Emma, host of @SurvivingSundays invited me to write a piece for her blog. She shares incredibly inspiring content, so please head over to read more stories of strength and resilience
Love, Survival and Surrogacy
There was a time when I used to cry endless streams of tears at the news that my friends and family were getting on with their lives, having babies, growing families; leading what I perceived to be normal lives. I craved normality, a break from the endless trauma that seemed to knock at my door.
July 10, 2020
And now, here I am, on the verge of motherhood for the second time. It’s a fairy tale ending to the nightmare that preceded this time.
I’m a British Asian, born and raised to immigrant parents who knew a hardship that some will never see, a hardship that meant money was sparse, success was a necessity and mental wellbeing an inconvenience that was never spoken of.
I sometimes felt that I lived in limbo, ensuring I didn’t ‘sound’ Indian when I spoke English, but needing to learn and speak my mother tongue whilst in our family home. Waking up and praying to a homemade temple filled with Hindu deities and then arriving at school, joining assembly reciting the Lords’ prayer and attending Mass once a fortnight. When it came to marriage, the theme continued. My Mum ‘introduced’ me to perspective suitors- the western ‘arranged, non-arranged marriage!’
By this point, I knew what I wanted in a life partner. I wanted a man who would be my best friend as well as my husband, not a better half, not completion of me; just someone who brought out the best in me. I found that not in the line of potential matches my community sent my way, but in a guy, who had been my friend for ten years before we started dating.
We broke with tradition, we had differing religions, differing cultures, but the same outlook on life, that was what mattered, and in the summer of 2010, we got married. A year later we quit our jobs, packed our backpacks, and set off on a trip around the world.
A few years later, at the age of 33, I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, and everything I knew ground to a halt overnight. I navigated my way through cancer like a rabbit in the headlights, unsure which way to turn, afraid of everything that crossed my path, a constant life of fear. Fear of dying, fear of failing, fear of being alone. Somehow, I made it through. My body covered in scars from my mastectomy and subsequent reconstructions, my weak and brittle bones still intact, but, my mental health in a downward spiral.
Three years later, the lasting effects of chemotherapy took their toll. I found myself in ICU when my health took a turn for the worse whilst away on holiday. The eventual diagnosis – Acute Heart Failure, the prognosis- likely fatal. During those days I felt more afraid than I ever did with my cancer diagnosis. This illness was acute, one day I was healthy and boarding a flight, the next I was in a hospital bed, cannulas in my hands and feet, machines beeping around me, barely able to breathe.
We prepared ourselves for the worst; I recorded audio messages of ‘Goodbyes’ to my loved ones back home, my broken heart now crumbling to pieces. But, despite the fading hopes of medics, I felt a light, a calling, something telling me that I would make it through; this would not be where my journey ended, quite the opposite, this was where life would begin. It was here that my journey with spirituality really began. Here that I started to really work on my mental health and wellbeing, here that I learnt acceptance and surrender.
It was at this time that I received a message from a lady called Ina who would eventually go on to become my surrogate. I had begun this journey sometime before my health had deteriorated, Ina saw my story on a surrogacy forum and decided to reach out to me. I told her of my situation, she made no judgments, she simply continued to message and get to know me. Her hope gave me hope.
I eventually returned to England and continued nurturing the relationship with Ina. Over time, our families got to know each other. This was the first time any of us had ventured into the world of surrogacy and there was so much to learn, so many intricacies to understand. It was after almost a year of knowing each other that we found ourselves in a fertility clinic, ready for our frozen embryo transfer and amazingly, it worked the first time around.
In April 2018, this incredible woman gave birth to my vibrant baby girl; the love of my life, Amaala. I never thought I would know a happiness like this, gratitude for each sunrise, a joy deep within. Yet here I am, mother to a two-year-old and now soon to be Mother again. This time a different journey. A new surrogate, a donor egg. Another painful and difficult path, but one that comes with its own happily ever after. Double the fun for the TWINS that will soon join our family!
Surrogacy is not easy, there are so many emotions at play, so many demons that need to be laid to rest and during a pandemic it is proving to be harder than I could have imagined. Very little time with our soon to be children, confusion at hospitals, the inability to touch a bump when social distancing rules apply. It’s a testing time, but one that will deliver us the greatest gift of all, the gift of new life.
Nothing in my life is as I predicted, nothing sits within the stereotypes of my culture, everything is different, yet everything is as it was meant to be. This is me, a regular girl, living in her own exceptional world. A world that exists due to resilience and an ability to find peace with my own circumstance. An ability to ask for help and to accept it when it is offered.
I have learned that life is not linear, but I have found that the more diversions you meet, the more sights you get to take in. I am eternally grateful for my journey on the bumpy winding road because it brought me to this space that I call home.
Kreena Dhiman is the host of @theintendedparent podcast
For more from Kreena you can find her @KreenaDhiman on Instagram