While so many surrogate moms have nothing but positive things to say about their experiences, others wind up in the news. Some surrogates try to keep their surro-babes. Others end up giving away their biological babies by accident. No matter how it ends up, surrogacy can prove complicated and emotional for everyone involved.
From intended moms going through cycles of hormones and medications to produce eggs, to surrogates dealing with the same, it's not an easy journey. Add in the emotions between the intended parents and the surrogate, and things get crazy fast.
One mom wrote about her experience as a surrogate for The Guardian. While this mom already had kids of her own and was carrying a pregnancy for her sister, things weren't simple.
At first, the surrogate's sister turned down the offer of having a gestational carrier. But she already had two biological children of her own, and her husband wanted his own, too. He was a great stepdad, the surrogate explained, but he wanted to raise a baby that carried his DNA.
Eventually, the two families agreed that one sister would carry a baby for another. The surrogate sister then kept a week-by-week log of her experiences. While the end result may surprise you, here's a look at what went through her mind during the surrogacy process.
15 Realistic Relationship Complications
Most times, when someone does a favor for a family member, there's no sense of being "owed" for anything. Families help each other out, right? But from the beginning, this surrogate's sister was reluctant to accept her help. Nick and Jane were in the middle of a painful and emotionally difficult hormone cycle when Jane's sister offered to carry a baby for them. They already knew it would take donor eggs and Nick's sperm to make a baby, but was having Jane's sister carry the baby too much?
Jane already had two kids from a previous marriage. However, doctors told her that her eggs were "potentially less successful" than eggs from a 25-year-old donor. So they went with the donor eggs, implanting 3 embryos.
But as the pregnancy progressed, the surrogate wrote, Jane was "keeping her distance." Jane also told her sister that people had been asking how the surrogate was doing. Her response? That her sister knew how to "compartmentalize" and so it wasn't difficult for her.
In fact, the surrogate was struggling to come to terms with carrying her sister's intended baby.
She also worried about her nephews' reaction to the pregnancy. They didn't seem to realize they'd soon have a new sibling... or two.
14 Selective Reduction Dread
While the surrogate was having embryos implanted, the intended parents were out of the country. She was in Greece while they were back home. So when the doctor at the fertility clinic asked how many embryos they wanted, the surrogate had to come up with her own answer. She didn't even know whether her sister and brother-in-law would like twins, let alone triplets or quadruplets. Then the doctor asked about selective reduction.
Because she was 48 at the time she carried her sister's pregnancy, the surrogate worried about her own health. Carrying multiples could be downright dangerous. At the same time, the more embryos they put in, the better the odds of having a baby. After thinking about it carefully, the surrogate agreed to have three embryos inserted. She also agreed to selective reduction if the need arises. But she noted in her article that she watched Nick and Jane struggle with IVF for an entire year. She knew that it was an "unsentimental process," she explained, so she tried to be unemotional. Still, she wasn't sure about selective reduction if the situation came down to that choice. Unfortunately, many surrogates have contracts that cover multiples and selective reduction. In this case, however, it wasn't needed.
13 Mulling Over The Many Mummies
Although both the surrogate and the intended parents agreed on when to announce the pregnancy, the surrogate mom gave up the news early. She wrote that she decided to tell her own kids about the pregnancy because she was getting emotional and cranky early on. At week six of her pregnancy, the mom of two told her kids she was carrying a baby. In fact, she told them she was carrying two. Two of the three embryos took, and the surrogate was pregnant with two babies. But explaining that to her kids was tough.
Her 10-year-old asked who the mum was, she wrote. Fair point, mom agreed, because there were essentially three moms.
First, the "egg mummy"- the donor. Then the "tummy mummy"- the surrogate. Finally, the "proper mummy," intended mom Jane. The kids were understandably iffy about the whole process. Broaching the topic with her sister, the surrogate asks whether Jane wants her babies to have a connection to the egg donor- their biological mom. Jane immediately says no. Her sister justifies this by saying, "She needs some territory of her own, I think." After all, Jane isn't contributing the eggs and she's not carrying the babies either.
12 Family Dynamics Become Frantic
At the same time her kids were questioning what makes family and mums, Aunt Jane's kids were in denial. They didn't talk about the babies or face the growing belly daily, the surrogate wrote. She wasn't sure what Jane had told them at any point about the twins. Was Jane even warming up to the idea of having twins? Without talking to her sister very often, the surrogate had no idea what was going through Jane's mind. But the fact remained, after the twins were born, they'd go home with Nick, Jane, and the older boys.
Meanwhile, the surrogate's daughter asked her if they could keep the girl baby. While she prepared herself to give the twins to their parents, the surrogate didn't consider what her kids would think. They seemed to crave another sibling, especially seeing their mom pregnant. Even though she was terribly grumpy, she admitted, as well as emotional, the kids didn't seem to mind. The twins were real to them, real enough that the six-year-old asked if they could have the baby girl as a little sister. Then comes Christmas Day, when the families get together. Nick asks the surrogate, "How are my babies?" The surrogate says she felt annoyed- they're her babies, not his.
11 Meds Are A Drag
Around week 7, the surrogate was taking a handful of hormones and other pills. Between estrogen, progesterone, antibiotics, aspirin, folic acid, and a steroid, she's overwhelmed. She had constant headaches and was always tired, she explained, and felt depressed and nauseous. But she was told that it was all normal, and the sickness only got worse. At the same time, she started feeling maternal about the babies, she wrote.
After seeing an ultrasound where the babies were one on top of the other, the surrogate declares, "They are my babies." By week 11, the sickness starts to go away, but the maternal feelings stay.
The surrogate mom got less grumpy, she said, but she still felt different than she had in her previous pregnancies. At the same time, she knew Jane had already suffered a lot to get to this point. Jane had spent an entire year taking pills and injections to try and get pregnant. She traveled to Greece and back for egg collections and transfers only to suffer multiple miscarriages. And her husband stood by and watched, disappointed but unwilling to blame his wife and make her feel worse. So this was amazing for them, the surrogate thought, to be expecting twins, however, they would arrive.
10 Babies For All
From this surrogate's experience, it almost seems like people who can't get pregnant are jealous of surrogacy. If they can't afford it themselves, they approach surrogacy as a magical impossibility. When she was ten weeks along, Jane's sister met with a friend going through tough times. The friend's husband walked out on her after years of trying to have a baby. After enduring rounds of IVF with no success, the friend cried that she would be 50 with no children. Mom of two already, the surrogate didn't say anything about her current twin pregnancy. Still, she noted that her friend hadn't noticed her "expanded waistline."
Another friend heard the twin news without tears. Still, he asked "Can I have one?" in a joking tone. Only, the surrogate explains, he was only "partly joking." He and his wife were also using IVF but had not had success yet. And while her experience wasn't ideal either, Jane's sister couldn't help but feel guilty about not carrying a baby for everyone who wanted one. While surrogates often feel like they're delivering a blessing to expectant couples, this one didn't think she was doing enough. There's also the fact that Jane already had two kids, while many women tried for years and couldn't have any.
9 Selfish Or Selfless
Early on, the surrogate professes, “I feel rubbish and I’m not even getting a going-home present at the end.” Although she’s already committed to her sister, she's also already concerned about getting too big. Before finding out it was twins, she said, "I am slightly appalled at the idea of carrying two." She recalls that she doesn't even enjoy pregnancy- but by then it's too late. Still, by week eleven, she's on a new high. As people find out about the pregnancy, they put her on a pedestal, and she likes it. She says, "After all, others may think about being a surrogate, but I am actually doing it." Apart from patting herself on the back, people seem overwhelmed by her "kindness," she says.
Her six-year-old takes to telling people that her aunt's tummy isn't working, so her mom has to hold the two babies for Auntie Jane.
Then comes the ultrasound that reveals the sex of the babies. Because Jane has two older sons, her sister hopes for at least one girl. The first is a boy, the doctor notes. Jane's sister comments, "I make a silent prayer that the other will be a girl." After the doctor confirms one boy one girl, she walks "out of the clinic feeling high."
8 Developing Distance
Despite her feelings of altruism about birthing babies for her sister, the surrogate doesn't interact with her much. From the beginning, it seemed like her brother-in-law was the driving force of the process. Nick convinced Jane to let her sister be their surrogate, and he is thrilled when they find out it's twins. But Jane "has been keeping her distance" at around sixteen weeks along. She told her children at fifteen weeks, but their reaction was, "can't we be a normal family?" Then comes breaking the news to grandma.
The surrogate tells her mom she's pregnant and explains the whole situation. Grandma replies that "despite the complications, it is lovely to have two new grandchildren."
Still, there's a growing rift between the sisters. The surrogate wonders if Jane understands how difficult this has been for her. She acknowledges how selfish that sounds, but Jane doesn't seem to recognize the enormity of the situation. Neither do her sons, their aunt guesses. The boys are discussing next summer's holiday when their aunt points out that the twins will be born and home by then. One of the boys doesn't seem to understand that he'll have twin siblings by Easter. In contrast, their cousins, who see the belly grow daily, have a heightened awareness of the babies.
7 Judgment Amid Joy
One of the worst things about the pregnancy, the surrogate explains, is the judgment. At one ultrasound appointment, which she attends alone, the ultrasound tech is bubbly and happy. The surrogate, on the other hand, stays quiet. They're not really hers, after all, so the tech exclaiming how beautiful and perfect the twins are, she checks out. At the same time, nurses ask whether she likes big families or if she's Catholic. They see her on her own, with no apparent husband, and start wondering.
Birthing two babies for your sister is an amazing and joyful deed. But with that joy comes judgment when people don't know the whole story. From her first grader telling the TA about Auntie Jane's tummy troubles to the nurse's questions, the surrogate feels judged.
There's no explanation for why she attends her appointments alone, though.
With her brother-in-law's enthusiasm, you might think he'd want to tag along. Even if his wife is feeling standoffish, that's still her sister and her twin babies. The entire scenario feels off, as each person involved has a reaction that is unexpected. There's no reason why Jane's sister can't be honest about her pregnancy, is there? After all, it's a loving gesture between siblings to carry a baby (or babies) for your sister.
6 Secrecy Reigns Supreme
For some reason, the surrogate, her family, and the intended parents all desire secrecy. It seems like they are reluctant to tell anyone that Jane's sister is carrying the babies. It's unclear what Jane tells her friends, or if she tells them anything. While Nick seems excited to welcome the babies home and claim them as his children, the rest of the family doesn't echo his excitement. At week 27, the surrogate says, she is the "recipient of random pity." People ask how she is with their heads cocked to the side. She says she's huge and has fallen twice by week 28, worrying until both babies move again afterward.
Later, amid worries of pre-eclampsia, the two families have to discuss how to handle the actual birth of the twins. No one thinks to tell the hospital about the plans, because the surrogate explains only Jane will be in the C-section suite. Nick will wait outside, leaving Jane and her sister to each hold a baby after the birth. Apparently, telling the hospital who the intended parents are isn't part of the plan. But that might have something to do with the fact that nothing is legally binding until six weeks after the birth.
5 Sadness Sneaks Up
With all the surrogate's comments about feeling sick and not wanting to get too huge, she doesn't sound excited about the babies. But she also writes throughout the weeks of her pregnancy that she feels sad.
At week eighteen, she explained that when she offered to be a surrogate, she asked herself if she could go home without the babies. The answer was yes. But nearly halfway through the pregnancy, she noted, it was getting harder to stick with that line of thought.
She went into a baby store that week, the surrogate wrote. She saw a pink bunny rabbit that would be perfect for her niece. But she wasn't sure if she should buy it. It seemed like a sign that she was becoming attached, she thought. She wondered whether her sister would be okay with the gift. So she left the soft bunny on the shelf. At week 22, her young daughter asks her mom, "You wouldn't give me away, would you?" Mom explains how this affects her thinking about surrogacy, and how it affects the whole family. She says she doesn't want any more kids, but she feels sad about having to give the babies away when the pregnancy ends.
4 Doubts Develop Early
At week 29, Nick and Jane went shopping at Ikea for two cribs. Their surrogate feels "a pang of sadness," she says, thinking, "Shouldn't that be me?"
The following week, she receives an email from Nick about "getting organized." In the email, he asks about transferring parenthood through a lawyer. It will be simple, he says, as she'll sign some paperwork that will go to court. But his sister-in-law immediately feels pressured and rushed. Although she has maintained that she doesn't want more kids, she feels attached to the babies.
She writes back that she needs time to think and that she won't sign anything. This prompts an email from Jane that says, "You should never have agreed to do this if you were going to hold onto your status as mummy. You have broken my heart."
It's safe to say that the surrogate's reaction to Nick's email was unexpected and that Jane fully expected her sister to keep the babies. The surrogate ignores them for a week, she says, and then grandma steps in to mediate things. Grandma "calmed down Jane and Nick," the surrogate wrote as if the intended parents were the ones overreacting. The sisters meet up to shop for going-home outfits for the twins. They don't talk about the contract.
3 Hormone Crash Hits
By week 35, the planned C-section has arrived. The midwives are worried the surrogate will have a stroke, she says, because of the pre-eclampsia. The C-section room is filled with the birth team, at least six specialists and a handful of nurses. Jane cuts the cord for the baby boy, then holds the baby girl. The surrogate reports that she didn't feel jealous at all. She holds the babies in recovery and visits with her family. Jane vetoes breastfeeding, so her sister tells the nurses she doesn't plan to.
While she has to stay in the hospital for 10 days for her own health, the surrogate doesn't tell the nurses she's a surrogate. She is responsible for feeding the babies every three hours, which Jane "stays to help" with.
At this point, no one recognizes Jane as the mother. The staff even say, "Mummy's back!" when the surrogate arrives to visit the newborns, and the doctors have to be "persuaded" to let Jane stay with them overnight. When the surrogate goes home, she cries, she says, from a "hormonal crash and tiredness." She sobs at home in bed next to her daughter, fearing her permanent separation from the newborn twins.
2 Post-Pregnancy Panic
The day the babies are due to leave the hospital, Jane excitedly texts her sister. But, the surrogate says, she's "panic-stricken." She wasn't ready to give the babies up- it's "too soon." She takes her kids to stay with friends and takes a bus to the hospital. She cries as they wait on paperwork, she says. Jane went to get lunch; the surrogate holds the twins and feels "a great well of grief." They all go home to Nick and Jane's together, toasting the babies with champagne for the grown-ups. Of Nick, the new dad, the surrogate says he is "so happy." Jane simply says to her sister, "Thanks."
Afterward, she is determined not to spoil their happiness and keeps from crying as Nick drives her home. Later, however, the new aunt-to-twins explains that she felt that she had "miscarried and they had died." There was a hole where the babies should have been, she wrote, and she did a lot of crying. At the same time, she acknowledges that having "my own children" around helped her. It seemed like she realized the twins weren't hers but had to go through a process of grief to fully emotionally recognize it.
1 Right Isn’t Always Easy
Two weeks after leaving the babies for "the last time," the surrogate reflects on the experience. She wrote for The Guardian that things were getting better. While she no longer felt that the twins belonged to her, she also began to see the joy they brought to their parents. Nick and Jane were thrilled, but particularly Nick, who had never had a newborn before- let alone two.
Still, surrogacy was "physically grueling and emotionally very difficult," she declared.
But at the same time, like she had told her kids, "The right thing isn't always the easy thing." It brought her sister and brother-in-law closer together, the surrogate explained. Further, although her sister was distant throughout the pregnancy, she says, "we are now bonded in a way that is fundamental and feels unbreakable." And the twins' aunt stays involved in their lives, helping with feeding time and visiting frequently.
She says she has a special relationship with the twins, but that they'll "never know what it cost me to give them up." Although her experience likely isn't common among all surrogates, this mom's road to becoming an aunt for the third and fourth time is both inspiring and frustrating. In the end, though, she gave a tremendous gift to her sister.
Reference: The Guardian