You can read all you want about what it’s like to be a surrogate. Online you can find what one might be able to expect and what the process entails, but the best way to learn about a journey as a surrogate mother is through firsthand experience from someone who knows.
Have no fear, an in-depth interview with an all-star surrogate is here. Today were are taking a deeper look into various aspects of being a surrogate mother. There’s the good, the euphoric, and also the reality of being a surrogate mother for a wonderful set of parents who can’t conceive on their own.
Today’s interview with Shoshannah Ingersoll is an insider’s look on this incredible journey to help someone in need:
Hi Shoshannah! Let’s jump right in: how many times have you been a surrogate mother?
I have had the honor of helping three incredible families build their families.
Before becoming a surrogate, what were some of your initial reservations about the process?
I had considered becoming a surrogate since I was a teenager but my biggest hesitation was due to a misconception. I initially thought I could only be a surrogate if I used my own eggs, but with research, I learned that through Gestational Surrogacy, I could fulfill my goal of being a surrogate mother and the child would not be genetically related to me. With Gestational Surrogacy the intended parents use their own genetic material, donor eggs and/or donor sperm. Like all surrogate mothers, I also wondered about how I would feel after the birth, surrogates are very carefully screened to ensure that they are comfortable with giving up the baby. I actually don’t like to describe it that way because it really isn’t giving up a baby as the baby was never mine, to begin with. I like to think of it as extreme babysitting as a fellow surrogate once put it to me. I was very confident that I would be totally fine with the parents taking their baby home, but moreover, I wondered if I would still feel any bond with the baby.
Now after having been a surrogate, were those initial concerns and reservations valid or did you find that they were not something you needed to worry about?
Well, obviously my reservation about proceeding as a surrogate if it meant having to use my own eggs wasn’t a concern at all in the end- gestational surrogacy is an incredible option and none of the babies I have carried as a surrogate have been genetically related to me.
Regarding how it feels when the parents take their baby home- truthfully that is the best part of being a surrogate! When you get to see your intended parents hold their baby for the first time it is one of the most pivotal moments of your life. I’m so proud of chasing this dream of helping others and the joy it brings me is infinite. My surrogate babies have never felt like my own because they aren’t. Don’t get me wrong, I think they are each absolutely adorable and it should go without saying that I love them and want them to have wonderful lives, but I feel more like the cool aunt. I get to see pictures, and hear updates, and have even had the honor of visiting with the families since the birth. I get to celebrate all of their accomplishments, but I don’t have to do any of the momming/dadding-it’s pretty amazing! The bond I formed wasn’t with the babies- it was with their parents. Surrogacy is a very special and unique friendship. I have friends all over the world now.
What is your favorite part of being a surrogate mother? Is it the news of being initially matched? Or the 9 months of building a relationship with your intended parents?
There are so many moments I have cherished along the way. As crazy as this might sound to some people- I love giving birth. There, I’ve said it. It’s sort of my thing. Some people are great at sports, some are brilliant at math, and I deserve an Olympic gold medal for birth. So many people think of birth as a necessary evil to have a baby, but for me it’s the most empowering, beautiful, life-changing process that turns people into parents and I have had the honor of sharing that human experience with others. It is such a sacred narrative in the lives of the parents and their babies and I get to be a conduit that makes it happen, how amazing is that? A surrogate labor and birth is a team process. My husband is there, the parents are there, my doula is there. The journey to me feels like a passing of the baton to the parents- I carried their precious cargo for 9 months and their hopes, dreams, and worries and now they get to take the baton and become parents. Their hopes and dreams are fulfilled and as a mom, I know the worries are only just beginning but that is one of the pre-requisites of parenthood.
I also love sharing in all of the special moments leading up to the birth: the IVF transfer, the first pregnancy test, the first ultrasound, finding out the gender, letting them feel their baby kick, sending pictures as my belly grows, shopping for baby supplies and so on. I love pumping to provide milk after the baby is born so I can continue to help during their transition to parenthood as well.
There has to be some aspect of a surrogacy journey that is most challenging. What was it for you?
Oh yes, there definitely is. For me the most challenging part is the nausea. Many surrogate mothers have an easy time during pregnancy with minimal discomforts. Unfortunately I have nausea with all of my pregnancies, of course, that doesn’t stop me in any way. I figure in the grand scheme of things what’s nausea? Even if it lasts the whole nine months it is still temporary and the gift I’m able to give is forever. I definitely am happiest though when I’m out of the first trimester and the nausea isn’t as constant. Despite the nausea I think I still do a pretty good job of taking good care of myself and by proxy the baby, and there are three gorgeous surrogate babies to show for it. I wish I could take credit for how beautiful they are but it’s not my genes.
Another challenging aspect can be when things don’t go to plan. I have experienced loss as a surrogate, and that is heartbreaking. It really opened my eyes and my heart up to what these brave intended parents go through before turning to surrogacy as their last hope. I’ve delivered two rainbow babies as a surrogate, and that is very healing for me and the parents.
Did you always feel really comfortable and cared for during your process?
I feel like I get so spoiled while I’m a surrogate by the parents and also by the agency. The agency checks in with me often making sure I have what I need, they send gifts along the way like a dinner-in, a pregnancy massage, gift cards. They have attended milestone appointments with me. The intended parents have gifted us little vacations to relax which was incredible, and they still remember our kids at the holidays and send holiday presents. I’ve received so many beautiful mementos and I cherish each and every one of them. The greatest gift is their friendship. The emotional support throughout is incredible and surrogacy is such a team process. My husband is also a really good sport- he puts up with my massive pregnancy pillow which is basically a giant wall of fluff to help me sleep comfortably. He cooks when I can’t stand being in the kitchen. He drives me to deliver milk to the babies.
What is your advice for women who want to become a first-time surrogate? Is there anything they should keep in mind moving forward? What do you wish you would have known going into your first pregnancy?
My advice would be if you have it in your heart to give this gift –do it. It is not a decision you will regret, it will become one of your proudest accomplishments. Also, keep an open mind during the matching process. I think the universe does wonders in putting the right people in our paths, and it may not always be what we envisioned for ourselves. Also, know that it’s okay to ask questions. The agency is there to support you so it is important to have good communication with them throughout the process.
List three things a surrogate should absolutely do during her pregnancy:
Ooh that is a good question! I’ve never been asked that before as a surrogate.
- Rest up! Make the most of the IVF transfer bedrest. How often does a mom get to relax in a hotel and have room service? Think of it as your first day pregnant and cozy up in bed while that embryo gets nice and cozy. Enjoy some comfort foods, some good movies, and uninterrupted sleep and let someone else chase after your littles for once. Live it up!
- This is a tough one because surrogate moms are also moms themselves, and they are often the kind of people who have a hard time saying no. This is the time to prioritize the pregnancy. So much time and energy go into this process, a surrogate pregnancy is not the time to overdo it trying to juggle too much. Prioritize your sanity by seeking the support you need and minimizing stress.
- Document it. A surrogate pregnancy is incredibly special. Some surrogates scrapbook for themselves or the parents or they take gorgeous pregnancy photos as a keepsake. I have done both and I love being able to look back on my journeys, and I made scrapbooks for the parents in my last two journeys and wish I had done so the first time around.
List three things a surrogate mother should definitely not do during her surrogacy journey:
- Don’t bend the rules. In your own pregnancy maybe you felt sushi was worth the risk, or it was important to do rigorous exercise to maintain your figure, or that bedrest was just precautionary. Never try to do something prohibited in your surrogacy contract, against your doctor’s advice, or against common sense. In a surrogate pregnancy every effort should be made to have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy full term baby. Risks are not worth taking.
- Don’t let modesty get in the way of experiencing this special human connection. Let the parents feel their baby kick, let them be present at ultrasounds, let them see their baby being born. These are moments they can’t experience without your help. They aren’t there to invade your space, and your modesty can still be preserved with some creative solutions. Keep in mind if it were your baby these are moments you wouldn’t want to miss and try to keep an open mind.
- Don’t talk finances with the intended parents. The beauty of having an agency is that you never have to discuss money with the parents. If you have financial questions go the agency and this will keep your relationship with the intended parents focused on the human experience so it never feels like a business relationship. If the parents bring up money to you refer them back to the agency for guidance instead.
Of your surrogacy journeys, was there a moment, exchange, or conversation that was most meaningful to you that you will never forget?
Absolutely, there are special moments from each of my journeys.
In my first journey, being that it was a first for both me and the intended mom, neither of us knew when we started what our relationship would be like when the journey was complete. When she came to visit me after the birth before their drive home, the intended mom hugged me and told me she loved me and this wasn’t goodbye. I actually had the honor of attending her wedding just 10 months later. I felt like a celebrity at that wedding- people I had never met before knew who I was and were thanking me, all of their friends and extended family.
In my second journey, we did an unmedicated hypnobirth by my choice, and one of the intended dads in particular was so excited to be there for the whole labor, the other was so nervous he hid in a quiet corner of the hospital room. When it came time to push the enthusiastic dad was in the action holding my leg and he said “This isn’t all that different from birthing goats” Mind you, he was a farmer so he gets a free pass on that comment. If I wasn’t so busy pushing I would have laughed- it was pretty funny! Once the baby was born we were all crying tears of joy- one of the dads put the baby on me and wrapped his arms around both of us and just sobbed. That was my favorite moment. Then they asked me to be the godmother and of course I basically melted into a puddle I was so touched by this.
I just delivered my third surrogate baby at the end of July and each moment is still so fresh in my mind. I think my favorite moment was seeing the intended mom holding her baby just after the birth and she was completely engulfed in the greatness of that moment after so many years in the making, while the intended dad kept thanking me over and over. I also had the unique experience of helping them navigate newborn care in the first few days at the hospital because they were so jet-lagged, they had only just arrived from Australia when I went into labor at 38 weeks, but we made a pretty excellent team.
What would you tell a surrogate mother who is considering carrying twins?
Oddly enough, I’ve always wanted the experience of carrying twins despite being cautioned against it. The thing with a twin pregnancy is that it is higher risk. There is a stronger likelihood of bedrest, being off work sooner, and delivering prematurely. Surrogates carrying twins tend to have more fatigue and more nausea. There is an increased chance of needing a c-section, if you’ve had a prior c-section birth this may not be a big concern for you, but if you’ve only ever given birth vaginally then this might feel more worrisome. All things considered, it is a very special delivery and the surrogates I know who carried twins to term are very proud of this huge accomplishment as they should be. As someone who has seen all the risks, I would say carrying singletons is less hard on your body.
Where can one apply to be a surrogate?
Right here: Apply to Become a Surrogate Mother. As the Surrogate Match Coordinator, and a previous surrogate I look forward to welcoming you to our family of super surrogates and being a part of the team that supports you every step of the way. If you have questions prior to applying you can always call at 818-506-9300 or email [email protected] and I’m happy to help.
Thanks for your time Shoshannah and for sharing your candid thoughts and feelings on different aspects of being a surrogate.
If you’d like to get started to become a surrogate for intended parents who need assistance to start their family, contact us today.