Every family has a slightly different way of celebrating Mother’s Day, but this year carries extra meaning for Sheena Morgan of Salisbury. She will spend the day here in New Brunswick with her husband and their four children, but part of her heart will be in Ontario. That’s where IM will be celebrating her first Mother’s Day with her twin boys, who Sheena brought into this world.
Seven weeks ago, Sheena gave birth to two healthy, beautiful boys. But they weren’t just hers. She carried the twins for a woman Sheena refers to as IM, the boys’ ‘intended mother.’
“It’s something that I always wanted to do, even before I had my own children,” says the 31-year-old. “Then after having my own kids and going through multiple miscarriages myself, I had tremendous sadness for women who struggle with infertility. I couldn’t imagine wanting a family so badly and not being able to have one.”
Sheena says her journey to becoming a surrogate mother happened like most things these days – online.
“I was on Facebook one day and saw an ad pop up saying ‘apply to be a surrogate here’,” she explains. The ad was from Surrogacy in Canada Online, a national organization that has been matching families since 2001. (There is no financial compensation involved for the applicant; it is illegal to pay a surrogate in Canada.) “I applied and the woman who runs it called me within a few days to ask me a few more questions,” says Sheena. “I joined and immediately started receiving e-mails from people who were desperately looking for a surrogate.”
Sheena describes the process like online dating, waiting to feel a connection with a potential family. A first match with a couple in Germany ended happily when the couple decided to try one last round of IVF themselves and conceived twins. Then, a phone call in January 2016 changed everything.
“A woman called me, told be a bit about her story, and wanted to video chat,” recalls Sheena. “I remember hanging up and thinking that there was just something about this woman. I read through her profile and really respected that she was 47 years old, a single woman, still continuing to pursue her dream of wanting to be a mother. We video chatted, clicked, and she and her twin sister flew down to meet me and my family the next week.”
The chemistry continued, with Sheena agreeing to be IM’s surrogate before she left Moncton.
“We all cried, hugged, and talked about how this would happen,” says Sheena. Then came the next hurdle: Sheena’s first time on a plane. “I was so terrified!”
The flight went smoothly and Sheena completed a screening process involving internal ultrasounds and blood work in Toronto in March 2016. That was followed by a psychiatric evaluation via Skype, as well as one for her husband. Once cleared, she began a round of medication to prepare for their first IVF transfer in May. It was unsuccessful.
“It was really disappointing, you feel like a total failure,” says Sheena. “Someone just put all this faith into you and it didn’t work.”
A second transfer was booked for July. That’s when Sheena made another major decision: “Let’s go for two embryos this time, what the heck!”
“I just wanted to up the chances of this wonderful woman becoming a mother,” says Sheena. “I knew the chances of multiples [twins or more] going into this, and I was okay with it. Terrified, but okay. So we transferred two and they both took. I was scared, but so happy.”
Sheena’s pregnancy went well, both in terms of her health and the babies’ development, as well as the support she received from her husband, family, and friends, as well as IM and her family.
“When you’re pregnant with someone else’s babies you feel a tremendous amount of pressure. You’re holding this person’s future, their most precious possession. I didn’t expect to feel so much pressure [from myself] for everything to go perfectly. It’s mostly out of your control which makes it even harder.”
“My IM was incredibly supportive towards me throughout the whole pregnancy,” says Sheena. “Her twin sister also checked on me daily throughout the process, made sure I was doing well physically and mentally. It was such a great feeling knowing that they both truly cared for me.”
IM arrived in Moncton three weeks before the twins’ arrival; her sister came 10 days before. Sheena says that the time spent together helped solidify their bond before the magic moment of March 14, 2017 – induction day.
“My husband, my IM, and her sister were all there during the birth,” explains Sheena. “I can’t even put into words how amazing that moment was. It was the moment we had all been waiting for. As she and my husband held my hands, I pushed out her babies and it was just magical.”
“It was a very emotional moment as I looked at her face when she saw her sons for the first time. I did that. I made her a mom. My dream came true and I couldn’t have been happier for her.”
The boys were born without complications, weighing 5lbs 6oz and 6 lbs 12oz. Sheena’s labour lasted four hours, start to finish, with the boys born about twenty minutes apart.
“Many people ask me how I did it,” says Sheena. “How I ever gave birth to two babies and handed them over to another woman. But they were never mine to begin with. I love all three of them, the twins and IM, equally. The first two weeks after birth were hard; you can’t run from those hormones! I was missing all three of them so, so much. I cried a lot. But I made sure to talk to friends and to my husband on those days I was feeling really down.”
“People always assume that it’s the babies you’re missing, and that wasn’t the case,” continues Sheena. “I was missing the journey.”
“You do this amazing thing, and then you’re put right back into what your life was before you did it. It’s a change of identity. You need to go through a process to feel better again, figure out who you are after this.”
IM keeps Sheena updated on the boys; she even joined them for a baby shower in April. “The fact that she wanted me there for that warmed my heart,” says Sheena. “Watching her be a mother was so rewarding; she’s a natural. I meet her parents, which I had been looking forward to. Her mom was so sweet, hugged me and thanked me with tears in her eyes for making this happen for her daughter. She said, ‘I hope you understand how happy you’ve made us all.’ Sitting back at the baby shower, just taking it all in, watching people be so happy for her … It was really hard to just not cry the whole time!”
“Saying good bye was really, really tough,” admits Sheena. “But it was also a moment I had dreamed about, me walking away and looking back at the family that I just created. She made me a better person. She needed me to become a mom, but I became a better person because of her.”
Sheena says becoming a surrogate mother is without a doubt the most rewarding thing she’s ever done.