This morning I made an announcement at church. And now I’m making it here, for anyone who happened to not be at church or for people who were there but want to make sure they heard right.
Good morning. I’m Alisha Huber. And this is probably the last time I’ll stand up here and say that. I have had one of the strangest spiritual experiences of my life over the past year and a bit, and it’s time for me to share what has been going on with you. I’m kind of nervous about it.
Fourteen months ago, someone asked me to help them in a tremendous way. At first I told them no. And then God wrestled with me over it. For weeks, I couldn’t eat or sleep. I just prayed, went to rehearsal (two shows at once because I have awesome timing), and cried a lot. In the process, God showed me a way forward. And God also gave me a new name. God called me “Aili,” (rhymes with “smiley”) which means love and strength, and I think God was trying to tell me that I have enough love and strength to do this tremendous thing. I’ve read in the Bible about people being renamed and I’ve always wondered what the point is. But I’ve started giving my name as Aili when I’m with people I won’t see again–putting my name on the wait list at a restaurant or meeting a seat partner on a plane. And when I hear a barista shout out, “Aili!” I feel like God is speaking through that person to remind me of the path God has given me, in that ordinary moment. In a very lonely and disorienting year, that instant of a reminder of God’s presence and faithfulness anchored me.
So I’ve decided I’m going to start using that name more generally, and if you’d like to call me Aili, that would be nice. I still feel alone and confused a lot of the time. I think I need that reminder in my daily life. If you think it’s silly or you just forget, that’s ok. I won’t be reminding anybody because I have now used up literally all of the social awkwardness I had reserved for this issue for my entire life.
And that is in no way the weirdest thing I need to tell you. Not even close.
The thing that my step-brother, Logan, and his wife, Natalie, asked me to do was to be a gestational carrier for them. Natalie has a rare disease called Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Among other health concerns, it massively increases the risks of maternal mortality and serious pregnancy complications. And I said probably not, and then I wrestled with God, and found myself at yes. After what has been the most bizarre and invasive year of my life, I’m now sixteen weeks pregnant with a baby who has no genetic relationship to me, and, God willing, I will give birth to my niece in mid-March.
I would like to request your prayers for the baby’s health and mine as she grows. Please pray also for JC and our kids. As I’ve been carrying this baby, they’ve been carrying me. JC has been incredibly supportive. The kids understand what is going on, and they are actually pretty excited.
Please pray also for Natalie and Logan. I don’t believe that there is any easy or uncomplicated way to become a parent, but this is certainly one of the more complex and difficult ways that exists.
Lastly, when I stopped panicking over this question and began to listen, I learned two things that I want you to know. First of all, the love of this community is one reason I knew I could do this, that I could pay forward the love and support I have received here. Secondly, the processes of discernment that we have shared over the years–both as a large body, and as individuals and families–have given me the tools and models that I needed when I found myself faced with a decision that felt impossible. You have taught me to listen for where God is moving. So I invite you to join me in my daily prayer of gratitude for you, Beloved Community.
So…that’s what’s up. I have other posts related to this under the category “Surrogacy.” If you want a little more information, please feel free to ask me about anything. I’ve got a list here of the questions I’ve gotten the most, not because I am bothered by questions, but because it’s just a lot to have to answer the same ones over and over again. Also, some of them are things I’m sure people have wondered, but only a few have dared to ask.
Were you and Logan super close growing up?
Actually, we didn’t know each other. My dad and his mom started dating the week I left for college. Logan has lived out west for all of his life. Before all of this started, I had met him maybe eight times, and Natalie only twice. I have always liked them, and I remember feeling a strong connection to Natalie when we first met, but we were virtually strangers. The call when she asked me to have her baby was the first conversation we had had in about two years.
Yes, it sounds impossible and kind of crazy when I write it out like that…
In any case, we’re pretty close now. Natalie and I text all day long, and we do a video call every few weeks. They came to Virginia to visit us last November, which was amazing, and I have been to Arizona three times, for medical stuff. I took the kids with me in January, and then went by myself in early May and late June for transfers.
We say that we’re having a friendship backward; we started at the most insane and intimate level and eventually we’ll ask each other out for coffee or something.
Did you have to be on lots of drugs to do this?
Yes. We did in vitro fertilization, where the egg and sperm meet in the lab. The embryos grew for five days and then were frozen, Austin-Powers-style, until it was time to transfer them. I had to be on medication that basically shut down my normal cycle and then started it up again on the clinic’s timeline. I also had to be on hormones to sustain the pregnancy until the placenta was big enough to take over (things I didn’t know: if you don’t ovulate, your body doesn’t make those hormones. And your body usually slows down production or even stops by week 12 of a viable pregnancy because the placenta is a hormone factory). In addition to the IVF-specific drugs, I had to be on hormonal birth control (which those of you who know me well know that I loathe) beginning in December for all the various tests and things that I had to do leading up to it. I was on some kind of hormonal alteration from mid December through late August. That was…not fun. I basically felt first-trimester-y from late March through late September. It’s miraculous that my family survived.
Did the drugs make you gain weight?
Yes, about 10 pounds, thanks for noticing.
Are you sure it’s not YOUR baby?
Yes. Among other things, I was on drugs that prevented me from ovulating and I had a LOT of blood work and ultrasounds to make REALLY SURE I wasn’t (and to check other things too). So yes, the baby does not have my DNA. (I mean, technically, she will have SOME of my DNA, and I’ll have some of hers, because science. Seriously, click that link, it’s the most interesting thing in here. But not any DNA that is expressed or really matters). Anyway, my ovaries definitely were dormant for quite a while before all of this, and what was transferred to my uterus was just a growing embryo with no rando sperm along for the ride, so yeah, it is 100% definitely absolutely not my baby.
How many tries did it take you?
Two. The first one didn’t take, and the second one did. These took place in Arizona, where Natalie and Logan live.
What is the right word for what successfully happened? Conceived? Implanted?
We had a successful embryo transfer. Fun fact: the embryo implants itself (or doesn’t).
Are you sure it’s not twins?
Yes. We transferred one embryo each time, and I’ve had ultrasounds that verify that it didn’t divide into twins.
Where will the baby be born?
In Virginia. Traveling to Arizona that late in pregnancy is too risky. We’re hoping for another home birth, as I received excellent midwifery care for both of my pregnancies and had beautiful home births. However, we’re not idiots and will transition to the birth center or hospital if serious complications arise.
How can you possibly give up a baby that you are growing?
She’s not my baby. I don’t want any more babies. I love my family just the way it is. To be honest, I’m a little nervous about this part. I had some serious PPD after Silas was born, and I’m concerned about a resurgence of that. But I have talked with a lot of other women who have been gestational carriers, and literally every one of them said that handing the baby to its parents was the most joyful part of the whole process. So I’m trusting in other people’s experiences, and holding that.
Aren’t you worried you’ll scar your children for life?
Well, that deserves its own post. Also, of all of the things anyone has said to me, this was the absolute most hurtful. Please do not say this.
Why were you nervous about telling people?
Is there anything people can do to help?
- I wasn’t kidding about those prayers.
- Please have grace with me and help me to have grace with myself over the ways in which I’m not as available for things right now. This pregnancy, for a lot of reasons, as well as the entire situation surrounding it, has been harder than my other ones, and I’ve been having to practice radical life triage to get through the past year. I don’t feel good about that.
- After the baby is born, and especially after she goes to Arizona with her family, I’m not sure how I’ll feel. So please check in with me, and be patient with me.
- If you’re about my size (small/medium) and live near me and happen to have maternity clothes you’d be interested in selling or lending, let me know. For whatever reason, I haven’t been able to really wrap my mind around the fact that I definitely need to shop for maternity clothes. I’m getting to the point where I can’t ignore this situation much longer.
Why don’t Natalie and Logan just adopt?
Anyone who has actually been through the adoption process will tell you, it’s not as simple as “just adopt.” Stuff is complex. They hope to adopt in the future, but it’s not anybody’s business. God tells us where our children are. And their first child is coming into their lives this way, and that’s fine.
What’s with this name situation?
That gets its own post, too. Yes, I know this is weird. But all of it is just desperately weird, so this is no exception.
Also–yes, it’s weird and maybe a bit inappropriate to use a Chinese name, but I didn’t pick it. Anyway, it’s a near-perfect homophone for Isley/Aisley/Eisley which is a British name and thus very much in my cultural heritage, but less orthographically pleasing, and the meaning is not there (“from the hazelwood” or something). Spelling it this way makes it look like a plausible nickname for my given name, too. For what it’s worth, all my Chinese friends think it’s very cool.
And how, exactly, did God tell you that you should do this crazy thing?
Once again, let’s click out to a separate post (or a couple).
Wow, you must be a super amazing person!
This isn’t a question, but it’s a response that I get frequently (especially from women) and I don’t ever know how to handle it. The truth is, it’s a big thing, and it’s also not. I’m not a special person, I’m just doing the thing that is in front of me to do. This is not mucking out houses in Houston or feeding refugees in Kurdistan. I’m helping one family, in a way that is big for them, but is small in the cosmic scheme of things, and I’m very aware that there are so many people who are doing so much more for people who have much less. I’m also constantly bothered by the way that this has sapped the energy that I used to spend on helping others in big and small ways. In the past six months, there are rallies I haven’t had the physical or psychological strength to attend, meals I haven’t had the energy to cook for people in need, hospital visits that I couldn’t make because the drive over the mountain made me so sick. There are family events I’ve missed out on and calls I haven’t made and performances I’ve stayed home from. I’m starting to feel a lot better, and one thing I’m looking forward to is getting back to being more of service to my community and a better friend.