By Frank Golden
I’ve been a surrogacy agency owner for the last several years of my life. Prior to that, I was an Intended Parent anxiously awaiting the arrival of our children. I remember the anxiety I felt when I first met our Surrogate. I remember quickly learning to love our Surrogate. And I remember quickly learning to fully trust our Surrogate to take care of our baby while it was growing and waiting for its arrival into the world. Next to parenthood, it’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever had to do. Trusting anyone with your children is scary. Trusting a new addition to your life is frightening.
Going into our first surrogacy journey, I felt a sense of control. As a gay man, making the choice to start a family feels like you’re taking control of your life and making dreams come true for yourself. And in a sense, that’s completely accurate. During the initial phases of a surrogacy journey, Intended Parents are in control. We choose our agency, we set our expectations, we commit to the financial obligations. It wasn’t until we were matched that everything shifted. Once our Surrogate was involved, that sense of control was transferred to our Surrogate. It was up to her to maintain a healthy diet, to attend appointments, to avoid anything that might harm our baby. Once our Surrogate was pregnant, she was in control. We had no choice but to relinquish that control over to her.
My first Surrogate lived in Pennsylvania and while we felt emotionally close to her, it wasn’t always easy knowing that our baby was growing and developing in a time zone different than ours. Fortunately, our Surrogate Debi was amazing. Her attentiveness and dedication quickly evaporated any sense of distance. Debi kept us informed, sent pictures, called us during appointments we couldn’t make. Her emotional closeness removed any sense of geographical distance, and we couldn’t have been more grateful, relieved, overwhelmed with love. Our Surrogate made the entire journey feel relaxed. We were informed on each step. We were never left guessing.
Debi set the tone for how every Surrogate should manage their journey. Debi lived over 600 miles away, in a different state, in a different time zone, and yet, we felt involved with every step of the pregnancy. I want all Intended Parents to feel this way. Our agency goes out of our way to understand the feelings and concerns of Intended Parents. We try to make things as stress free as possible. I wish I could say that was enough, but it’s not; Surrogates have to take on some of that responsibility.
Intended Parents fund the entire journey, but Surrogates are the ones “doing” the pregnancy. There are a number of ways Surrogates can make Intended Parents feel like they are a part of the pregnancy. Our agency stresses the importance of strong relationships between Intended Parents and Surrogates. We suggest that Surrogates help build this bond immediately after matching. Exchange phone numbers, learn each other’s schedules, gain an understanding of what everyone is expecting from this journey. We recommend for Surrogates to review their own profile, their Intended Parent’s profile, and the “Dear Intended Parents” letter Surrogates are required to write. Surrogates should make sure that they are staying true to the values, the goals, the expectations they initially shared with their Intended Parents. Early in the relationship, Surrogates can show Intended Parents that they are trustworthy and dedicated by being open, honest, and by staying true to how they presented themselves in their profile. We recommend that Surrogates introduce Intended Parents to their families and loved ones. Show them pictures, tell them about your day, normalize yourself. By doing these things, Surrogates become more than just a Surrogate; they become a human being with a full life.
Once pregnancy is achieved, Surrogates might want to send Intended Parents regular updates. Early in the pregnancy, there are several appointments at the fertility clinics and with their personal gynecologist. Surrogates should inform Intended Parents about each one. They should be completely transparent with the day, time, and purpose of the appointments. Upon leaving appointments, they should fill Intended Parents in on the results. Intended Parents are under a lot of stress as it is. It’s important not to add to that stress by being secretive or by withholding information. A simple phone call during or after any appointment is a sufficient way to make Intended Parents feel involved. If your medical team allows appointments to be videotaped, Surrogates can video chat with Intended Parents during appointments. Adam and I were able to make most of the crucial appointments, but for the appointments we weren’t able to attend, Debi video called us, and we were able to participate from a distance. Regardless of whether we were able to be physically present at appointments, Debi made us feel welcomed. She encouraged us to join her. She made our presence feel important and appreciated, and whether or not she actually needed us there, she made us feel needed, and it made the world of difference to Adam and me.
Throughout the pregnancy, Surrogates can send regular updates with pictures of their growing baby bump. She can fill them in on her everyday life and send them pictures of her children and her loved ones. Some of our Surrogates use “belly buds” so that Intended Parents can speak to their baby while it grows in the womb. There are so many options to stay connected, especially in this modern day of technology; There’s no reason for Intended Parents to feel disconnected from their Surrogate throughout any period in the pregnancy, and if they do, their agency should be able to help, but even more so, the Surrogate needs to recreate that connection.
Most of our Intended Parents appreciate these gestures from Surrogates. They appreciate the updates, the openness, the involvement. There are, of course, exceptions to this. Some Intended Parents don’t want regular updates, they don’t want to be hyper-involved with the pregnancy. This can be particularly true for heterosexual couples and Intended Mothers. There are a number of reasons why an Intended Mother might need a Surrogate. Many times, unfortunately, the reason is because she is unable to carry a pregnancy on her own. Every woman handles this differently. Some women might be devastated by their struggles with fertility and might bare resentment and anger when they are faced with the prospect of Surrogacy. We’re sure they are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have a child, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to watch their Surrogate carry their child to term, to carry a pregnancy that they desired for so long. In these cases, it’s important for Surrogates to check in with their Intended Mothers to see how many updates or how many baby bump pictures they desire. For some Intended Mothers, it can be upsetting to receive too much insight about the pregnancy. For others, it might be more than welcomed. It’s really a matter of having an open discussion about the expectations of all parties involved. If an Intended Mother does not want frequent updates, we would hope that her Surrogate respects that and does not take it personally.
Surrogacy journeys are emotional whirlwinds. This is the case for Intended Parents, Surrogates, and even for Surrogacy Agencies. There is an art to managing these unique relationships. They require trust, openness, communication. We encourage Intended Parents and Surrogates to contribute to healthy, strong, and emotionally fulfilling relationships. With that said, Surrogates bare the extra responsibility of growing a healthy baby while ensuring that Intended Parents feel connected and involved with the pregnancy. It’s a heavy responsibility. We know that it can be challenging to manage one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others. The women that enter our program are strong, compassionate women who eagerly take on the challenge of being a Surrogate. These women, at the risk of sounding corny, are angels on earth, miracle workers, really.
As an Intended Parent, I understand firsthand the importance of feeling connected to your Surrogate and to the pregnancy. Our first Surrogate changed our life. Not only did Debi give us Sophia, she gave us the experience of fully trusting another human being with something very special to us. Because of Debi, we have Sophia and Silas. She gave us enough trust and faith in the process that we pursued a second journey with a different Surrogate, a Surrogate that proved to be just as amazing as Debi. Because of Debi, we opened our agency with the goal of finding other amazing Surrogates. We want to enrich the lives of other Intended Parents by helping them experience the same kind of love and involvement we did. We want every Intended Parent to find their angel, their miracle worker, their Debi.