What does being a surrogate mother entail, and what is it like to be a surrogate mother?
These are two common questions for prospective surrogates to ask. After all, before you commit to a year or more of the surrogacy process, it’s important that you understand exactly what it is like to be a surrogate mother.
The surrogacy process involves many steps, and your surrogacy professional should explain what your personal process will look like when you first contact them about becoming a surrogate. They may even be able to connect you with other women who have gone through the surrogacy process so you can better understand what a surrogate does throughout her surrogacy journey — to help you decide whether it’s the right path to you.
While every surrogacy will be unique, there are some common experiences that most surrogates have. Read more about them below.
The Responsibilities of Being a Surrogate
What do surrogate mothers go through? To answer that, you’ll need to understand all of the responsibilities associated with becoming a surrogate. We’ve detailed the typical ones for you here, broken down by the different stages of the surrogacy process:
Before Your Pregnancy
What surrogate mothers go through before they even are pregnant can seem like a lot — but it involves important steps to ensure you can proceed with a surrogacy journey that is safe for you and everyone else involved.
Before you can even begin the surrogacy process, you’ll need to undergo medical and psychological screening to make sure that you are ready for the potential challenges of being a surrogate. Your surrogacy professional will arrange for and guide you through these screenings, as well as discuss your personal surrogacy goals and preferences to create the perfect surrogacy plan for you.
After you are approved to become a surrogate, you will start the process of finding intended parents. You may be required to create a surrogate profile, and you will have the chance to determine what kind of intended parents you are interested in carrying for — as well as get to know them before solidifying a match.
Once you and intended parents determine you are the right fit for each other, you will complete your legal surrogacy contract. Separate attorneys will represent your rights and interests during this legal stage, which will address all the legal possibilities, complications, risks and liabilities of the surrogacy process. Only after the surrogacy contract is signed can you begin the medical process of surrogacy.
This next process is typically handled by the intended parents’ fertility clinic. You may be required to take certain fertility medications to prepare for the embryo transfer process. Then, you will likely travel to the intended parents’ fertility clinic (costs will be covered by the intended parents), at which point you’ll undergo the relatively quick and painless medical procedure to complete the embryo transfer. You’ll likely return to the clinic after a few weeks to confirm any pregnancy.
During Your Pregnancy
So, what does a surrogate mother do after the pregnancy is confirmed? In many ways, your pregnancy will proceed as any other traditional pregnancy would. You’ll need to stay healthy and receive necessary prenatal care from your local OBGYN.
However, there will also be some additional responsibilities as a surrogate. You will need to stay in contact with your intended parents, providing important updates as outlined in your surrogacy contract. They may even attend some doctor’s appointments with you.
The intended parents may also wish for you to take steps that will make the baby’s transition easier after birth. They may give you voice recordings to play for the baby, or ask that you familiarize the baby with sounds of their home.
Of course, you’ll also need to prepare for experiencing all the potential side effects of a typical pregnancy — which is where the requirement of being pregnant before is so helpful and so necessary for surrogates.
After Your Pregnancy
Your surrogacy professional will work with you and the intended parents to create a delivery plan that involves all of you in this intimate process. The intended parents will usually be there while you give birth to their baby, and they’ll usually have a hospital room to stay in with their new baby after your delivery.
After you give birth, your surrogacy process will be complete. Depending on your legal contract, you may need to sign a statement about parental rights. You will also need to decide what steps you will take in regards to your breast milk as you adjust back to your life before surrogacy. You will likely be able to utilize maternity leave as you recover from your pregnancy.
The Emotions of Being a Surrogate
While it’s usually clear what being a surrogate entails in regards to practical responsibilities, you may be curious about how surrogacy mothers are affected during this process. How does it feel to be a surrogate mother?
Just as there are complex steps involved in surrogacy, there are complex emotions, as well. Your surrogacy professional will help you prepare for these emotions by requiring you to undergo psychological screening before you can even become a surrogate. With proper education and preparation, you should be prepared for any of the emotional challenges, like those listed below.
Before Your Pregnancy
As you start your surrogacy process, there are some important personal questions you’ll need to ask yourself, like:
- What are my feelings on topics like selective reduction and termination?
- Can I carry a child for someone else and be comfortable not going home with the baby after nine months?
- Am I prepared for the close, intimate relationship I will have with the intended parents for a year or more?
In addition to these personal emotional concerns, you’ll also need to consider how your surrogacy journey will affect your spouse and your children. Your responsibilities as a partner and a mother to your own children will be affected by your surrogacy responsibilities, and it may place a new burden on your family. It’s important to think about the possible emotional repercussions of this decision on your relationships.
However, you should also know that the emotional considerations of carrying a child who isn’t yours may not be as extreme as you think they will be. Many surrogates find that carrying a baby who they are not related to comes with different emotions from carrying a baby that is theirs — and this likely won’t be as difficult an emotional time as you first imagine it to be.
Another important emotional consideration of the early surrogacy process is the possibility that an embryo transfer won’t be successful on the first try. This is more common than you may think, but it may be difficult on you emotionally. You may feel like it’s your fault (although it won’t be), so you’ll need to remain positive for both your sake and the intended parents’ sakes. How surrogacy mothers are affected by this kind of setback will depend upon their own personal preparation for this occurring. A good surrogacy professional will be there to support you and the intended parents if this occurs.
During Your Pregnancy
As you carry the intended parents’ baby and people learn about your surrogacy journey, you’ll likely get the same question: “Do surrogate mother get attached to the baby they give birth to?” Indeed, you may have this question yourself, as you’ll want to know what the emotional repercussions of carrying a baby for nine months will be.
However, most surrogates say they do not form the same bond with a baby during a surrogate pregnancy as they do during their own pregnancy. This is because they understand from the beginning what they are doing: “babysitting” the baby until they are safe to go home to their parents. Most modern surrogacies are gestational surrogacies (where the surrogate is not related to the baby), due to what the mental risks of traditional surrogacy are.
In addition to coping with your own emotions of pregnancy and carrying a baby for someone else, you should also be prepared to answer questions from others about your surrogate pregnancy. When you often get the same questions (some of which can be insensitive or ignorant), it can be grating. However, by preparing answers and seeing this as an education opportunity, you can turn this into a positive experience.
Of course, you’ll also be dealing with heightened emotions due to pregnancy hormones. This, combined with the restriction on doing everyday family tasks as your surrogacy progresses, can be challenging. Many surrogates reach out to surrogate support groups for advice during this time.
After Your Pregnancy
The time after you give birth to the intended parents’ baby will be an incredibly emotional one. You’ll be thrilled and overjoyed that the intended parents have finally met the baby they have dreamed of for so long, but you’ll also be exhausted and overwhelmed with emotions from your delivery.
Preparation is an important step for how it feels to be a surrogate mother during this time. Knowing what to expect after you give birth will help you cope with any emotional challenges you may face. There is always the risk for postpartum depression but, if you have a solid support system and good relationship with the intended parents, your postpartum experience will likely be positive and an easy adjustment.
More than anything else, you’ll feel a sense of personal satisfaction and achievement knowing that you have helped create a family that may not have been there before and reached the surrogate goals you had set for yourself long before starting this journey.
What it is like to be a surrogate mother will always be different for each person based on their personal experience, and your personal surrogacy goals and preferences will greatly impact the surrogacy journey that lies ahead of you. If you want to learn more about what a surrogate does and what being a surrogate entails, please contact a surrogacy professional today.