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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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Super Foods and Villainous Eats… The battle between Good and Evil Pregnancy Food dos and don’ts

No Drinking, No Smoking! (obviously) No raw fish, no unpasteurized dairy.  Well I can see that…No undercooked meats or “freshly squeezed” juices from restaurants or farmers markets!? No raw cookie dough 😦 limited tuna?! Watch out for deli meats! Ceviche and smoked fish. No, no, no. Apparently, there are lots of bad bacteria out there. And no please dear god… cut back on caffeine!!!!! Nooooooo!
   
There are so many “no’s” when you are pregnant, so many “watch out” and “be careful of” moments, that it’s hard to remember them; then you have  to restrain yourself for at least 9 months (more if you are breast feeding).  It can be intense.  My mantra of “it’s for the baby, it’s for the baby” helps but I still want to cry when I’m out with friends and they want to go for sushi and drinks.

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The nice thing is when you take care of yourself during pregnancy, you feel better. And not just physically, there is an emotional pay off to that, too.  Also, there are so many “super foods” to combine and discover that it can actually be kind of fun to play around and branch out from your normal diet. I’ve gotten to experiment with combos I never thought of before and now they are some of my favorite meals.

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Here’s a list of some amazing foods for woman and their developing babies:

Leafy and super green veggies:

Broccoli, Kale, Spinach, etc–All really are great sources of foliate, fiber, calcium, potassium, and vitamin A.  Also, they have stuff you’ve probably never heard of like lutein, zeaxanthin and carotenoids. You can stir-fry it, roast it, make salads, and sneak it into smoothies. Just eat it!

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Brightly colored fruits and berries:

Blueberries, mangos, kiwis, strawberries, plums, bananas, etc–all packed with good carbohydrates, an alphabet full of vitamins, potassium, foliate, fiber and phytonutrients. Eat them on their own or with yogurt, cereal or pancakes or make smoothies or fruit salads.

Nuts, beans and seeds:

Garbonzo (chickpeas), lentils, black beans, soybeans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc–These are full of protein, iron, fiber, foliate, zinc and calcium. These little wonders are good brain food and great for snacks, salads, soups, chili, pasta or hummus.

Dairy (pasteurized), eggs, salmon and lean beef:

Protein, Vitamins A, D, B6 and 12, niacin, zinc, iron, choline, omega-3’s to name a few and all help with baby’s development. Cheeses, yogurts, omelets, grilled or in a sandwich.

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These are just off the top of my head. All you need to do is Google “pregnancy super foods” and you’ll get list after list along with some amazing recipes too. And if you’re like me, you’ll go “pin” them all on Pintrest so you can decide later what to have for dinner. 🙂

The main thing is to just not stress. Take care of yourself and the baby will benefit from it, too. If you slip up, it’s ok; just try to get out of bad habits and routines. So much less will weigh on you when you just make a conscious effort to be healthier in what you eat. You’ll have more energy and clear peace of mind that you are doing what you cannot just for you, but for that dependent little life inside as well.

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What’s a placenta?… She did what with it?!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Trusted Doctor Uses Forged Surrogacy Documents to Sell Babies In India

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.

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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.

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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.

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I think the chapter on surrogacy in India is closing, and very quickly. After everything, it is my opinion this is for the best.

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…

Double Trouble… being sick while pregnant

Oh man – oh man – oh man. UGH! I was just starting to feel better. No more nausea, no more vomiting; I can finally keep things down and morning sickness was slowly becoming a thing of the past. Then…BAM! I’ve got a cold. That stuffy, achy, icky-ness feeling that I wish would just go away. With so many changes already going on in my body and so many things I can’t do, eat or take during pregnancy, this is just the icing on the cake isn’t it? What can I do? What can I take? Is it worth it, or do I just suffer? Blah….

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Luckily, most doctors have a list of “approved” products that are safe for you and the baby. Unfortunately, it’s a rather short list and even shorter during your first trimester. Good-old-fashioned-home-remedies may even work better for you (they always seemed to for me). However, always, always, always check with your health care provider first before taking anything herbal or over the counter. Even if it’s what your mom, your grandma and your great-grandma took and what all your friends suggest. It’s better to double check with the pros and be safe than sorry. You never know for sure what new discoveries have been made in the last couple of years and for the safety of that little one (and you) it’s always best to ask beforehand. There is never such a thing as too many, or too stupid, a question when it comes to your health. That is especially true when it comes to prenatal care. Also, that stuffy nose you’ve got may not even be a cold in the first place.

A lot of woman, (around 30%), are congested during their pregnancy, it’s a condition called Rhinitis of Pregnancy, and it has nothing to do with allergies or a viral infection. It has to do with the high amounts of estrogen and blood in your body, causing swelling in the mucus membranes and blood vessels in your nose. This leads to congestion, runny nose, sneezing and mild headaches. Be prepared, you may have it during your entire pregnancy (sorry). I did, the second time around. It’s annoying, but as long as there are no other symptoms it is perfectly harmless. Your risk of sinus infections also increase when you are pregnant, so if you feel pressure, pain, are coughing, have a fever, swelling or any other symptoms, contact your provider for help.

Another culprit is those pesky allergies that you had before the pregnancy. They run amuck once you get knocked up and can increase in potency. There are a few medications a doctor can prescribe for you that are safe to take, but it may be best to just try to stay away from the source for a while, considering that you can get pregnancy rhinitis on top of any of these lovely illnesses.

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What you can do is this: keep elevated and use pillows, pillows and more pillows. Take them all from your partner. You’re allowed…seeing as you are probably kicking off all of the covers anyway, it’s a fair trade. Drink plenty of liquids and hang out in your warm bathroom after a shower for a bit or wet a washcloth with warm water and breath through it for a while. It’ll be a nice soothing relief from congestion. Some people like saline drops or spray (Saline only! No added stuff) to clear everything out. Vaporizers and humidifiers also work well at night; just make sure you clean them regularly. The last thing you need is more irritants and bacteria floating around. Also, avoid anything that may be an irritant. Do your work out indoors on days when the air quality is poor. Stay away from smokers, paint and chemical fumes (which you should be doing anyways) and get your partner to dust and clean any mold and/or pet dander from inside your home.

As mentioned before, there are so many different methods and home remedies out there.  I’ve only mentioned a few.  

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What are some of the methods you use?  What Holy Grail of discoveries can you offer those sick in the morning (afternoon, evening and sometimes midnight)?

Post your comments below and then repeat after me: “This too shall pass.”