Love Letter to My Future Surrogate

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You, hello, waiting at Penn Station, are you my surrogate? You, walking past the diner in a small Texas town, is it you?

This is a love letter to the woman who will incubate my baby. A want ad for its first babysitter. You won’t have to change diapers, calm fussiness or warm bottles: For nine months I’d like to borrow your womb. Are you interested? Can we get coffee?

Since first dates are for back story… For five years, as a single woman, I’ve tried very hard to get pregnant. The good news: I have a litter of frozen embryos. The bad news: For reasons unknown, my uterus won’t let them implant. Rather than being the sticky surface embryos need to nestle in, my uterine lining repels them, like a cranky old lady on a porch rocking chair flicking mosquitoes off her shoulder.

Like many women who must leap into the hamster wheel of infertility, I’ve had almost every procedure, test and medication. Acronyms I never wanted to know — IUI, I.V.F., F.E.T., hCG, N.K., MTHFR — now fly off the tongue. Six uterine biopsies, hundreds of pills, countless injections in stomach and thighs. Hoping to fix my implantation problem, I’ve taken drugs that induce temporary hot-flashy menopause.

You’re no doubt curious about how I got here. It’s a long tale, best saved for a second date, but let’s just say it involved lesbianism at a time with few role models for queer parenthood. It involved my parents dying suddenly when I was 25 and 27, making the rest of my 20s — a time when many women are beginning the settle-down trajectory — a blur. And then it involved relationships with men who decided they didn’t want kids. So now I’m wooing a woman again. Not for sex but something even more intimate.

When you put down your coffee (if this works out, you’ll switch to tea, right?) you say I seem to be keeping it together. I am. But after years of infertility’s always-hopes and always-misses, devastation lurks beneath the surface. The kind of steel-toed grief that can kick over the stereo at a raucous dance party, transforming a festive moment into utter silence. The kind of grief that can clear a room.

I hope my back story has stoked your empathy. I know we’re only at the beginning of our courtship but might you be The One?

My doctor says your body mass index must be below 30, your age less than 40, and you’ve had at least one uncomplicated birth. You shouldn’t hate being pregnant. I’d like us to be close enough in age that you could never be my daughter.

Psychological evaluations will ensure we’re both ready for this relationship: that you won’t become impossibly attached, that I won’t wind up camping on your lawn or calling five times a day or sending more boxes of organic vegetables than you can eat. There will be medical screenings to guarantee your uterus is in tiptop shape and that you’re free of S.T.D.s. Background checks will ease any concerns; it’s important to know if you ever stole something that wasn’t yours.

There are financial questions too: your base compensation and any extras — maternity clothes, if bed rest, if a C-section, etc. Lawyers will draft contracts. And you must birth in a surrogacy-friendly state where this arrangement won’t incur us fines or jail time. I’m willing to get on a plane for you. Ideally you’re somewhere I can easily visit, chat on your couch, coo to your belly. There’s a lot to sort out before we can commit to each other. But please don’t be overwhelmed. We can do this.

From the get-go, our relationship will require extreme clarity. Some things we must agree on: how many embryos will be transferred into you; if we’d reduce triplets to twins; if we’d terminate for Down syndrome; if I can be in the delivery room, catch the baby, cut the cord; if you’ll provide breast milk; what kind of relationship we’ll have, if any, in years to come.

If you were an egg donor I’d care about I.Q., hair color, creative pursuits. Since I’m just subletting your womb I care about its square footage, if the appliances work, if it’s a safe neighborhood. You should have a robust support system. I wonder what your kids will think if you return, empty-handed, from the hospital.

My savior, hero, business partner, fun house mirror; you’re the embodiment of my body’s failure, the manifestation of my last hope. It’s a lot, I know. As in any relationship, it may take time to fully trust each other. Ideally you’ll care for my baby as if your own, with enough distance to keep your love in check.

I want us to feel like family. You will forever be imprinted on my child. It will have ingested your nutrients, felt your emotions. For its formative months, yours is the voice it will hear each day. Yours is the gait that will feel like home. When the baby comes into my arms, all of us joyously sobbing around the hospital bed, it may feel like adopting my biological child out of someone else’s body.

For you I will always be grateful. For you I may always be a tiny bit sad.

Surrogacy isn’t something one considers out of the gate. It comes later, every option exhausted, when addiction to the doctor’s “one more thing we could try to get you pregnant” has left you bone-crushingly drained. Although surrogacy is overwhelming — emotionally, financially — I desperately want a new conversation. I am sick of infertility being life’s dominant topic, bored of the broken record, ready to hear a bright new song.

Hello, you, reading this on the subway, could it be you? Or you, scrolling this on your phone at the grocery store? When we meet, we’ll know. Maybe it’s like love at first sight. Regardless, I can’t wait. Here’s my hand. It’s open. Reach out and grab it.