That last frozen embryo attempt was in August. I really didn’t think that I would be able to so much as consider another round but I’d promised, hadn’t I? It was supposed to be three rounds and that, I thought, ought to be enough for the husband to know that I had made a valiant attempt.

December rolled around and I was feeling guilty. All that Christmas spirit (and spirits) had done nothing to make me any happier. So I hit upon a solution: we will use a surrogate for the final round of IVF and surely she will get the embryos to stick. This would be a pretty radical step for many folks but in my mind this is going to be the final try. It is either the embryos or my lining that appears to be the problem. My doctor thinks it is a way to objectively test the viability of our embryos.

At first, I call a known surrogacy counsellor that matches surrogates with parents. She has some weird way of going about this to sidestep all the laws that forbid actual payment for surrogacy and services related to it. Right off the bat she tells me it will take nine months to find someone, on average. Wow! All I can think is that in that time my eggs will be 40 years old. I decide to sign up with her however, because it’s not like I can place an ad on eBay. Then I find out about an Indian doctor (in Gujarat, India) that has loads of foreign clients and it is certainly quite a bit less expensive (USD 5000). I get in touch with her and give her my history and lack of diagnosis (or lack thereof). She tells me that I ought to do more IVFs and that in her opinion, surrogacy is for women that have had hysterectomies or are in similar circumstances. I cannot believe this! I have read that she does this for gay couples; I don’t see a difference at all except that I have tried, and clearly, cannot conceive. So much for that option. I decide that the only thing to do is to take my search public; I start talking to people and telling them what we’re considering and why and lo and behold this approach yields results.

A family friend that has always wanted to be a surrogate (something I still cannot get my mind around) heard about our struggles and volunteered through my aunt. I had met this woman once or twice; we certainly did not know her well. But I’m not one to smack down an opportunity. And so after Christmas, we start again. But this time, the process is much longer because our surrogate has to have all the requisite tests done and we have to negotiate the contract.

Our lawyer is probably the one and only lawyer with extensive surrogate legal experience in the country. Clearly, this is not a popular option. Her main concern is that we sign the agreement prior to embryo transfer. She strongly feels that the balance of power shifts from the genetic mother to the birth mother at that moment. At first, this is hard to believe. The surrogate is a super nice woman with a strong marriage and stable career and caring and supportive children. She seems like the kindest stranger I have ever met and there is no ‘power struggle’. But it’s funny the way emotions worm their way into a seemingly altruistic and on our part gratitude-laden process.

Is it a result of the nitpicking of a legal contract or the physical act of harvesting one’s eggs and knowing they will be given to another woman that makes it so difficult? It turns out that I have a growing feeling of powerlessness as the process wears on. I am sure that many surrogate relationships are fraught with anxiousness on part of the genetic mother. You are giving your baby/babies to someone else to care for. Will that woman do what you would do? Will she stop drinking coffee? Will she eat properly? You can’t really monitor her for all these things; it’s impossible and impractical and it would drive you both insane. In fact, our surrogate expressly stated that she does not want us hovering over her. Fair enough. But she has to set the precedent that will allow us to trust her.

One of the things we did was go to dinner a few times with our husbands in tow. It was a surreal experience. I didn’t know how grateful to appear. Notice I did not say how grateful ‘to be’. No, I knew I was grateful but I am not the groveling type. So how do I strike the right balance of grateful, gracious and well, business-mindedness about it? It is a transaction. We cannot actually pay her by Canadian law, however, loads of expenses get slipped into the final accounting that make her life much easier with things she might not have considered in the past, like child care. In any case, my lawyer reminded me that the surrogate gets the kind of emotional kick that cannot be bought. The more I spoke to my surrogate and the closer we got to transfer, I could see that she was already savouring the warm feeling of selflessness (and self-importance) that she knew would overcome when her community finds out that she’s making such a charitable act. On the other hand, she is agreeing to carry my child, so who cares if it’s selfish or selfless. Nevertheless, we sign the contract a week before transfer.

It’s all very exciting. My doctor asks if I want to carry some of the embryos too, but I decline. It turns out that it probably would not have made one iota of difference. To my naked eye, I can tell that our embryos are not as nice as in the past. How can I know that? I just know from the embryologist’s description and seeing them enlarged on the monitor. It’s sad when a woman can rate her own embryos. (In fact, I am quite upset and resentful of my doctor, as her drug regimen for me was different from past attempts.) Instead of freezing the few left over, we decide to take them to blast in the hopes that perhaps one may be hardy enough and that would bode well for the future. But sadly, they all fizzle away in their petrie dish two days later.

Two weeks later, I’m lying on the couch completely covered in blankets with cold medicine and boxes of tissues around me when our doctor calls. I know if she calls instead of the nurse, it must be bad news. Dr. G. felt that she had to tell us herself that our embryos did not take and we would not have a pregnancy. This is the ¬†blow to end all blows. I cannot describe how I felt that day and suffice it to say that I — the woman ambivalent about having children in the first place — plunged into a depression that lasts about six months.