Introduction; This is the second part of a two part article addressing the key understandings that build a successful surrogate carrier and couple relationship. Part I included an introductory overview of the surrogate/couple relationship and then presented
“The most important considerations that the recipient couple should know regarding their surrogate carrier.” This second part is complementary to the first.
Although the main points can and do apply to surrogates and couples who know each other ahead of time, this article was written specifically for the couples and surrogate carriers who enter into a relationship without previously knowing each other. The goal is for this relationship to be satisfying and enjoyable while meeting the individual goals and shared dreams of both the surrogate carrier and the intended parents.
The most important considerations that the surrogate carrier should know regarding their recipient couple.
Recognize that your couple has been denied the opportunity to carry their own pregnancy and have a history of loss and disappointment. This is a key understanding. This history of loss forms the basis of how the couple enters into the arrangement. Intended parents want to trust that the pregnancy will be successful yet this trust is denied to them based on the real history of loss that has preceded the hoped for surrogate pregnancy. Understand how difficult it is for the couple to trust it will all progress smoothly.
Honest, consistent communication is necessary as the basis for a successful relationship. From the very beginning, remember that the intended parents have done everything they can to achieve success. Every detail handed down by physicians and professionals has been evaluated and followed in pursuit of success. Everything a surrogate says is similarly assessed as a way to validate their decision to entrust the carrier with having their precious baby. Finding that the surrogate is saying one thing and doing another is extremely anxiety producing behavior which can disrupt the entire process. Dishonesty on one issue calls into question every good intention the surrogate has shared. It is vital that the carrier is careful to be honest and consistent.
Establish yourself as trustworthy. An intended couple carries admiration and high regard for their chosen surrogate as they begin their long term relationship. Being diligent in following through with appointments, phone calls, and visits to the doctors protects that respect and loyalty in all ways. Surrogates that schedule doctor visits or phone calls which are continually cancelled, rescheduled or forgotten leave intended parents feeling disregarded and calls into question the intent and trustworthiness of the surrogate carrier.
Comply unfailingly with physicians orders. There is no higher trust that the couple places in the surrogate than to follow the medical treatment plan to protect the pregnancy and the surrogate. The couple has chosen the physician which carries their highest level of trust. It is okay to ask as many questions as the surrogate needs to about the protocol . Once the physician has clarified the process, the couple needs to know their carrier is following the prescribed treatment.
Appreciate that questions or behaviors that might seem intrusive to you are your couple’s way of expressing their feelings of anxiety and loss of control or connection to the pregnancy. Understand that the couple’s anxiety comes from their experience of facing repeated complications while trying to have their child. Oftentimes, surrogate carriers feel that any inquiries about her well being, routine or daily care call into question the surrogate’s competency and ability to safeguard the pregnancy. I remind surrogates that they too have many questions regarding their children’s eating, sleeping, or resting for even the most trusted babysitters they use for their own children. It’s important for surrogate carriers to expect and welcome many, many requests for information about themselves and the pregnancy. Questions about a surrogate’s welfare also leads to bonding over the pregnancy that the recipient mom cannot physically feel. So on many levels, its positive for surrogate carriers to exchange lots of information about their routine and how they are feeling with their couple.
Reassure the couple with a positive outlook, include them in the pregnancy and share feelings of joyousness. Although this would seem obvious, often the communication is tentative and real feelings are overlooked for polite, more guarded conversation. It’s so important for the carriers to be inclusive of the details of the pregnancy and the feelings of joy that a successful pregnancy brings. It helps with the bonding when there are lots of conversations and sharing about the tone and tenor of the pregnancy, even using a pet nickname like “peanut” makes the pregnancy a shared experience for the couple.
Understanding that when the couple returns to their home with their new baby, they need to bond as a new family. We all honor the major accomplishment of a surrogate carrier bringing a new life into a family. If the relationship has been going well, the time around delivery is an intense time whereby the surrogate is receiving calls many times in a day and the couple is heaping attention on her and the upcoming delivery. During this time the relationship will be the most rewarding for both the surrogate and the couple. At the core of this experience, the birth and delivery, the surrogate understands she will release her gift to her couple.
This is the peak, emotionally charged moment that all have been anticipating. Following this life changing moment, the surrogate is asked to heal from the delivery and return to her previous lifestyle. It is emotionally challenging for a surrogate to transition from being surrounded by extra love and attention while carrying life to then deliver and return to a normal lifestyle without all of the ongoing fanfare after the delivery. As much as the surrogate may desire and miss all of the attention, it’s so important to understand that the couple will want to start their lives and bond as a new family without the same close connection to their surrogate carrier. A sense of relief and one’s own family responsibilities coupled with the emotional support from the surrogate support group and personal friends and family will ease the carrier’s transition. The parents now want to feel as the surrogate felt when she delivered her own children, as if they can be the parents they have always wanted to be and to take lots of time to shower undivided attention on their baby. So lastly, for surrogate carriers, please remember that although your couple may not be calling you they are thinking of you always with deep gratitude and lifelong appreciation for the gift you have given.
Surrogates and families along with their intended parents are able to give to each other the gifts that they each carry. When they each understand better how the other feels ‘behind their hearts’ it magnifies the joy and dilutes the difficulties , allowing all to achieve their personal and family goals, shaped by the surrogacy relationship and experience.
Ellen Speyer, MFT has been a practicing psychotherapist for twenty five years. Ellen is happy to share that as a therapist working with surrogacy for eighteen years, she has helped almost two hundred happy babies go home with their families after being given a wonderful start by their devoted surrogate carriers.