By Suzi Bartholomy
Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.
When Tisha Royal had her third child 12 years ago, her doctor suggested that she consider becoming a gestational surrogate.
A gestational surrogate is implanted with an embryo not related to her.
“My doctor said surrogacy serves other people,” Royal said. She commented that since Royal had easy pregnancies and deliveries, she would do well carrying a baby for someone else.
Several years later, she began researching surrogate motherhood. “I was going through a divorce and didn’t have to answer to anyone but myself and God,” she said.
“My biggest concern was my kids,” Royal said. “I didn’t want my pregnancy to take anything away from them.”
“They were supportive,” she said. She also checked with her minister and another preacher.
“I wanted them to tell me it was OK, but they really couldn’t say one way or the other,” she said.
In January, Royal will be delivering her second gestational surrogate baby. The little boy she is carrying is the son of a single man who lives in New York.
“He is in his 30s and wants to be a father,” she said.
Presently, he does not have marital prospects, Royal said.
“He plans on being in Owensboro when his baby is born,” she said.
“I know I’m doing the right thing. It feels right for me to do this,” she said. “It always has.”
When Royal decided to pursue surrogacy, she didn’t go through an agency as she did with the single father.
With an agency, she personally doesn’t have to deal with lawyers and paperwork, she said.
With her first, she had placed her resume on a surrogate site, and a couple who lived 45 minutes from Owensboro contacted her.
They met and talked. Royal said she loved them at sight and knew the three of them were a good match.
“They thought I was a good fit, but I had to wait for them to make up their minds,” she said.
The intended mom went with her to her office and sonogram visits.
The couple wanted someone local so they could participate in the pregnancy.
Before the 1970s, couples did not have the option of legal surrogacy because it did not exist. Until the mid-1980s, surrogate mothers shared DNA with the baby she was carrying. In 1985, the first gestational surrogate baby was born. A gestational surrogate shares no DNA with the baby.
“I’ve had women tell me they could never give up a child,” Royal said. “I’m not giving up my baby. He’s not mine, never was and never will be,” she said.
Most people she has contact with know she is a surrogate mom. “If someone asks my due date, I tell them, but if they ask about names, I tell them the baby is not mine and why,” she said.
When her fiance, Noel Quinn, is asked, he says, “The baby is not mine, and it’s not Tisha’s either,” Royal said. Then he tells the person she’s a surrogate mom.
“When I became pregnant with these babies, it was different with my own children,” she said. “When I was pregnant with them, I thought about what they would be like (and) thought of their futures.”
They are the intended parents’ responsibility. “The first little boy is 4 years old and calls me Aunt Tisha.”
“They now live in Washington, D.C., but we’ve remained close,” she said. She visited with them on fall break.
“I will always love these children,” she said. “They have a place in my heart.”
“I can’t imagine not having my own child,” she said. “It’s a miracle that this can even be done.”
With the support of Quinn and her children, she probably will carry another baby for intended parents. The cutoff age for surrogacy is 40 years old, she said.
She said Quinn has met the first couple and understands why she is a surrogate mom.
“He talks to this baby,” she said.
She’s talked to several people who are interested in having a child by gestational surrogacy.
“If the first thing an intended parent talks about is money, I turn them down,” Royal said. “Compensation for the time is warranted, but I don’t do this for the money.”
She said it gives her joy and satisfaction that she could accomplish something that is so meaningful.
“The journey is fulfilling,” she said. Carrying a child for someone who would not have the privilege of being a parent is why she does it.
For nine months she has been the caretaker of the little boy who will live in New York.
“I will miss his kicks for a while,” Royal said. “Letting go will not be easy, but I will always love him.
“It’s up to the father, but I would like to keep in touch,” as she has with the couple in Washington, D.C., she said.