At 38, Mayyim Hayyim executive director Carrie Bornstein became the surrogate for a London couple who couldn’t conceive on their own. We last chatted with her about her motivations and emotions when she was newly pregnant.
On Sept. 28, she had the baby girl, which she chronicled on her blog, There’s No I In Uterus. Now back to her regularly scheduled life as a mother of three, she caught up with JewishBoston to discuss the pregnancy and birth experience.
Last we talked, you’d just discovered you were pregnant. Catch us up.
Oh, no. Was there ever a moment you thought, “Why did I do this?”
Probably. It was frightening and overwhelming. And on top of that, I have three kids and was running an organization. And I live in Sharon, and was going into Beth Israel. I felt angry because it was preventable. If it were just a fluke, I think I would have had a different perspective. The doctor said that some people could definitely terminate a pregnancy over this. But that wasn’t my choice.
How did you decide to continue the pregnancy?
[The parents] were on Skype with the high-risk doctor when we really found out the extent of everything. To be honest, behind the scenes, later, I found out that the father was furious about what happened. The mother was thrilled that we didn’t have to terminate. She was so eye-on-the-prize about it. If there was an issue with my health being at risk, I would have had a say.
How did it go otherwise?
It’s a double-edged sword. Because we have access to such excellent medical care and the doctor you see at any given time is the one who wrote the textbook, it means that you have a much better knowledge of potential issues. Had we not known about this [blood issue], the pregnancy would have been totally normal. In the end, everything went smoothly and nothing was problematic.
When did the parents arrive?
The couple came to the States at 37 weeks. They were in London. They came just to be local, because I had my other deliveries early and fast. They stayed at an Airbnb in Everett; we got together a few times, and they came to all the appointments once they arrived.
How was it to see them in real life?
They felt the baby kicking. To be a part of that and to have time together, they felt like family. These are people I am connected to in a very deep way.
Describe the actual birth process. What was it like to hand over the baby you’d carried?
At 38 weeks and five days, I went in for an ultrasound, and they found that the fluid around the baby was measuring low, which wasn’t dangerous but could get dangerous quickly. My doctor said, “OK, it’s time.” She said I could go in to be induced that night or the next morning. We went in that night, and then she was born early that morning.
The baby went right to them. The only “handing over” was giving birth. A lot of people feel a sense of loss for me, like I was losing something. It’s the opposite. To see two people trying to have a baby for so many years, to give them that baby, it’s extraordinary. I got to be there when these people became parents.
We were all in the delivery room. Her dad had skin-to-skin contact right away. The baby was on the scale at one point, and her mom didn’t know whether to go to me, to thank me, or go to her.
How did they thank you? How do you thank someone for this?
They brought gifts. There were a lot of thank yous. They brought a bottle of scotch—I don’t drink that, but my husband does—and an engraved decanter that says “L’Chaim.” They can’t say thank you enough. And totally coincidentally, the baby’s Jewish name is also mine.
Did you see them after the birth? What’s it been like postpartum?
It was great to see them together and a lot of fun to hang out. I feel sad it’s over. Through the whole process and preparing for it and getting ready for them to go, we were both very aware that this whole great thing is ending. We’ve been in touch, and I suspect that we’re in each other’s lives forever. It really feels like a family relationship now.
How was your recovery?
My recovery was very good. I didn’t know what it would be like to recover from birth without being up all night! I took three weeks off, worked from home a week, then came back full-time. By and large it was a very small recovery. And I got an epidural!
How did your husband and kids do through the birthing process?
My husband was in the delivery room; he had to get as many pictures as possible. My kids were excited to see the baby but then were like, OK, I’m going to ride my bike now. My 4-year-old asked if I could make a baby for them in my belly. My oldest two did not ask that question!
Would you do it again?
I am not going to do it, but I understand why people do. It’s like any big thing you do that’s hard. Once you’ve done it, you’ve done it, and you know the benefits and rewards. Knowing I put effort into something so concrete and that it had such a big outcome was so rewarding, to know I did it.