Ohio surrogate helps families feel complete.
The decision to have and raise children allows many families to truly feel complete. For couples who need the compassion and aid of another to hold the next member of their family in their arms, a surrogate provides a means to that end. Thirty-three year old Emily Westerfeld is an Ohio mother of three who helped found the agency to provide this needed service to parents who may struggle with various fertility challenges.
Westerfield lives with her husband Max and their children: Mckenna (9), Jack (7), and Charlie (6). As a high schooler, Westerfield was a three-sport athlete who regularly babysat for family and friends, finding she had an intrinsic nurturing nature described by her mother as having a “million-dollar heart and a two-cent budget.”
The joy and pain of family
In helping her sister care for a newborn, Westfield experienced joy from holding her niece. Feeling the tug of motherhood, Westfield entered pregnancy with enthusiasm, an “awesome experience, complete with an actual pregnancy glow!”
But, Westfield recalls her painful encounters with women who struggled with successful gestation. When a family member shared her painful attempts and losses, Westfield became interested in surrogacy, researching options and discussing pros and cons with her husband. She convinced him that, “God put me on the planet to help, so I should do that.”
From independent to a community resource
Acknowledging that she had completed her own family, Westerfield made herself available as a surrogate, creating an online profile and, starting out on her own rather than through an agency, carried four healthy surrogate children.
Dr. Shamma, a leading reproductive endocrinologists and infertility specialist in Michigan and Ohio, worked with Westerfield through her surrogacy process. She was subsequently inspired to provide a resource here in the Toledo area with Dr. Shamma, who founded Gift of Life Surrogacy, a Sylvania surrogacy agency that has helped families across the country.
Now, as the Director of Surrogacy Engagement and Matching at The Gift of Life agency, Westfield oversees the logistics of surrogacy. As a “carrier” herself, she empathizes with the complexity of the process. Families seeking surrogates are often at the end of a painful and complex journey, finding themselves with few other options. Westerfield explains that “a surrogate’s job is to complete families, not just start them.” Potential parents are paired with a carrier through a thorough vetting process.
The Gift of Life agency begins with a complete medical screening of carriers, before a match, to avoid potential health issues and they select carriers that have completed their own family with successful births. The process involves a comprehensive legal contract, which includes compensation for the time and pain of pregnancy but is explicit that there is no payment for a child.
Answering the “what if” questions
In response to the question “what if the carrier becomes attached?”, Westerfield patiently explains that as a carrier, her experience was that of joy at helping the other family become whole. Seeing families united with their newest member is the completion of the process for her. She explains that as a surrogate, one has a clear understanding that this is not her child, which preclude the feelings of attachment that she felt with her own biological children.
“D-day” (delivery day) is an exciting and emotional experience. The families frequently become friends with the carrier and feel great joy and relief when able to hold their child. For Westfield, this process— her life’s work— is about helping people and educating them.