Name: Ashley Kellogg
City and State: Dallas, TX
Occupation: Senior Business Development Manager, Thompson & Knight
What did your journey to becoming a Mom look like before you decided to use a surrogate?
My five-year journey toward motherhood was emotionally and financially crushing. Here’s what it looked like:
Countless doctors’ appointments
Two IVF egg retrievals
Six embryo transfers
Negative pregnancy tests
Twin girl embryos
No heartbeats followed by miscarriages
Several holidays filled with sadness
Canceled vacations because of miscarriages and doctors’ appointments
Lack of energy
Strain on our marriage
Meltdowns from the meds
Fielding questions from caring friends and family
Putting on a brave face every damn day
I have never fought so hard for something. My husband Matt and I were often helpless in this situation and had zero control. We fell into the 1 percent category of “unexplained infertility”. By the grace of God and my hard headedness, I knew I wanted to be a mom and would fight and take the road less traveled to get there.
What was the tipping point for using a surrogate?
Matt and I approached infertility head on and did lots of procedures and attempts in a three-year period. I was tired of being poked and prodded, and it became clear my body was not going to carry a child past 12 weeks. I also could not emotionally handle another round of egg retrieval and embryo implantation. In 2016, we decided the next step for us would be taking our last two embryos from the previous IVF cycle and using a gestational surrogate to carry them. If it did not work, we were done. We had one boy and one girl embryo, and the girl embryo – our daughter, Charlotte – took.
How did you tell people? And what was their reaction?
Our 2016 Christmas card announced the news. Matt and I held baby shoes, while Ruby, our dog, looked on. The back of the card explained our surrogate, Gaby, was carrying our child and asked everyone to please pray for us as we navigated this unchartered territory. On Jan. 1, 2017, I posted our card to social media. We wanted to control our story, make sure our truth was told and squash any rumors. Most importantly, we wanted to serve as a resource for other couples. I knew this was not the norm, but I wanted to put our story out there, be vulnerable, and provide advice, friendship or a shoulder to cry on for anyone going through similar struggles. Every journey is different and finding people who can relate to you is comforting in tough times.
The reactions were overwhelmingly positive.
Excitement and joy reigned over us — it was glorious! The law firm I worked for at the time was also supportive. They updated their maternity policy to include expectant mothers using surrogates to have the same maternity leave as a mother giving birth. Being part of that corporate change was phenomenal.
Describe your experience using a surrogate before and after Charlotte was born.
Gaby was and remains a gift from God. When Matt and I met her, we were tired, beaten down and hopeless. Gaby, her husband and their children were amazing. She walked into our lives with compassion and experience, since she had been a surrogate once before. She restored my faith and my ability to be happy. Gaby texted me daily, set up a private Facebook page for my family to see updates and I went to every doctor’s appointment. Gaby asked me to send her voice memos of us reading so she could put headphones on her belly and Charlotte would know our voices. When I ran a marathon while Gaby was pregnant, she gave Charlotte a play-by-play of my mileage. To carry someone else’s child takes a very special person, and she kept us a part of the journey every step of the way.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering surrogacy to expand their family?
Surrogacy was a great decision for us because we needed an “oven” to carry our child to term. Only the couple going through the difficult journey knows what is right for them. Some women are adamant about carrying their child; others may need a traditional surrogate. There are many unconventional options to starting a family.
Do your research and figure out what the right path is for you. If you decide to go the surrogate route, consider what options are important to you. We wanted a surrogate in the DFW Metroplex so we could be part of the entire experience: accompany her to doctor’s appointments, sonograms and most importantly, be there for our daughter’s birth. Gaby’s water broke eight weeks early and proximity was everything in that moment. I made it to the hospital in less than 10 minutes.
What is the best lesson you learned about yourself after going through this experience?
This humbling experience taught me a lot about compassion, empathy, patience and the undeniable fact that we are not in control. I am a big believer God has a plan, and in time, you will see His plans for you.
Anything else you want to share with us?
The surrogacy process involves many logistics: psychological testing, FBI background checks, health screenings, lawyers, contracts, escrow accounts, insurance policies, etc. If you have technical questions, please reach out. I had incredible resources along the way and am happy to share their names.
Lastly, whatever your journey looks like to start a family, I wish you luck. The road less traveled is not easy but worth it in the end.
My favorite quote is
The famous passage “The Man in the Arena" from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech Citizenship in a Republic:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."