Shelly Marsh, a 3-time surrogate, joins the staff at California Fertility Partners
Shelly offers care and guidance to surrogates and intended parents
Shelly Marsh knew she wanted to be a surrogate when she met a woman at a moms’ group who had had a hysterectomy in her mid-twenties. The woman and her husband had been trying to adopt a child, but that process was simply taking too long with waiting times. When the woman mentioned surrogacy, Shelly realized she had a way to help people who were really in need, in a profound, personal way.
Since then Shelly has helped two gay couples -- one in Norway and one in the United States -- have kids through surrogacy. After carrying four kids over three IVF pregnancies with two clinics, in addition to giving birth to two children of her own, she’s learned a lot about the whole process.
She’s thrilled to be bringing all of that experience, as well as eight years working for fertility clinics and Men Having Babies -- a non-profit helping gay men have children -- to her new role at California Fertility Partners, where she is Marketing Manager and Practice Liaison.
While the initial impetus for Shelly to become a surrogate was a woman at a moms’ group, helping gay men have kids was her top priority as a surrogate.
“My husband has two best friends who are a lesbian and a gay man,” Shelly says. Her husband has been an incredible supporter throughout the journey. “We've witnessed firsthand the struggles and challenges they face, whether it’s in healthcare or just being with their partners as a couple in public. They wanted babies too, but there are people out there who don't want them to. So why not help people who have all the odds stacked against them?"
For Shelly, she’s felt helping gay men in the LGBTQ community is her priority because, unlike lesbians, they do not have a uterus to carry a child.
In her role at California Fertility Partners, of course, she is excited to help both surrogates and intended parents of all walks of life down the surrogacy path.
Each time she’s had a pregnancy through surrogacy it’s gotten easier, as she learned the process. She had her second and third surrogacy pregnancies both with CFP’s Dr. Guy Ringler, whom she found to be “warm and caring” from her first visit. Finding a doctor who can provide both care and warmth, Shelly says, can be so important to feeling comfortable through the process.
"The staff and the nurses and everyone at CFP were so warm and kind from my first visit,” Shelly says. “At first I thought it was because I was a patient and they had to be that way, but I’ve worked with the staff in various capacities and that kindness and warmth hasn’t changed."
Going through a second pregnancy with the same doctor, Shelly said, did have its added advantages.
"You know a lot of the faces, and you know how the doctor communicates and what the protocols will be. It takes a level of uncertainty off the table because you know what to expect. With fertility cycles, curveballs can be thrown at you at any time. But with the same doctor the second time, it was definitely more comfortable. I felt like I could ask him any question and not feel silly for asking and not have him think, ‘why is she asking questions again?’
“Dr. Ringler, in particular, is just very patient with the people he works with."
Now having been a surrogate three times for four babies, and having worked across the IVF and surrogacy field for eight years, Shelly has one tip above all others for women about to become surrogates themselves.
"Advocate for yourself,” she says. “If you don't understand why something is happening or why the doctor is asking you to do something, it's OK to slow down and get all of your questions answered and understand what you’re doing and what injections you’re putting in your body.”
She said that while everyone has good intentions, every party with a role in the process -- from the intended parents to the agency to the doctor -- has their own focus. And if you don’t speak up, it will be hard for them to know when to slow down. It was Shelly’s husband who opened her eyes to this.
“At first I just went with what they told me to do, and then I'd get home and my husband would ask why they did something and I didn’t know. He really pushed me to ask questions and advocate for myself."
Her position now at California Fertility Partners is the culmination of a goal Shelly set out from the first couple of visits she had with Dr. Ringler about five years ago.
“I was always passionate about CFP and a huge supporter since the care I received was incredible. “My career goal was to work alongside Dr. Ringler. The care he provides to his patients was the same care I always wanted to be able to provide to the patients I worked with when I was at my previous clinic. To be able to see the way lives are changed is amazing, and the care Dr. Ringler and I are able to deliver fills me with pride every day.”
Shelly is always available to answer any questions you might have, whether you are looking for more information as a possible surrogate or intended parent. You can reach Shelly at firstname.lastname@example.org .