Can you be a surrogate when you're plus size? The short answer is yes, as you'll read Rachel's plus size surrogate story below. The long answer is the common recommended BMI for surrogacy is 33 or below.
Don't give up hope if becoming a surrogate is your dream but you have a higher BMI!
Rachel's story is inspiring. She's one of many plus size women who are creating change by proving that people of all sizes can be surrogates.
Plus Size Surrogate Story
To be honest, being a plus size surrogate was tough.
Many reproductive endocrinologists (RE) have Body Mass Index (BMI) restrictions, most of which are under 30… I do not meet that. My primary care physician and OB-GYN gave me the “all clear” to carry and said I was healthy enough to undergo IVF.
And even with that and my RE approving me after an extensive medical evaluation, I was still met with incredible negativity from other surrogates who believed I should not have been approved.
Many insisted I could not possibly be healthy if I had a higher BMI.
I even had one surrogate tell me my choice to do this meant that if I got pregnant I would probably just, “kill their baby because you're too fat.” It got to the point where I never mentioned anything about my weight or posted full-body pictures for fear of getting attacked.
But for the third time in my life, I had a healthy, complication-free pregnancy and delivery.
So I try to ignore the negative comments because if all my doctors say I'm healthy enough, that's what really matters!
Ever since I was 9 years old I have wanted to be a surrogate.
When I heard some women carried babies for other women who were unable, I thought it was so incredible.
I told myself right then that if I was lucky enough to be able to have healthy pregnancies, this is what I wanted to do.
In May of 2014, I saw an online ad that sparked that desire in my mind again and I brought it up to my husband.
He was so incredibly supportive, which I have come to find is not always the case.
I looked up reviews on the agency I saw the ad from and they seemed like a great agency, so I filled out an online application.
I got a call from them the next day!
They told me I would have to wait 6 months because of medication I had been taking, so I was put on hold. But exactly 6 months later, when I was out of town visiting family, I got a call from them asking if I was still interested.
Of course I was! So I spent the next few weeks filling out more paperwork, got all my medical records and worked on a profile that included info and pictures of my family and myself.
About a week after my profile went live, the agency told me they had a possible match and wanted to know if we could have a phone conference the next day!
I was so nervous! My hubby and I jumped on the phone conference, not knowing what exactly to expect, and I was so nervous.
We talked to the couple and the agency coordinator asked questions of both couples. We seemed to mesh well. Then the couple told us a little about themselves… I was in tears.
He's a businessman, she used to be an elementary school teacher and now trains and competes horses. They own a farm on the east coast. Hearing what they had to offer a child… it was everything I would love to offer my children.
An amazing life, full of love!
The next several months were a whirlwind of medical and psychological evaluations, legal paperwork, and lots of waiting.
Then, after a month of daily injections and pills, we had our first embryo transfer in July 2015.
When I saw that little pink line on the test, I was ecstatic and couldn't help but wonder if both of the embryos took. The line got a little darker, then got lighter and lighter.
By the time I went for blood work 2 weeks later, there was almost no sign of pregnancy at all. I was heartbroken and was so afraid to tell the Intended Parents. But they were amazingly supportive and ready to try again!
On October 14th, we transferred 2 more embryos.
The positive pregnancy test came 5 days later. I was cautiously excited. But the lines got darker and darker.
Blood work finally confirmed it… We were pregnant! And both embryos took!
Besides being incredibly exhausted, and not being able to fit in my pants a little sooner, the twin pregnancy was not much different than my first two pregnancies of my own children.
I went in for routine blood work at 16 weeks and thought nothing of it.
A week or so later I got a call from my OB. He said all my blood work came back perfect, except the numbers for Spina Bifida came back elevated.
He said there was a chance one of the babies had it. It was scary to hear that, but I also heard these tests have a very high false-positive rate.
I decided I wouldn't worry about it until we found out for sure. The parents flew out for our 20-week ultrasound where we find out the sex.
Two little girls! Just like they wanted!
Unfortunately, the blood test was not a false negative. One of the babies did, in fact, have Spina Bifida and she was suffering severe complications.
Hearing the doctor say these words with the babies' parents sitting beside me… it was the most earth-shattering thing I have ever experienced. And at 21 weeks, I found myself pregnant with just one amazing baby girl.
The rest of the pregnancy went well, thanks in large part to my amazing husband.
I wasn't entirely sure how the dynamics would be since it wasn't his baby. But he took such good care of me.
Every time I thanked him, he would say, “It may not be my baby, but you're still my wife, and you're pregnant. Why wouldn't I take care of you?”
I don't know how I got so lucky.
Throughout the rest of the pregnancy, I had extra monitoring and ultrasounds to make sure baby was growing ok.
She was. And she was perfectly healthy!
Around 37 weeks I started having false labor.
And since my kiddos came at exactly 40 weeks and 39 weeks. I figured she would make her grand entrance soon. So her parents flew cross country, at 38 weeks, so they could be here for the delivery.
I was so worried she might decide to come before they got here, but thankfully she didn't.
So we waited… and waited… and waited.
At 39 weeks and 5 days, my OB offered an induction. I denied in hopes she would come on her own. But when he offered again 40 weeks and 4 days, we were all on board!
We scheduled for Friday, July 8th… exactly 41 weeks.
I was supposed to check-in at 6 am. But apparently this little princess had her own plans! Labor started on its own at 3:30 am. Everything seemed like it was lightning quick.
My hubby was with me and we got checked in at 6 a.m., changed plans and canceled the actual induction, and let the baby's parents know what was going on.
When my OB got there to check me just after 9 a.m. he said I was 5 cm and he broke my water.
Just over two hours later, I was pushing! First push, nothing. You would think I hadn't done this twice before because I felt like I could not remember how. The second push was perfect and her little head popped right out. Third push and she was here.
She was perfect!
I got to cut the cord and embrace that transition as she went from my body to her parent's arms.
And the looks on their faces… it was like seeing all my dreams come true.
A dream I had had for the last 20 years, finally fulfilled. I had brought this little girl into the world and changed this family forever. I was so relieved to have her out and with her parents where she should be.
My husband kept telling me he loved me and saying “You did it.”
After we all got settled into our postpartum rooms, the parents brought the baby over to say “Hi.” She was adorable! And my heart was overflowing because her middle name is Rachel! They gave her my name.
There were just no words to describe how I felt.
I spent the next 20+ hours resting and pumping in the hospital, and then I was able to go home.
The next day (Sunday the 10th) my hubby, kids and I went to the hospital to drop off some milk and say our goodbyes.
It was so wonderful to see them together. It was everything I could have ever wanted from this experience. After we left, I couldn't help but cry. I was so unbelievably happy.
Everyone asks: “Was it hard?” “Do you miss the baby?” “Are you ok?”
My answers: “Being a surrogate is such an incredible journey. It may not have been easy, but it was never hard. I miss being pregnant, but the baby is exactly where she belongs and so no, I don't miss her. I'm better than ok, I feel amazing!!”
I don't think there are many people who have a dream for almost their entire life and actually get to achieve that goal. I'm beyond proud and in awe of myself.
I could not be more grateful that the baby's parents chose me to do this amazing thing with them.
And I am so incredibly thankful to my friends and family for all the support they provided throughout the whole thing. I am truly blessed.
I am now pumping for surro-babe and happy to say that we are all open to doing a sibling journey in a couple of years!
If you're interested in more information about surrogacy, Rachel recommends the website All Things Surrogacy. “I learned mostly from other surrogates as opposed to a book or website. This website is a great starting point to read up on the process before entering any FaceBook groups. Facebook groups are kind of unkind to those who haven't done at least a Google search about the laws in their state and what IVF entails, at the very least.”