You’ve been matched with a gestational carrier, the dotted lines on the contract have been signed, and now it’s time to make a baby (in the most clinical of ways of course)! Who knew that trying to become a parent would be filled with so much science and legalese? The thing is, surrogacy is more than just paper signing, stirrups, and needles. It is a long and complicated process, one that is beautiful and life-giving. Most of all, it is establishing a relationship between families.
In some surrogacy arrangements, your gestational carrier may be referred to as a “known gestational carrier/surrogate.” This means that they are likely a friend, co-worker, or family member that has offered to carry the pregnancy. In many cases, the gestational carrier is someone you may be meeting for the first time through a surrogacy matching program or agency.
Now before you change your relationship status to “complicated” on Facebook, it’s ok to feel nervous -actually, this is a very normal feeling. Even if your gestational carrier is known or you are just starting to get to know one another. It can oddly feel like the first date, but your dating someone to carry your baby. Did it just get weird? Yeah, the weirdness is normal too. Having navigated through 3 surrogacy agreements with 3 different gestational carriers, resulting in 2 deliciously cute babies (my bias is showing), I’ve learned a few things along the way. In fact, even now I am learning from those cherished experiences.
Here are my 3 tips on how to have a healthy relationship with your gestational carrier.
Communication, communication, communication.
Did I mention that communication is key? It’s a big deal. It begins by establishing what type of communication will work best for all parties. Some intended parents want to be involved and present every step of the way through the surrogacy. While others may take a more relaxed approach. Do you want to communicate through texts, calls, emails, in-person? What frequency is too much or too little? Another major part of healthy communication in a surrogacy arrangement is to be open and honest, even when it is uncomfortable. Do you agree on every single thing with your partner/spouse/family members? My guess is probably not. There will be times when you may not agree, and that is OK. I would honestly be worried if you did always agree. Getting things on the table and respectfully talking through them helps both sides have a better understanding of one another.
In the same vein, you also want to have clear boundaries and expectations established. Talk through your wants and needs as well as fully understand the same list of wants and needs from your gestational carrier prior to entering into your contract.
Practice trust falls
Surrogacy is a partnership and just like any healthy relationship it is based on a solid foundation of trust. Because pregnancy can be unpredictable, even if your gestational carrier has had smooth and healthy pregnancies in the past, no two pregnancies are alike. This can be unnerving for intended parents as there are many outliers that are seemingly out of our control. If you are a worrier like me, the “what-ifs” are maddening.
Consider your gestational carrier as the pregnancy pro. She knows her body and has experienced the full circle of birthing healthy babies. Simply put, this isn’t her first pregnancy rodeo. This is where trust enters into the surrogacy equation with a dash of communication. If something seems off you have every right to talk through it and make sure everyone is on the same page, but it’s also important to recognize that this is a shared experience.
Sometimes our own fears can translate into feelings of helplessness and increased anxiety. That is completely normal. Put those fears on the table -ideally before you enter into a contract or if it happens during the surrogacy, talk it out. It is very possible that your gestational carrier is dealing with her own set of complicated feelings. Surrogacy is being vulnerable in a sense. One that comes with understanding and trust that everyone’s end goal is a healthy baby at the end of those nine months.
Lean in here, this is a big one. Some intended parents come to the decision of surrogacy after years of heartbreak, fertility treatment, and miscarriage. While others innately know that surrogacy is the only option to have a biological tie to their child. It is safe to say that whatever intended parent category you identify with; surrogacy is a decision that was not entered into lightly.
The first thing I always asked when we were considering our gestational carrier(s) was “do you have a support system?” That was a big deal for us because although I never have or will experience pregnancy, we can all agree that can be hard on a woman’s body both emotionally and physically. She needs support. While I plan to be her biggest cheerleader, she also needs someone who will be there for her in those late nights- cravings, kicks, and more. It’s a juxtaposition of understanding this is not an easy task for her but also understanding the potential triggers that the intended parents may experience. For example, I’d give anything to have been able to carry my two daughters, but infertility and the threat of uterine cancer took that opportunity away from me. This is where empathy should be balanced between both sides. Most likely, your gestational carrier knows why you came to the decision of surrogacy, if she doesn’t, this is important information you should probably consider sharing. That same sentiment should be shared, and grace should be given, and often, as pregnancy is not only a miracle, at moments it can be a daunting task
Showing empathy is not just about being present, it is showing that you care. Get to know her outside of her role in the surrogacy. She’s not just a woman who is carrying your baby. She is a mom, a daughter, a friend, a wife, and many other things to other people. Your gestational carrier is also someone who is sacrificing her time, body, and emotional energy to help you achieve your dream of baby snuggles and dirty diapers. Showing interest in her family and the important aspects of her life helps her feel appreciated and that you care.
In order to have a healthy relationship with your gestational carrier, you must have a strong level of communication, a foundation of trust, and shared empathy. In surrogacy, you have the amazing opportunity to not only gain a child in the process but a forever friend too.