It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for longer than you can remember – your baby is here! And while you’ve undoubtedly shared your gratitude with your surrogate for the irreplaceable role she played in this journey, you may wonder how your paths continue from here.
It can be difficult to know exactly how your relationship with your surrogate will look after the baby is born. The birth and months that follow, adjusting as parents and as a growing family, can be emotionally charged. This is why it’s important to consider how you envision this already unique relationship post-birth.
First, remember that your match can be whatever you want it to be – during the pregnancy and afterward, too. Your agency will discuss the possibilities prior to your match and will encourage this dialogue during the match meeting with your surrogate as well. It may be difficult to envision getting to the other side of this journey, but that’s why it is important to have an open, honest dialogue from the beginning. Consider whether you realistically plan to remain in contact with your surrogate. For some, that means a photo may be exchanged here and there, but the relationship is primarily for the duration of the pregnancy. In other situations, contact may be more consistent. Regardless of the relationship, it’s important to allow your surrogate proper closure.
Birth changes everything, for your family and for your surrogate. The end of the surrogacy journey requires lots of preparation and regular communication. After the baby is born, the parents are understandably busy and communication naturally drops off.
The postpartum period without a baby, however, can be a difficult, jarring shift in responsibility. After all, your surrogate’s previous pregnancies all concluded in caring for a newborn. While some surrogates see this as a welcome relief (no middle of the night feedings!) for others it can lead to a confusing mix of emotions.
That’s not to say there is any regret.
“The most common questions were definitely ‘how are you going to feel about giving up the baby?’ and ‘wasn’t that hard to give up the baby?’” recalls Amanda, a former surrogate. “I would always explain that I wasn’t giving up a baby, I never had a baby to begin with. I would try my best to explain that there were two parents who love the baby so much, have been waiting for this baby, have been there the whole pregnancy – it is their baby!”
Amanda, who completed a sibling journey for her intended fathers a couple of years later, had no doubt about the highlight of her experience. “Definitely spending the two summers with my IPs,” she says. Because they were an international couple, they spent more time locally around the delivery than other matches. “We really got to spend a lot of time together and get to know each other.”
This unique time together is not the case for every match, but for those who experience it, it can help ease the transition.
“Your life is different overnight after putting a year or more of yourself into this process,” explains Lori Jurecko, LSW, who has the unique perspective of a mental health professional, ConceiveAbilities Match Manager and former surrogate. “The relationship with the IPs has to change. That’s the natural course of things.”
Intended parents often recognize this as well, and Lori notes that they may be “concerned for her, that she’s going to have a hard time. They ask, ‘how can we help her with that, what can we do?’”
The match meeting between intended parents and surrogate lays the foundation for shared expectations and strong communication. The more you can share and discuss about your preferences here, the better. Keep in mind that these needs may change and evolve throughout the journey, which is why communicating with your match manager and surrogate directly is crucial.
After the baby is born, it is important to remember that your surrogate may experience some level of grief. It’s not the loss of a child – she always understood this is your baby – but the loss of the experience. Surrogacy is a profound journey, one that changes her life too. To feel a variety of emotions at the culmination of this process is healthy and completely normal.
Small gestures make a big impact during this stage.
Simply offering your surrogate time to hold the baby, take a photo together or give her children the opportunity to meet the baby can mean the world to her. She may not ask for these things. Perhaps she isn’t sure how, or she doesn’t want to make you uncomfortable. By offering, you give both her and her family some closure and a chance for the journey to come full circle.
For surrogate Nicole, spending time post-birth with her intended parents was priceless. “We had known each other, but there was just something deeper about it at that point. It was nice to have time with them, see them with Parker. Just to watch them with her, it was really good for my soul,” she recalls.
One of the most powerful moments of the entire journey occurred with the new mom just before the new parents took Parker home.
“There were no words exchanged, but the look that was between us…you could just tell there was a bond that was deeper than I was going to have with any other friend,” she says of the new mom. Even now, the memory is profoundly emotional. “That moment between Sam and I, sitting on my bed, is in the top five moments I’ve ever had in my whole life.”
At the start of the process, concerns about attachment can be a real thing for many intended parents. But is this a reason to put boundaries on communication?
“I think that’s the distinction between surrogates and people who are not,” Lori explains. “They have more difficulty understanding that surrogates not only don’t develop that attachment or have emotional challenges around giving the baby back to their parents, but we don’t worry about it either. It’s a worry for other people.”
It’s a testament to the motivation and character of many women who choose surrogacy, and to a thorough screening process.
“It’s my theory that this is why we don’t see attachment issues. If we weren’t working with the right people I could see it coming up, but it doesn’t,” Lori says.
As the relationship progresses and these concerns subside, most intended parents and surrogates are able to find a level of communication that is comfortable for everyone involved – even after baby arrives.
The level of involvement your surrogate has with your child in the future depends on what all parties feel comfortable with. In other words, the relationship looks different for each and every match.
For Nicole’s intended parents, there was no question that she would be a fixture in their family. “I would like to make it a very important part of their story,” Samantha explained. “Always bring up Nicole, have a picture of her, not make this at all a secret.”
Though it’s wonderful when intended parents make the decision to keep their surrogate so involved, the relationship can be equally fulfilling without regular contact. Many surrogates welcome and appreciate a photo and update from time to time, but they understand it is not a requirement. And while this is something that will be discussed throughout the surrogacy journey, the reality is that as time goes on, communication may drop off. Ultimately, the hope is that all parties will be able to look back on the surrogacy experience with appreciation for what it was and the incredible impact it made. Our team is here to support you every step of the way.
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.