What is it like to be a Surrogate Mother?
If you’re thinking of becoming a surrogate, here’s what you can expect before, during and after the process is complete.
Becoming a surrogate is not an easy decision to make, but for some women, it’s a no-brainer. They love being pregnant, they want to provide a priceless gift for another family, and they want to make a difference in the world one baby at a time.
But, even if you’re sure you want to be a surrogate, you’ll need to seriously consider the ramifications of carrying a child that isn’t yours. If this is your first time applying for surrogacy, you may be nervous about what surrogate mothers go through and what to expect as a surrogate mother. While every surrogate mother’s experience is different, there are some common things you can expect when it comes to your surrogacy journey.
Your surrogacy agency might be able to connect you with other surrogate mothers so you can better understand what being a surrogate entails from someone who’s been through it firsthand. In the meantime, here are some things you should expect throughout your surrogacy process.
Before the Pregnancy
When you first apply to be a surrogate, you will have to go through a lengthy screening process to make sure you’re physically and emotionally ready to be a surrogate. This will require you to ask yourself hard questions that will tell you whether or not you’ll be a good surrogate. Some of these should be:
- Can I be pregnant with someone else’s child for nine months?
- Am I willing to commit to a healthy pregnancy — even though it’s not my baby?
- Am I ready to commit to a year or longer of intense fertility treatments, a potentially difficult pregnancy and a close relationship with the intended parents?
If you decide surrogacy is right for you, the time you wait to be matched with intended parents can vary dramatically based on your individual situation.
Once you’ve been chosen by a couple and you mutually agree that it is the right fit for you, there will be a legal contract to sign. While you are sorting out the legalities of your surrogacy agreement, it’s important that you’re not afraid to ask whatever questions you have about what’s expected of you. It’s always better to ask sooner rather than later, and establishing an open, honest relationship with the intended parents will make your surrogacy journey that much easier.
This legal contract will address sensitive issues like abortion and selective reduction (if more than one embryo successfully implant in your uterus), the number of embryo transplants you’re comfortable committing to, the financial compensation you’ll receive and who will be present at prenatal appointments and birth. Remember, your preferences on sensitive issues will be taken into account when you are matched with intended parents. However, it’s important that you seriously consider how you feel about some of these issues and what you want out of your surrogacy journey during this contract negotiation process, as this is the best opportunity to secure an idea of what your surrogacy process will look like.
Before the embryos implant, you should expect extensive fertility treatments to regulate your menstrual cycle and make your uterus as fertile as possible for incoming embryos. In many cases, these treatments involve daily fertility shots that can be uncomfortable, as well as many doctor’s visits and tests to ensure you’re physically fit to carry a child. While this is just the beginning of the surrogacy process, it can be one of the most trying for surrogate mothers.
It can be difficult for your spouse as well, which is why you need to make sure they are supportive of your pregnancy decision. If you’re heterosexual, you may need to abstain from sex so you don’t become pregnant with your own egg on accident.
Be prepared for the possibility that an embryo implantation may not be successful the first time. How surrogate mothers are affected by failed pregnancies is very similar to how the intended parents feel, but it’s important that you recognize that it often takes several embryo transfer attempts to achieve a successful surrogate pregnancy. If a pregnancy does fail, stay open and honest in your relationship with the intended parents; you will all be feeling the same kind of hurt and disappointment, and it’s better to share that with each other than hide it.
On the other hand, when you do become pregnant, you will all share the same feelings of excitement and happiness. The intended parents will be excited that they’re closer to finally becoming parents, and you can be excited to share in their joy and give them this amazing gift of parenthood.
During the Pregnancy
One of the biggest questions you may have is “Do surrogate mothers get attached to the child they’re carrying?” It’s a valid question, considering you’ll be pregnant with this child for nine months. When your life changes and you put the needs of an unborn baby first, you may wonder how to prevent yourself from becoming attached to them.
Instead of completely emotionally distancing themselves from the baby, many surrogates decide to look at what they’re doing as “babysitting” for nine months. In fact, most surrogates report that while they care for the child they’re carrying, they actually don’t bond as intensely as they did with their children during their own pregnancies.
But, because a surrogate pregnancy can be difficult for you and the intended parents, here are some steps you can take to make your pregnancy easier for everyone involved.
- Create mementos from your pregnancy. Many parents create baby books, which document their child’s journey from pregnancy to birth and beyond. To help the intended parents feel connected to your pregnancy and their child’s method of being brought into the world, you can take pictures during your pregnancy, keep a journal of your progress and write letters to the baby. The intended parents will appreciate this during your pregnancy and when they eventually look back with their child.
- Prepare the baby for the emotional transfer. When you are pregnant with a child, they will become used to your voice, scent and touch — and losing those right after birth can be shocking. To help ease their transition to the intended parents, you can encourage the intended parents talk to the baby during your pregnancy, familiarize the baby with sounds of their parents’ home (like their favorite music) and even provide a transitional item (like a blanket or stuffed animal) that they can take home with them after birth.
- Normalize your pregnancy situation. There will probably be some awkward moments when people congratulate you on or ask you about your pregnancy. You might not be sure what to say, so it’s important that you create a script of sorts to address these comments. You should feel comfortable expressing why you’re being a surrogate and what your surrogacy journey looks like.
- Understand that difficult feelings are normal. No matter how comfortable you are with your surrogacy, you may have confusing feelings about your pregnancy at times. This is due to hormones, so it’s nothing you can control — but it can be disorienting. In these cases, it’s important to talk with someone about what you’re feeling, whether that be your surrogacy professional, a trusted friend or a therapist. You can also reach out to online support groups for surrogate mothers and read online surrogate blogs, such as:
Keep in mind that while you’ll be coping with your own emotions during your pregnancy (not to mention the physical effects of being pregnant), the intended parents may also be overwhelmed with their feelings. It’s best to be sensitive to their feelings and involve them in your pregnancy as much as they’re comfortable with.
After the Pregnancy
Most surrogates are happy and excited for the intended parents when the baby is born. However, everyone is different, and some surrogates may struggle emotionally, in large part due to pregnancy hormones.
If you have a solid relationship with the intended parents and you’ve prepared for this time of transition, you should readjust to your everyday life rather quickly. But there’s no shame in reaching out for help from your surrogacy support team, your surrogacy professional or even the intended parents, if appropriate.
What surrogate mothers go through after giving birth is different for each woman, but in general, you’ll feel a sense of happiness knowing that you’ve given an infertile couple, a single parent, or a member of the LGBT community a biological child. When the intended parents see their baby for the first time, it will be a memory you’ll never forget, especially if you have a close bond with the parents.
Post-birth contact with the parents and the baby will vary from family to family; it’s usually something that is decided upon before you even become pregnant. Whether you are in close contact with the families after birth or not, it’s important that you have a support system you can lean on during this time. Do not be afraid to reach out for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed by emotions or physical effects from your pregnancy.
What it is like to be a surrogate mother will be different for each person based on their personal experience with pregnancy, their relationship with the intended parents and the preparation they put into their surrogacy journey. No matter what, it will be a life-changing decision that you make — one that helps create a family where there wasn’t one before.
If you have more questions about what a surrogate mother does, how it feels to be a surrogate mother and how surrogacy mothers are affected by their decision, contact a surrogacy agency today or one of the surrogacy support groups mentioned above.
Are you ready to become a surrogate? Want to learn more about the surrogacy process? Contact a surrogacy professional now for free information with no obligation.