During this time of year my mind turns to the thought of gift giving. What do they mean to the giver and the receiver? Everyone’s perceptions are different and it truly takes a special talent to know exactly what someone wants and be able to give it to them. It also takes a gracious recipient to fully appreciate what has been given. This same principal works in surrogacy for both physical gifts, and gestures, but it’s not always perceived the same.
Recently I was chatting to a friend and she casually remarked that her friend had just received something she called a “pop-out gift”. She explained that it was something her husband had given her after she had delivered their baby. In her case, it was an iPad. Neither of us had ever heard of this term before so I went to the all-knowing internet and looked it up. Apparently it is a fairly common practice to give a gift to the woman who has just delivered your baby. Sometimes it’s called a Push or Labor gift. It can range from something as sweet and simple as flowers or to the more extravagant jewelry. It depends upon the means of the giver. I had received small tokens after the birth of my own children, and my surrogacies, but never knew it had a name or was in fact an actual tradition. So I asked around and yes, many of my friends and family were in the know and had received all kinds of variations of a Push gifts. Their opinions ranged widely on the topic as well. Some believed it was a throughly deserved right for the woman to receive the appreciation she so greatly deserved while others believed it was a vulgar expression done only by those who were “spoiled,” almost considering it a form of bribery. I can understand both sides.
There is something called The 5 Love Languages that my mother showed me a long time ago. It is a test you can take to determine how you, your partner, and even your children best express and receive love. The categories are as follows: Words Of Affirmation, Acts Of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Mine is, without a doubt, Receiving Gifts. I believe this is why I became a surrogate in the first place. The definition of this category is difficult to understand if it is not your personal language. Let me explain. To others it may seem frivolous or petty but what it really is is the tangible expression of love. It’s a physical expression that we can literally grasp and know that someone was thinking of us! It works both ways for me. I show my love by giving something (in surrogacy’s case: a baby) that I know is valued to the ones I care about, and I want to know I am loved by receiving something from them in return. There is no price tag involved, it’s not the dollar value of the gift itself, it’s the knowledge that someone went out of their way to think of me. This is huge to me and it’s what I strive to do everyday for others. Whether it’s buying my kids a Slurpee after school because I know they’ve been craving one; or making my husband booties because that’s what his grandmother used to do for him; or even giving a family a child of their own because that’s what’s been missing in their lives. I love to give, it’s how I show love. Now others love in different ways and knowing this is key also. I can’t be hurt when I don’t receive things the way that I give. I have to understand that kind words, selfless acts, time spent together and hugs maybe mean more to others then physical act of giving.
It all comes around to understanding again. What seems to be a constant theme in all of my blogs. They don’t call it a “labor of love” for nothing. The act of labor is all for love no matter if it’s your own or for someone else. If someone feels compelled to give you a gift because of it that’s amazing. However it should not be expected. Honestly the look on a new parent’s face or even just the knowledge of what you have done can be as rewarding as a little blue box from Tiffany’s.
Imagine if you will, being a woman. A woman who has worked hard and has found a partner. A woman who now wants a child, a complete family. Now imagine trying to conceive this child and nothing happens; going to the doctor and being told you can’t conceive. Then, taking all your hard earned money and trying every other possible alternative to create a baby–hormones, egg retrieval, IVF–again and again with no results. Or even worse getting pregnant (!!!!!) and then miscarrying. Do you think you have an idea of what that could feel like? Now imagine the physical, economical and emotional toll this will take on you.
I can only imagine and sympathize with these women. Unfortunately, I know too many. I’ve had long personal discussions with a few and it breaks my heart. These talks are one of the main reasons surrogate mothers exist today. So, after all this pain and toil, some of these women look towards surrogacy. The reason they choose an agency is for protection. This most precious treasure they have been so long in seeking becomes closer to their grasp and they want to do everything in their power to obtain it.
When a man and woman intend to become parents and look through the files of fully screened surrogates (and, sometimes, egg donors) they are looking for a means to an end, an end to the emptiness they have been feeling, an end to their toils and tribulations. They choose carefully and hope that the surrogate will help them complete their maternal desires.
Once everyone has spoken and agreed to this journey, the contracts are signed; and the medications for the surrogate begin. The egg retrieval is done and at this stage the Intended Mother (IM) becomes even more anxious. It’s happening all over again, but with renewed and different hope! If, and when, the surrogate is confirmed pregnant with a heartbeat ultrasound then the IM is inundated with emotions: “It happened, we’re pregnant! Oh God, we could loose it (again)?!?!” Her maternal instinct takes over and yet she feels out of control because it’s not her body. She may become increasingly concerned with the surrogate’s diet, what medications she is taking, if she is following the doctors orders, and just about every waking aspect of her life—anything from the surrogate getting her hair dyed and nails done to if she is exercising enough or too much. All of this may cause the surrogate to undergo additional stress, which is the exact opposite of what is wanted.
It can become very tense very quickly. There is an emotional switch that can, and does very often occur, with an IM and her surrogate. The IM needs to know that the surrogate is doing everything possible to achieve a healthy pregnancy. She wouldn’t be a surrogate if she weren’t. The surrogate then needs to know that these emotions are not personally aimed at her, it’s just the IM’s fears and apprehensions manifesting due to her own perceived “helplessness” in these matters.
As the pregnancy continues and they enter the second trimester healthily, things tend to lighten up. The emotional roller coaster on both sides seems to even out a bit. The IM starts to feel more secure that the baby is doing well and begins to trust he or she is eventually going to arrive. The surrogate earns the IM’s trust and the women may even become quite close during this part of journey. They may share intimate details with each other, promising to stay friends and keep in touch once the baby is born. This calm may go on until delivery. And, if they are among the lucky ones, it stays that way. The happy healthy baby is born (!!!) and the no longer IM, but now mother, is over the moon, delighted and grateful. She lets the surrogate hold the child after the delivery. They remain in contact via pictures and emails and life is good. 🙂
However, that is a best-case scenario. Once that baby is born, the “Momma Bear Switch” can turn to the extreme level. The IM becomes so frightened, so scared that someone will try to take her child, she suddenly sees the surrogate as a threat. No matter how irrational or unfounded this feeling may be it is real to her and can be completely over-powering. The IM cannot believe that something she has wanted so dearly, and that is so extremely precious to her, would not be coveted by the woman who carried it for her for nine months. This feeling is understandable for the IM, but completely unfounded for the surrogate. The IM will not let the surrogate see the child, let alone hold it. All contact is severed and the surrogate may never hear from the family again. It’s the harsh truth, but it happens. It is completely within the Intended Parents’ (IP’s) rights to do so. The surrogate may just never know the child she helped bring into this world.
For the surrogate, this can be devastating, especially, because it can happen without any warning. Things seem fine until they are in the labor and delivery room. Suddenly, she has had the baby, but there is no baby. The IP’s will not speak to her. She feels alone and abandoned. There is a reason that in a surrogacy contract it states that the surrogate will, if desired, be allowed one hour alone with the baby in the hospital. This is for closure sake. The surrogate had this baby inside her body; she wants to see what she helped to create. A surrogate doesn’t want to keep the child. She entered into the agreement knowing and trusting this. When a surrogate delivers a baby, there is a physical need to know about the child. Much like an artist or a craftsperson that has created something, the surrogate wants to see her work and know that it was successful. It is a completely different connection than with her own children, but it is still valuable to the ending of a journey. It makes it all feel complete.
Sometimes in these situations the IP’s may come around and send an email with pictures. Some have a change of heart later, once that fear has subsided and they are comfortably settled at home with the child. The IP’s may start sending updates to the surrogate in the years to come. But sometimes they don’t and that’s OK too. As long as the surrogate is aware of this possibility as she enters the agreement. The surrogate can be comfortable in the knowledge that what she did was an amazing act of love and is valued even if unspoken. What the surrogate needs for this to work is to know that this separation has nothing to do with her. What she did was a beautiful and fulfilling act. Even if she is not involved in the rest, she has helped to create a loving family. The families are grateful, too, in their own way. Some IP’s have been through such a long and harsh road they are unwilling to take any chances once they’ve obtained that wonderful gift of life. It has made them complete and they don’t want any more obstacles. A clean break was felt best. It all just needs to be communicated.
Understanding on both sides helps. The agency will help provide this from beginning to end, but it really does come down to the individuals involved. Prior knowledge is key. For the Intended Mother, she should remember she’s chosen (albeit reluctantly) to have another woman carry her baby. Conversely, surrogates should be understanding of the IM’s experiences and tribulations. Knowing and being prepared for any possible outcome is best; that means it may hurt, but it can hurt less.
On June 26th, 2013 the Supreme Court of the United States overturned California State Ballot Proposition 8, ruling that the amendment it created to ban same-sex marriages is, in fact, unconstitutional. Also overturned was section 3 of The Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), thus unbarring the federal recognition of same sex marriages.
This was a huge step forward for so many couples waiting to become families. In these cases, with natural conception an impossibility, it really has changed and continues to change the world of IVF and surrogacy. In the past, only one of the Intended Parents could be listed as the legal parent of the child; now both possess complete custody. Both partners can now be fully recognized as a legal family, with all the coinciding benefits: health insurance, life insurance, wills and trusts for spouse and children. All included, no one gets left behind. Everyone is taken care of.
This is an amazing time for gay parents, especially here in California. With our world-leading surrogacy laws in place and now fully legalized marriage equality, we are truly leading the way into a new era. TV titles such as “The New Normal” and “Modern Family” have nailed it. We are slowly changing societies view of what a traditional family is. I have many friends in this community and the collective sigh of relief can be heard throughout. They are starting to become accepted, which is all they have ever wanted. These parents go through all the same struggles as any family does but they have been doing it on the outskirts without the aid, care, or understanding of the masses. This changes now.
Taking our families to places like Disneyland or even just to school, I now see openly gay families who are not afraid to show their love and devotion out in public. These kids can start to grow up without feeling stranger’s eyes on them constantly. Without the gossip and unnecessary drama of a once taboo subject, their families are normal. And now we’ve got the documentation to prove it!
I predict a large influx of gay IP’s using California in the upcoming years. Surrogacy itself has become more of a common place word. With big names like George Lucas, Jimmy Fallon, Angela Bassett, Nicole Kidman and Neil Patrick Harris all using surrogates, it’s not as unknown or misunderstood anymore. We’re mainstream baby! Now that gay marriage is becoming more global, there is nothing in the way of longing parents having much wanted children of their own and being accepted by their communities. Because let’s face it, gay or straight, it really does take a village to raise a child.
Also, besides the moral uplift of all of this there comes the practical and financial ones as well. More marriages = more money. More babies = more money. More families = more money. All going to our economy. It’s a win/win situation. Basically any loving family rocks and now we can show the world just that. Keep growing and keep changing for the better world, it’s working. It really is.
The placenta is an organ that grows inside a pregnant woman’s uterus to provide nutrients and oxygen to the developing baby. It also enables antibodies to pass from mother to child and removes waste from the baby’s blood. It’s attached to the wall of the uterus and is connected to the baby via the umbilical cord. Basically, it’s what keeps the little one going.
The word Placenta comes from the Latin word for cake. It really does look like a big purple pancake, full of all those good nutrients for the baby. It measures about 9 inches wide and 1 inch thick in the middle, weighing roughly 1 hefty pound at delivery. Delivering the placenta is called the third stage of labor and, unless there are complications, is probably the easiest part of it all. Most women forget after pushing out the kid that there’s just one more part to do before you get to lay back and rest.
Although this super organ can cause issues during pregnancy, as well. The most common is Placenta Previa; when the placenta is low in the uterus and partial or totally covers the cervix (the outlet for the uterus), it can cause severe bleeding and a C-section may be required. Placental Abruption is when the placenta peels away from the uterine wall (partially or fully) and can cause bleeding, a lack of oxygen and nutrients to the baby, and early delivery may be needed. Placenta Accreta is almost the opposite. It’s when the placenta attaches too deeply into the uterus and fails to detach during labor. It can cause bleeding and severe blood loss after delivery and the mother may have to go through surgery afterwards to remove it and possibly her uterus along with it.
I think most readers are really curious about this next part: What is done with the placenta after birth?! Well, we here in the West tend to just incinerate it via the hospital. However, there have been growing beliefs and new findings that we have been wasting something important. Here are just some of the ways our placenta is now being used:
The first is to leave it alone! They aren’t cutting the cord at all. It’s called a Lotus Birth and basically you carry the baby and placenta around until the cord naturally falls off. (Between 1-2 weeks) Those who do this believe that it’s a much more natural and healthy way to slowly introduce their child to the “outside” world. There isn’t any scientific proof as of yet that this is helpful to the babies however there isn’t anything to say nay either….
The second is to encapsulate the placenta and have the mother take it as a supplement after birth. This is a rising trend that started in ancient Chinese medicine. The basis for this thought is that in the wild many mammals eat the placenta after the birth of their young and it seemed to give them rejuvenating properties. More and more woman are doing this as a much more appealing alternative to cooking or eating their own “murder-less meat”. Studies are showing that ingesting your own placenta may actually help rebalance your hormones, possible combating Postpartum Depression by making mothers less fatigued and overwhelmed and in a much cheerier disposition.
Another take-home placenta idea is to bury it. This is probably one of the oldest human customs around the planet. Although it has no health properties this is more of a spiritual belief. I have a Wiccan friend who did this after the birth of her first born son. She planted it at the base of a 9 month old sapling (placentas actually do make wonderful fertilizer) and now the tree grows along with her son. Even if you hold no religious beliefs along these lines, I think it’s still a lovely gesture.
The placenta really is an amazing thing and we are still learning about its benefits to both child and mother. The last time I delivered I donated mine to research. Maybe this time I’ll keep it. And who knows, maybe within the year I’ll be blogging about my own personal experience taking placenta supplements.
I had a friend who had been a surrogate twice already. She got me thinking on it. I had had such easy pregnancies and was looking for a way to use my own special “talents” to help someone else. I asked her out for a cup of coffee and picked her brain. She told me she thought I’d make a great surrogate. I’m happily married with two children and no plans for more. I’ve always been perfectly healthy, and my husband had a vasectomy after our second child. “No more kids than hands” was our motto. We love them both dearly and they are such perfect little clones of each of us, that we felt complete as a family. To be able to give that to someone else was such a mind-blowingly easy choice to make. My husband, kids, friends and family were all on board as well. Knowing all that; I submitted my application to Surrogate Alternatives (SAI) and began the process.
I met my first couple back in December of 2008. They were a lovely German couple who had been trying in many different ways to conceive for almost a decade. My heart just reached out to them. We instantly hit it off and began our journey together. Unfortunately, after many attempts, roadblocks and heartache they decided to stop trying. It was just too much for them and I completely understood. They told me it was nobody’s fault, just a lot of bad luck and that if they ever wanted to try again they’d choose me in a heartbeat. It was tough for me, but in retrospect I’m so glad it went this way because I now knew what could happen and was able to be mentally prepared for it. We are still good friends to this day.
SAI then placed me with another couple in September of 2011. They were a wonderful gay couple from Australia who had already had twins via surrogacy and wanted a younger sibling to complete their family. This time around it was easy-breezy! They had frozen embryos from their last time. We only used one and on the first attempt that little embryo stuck! Both they and I were amazed and overjoyed. My pregnancy was so easy too. Everything ran like clockwork with absolutely no hiccups. These guys were so supportive every step of the way. We exchanged emails, phone calls and communicated through Skype. I would give the guys updates and ultrasound pictures and we would chat about our lives. They even made it out for a couple of doctor visits and our families got to go to Disneyland together! My kids loved the fact that we were helping them have a baby and bragged to everyone they could about it.
On September 23rd 2012 (which also happens to be the Founder of SAI’s birthday) their beautiful, perfectly healthy, little baby girl was born. I was just about a week early so they made it out the day after I delivered and were greeted with the newest member of their family. I was surprised at just how helpful and accommodating the hospital here was towards the whole surrogate situation. They made everyone feel so comfortable and the process ran smoothly. After the family got all the required paperwork done they went home with their little one and we still exchange emails and they send me super cute pictures of her.
I had such a warm feeling regarding every aspect of my journey that after I healed from my delivery I spoke with my husband and we decided we’d like to help another couple. All of the shots, doctor’s appointments, etc. is so worth it for the payoff of seeing a parent hold their child for the first time. Everyone who longs for a child of their own and to become a parent should have the opportunity; and I want nothing more than to be able to make that dream come true. I’ve been blessed with strong fertility and I have no desire for any more children of my own, so why shouldn’t someone else who is in need benefit from my help? It’s as simple as that.
As of this week, my contracts are signed with another gay couple and I’ve started injections. The embryo transfer should take place in Mid-March. This couple is local! It’s also their first rodeo and they are so elated to be starting a family! I can’t wait because this will be a totally different experience for all of us involved. Wish us luck and positive, sticky thoughts 🙂
Have you heard about this? A gynecologist in India has been charged with human trafficking and forgery after selling a baby using fake surrogacy papers. He and his “clients” have been making the international headlines for the past couple of months and it looks as if this has been going on for some time now. Dr. Bharat Atit, along with three of his staff, were arrested and booked after it was discovered that a newborn baby had been illegally sold via the Doctor by a woman and her boyfriend. Now they are investigating previous claims and more cases are coming to light.
The woman involved, claimed rape towards her boyfriend when she was 5 months pregnant. It was discovered that she had done this because they were arguing over the price of the child and she is to use this claim to cut the boyfriend’s percentage. Once this was found out she dropped the charges, however, this opened the investigation to that of the Doctor.
This newest scandal involving surrogacy in India raises the issue of legality when it comes to these delicate waters. India has had issues before dealing with the health and treatment of their surrogates during prenatal care and the backgrounds of the women that were being used.
India was a place that was considered to be “a great deal” to go to for people looking to start an “inexpensive” family which made it easy for some, to turn a blind eye to the murkiness involved. However, with these new legal issues piled on top of the old health ones, they may be losing their drawing power for even those with lesser morals.
First, it is used as a method of human trafficking. Second, the surrogates are treated like cattle. Yes, it is cheaper, but at what cost? This is a child we are discussing. A child carried by a person no less important or critical to the process than the intended parent. Having a child when you physical aren’t able to is tricky enough, without weighing on your conscience as well. People are now coming to realize it’s not worth the gamble of saving money. This is a child we are talking about and ensuring that child has the best start in life starts at conception.
Overall, India doesn’t seem to present a viable option for surrogacy now to those who were able to justify their means to an end before.
As I am doing research for this blog I have also just learned that India has now implemented new guidelines this year which no longer allow foreigners of same-sex couples, single individuals, unmarried couples or couples who have been married less than two years to commission a surrogate there. Also, if you did qualify to utilize their surrogacy programs, you would still be required to provide a letter from your countries government expressly giving you permission to bring your child home from India and that your country would agree to recognize this child as a product of a surrogacy pregnancy and birth.
I think the chapter on surrogacy in India is closing, and very quickly. After everything, it is my opinion this is for the best.
When people find out that I’m a surrogate, the very first thing they usually ask me is “How much do you get paid?” I felt their question was insulting, but I’ve come to realize that it’s just plain curiosity and they’re not judging me. I now tell them “I don’t.”, which is true. We surrogates do not get paid to have someone else’s baby. It’s not a buying and selling market, like if you wanted a new pet. This is a person’s child, a human being that they themselves could not physically carry.
As surrogates, we are helping them receive what they have been yearning for. We do what we do for the emotional fulfillment and to give something back because we are capable. We do get compensated for pain and suffering (which let me tell you…and I will in another blog post sometime down the road…there is plenty of), however, that compensation equals to about the same as working a part time job. That compensation allows us to do what we do, making it financially possible to be pregnant for another, while having our own family as well. We’ve gone through having the joy of our own children and the money allows us to do the same for someone else. The compensation can help put surrogates in a better financial position as well. We can go back to school; put a down payment on a home; it can help a stay-at-home mom set realistic goals and feel useful. People seem to have this idea in their heads that if you carry someone else’s child you get all your debts paid off, free plastic surgery, a platinum card, AND a new car! Not to mention getting showered with gifts from your intended parents who must be millionaires themselves (not!).
The truth: it’s expensive to conceive a child if you can’t do it the ol’ fashioned way. Most people who come to the decision that they need a surrogate are already financially strapped. They have probably gone through tens of thousands of dollars already via fertility treatments, etc. Just because someone wants their own baby using modern technology doesn’t mean they are wealthy. This is why Surrogate Alternatives is so helpful. They know all of this. They deal with the finances. They help everyone understand what is needed and what expenses to expect and why some things are necessary and some are not.
Please remember, it’s more than just the intended parents and the surrogate involved. There are many factors to consider: the different types of insurance needed, fertility clinics, lab work, travel, doctors, hospitals, lawyers, and the red tape that is the law. From personal experience, you should not do this on your own. On both sides of the playing-field, it can be financially and emotionally challenging. Having experienced professionals that know the ropes and have gone through every possible scenario is invaluable. Someone in your corner to fight for you and make sure things come out all right can be the difference between life and death for some (thankfully very rarely). And when it all works out beautifully, oh how amazing that is!
I want to bring you all hope, not discourage you. Yes, the money is an issue but remember the rewards: the surrogate who can be proud of herself and her children, who are proud of her because she gave something special to someone in need, while improving her (and her families) life. The new parents who finally get to bring a beautiful baby (or two) home with them and be together for the very first time as a real family. It is that boost up a tall wall. The reality of surrogacy is that it may be an unconventional situation, but those same feelings of happiness are still there once you have climbed over that wall. We are not in the business of selling babies, we are an alternative route to parenthood, walked together creating families.
Speaking with IP’s (Intended Parents) and surrogates alike–as well as taking from my own personal experiences–there are two types of relationships that IPs tend to cultivate with their surrogates: familial and business.
The familial is how it sounds. The IPs welcome the surrogate into their lives with open arms, believing that this woman is giving them the greatest gift of all. The hope is for a continued relationship with her after the child is born. Often, this is displayed as going out to dinner together, bringing her and her family gifts and showing other signs of their appreciation. After delivery, they tend to send pictures and email updates to their surrogate mother. Throughout the years they may even visit, forming a continuous bond made for life.
In the second situation, the IPs believe they are reimbursing the surrogate for services rendered concluding with the birth of their child. The road to becoming parents has been so difficult for them that they do not wish to have anything possibly hinder them in their endeavor. The surrogate is a necessity, but not necessarily an extended part of their family or someone they wish to stay in contact with. Some may not even wish to tell their children how they were conceived, due to personal reasons.
Both of these views are completely understandable and should be acceptable to anyone choosing to become a surrogate. However, both types of IP’s have been known to switch sides during or right after their journey. For most, the journey is uncharted territory and it is very difficult to know what your emotions will be like during each stage. Incredibly supportive IP’s have cut ties abruptly with surrogates once the baby is born and somewhat apprehensive ones have opened up and taken to their surrogate more than they expected.
What is really needed for the whole process to work is a calm understanding. A surrogate needs to understand that the IPs have gone through more than they could imagine to get to this point; it’s only natural for them to be scared when they perceive that they are so close and yet still so far from their dreams. The IPs need to understand that the surrogate has chosen her role to help a family in need, knowing full well that the child is not hers. She will go through many changes she’s experienced before, but this time there is a mix of altruism and the unknown that are present. Both sides need to be able to trust one another.
No company knows this better than Surrogate Alternatives. Not only is this their trade, this is their passion. Filled with past and present surrogates and egg donors they understand the entire process from both sides. Their goal is to tailor each surrogacy to each person’s expectations. They know how to match IP’s with the right kind of surrogate so that trust and understanding can thrive. No matter the family dynamic, they strive to give 100% of their time, effort and experience into each arrangement so that a healthy, happy baby (or two) may be born into a loving family. Every one of them fits a heart shape.