When I decided to become a gestational surrogate eight years ago, it never occurred to me at the time how many questions people around me would have about what I was doing. When I started on this path I feel like my own list of questions for what I needed to know to do this was really quite short. I was just aching to get started and help an infertile recipient on their path to parenthood. Now that I have completed two surrogacy journeys for two different families, and have also been a Surrogacy Associate at an agency in this field for going on six years, I have had the opportunity to share openly with countless friends, family members, other potential surrogates, and of course potential Intended Parents about what this process is like from a gestational surrogate perspective. Over time I have noticed there are some questions that many Intended Parents have so I’d love to share those with anyone who might be wondering and nervous to ask these questions themselves. Here are the top five questions I am asked by Intended Parents:
- Why do women choose to become surrogates?
Of course, I can’t speak for all women, but for me and the many exceptional women I have had the honor of knowing in my nearly six years working at The Surrogacy Program, surrogacy is a calling that loving mothers feel compelling them to help others. I first learned about surrogacy when I was in junior high, watching the show “Friends” in which a character served as a surrogate to her brother. It was the first time I heard of surrogacy as a concept and I had no doubt in my mind that I would help a friend or family member in need if the opportunity arose. Over time and especially after having my own child, the desire to help someone else have a baby grew, and I became open to the idea of helping someone I didn’t know. I couldn’t imagine my life without my child, and I was overcome with gratitude to the universe for the blessing of motherhood; at the same time, I felt very sad for those who struggled to conceive. With the support of my partner, I wanted to give back to the universe and bring someone else the same joy being a parent has brought me. Surrogates choose this path to make families possible, and the emotional rewards are immeasurable.
- Do surrogates want to keep the baby?
So many nervous Intended Parents ask me this, and the answer is absolutely not. A gestational surrogate is carefully screened for psychological readiness for this process. A surrogate’s whole purpose is to make recipient parents’ dreams of parenthood a reality, and the moment a surrogate looks forward to the most is the birth when the parents will hold their baby at last. In my experience, carrying a surrogate baby felt very different than carrying my own babies. Although I was cautious in all of my pregnancies I was especially cautious in my surrogate pregnancies, and my focus was not only on taking good care of the baby physically but in bridging the gap to allow my couple to bond with their baby. When I talked to my belly I told the baby how much their parents loved them, how they couldn’t wait to meet them. At the end of 9 months of pregnancy, it was both deeply satisfying to complete my mission of delivering a very wanted baby to a loving family, and also a relief to return to my own non-pregnant life without a newborn to care for.
- Do surrogates do this for the money?
No, this is absolutely not about the money. While the surrogacy compensation is certainly beneficial for the gestational surrogate and her own family, the IVF process and 9 months of pregnancy are something that you commit to 24/7. As a surrogate you are all in, all of the time until your journey is complete, you take time away from your normal role as a mother in your own household, as an employee in your own line of work, to make parenthood possible for someone else and this can’t be equated to earning a wage at a job. Surrogacy is not a job, it’s a team process and the financial rewards don’t begin to measure up to the emotional rewards. There is no price that can be placed upon the ability to bear children. Ask any Intended Parent who has struggled to conceive how they would financially quantify their gratitude to the surrogate who comes to their rescue and they would be at a loss to come up with a figure. The greatest repayment for a surrogate is knowing how loved the child is and seeing the Intended Parents’ baby bliss.
- How can I trust that the surrogate is doing the right things?
Intended Parents may worry about all sorts of things including the surrogate’s diet, her activities, her stress level etc. and being micromanaged is overwhelming to a surrogate. I would answer this question about trust with another question. How can you not trust the woman who is taking time out of her life, dedicating herself to your cause, enduring shots and IVF medications, and nine months of pregnancy all to help you have the child you so deeply desire? Bear also in mind that while you are trusting your surrogate with the most precious period of gestating your child, your surrogate is trusting you with the rest of that child’s life and beyond. A surrogate has to trust in her heart that the parents she is helping will be wonderful loving parents because she has no role in that child’s upbringing. This process has to be based on mutual trust. Surrogates want to do everything they can to make the journey go smoothly and have a healthy pregnancy, and in return they need to feel supported by the parents that they are helping. An Intended Parent’s support during the surrogacy is their way of showing the love they have for their unborn child. The keys to a successful journey are trust, support, and open communication.
- What type and frequency of communication with a surrogate is appropriate?
I love this question from Intended Parents because it shows that they want to be in communication with their surrogate which is a great starting point for a team journey. The rule of thumb here is to be in touch about once a week every week throughout the surrogacy process and pregnancy, and also to check in with your surrogate during her postpartum recovery. This might be through phone, text, email or video conferencing. It’s great to attend appointments in person when possible, especially for the major milestones such as the IVF transfer, heartbeat ultrasound, Nuchal Translucency Ultrasound, 20-week ultrasound, hospital tour and of course the birth. Meeting in person can also be purely social, over a meal. Keeping the lines of communication is important for navigating this team process. It’s also helpful for the contact to be social and not just pertaining to the pregnancy. A surrogate is more than just someone carrying a baby- she has her own family, her own life, and interests. Ask how her family is doing, about what is new in their lives, about fun plans they have and show a genuine interest in getting to know the woman who will be bringing your baby into your life. It’s also helpful to share about yourself with the surrogate, and it’s especially important to share your joy throughout the process and celebrate the little victories along the way. Having a positive relationship is especially valuable if tougher things come up. Not every path to a baby is a straight line, there are sometimes bumps in the road. Communication builds a strong foundation to navigate the journey ahead. It’s also worth sharing that communication should not consist of asking a lot of questions about the surrogate’s behavior, diet, activities etc. in a way that could make her feel she is being monitored rather than supported.
I hope some of these questions and answers will be helpful for anyone considering surrogacy as their own path to parenthood. Surrogacy can be a beautiful, life changing journey for everyone involved if the process is handled with care and consideration for everyone’s feelings. If you have tough questions, going back to the agency to ask those is often the best choice as the agency will provide guidance and facilitation in the effort to help you and your surrogate have a smooth and positive experience.