A Journey to Parenthood: A Story of IVF and Surrogacy Interview with Ashley Gildin Spitzer
The topic of surrogacy has received a lot of attention recently, with more celebrities and influencers sharing their struggles with conception and journeys to motherhood. With increased awareness and understanding of surrogacy, more nuanced discussions and frameworks have addressed its complexities, to allow for more positive societal perceptions. This change is thanks to women sharing their stories and being transparent about their experiences, and thus, making this path to parenthood more common and destigmatizing both infertility and surrogacy. For this Meems Monday interview we sat down with Ashley Gildin Spitzer to talk about how she became a mom and how she explored all options (simultaneously), which ultimately led her to her rainbow babies!
In the summer of 2019, after 1.5 years of fertility treatments, multiple miscarriages, failed transfers and being diagnosed with unexplained infertility, Ashley and her husband Jon began the parallel path of exploring both IVF and gestational surrogacy. After much heartache and disappointment, Ashley was willing to explore every avenue as she wanted nothing more than to become a mother. Ashley proactively did all her research on surrogacy, so that if her fourth IVF transfer wasn’t successful, they could move forward quickly with surrogacy. Unfortunately, their hopes were met with another failed transfer in October 2019 and the following month, they matched with their first surrogate.
While starting the surrogacy process in late 2019/ early 2020, Ashley got pregnant from an IUI, but unfortunately experienced a hetero-ectopic pregnancy, and needed to have both a D&C and salpingectomy. Physically overwhelmed, she was forced to take a break at which time she and her husband decided to focus all of their efforts on surrogacy. After a few delays due to COVID, they finally transferred to their surrogate in May 2020. Unfortunately, their surrogate experienced two miscarriages, the first at 7 weeks and the second at 6 weeks. Emotionally and physically drained, Ashley and her husband hit rock bottom and went back to reevaluating their options.
Ashley took matters into her own hands and due to long wait times for rematching for a surrogate, decided she would try to find one on her own. Through thorough research and outreach, in December 2020 Ashley found a surrogate based in Florida. Ashley brought the surrogate to her agency and enlisted the agency’s help for the rest of the journey. Simultaneously, not ready to fully give up on herself, Ashley went forward with her sixth IVF transfer and finally, much to her and her husband’s surprise, received the exciting news they were pregnant. Worried about her ability to carry and nervous about another miscarriage, Ashley and her husband decided to still move forward with her second surrogate and transferred to her in March 2021. She too was pregnant and the two were due 12 weeks apart! Ashley was carrying a girl, and her surrogate was pregnant with a boy. Their daughter was born via emergency c-section at 33 weeks old and remained in the NICU for 47 days. Their son was born four months later. After a lot of ups and downs, with absolute dedication, Ashley became a mother of “twiblings” - siblings conceived through different pregnancies, born within a close timeframe.
Ashley now speaks out about her experience and helps other fertility warriors advocate for themselves and navigate the surrogacy process. She runs the Facebook Group “Fertility Friends of Friends” and supports other families going through the process as a Fertility Consultant with Fertility Together.
Q & A:
How long were you trying to conceive before you turned to IVF? Can you offer advice for someone thinking/planning to conceive?
We didn’t try at all; I never had a period after getting off birth control and that meant I wasn’t ovulating. From the time I saw the fertility doctor and starting IVF it had been seven months off birth control.
My advice is to best understand your cycle, that can mean being aware of your temperature or using ovulation strips to find out when your window is. If you have been trying for some time, at least 6 months, it cannot hurt to see your doctor and run a few basic tests, such as hormone levels, thyroid, vitamin D level to see if there is anything preventing you from conceiving. The next step would be to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist and see if there are further tests to run, like and HSG or saline sonogram.
Did you know anyone who had had a surrogate and were familiar with the process?
I had a few friends, but more “friends of friends” I could turn to for advice. I didn’t know a ton of people who were doing it though. Now, it seems like everyone has a friend who is exploring surrogacy and it's becoming more of a common path to parenthood.
What type of support did you get while going through this? What advice do you have for friends supporting friends going through surrogacy?
I had a weekly therapist. My close friends and family knew what we were going through, but we didn’t share publicly at first during the process. For friends, be sensitive and support them however they need it. While they might not be carrying the baby, they will still go through many of the same challenges of becoming a mother and caring for a newborn.
What was your relationship like with your surrogate?
We have a good relationship, then and now. We would call and text throughout the pregnancy. We met in person once before the baby arrived. We planned to take belly-to-belly photos together, but unfortunately with my daughter coming at 33 weeks, we were unable to. We have seen her twice since my son was born, including a trip to NY for our son’s 1st birthday party. We continue to share pictures and check-in.
Can you tell us more about finding a surrogate and what type of people choose to be a surrogate?
In 2019 paid surrogacy was not legal in New York. We wanted to find someone who aligned with our values and if there were complications, they would be on the same page with us. It was important they had healthy relationships, family support, were open to vaccinations, and that they would deliver the baby in a hospital with a level 4 NICU. There is a list of qualifications to become a surrogate, one has to be below a certain BMI and age, have no history of pregnancy complications and have given birth before. Surrogates should also be complete with their own family, as there is a risk to their own fertility.
Surrogates are the most selfless women. They often feel a calling to help others and love being pregnant. While compensation may also be a factor, surrogates must be financially stable and not be receiving any government assistance.
How much does it cost to have a surrogate?
There is not a lot of regulation on surrogate compensation and typically the surrogate gets paid anywhere between $25-$75k. An agency can cost between $20-$60k. Since surrogacy is becoming more popular there are also concierge services and platforms like Nodal, that can help make the process easier.
There are a lot of extra costs that fall on the intended parents. They are responsible for paying for lost wages, childcare if needed while on bed rest, doctors’ visits and appointments, and the delivery. Some surrogates do have surrogacy friendly insurance, so medical costs would be a bit less in that case. Everything is specifically outlined in our contract which is reviewed by both your lawyer and your surrogate’s lawyer.
Thank you, Ashley, for speaking with us, sharing your story, and helping other families learn about surrogacy! If you want to get in touch with Ashley, you can reach out to her on Instagram @ashleygildinspitzer or through Fertility Together.
Christine Russell Janis writes about life as a mom of four children, living abroad, and travel on her life & style website ashadeofrose.com. You can also follow on social media @a.shade.of.rose.in.paris.