Surrogacy update: 20 weeks!

I’m still in partial disbelief typing this, but we’re halfway to full term! Our surrogate Ashley is feeling amazing and baby has been moving around and kicking regularly. While we can’t feel those movements on the outside yet, Ashley has been doing a great job of communicating what she’s feeling to help us feel connected to the pregnancy on a day-to-day basis. We’ve been so fortunate with this relationship – not only is she doing us this enormous kindness in growing our baby, but she and her family are just the most amazing people and it’s such a privilege to have become their friends.

I’ve been busy following the baby’s growth on apps like the Pregnancy+, which now tell me that Baby Colt is around the size of a mango. Zane loves the DaddyUp app which told him this week that Baby Colt is the size of a Bald Eagle’s talon! Ashley is officially rocking the cutest little bump to match! There is going to be some rapid growth over the next few months, not only in size but also in development, which is so exciting. We had our anatomy scan last week and baby has the sweetest little features that are now beginning to take shape. Look at that little nose!

What’s next?

There is SO much to do to prepare for Baby Colt’s arrival, and here’s how it’s going so far:

Preparing the nursery

Our nursery room is a total disaster right now. Like many people who have experienced infertility, we used this room as a bit of a storage room and shut the door for a long time. Now that we actually have to prepare it for baby, we have to clear out a lot of junk. The good news? I have a theme picked (under the sea!) and have begun to look at some furniture that I think will look amazing.

Shopping for baby items

We decided not to begin shopping for baby until 22 weeks, but that hasn’t stopped family and friends from gifting us some items. So far we’ve received the Stokke Tripp Trap highchair, the UPPAbaby Vista V2 stroller, a pre-loved bassinet from our local Buy Nothing Facebook group (the generosity of other new moms in our community is amazing!), a few children’s books, Play Dough ,and a Sophie the Giraffe from our friend and fellow mom-to-be by surrogacy Marissa.

Signing up for baby classes

Zane and I have a lot to learn, and one of the best ways to do that is by accessing classes through reputable local organizations. We still have quite a bit of research to do on this, but learning the basics of baby safety is #1 on our list for this.

What’s been happening in our personal lives?

We have continued to take meetings with policy makers, politicians, and journalists to discuss parental leave equity for parents by surrogacy in Canada. This remains a high priority for us because of the number of people just like us that it affects.

On a social note, we’ve been fortunate enough to see some of our Ontario-based surrogacy community friends lately which is really nice. Every time I get together with other Intended Moms, it reminds me that a) I’m not alone in my experience and b) there is so much we can accomplish when we come together to bring awareness and educate others about surrogacy!

I can’t believe how far we’ve come and I can’t wait to give another update soon.


Grief alongside infertility

Grief is something the infertility community is all too familiar with. It sneaks up and steals hope and joy in the form of poor test results, cancelled transfers, pregnancy loss and strained relationships. Today though, for the first time, I am experiencing a new type of infertility grief – the grief that comes with having a loved one miss out on meeting your child.

I come from a tight-knit family, and one of the relationships I have treasured the most has been the one I shared with my Grandma, Joan, who passed away this week. I know, we shouldn’t have family favourites, but there was always something a little different about the bond that we shared. In my early years, she doted on me with her time, affection, and attention. For a number of years we lived together while I was in school, and she often called me her ‘extra daughter’.

As I got older, our relationship blossomed from that of a grandparent-grandchild to that of a confidant and friend. We shared meals and holidays together, sure, but also hours-long phone calls several times a week. Despite how most people knew her, as a private, reserved, often quiet woman, she showed me a totally different slide. She was strong, loyal, and funny. She took a special interest in me, maybe because I was her eldest grandchild, maybe because despite her constant attempts to stay out of the spotlight I always followed her light.

She knew the names of my friends, their spouses, their children, and often even their dogs. We would exchange hot takes on world events, celebrity gossip, and local news. When she would divulge stories from her youth, often as a small throwaway in a larger conversation, it would remind me just how impressive of a woman she was – never boastful, always consumed in service to the wider community. She lived and breathed for others, first as a nurse working in both remote communities and with vulnerable populations, then working with grieving families in our family business, a funeral home, all the while as an active volunteer in organizations raising funds and other supports for children and families. Her joy came from others, and this was true until the very end.

In her final months, she was finally able to update her status to ‘great-grandmother-to-be’ when our embryo transfer stuck. She has spent the past few months gushing about her excitement for her first great-grandchild. She speculated on whether it would be a boy or girl (she thought probably a girl), and she recently gifted us a stroller (she wanted to make sure her baby gift would be used daily). She often spoke about how confident she was that I will make an excellent mother, and how Zane is going to be a doting dad. While she had already lost most of her physical strength, she asked if we would help her hold the baby once it was born.

Now, with her passing, we won’t have that opportunity to put baby in her arms.

It stings to process the grief of missing that moment. In another world, one where our journey hadn’t taken years, we may have had that. She may have gotten to coo over the baby, stroke its head, and tell us who she thought it looked more like. My mom and I would have been able to sit beside her and take it all in – four generations together, treasuring the closeness. Instead, we missed it by a few months.

People talk a lot about closure with grief, as if one day you simply close the chapter and don’t feel the loss anymore. In my experience, that isn’t really true. I think we learn to live within our new reality, but never really ‘close’ anything. My grandmother shaped who I am, and I’ll carry her wherever I go.


Surrogacy and parental leave

Like many expectant parents, my husband and I are excited to take time following the birth of our baby to bond with and care for them. Unfortunately, we don’t qualify for the same benefits as most Canadian parents do because of the way our baby is coming into the world. Outdated federal policies have created a big equity challenge in supporting new families built by surrogacy, and for the past year Zane and I have been on a mission to get that changed.

Fair warning, this issue is a little technical, but I hope you’ll stick with me to learn just how this problem came about and how easy it is for our government to fix it. To jump to the template letter for your MP, scroll to the bottom.

Let’s start with a quick recap on how post-baby leave in Canada typically works:

Maternity leave, a total of 15 weeks, is available to the birth giver only. It can be accessed as early as 12 weeks prior to the birth.

Parental leave, offered in a standard or extended option, can be split between both parents. While the weeks don’t have to be taken consecutively, parental leave begins only at the week of a child’s birth or the week a child is adopted into a family.

Accurate as of January 2023. This chart is available on the EI maternity and parental benefits page on the Government of Canada website.

So how does this affect families built by surrogacy?

Simple – since neither of the baby’s parents is the birth giver, children born through surrogacy cannot benefit from the full 55 (maternity + standard parental leave) or 84 weeks (maternity + extended parental leave). Parental leave isn’t just about baby snuggles and mommy-and-me classes. This time is crucial in a child’s development. Countless studies show that the brain development of infants depends on a loving bond with their primary caregiver. Time spent with a primary caregiver has a lasting impact on the cognitive, social, and emotional abilities as well as future mental health. Supporting new parents in staying home with their babies isn’t just good family policy, it’s an investment in the future of Canada.

How do we fix the problem?

The solution is obvious – all babies deserve equal support in their first years. In cases of surrogacy and adoption, providing families with a 15 week ‘top up’ would give all children the same starting point. This idea isn’t novel – the federal government has actually pledged to offer this top up to families of adoptive children starting this year. Why not surrogacy? We’re hopeful is was an oversight, but it can’t be corrected without bringing this to the attention of our government officials.

As a note, adding a top up for parents of adoptive children or children born to a surrogate should not reduce a birth giver’s maternity leave. Maternity leave is in place for the physical and mental health of the birthing person. Pregnancy, labour, and delivery are incredibly taxing and recovery is integral.

What we’re doing about it

While we’ve been taking some meetings behind the scenes with staff in the Minister’s office, we’re pleased that our friend, Jacquie LaRocque was able to publish an op-ed in the Hill Times, which helped to bring this issue to the forefront. While not as familiar to folks outside of Ottawa, the Hill Times is a key publication for public servants and government officials. We continue to take meetings with elected officials and civil servants to raise this issue and ensure that parents via surrogacy are not left behind in the latest EI modernization. We also made a helpful video explaining the issue.

What YOU can do

We encourage you to write to your local Member of Parliament (if you aren’t sure who your MP is, you can search by postal code), write to Minister Carla Qualtrough (, and tell your family and friends about this issue. Share this post to help other people learn about how parental leave affects families built by surrogacy.

Template email

Dear MP XX,

I am a/an (intended parent via surrogacy/friend/family member) and a constituent in your riding concerned about the latest EI modernization package, set to be launched this year. In the 2021 Liberal platform, and in Minister Qualtrough’s mandate letter, the government commits to updating parental leave benefits by including “a 15-week top up for adoptive parents” but leaves parents via surrogacy behind.

Equitable parental leave isn’t just good policy for families, it’s an investment in the future of Canada. Time spent with a primary caregiver has a lasting impact on a child’s future cognitive, social, and emotional abilities as well as future mental health. Strong bonds between parent and child should be encouraged for all Canadian families, not just some.

MP XX, will you support families built by surrogacy by asking for a 15-week top up to their parental leave benefits?

If you have additional questions about parental leave for parents by surrogacy, or you’d like to join our advocacy efforts, feel free to send us a message on @notmytummy.