“We prefer to use married women, as it helps in the long run. No one is going to ask a married women how she got pregnant. And when she’s no longer pregnant, the questions are minimal, unlike that of a single lady. We like to get the husband’s buy in and it works out fine.”
That’s what a popular fertility doctor once told Nicole and I, when we paid his clinic a visit.
While it made absolute sense on the one hand, I often wondered about the men who allowed their wives to carry another woman’s baby. I wanted to know what drove them, but they are really scare. They are not men whom you meet on a regular basis.
So, imagine how I felt when I happened to meet one man, who had done exactly that. I will call him Jide. He felt that surrogacy was the ‘calling’ of his wife. It was an endeavour she had been involved in while they were dating. In fact, her decision to undergo two surrogacy procedures for two different parents almost back-to-back, was of one of the reasons their marital rites was delayed.
What started out as a means to make money, soon became a passion project for Jide’s then-girlfriend, now wife, who was yet to have a child of her own then. Even though they were not yet married, he was privy to most of the things she went through, and when she decided to take on another surrogacy, he wasn’t really down for it, but there was only so much he could do.
Having done it twice, Jide thought his wife had done her duty by mankind, and gotten it out of her system, but that was far from the reality as two years after their marriage, his wife told him of her interest in being a surrogate the third time. He flared up, and said she would only do it over his dead body.
After months of cajoling and pulling all the stunts she could, Jide came around and his wife again helped bring happiness to another family.
Jide and his wife have two children of their own, but his wife has seen the four walls of a labour ward five times, and undergone a C-section once.
When I asked if he would let her do it again, Jide didn’t hesitate, as he said, “I think, we have both had enough. Five pregnancies for one woman is a major burden on the body. Even she has said she’s tired. So I guess I shouldn’t be expecting such surprises again.”
While Jide is no longer expecting any surprises, he conveniently hides the fact that he’s had to deal with a lot of emotions which were strange to him, and feelings of being a spare tyre where his wife was concerned, as they tried to not only meet the safety standards of the fertility clinic(s), but the concerns of the intending couple too.
It was also a very unsettling situation for him to know how his wife got pregnant, the insemination process, and the terrifying two week wait that followed, where he found himself comforting his wife. Even though he had wanted to be as detached as it was possible, but it proved futile where his wife was concerned.
In the end, he was just as worried as every other person involved in the process, but while the concerns of the other three persons were aired and listened to, his weren’t even asked about, and the truth is, he didn’t blame them. How was he supposed to feel, knowing his wife was carrying another woman’s baby and that a particularly sacred part of their marriage would be breached; their fertility? He didn’t know what to feel. He just felt out of sorts, dabbling in emotions which were foreign to him.
The feeling was particularly worse the third time, as she was now his wife, but they somehow managed to brave the stormy waters of their surrogacy adventure, and are now in a happy place in their relationship.
Peter and his wife, Debola, were already parents to their two year old daughter, when his wife came home one day, very despondent and moody. He later found out that it was because her sister, who had been TTC for almost ten years at that time, had lost yet another pregnancy and that they were considering trying another IVF cycle, but this time with a surrogate.
That was the first time Peter was hearing about surrogacy. The TTC journey of his wife’s sister was something that affected them all.
Peter was heartbroken at the news, but when his wife told him she wanted to carry the child for her, his answer was, “Has she asked you to?”
“No, but I intend to offer. I would really like to do this for her. I’m almost a perfect candidate, since I have had a baby before.”
Peter just kept saying she shouldn’t put the cart before the horse, but deep down, he knew he didn’t want her to do such things, for fear of what people would say.
In the end, Debola’s sister opted for an anonymous surrogate, and that was when Debola swore that if her sister had a successful cycle, then she was going to help bring same joy to another family.
After 11 years of marriage, Peter’s sister-in-law finally became a momma and it was time for Debola to pay up on her promise to help another family. Peter, who had thought it was not a serious matter, was shocked at the extent his wife was willing to go.
Yes, he supported her, even though there were times he thought about taking their daughter and walking out on his marriage, but the joy that had over taken his sister-in-law and her husband’s home made him stay. His desire to please his wife, also made him stay.
Many clinics seem not to have any plans for the husbands of surrogates; these men are virtually left to themselves to figure out how to cope with one of the strangest, and potentially most difficult, experiences that a modern family can have.
With no biological ties to the children born from the surrogate process, the husbands of surrogates have had to deal with the unusual emotional trauma of turning over the most private aspects of their married lives to strangers.
First, they must agree to abstain from sexual relations with their wives during the months the women are being inseminated, to ensure the paternity of the child. Then, they must help their wives get through pregnancies that they have had nothing to do with. Ultimately, they must endure the emotionally complex time when their wives come home from the hospital, without new babies of their own.
Some marriages, however, can’t survive such stress, and some have succumbed to divorce. Hence, it is important to have a really strong marriage, before considering surrogacy.
To the men who are keeping it together, to the men who allow their wives to bring joy to another woman via surrogacy, we see you…and salute your gallantry.
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