"With every negative sign, it’s a punch in the gut." Samantha Wasser's path to surrogacy.

By Samantha Wasser

My husband and I got married six years ago. I was about to turn 25 and kids were not remotely on my brain. My husband was seven years older so all of his friends were having their first kid. If anything he may have been thinking about it but it was nothing we were discussing ourselves. It felt like we had all the time in the world. 

I had never heard about people having issues and I never thought it was going to happen to me. Plus I was so young. A year after we got married, I opened By Chloe. I quickly realized it was never going to be the right time because I was so crazy with work, so I had to prioritize. I went off birth control. I thought, “Let’s have fun and be that couple who’s ‘sort of trying.’ Then I realized that the moment you flip on the trying switch, time becomes your worst enemy and sex stops being fun. Every month that passed, and with every negative sign, it’s a punch in the gut. 

About six months later, I was opening a By Chloe store and I felt really funny. I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I went to my doctor and saw a really strong heartbeat at around eight weeks. When I came back two weeks later for blood work, my doctor was scanning my belly, moving from one side to the other and there was this deafening silence. She wasn’t speaking. It felt like an eternity. I started hysterically crying and the first thing I asked was, “What did I do wrong?” Miscarriage is so tabboo; you feel like it must be your fault. Maybe it’s because you had soft cheese, or you had a drink before you knew, but in reality, it was an abnormality at the chromosomal level. It’s super common. I got a D&C, bled like crazy and was a total wreck.

I got pregnant again in the fall of that year. I told my husband I wasn’t strong enough for another miscarriage. Then we went back to the doctor. Again, deafening silence. The sac didn’t mature past six weeks. I decided to miscarry at home since there wasn’t a lot of tissue, but in the end I was bleeding for weeks! My doctor referred me to a fertility specialist at CCRM. IVF was the only way to make sure my embryos were chromosomally sound. Meanwhile I was still bleeding, and I kept having to wait, so they suggested I do another D&C and close the chapter. After a year of miscarrying, I had to move forward.

My IVF plan was to get perfect embryos and put them in the perfect oven. So in my first round, I got 27 eggs, but only four good embryos. It started to feel clear that I was miscarrying because I produce quantity over quality. I was on interlipid plus pregnaozine, blood thinners, lovanox. I was giving myself injections for first time. The transfer didn’t work. There was no explanation. No reason. I was textbook perfect. My lining was perfect. 

For the next transfer, we decided to do a normal cycle without drugs. We put one in and it didn’t work. At that point I was put on letrazol, which women with breast cancer take to shut down estrogen in their body, in order to decrease inflammation. Then we discovered I had endometriosis. Then I also did IVIG, a hemoglobin blood product in an IV drip for 6 hours. I went to an allergist to change my diet. I did everything in my control because fertility was out of my control. In the next round we did two embryos. That round worked, at first. I kept going back to see if my levels were doubling, and they weren’t. I miscarried. I was out of embryos. We did another round of IVF one year after my second second miscarriage. We were two-and-a-half years in. 

I knew that if I let myself grieve, I couldn’t keep going. I was opening By Chloe locations around the world while going through all of this. I didn’t have the option of breaking down. I just closed off. My husband wanted to talk but I didn’t. I still can’t. I’d give myself 24 hours of being a total wreck and the next day I’d pick up my phone and call my doctor. I kept encountering reminders of how long I had been trying. I knew all my due dates, and when they came around, I’d think how far I was from having a family. 

After my second round of IVF, my doctor determined I had unexplained infertility, the most unhelpful diagnosis in life. She suggested a surrogate agency. I had no idea about surrogates. I called the agency and found out it could take months to even find someone, then months to go through legal. I broke down. This was my last resort. I put down a deposit and started the search. 

At that point, my doctor made a conscious decision. My next transfer would do one of the weaker embryos. She wanted me to save the stronger ones for the surrogate. She put me on drug called depo lupron. Each dose of meds was in shot form and lasts a month. It’s for cancer patients. It essentially shuts down estrogen in your body and puts you into menopause. I was in full blown menopause opening our first London store, it was insane. I was having hot flashes on the plane. Meanwhile I followed up with the surrogacy agency. They had narrowed it down to two candidates. 

When the transfer didn’t work in January, my doctor said, “Enough. There’s nothing you can do. Save these embryos for the surrogate. My surrogate was an incredible woman – a mother of four from Katie, Texas. We met in LA during her transfer. My husband wanted to be excited but I couldn’t get to that place. The agency sent over a balloon you pop, which tells you what the sex is. They were trying to normalize the experience for us. It got me excited, but I didn’t have the reassurance of a growing belly. I had to rely on her, and if I didn’t hear from her, I would be up all night thinking something happened. I felt isolated a lot throughout the surrogacy experience. I didn’t have a lot of friends in the area. 

I thought, how am I going to meet people for future playdates, especially when I work a lot and I can’t go to mommy groups?

But I also couldn’t go to prenatal classes because I wasn’t pregnant. I couldn’t go to a coffee shop and chat up a pregnant lady without looking like a total creep. Even after, I always felt out of place at moms group when everyone’s talking about breastfeeding, and people don’t know what to say. They’d say, “You’re so lucky you didn’t have to gain weight. You’re lucky you didn’t have to recover.” I’d say “Luck is exactly what it is! I’ll never know what it’s like to carry my child, or breastfeed! I’m soo lucky!”

My husband made me stop talking about it.

I will say that right when our son was born, I instantly felt that connection to him. It was so completely overwhelming and the more I was able to connect with other women who had been through the process, the more “normal” I felt. I also think the process made me a better mom than ever thought I could be. I’m a better, stronger person. I don’t take him for granted. I think I’m probably more tolerant than I might have been had I carried him myself. I’m more tolerant because what was affecting me was the silence, was the absence of life in my house, so when he’s freaking out, or spitting up, I’m good.