One Tuesday afternoon last fall, Heidi Rousseau was attending a Bible gathering for moms. It was there that the course of her life in the months and the year ahead would completely alter.
Rousseau, a mother of four, was approached by a recent acquaintance, Chantelle Toews, who shared a troubling predicament faced by her family – Toews could not bear any more children due to a complication in the delivery of her first child.
“The ball got rolling from there,” recalled Rousseau, who said she decided that day she would be a surrogate mother for Toews’ family.
“I felt a really deep call in my spirit that this is something I should consider,” Rousseau said. “ It just kind of was a whirlwind and now here we are.”
Months of In vitro fertilization (IVF) later and now six months pregnant, Rousseau will take to the stage during the wellness event, Elevate on Aug. 11, where she’ll discuss the strength she found during the turbulent events in her own life that led to this arrangement.
“I had sort of been on this four-year journey of walking into hard things intentionally; with a marriage that I was living out really well and then it abruptly changed. That was sort of a real shock to the system at first,” Rousseau said.
“Having this opportunity brought to me on the tail end of that heartbreak – which is not at all heartbreak now as I look back on it – was really a pinnacle moment.”
Rousseau said being a surrogate mother is not just something she wanted to do to help another family, but also presented her with an opportunity to change her own perspective on how to walk a difficult path.
For her four children, however, accepting their mother would carry a baby who did not belong to their family was challenging and opinions ranged.
“It’s been a really interesting sort of journey with them,” Rousseau said. “They each had a different take on it. My youngest – my eight-year-old, Mabel – she was not keen. She was like, ‘I’m the baby, I was the last one and nobody else will be there, like in your body.’ So she wasn’t a huge fan.”
“Just all different responses from them and really great conversations that we had. That was really neat, seeing them all get to the place where they were like’ yeah, OK we support you doing this, we’ll stand behind you.’”
Veering away from challenges doesn’t avoid disappointment just as saying yes to the unknown won’t always be favourable, but it’s the experience an outcome has that counts, Rousseau explained.
“I think that we often shy away from doing difficult things and that was something that I felt the opposite of. You’re being asked to have this experience that you know will be challenging and sort of push you to the brink beyond anything you’ve experienced,” she said.
“In life, we often think that if we’re struggling that we are doing something wrong and it shifted my perspective that struggle is a part of survival and growth and where you can see significant change and moments in your life that pinpoint something really important happening.”
Both Rousseau and Toews, the receiving mother, has kept a running blog of the journey.
“Heidi has been so strong through all this. She has been sick for almost the whole pregnancy and yet she is still smiling, positive, and being the best mother to her kids. I’m amazed at her generosity, love, kindness, and heart,” one of Toews’ blog posts read.
“I’m doing pretty good for the most part. I knew coming into this that it would be an emotional rollercoaster so I was able to prepare myself a bit. I’m not going to lie, I’ve definitely had some good cries and heartache not carrying this child but I have also had a lot of love and excitement.”
Rousseau said being a surrogate mom is an experience she won’t forget and especially after the life-long ties she’s made with the receiving family.
“For most people, their question is ‘I don’t know if I could carry a baby for nine months and then give it up,’” Rousseau said. “I always answer that question with ‘I’m not giving up a baby, I’m just giving it back.’”
To follow the journey on Toews’ blog, go to www.bearingfaith.ca
Rousseau is due to give birth on Dec. 6.