By Christina Shiffler

When I was pregnant with my first child back in 2007, I read book upon book about pregnancy and childbirth. Like so many expectant moms, I became an armchair expert on prenatal nutrition, fetal development, the stages of labor, the risks of a hospital birth, even the history of birth practices in the United States. I spent most of my pregnancy thinking of the newborn period as a rosy afterglow, the time when I would get to pat myself on the back and enjoy the fruits of my labors: an angelic baby girl.

So imagine my surprise, after she was born, when I was suddenly totally overwhelmed by the million difficulties of new mommyhood. Nursing was difficult, sleeping was difficult, keeping my emotions in check was difficult. She cried and cried, she wasn’t gaining weight, she seemed to love everyone more than me! I spent even the best days worrying and feeling certain I was doing everything wrong. I kicked myself for getting so caught up in the pre-baby information while neglecting to even consider what life with a newborn would actually be like. I thought to myself, “I could do the pregnancy/birth thing again and again if only I didn’t have to have a newborn afterwards.”

But we survived, and things got better, and when my baby was a few months old, I started to hear about surrogacy here and there. Newsweek had a cover story called “The Curious Lives of Surrogates” and there was a (hilarious!) new movie out called Baby Mama. Around my daughter’s first birthday I read a New York Times article about surrogacy called “Her Body, My Baby.” Surrogacy interested me. In the back of my mind, I thought I might make a good surrogate. I did some superficial research. (Thank you, Google!)

Then I was pregnant again, and my baby boy’s birth was the most empowering, incredible thing I had ever done. I started to develop a new mental picture of myself as a strong, birthing, natural mother figure. But the newborn period! Oooooh, the agony of it. The pain, the baby blues, the exhaustion. I told my husband I was satisfied with our family of four. We gave away our baby gear as baby boy grew up.

But I still kept thinking about surrogacy. I kept thinking about how blessed I am to have uncomplicated pregnancies. I kept wanting to feel the satisfying self-sufficiency, the connection to my female relatives and ancestors I felt when I gave birth. I found myself hearing more and more heartbreaking stories of friends who struggled with infertility.

So, finally, I applied to a surrogacy agency and began their complicated screening process. It took several months, which gave me time to consider again and again whether I could really do this. And, even more importantly, whether I truly wanted to do it. I examined my motivations, talked and talked and talked about surrogacy with friends and family. And by the time I was officially “matched” with a set of “Intended Parents,” I knew without a doubt that I could do it. I could have a baby for another family.

Now I am 35 weeks pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl. The babies’ two daddies live in the Caribbean, and they are full of all the proper new parent feelings: worry, anticipation, excitement, impatience, the beginnings of awe. I’m dealing with the typical third-trimester complaints: swollen feet, heartburn, sciatica, back pain. But I also feel joy every day: I love the rolls and bumps performed by two miniature kickboxers, the sympathetic and encouraging words I hear from strangers and loved ones alike. And, most of all, I find fulfillment and constant satisfaction in this absolutely amazing work my body is doing.

I’m proud to be a surrogate, and I love to talk about this process. I welcome your questions – honestly, I’m not easily offended so if you’re curious about anything – now’s the time to ask! Let’s get some quality discussion going in the comments. I’ll kick it off with a couple of questions for you, dear readers:

Do you think you would be a good candidate for surrogacy? Would you be more or less willing to try if you were helping a close friend or family member to start a family?

Surrogacy is illegal in many countries, largely because of the potential for the exploitation of women. Futuristic baby farms come to mind, and the idea that a woman in dire straights might be coerced into being a surrogate. Do you think surrogacy is by nature exploitative?