After having her three children, now 9, 7 and 3, Carrie Bornstein felt her family was complete. And still, even though she didn’t want any more children, she wasn’t ready to be done with the experience of pregnancy. “I enjoyed being pregnant,” said Bornstein. “I felt like it was something I was good at.”
As the Executive Director of Mayyim Hayyim in Newton, a mikveh and community organization, Carrie sees all types of people for various Jewish and secular life milestones, transitions and difficulties, including those who are struggling with fertility. “We are a welcoming and accepting community; we want to give each person what they need,” she explained. “We see women who come after a miscarriage, or who are struggling with fertility, and their pain is so deep.”
Among those she sees are couples in search of a surrogate – a substitute woman to carry their baby.
Not only did Carrie decide that she wanted to become a surrogate – to satisfy her desire to help others and the joy she finds in pregnancy – she also decided to share the experience online, by keeping an online diary on a blog.
Pregnancy is life-changing for surrogates, as Carrie explains things, yet also for those around her; Carrie’s family is very much involved with her surrogacy.
“My husband is extremely supportive, and he has to be very close to what’s going on.” He even has responsibilities, says Carrie, as her husband gives her a hormone shot every day during the first trimester. “It’s not impossible to do without a supportive partner, per se, but if there is a partner in the picture, I have a hard time believing there will be a happy ending.”
Her kids find the idea compelling. “My children (the older two) had to really wrap their heads around it to the extent that they can, but they’re both intrigued and excited.”
For Carrie, it was meaningful to carry for a Jewish family, and demand for Jewish surrogates is high. “It was important for me to carry for a Jewish family on two levels. First, it solved the technical dispute. In Jewish law, there is a strong opinion that suggests that I would be the legal Jewish mother no matter what, so any child I give birth to will be Jewish. And second, there was a communal feeling around carrying for a Jewish family. Jewish people take care of each other and support one another, and I felt like it was a good thing to support other Jews and the value of raising a Jewish family.”
She was matched through the organization, “A Jewish Blessing,” and other agencies in managing the surrogacy. In “A Jewish Blessing” alone there are 32 families on the waiting list looking for Jewish surrogates and in over 12 years, she’s only the 4th one ever placed. “It’s so mind boggling to me that it’s not more common. There are so many Jewish uteruses out there!”
Carrie is in the early stages, having just found out she was officially pregnant last week. So far, she’s happy with how things are going. “There will definitely be bumps along the way with lots of ups and downs, but it really feels good to do something that will be positive in someone else’s life.”
While it’s exciting now, there’s something strange about the idea of giving birth but having no clear role in the child’s life. Bornstein will be in touch with the child’s parents throughout the pregnancy, but after that, who knows? “If a relationship develops naturally and there is an authentic connection, it would be lovely. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too. I don’t think I’ll feel a sense of loss if I don’t have a relationship with them.”
She will continue writing about the journey on her blog “There’s no I in Uterus.” The url is “TheresNoIInUterus.wordpress.com.” Though it wouldn’t seem so from the level of detail I share, I do feel like a fairly private person and it’s not my inclination to be so open about all the details in my life. That said, I believe that people appreciate honesty and grappling with challenges in life, and it’s important that we can be real with one another.” Through the blog and talking to others through her experience, she hopes to raise awareness about surrogacy and encourage other women to look into it. “With all of our collective focus on making Jewish babies – sometimes bordering on obsessive, shouldn’t we really help each other in this way?”