Last week I decided it was finally time to attempt… a registry. We had been getting questions about it for several weeks now, and I knew that we were rapidly running out of time we could still put it off. With a due date in late January, I was already pushing my luck at appearing believably pregnant, and for once I just wanted to enjoy looking like a normal couple preparing for a baby; the details of our infertility and surrogacy were not something I was interested in discussing while signing up to register. After several days spent perusing checklists, reading reviews on Amazon, and texting Elle with endless questions, I eventually emerged from the piles of information feeling as though it was time to take the next step.
We were all ready to go… but, standing in front of the full-length mirror in one of my most flow-y tops, I turned to the side and wondered if I would be questioned on my lack of a bump. How long could I stand to arch my back in order to give the appearance of a tiny bump? Maybe drinking a bottle or two of water beforehand would help push my stomach out a little further and keep me from getting comments? Or I could just carry a really large purse… Kyle assured me that no one would even notice or care, but I was apprehensive as we started on our way.
Armed with a scanner and an enormous master list, it didn’t take long for me to feel completely overwhelmed again by the enormity of the task but, to my relief, we made it through Babies ‘R’ Us unscathed. If anyone did react to my flat stomach, I was too absorbed in making decisions to notice. The following day we decided to get Target out of the way as well, since that is a more convenient option for some of our family and stores offer freebies as an incentive to register. Again I wore a flow-y top and was only confronted by smiles and well wishes as we picked up our scanner. Still, as other shoppers walked down the aisle, I self-consciously turned away or held my checklists in front of my mid-section, hoping they either wouldn’t notice or would just think I was registering really early.
Our last registry was a private one, created solely to check out the store and claim a freebie bag. I got dressed that day without thinking of anything beside the weather, leaving the house in jeans and a three-quarter sleeve top. We were beginning to feel like pros by this point, and I was no longer as worried about getting comments. It was all purely for fun anyway, and we ended up picking out some things we didn’t really need but might want to buy later on with the eventual discount. We laughed and joked throughout the store, not feeling as much pressure this time as we pushed around a few of the obscenely expensive strollers. By the end, Kyle was forced to physically remove me from the clothing section; though, in my defense, everything there is just so cute and I have had to wait an extraordinarily long time to look at it!
After turning in our scanner and picking up a bag stuffed with free samples and coupons, we were walking to the exit when a few employees saw us and one loudly exclaimed, “Oh, it is true! Someone in ‘Registry’ told us to look for a girl here who doesn’t even look pregnant!”
For a moment I was completely stunned. My first reaction was to come clean; it’s what I would have done without question at the beginning of the summer. But since then I’ve experienced so many negative reactions that I have come to dread giving an explanation. Instead, I kept my mouth shut and walked through the door, guided by Kyle through my temporary daze. As soon as we got outside, I looked up at him and saw that he already knew how I was feeling. I didn’t have to tell him that it was painful and embarrassing for me, he has watched me stress over my missing bump for months now. And, as the weeks go by and I should be showing, it has become increasingly difficult to feel like a mother-to-be when I am outside of our little surro-group of four that includes Elle and her husband. I stared out the window as we drove home, feeling dejected and exposed– like a sort of freak– and did nothing to stop the tears from rolling freely down my cheeks.
I am not ashamed of the surrogacy… or at least I’m not always ashamed of it. However, the negative reactions I’ve received over the last few months have made me feel uncomfortable in many situations. At one time I thought I had developed a tougher skin thanks to years of thoughtless comments throughout our battle with infertility. I even used to welcome the questions about surrogacy– I believed I could help educate those who are lucky enough to have never needed it, but that was back when I thought that people would still give me some semblance of respect. Since then I have developed anxiety in social situations, never knowing when I will be hit with an insensitive comment or whether someone will insinuate that my child’s life is “against God’s will.” We are regularly made to feel as though our journey to parenthood is inferior to that of everyone else, usually without any warning to protect ourselves. Worst of all, I don’t know when I will be treated with utter condescension, as though I am less valuable as a woman due to my inability to carry my own child. As someone who is a natural-born rule-follower, I have never experienced so much disapproval over something I’ve done– and all of it because my body isn’t healthy enough to carry a child, the thing I have wanted most my entire life.
There is just something so heartbreaking about the fact that we fear the pregnancy coming up in conversation after so much time spent waiting to get to this point. Personally, I have always been in awe of surrogacy. Long before we ever needed the help of a gestational carrier, I felt there was no greater gift that you could give another person. It is a miracle, a second chance. It results in a life, a child who would otherwise not exist. Yet, the way I have been treated by many has caused me to understand that not everyone feels the same way.