Alyssa shares her experience of how to cope when a transfer fails
Surrogacy is almost always talked about with either absolute joy (as babies are absolutely joyful!) or shock (yes, it’s legal in the UK!) However, surrogacy often involves difficult emotions and situations such as loss, sadness, or even depression. Although advancements in science have led to higher transfer success rates, it can cause us to forget that not every transfer will be a success.
A positive pregnancy test is only part of the surrogacy process
My own experience as a surrogate, and now as a member of the BB team supporting surrogates and intended parents, is testament to how important preparing for and effectively navigating the potential disappointments is.
Typically the first worry that intended parents have to deal with is the wait time to be matched. Finding a surrogate can take a long time, particularly in the UK where there are currently less surrogates, compared to places like the US. Because of this first hurdle, when it comes to treatment and becoming pregnant after a match, there is a tendency to assume the hard part is over.
Preparing for and discussing some of the things that could go wrong is a key part of how Brilliant Beginnings supports intended parents and surrogates, both at the outset and throughout their surrogacy journey. When things do go wrong, a surrogacy team needs support to draw together sensitively whilst giving each person their own space to deal with the issues individually.
There is often no specific reason for why a transfer may have been unsuccessful, but it is crucial to acknowledge that no one is to blame, and that everyone – surrogates and intended parents – are equally invested and disappointed when things don’t go according to plan.
When transfers fail: Alyssa’s experience
My own personal experience of surrogacy began in 2014 when I delivered twins. The first transfer resulted in two embryos sticking around for 36 weeks. It was a spectacularly joyful journey with few complications and resulted in twice as many babies as we had originally planned. I could hardly wait to do it again! I fully anticipated my next journey to be just as easy and uncomplicated.
By 2018, I had decided to do another surrogacy. I wanted to have the support and guidance of Brilliant Beginnings for both me and the intended parents I helped. With my previous luck, full support from my GP, a perfect match with new intended parents, and a clinic that gave us the green light, we transferred one perfect little embryo to my fluffy uterus.
We quickly got an early positive and rejoiced that my luck held once again! Unfortunately, 2 weeks later, I began to bleed heavily. An ultrasound a few hours later showed I was having a miscarriage and no embryo could be found. We were all sad, but we had thought about and talked through together how we would approach this during our period of getting to know each other and reflected this in our agreement. Our feelings hadn’t changed and at once planned for the next transfer.
Our second attempt resulted in a negative pregnancy test, as the embryo had failed to grow at all. Our third attempt was an absolute relief when we achieved another positive! We were once again celebrating and began planning for the first 6th week ultrasound.
At the clinic, the mum, dad, and I eagerly searched the ultrasound screen for the tiny little embryo sac that was our positive. However, when the doctor looked around for a tiny little baby inside the sac, it was empty. The embryo had failed to grow correctly and a miscarriage was likely any day now.
We couldn’t believe it. We had come so far! We had tried so hard. We had taken the meds, done the tests, crossed our fingers and toes, touched wood, and even gorged on pineapple. We had done every single thing every doctor and nurse had recommended. Why had we failed again? Was it just not meant to be? Were we unlucky? Unworthy? Cursed?
Our spirits were crushed. I felt like I had failed the intended parents. I felt like I was broken. I felt like I had lost their babies, their money, and their time. It was so difficult to see my now close friends suffer emotionally, while I went through the physical miscarriage. After a third failed attempt at a baby, we regrouped. We talked with the doctor about the embryos, the medications, the possibility of using donor eggs. No one knew what had gone wrong, and no one had any easy answers. There was no “reason” for the failures. We decided we wouldn’t give up, and through our own grit and the reassurance that Brilliant Beginnings were there for us whatever we decided, we carried on.
A fourth cycle resulted in a negative pregnancy test and we all seemed a bit numb. We didn’t let ourselves get too excited at transfer, and were resigned after a fourth failure. However, my own husband refused to let us give up. Despite the hardship to my own family, my husband insisted we couldn’t give up. We had to give it just one more try.
Finally, finally, we achieved another positive pregnancy test! Tentatively, we let ourselves hope. After two miscarriages, we were all nervous. Tears of joy, relief, anxiety, and hope filled the room when we saw a tiny dinosaur-like creature growing inside of that tiny little sac. 8 months later, amid a global pandemic (because, of course) in May 2020, a little baby girl was born into her waiting mother’s arms. This amazing moment made the challenges we had faced so much more bearable.
Disappointments are unavoidable, but made easier by discussion
Their disappointments were unavoidable, but they were made just that little bit easier by the fact that with Brilliant Beginnings guidance we had discussed at the outset and were aware of what might happen, and how we might deal with this.
Brilliant Beginnings matched my husband and I and the parents perfectly, and this also meant that when things did go wrong, we approached this as a team, with mutual respect and genuine compassion for each other.
Having a child is nothing short of a miracle but as with all miracles, they don’t just happen because we dream it. The women who come forward to be surrogates give life to the hope of a miracle and are nothing short of miracles themselves – even when it doesn’t go to plan.
By Alyssa Martin
Client & Surrogate Manager