This past week I celebrated my six month anniversary of being a surrogate.
Well, I guess it depends on when you count the anniversary. It’s been six months since I delivered a baby as a gestational surrogate, 15 months since the embryo transfer, or 26 months from when we started on this incredible journey.
However you slice it, I’ve had a while to think about the experience.
I’ve previously answered some of my most frequently asked questions regarding being a gestational surrogate for a friend, but today I want to really focus on how it feels.
Believe me – it’s an emotional roller coaster!
What does it feel like to go through the evaluation process?
Does being a surrogate affect how pregnancy feels?
How did it feel to carry a baby and then give it away?
Being a Surrogate for a Friend and All the Feels
Let me start at the beginning. I think the story is important for context.
We’ll start in late 2017 when my husband received an email from a long time friend and colleague. The message was sent to many, many of their contacts and explained that the couple was unable to conceive and were looking for someone interested in being a surrogate (or, more accurately, a gestational carrier).
Honestly reading this email took my breath away. Gestational surrogacy was something I had talked about for years, long before I realized that we knew a couple who needed one. At that moment it felt like fate.
Of course talking about something theoretically is very different than actually doing it. Before we approached our friends we wanted to be 100% sure of our decision.
At this point I felt nervous and excited. I discussed and thought about this decision for months. My husband, business partner, family, and friends were extremely supportive – which felt amazing.
Ove six months later, my husband and I felt confident in our decision and decided we would approach our friends to discuss starting the process of being a surrogate.
Putting It All Out There
My husband decided he wanted to talk to his co-worker in person. Since there was a happy hour social coming up the following week, we decided he would wait until then.
I felt incredibly nervous the entire day at work, just waiting for the upcoming conversation. Then something came up and she had to skip the happy hour.
Talk about plucking on my emotional heart strings! I was so anxious and excited all at the same time. I just wanted to know if we’d be compatible and if they wanted to go on this journey with me.
And while I wanted to talk to them as soon as possible, my husband continued to feel strongly this was something to be discussed in person.
Our friend showed up to the next work social event but was constantly talking and catching up with other coworkers. My husband called me on the way home to tell me he hadn’t gotten a chance to talk with her… again.
Remember by this time it had been weeks since we’d decided to volunteer for gestational surrogacy. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait any longer! So I pretty much demanded he call her and tell her the news. And he did.
Together they worked out a time for all four of us to get together in-person to discuss the process.
Feelings Through the Early Planning Phase
The ball had officially started rolling! Our friends knew that I was interested in being a surrogate and they wanted to talk more about it.
I felt over the moon! Truly exhilarated!
I assumed they’d seem thrilled as well. But they weren’t.
They were happy to be talking about the process, but they were also very guarded.
I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the response I was expecting. And initially I felt confused and a little hurt.
But I think it’s an important point to talk about because this is a normal and completely understandable response.
Our friends had already been through a lot leading up this point – medical complications, hope, disappointment, fear, and doubt. They wanted to be excited and hopeful, but they also wanted to protect their hearts if I changed my mind or things didn’t work out.
There’s no emotional right or wrong in this situation. No handbook. It’s OK to process these feelings in different ways and go through stages.
Evaluation, Transfer, and Pregnancy
The gestational carrier evaluation process takes months. There are appointments with doctors, for testing, counseling, and even mock hormone trials.
Throughout the process I was understandably excited, but also anxious.
Feeling this nervous took me off guard. After all, what was I frightened of?
I was terrified that after volunteering and getting our friends’ hopes up, I wouldn’t be a good candidate. The last thing I wanted was to be another source of disappointment in their eyes.
I had also gotten excited about the idea of being a surrogate, of being pregnant again. Every appointment felt like a different test I was afraid to fail.
When the day for the embryo transfer came, it honestly felt surreal.
I went to the appointment with our friend, the intended mother. We were both obviously very excited and a little nervous. No surprise there, that appointment was years in the making!
The entire transfer appointment felt very… clinical. And I remember it feeling very strange.
The way the staff, doctors, and nurses were all working and acting… It felt like any other appointment. And I suppose it was, for them.
For my friend and I this was a life-changing moment! I remember feeling so emotional and trying to constantly hold off bouts of simultaneous laughing and crying. But maybe that was the hormones, now that I look back on it.
Waiting for that positive pregnancy result was nerve-wracking. MUCH more so than for my own children. Once again, I was so afraid of causing disappointment.
The pregnancy itself felt pretty normal. I still enjoyed feeling all those milestones: changing into maternity clothes, those little kicks, and getting funny cravings.
The morning sickness felt the same, and I pushed through it just as before. And I didn’t enjoy the frequent urges to pee or the uncomfortable, sleepless nights. But knowing that I was carrying something so special and precious helped tremendously.
Do Surrogate Mothers Get Attached to the Child?
Well, I was “attached” in the way of being physically attached. And of course I cared for the child. But I think people are generally asking if I felt like I was her mother.
Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but in my case I did not get attached at all to the growing child in that way.
I think there were a couple of reasons for this. For starters, the intended parents (IPs, or IM/IF for intended mother/father) were with me every step of the way. I’ve also had a history of not bonding with babies in utero.
Since the IPs (particularly the IM) were very involved in the initial testing, embryo transfer process, prenatal visits, and all of the decision making – I was constantly reminded this was their baby.
All of our friends and family knew about me being a surrogate. Our OB-GYN even had it in their chart! So other than the occasional ignorant stranger, there was never any question of the baby’s parents.
All of that combined with the fact that I care for, but generally don’t bond, with babies until after they are born kept me from getting attached to the child.
How Does it Feel to Give Your Baby Away?
This one’s easy.
It wasn’t my baby, so I wouldn’t know.
(Sorry if I sound bitter, I got asked this all the time and it drives me crazy! I still do six months later.)
Now a better question is “how does it feel to give a baby to their parents?”.
Again, this one’s easy. It feels AMAZING.
The delivery was one of the powering and moving experiences.
I was surrounded by loved ones and some of my best friends to provide me with support and welcome the little miracle into the world.
When that little girl was born, cord cut by her father, and immediately placed in her mother’s arms – the room lost it.
The nurses, parents, my husband, friend and I all had tears in our eyes. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
To see the new baby joined with her parents after years in the making was profoundly beautiful. To know that I made it happen was the best feeling in the world.
My main delivery nurse even came up to me after delivery and told me I had done one of the most beautiful and selfless acts she had ever witnessed. She said that even though she has been delivering babies for over 25 years, she would never forget this birth.
If it was possible to literally glow from joy and happiness, I have to believe I was shining in that moment.
Final Thoughts and Feelings
Being a surrogate was an emotional roller coaster that I don’t regret riding one bit.
I’m not sure if I would do it again… mostly because each pregnancy is physically more difficult than the last and recovering is challenging now that I’m in my mid-30s. (Helloooooo postpartum weight retention).
It was one of the most powerful and fulfilling experiences I have been a part of to date.
I would encourage anyone considering the experience to act now. Do your research. Talk to people. You can even reach out and contact me! I’m happy to answer any questions.