Surrogacy: the things you never knew you needed to know

Nov 08, 2021

Infertility is complicated, right?  The range of emotions we experience, trying to let go of that picture we had in our head of how having a baby was supposed to look like, the gratitude and the grief all rolled into one.  Whatever path you go down, it’s all hard and comes with its own set of decisions and difficult conversations. 

But surrogacy?  Wow!!  Wrapping your head around the fact that someone else is carrying your baby can be a struggle.

Our little boy, Luca, was born via a surrogate.  After 2 years of struggling to conceive, the only viable option for us, was surrogacy.  We were blessed that my husband’s sister volunteered to have a baby for us.  Over the next 2 years we navigated our way through multiple IVF cycles, a miscarriage, 9 months of pregnancy, and finally a healthy baby boy at the end. 

During that time, there were SO many things that we encountered that took me by surprise.  Things we needed to consider, and a few things that I wish we had done better.

I was talking recently with a coaching client, who is also going down the path of surrogacy, about the myriad of things to consider, that never even occur to you when you walk into it.  I laughed that I should write a book about all the hidden surprises along the way.  A survival manual for surrogacy. 

And while I’d love to do that, it may be a little way down the track.  So, in the absence of time, I thought I’d do a quick blog on it. 

This is for you if you’re considering having a baby via a surrogate, are currently deep in the process, or if you’re merely curious about surrogacy and what it may look like. 

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly like surprises.  This journey is full of enough uncertainty, so I find preparation for all the bumps in the road to be essential.

These are the questions and things that we navigated our way through on our surrogacy journey, that you may find helpful to be aware of -

  1. The transfer. You’ve done all the things you need to do on your end.  You have your embryo’s safely stored in the freezer, you have your signed surrogacy agreement in place and FINALLY have your transfer date set (well roughly).  We focus so much on actually getting to this stage, that we rarely consider what happens on the day.  Are you able to be in attendance for the transfer, and if so, is your surrogate comfortable with you being in the room?  After the transfer has taken place, should you go out for dinner or lunch to celebrate?  Having the conversation about what how this day is going to look like, can take some of the awkwardness out of it.

  2. The pregnancy test. How do you want to find out the test results?  Are you happy to wait for the official blood results, or would you like your surrogate to test earlier via a home pregnancy test?  Have a think about it first, then have the conversation with your surrogate. 

  3. Scans and doctors’ appointments. Once you’re pregnant, how do you want to proceed?  Your location may naturally determine whether you attend all the scans and doctors appointments, but if you can attend, it may be nice to set some boundaries. 

  4. Documenting your journey. I wish we had taken more photo’s.  There are so many reasons why we didn’t, but I didn’t realize how important they would be until now.  At the time, I was so devastated that I wasn’t getting to experience the pregnancy myself, and we were so focused on getting to the end, that we forgot a major part of it.  Our little boy’s story.  This was his journey of how he came to be, but we don’t have a whole lot of proof.  So speak to your surrogate about taking pictures of her pregnancy, get family photos with her, and create a story for your baby.  While it may hurt a little now, down the track, it will be worth it.

  5. The emotions – SO many. It’s hard to watch someone else getting to experience something that you have craved for so long.  It’s ok to feel sad, jealous and angry right now.  We can feel all of that, AND be grateful at the same time.  It’s important to make space for the good and the bad.  Try making a list of all the positives and the negatives from going down this path, and give yourself permission to lean into both sides of this. 

  6. Pregnancy announcements – they have been the root of all evil for so long, but around the 12-week mark, this tradition pops its head up. The only challenge is, that your path to pregnancy is anything BUT traditional.  What do you do?  My answer for you is…..whatever feels comfortable for you.  You get to create your own tradition.  Don’t feel pressured either way.

  7. Baby shower – it’s probably the second biggest dread on fertility journey. So, what do you do when you’re expected to have a baby shower, but you’re not the one carrying the baby?  I’ll be honest – this one made me feel a little uncomfortable, so my husband and I had a BBQ (or we named it a BabyQue).  A big party with everyone, including our beautiful surrogate.  And the bonus was, that I could have a few glasses of wine to celebrate!!

  8. Explaining it to people. Because it’s not traditional, expect many questions from those you tell.  We always got a laugh when we told people that my husband’s sister was carry his child.  His friends thought it was hilarious that he’d essentially knocked up his sister!  We also had to explain it to our neighbors before we brought Luca home, just in case they called the police thinking that we’d stolen a baby.  The trick to talking with people is to set your boundaries.  You’re responsible for telling your truth, in whatever form feels right for you.  Just because they ask, doesn’t mean you have to answer. 

  9. Antenatal classes. Attending a class when you’re not pregnant can perhaps feel a little awkward and raw.  Those feelings of jealousy won’t go away when you’re surrounded by a bunch of pregnant women. But you still need to know all the post-birth care for your baby.  We opted to have a midwife come to our home to explain the bits we needed to know i.e feeding, wrapping a baby, bathing a baby, sleep etc.

  10. The birth. This may be dictated by the hospital (especially in COVID times), however we had to find a hospital that allowed both myself and my husband at the delivery. We had in-depth discussions with the hospital and our surrogate on how it would proceed, so there were no surprises.

  11. Fear of bonding with your baby. One of my greatest fears was whether I would feel connected to our baby.  I figured that because he wasn’t familiar with my voice – I was essentially a stranger to him.  I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to settle him, and that he’d want his birth mother instead.  We chose to do skin to skin (both my husband and myself) as soon as he was delivered.  And in that moment, my fears were alleviated.  From the moment they are born, your baby is yours.  You are his/her mother, and it doesn’t matter how they arrived.

  12. While there are things you can do to bring your milk in, it isn’t a guarantee, and involves a huge process. We decided against this option.  I figured there was enough pressure on us becoming first time parents and navigating the insecurities around it, that I didn’t need any additional stress.

  13. Your relationship with your surrogate after birth – obviously this wasn’t an issue for us given the fact that our surrogate was family, however it is something that should be considered. Would you like your surrogate to be a part of your baby’s life?  This is a discussion required with your surrogate.  And with that comes with the decision – should you tell your baby his/her story?  We were always going to, and when Luca was 4, he asked about when he was in my tummy.  We told him the truth and he accepted it without even blinking. 

 

At the end of the day, there are so many elements that complicate the path of surrogacy.  The most important thing to remember however, is that this is YOUR journey.  You get to decide how it plays out.  And while it may not look like anyone else’s journey.  It may not be traditional.  And it definitely isn’t how you wanted this to go.  It’s creating an EPIC story.

As soon as your baby is placed in your arms, nothing else matters. 

I promise.

 

p.s. you can read my other blog on Surrogacy HERE.

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