You might just be starting the surrogacy process, newly matched, or currently on your journey when the question pops into your mind: how should communication work for this unfamiliar new experience? Don’t worry, you’re not alone in asking that question, and it is a fantastic question to have because it shows that you care about making this a positive journey. The relationship between a surrogate mother and the intended parents is undoubtedly unique. Here are some pointers on having positive communication during this surrogacy process for both intended parents and surrogate mothers:
Communication tips for Intended Parents:
- Frequency of contact- It’s important to find the right balance in how often you contact your surrogate mother. Generally, once a week is just about right during the surrogacy process. There may be time when there are appointments or updates that warrant being in touch more often but being in touch too frequently has its pitfalls. For a surrogate who is also a mom herself with her own family needing her attention, possibly working or going to school, reaching out to her too often can feel overwhelming. On the flip side, being out of touch too long can cause a disconnect and mean missing out on being in the loop on updates and on getting to know the special person who is carrying your child for you. If you aim for about once a week you will find this is generally comfortable for everyone involved.
- Types of contact- In this modern era of technology, intended parents often wonder during the surrogacy process, what is the BEST way to stay in touch with my surrogate. The answer is really that it depends on the surrogate and it’s good to ask her what she prefers. A busier working mom may find texting super convenient and non-invasive, some people prefer to email while others go with phone calls. Video conferencing is now also an option for intended parents that are far away to see their surrogate mother face to face through Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, or Gruveo. In our experience, it is really great to be on the phone or on video for the integral moments such as the transfer and milestone ultrasounds, if you’re not able to attend in person. Ideally you would see your surrogate several times throughout the surrogacy process and meet her family. There is nothing quite as special as meeting face to face, but for the time when you can’t be present technology allows intended parents to keep the lines of communication open. The only method of contact to steer clear of is social media which jeopardizes the privacy and intimacy of this experience.
- What do I talk about? – It’s easy to have tunnel vision and focus on the pregnancy, not because that’s all you’re thinking about but because it is something you and your surrogate mother share, and the reason for your meeting. In any good relationship there should be a human connection built on more than just one common goal. Your surrogate mother is also a mom herself so it’s great to remember to ask about her family, ask what plans she has for the weekend, find out about her interests and share your interests with her. Surrogacy is a unique friendship and even people from very different backgrounds can really enjoy getting to know each other outside of the roles that brought them together.
- Is there anything I shouldn’t talk about? – There are some subjects that are best avoided in this special relationship out of respect for everyone’s feelings. Steer clear of questions that could feel critical of your surrogate- such as asking what she is eating, how much she weighs, what her exercise routine is etc. It is okay to have concerns and questions but when the types of questions you have might make your surrogate feel like you’re monitoring her it is better to express the concerns you have to the agency to avoid awkwardness. Also, it’s a good idea to avoid heated subjects like politics and religion. These are very personal thoughts and can lead to conflict. Also, try to avoid unloading anxieties and worries you might have onto your surrogate, especially during the IVF process and pregnancy where hormones can cause emotions to run high, so as not to stress out your surrogate mother.
Communication tips for Surrogate Mothers:
- Frequency of contact- The same rule of thumb for intended parents is a great guideline for surrogate mothers as well. Generally being in touch once a week is perfect unless there are time sensitive updates to be shared more often, such as there might be in the days leading up to the birth. Intended parents love to hear from their surrogate mothers, especially positive updates, but contact that is too frequent may feel overwhelming for everyone involved, and it sets the stage for them to constantly be in touch with you as well, which might be convenient when you’re on bed rest and perhaps a little bored, but not as easily accommodated when you return to work or have commitments to your own family. On the other side of this, it is important to keep your intended parents and the agency updated, especially if there are time sensitive matters such as planning your travel for an upcoming transfer or sharing tests results.
- Types of contact- As a previous surrogate I try to go with the most non-invasive methods of contact when reaching out to my intended parents. It’s important to keep in mind that the intended parents may be private about the surrogacy or be waiting to share the news with friends and family until they feel the pregnancy is solid. That means there may be times when they can’t simply pick up the phone, or video conferencing might be difficult. Texting and emailing is a very respectful way to connect, or to set up a time to speak or video conference. Of course, we hope that you will also get to see your intended parents in person several times through the journey if travel permits and have a chance for them to meet your own children. There is nothing quite like seeing their hope and joy face to face to bring to life the wonder of the selfless gift you are giving.
- What do I talk about? Of course, you will want to share the joyful moments of the pregnancy and surrogacy process with your intended parents and see their happiness but there are some other great things you can communicate about during the process. It’s nice to ask how they are doing, and how their week is going, or if they have any fun plans. If your intended parents are extremely private about identifiable details you might avoid asking questions that are very personal and stick with asking about their hobbies, or favorites place to travel. There is a very special opportunity to learn about another culture if your intended parents are from out of the country, many intended parents are happy to share about their culture and what their country is like, and it can be fun for your children to learn about new places as well.
- Is there anything I shouldn’t talk about? In the same way you wouldn’t want your intended parents asking you questions that are potentially upsetting, it is important to be sensitive of their feelings as well. Intended parents have often been through a world of heartache and let downs before turning to surrogacy as the answer to their prayers. This means that their joy when they hold their baby at last will be boundless, but their anxieties may run high during the pregnancy. Even seemingly harmless complaints of normal pregnancy symptoms like nausea, heartburn, food aversions, weight gain etc. can send them on an emotional roller coaster. Of course, if there are complications or medical concerns the IPs need to be aware of, it is important to let them know but you may want to check with the agency first for guidance on how to approach sensitive concerns. When that isn’t an option, try to stick with calm and simple updates and defer to the doctor to reassure your couple when needed. Also, if your intended parents ask for advice on baby care or baby shopping it is completely fine to share but try to avoid giving unsolicited parenting advice as this can feel like overstepping sometimes to sensitive parents who are trying to balance the positive relationship they share with you with finding their own groove as parents and bonding to their child from a distance. And the same tip of avoiding discussing politics and religion is advisable for surrogates as well, these heated topics can be a minefield, especially with matches from different cultural backgrounds.
When it comes to communication the golden rule to do unto other as you would want others to do unto you goes a long way. Be considerate of each other’s needs, supportive, and understanding and you will find that you will build a special connection with each other and take in all the joy of the surrogacy process. These are just a few tips that will hopefully be helpful on your journey through the surrogacy process, but when questions arise your agency can be an excellent source of guidance.