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Minutes read

Surrogacy and Miscarriage

Daniel Djemal from Dadnatal shares his story.

Author Daniel Djemal
Categories   Pregnancy

"No one likes to talk about miscarriage. Why? It’s so common yet it remains really kind of taboo.”

My husband and I had wanted children for a long time, and when our friend Sasha offered to be a surrogate for us it seemed perfect. We were similar people, had known each other for a long time and there was that vague sense of ‘rightness’.

Over the coming months we had counselling. A lot of counselling. We discussed everything. What we would do in the case of twins. What we would do about antenatal screening. Plans for labour and the immediate period after birth. How many cycles of IVF we’d try. Honestly, the list was endless. But it feels like we never discussed how we’d deal with miscarriage.

Seems silly now. We’d spoken about what we’d do after ‘failed cycles of IVF’, which boiled down to ‘we’d chat about going again’ but I think we always imagined this would involve embryos not taking, I never really considered how a miscarriage might affect us all.

After what felt like a lifetime worth of tests and scans, we came to our first embryo transfer. We were nervous but excited. I remember gripping Sasha’s hand as we saw the little embryo being delivered into her uterus on the ultrasound. That was it. It took minutes and we were sent on our way. “Don’t worry, you can’t sneeze it out,” they said with a chuckle. We went home for the anxious wait for the pregnancy test in two weeks. It felt like forever.

It was one week before Christmas. They ask you to take the pregnancy test using the first wee of the day. As we live a couple of hours away from each other, we sat on FaceTime before we all set off for work or whatever else we were doing for the day and waited to see how many lines we’d have. I remember how quickly we were looking at two lines. We all felt amazing, but within hours that feeling would come crashing down.

Sasha had experienced some minor bleeding in the days running up to the test, but we know there can be many causes for that, so tried not to worry ourselves. A few hours after the test Sasha texted me to say the bleeding had increased and she felt a bit crampy. We called the clinic for advice who told us just to monitor it and take another pregnancy test in a few days.

Already the emotions were kicking in, however they weren’t for our baby, but for Sasha. I obviously worried about potentially losing our baby, but I also worried for my friend. We’d enjoyed a decade of friendship by this point and we’d been through a lot together, but nothing really prepares you for sharing this experience. She didn’t deserve this. What were we putting her through? It was her daughter’s birthday and she was potentially miscarrying. I was racked with guilt. My husband tends to panic so I kept what was going on from him until things looked more certain.

A few hours later Sasha told me, and I’ll never forget it, “I’m sorry, I think that’s it”. She’d had the urge to push down below and passed a large clot which we think also contained our baby. I didn’t know what to feel. The guilt I’d felt intensified, yet at the same time I felt numb. We hadn’t prepared for this.

I told my husband. We cried, but we both felt the same way. What about Sasha? She told me she was fine. I offered to drive up to give her a hug, she politely declined. I told her there was no pressure to go again, she told me her plan was to keep going until we had a baby. I told her we loved her. She said she loved us too.

Looking back, it’s all so surreal. Surrogacy is still so uncommon that there aren’t many ways to prepare yourself for this. Who do we talk to? We didn’t know any other couples that had been through this. Even if we had, each situation is so unique. My husband and I found solace in Christmas, a special time of year for us, and supported each other through the process.

There are so many emotions that go with a miscarriage. It’s grief in one of its purest forms. Loss, and what could’ve been. I worried that our friendship with Sasha and her family might not survive it too, another loss I couldn’t bear. It is hard to know what to say, or do.

I wanted to be there for her, but I didn’t want to smother. I wanted to be available to support, but give her the distance she needed to process. I wanted her to know I was there, but in giving space I also wanted to make sure she didn’t feel abandoned. It felt like such a hard balance to strike. There is nothing I’ve ever experienced to compare it to. I’m pretty sure I got it wrong sometimes. She’d been such a close friend to me throughout the years, I needed to make sure, whatever happened, that we still had each other on the other side of this.

I needn’t have worried about that. Our friendship continued, if anything stronger than before, bonded by shared trauma. The new year came and we tried again. The following October we all welcomed a healthy baby boy into our lives. We’ve been lucky, where I know so many others aren’t, and we count our blessings every day. We’ll always be thankful for the gift given to us. Sasha and her family are stuck with us now, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Author Daniel Djemal

Daniel Djemal is a father, husband and doctor working in General Practice, sex and relationships. When he is not working, he enjoys video games, graphic novels and naps.

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