For many years, Christie had thought of becoming a surrogate and then one day, out of the blue, she turned her thoughts in to a reality. “My love for my family was the deciding factor in my decision to become a surrogate”, she said from her home in Wisconsin. “I can’t imagine my life without children and I also can’t imagine what it would be like being told you were unable to have children… I think it is my desire to help others that has laid the foundations for an incredibly special bond between me and my Intended Parents (IP’s)… My siblings are twins; therefore, I was always fascinated with the idea of carrying twins. When I announced my plans to become a surrogate to my family naturally my parents were concerned, however, as soon as they learnt more about the process, their concerns manifested in to a sense of genuine pride and they could not wait to meet my Intended Parents.”
Christie has been married for six years to her husband Todd. They have one son together and are also raising the two children from his previous marriage. “Todd has two boys aged six and eight from a previous marriage and we have a three-year-old son of our own. We see ourselves as a team, and together we encourage the boys to help out as much as they can… The world would benefit from a little more generosity”, she said.
In most cases, surrogates have to educate their partners on the overall surrogacy process, and it takes time before the partners are fully on board. However, in Christie’s case, Todd knew how much Christie loved being pregnant with their son, and he also knew in his heart that it was something she wanted to do – to give the gift of life to another family.
After Christie had completed her medical and psychological examinations and was officially cleared and approved to be a surrogate, she received a profile (video introduction) of the IP’s, Zeev and Lior. Soon after, a Skype meeting was organized and both parties agreed that there was an instant connection. From here, things flowed naturally, and they began to develop a strong relationship. “It is a life-changing experience, and we are now best friends. I feel proud that Zeev and Lior are now part of my family. It is a wonderful feeling, indescribable”.
What is the most exciting thing about being a surrogate?
“The most exciting thing about being a surrogate was seeing the looks on Zeev and Lior’s faces when we reached certain milestones throughout the pregnancy, such as the scans and hearing the baby’s heart beat for the first time”.
What did you find challenging?
“The challenge lies in the uncertainty and the unknown. You can’t promise your IP’s that something won’t go wrong. We learnt early on that in between the major checkups that no news was good news and that as long as I was feeling healthy both in mind and spirit, then we would celebrate each day”.
Throughout the pregnancy, Christie maintained a healthy lifestyle and attended all of the standard medical appointments and tests. “I set myself a goal of staying fit and exercising regularly so the babies would be safe and healthy… Everyone was so supportive…”.
The anticipation of the birth was exciting for all parties involved. “I was so happy when the babies were born, and their fathers could hold them for the first time. Of course, it was not easy parting with everyone when they went home, but I know how well the babies are being taken care of.”
The issue of surrogacy is controversial. There are those who claim that the women seeking to become surrogates are exploited and harmed. It is important for Christie to clarify that “although there have been cases reported in third world countries of surrogates being exploited, here in the USA, we are loved and adored by our IPs, their families, the fertility clinics, and pretty much everyone who learns about our journey. The fact that we are put through a multi-level psychological screening test and a meticulous medical screening process, I’d say we are far from being exploited, quite the opposite really. I don’t understand why some people oppose surrogacy and view it as damaging to women. This is the ultimate way to help and give back to another family. What is wrong with that”?
What would you tell a woman reading this article and considering becoming a surrogate?
“I encourage any woman considering becoming a surrogate, to just go and do it. Do your research first and then officially submit an application. It is a life-changing journey that will bring immense joy to you and those around you.”
Is there any last thing you would like to say to the children – Adi and Nevo?
“You are two incredible miracles and are loved by so many people.”
The Intended Parents
A little less than a year ago, Zeev and Lior’s dreams came true! On the other side of the world, in a hospital in Wisconsin, twins Adi and Nevo were born, making them the happiest of parents. It was a long journey, however 16 years of blissful marriage definitely helped them in the planning and preparation for parenthood. “We always wanted a family”, they said, from their home in Karkur. “Were it possible, we would have preferred to adopt 2 children, however, this option was not available for us being a same-sex couple, therefore we decided to pursue a surrogacy journey in the USA.
Zeev and Lior’s path to parenthood spanned four continents. It involved a surrogate from the USA, an egg donor from South Africa, attorneys from Israel and abroad, a fertility clinic, and an Israeli insurance agency and surrogacy company that guided them through the process and ensured that everything was handled professionally. “It was clear to us that we needed to sign with an agency to facilitate our journey. Just as I would not attempt to fix my own washing machine, I wouldn’t embark on such a journey without expert guidance and assistance”, said Zeev. “The sheer number of things that need to be dealt with and taken care of is mind-blowing. From medical, legal, and/or logistical matters, without Tammuz, we would have been overwhelmed, completely lost, and incapable of completing the journey on our own.
After meticulously researching the international surrogacy agency landscape, Zeev and Lior chose Tammuz Family Surrogacy. “We chose Tammuz after making a fairly comprehensive market analysis that included lots of feedback from other IP’s who had already been through the process, both with Tammuz Family and also agencies in the USA. We are so grateful to the team at Tammuz. We were guided in such a professional and personal manner. Whilst we knew there were many others on the same journey with us at Tammuz, we NEVER felt like a number. The team were 100% accessible 24/7, 7 days a week. There were no questions left unanswered, and no problem left unsolved.
Tell me about your journey.
Our journey, to get to the point of committing to surrogacy in the USA and signing on with Tammuz Family, was a long and exhausting one. That’s why when we met Christie, we both literally let out a massive sigh of relief! From then on, everything went smoothly. After sending her a video of us introducing ourselves and talking a little about our relationship history and our desire to become parents, she contacted Tammuz and gave her consent to meet us via Skype. During our initial Skype conversation with Christie, we asked her why she wanted to be a surrogate. She told us that when she looked at her 1.5-year-old son, she felt very sad knowing that there were people in the world who did not have the option of becoming parents, and that she wanted to help. The conversation flowed organically, and without awkward pauses so it was very clear to us that she was ‘the one’. As Israelis, we have difficulty conceiving the idea of an altruistic approach, however it is undeniably true for surrogates in the USA that they simply just want to help from the goodness of their hearts.
As an Intended Parent, what is the most challenging thing about surrogacy and how do you deal with that challenge?
The main challenge throughout our surrogacy journey was the never-ending element of uncertainty. To deal with this I suppose the best thing for us was to just relinquish control right from the onset of the journey and to trust the team at Tammuz. Surrogacy, in a nutshell is complex and challenging and it involves numerous stages along the way where there is potential for disaster to strike. The consequences of any mishaps can result in not only the obvious emotional stresses but also the economic stresses. Luckily, we didn’t have any major issues on our journey, but we’ve spoken to other IP’s who have, and they said that there were solutions put in place and immediate actions taken to get back on track, so the stress for them was more about the process being delayed. Dealing with these issues though is very personal. Some IP’s require the support of their partners whilst other IP’s find that being the ‘supporter’ helps them to cope. You talk with as many as people as possible, with family, with friends, and hope for the best.
Describe the relationship with the surrogate during the pregnancy.
Throughout the pregnancy we were in contact via WhatsApp pretty much every other day. Once again, the conversations we had flowed organically and over time our friendship strengthened. We’d chat about the pregnancy of course, but also about normal day to day things. There were lots of pictures sent and there was also a lot of genuine laughter when we video chatted.
One week before the birth, we flew to the USA and met Christie and her incredible husband Todd for the very first time. This was hands down the most emotional I had ever felt in my life. Finally, we were to meet the woman who would help us realise our dreams of becoming parents! As you can imagine, there was not a dry eye in the room. In fact, we literally sobbed we were so emotional. After we attended the pre-birth order hearing at the Wisconsin Court, we headed out for dinner. During dinner we exchanged gifts. Their gift to us was very precious; an incredible arrangement of baby things for the nursery. We gifted them with some handcrafted souvenirs from Israel.
Do you consider your surrogate as being ‘family’?
Absolutely YES! The emotional connection between us all came to an absolute climax on the day of the birth when Christie saw the look on our faces, finally holding our babies in our arms. The experience was powerful, moving and quite surreal for all of us. Fortunately, a C-section birth was pre-arranged on a particular date, so we had enough time to prepare for the hospital experience. In saying that the anticipation was still intense, and we could not believe it when the day finally arrived, and we knew we were only moments away from meeting our babies. When we arrived at the hospital in the morning, Christie was already there and had decked out the room beautifully with balloons and signs. Shortly after she was wheeled away to the operating theatre and we were taken to an adjacent room and given sterile robes to wear. After what undoubtedly seemed like the longest 20 minutes of our lives, the nurse came bursting through the doors with Adi, covered in white and screaming his little lungs out. A lovely team of nurses and a doctor descended upon him, checked, cleaned and measured him and then wrapped him up in a blanket. Not a minute later came Nevo, smaller, and relatively clean compared to Adi but also screaming. This was the moment we had waited for!
On our way back to Christie’s room we were fortunate enough to meet her parents. So many tears were shed. There was so much love in the room, and we knew in our hearts that Christie and Todd were family now, for life.
Before we flew back to Israel, we met with them two more times. They attended the circumcision and on the final night threw us a farewell party. Even though we knew we had made lifelong friends and we would keep in regular contact, this was the most emotional and most difficult ‘good-bye’ we had ever exchanged!
Since returning to Israel we have been in regular contact and continue the communication via WhatsApp exactly as we did throughout the pregnancy. We are constantly updating Christie and Todd on the babies’ development, sending them pics all the time. Eventually we’d love to host them in Israel.
What have the reactions been like from your friends, family and acquaintances?
Everyone has been incredibly supportive. We’ve had so many offers of people wanting to help and just pop in and visit. We could not have hoped for a more loving response.
How will you educate the children on the topic of “Where do I come from”?
Simply put, the children will learn the truth. And it will be easy for them to learn about it as we have kept a diary since the fourth month of the pregnancy. It documents the preparations for the birth, the organization required for the journey and of course the excitement is captured on nearly every page. In addition, there are books and plenty of LGBTQ parenting literature available in 2019!
Finally, what tips would you give people considering the surrogacy process?
The most important tip we can give is to do your research and try not to procrastinate. Make an informed decision ASAP as the landscape can change in a heartbeat. We were considering Thailand, India and Mexico but unfortunately before we committed, all of those destinations shut down which left us with the most expensive destination, the USA, as our only option.