Nearly two and a half years ago, my husband and I embarked on our surrogacy journey fueled by our shared desire to build a family. We emailed a handful of surrogacy agencies to learn more about the process and get started with the requisite forms. From that moment forward, we have traversed the twists and turns, ups and downs, and emotional turmoil on our path to have our first child.

Our experiences freezing sperm, choosing egg donors, making embryos, testing the embryos, finding a surrogate, losing that surrogate, finding another surrogate, paying for medications, and more is too difficult to distill into a single narrative.

Rather, the below are our top 5 takeaways from our experience so far. While these are our personal perspectives and will not necessarily apply to everyone, hopefully they will still provide those embarking on a surrogacy journey insights and learnings to help them traverse this uncertain and unpredictable path to parenthood.

Manage your emotions.

One paramount lesson we’ve learned is the invaluable benefits of managing our emotions (or at least trying!). The surrogacy journey has proven to be a rollercoaster of highs and lows, from the joys of successful embryo creation to the heartbreak of setbacks. Accepting and navigating these emotional waves, both individually and as a couple, has been essential for maintaining resilience, a positive outlook, and our sanity throughout the process.

Pro tip: Someone once suggested, and it helped us a lot, to think about everything up to the pregnancy as pragmatically and emotionlessly as possible. Once the surrogate is pregnant, then you can start to re-welcome the emotions.

“Google it” is an acceptable response.

If your friends and family are anything like ours, then you are bound to receive an overwhelming number of questions about your surrogacy journey. “So, like, whose sperm are you using?” and “Will the carrier also be considered the mom?” and even “Is it true you have to provide semen in the doctor’s office with the doctor in the room?!” are just some of the many unsolicited, personal, and outright unwanted questions we’ve received from our community. Answering these questions can be exhausting and can often feel like a chore. Feel empowered to tell your inquisitive colleague, brother, mother, or friend to “Google it!” We always acknowledge and thank them for their genuine interest in our lives, but we protect our time and energy by kindly inviting them to research their questions on their own. It is not your job to educate others on the ins and outs of surrogacy.

Science isn’t perfect.

Even with meticulous planning, unforeseen medical issues will likely arise. As two healthy men, my husband and I expected the donor egg fertilization process to be smooth and predictable. We figured that because we’re relatively young, fit, and prioritize healthy lifestyles, and we chose prequalified healthy donor eggs, then making embryos would be routine and straightforward. As it turns out, despite everything on paper checking out, science isn’t perfect. Because of the unpredictable nature of human biology, acknowledging the likelihood of imperfections throughout the process will award you a more realistic and adaptable mindset.

Doctors are people, too.

Our fourth takeaway emphasizes a simple yet profound realization: doctors are people, too. I went into this process expecting my doctors to know everything and solve every unexpected challenge. Before our surrogacy experience, I had never heard a doctor tell me, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have an answer for why this happened.” I remember growing furious when they told me this. I was thinking and nearly shouted, “What do you mean you don’t know WHY?! Aren’t you a doctor?!”

Be prepared to accept medical outcomes that aren’t entirely explainable, and remember that the doctors are (typically) doing the best they can with the information they have. The reality is, there’s still a lot unknown about fertility medicine and your doctors aren’t wizards.

Keep your eye on the prize.

Amidst the challenges and intricacies, the ultimate goal is building a family. Maintaining a focus on our end result, the joy of welcoming a child into our lives, provides us a beacon of hope during all the challenging times we’ve endured. It’s this unwavering focus on our future child, the vision of a healthy future family, that sustains us through the ups and downs, making our surrogacy journey a transformative and ultimately fulfilling experience so far.

As we stand on the verge of welcoming our child into the world, our surrogacy journey has certainly been an intricate dance of resilience, empowerment, and unwavering focus. Managing our emotions has become an art, as embracing uncertainties remains a constant. Still, amidst the unknowns, our guiding light is fixed on the prize, our dream – the vision of building a family.

In sharing our experiences and top takeaways, we hope to extend a hand of encouragement to anyone considering or already traversing their surrogacy path. Everyone’s journey is unique, but the experience of emotional growth is universal. Embrace the unpredictability, stand firm in your values, and keep your gaze focused on the joys that await you – welcoming a child into your world built with love, resilience, and your unwavering determination.