Amber is a former Family Source surrogate and we’re so thankful she took the time to talk with us about her surrogacy journey. Amber’s intended parents live in China, so when the pandemic restrictions were put in place, they faced some unique issues. Despite the challenges they faced, Amber says she wouldn’t change the experience and feels blessed to have been able to be a surrogate.

What led you into surrogacy in the first place? Could you give us a recap of your journey?

I had a midwife with my two children and my midwife, I had watched her complete two surrogacy journeys. It always resonated with me and I was just like, man, I always had great pregnancies. I always carried well. I always had a good birth experience.

After watching her two journeys, I started asking her questions about, how I could become a surrogate. And that’s really what led me to my first journey. So

You mentioned that using a midwife before. Is that something that you wanted going into the first journey is to continue to have a midwife with your surrogacy pregnancies as well?

I did want to have a midwife with the journey with my surrogacy journey. It did not end up like I wanted to, in the sense of having a midwife, just due to contracts. I had to actually deliver in a hospital and have an OB/GYN, but I did have a very great OB-GYN. She was very great. It ended up still being a good experience.

Go ahead and tell us all about your journey.

My intended parents were international, so I didn’t know them. They were very kind people. The entire IVF journey was definitely different, going through all of the shots and everything. But basically, for me, I was blessed. I had a smooth transition. Nothing was really out of the norm in the sense of, becoming pregnant and the symptoms of pregnancy. I still carried well through the journey.

I was pregnant during the pandemic, so a blessing was that I got to rest a lot. I’m in school teacher, so I did have to teach from home, but, I was off of my feet for most of the day. So I got to rest a lot and that was really good. The biggest challenge I think was more so getting towards the end of the pregnancy because we had to start school back and I was on my feet a little bit more.

Then when it came to delivery day, the parents were not able to be there. So that was a little challenging at first, cause in my mind, I had seen myself handing the baby over to mama or, mom and dad getting to cuddle their baby in the delivery room. So we didn’t get to have that experience. But I did get to FaceTime them that day. And still got to see their faces of shock and joy and, just love of their little bundle of joy that they had.

Overall, the journey was smooth. My intended parents were great. They were supportive throughout the entire time. They prayed for me. They would always say messages of prayers and stuff sent my way. So I really did have a great experience.

Having international parents, how did Family Source help you communicate with them?

We had a translator at the initial interview that we did, and she was very helpful. She actually carried through the entire journey with us. We used a messenger app called WeChat. And WeChat allows you to translate their messages because they did not speak English.

Our translator was on WeChat as well. So if there was anything that was confusing, she was able to clear it up for both me and them. That was very helpful for Family Source to be able to provide that because if not, it would’ve been very difficult to be able to talk between us.

How did your family feel about the whole experience when you decided to become a surrogate?

Initially, they were very, they were they weren’t, it’s not that they weren’t supportive. It was just new to them. It was a new something that wasn’t normal to them. They were a little standoffish at first.

My mother was very concerned because I’m her daughter and she wants to protect her baby. She wasn’t aware of the process of anything. But that’s how she was with my personal births. Whenever I transitioned from having them at a hospital to transition into a midwife, she was very standoffish.

But after the process, she was like, okay, I see why you did this. And she was very supportive after that. So during the process, my kids were just like, okay. And they just go with the flow. My son would always rub my belly and ask if I needed help or anything.

And then my mom, she just, she would just ask questions. She had her concerns and then I would reassure her that everything’s going to be okay. She was actually the one in the delivery room with me. And so she was my backbone in there and very helpful.

It was a good experience even now. I show her pictures of him. So now after everything is done, they’re very supportive and they see why I did it.

Probably about three hours or four hours after I delivered his guardian and his nanny showed up. (It was who the parents had chosen to be able to take care of him until he got over there to them.) They showed up right away and they were able to have a birth suite down the hallway from me. And they were very welcoming very sweet people. They were so shocked at how alert he was.

That was reassuring to the parents because the parents were very concerned about the health of their baby. They were so shocked and said “we’ve never seen a baby this alert!” because he was just wide-eyed and moving! They kept him the entire time.

It was a fast transition. I really didn’t get to think about it because I birthed on Wednesday and they went to California on that Friday. The nanny kept him the entire time and that it was five months that they had to wait in order to actually get him over there.

It’s been two weeks now. He’s actually in mama and daddy’s arms over there. They sent me a picture of him, listening to music and just making noises. When he finally got over there, I was like, my journey is complete, finally. But I will say, Family Source aided very well in the process to help him get over there faster.

Of course, the pandemic slowed a lot of things down, but on our end with Family Source, everything was completed when they needed it. My doctor was able to call and get things verified and I was able to reach out to my case manager with Family Source. And she just on top of everything.

I never had to wait a long time for anything concerning questions. And even that day at the hospital the nanny and the guardian were able to get all the paperwork that they needed for him to make the process a little bit faster.

When you began this whole journey, how did you end up finding Family Source? What made it stand out from any other agencies out there?

Really, it was just the relationship that I had with my midwife. She had done two journeys through Family Source. She just talked very highly about the company. I really didn’t do much research outside because I trusted her.

Then going through the process of how friendly and informative, and that was a big one. Being able to answer the questions that I needed to make sure that it was the right thing for me. Family Source was very thorough at every step along the way, and just providing that support and somebody following up with me and answering the questions that I needed that really just hooked me in and was like, okay, so I could trust them. And this would be a great company to be able to do this surrogacy.

Looking back on your whole journey now, is there anything out of the whole process that you may have wanted to do differently?

Some of the medicine that I was taking I didn’t know I was actually having a reaction to, but even when I was going through that process, it was able to be cleared up immediately. They were able to get my medicine to me ASAP.

We were going on a short little family trip during spring break, right before COVID had hit. And I needed to get my next round shipped to the vacation place that we were going to, and it was there. So even with the little hiccups or what I thought would be challenges, it just worked.

I really can’t say that I would have done it differently. And I’m not just being like, “Oh yeah, everything was great and fine.” There were some days.. it wasn’t anything drastic or that was super-hard or you couldn’t get through. But I wouldn’t have changed the experience.

What advice would you have to someone that was just starting out as a surrogate?

Ask questions and ask as many as you need to feel comfortable with the process to know that it is a process.

There were some days that had longer waiting periods than others. They said, take it as a marathon, not a sprint. Some days, there are going to be sprints where things are happening a little bit faster, but then there are certain times where it’s going to take a long time. Just ride the process.

I think the longest process for me was the contract phase. But it took so long because you want to make sure that they’re taking care of you both and you mutually agree with what’s going on in the contract.

That process is needed because whenever you get into the journey, it’s hard to change things within the contract, that were already agreed upon.

I would just say, ask lots of questions, take your time where you think you need to take your time, and then ask more questions.

But know that it’s a marathon. Whenever you actually get to the point in the journey where you’re carrying that little bundle, just enjoy the experience and take care of yourself. Ask for help when you need help. Just embrace it all.

That’s what I would say to just embrace every part of it.

We all know that this journey is not about money, but there is compensation when you become a gestational surrogate. Would you like to share what the compensation has how it’s benefited you and your family?

It really allowed me just to have just more cushion. I could buy more organic foods and make sure that we had lots of just, fruits and vegetables, which actually did very well during my pregnancies.

It was a little bit more spare on the end. Just having that extra commission helped with the savings. Having an extra cushion for whatever we needed just within school and in sports and all that, it’s just nice to have that.

And then being able to help others too with it. Saving and making plans for the future would be the biggest thing. That was the nicest thing for me. Being able to have that extra savings and cushion for things that we have planned on for the future or taking that trip that we didn’t get to take last year and spending time with family.

Staci Swiderski, CEO and owner of Family Source Consultants has been involved in the field of reproductive medicine since 2002. Staci has vigorously grown the comprehensive egg donation and gestational surrogacy agency to become a worldwide leader in the third-party reproduction field. Staci is a former intended parent herself. She and her husband welcomed their son via gestational surrogacy in 2005. Additionally, Staci had the experience of assisting an infertile couple (AKA Recipient Parents) build their family through her efforts as an egg donor, with her donation resulting in the births of their son and daughter.