5 Tips for Navigating the Intended Parent and Surrogate Relationship from a Three-Time Surrogate

5 tips navigating surrogacy

One of my first introductions to surrogacy was the 2008 comedy Baby Mama, starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. The movie, if you haven’t seen it, shares the journey of a successful, single businesswoman who, discovering she is infertile, hires a working-class woman to be her unlikely surrogate, to paraphrase the movie promotions.

Even though the two actors made me laugh and the movie helped trigger my curiosity about being a surrogate, the wild battle-of-wills antics didn’t portray the real relationships and journey I have had as a surrogate. Of course, just like every path to parenthood is different, every surrogate and Intended Parent (IP) relationship is unique.

To be specific, couples who are unable to carry a child to term may choose to have a surrogate carry their child, with their embryo transferred to the surrogate via IVF. (When the embryos transferred to the surrogate are of no biological relationship to the surrogate the surrogate is also known as a gestational carrier.)

I can tell you after being a surrogate and carrying five children for three amazing, yet different families, developing a positive relationship between the surrogate and the (IP) is very important.

It all begins with the match. If you are going through a surrogate agency, which I personally recommend, usually a matching coordinator or the agency director will try to make a match. The coordinator will try to connect an individual or couple (Intended Parents) looking for someone to carry the child, with a potential surrogate. It’s comparable to what a professional matchmaker does in the dating world. Similarly, questionnaires, interviews, and meetings help the coordinator make the best surrogate-IP matches.

How do you see this relationship working during the process and after delivery? Would you want to categorize it as a business partnership, friendship, or family relationship?

Just like your fertility journey so far, the surrogacy journey will probably include some ups, downs, and detours, so try to make sure you are matched with the right counterpart to begin with to help alleviate any extra stress.

Here are some additional key tips to help navigate the surrogate-IP road and relationship. They are based on my experiences as a surrogate working with two surrogate agencies, three different IPs, four different fertility clinics, and many years in the Trying to Conceive (TTC) Support Community. Of course,  every person and path to parenthood is different, so adapt these tips to your specific situation.

5 Tips for Navigating the Surrogate and Intended Parent Relationship

1. Determine Your Preferred Type of Relationship

How do you see this relationship working during the process and after delivery? Would you want to categorize it as a business partnership, friendship, or family relationship?

This will be the basis for the flow of the relationship, which in turn will determine a lot of the decisions made moving forward and how the relationship continues after the baby’s birth. For example, a surrogate with a desire to have a friendship shouldn’t be paired with IPs who want a business relationship. You can imagine how hurtful and frustrating that could be. (It happens more often than you would think.)  Often, a mismatch can occur because the surrogate or the intended parents don’t really know what they want or what to expect. Most often it is the “after delivery” part of the relationship that needs defining and clarifying.

2. Establish Your Expectations

Figure out and keep in mind your expectations, core values, and feelings throughout the surrogacy journey. When you find yourself dealing with hurt feelings, frustration or resentment it is because of unmet or unrealistic expectations. That’s why I highly recommend writing down and reviewing these items with a counselor or fertility support/surrogacy coach in a joint session with both the surrogate (and husband if married) and the IP. I have heard a number of times from other surrogates that the relationship with their IPs after delivery was not what they expected and it was something that they had to work through.

During this session (or multiple if needed) not only are you establishing your important needs and parameters of acceptability, but you’re making sure that the terms of the contract reflect 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. Things like travel, health, and diet issues—and there’s also the big one that was very important to me and made me harder to match: the discussion on selective reduction (the practice of reducing the number of fetuses in a multi-fetal pregnancy).

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.  I remember one of my intended-fathers asking me to share more milestones. We had the type of relationship and communication that he felt comfortable talking to me about it and I was happy to share more after our discussion.

3. Make Medical Arrangements

It’s important to agree on how doctor appointments and procedures will be handled. In each of my surrogate journeys, one or both of the IPs were at all, if not most of my doctor appointments even though it took the first set of IPs more than six hours of travel each way to make it to my appointments. That was something we discussed ahead of time and worked together to make the scheduling of those appointments work for all of us.

Here are key questions to answer in advance:

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?

Who will be in the delivery room?

How will the hospital stay be handled?

Who will see the baby after delivery? How will parting ways be handled when the baby and surrogate are discharged from the hospital?

4. Determine Communication Practices

Are you a person who prefers to communicate by text, phone call, email or Facetime? Determine how to check in with each other and how often. Talk about if/when/how to share pics, videos, and milestones with the IP (such as the first time the baby moves or hiccups in the womb).

As a surrogate and general rule of thumb, I follow the lead of the IPs and how they are communicating, though I may offer a little extra communication, in case they seem to be hold back to honor boundaries with me.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Both the surrogate and parent should treat the other as special. 

When it comes to social media, discuss what is OK for the surrogate to post regarding the journey and what isn’t, and don’t “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. Treat Your Partner as You Want to be Treated

You can never go wrong with this golden rule. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Both the surrogate and parent should treat the other as special. Send or give a special gift and “I care about you as a person, not only as related to the baby” cards or texts.

One of the things I did with my IPs was to purchase a recordable children’s book for them. I asked them to record their voices reading the story into the book and give it back to me. Then, most nights I would play the storybook recording with their voices for their baby (or babies) 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 developing baby’s everyday life and keep their voice familiar to their growing baby.

Whether you use a professional coach, counselor, or have intentional conversations together on your own, be prepared for these conversations and take full advantage of the opportunity to set the stage for how you want the relationship to work and the type of “teammate” you will be. These tips are important for a positive surrogate/IP match and surrogacy experience.


Tiffany Baker
Contributor

Tiffany Baker

Tiffany Jo Baker helps women and couples birth their dreams. She has been a surrogate three times for three couples, giving birth to five babies. As a Couples Life & Fertility Support Coach, she helps women and couples thrive during the infertility journey, helping them with faith, support, and figuring out their plans. For more tips, encouragement, and inspiration, find her at www.tiffanyjobaker.com


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