To an outsider, it seemed like Cindy Margolis had everything: beauty, fame, a happy marriage, and a successful career. But what no one knew was that Cindy was struggling with infertility that left her unable to complete her dream of having a family. In her new book, Having a Baby...when the Old-Fashioned Way Isn't Working: Hope and Help for Everyone Facing Infertility (Perigee), Cindy brings readers along with her on her journey. She sat down with Beliefnet to tell us about in-vitro, surrogacy, faith, hope, and what it means to finally be a mom.
Can you tell us why you wanted to write a book about your fertility struggles?
Infertility is this huge emotional roller coaster. If you want in your heart more than anything to have a baby, it's the hardest thing you will ever go through physically, emotionally, and financially. When women are going through this they feel so alone. That was my whole point, to bring it out of the closet because there was some type of shame factor on infertility.
You conceived your son after several grueling rounds of IVF, and then you had your daughters through a surrogate. Do you think there's any one right way to cope with infertility?
I don't, and that's the best part about it. It's what's right for you. There are so many options available to you, everything from insemination all the way to in vitro fertilization. There is surrogacy, and that's another thing that people don't really understand. People saw a Lifetime movie one time where the surrogate ran away with the baby, and everybody freaks out. And that cannot be further from the truth. With my surrogate it was a wonderful, amazing experience. Most surrogate stories are just so heartwarming. Could you imagine any more precious gift than giving someone the gift of life? A virtual stranger, who, in their heart, is a true angel and all they want to do is to help other families who couldn't conceive on their own. I tell Shannon, my surrogate, "You can go rob a bank or kill someone, it doesn't even matter, you're getting into heaven because you were an angel to carry those two precious, beautiful girls for us."
When you opted to use a surrogate, how did the process work?
I used an agency. These agencies really go from A to Z with everything. The surrogate has to have already birthed her own children. She's done with her family but she wants to help others and loves being pregnant. It's really like a love match. You talk to everybody, therapists and counselors and fill out all these forms about what you would like. They really get to know you. Then, they sit down and pick out who they think your best matches would be. Living in California, I of course wanted a California surrogate. I definitely wanted to be there holding her hand, be there every second. They called me and said, "We have a perfect match for you, but she lives in Minnesota." And the minute I got on the phone with her, I fell in love with her. Flew her out here the next day and, you know, we bonded. I just said, "God, what a small, small price to pay for me to have to fly to Minnesota and be there for the nine months on and off." She's going to be my friend for life. My kids call her Auntie Shannon.
IVF, surrogacy… it can be incredibly taxing on individuals and couples alike. How did it affect you?
It was very hard. Many marriages do not make it. For example, in my career a huge thing for me, was the day that People magazine called me and named me one of the 50 Most Beautiful People. It should have been a highlight of my career, an honor. And it was the same day that I got a negative pregnancy test. I didn't even leave my room for a month after that. I finally went on Entertainment Tonight and my husband had to come down on the set and give me shots [of fertility drugs]. You have to get your shots at certain times of the day. And you're, like, "Excuse me, I have to go mix some vials and get three shots in my butt right now." I've had to meet my husband on the freeway. At a Madonna concert. And then, to not get pregnant after going through eight weeks of shots, gaining 20 pounds, the hormone hell, everything…. It's like "I'm finally here, and it costs this much money and I put everything that I had into it, what do you mean I'm not pregnant?" When you've finally made it to that point you finally feel that there's nothing but to do but hope.
What would you say to someone who says, "If I don't get pregnant, God clearly doesn't want me to be a mother"?
A lot of people do decide that they have tried it and they just can't go any further. That is their choice, and I completely understand that. It is hard and you know when you just can't take any more heartache. One of my best friends went through IVF with me and she lost her twin girls. She just couldn't go through it again. And it was hard because now I have twin girls, and she had lost her twin girls. It's hard when you're best friends and you go through this together and one ends up with a beautiful family and one doesn't.
I have been blessed in my career and I was able to afford the extra procedures and everything to have my children. Does that make me a better mother than someone who cannot afford it? No, of course not. That is ridiculous and disgusting and heartbreaking. That's another thing that was so important to me, to be the spokesperson for Resolve and go to Congress and talk to President Bush and go to Advocacy Day. Here in America we so are for family values, yet insurance companies do not cover all fertility procedures. Some of them only cover inseminations or your first or second IVF. I went through seven rounds of IVF.
People mortgage everything they have, they spend every last penny before they even have their baby. You spend every penny before you even know if you're pregnant or not, and you don't get your money back. We have so many kids in America to be adopted, but it's expensive. All these families that want children aren't able to because of the financial aspect, and that, to me, is just the most disgusting thing ever.
Yeah. Once I did get pregnant with [my son] Nicholas, he was high-risk and I was on bed rest for nine months in the fear of losing him. I just kept thinking, "God, I went through all of this and I am pregnant now, but I have a really, really good chance of losing him. Obviously, I wasn't supposed to have babies. If I was, then I could have conceived naturally." I would always feel like I'm being punished. Or I'd think "when I cheated on my boyfriend that time years ago, I'm getting payback now."
Did you have any prayers or mantras or inspirational quotes that you used to help you get through your bouts with infertility?
I'd get the fertility candles. I made a collage to my unborn baby, so every night I would look at the collage of all the babies. I wrote a letter to my unborn baby. I'd have my stomach blessed by a rabbi and then when I didn't get pregnant I'd think, "God knows I was pretending to be religious." I am the biggest animal lover ever. I'm a PETA supporter, I work with them quite often. But, if you told me that I had to fly to Alaska right now and club a baby seal to death to get my baby, I'd say, "When does my plane leave, give me the club."
You mentioned your friend whose IVF failed when yours worked. Many women have situations like that with "infertility friends" they make while going through the process. What do you suggest that pregnant women say to a friend who's still struggling?
"I know how you feel." You're not going to be gloating. I understood why my best friend [who miscarried twins] did not come visit me at the hospital. Also, I didn't have a baby shower. I had met so many wonderful women that you just bond with for life going through infertility. There were two or three of my people that I met, my girlfriends who I'm still friends with now, that got pregnant before me. And, of course, you're completely jealous and you're happy for them, but it's completely normal to not really be 100 percent happy because it's not you.
How has being a mom affected your spirituality?
[Motherhood] has just has been the most overwhelming, humbling, wonderful blessing. I've had all the emotions. I never even thought that I would be able to have one child, so to sit here with three children, that's just amazing. Sometimes when they're yelling "Mom!" and I think, "Who are they talking to?" It doesn’t hit you because it was almost as long as they've been alive, it was that long of a battle to have them. All IVF mothers do this—you have normal kids but to you, they're your miracle children. When you are finally holding your baby in your arms, it's a true miracle.