Altruistic surrogacy is one of the most complex and amazing journeys you’ll ever take, regardless of whether you’re the surrogate team or the intended parent team. Even when things go right, they can still be difficult, and every team faces its own challenges. With that in mind, here’s my advice for a positive surrogacy journey.
- Be Prepared. Read, research, and ask questions.
It can be exciting to embark on the roadtrip to a baby. Everyone gets a bit of ‘baby lust,’ and can lose sight of the bigger picture. You might feel really ready to have a baby, and know that you and your partner have thought this through and are committed to each other and to parenthood. But would you make a baby with someone you’ve just met, or only known for a few months? That seems like a big leap – and a bit risky. So, take your time. Read – other people’s stories, blogs and posts on forums, and get to know how surrogacy works. Understand the counselling and legal processes involved. Research the options for Australian and overseas surrogacy arrangements. Attend events – there are often social gatherings in each State where intended parents and surrogates hang out, that you can meet people at different stages of the journey. The Podcast is a great resource to hear about other people’s journeys.
- Make contact with a Surrogacy Counsellor
An experienced surrogacy counsellor can help you prepare for the journey ahead, and can even help you decide if surrogacy is right for you. If you are the intended parents, you may have had a long and difficult journey to get to surrogacy. If you’re a surrogate, you may be excited to get started. Regardless of which side of the coin you’re coming from, you need to know whether you’re ready for the journey ahead. A counsellor can help you to prepare, and give you clarity about what to expect. I interviewed surrogacy counsellor Katrina Hale for the Podcast, and she has a lots of great advice for preparing for a surrogacy journey.
- Look for someone who shares your values.
A surrogacy relationship is lifelong, whether you like it or not. Altruistic surrogacy is all about the relationship, and it’s not transactional. You need to know that the intended parents or surrogate team that you commit to are the sort of people you want to spend time with, even after surrogacy is no longer the focus. Read Katrina Hale’s Twenty Things to Think About When Choosing Your Surrogacy Relationship to help you decide what’s important to you.
- The Big Issues.
Before chatting to a surrogate/intended parent team, you should consider your own stance on the big issues – money, treatment options, timelines, termination of pregnancy, vaccination, infant feeding and birthing options. There are no wrong answers – if they are right for you, then they are right. But there are surrogates/intended parents who are not right for you – and if you don’t agree on the big issues, then that’s an indication that maybe you’re not right for each other.
- Regular counselling for individuals and the team
Counselling is not just for people who are unwell or in crisis. Specialised counselling with a surrogacy counsellor can be really helpful for individual team members, and the team, to maintain wellness and the relationships. Some teams commit to a counselling every month, or every trimester. Whilst some counselling is required for the Parentage Order, regular counselling is a great tool to promote a positive journey. Many people find it beneficial to have their own counsellor who is not counselling the rest of the surrogacy team, so that they have a safe place to go that doesn’t include a surrogacy counsellor.
- The Five Love Languages
The Five Love Languages is a handy tool to know about yourself, and to know about your loved ones. It can be useful in surrogacy, to understand how the other members of your team communicate their love. It can also be useful to see whether your languages ‘match,’ or whether you need to be conscious that your love language does not match that of your team members. For example, if your love language is ‘acts of service’ and another team member’s is ‘words of affirmation,’ you may be communicating your love and appreciation to them by cooking for them, while they want to tell you how much they love you!
- It’s a marathon, not a sprint; it’s a journey, not a destination. Expect it to take a long time. Many surrogacy journeys are 2+ years from meeting to baby. If your timeline is much less than that, you may need to consider other options outside Australia. You must invest in relationships if you expect altruistic surrogacy to work, and that takes time.
- Take responsibility for your own journey.
You may have experienced infertility, loss, grief, or chronic illness before you decided to pursue surrogacy. Same-sex male couples experience social infertility, which has it’s own challenges. Surrogacy is hard, and the person doing the most work is the surrogate. It is not her responsibility to look after you, as well as your baby. Be proactive in seeking independent support, from friends, family, other intended parents and surrogates and counsellors. Don’t rely on the other team members to be your emotional support when things within the team are challenging.
Surrogates should also take responsibility for their own journeys – it can be easy to resent the intended parents when you’re feeling unwell or fed up with the pregnancy. Eventually your intended parents will have a baby and you won’t have anything to show for it! Expect that this journey extends well beyond the birth and remember that your life, and your family, will still be there after the baby arrives. You need to invest in yourself and your loved ones.