Interview with a Surrogate
Written By: Barbara Nelson, M.A. CCC-SLP, CLC, CBS; content contributor
Today I have the honor to have a deeply personal conversation with a good friend, fellow mother, and surrogate. I recall the day she told me she was considering becoming a surrogate. Naturally, many questions and inquiries come to mind when someone shares they are considering such a selfless act. I myself, do not have the knowledge or the life situation to guess if I could or would ever be a surrogate. So thank you Alicia, for allowing me to ask these candid questions about your experience and to share with the Baby Boldly community. And thank you for being bold, by being brave and vulnerable with us all.
Q: Why surrogacy? There are many reasons people may choose to provide the gift of surrogacy, but what was your why?
A: To be honest, I don’t love being pregnant. But I’ve been fortunate to have experienced healthy and smooth pregnancies and deliveries. And after watching my sister and her husband try for many years to have a baby, including 5 rounds of IVF and multiple miscarriages, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help them grow their family any way I could. I have such a deep love for my own children and knew what a special gift I could provide to them.
Q: What is the question people asked you the most regarding your surrogacy?
A: The most common question I get is whether it was hard for me to give up the baby after delivery. And I respond by telling them I was not giving anyone up, I was just returning the baby to their parents. I never considered the baby “mine” but rather it was the intended parents’ baby (it was their embryo, not mine) and I was simply helping grow and care for her for a while. It was a very different attachment than I had with my own children while pregnant, and for that reason, the transition following delivery was surprisingly easy for me. I was delighted to see the joy of my sister and her husband welcoming their baby girl, and I was relieved to no longer be pregnant and could return focus to my own family.
Q: What is the thing most people assumed?
A: Many people assumed I wanted to be a surrogate because I loved being pregnant. I don’t particularly enjoy being pregnant, but was willing to make the sacrifice to help my sister.
Q: How did you prepare for the birth of their baby?
A: I prepared for the birth of their baby by taking daily walks, eating as well as possible, and trying to take care of myself physically and mentally as much as possible so I could provide a safe and smooth delivery of their baby girl.
Q: Did you feel more or less prepared for this birth?
A: During the pregnancy, I became anxious that my sister, for whatever reason, would miss the birth and I would be tasked with newborn care. Emotionally, I didn’t want to be in the position to have to take care of a newborn who wasn’t my own child. I made some contingency plans to make sure I’d have extra support at the hospital in case my sister and her husband had a delayed arrival. Having those plans in place helped me feel more prepared in the weeks leading up to the due date.
Q: Was your hospital or birthing experience any different as a surrogate compared to when you gave birth to your own children?
A: My OB recommended scheduling an induction at 40 weeks (had something to do with it being an IVF pregnancy). I hadn’t experienced an induction before, and my previous two labors were spontaneous. I was anxious about having an induction, but luckily it went very smooth. I very much appreciated the compassionate care I received from my OB during the labor and delivery process. She helped me feel like my well-being was equally as important as the baby’s and made sure I was comfortable during the whole process.
Q: How was your recovery as a surrogate compared to the transition from birth to newborn care?
A: I slept so well the night after delivering my surro baby! It was wonderful to actually get to rest and recover without having to care for a newborn, all while knowing she was being loved and cared for by her parents. I was able to be discharged from the hospital after only 12 hours following delivery. I decided not to pump, and the engorgement I experienced a few days after birth was very painful. In retrospect, I would have pumped to relieve the pressure, even if that resulted in a longer milk producing period of time.
(Side note: there are ways to carefully and more gently reduce and stop milk supply that are more comfortable and safer than cold turkey. A lactation consultant can offer support as well as a plan for women who are reducing or ceasing their milk supply immediately or anytime.)
Q: Did you have any favorite care items (or actions by others) that you recommend for other surrogates?
A: My husband planned a wonderful weekend trip to Disney for just the two of us about a month after the delivery. I had the opportunity to ride thrill rides, eat and drink whatever I choose, and enjoy time together no longer being pregnant. It was great to have that to look forward to right after my sister returned home with her new baby. The trip helped me reset and regain focus on myself and my immediate family again.
Q: How do you feel surrogate mothers could best be supported?
A: Surrogates can be supported by making sure their physical and mental healthcare remains a priority before, during and following the birth. It’s easy for a surrogate to begin to feel unimportant, or just a “vessel” at times, so I appreciated when family, friends and healthcare providers took the time to check in on me.
Q: Would you like to share anything about having your own children to the other bold surrogates and mama’s out there?
A: It’s generally recommended that potential surrogates should have their family completed prior to becoming a surrogate. This is because pregnancy and labor and delivery are not without serious risks, and you can either directly or indirectly loose the ability to naturally conceive following surrogacy. I became a little anxious during my surrogacy, since I was considering trying for my own third after the journey was complete, and worried it wouldn’t be possible. Fortunately, it worked out and I had my baby boy last November, less than two years following my surrogacy birth.
Congratulations Alicia on the most recent addition to your family! And thank you again for sharing your experience as a surrogate. For anyone wanting to support a surrogate they know, remember to check in on her well being. If you would like to gift her a packed birth bag prepared especially for surrogates (which then doubles as a weekender bag, wink) you can shop it here!
Written By: Barbara Nelson, M.A. CCC-SLP, CLC, CBS
Barbara is a speech-language pathologist. Her career predominately has focused on pediatric hospital based evaluation and treatment of infants and children with feeding disorders. This career choice makes sense, because for her, food is one of the best simple pleasures, medicine, and promoter of social connectivity available. She believes that feeding a child is more than just calories and that those connected moments stay with us forever. She strives to provide research and facts regarding the gold standard, but never chooses for a family because the parents always know their child best (even on day one).