For many couples who choose surrogacy to grow their families, the journey to parenthood is a long one. For new parents Amber and Nicholas, who welcomed their son Sebastian in March, the journey was a marathon more than a decade in the making.
Amber and Nicholas met in 2004 and were married in 2008. They always knew having a family was in their future, but it would be a challenge due to Amber’s history of cystic fibrosis and a double lung transplant in 2003. With pregnancy and the egg retrieval process posing too great of a risk to Amber’s health, her physician recommended both a surrogate and an egg donor. They weighed their options, which also included adoption, and ultimately chose surrogacy and egg donation because it was important to them for Nicholas to have a biological connection to their child.
“Some people asked us why we just didn’t adopt; they didn’t understand the surrogacy process,” Amber says. “It’s truly a journey that only those who have been through it can understand. We first looked into surrogacy within a year of getting married. While we weren’t able to proceed at the time for various reasons, we never gave up on trying to move forward.”
The right timing
In 2020, Amber and Nicholas knew the timing was right, and they were in a position to focus on pursuing their dream of becoming parents. “We were ready emotionally and financially,” Amber says. “We were in the home we knew we wanted to stay in, and we both had jobs we loved.”
They reached out to Surrogate Solutions to start the process, and within a few months, they were matched with their surrogate, Chrissi, who is married with four children of her own. When asked what was most important to them during the match process, Nicholas says, “We wanted someone who practiced a healthy lifestyle and who lived close to us because we wanted to be involved as much as possible. Personality was also important. We knew it was going to be a long process – at least nine months – and it would be a bad situation if we didn’t get along.”
The virtual meeting with Chrissi and her husband solidified what Nicholas and Amber already knew based on Chrissi’s profile – that she was the right surrogate for them. “The surrogate profiles are very detailed,” Nicholas explains. “There’s a lot of information, so you have a good idea of how the face-to-face meeting will go. There were no surprises. It was more about us just having a conversation.”
Amber adds, “We liked that Chrissi had been pregnant multiple times and that she had been a surrogate once before. She also had health insurance that covered surrogacy. Both of those things increased her fee, but it was worth it. Her experience, in particular, was tremendously helpful to us. There were many times when we relied on Chrissi for information and help walking us through different scenarios.”
Forging a bond
Due to their close proximity with Nicholas and Amber in Tampa and Chrissi in Lakeland, Florida, they were able to spend time together and quickly develop a bond. Shortly after their match was confirmed, Nicholas and Amber attended a renaissance festival with Chrissi and her family.
“When you go through this process, it’s not just the surrogate you’re bonding with, it’s her family, too,” Nicholas shares. “They are a big part of the journey.”
Amber and Chrissi, especially, developed a close friendship. “We texted multiple times a week about everything,” Amber says. “We shared jokes, talked about our jobs, stuff that was going on with Chrissi’s kids, the pregnancy – all of it.”
Although they were able to see each other in person outside the doctor’s office, COVID-19 protocols prevented Amber and Nicholas from attending most of Chrissi’s medical appointments. “We really had to embrace technology because of the pandemic,” Nicholas says. “Chrissi was great about doing FaceTime with us during appointments and taking videos of the ultrasounds.”
“She was great about keeping us updated throughout the pregnancy,” Amber adds.
While they wanted to be included in the pregnancy as much as possible, Nicholas says they were also mindful not to impede on Chrissi and her family’s lifestyle. “As an intended parent, you have to remember that the surrogate and her family have a life of their own with their own routine and their own way of doing things. You can’t constantly be making demands or try to impose your beliefs on your surrogate and expect the relationship to go well.”
However, that doesn’t mean that relinquishing control to someone else to carry their child was easy. “As much as we love Chrissi and trusted her, there were still those moments where I felt the loss of control by not being there,” Amber says. “It’s not happening in your home and to your body. That’s the hardest part about surrogacy.”
“I agree,” Nicholas says. “There’s a point where it doesn’t matter how close you are to your gestational carrier; you’re still not waking up in the morning with someone who is pregnant next to you. You’re not living through all the little moments. There’s a feeling of disconnection, but at the end of journey, when you finally have your child, it makes up for all the difficulty you experienced along the way.”
A blessing from God
Amber and Nicholas describe the day Sebastian was born as initially very hectic, recalling the early morning text they received saying that Chrissi’s contractions were only five minutes apart, and they needed to hurry to the hospital.
“We hadn’t planned on going to the hospital right away because Chrissi was being induced, and the labor was expected to take a while,” Nicholas explains. “It took us nearly three hours to get to the hospital in rush hour traffic. We thought we weren’t going to make it in time.”
As it turned out, Sebastian was on his own timetable and didn’t arrive until 6 p.m., so Amber and Nicholas were able to witness their son being born.
“It was surreal and beautiful,” Amber says of the experience. “Nicholas was able to cut the umbilical cord, and that was a very emotional moment. It was amazing to hold him for the first time.”
Nicholas recounts a moment the morning after Sebastian was born when he recognized that the journey had led them to exactly where they were supposed to be as Sebastian’s parents.
“The hospital room we were in was overlooking a lake. The sun was coming up over the lake, cascading across the serene water, and through the blinds a couple rays of light were shining down on Sebastian in his bassinet and nothing else in the room;” Nicholas says. “It was so perfect. It felt like God was saying, “Here I am. I’m presenting this child to you. This is your child, and the rays of light are my blessing upon him.”
Coming full circle
Amber experienced a similar moment of clarity when they received Sebastian’s birth certificate listing her and Nicholas as his parents.
“That’s when it came full circle for me,” Amber says. “We received the birth certificate and order from the court saying that Sebastian is ours. He’s our son, and no one can take him away from us. It was priceless to finally see it in black and white.”
Amber and Nicholas encourage other intended parents to stay focused on their goal of having a family and to not give up even when the journey may seem impossible.
“My advice is not to get frustrated with the process,” Nicholas says. “There are going to be many ups and downs. You might get off to a slow start, and it might not work the first time, but you have to stay the course. You have to know that no matter how many ups and downs there are, there is going to be one amazing ‘up’ at the end, and that’s what keeps everything in perspective.”
“One way or another, it’s going to work out,” Amber adds. “That’s how I look at everything. You just have to not give up. Even if you feel like there is no way you can afford it or that you can’t deal with the emotional strain, if what you truly want is to have a family, to have baby in your life, then keep going because it’s going to happen.
“It took us a long time to get here. It was a harrowing journey, and we’re so elated to finally be at this point. Sebastian is our perfect little angel.”