By Morgane Richardson
Just one year ago, Angela and Fernanda Ferrell-Zabala shared their rollercoaster ride through surrogacy and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in “My Body. My Choice: A Couple’s Journey Into Surrogacy and IVF.” The couple’s experience was complicated by health, legal and financial setbacks. Fernanda, 33, was diagnosed with depleted ovarian reserve and was going through early menopause; Angela, 40, had uterine fibroids that would drastically increase her chance for miscarriage. The cost of IVF was doubled for the couple due to their health complications. Through it all they managed to maintain agency over their bodies and choices.
Since we last spoke, Angela and Fernanda were given the okay to proceed with an IVF cycle. All four of Fernanda’s embryos were thawed, however, only two survived. During the embryo transfer, Angela and Fernanda had a nagging feeling that the cycle had not worked. Two weeks later, their suspicions were confirmed: They were not pregnant. This was the couple’s last chance at conceiving together; Fernanda no longer had eggs to fertilize.
“The hand that was dealt to us meant that my infertility would narrow down significantly the way in which we became pregnant,” Fernanda says. It took a few months for the couple to go through the grieving process. It was especially difficult for Fernanda who feared she would never have a special bond with a future child.
Eventually, Fernanda realized genetics would not affect her love and connection to a child and they made the decision to try again, this time with Angela’s eggs. The couple also switched clinics and sperm donor.
“I think we used a different clinic and donor to get a fresh start and maybe in part because I wanted to leave the pain of that first attempt behind us,” Fernanda explains. After five cycles of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and IVF, Angela and Fernanda are pregnant and expecting their first baby together in mid-February.
“When we got our first positive, we cried, not out of happiness but out of fear of the emotional ups and downs,” says the couple. “When we got the official positive results from the doctor, our fear changed to ‘what if we miscarry?’” The couple chose to keep the first few months of their pregnancy private, only telling their two children (twins from Angela’s previous marriage) who had been part of the process.
Angela and Fernanda have recently moved into a new home in Northwest Washington, DC to make room for their expanding family and to be closer to their children’s school. Due to Angela’s health and previous surgery to remove the uterine fibroids, the couple will welcome their baby into the world via a planned cesarean birth. The couple shares, “We are incredibly blessed to have the choices we did and recognize that a lot of women in our community have less say, if any, around their reproductive care.”
The pair wishes there were more resources for same-sex couples of color and might have a project in the works to change this. In the meantime, families can visit Choices in Childbirth (CIC), which provides expectant parents with information, such as LGBTQ friendly care providers, so they can experience the birth they want and make informed decisions.
That being said, no amount of resources can fully prepare you for the journey into parenthood. “The unknown has always been our greatest fear and this process was no different,” the couple shares. “As much research as we both did, we still could not predict when and how everything would work out or even if it would work out. Our greatest strength was the trust we have in each other.”
As for the couple’s plans after the baby arrives?
“Postpartum period seems so far away,” says Fernanda. “We have been on the ‘one step at a time’ mentality and we have not thought much about this…yet.”
Morgane Veronique Richardson is a fourth wave antiracist feminist—approaching her generation’s inherited economic, environmental, and social issues with a progressive mindset, practical implementation, and innovative flair. In 2008, she founded Refuse the Silence: Women of Color in Academia Speak Out (www.refusethesilence.com) to reconcile the existing hegemony within elite academia with the desire for diverse campuses. Morgane is currently working as a full-time doula in NYC and lives with her wife, Alexandra, and their dog Joplin.