to accept the situation as well as my family? I had four children of my own
- the youngest, an infant at the time. Also, I wanted to consider my church's
stance, and my sister would not proceed without my parents' blessing (which they
gave wholeheartedly). With our families and church support, we continued with
We also set up a psychiatric screening with one of the counselors listed on the
OPTS Surrogacy Services Directory. I just wanted to make sure my motivations
were in healthy order.
We were encouraged to make everything as legal as possible, which was no small
undertaking as we resided in different states. I contacted a lawyer in town who
was familiar with private adoption laws and presented him with the points agreed
upon between our families. Since this was a family situation, our contract did
not include a fee for my "services," but it was agreed that my sister would pay
all legal and health costs incurred - that included ovulation kits, doctors'
fees and OB visits and hospital fees. Also, we set a limit of six months. Our
lawyer sent the contract to my sister's lawyer, who then reviewed and advised
them of any special stipulations required by the state.
The next step was to find a doctor willing to perform the artificial
insemination. We used my local OB for the first month, using fresh sperm - my
sister and brother-in-law were visiting during my "fertile time" that month. I
would track my cycle and use an ovulation kit to detect the two days when I was
most ready. The following AI's were done through an infertility clinic using
frozen sperm. The clinic agreed to take us on only after an intense interview
with the head doctor as to my motives and with the understanding that the normal
six month waiting period used to screen for AIDS in the sperm would only be
waived by my signature on an agreement releasing them of any responsibility. We
ended up having enough sperm to try a seventh time, and it was on that attempt
that we were finally successful. We were luckier than most surrogate couples - I
didn't have to go through any cycles of hormone therapy, no shots (which I would
have dreaded) but it does put a strain on a couple's intimate relationship, one
aspect I had admittedly not given as much consideration to ahead of time (you
must be very careful not to have any slip ups). I would definitely caution
anyone to think over this aspect thoroughly.
I am very blessed to have a very giving husband who was willing to weather
through the dry spells with me, but not all couples may be able to handle this
side of surrogacy.
My pregnancy proceeded without any major complications. I had only a few minor
bleeding episodes early on which gave me a good scare. But I was surprised at
the level of stress I felt about wanting the success of the pregnancy. I felt a
strong concern that may be this was my sister's only chance at motherhood and I
just wanted everything to go well for her and the baby's sake.
Fortunately, it did. My vision of how the pregnancy and delivery would proceed
followed perfectly down to the last detail. My sister and her husband were able
to be there for the ultrasound when we found out "it" was a "he" - (I'll never
forget my brother-in-law's face).
My sister took a leave of absence starting in the eighth month and came down to
help me with our brood. This was a blessing, as my husband broke his leg one and
a half weeks before the baby was born.
We had cleared our desire to have my sister and brother-in-law at the birth with
both the doctor and the hospital - a very important detail - ahead of time, so
the resulting experience was a memory I will cherish forever. As soon as my
nephew was born, they laid him in my sister's arms and her husband cut the cord
and we all had a happy and relieved cry. The hospital staff was wonderful in
accommodating our wishes to have my sister sleep in with me -she took over all
care of the baby from the very beginning. I really feel that this helped her
bond with her son and gave her the confidence she needed to feel comfortable
with him. I stayed in the background as much as I could. I specifically did not
try to nurse him as I had my own babies. I knew that would be testing myself a
little too hard. We stayed at the hospital for two days and were all released
together. My nephew went home with his Mom and Dad and Granny. And I went home
to my family and Grandpa.
I really feel that I have the best of all surrogacy situations. Since my
sister's family is out of state, I have the distance that helped ease any pain
of separation and yet I get to see all the pictures and have all the visits that
I want. I also have the assurance that I'll always be part of his life. Most of
all, I have the satisfaction of sharing the only thing my sister and I weren't
able to share - the joys and trials of parenthood. We do plan on telling him
about the special circumstances of his conception and birth someday, but for
right now -I'm enjoying being called "Auntie" and hearing the joy in my sister's
voice when she says: Do you know what your nephew did today?"