Last year, we featured the story of Raquel, a young cervical cancer survivor who was on a journey to grow her family through surrogacy. Raquel and her finance, Carl, welcomed their son, Max, in November 2021. In honor of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to share an update on Raquel’s story. Below, she shares her experience getting to witness the birth of her son, the friendship she and Carl have forged with their surrogate (Paige) and her husband (Nathan), what she’s most looking forward to as a new mom, and her advice for women facing a cancer diagnosis.
Surrogate Solutions: Tell us about the birth of your son, Max. How did it feel to hold him for the first time?
Raquel: It was everything. Carl, Nathan and I were all able to be in the room. We went in for a scheduled induction, and about 16 hours later (sorry Paige!), Max was here. We had lots of laughs, nerves and excitement. Around hour six, we all came to the conclusion that Max may be a stubborn little thing. When it came time to push, things went very fast. He was born at 11:11 p.m., which was just perfect because Paige and I had been talking about that number throughout the whole pregnancy.
As soon as Max was born, he was handed to me. I was overwhelmed with extreme love, joy, thankfulness, relief, and shock that it was really happening. I remember I was somehow sobbing but also wanting to scream from happiness, and I couldn’t breathe, all at once. Carl cut the cord, and then I did skin to skin after Max was cleaned up.
Paige and Nathan got moved to a hospital room right next to ours the day after delivery. We all got released together, which is what we had hoped. The hospital was very accommodating to our situation. They didn’t bat an eye about us needing some things done a bit differently than a typical delivery. Before we had to head home to Ohio, Paige and Nathan’s kids were able to meet Max. It was really special.
Surrogate Solutions: What is your relationship like with Paige and Nathan now?
Raquel: We still talk often, and I cannot imagine our relationship ever coming to an end. It was really hard for me to leave Paige and head back home. Of course, I was beyond excited that Max was finally here and to bring him home, but just knowing that we would be five and a half hours away from each other again was tough. They have become family. I know they are just as excited as we are to watch Max grow up.
Surrogate Solutions: What are you most looking forward to this year as a new mom?
Raquel: I’m most looking forward to just being a mom and all the things that come with it, rather than spending my time hoping to find a way to become one. There will be lots of firsts this year with Max. I’m looking forward to watching him become his own little person and seeing what his personality is like. We know he does NOT like to wait for a bottle, so we may have a foodie on our hands just like his dad.
Surrogate Solutions: If you could go back in time to when you were first diagnosed with cervical cancer and offer yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Raquel: I was so young when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer that I didn’t have any idea what the infertility diagnosis that came with treatment really meant. At the time, I immediately went into survival mode. I didn’t realize how much would change after that. It was one of those pivotal moments. I can still see the doctor’s face and the tears in her eyes as she was trying to get the words out. I can still recall the sinking feeling in my gut when she told Carl and I the news. It was liking going downhill on a roller coaster, but it didn’t stop for a few years. There really are no words to describe what infertility is like. All I can say is cancer was the easy part for me. Looking back, I would tell myself that I am stronger than I think, and, as cliche as it sounds, it all really did happen for a reason. Our family was meant to grow in more ways than one through surrogacy.
Surrogate Solutions: What advice do you have for other women facing a cancer diagnosis?
Raquel: To anyone out there going through a diagnosis, I would tell them two things. First, you got this! Second, trust your instincts. I was told at my first oncologist appointment that I needed a complete hysterectomy immediately. I chose to get a second opinion. If it weren’t for the that, I wouldn’t have had time to go through IVF to freeze our embryos, and our sweet baby boy wouldn’t be here.
Ladies, go to your annual OBGYN check-up! It could literally save your life.
For more information about cervical cancer and available resources, visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition’s website at www.nccc-online.org.