- Tricia Gellman is a mother and CMO of Drift, who formerly led marketing initiatives at major companies like Apple, Adobe, Salesforce, and Checkr.
- She opens up about the emotional and physical toll of trying to have a child while navigating a career in marketing.
- After seven years of trying to begin a family, Gellman and her husband sought out other options, including surrogacy.
- They successfully went through the process, but lost one of the two babies they were expecting.
- "I had maintained my performance and composure at work through sheer determination, but that determination had its limits," she tells Business Insider.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
I became a mother two months ago. My husband and I welcomed Lilliana, a 6.5 lb baby girl, on September 23 at 3:23 pm. We are so deeply in love with her and already have a hard drive's worth of photos to show her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and any stranger who so much as makes eye contact with us.
She has long fingers and toes like her dad, along with the same cute nose and ears. Everyone points out that she has my same reddish eyebrows and blue eyes, but this is just a coincidence — she was actually conceived with a donor's eggs and brought to term by a surrogate mother, a choice that my husband and I made after seven tortuous years of trying to have a child together.
Even as we celebrate our beautiful new baby girl, we mourn the loss of her twin brother, who died in the womb just one week before her birth. I wish that this was the only tragedy that marked our journey to this point.
Every new parent has a story to tell and taboos around the difficulties of conception, pregnancy, and surrogacy have steadily broken down over the last decade. But no book, no conversation, and not even a lifetime of pursuing the most difficult corporate and athletic challenges I could find prepared me for the emotional and physical toll of trying to have a child.
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I was 42 in 2013 when I married my husband, so we knew that having kids might be difficult.
That's why I was elated when, six weeks after our wedding, I found out that I was pregnant. Three weeks later, I miscarried for the first time. Even as my husband and I grieved the loss of our unborn child, we steeled ourselves for another try.
I was fortunate to work for a company that paid for fertility support, so in addition to trying to get pregnant naturally, we signed up for IVF. Six months later, with our appointment finally scheduled, I discovered that I was pregnant again. But our hopes were dashed by a visit to our doctor, who furrowed his brow and told us that the embryo wasn't developing.
Turns out, getting pregnant wasn't my problem, staying pregnant was. This was news to me. I had always thought that getting pregnant was the problem. Worse, there seemed to be no easy answer.
So I stopped running, because I worried that it contributed to my miscarriages.
Maybe my body fat wasn't high enough to carry a healthy baby? I adjusted my diet, tried to sleep more, and did everything I could to make myself a healthy home for our baby. None of it made a difference.
IVF made my husband and me hopeful again. But as anyone who has been through it will tell you, the process takes a toll. The constant trips to the doctor, the routine invasive procedures, and worst of all, the drugs.
The IVF hormones turned me into someone I didn't recognize. I routinely woke up anxious in the middle of the night, convinced I'd missed an important deadline. Then, feeling like a zombie the next day, I would spontaneously start crying. Whereas I'd normally go for a run or a swim to ease my depression, I feared that if I dared to exert myself, I'd hurt our chances at having the child for whom we'd worked so hard.
All in all, we did five rounds of IVF. Each took more than a month, with an endless amount of testing, examination, consultation, and emotionally draining discussion throughout. Each time I was told that there was no pregnancy. Each time, a new explanation was offered. My uterus wasn't thick enough. Actually, I may be able to carry with a thin lining, so let's try another test to find out. Ok, that looks good, so let's try a genetic test to make sure the embryo has all the right chromosomes.
By this point, my weight had fluctuated to a point where my clothes no longer fit.
I had lost my identity as an athlete, which meant more to me than I had realized.
My husband and I were exhausted, stunned to look back at the last three years and find that our quest to have a child had steadily consumed our entire relationship.
I had maintained my performance and composure at work through sheer determination, but that determination had its limits. I constantly felt the inadequacy of my body — it had failed us and our would-be children, and there was nothing that I could do about it.
After all of the tests, poking, prodding, and heartbreak, our doctor finally told us that the likely issue was the age of my eggs. If we could find an egg donor, we could have our healthy family.
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Of course, the resulting children wouldn't be mine, biologically speaking.
I would like to say that this wasn't an issue, but for more than a moment it was. It hurt that our kids wouldn't be what we had imagined, a little bit of me and a little bit of my husband.
But we came to terms with that reality, found our donor, and nine months later, we had our healthy embryos.
My story should end here. Instead, I went on to miscarry two more times.
Not a single doctor could tell me why. Medically, there was nothing wrong. But at the same time, clearly everything was wrong.
In the middle of all of this, I was offered the opportunity to take on the role of CMO of Salesforce Canada.
As a lifelong marketer, this was a dream. My husband and I naively thought that maybe living in Canada would reduce my stress and help me avoid yet another miscarriage. (If you're counting, I'd had five by this point.)
We were wrong. We loved Canada, but when we started the IVF process there, we were told that IVF protocols and drug approvals were totally different. The protocols I was on were illegal. This broke me.
After now six years of trying so hard to begin our family, we stopped. My husband was incredibly sweet and supportive. We agreed that we had each other, our families, and two wonderful dogs. All in all, we had a great life and an unbeatable partnership. If we weren't able to add kids to that equation, it would be OK.
But it wasn't long before we started exploring other options.
Through the donor process, we knew that we still had viable embryos in California. We knew friends who had hired a surrogate. So we decided that rather than continue through an endless cycle of drugs, weight gain, doctor appointments, and miscarriages, we would hire a surrogate mother.
Unfortunately, we discovered that in Canada someone can have a child for you and decide to keep it.
In fact, surrogacy is not 100% legally contestable in all 50 states. Thankfully, it is in California.
So we moved back to the Bay Area, found our surrogate mother, and were thrilled to soon hear that she was pregnant with healthy twins, a boy and a girl. What a joy to have not one but two children on the way.
You already know how this story ends.
I began parental leave from my role as the CMO of Drift on September 14, excited to welcome our twins to the world later in the month. On September 15, I received a text from our surrogate mother. Our doctor wanted to speak with us.
We knew that this likely meant bad news.
Over the phone, our doctor told us that our baby boy no longer had a heartbeat. She could not tell why, but it appeared that he also hadn't grown in the previous three weeks. We needed to move up the birth of Lilliana to September 23 to make sure nothing similar happened to her.
To be honest, I am still processing the death of our boy, but doing my best to channel those feelings into love and affection for our beautiful girl.
I tell you this story not for pity, but for two reasons.
First, everyone should understand how priceless and precious life is.
For some, that realization comes with the sudden death of a loved one. For us, it took a seven-year journey to bring it into the world. Everyone around you is an absolute miracle who could have been prevented from entering this world at any moment. They could leave it at any time. Please treat them accordingly.
Second, I want this conversation out in the open.
The more that these issues are discussed, the more that they are normalized, the less traumatic they become. In my own journey, I found invaluable emotional support only after I started speaking openly about what I went through.
Women and couples who are having children should know that there is nothing shameful in choosing an unconventional route. In fact, there are countless others who have been through their own unspeakably difficult experiences and they are here to support you. In the end, I can tell you that we are all stronger than we think we are.
And now, after seven long years, I'm no longer thinking about the pain and struggle. I'm just a new mom enjoying time with my daughter.
Tricia Gellman is CMO of Drift. She has finished five Ironman triathlons and three Boston Marathons.
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