One Sun Peaks local is embarking on a gestational surrogacy journey by carrying a child for a couple in Ireland.
Meghan Kolodka, a local yoga instructor and personal trainer, said she’s always thought of surrogacy as a chance to help families struggling to conceive. After having her daughters, she decided she was ready to give the gift of a child to others. She was inspired after a friend trying to conceive went through “heartbreaking infertility.”
Now in her second trimester of pregnancy, Kolodka wants to share her story with the Sun Peaks community.
“[I want] to honour those who are struggling to have the family they longed for, whether the challenges [are] fertility, miscarriages or being a same-sex couple. I want to bring awareness to the fact that there is more than one way to make a family,” Kolodka explained.
A lengthy process
While Kolodka was confident she wanted to pursue surrogacy by around 2017, she needed to find a surrogacy company to help her. At the start of 2022, Kolodka ended up contacting Canadian Fertility Consulting, located in Coburg, Ont.
The company made Kolodka “feel super comfortable with the idea and had [her] fill out a profile to make sure [she] was the right fit.”
After filling out her profile, Kolodka was matched with potential intended parents before deciding who she would connect with. Kolodka went through about 20 profiles, which often included personal notes from the intended parents.
“It was a bit heartbreaking, reading through all the struggles of these couples or single intended parents that have been wanting children for so long and knowing that I’m only going to be able to possibly help one person or one couple,” Kolodka said.
Ultimately, Kolodka went with her gut and chose Damien and Mark, a couple from Ireland. She said she felt a connection after watching a video they sent her.
“They have a daughter already, so that puts me at ease. They knew what they were getting into with having kids … They’re a little bit silly, very goofy, and I wanted somebody who was a bit more light-hearted but still took the process really seriously.”
The consulting company set up a Zoom call between Kolodka and Mark and Damien. They got to know one other more before exploring tough questions, like feelings around abortion should the fetus not be compatible with life and whether Kolodka could remain in contact with the family after giving birth.
“I’d like to have a relationship with this child; that was super important to me … [It’s important to ask] some of these tough questions because it’s a major thing to do for somebody. I wanted to make sure that we’re on the same page,” she said.
An ‘eye-opening’ experience
The next steps involved physical and mental health screenings for herself and her partner in Kamloops. The health screenings ensured Kolodka and her husband were physically healthy and mentally prepared. Kolodka also travelled to Kelowna to check if her uterine lining was responding to medications. Then she flew to San Diego for an embryo transfer.
At her appointment, Kolodka only had one embryo implanted.
“It used to be much more common to implant a few more. But IVF has come a long way, and it’s pretty efficient,” she said.
Single embryo transfers are now standard practice in Canada, depending on factors like age, history of IVF treatments and embryo quality.
For Kolodka, IVF was “eye-opening, [seeing] what people have to go through to make a child.”
She took estrogen pills and progesterone injections every day for 84 days, starting one week before the embryo transfer.
“I’m glad I got to see the other side. I don’t wish that on anybody. Injections every day in your butt is not ideal, but it’s incredible that we have the science to do that, and I’m thankful for it,” she said.
Then, Kolodka, Mark and Damien waited. Kolodka had a human chorionic gonadotropin (HGC) test scheduled in Kamloops ten days after the embryo was transferred in San Diego to see if she was pregnant.
“I did end up taking a couple of at-home tests starting five days after transfer because that’s when I would be able to start seeing a positive,” Kolodka said. “I did get a positive on that first test.”
She excitedly sent the test to Mark and Damien. Later, her HGC test came back positive, too.
Explaining to kids, husband and community
Because she has two daughters, Kolodka explained surrogacy to her kids through conversations and books on the subject.
Kolodka wants her daughters to consider this time as an example of supporting others.
“I just want them to remember this as a time when our family was able to help one another,” Kolodka explained.
Other ways she’s taught her kids about surrogacy include keeping pictures of the intended parents in Kolodka’s home and referencing the baby as Mark and Damien’s.
Kolodka’s husband supported her decision and helped her consider potential scenarios before she moved forward with the process initially.
“He’s one that will ask the tough questions, and I do appreciate that … him asking ‘what’s the worst case scenario, what if something went wrong? What if you’re sick the entire pregnancy?’ …It’s a pretty major process, but we talked through everything and made sure that he was comfortable with the idea and communication was open,” Kolodka said.
For community members who run into Kolodka and have questions, she said, “I’m happy to inform people [about] the process and just keep an open conversation about different ways to create a family.”
A frequently asked question Kolodka gets relates to payment. There are laws in Canada around surrogacy that prevent compensation for surrogates. The Assisted Human Reproduction Act, established in 2004, prohibits payment.
Kolodka noted she’s reimbursed for expenses related to the pregnancy but added, “I’m just doing this out of the goodness of my heart.”
Other legal aspects that are a part of Kolodka’s agreement include a detailed contract between her and the intended parents, which also outlines how both groups “wish to remain in contact after the child was born,” Kolodka said.
“How can I make someone’s life better today”
Kolodka is due on July 5. Damien and Mark will fly into Canada and travel to Sun Peaks a few weeks beforehand to attend the birth and get to know Kolodka and her family better.
“My hope is that my journey inspires folks to be kinder to each other and help their fellow humans if they have the means,” Kolodka explained. “It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It could be things like complimenting a stranger, picking up a piece of trash, shovelling your neighbour’s driveway, sponsoring a family during Christmas or donating gloves.”
“I hope to encourage people to wake up and wonder, ‘how can I make someone’s life better today?’”
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