A woman with lupus looks sadly at her empty womb, while light casts a shadow on the wall behind her of a woman lovingly stroking her pregnant belly.

Lupus & Surrogacy: My Wild Journey to Motherhood, Part 1

I was not one of those little girls who fantasized about becoming a mother. Even as a teenager, I never had a stint as a babysitter and the idea of “mommy-ing” paled in comparison to my daydreams of wearing a pantsuit holding an expensive briefcase.

I wasn’t fully committed to having my own child until I was a 29-year-old and married, and by then lupus had ravaged my body and my kidneys. Before our first wedding anniversary, I was diagnosed and not even a year later the inflammation from lupus had scarred my kidneys to the point of no return. We exhausted all physical possibilities of conceiving before we researched and decided to having a child through surrogacy was the right route for us – but not without facing some serious obstacles that changed our lives and brought us to our knees.

We had so much determination back then.

The exhaustion of planning a family

We both thought all we needed was a little more “hustle.” We decided to focus on the small and ever-narrowing window of possibility to conceive anyway, even with me having damaged kidneys. We had bold faith that somehow, maybe, God would provide a way for us to start a family the traditional way. Even now, nearly 9 years removed, I have blocked out the trauma of it all. I can’t fully articulate the sheer pain, exhaustion, and emotional toll it took on us and our marriage. It left me numb.

There were countless blood draws and invasive tests, expensive visits to high-risk OBGYNs, doctors who flat out refused, tons of research of eating plans and diets, juices, smoothies, philosophies that could somehow heal my kidneys. Prayers that turned into begging.

The shame game

I called crying to girlfriends and my therapist about the pressure, the shame, and guilt of not being to perform the most basic function, or so I believed, of a woman. Not to mention unspoken pressure from family and those around us to start a family or the polar opposite, forgot it all together because I was “too sick”. With self-righteous boldness, one woman at our church, who must have not fully known the depth of our situation, insinuating that we needed to “hurry up and have that baby.” I felt more like a baby machine than a woman and my husband had to constantly reassure me of his love and that he didn’t feel stuck because I had lupus.

Next steps

The final blow came when I had to go on dialysis just 6 years after my initial lupus diagnosis. I was at a dangerous 4 percent kidney function when I finally relented to start treatment that would save my life. My little-girl visions of being that businesswoman had matured and included carrying and bonding with a growing baby in my belly. That wouldn’t be our story, or so it seemed.

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