Back in former times, there were only so many things a couple could do to have a baby. If the old fashioned way of procreating didn't work due to issues with the male or woman, they were typically too shamed or embarrassed to even talk about it. Science wasn't at its peak in terms of alternate ways to have a baby.
Nowadays (thankfully), we have artificial insemination (mom and donor, dad and donor, or two unknown donors), in vitro fertilization (IVF), intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection, adoption, and many other ways to help a couple become a family. Most notably, the art of surrogacy is gaining popularity.
Just as there are options for how a couple wants to get pregnant, there are also options in surrogacy. A surrogate can be used as a shell while the mom's egg and the dad's sperm are already combined and just implemented in the surrogate. Or perhaps a woman is impregnated by a male's sperm, with her being the biological mother (but won't physically raise the child).
Regardless of what the couple chooses, they hopefully have options. However, now that surrogacy is no longer something that's hidden, it does have its fair share of differences that parents should be aware of before diving into this beautiful three-person relationship.
This may seem obvious, but the surrogate mother is the one going through all the hormone changes — not the biological mother. They're both in different states physically and mentally.
While the bio mom might be all rainbows and sunshine thinking about their soon-to-be baby, the surrogate is most likely going through morning sickness and the changes that come with birthing a child.
But it's not a time to feel bad for the surrogate; they chose this lifestyle with purpose and love the fact that they're gifting a life to a family in need.
When a couple is trying to conceive naturally (without the help of science or doctors), it's a waiting game. All the woman can really do is track her ovulation and cycles and hope for the best. Once she misses her period or is a few days late, she can run to the closest drugstore and grab a few pregnancy tests.
But for a surrogate, she knows that there's a higher percentage she will be pregnant. It's a mindset, really.
She knows there's a higher chance that she's pregnant and can kind of go back to life knowing this fact. Other parents going the natural route have to wait and pray that everything is all good under the hood.
Conceiving with the help of science has a fancy price tag. There are thousands of reasons why a couple might not be able to get pregnant — but that's not the point. The point is that couples have options. Forbes wrote an article back in 2014 stating that IVF cost one couple close to $20,000 in cycles and medication.
Similarly, West Coast Surrogacy assures their clients that it can cost them anywhere from $90-130,000.
This price includes the surrogate mother's compensation, legal fees, health screenings, actual hospital fees for the day of birth, and additional compensations for unexpected road bumps.
Before a family dives into the idea of surrogacy, go through a reputable agency where the price tag is well worth the safety and effort of a healthy child.
As selfless and beautiful as surrogacy is, there are definitely off-putting stories regarding surrogates and the couples they carry for, which is why most couples are reminded to lawyer up. Dr. Khan told Health "Find a lawyer who specializes in reproductive law and create a legal contract with your gestational carrier. Surrogacy remains in a bit of a legal vacuum," meaning laws differ from state to state. In order to ensure the easiest surrogate process, find a lawyer who is well versed in this subject and choose a reputable agency.
Surrogates know their role in the process when they're hired. They're not there to "steal" the couple's baby or become attached to this little life they've grown for nine months. They're here to help a couple in need; to bring a life into the world. However, even though they've given birth and helped out a deserving family, now they have to go through the process of getting back to normal.
There's no baby to bond or nestle with. Their hormones are going back to normal and they may suffer postpartum depression symptoms, even though the baby isn't theirs.
That's definitely something to think about as a surrogate.
As aforementioned, surrogates go through a lot of testing before the process of becoming pregnant even starts; this is why the success rate is so high. Surrogates know that they have one goal: to carry and deliver a healthy baby. They'll do whatever is necessary to make that happen. In contrast to getting pregnant naturally, the mindset can be different. "As a surrogate, you must be willing to take more medication in comparison to a natural pregnancy in order to prepare the body to receive an embryo and to later be able to sustain the pregnancy."
Most women who become pregnant naturally don't realize they're pregnant until a month after the fact (sometimes longer). But surrogates are geared up to be looking for a growing baby inside them. They're more prepared both physically and mentally (mainly because of the medications given beforehand to make their bodies more willing).
One surrogate told Simple Surrogacy that in comparison to naturally conceiving,
"... In the surrogacy and IVF process, awareness begins soon after the embryo is transferred. Due to this, surrogates may have a greater sensitivity to early pregnancy symptoms during this stage as the awareness takes place immediately."
Jeni Denhof told her experience to Circle Surrogacy of having her own children and then surrogating for other families. Since Jeni had her own, she noticed a few differences between pregnancies; for starters, her body was more ready for a baby when she was a surrogate.
"In the weeks leading up to the scheduled embryo transfer, my body was prepared to become pregnant thanks to the medications commonly used in IVF,"
Denhof said. She also went to meetings with doctors to make sure her body was responding well to the treatment. "A short time later, during a quick and painless procedure, the embryo transfer took place with the intended parents at my side. I continued with my medications and monitoring appointments until we were about 10 weeks pregnant, at which time I was weaned from the medication and released to my own OBGYN."
You may feel all kinds of ways, worrying and hoping your baby is growing beautifully, but you also need to support the woman carrying the child. She may have done this willingly, but she still needs support in multiple forms from the bio baby's parents. The hormones a pregnant woman is going through are all over the place; I can only imagine going through those emotions while realizing that little baby growing inside you isn't yours.
All the ups and downs, the sleepless nights, the nausea — it's all for the better of someone else.
Being a team of three (the couple and the surrogate) will assure everyone is on the same page and supportive of each other.
Some moms find themselves jealous of the surrogate who gets to carry their child, but it's not a time to be jealous; it's a time for respect and love. A couple had the money and resources to have a child with another woman as a host; there's no room for being petty or wonder "what if?". Here we have a woman who has signed on to carry your child for nine whole months! She has given up her own social and work life so that someone else could experience the dream of parenthood.
When a couple gets pregnant naturally, they can plan the doctor's appointments around their own schedules. But with a surrogate, a bio-mom and dad need to coordinate a third party into the mix. This is why open communication is huge in surrogacy.
Everyone needs to be on the same page and create a calendar that works for all when making these doctor's appointments.
Of course, the surrogate mother is going to do what she needs to do, but it's in the biological parents' best interest to do everything they can to be at those appointments. This way they can support their surrogate and hear more news about their little pea-in-the-pod.
Pregnancy is normally between mom and her partner, but now it's between two partners and a surrogate. But this doesn't mean pregnancy won't bring a couple closer or even be more cherished; it just means you have to share the experience.
Surrogate Jeni Denhof expressed "One of the best parts of my surrogacy was that I shared the pregnancy with the intended parents. Experiencing important milestones and special moments of the pregnancy was something I really looked forward to sharing with the intended parents." Letting a couple know that you're giving them their greatest gift is, in return, a gift to the surrogate.
There's a stage in every pregnancy when a mom will feel like nesting. She'll start cleaning and preparing a space for her new baby. But when you're a surrogate, you don't need to do any of the sort.
You plan for a healthy and meaningful pregnancy, go into labor, and give the couple the baby they couldn't have themselves. There's no need to buy all the toys, furniture, or supplies needed for an infant. You don't need to go through a breastfeeding course or even buy diapers in bulk. You simply grow a baby, give the baby to its parents, and heal from the experience before going back to the life you had nine months prior.
It can be tough for a new mom to recover from birth when there's an infant attached to her, but surrogate moms don't have that problem. Sure, they're recovering from a major life-changing surgery, but they have time to recover without the stress and sleepless nights that an infant brings.
"I found that recovering from my surrogate pregnancy was far easier than it was with the birth of my own kids," one surrogate mentioned.
"This was because I could focus my time and attention on recovery rather than caring for an infant."
She explained how getting to sleep and relax with family was all she needed to recuperate.
Likewise to the post above, after a new mom is handed her baby and waves her surrogate goodbye, she's finally bonding with baby. Instead of healing from labor, the new mom can bounce into action, helping her infant in any way possible. She's not feeling sore, she doesn't need to breastfeed, she's not recovering from surgery — she's simply ready and willing whenever her baby needs to her.
Life after labor can be extremely tough for new moms, but for those who had a surrogate, they may have a clearer head space when their baby comes crying.
Say what you will about Kim Kardashian but the world gave her many props for hiring a surrogate for her third baby, Chicago. After not being able to have a safe pregnancy, surrogacy seemed like the best option for the couple.
And as everyone who viewed the show knows, she was worried she wouldn't be able to bond with Chicago since she didn't carry her for nine months. But all those fears went out the window when baby Chi was born. The process went swimmingly for the West family and the family of five are well bonded.
Women who are physically capable of carrying a baby can do so as soon as they're reproductively ready.
But with surrogacy, more is at stake. Women who become surrogates undergo a few tests to make sure they're a safe and viable option to carry a child.
Simple Surrogacy, an agency in Dallas Texas explained "We provide all our potential candidates with a list of requirements that they must meet in order to qualify. In addition, they go through a series of physical and psychological assessments to ensure that they are in good shape and are able to endure pregnancy with little to no complications."
Most agencies follow suit and don't hire a surrogate to their database if they are unfit either mentally or physically. Naturally pregnant women definitely don't need to do those tests.
Just as there are different ways to get pregnant, there are also different forms of surrogacy. As Health states, "A traditional surrogate becomes pregnant with her own egg and the father’s sperm—via IVF or intrauterine insemination (in which sperm are placed directly in the uterus)—and she is the child’s biological mother."
However Dr. Khan explains not many couples go that route because they want a child with their own genes, which is why so many go the gestational route.
The good thing to remember is there is no wrong way to have a child, couples have options like they've never had before.
Having a surrogate involved is more scientific... it takes more planning than a generic pregnancy. It's kind of unconventional to have another woman carrying your child, but if science has made this safely possible, why not give it a try? Surrogacy is a wonderful alternative for trying parents, and there are so many agencies that make this process as seamless as possible.
But the two parents need to prepare themselves because they're not going to have the normal "maternal instinct" to nest and prep for nine months. They are going to have to do all this while their baby is growing from afar.
Whether the biological parents and the surrogate have a relationship after the birth is up to them. Sometimes a couple wants to be forever connected to their carrier and keep them up-to-date on their lives. Other times, a hug is all that's needed and the individual parties can go about their lives.
Regardless of how the party of three handle the ending of their agreement, they will forever be connected.
The surrogate will be respected as the woman who made their child possible. She is a part of their story. This is why choosing the right surrogate/agency is so important; with a process as sensitive as child bearing, everyone should be all in.