Surrogacy can be all-consuming – for the intended parents, and the surrogate family. Relationship-building takes time (particularly if we want to get it right) and so does the process. Medical appointments, counselling, legal advice, blood tests, police checks, psychological assessments, paperwork etc etc. And then there’s trying to get pregnant, and pregnancy, all of which takes time, appointments, more tests, scans and more appointments. And the birth and post-partum – it will bring the team closer to each other than ever, spending time together and enjoying the new baby and the journey. Sometimes, you’ll wake up thinking about surrogacy, and go to bed at night thinking about it as well.
But then, surrogacy isn’t forever. Whether you’re a surrogate or the intended parents, there has to be something other than surrogacy, beyond surrogacy, that gives you purpose in your life. And that can be hard, particularly when it has been so consuming. The intended parents may have the new purpose of caring for their baby and spending time together as a family. The surrogate, on the other hand, often finds herself at a loose end – no baby to care for, and her good friends are now busy with their baby. So how do we prepare for the time Beyond Surrogacy? And not just the fourth trimester, which is really about the team well-being, but beyond that – when we have to try and find ourselves again?
One activity that we do at the Surrogacy Sisterhood Day is to work on finding our own happiness. The activity is based on things I learned in a program called Happy Lawyer Happy Life, developed by the Happy Family Lawyer Clarissa Rayward. The Sisterhood activity is a shortened version of Clarissa’s 8-week program. It involves looking at things that make us HAPPY – Health, Attitude, Passion, Purpose and You. As a group, we list things that we can do to look after our on happiness, beyond surrogacy, and then individually we can use those lists to develop our own goals to pursue happiness for ourselves.
H is for Health
We know that physical health is a significant part of overall happiness. What are things that we can do to look after our physical health? It may be as simple as drinking enough water, eating well, taking pregnancy supplements, and exercising. Our physical health needs will wax and wane (particular in relation to pregnancy and post-partum) but if we make it a focus in our lives, good feelings will come from it. What are some things you can do to improve or maintain good physical health?
A is for Attitude
A positive attitude is crucial to happiness, but it’s more than just thinking nice things. We need to look after our emotional wellbeing – and that might be through practices such as meditation, mindfulness, and counselling and debriefing. Looking after our emotional health is crucial for surrogacy – for the surrogate, her partner, and the intended parents. By looking after ourselves, we’re also looking after each other and the children in our lives, including surro-bub. Never underestimate the stress that surrogacy, infertility, pregnancy, birth and parenting can place us under – and that goes for everyone. It’s not just the surrogate who will experience hormonal shifts and emotional challenges in the surrogacy journey, and it is everyone’s responsibility to access their own support throughout. Some people find writing in a journal helpful, or yoga practice. For me, running has provided for my physical health and mental well-being.
P is for Passion
What do you love to do so much that it makes time stand still, that you forget to eat, and nothing else matters? What do you LOVE to do? Are you passionate about animals, gardening, family, the environment? If money was no object, what would you be doing with your time?
P is for Purpose
What, besides surrogacy (or the need to use the toilet) gets us out of bed each day? What drives us? What is our WHY? It can be (should be) more than one thing. For many, it might be their children, or family, or helping people. If someone was writing a speech about our life, what would like them to say about us – “she worked long hours and never took a day off…”? Beyond surrogacy, what is your why? As amazing as surrogacy can be, it’s not sustainable to make it our sole purpose. What do we want our lives to be like, beyond surrogacy?
Y is for YOU
This is about finding those things that make you, you. What does your dream life look like? What would you be doing if you were being completely authentic. Who are you, and what do you represent? This should be more than one thing. What are your values, and what can you do to start living by them?
Once you’ve worked on your HAPPY, the next step is to work on some goals. Goals need to be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Setting and achieving goals is good for emotional well-being, because we know that we get endorphins when we achieve our goals. Take some time to look at your HAPPY list and set some goals for each aspect.
During the Sisterhood Day, we considered goals for the Fourth Trimester that follow the HAPPY concept. Here’s an example of how the Fourth Trimester might look:
Read more about the Fourth Trimester and what to expect in a surrogacy arrangement.