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/
It’s that time of year again. The bitter-sweet holidays that can make those in the TTC Community cringe. The holidays that focus on kids. The holidays that seem to bring pregnant family and friends in masses to events. The holidays that evoke get-to-know-you and how-are-you-doing type questions that often include something like “Are you pregnant yet” or “When are you going to have children.”
Well this time, the holiday is not kid focused, it’s mom focused. It’s about to be Mother’s Day. A holiday intended to love on and recognize all the mom’s out there. We all have one or at least had one if they have passed away. We may even have two or three moms when you factor in step parents, in-laws, adoptive/biological parents and even god-parents.
But what about you? You may be a mom in the making, a future mama, a mom waiting for more, or a mom of angel babies. How does that fit into the normal “Mother’s Day” celebrations?
Well, here are some practical tips for those dealing with infertility and loss on Mother’s Day:
Prepare how you will handle the questions asking if you are a mom, if you want children, when you are going to have children or even the “Happy Mother’s Day” statement from the greeter at church or clerk at the store. As you may know, this preparation can be used every single day of the year. Formulate a few “go-to” responses to questions and comments of this type. It can be as simple as a “I hope so,” “When the time is right,” or “Yes, would you believe with us in prayer for children.”
Predetermine how you will celebrate Mother’s Day. Depending on your journey and season, here are a few ideas of how you can celebrate:
I don’t think I need to expand too much on this, but this is a time that you should do something special for you! You may be saving for IVF or finances may be tight, but you need to do something that will refresh you. A spa day, mani and pedi, new haircut, a bath, a restaurant of your choice, a special pair of shoes or handbag.
This can be a hard one. Plant seeds in others. What does this mean? I’m sure you have heard the principle of sowing and reaping. Sow seeds of love and service in others. Focus some part of the day on others. That may be through celebrating your mom or volunteering. Or that may be by simply texting your friends who have children that are a part of your TTC Support Tribe and letting them know how thankful you are for them and how wonderful they are as a mom. If you don’t have friends or family that know about your fertility journey, this would be a perfect time to invite select people into the journey with you. That can be as simple as a text that says, “My dream is to be a mom and celebrate Mother’s Day. We have been trying, but are having a hard time. We are about to….. Would you pray for us and be a part of our support team during this difficult season?”
If you need to cry or grieve, do it--- but don’t stay there all day. Use Mother’s Day as a time to refocus with your spouse where you are at on the journey, where you want to go, and what you are willing to do or not do to get there. Get yourself in the position to move forward, whether that is taking a break, trying something new, going a different route, or continuing on the path you have been going with a faith-filled and positive outlook.
With so much of the fertility journey being out of your control, these are some simple things that you can do to help you deal with what can be the extra-tough days like Mother’s Day. In all of it, try to give grace and mercy to others. If you can, expect people to not “get it.” This can help to lessen the blow of the stupid or insensitive comments. Most people aren’t intentionally being rude or insensitive, they just truly don’t know or don’t know what to say or not say. Of course, there are the occasional rude people and those that intentionally rub salt in the wound. These are not the people to be with on Mother’s Day or invite into your fertility journey.
Surround yourself with love, support, joy and peace. That will look different for everyone, but it will start with you. Be kind to yourself on Mother’s Day and every day.
A Free Gift: For those of you who have family and friends that you want to ask to join you on the fertility journey or they have expressed that they don’t know how to support you through this season, here is a free gift The Girlfriend’s Guide to Infertility & Loss. This guide will give tips for how loved one’s can support you better.
Tiffany Jo Baker is a 3x surrogate, speaker, coach, confidante and cheerleader to help you birth your dreams.