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Walking in their shoes; A Mother and a Surrogates journey

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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My Story Thus Far…

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.

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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 🙂

 

Oh the Changes! Your NEW pregnancy boobs.

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Ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the strain)… this always gets stuck in my head when I’m thinking about anything prenatal. So much goes on in a woman’s body during pregnancy. Some noticeable to the observer, some not so much. Your breasts are definitely a noticeable one. Usually, to the greater satisfaction of your partner. Hands off though, ‘cause: Ouch! Those things are for looking only, no touching at first. They will be so tender, but boy are they perky. Go ahead and enjoy them while they are still all yours. Take as many glances in the mirror or pretend to be looking down at your shirt and check yourself out as much as you can! So many things bum us out when we’re preggers, uncomfortable or self-conscience. Not this though. Uncomfortable maybe a little, but admit it: it’s totally worth it. Enjoy!

There ARE some less enjoyable aspects of your new boobs…There are several other things besides their size you may notice that happen to them throughout your 40 weeks. They’ll get tender; your nipples may stick out more and/or get darker; you might notice some stretch marks (coco butter worked best for me); You may even get your colostrum (a watery yellowish pre-milk substance loaded with nutrients for the newborn)  leaking from them near the end of your journey.

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After delivery, it doesn’t get easier right away. I’m going to let you know something that no one ever told me before I had kids: breastfeeding, pumping, and/or stopping your milk production can HURT! That’s right, it can all be fricken’ painful and uncomfortable. No matter which route you take — nursing, expressing for someone, or using formula — you’ll get rock hard breasts and your nipples will get sore. Sometimes they crack and oh-ho-ho that smarts! If you’re not allergic, lanolin is a godsend for those babies. When you do stop your milk production, the best recommendations I have are these: Frozen cabbage leaves tucked into your bra (I kid you not, they really DO work!). It really relieves the pressure. Many say to take a warm shower. Warning: That is an immediate fix only! It will encourage your breasts to produce MORE milk, not stop it. You’ll just be starting a vicious cycle of pain and relief over and over again. They make breast pads to catch the leaks but those can be pricy. I’ve found that just buying pantie-liners or pads (depending how heavy you leak) and cutting them in half works just as well. They also conveniently have that sticky back to attach to whatever clothing you may be wearing.

The boob fairy give(ith) and she take(ith) away. You may be one of the lucky ones that get to keep your perky and full pregnancy boobs. I know some of those lucky ladies myself. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them. Mine just kind of went back to being my pre-pregnancy size. Other ladies I know said they got what they call “Mom boobs”. Bigger but saggier. It really is the luck of the draw. It’s all part of that ever changing process we woman chose to go through to procreate. Definitely, well worth it if you ask me.

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Building that bond….how Intended Parents act with surrogates

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.

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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.

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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.

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The best gift ever…what Surrogate Mothers give their Intended Parents

It is one of the longest, roughest and most winding roads that lead someone to consider having a surrogate carry their child. As long as it takes to get there, the journey has just begun when you arrive. A woman who chooses to become a surrogate begins the process with a giving heart.

 

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When an Intended Parent (IP) is matched with a surrogate a bond forms. It’s different for everyone but the basics are the same. Yearning meets donation, where wanting and giving come together to travel the same path for as long as the journey takes.

A surrogate who is healthy, fertile and willing to carry a baby in her womb for nine months means HOPE; she is a gift unlike any other. Step by step this gift increases in value until ultimately; the greatest gift of all has been achieved: Life, a child to complete a family.

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What most outsiders don’t realize is that women who choose to become surrogates don’t do it for the money, or the recognition. We are in it for the rush! That wonderfully, amazing rush; just knowing we have the power and ability to help someone else. We can give what others need. It’s a powerful feeling to be able to provide something that comes so easily to us. We are givers in the truest sense of the word. The fulfillment we receive is from seeing the look on the faces of the new parents when they hear their baby’s first heartbeat, when they see the first ultrasound and when they finally get to meet their precious child for the first time. Those moments are priceless and being a part of those moments makes us shine. No monetary compensation could equal the pure joy that fills your heart to share something so life changing with someone else.

Whether you are longing to be a parent and aching for a child or you are a woman looking for something more to give in life, ask yourself this: Are you ready to change a total stranger’s life and make a difference in the world?

This journey may have roadblocks and bumps along the way, but it is an adventure, that’s for sure and if you are the kind of person who can be selfless and can open your heart up to the possibilities, it may just be the most rewarding experience of your life!

At http://www.SurrogateAlternatives.com you’ll find your answers. Also, any comments left will be answered by some of the most knowledgeable people in the field of IVF and surrogacy. So please, ask away. As I have said before; there are never too many questions when it comes to pregnancy…