One of my first introductions to Surrogacy was the comedy Baby Mama with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (2008). If you haven’t seen it, Baby Mama shares the journey of "a successful, single businesswoman who dreams of having a baby, discovers she is infertile and hires a working class woman to be her unlikely surrogate."
Even though those two actors made me laugh and the movie helped peak my curiosity about being a Surrogate, it definitely didn’t portray the type of relationships and journey I have had as a Surrogate. Needless to say, just like every path to parenthood is different, every Surrogate and Intended Parent relationship is unique.
I can tell you after being a Surrogate and carrying five children for three A-MA-ZING, yet different families, the relationship between the Surrogate and the Intended Parents (IP) is soooo important. (If I could do a whole row of o’s to emphasize the importance, I would!)
It all begins with the match. If you are going through a Surrogate Agency, which I personally recommend for a number of reasons, usually a Matching Coordinator or the Director of the Agency will work to match a couple/individual (IP) who are looking for someone to carry their child(ren), with a potential Surrogate (also known as a Gestational Carrier when the embryos transferred to the Surrogate are of no biological relationship to the Surrogate). Think of what a professional matchmaker in the dating world does. Similarly, the Surrogate and Intended Parent matching process focuses on finding the best fit in terms of desires, goals, lifestyle, core values and personalities through interviews, questionnaires, meetings and such.
As you are in the process of being matched and you enter into a Surrogate/IP relationship, there are some specific tips you can use to help navigate the road and relationship. Just like your fertility journey so far, the Surrogacy journey will probably include some ups, downs and detours, so make sure you are matched with the right person/couple to begin with to help alleviate any extra stress and strain.
The five tips I am sharing with you are based on my time and experience as a Surrogate working with two different Surrogate Agencies, three different IPs, four different fertility clinics and years in the Trying to Conceive (TTC) Support Community. At the risk of sounding redundant (as I often do as a mom, coach and wife), I feel the need to repeat myself here, every person and path to parenthood is different, but these tips can be tweaked and applied to your specific situation.
Here are 5 Tips for Navigating the Surrogate and Intended Parent Relationship:
1. Foundations: Figure out and keep in mind your expectations, core values and feelings throughout the Surrogacy journey. The quickest way to find yourself dealing with hurt, frustration or resentment is because of unmet or unrealistic expectations. That’s why I HIGHLY RECOMMEND going through these items ahead of time with a Counselor or Fertility Support/Surrogacy Coach in a joint session with both the Surrogate (and husband if married) and IPs. During this session make sure to review the terms of the contract together so you can find out more about what is important to each of you and why. Knowing what matters most to the other side of the relationship and the why behind it will help you make good decisions throughout the journey and communicate well. Your expectations and feelings may change during the journey, so if you aren’t in the place to communicate and navigate the changes within the relationship on your own, don’t hesitate to ask a professional to help.
2. Relationship Type: Identify the type of relationship desired. How do you see this relationship working? Would you want to categorize it as a business relationship, friendship, like a family member or a teammate? This will be the basis for the feel of the relationship, which in turn will determine a lot of the decisions made moving forward and how the relationship continues after birth. Can you imagine a Surrogate with a desire to have a friendship type relationship matched with IPs who want a business type of relationship? You can imagine how hurtful and frustrating that could be.
3. Medical Stuff: Determine how Doctor appointments and procedures will go. Who will be at the Doctors appointments and procedures? If IPs aren’t at the appointments or procedures, how will the IPs be updated and decisions made to move forward? As you move along in the journey what about the delivery and birth? Who will be in the delivery room, what about the hospital stay, seeing the surrogate baby and IPs after delivery and saying goodbye when discharged from the hospital?
4. The Flow: Determine the best communication practices and get into a flow. Are you a text person, phone call, email or facetime person? Decide how to check in with each other and how often. Talk about if/when/how to share pics, videos and milestones with the IP’s (like the first time you feel the baby move or hiccup). As a Surrogate and general rule of thumb, I follow the lead of the IPs and how they are communicating, then I add a little extra just in case they are trying to hold back and honor boundaries with me. When it comes to social media, it is often best to discuss what is ok for you to post regarding your journey and what isn't and to not "follow" each other until after the delivery. If you are "friends" on social media during the Surrogacy journey it could potentially get tricky on what is posted and what isn't, one side may be more open to sharing the journey than the other and you would never want to feel like the other side is cyber-stalking your every move and decision.
5. Golden Rule: Treat the other like you would want to be treated. You can never go wrong with the Golden Rule. Put yourself in their shoes. Treat the other as special. Honor the parents and support the Surrogate. Send or give a special gift or “I care about you as a person, not just how my baby is doing” card or text. One of the things I did with my IP’s was to purchase a Recordable Children’s Book for them. I asked them to record their voices in the book of them reading the story and give it back to me. Then, most nights I would play the storybook with their voices for their baby(ies) in my belly. At the hospital after birth I would give them a gift basket that included their storybook to keep. It was a way that I could keep them a part of their baby’s everyday life and keep their voice familiar to their growing baby.
Whether you utilize a professional Counselor, Coach or have intentional conversations together on your own, be prepared for these conversations and take full advantage of the opportunity to set the stage of how you want the relationship to work and the type of “teammate” you will be. These tips are important to make a great Surrogate/IP match as well as having a positive Surrogacy journey experience.
Just like you can sum up the key to real estate as location, location, location, I would say the key to the Surrogate/IP relationship after a great match is communication, communication, communication.
Tiffany Jo Baker MA, CLC
Couples Life & Fertility Support Coach (+3x Surrogate)
Tiffany Jo Baker spends her time helping women and couples birth their dreams by navigating the road and relationships well while trying to conceive. From her experiences as a 3x Surrogate who has birthed 5 babies for 3 couples dealing with infertility and a Couples Life & Fertility Support Coach, she knows the importance of faith, support, peace and a plan while on your fertility journey. Her goal is to help women and couples thrive thru infertility. To find out how you are doing, get your FREE “Thriving Thru Infertility” Quiz here. For more tips, encouragement and inspiration, follow her on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
Baby Mama info at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0871426/
Tiffany Jo Baker is a 3x surrogate, writer, speaker and Couples Life & Fertility support coach.
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