At some point, we’ve all lied on social media. They are usually lies of omission. Sharing a photo of our beautiful dinner; omitting the chaos of family surrounding it. Showing a photo of our freshly cleaned kitchen; omitting the photo of our hair that hasn’t been washed in 3 days. Social Media allows us to frame our lives in ways we feel comfortable sharing – omitting the less glamorous parts.
I omit things all the time. Often, because the rest of the story is not mine to tell. I’ll share a photo of the beach – but not the friend I met there to console. I’ll share a landscape – but not that the reason for the trip was to visit someone in the hospital.
I’ve been wanting to tell this story for some time. I waited so long because this one isn’t entirely mine to tell. But enough of it is. And enough time has passed. I’m ready to split this secret wide open. It is a big one. This lie wasn’t a single post – it was an entire vacation. I lied about an entire trip to London on Social Media.
I was 25, and Jane was about 5 years older than me. She and I became close friends. She had been told she might not be able to conceive. “You would make a great mom – I’ll carry your child.” I told her flippantly one day over coffee. I was taken aback by my own statement. But the more I thought about it, the more I knew that I would do it if she needed me to.
I got married, and birthed two beautiful babies. I discovered I make a terrible pregnant woman. I’m not cute when pregnant. I’m a fat, swollen, grumpy, and tired when pregnant. However, I was absolved of my promise. Jane, through IVF, gave birth to a girl, and later a set of twins.
Throughout the years, I heard the stories of so many friends who had trouble conceiving. I’ve lost track of the number who turned to IUI or IVF. The tearful calls from friends when they mourned another failed cycle. Or miscarriages. Or being faced with the decision to reduce a multiple pregnancy.
One of these friends was Rachel. Rachel and I were very different. She is a decade older than me, has her MBA from a top-10 school, and has faced some serious health issues due to a car accident years before I met her. But she quickly became like an older sister to me. It was an unlikely, but perfect friendship.
Rachel and I stayed friends for over a decade. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding, I was a bridesmaid in hers. She moved away, and so did I, but we remained close. And she confided in me her pregnancy struggles. The fertility industry feels especially cruel to people like Rachel. Over and over again, it filled her with hope, emptied her pockets, then left her with nothing. She exhausted all of her options, until doctors told her she had to stop for health reasons. She would never carry a child.
You might wonder why she and her husband didn’t rush to adopt at this point. But that part of this story is not mine to tell. I will tell you that they knew their best option was surrogacy.
Building up to the lie
The remnants of my past promise to Jane lingered in my mind. I found it, dusted it off, and offered it to Rachel. The promise was weightier this time. Filled with a better understanding of what it was I’d be offering. Rachel needed to be a mother – she needed a child in her life. One that would turn her world upside down and right-side up again. The only way for that to happen was with a hand-me-down uterus. I didn’t need mine. I was giving it to her. With one catch – medicine and science said it had to stay in my body.
We started talking every week. Wednesday afternoons we would hop on an international call (she was living overseas by then), to talk about everything. Life. Relationships. What this all meant.
Rachel and I discussed all the details we could, with one goal. We would keep going until we hit a “no.” She hired a lawyer to write up a contract. I talked to my OB, who had seen me through my two pregnancies. She consulted with fertility specialists. I was on the path to becoming an unpaid surrogate. She was trying yet another path to becoming a mom.
So many details to arrange. Then re-arrange. When we started, I was living in Nevada, and would fly to San Francisco for the implantation of her embryo. A year later, I was living in San Diego, and would fly to London for implantation of the 5-day blastocyst conceived from a donor egg that had been fertilized by her husband’s sperm. We’d jumped numerous hurdles, but we had not gotten to “no” yet.
The Lie begins
The last month, there were so many times we came close to “no.” And on social media, I lied through it all.
The day I underwent a procedure to remove uterine scarring from my past c-sections was also the day I stopped in to my son’s jog-a-thon at school.
The day I was in tears on the phone with a customs agent who wouldn’t release medication I needed to take the following day without copies of my passport e-mailed to her was a day without social media.
The following day I had to find someone to inject me with the first medication. That day I shared the kids eating fast food in the car. Hashtag “real life”.
And then we discovered that I had fluid in my uterus. This was disastrous. Fluid in the uterus meant that the chances of implantation were virtually zero – the fluid would wash the blastocyst away before it could implant.
So I underwent a procedure to remove the fluid.
And disappeared completely on Instagram. I didn’t have the energy to lie to the world.
We already had flights booked. We had overcome every obstacle. We could do this. We had not yet found “no.”
A week of lies
I flew to London. We met with her specialist. The fluid was back. The doctor was telling us no.
Having overcome every “almost no” that had been thrown into our path, we weren’t ready to take this no. We convinced the doctor to give it a chance. I’d take a new medication to see if it helped. I’d see the acupuncturist to see what Eastern Medicine had to offer.
And I lied all over social media. I shared pictures of a fabulous London vacation. We took a picture of me at a London phone booth on our way to the acupuncturist. A quick snap of me with a postcard of the queen on the way to the pharmacy. A very few friends knew what was really going on, but to the rest of the world, I was having an awesome London getaway with my best friend.
For days we did what we could. I saw the acupuncturist several times. I drank the most horrible tasting tea. I threw up the most horrible tasting tea. I ate food high in iron. Took long walks. We googled everything that might help while waiting in line at the London Eye. I shared none of this online.
Then we went back to the doctor. Her answer was still no. Unbelieving, we sat at a cafe trying to come up with alternatives. Wanting a second opinion, we found a clinic that specializes in ultrasounds. Their results were the same. We called the doctor in San Francisco, and the doctor in San Diego for confirmation. Nobody could provide a clear reason why it was happening, it was a fluke.
They all agreed that transferring the 5-day blastocyst at this point would result in almost certain failure. And they all agreed that if we tried another round, we’d almost certainly get better results.
I thought of all the times I drove up and back to the fertility center in San Diego in the months before coming to London. All the hours my boys had to wait. The procedures I underwent. The time I was spending away from my family now. All the times I sacrificed my family for the sake of her growing hers. I didn’t want it to be for nothing. I wanted to move forward. But this wasn’t forward, this was going back. I couldn’t commit to doing it all again.
We had found “no.”
On a beautiful day, in a park somewhere in London, I lay on the grass and looked at the sky while the reality sunk in for me. 100 yards away, Rachel and Sam were dealing with their own reality. Theirs so much harsher than mine.
The following day, we pushed through. We stopped by the prime meridian and walked through Greenwich market before heading to the airport. I flew back to the US. I hugged my children, and spent the next few days resting as the fertility drugs worked their way out of my system.
After, I tried calling Rachel.
She responded by text. She respected my decision, but it was too hard to keep in touch. She was in a dark place. Afraid that she’d try to convince me to change my mind. She and Sam were trying to move forward, looking into paid surrogate options. She’ll contact me when it is over.
It has been 18 months.
I don’t have it in me to lie anymore.
I lost my best friend. She may have lost her last chance at becoming a mom.
There is nothing left to omit.
*names have been changed.