If you’re considering surrogacy, it’s normal to worry—after all, it’s your baby. However, many common surrogacy concerns are actually misconceptions. We spoke with Jennifer B., a Newborn Advantage client and new mom, to get an intended parent’s perspective on 10 Surrogacy Myths and Misconceptions. Here’s what she had to say.
Fear #1: Even though my baby is genetically related to me, I am worried that I may have trouble bonding after the baby is born.
JB: I can understand this concern, because I physically carried my first daughter—so I had already given birth—but then I had a uterus problem. I worked with a surrogate for my second child, and I was worried not only that I wouldn’t bond with my baby, but even more that I wouldn’t bond in the same way as I had with my other child. However, that ended up being a huge misconception.
A surrogate birth is beautiful because you are able to enjoy it more. Being there for the physical birth of your child, when you are not mentally and physically under duress, is an incredible way to bond with your child. With my first child, I was freaked out, my body was on fire, and I had a C section—all these negative things were happening, and the focus was more around my own body than around my baby. With my second, the focus was on the baby. I had the privilege of watching her come into this world, and I was the first person to hold her skin-to-skin. I bonded with her immediately, just as I had immediately bonded with my first daughter.
I also want to point out that people have bonding concerns all the time, even without surrogacy. Moms may wonder if Dad will bond with the baby. Will he still be able to love the baby, even though he didn’t carry him or her? Of course he will. There are so many ways to bond with your baby.
Fear #2: I am concerned that I won’t be able to connect with my child during the pregnancy because he/she is being carried by a surrogate.
JB: The connection during pregnancy, for me, was more to the surrogate than to the baby.
I have a deep affection for our surrogate, and even though my daughter was born almost four months ago, my surrogate and I still talk several times a week. We will remain close friends forever.
During a pregnancy with surrogacy, because you’re not feeling the baby kick, dealing with the effects of the pregnancy, there is less of a physical bond. However, after our baby was born, because I had not been carrying the baby, I felt great. I felt like myself. Instead of recovering from giving birth and having surgery, I was at my best. I could be up all night and not resent it. The other thing I would point to is, for women who may have gone through a miscarriage or had problems with previous pregnancies, it’s actually nice to be able to dissociate a bit from the anxiety of pregnancy itself and focus more on the relationship with your surrogate and planning for the baby at home.
Fear #3: I am worried that I won’t be able to trust a perfect stranger. Will the surrogate eat well? Will she take care of the baby as if it were her own?
JB: I think this concern stems from one of the biggest misconceptions people have about surrogates, and it’s the worst one, in my opinion. Many people are suspicious that the surrogate is just doing this for money, and that they don’t care. That is absolutely not the case. I interviewed many surrogates, and they were all similar in that they were mission-driven. They had made a family for themselves, and they wanted to help someone else. All the surrogates I spoke with seemed to have a calling, and felt that by being a surrogate for another couple, they were doing something good. Many were religious or spiritual and felt they were doing God’s work, which I also believe.
The idea that surrogates smoke and drink and will eat poorly is just not accurate. Women who become surrogates love being pregnant, love having children, and want to help others become families themselves. And because they’ve already been pregnant with their own children, they know what is medically necessary to carry a healthy pregnancy. I was also worried about this initially, but after meeting and talking to several potential surrogates, my perspective changed completely. My surrogate was also very honest. When I asked if she drank alcohol, she said, “I have a drink every couple of weeks, but when I’m pregnant, I don’t.” Surrogates are loving, wonderful people who are trying to help. They are like angels, sent from God.
Another note on the concerns about diet— one of my best friends is a pediatrician. I asked her, “What if she eats a different diet than I do?” She explained that the reality is, as long as you’re not drinking, smoking or doing drugs, and you take prenatal vitamins and have enough food, the baby will be just fine. Obviously, you don’t want the surrogate to eat a pound of tuna every day, but people all over the world have babies, in very different conditions, eating very different things, and they turn out fine.
Fear #4: I’ve had problems with pregnancy, and I worry that pregnancy with a surrogate won’t be successful, either.
JB: I had a very late miscarriage, so that was certainly a fear I had. One of the benefits of surrogacy is that you can relax and separate things in your mind. Since I was not physically pregnant, I didn’t have to worry about whether I was miscarrying if I had a cramp or was spotting. Also, since I was not hormonal, I could be more rational. Just because it happened before, doesn’t mean it will happen again. It’s nice to be able to separate yourself a bit from those fears.
Fear #5: What if I don’t get along well with the surrogate?
JB: I was so grateful to have the opportunity to work with a surrogate, that this was not as much of a worry for me. Whether or not she would be my friend forever wasn’t the first priority. But I also happened to love my surrogate, and got lucky in this respect because she truly has become a close friend. We have an incredible bond. I think the most important thing is, like anything else, you want to make sure the surrogate has the same values and you can trust her, work with her, make mutual decisions as you would with a friend, husband or co-worker. It is important to understand that often surrogates come from different places than their intended parents in terms of geography, demographics, or even religion. I live in the city, and I love that my surrogate lives in the countryside. We had so much fun. Your surrogate won’t look, talk, or act like you. You aren’t going to find your twin to carry your baby. But just like any other relationship, you grow into it and it is uniquely beautiful.
Fear #6: What if the surrogate changes her mind and wants to keep the baby after it’s born?
JB: I understand the concern, but these women aren’t trying to “get” you. A requirement for surrogates is that they have already had children of their own, so it’s not like they don’t know what it’s like to have a baby, or are doing this for the first time. They know what they are getting into, and they are very happy to do it. If a surrogate wanted to have a baby, she would simply have her own baby. In the case of my surrogate, I gave her and her husband full access to the baby in the hospital, and brought the baby to her house after the birth to meet her children and show them what a beautiful thing she had done for our family. It was almost like our children were cousins! She loved our baby, and never wanted her for herself.
Something I did not consider at first was that the surrogate actually has more reason to be worried than the intended parents. What if you don’t want to take the baby? That is a big concern for surrogates. They’ve already completed their family. What if the parents don’t show up? Of course, this is all covered in the legal agreement, and both parties are protected, but the concern goes both ways as well, which is why trust is so important on both sides.
Fear #7: I have legal concerns about working with a surrogate. What if the surrogate does not hold up her end of the agreement?
The agreement has provisions in place to protect everyone. In gestational surrogacy, the egg is legally not the surrogate’s egg. Eggs are provided by either the intended mother or a donor, and sperm is provided by either the intended father or a donor—so the surrogate is not genetically related to the baby at all. In the past, it might have been my husband’s sperm and the surrogate’s egg—but that isn’t done anymore (to my knowledge). So technically, it’s not legally possible for a surrogate to keep the baby.
We also had a pre-birth order that my husband and my names were to go on the birth certificate, and that our baby would be discharged to us, not our surrogate. So legally, after birth, it continues to be our egg, our sperm, our child.
Fear #8: I’m worried that I won’t be able to breastfeed my child, and I don’t want to miss out on that opportunity for bonding.
JB: I had that same concern. I breastfed my first child for a year, and thought it was the only way to bond. Now, I know there are many different ways to bond with a baby. Providing for them physically is a great way to bond, and cuddling and giving them a bottle is just as effective from my experience.
I explored re-lactating. In the end, I decided not to try to lactate because it is often unsuccessful, and would require me to take substantially more hormones, when I had already done that for multiple rounds of IVF. I did want my child to have breastmilk though, so I posted on Facebook that I was having a baby through a surrogate. I ended up receiving over three months’ worth of donated breastmilk. There was an amazing community of moms who came together to help me.
Fear #9: I have preconceived notions about my surrogate, but I know they may not be true. After I am matched with the surrogate, will I have the confidence to move forward?
JB: I have had this conversation a lot with families considering surrogacy, and I tell them, “You will feel so much better once you meet your surrogate.” The scariest thing is the fear of the unknown. But once you meet your surrogate, it is no longer a scary, nebulous concept. Your surrogate is actually a real person with a name and a face. You no longer worry, “What will she be like? What will I be like?” You just feel so much better.
We interviewed many candidates and could have gone with several of them. When I met our actual surrogate, we were totally on the same page with our goals and our redlines, and she was wonderful. I felt so much relief. Maybe everyone doesn’t have that exact experience, but once you get to know your surrogate, it’s different. She said, “I want to treat my body like it is yours.” She even asked, “Are you comfortable with me getting a flu shot?” before we had even signed a contract. I replied, “Absolutely,” and she didn’t have to ask—but those small interactions start to build trust and take the mystery and fear out of the surrogacy process.
Fear #10: What is a misconception you had about surrogacy, or a worry you had about surrogacy?
JB: I was concerned that we would be very, very different people, and that it would be difficult to relate to one another. One of the most beautiful things about surrogacy is that it brings two different families together in ways they never would have otherwise interacted.
I was holding chickens on her family’s farm a few months ago. I had never even been on a farm before. What, to me, was a fear or a misconception, that you’re totally different and that’s a bad thing—was actually a wonderful thing. I’m Jewish, and she’s Christian. I was worried she wouldn’t be comfortable with that. In fact, it was just the opposite. We talked about our different holidays and traditions. She asked if she should modify her diet to keep Kosher while she carried the baby. It was so sweet, especially since I have never even kept Kosher. It was amazing to see that while we were different in many ways on paper, we are actually very similar and happy about our differences, and excited to learn about one another.
Any closing thoughts?
Surrogacy was a great experience for me, and I enjoyed working with Newborn Advantage. I love spreading the word about surrogacy. It’s a wonderful, life-changing experience.
Do you have any concerns or worries about surrogacy? Let us know.
Call or contact Newborn Advantage today to discuss any questions you may have. We look forward to hearing from you, and welcome the opportunity to be part of your surrogacy journey.