Having a Positive Surrogate Birth Experience
The surrogate birth experience is unique because making it a positive experience means encompassing the needs of two families: the intended parents and their surrogate. To ensure that everyone’s needs are met and to help the surrogate birth and hospital experience go smoothly, open and supportive communication is important. Whether you are just starting to consider surrogacy, or your journey is underway, here are some suggestions for your checklist as you prepare for what promises to be a day you will always remember: your baby’s birthday.
- By the time your surrogate reaches 20 weeks of pregnancy, find a point of contact at your delivery hospital and plan to take a tour of the hospital with your surrogate so that you can all be familiar with the layout of the hospital, how to get to the hospital, and the hospital’s policies regarding surrogacy. A surrogate birth day is a very exciting day so it’s helpful to be armed with knowledge and oriented to the location you will be in.
- Have your hospital bags packed and make sure you have your birth plan, identification, insurance information and the certified copy of the parental judgment in it. Both the surrogate and the parents-to-be should have their bags ready to go during the third trimester, and especially if the due date is approaching or there are signs that the birth is imminent. It is much harder to pack those bags once the labor has started and there is excitement in the air.
- Work on a birth plan together. A great surrogate birth plan should include any specific wishes for the labor. Some of that may include your surrogate’s wishes for pain management, a list of the people that all parties have agreed will be in the room for the birth (the parents, surrogate’s partner, doula etc.), and a contingency plan for who will be in the delivery room in the event a c-section is needed. The birth plan should also include the intended parents’ wishes for infant care. It’s a great idea to review the birth plan with the OB in advance of the birth to ensure that all of your needs can be met and to be aware of any adjustments needed due to OB or hospital policies.
- Find out whether the hospital will provide a room for the intended parents to stay in post-birth with their baby. Some hospitals may allow this if they have available space, while others may not. Have a back-up plan for where you will stay if you can’t or choose not to stay at the hospital; and an accommodation lined up for you and your baby to go to once your baby has been discharged from the hospital. Intended Parents from out of town sometimes rent houses or stay at hotels that offer a full kitchen to make life easier with their new baby until they can travel home.
- Have an Important Contacts List. For Intended Parents your list might include the phone numbers and emails of your most important contacts such as the agency, attorney, OB, pediatrician, nanny, as well as any friends or family that will be supporting you when your new baby arrives. For surrogates your list might include similar information for the agency, your attorney, OB, as well as contacts for your birth and postpartum support system. Make sure to have your childcare and housekeeping lined up in advance of your due date, and it’s a good idea to have back up contacts as well. Life is unpredictable so having a dedicated support system is priceless when the big day comes.
- Have a feeding plan. By around 30 weeks it is a good idea to establish whether your surrogate is comfortable pumping to provide breast milk for your baby or not, and for how long, if you desire this. Knowing this information will prepare you for whether you will feed your baby breast milk, formula, or a combination. Keep in mind that pumping is a very personal choice and some surrogates prefer to take the time to fully recover post-birth and not have the extra work that comes with pumping. Having this information in advance allows you to research alternative methods for obtaining breast milk if your surrogate is not able to pump, such as purchasing milk from a donor milk bank. If your surrogate will be pumping this gives you some time to figure out what kind of pump and pumping supplies to provide her with, and how you will facilitate picking up or shipping the milk once your surrogate is discharged from the hospital.
- Research what steps you will need to take to obtain your baby’s birth certificate and US Passport. You can check with your delivery hospital when you take your hospital tour to find out what their process is for obtaining your baby’s birth certificate, and you may want to meet with the birth certificate clerk if possible. It’s usually fairly easy to get your baby’s birth certificate and should probably be available within a week post-birth. You will need your baby’s birth certificate to obtain their US Passport, as well as a passport for your home country if you are traveling from abroad. It’s a good idea to research companies that can help you with the expedited passport process well in advance of delivery so that you’re familiar with what steps you will need to take once your baby is born.
- Most importantly- don’t forget to pack your joy and your gratitude for the big day. Your surrogate has dedicated nine months to carefully gestating your sweet baby, and each day she has looked forward to seeing your faces when you hold your baby at last. Although it may sound like a no-brainer to show your surrogate your joy and gratitude on the birth day, you might find yourself so wrapped up in the miraculous presence of your new baby that you forget to check in on how your surrogate is doing as well. Plan to visit with your surrogate while you are in the hospital with the baby so that she can see your baby bliss, and also to make sure she is recovering well. Text messages are a really easy non-invasive way to communicate and arrange visiting when you’re staying in the hospital so that everyone’s privacy and quiet time is respected.