Supporting Your Surrogate and Family
Intended parents carry the pressure of wanting to be appreciative, supportive and caring for their surrogate and her family, and not wanting to be intrusive or overbearing. With that in mind, there are a few things that intended parents can do to support their surrogate and her family throughout the process. The ideas below are collated with the help of other surrogates and intended parents, but are just that – ideas. You and your team should sit down and consider the best way that the intended parents can support and be there for their surrogate, and that may be different if you are family, friends, local or interstate, and the surrogate family’s particular needs.
First of all, the entire team might benefit from taking The Five Love Languages test, to determine what your love language is. The Love Languages are a great tool to understand how each of you gives, receives and communicates love. For me, for example, I think ‘acts of service’ (doing things for me) and ‘quality time’ are the best ways of letting me know that you care. Knowing each other’s love language can help the team determine the best way for the surrogate to be supported in the way she needs it.
You might also find that Setting Expectations for each stage of the surrogacy process helps in communication and expectations so that everyone’s needs are met and there is less risk of conflict of misunderstanding.
The Ring Theory, which was discussed in the Podcast episode with Miranda, is helpful for remembering how to provide support to the person or people most in need, and not dumping your own needs on to them.
If you are wanting to build a really positive relationship with your surrogate, make sure to listen to my interview with Katrina Hale, which includes Twenty Things to Think About When Choosing Your Surrogacy Relationship, to help you make sure you’re making the right commitment.
So, with all that in mind, below are some ideas for how you can support your surrogate and her family:
- Food deliveries and meal preparation. This is an obvious one, but may require more thinking to get it right. Find out what meals your surrogate and her family will eat – perhaps ask her or her partner to write a list of 4 or 5 meals that they know they will eat, and even steal their favourite recipes to make them. Fussy kids are unlikely to eat your gourmet degustation menu, so focus on practical and healthy food that are easy to freeze and reheat.
- Running errands and doing the grocery shop is a great way to be helpful and take some pressure of the surrogate’s family. If you’re on the way to shops, check in with them and see what they need that you can collect on your way.
- If you live far away from your surrogate, you might like to arrange a road trip to fill their freezer with food. You might also consider meal delivery services like Youfoodz and Hello Fresh, or even just vouchers for the local pizza shop.
- Don’t ask her “can I help” or “let me know if you need anything.” Her answer will almost always be “no, thanks.” Surrogates are proud and they hate feeling needy or relying on others to help. Instead, try “I will be cooking for you, let me know what meals you would like” or “I’ll come over and care for your kids while you have a massage; let me know what day suits.” Give her the massage voucher and she’ll feel better about accepting the help.
- Hiring a cleaner, particularly when your surrogate is heavily pregnant or unwell, will alleviate some pressure in their home. Doing the dishes at 36 weeks’ pregnant is no one’s idea of fun, and vacuuming and gardening can lead to killer back pain. You can contribute to the housework as well, but sometimes outsourcing makes it easier for everyone.
- Babysitting the surrogate’s children and letting the surrogate and her partner go out on a date night is a great way to offer support. Often, the relationship between the surrogate and her partner is the least of everyone’s priorities (after pregnancy appointments, kids, housework, work…) and it’s a crucial relationship to support. If you spend time with their children, you’re giving them respite to spend time together. You’re also building relationships with the children, which is important too.
- Take the surrogate’s children out for their own playdate with you. I was heavily pregnant in the middle of summer, so it was such a relief for my kids to get an outing with my intended parents whilst I relaxed under the air conditioner. The kids loved it, and it was one way my intended parents could help me while I enjoyed the last weeks of pregnancy.
- Give your surrogate and her family space. This might seem counter-intuitive – after all, shouldn’t you be supportive 24/7? The fact is, pregnancy is 24/7 but much of it is boring and there’s no reason why you need to be in each other’s pockets all the time. Follow her lead, ask her for her input, but don’t smother her with attention. Listen to Katrina Hale talking about Managing our Fears, which might be helpful for everyone.
- Help out with life admin – if your surrogate has a lot on her plate, offer to make appointments for the surrogacy and pregnancy. Help her complete papework and give her checklists of things she has to do. The administrative stuff involved in surrogacy can be boring and overwhelming – you can help by project-managing much of it, and leaving her to do the things she needs to do. You might like to have a Google Docs or Trello sharing folder where everyone in the team can keep up with the paperwork, and a shared Google Calendar for appointments.
- Spend time with her. Did I mention this is one of my love languages? Surrogates don’t want to spend all their time with you talking about surrogacy and pregnancy. Spend time with her talking about and doing other things. Take her out for lunch, or bring her lunch, watch a movie together, attend the school fete together, spend time together as families. She’ll appreciate that the relationships are as important to you as they are to her and her family.
- Another easy way to support your surrogate and her family – vouchers. Massage vouchers, book vouchers, movie vouchers, ten pin bowling vouchers – activities and ways for her and her family to wind down and not worry about money.
- Help with home maintenance if you can – you don’t need to plunge her toilet when it’s blocked, but there’s no harm in taking out the bins, sweeping the patio, mowing the lawn and alleviating the pressure on their household. If she’s got a cat, it’s now your job to empty the kitty litter too.
A few other things that might be useful – Care Packages are a great way to show appreciation for surrogates and donors.
A surrogate also wants to know that there’s money available for surrogacy and pregnancy expenses, when she needs it. Don’t wait for her to ask for reimbursement. You can read my advice for managing the finances and money conversations.
As with all my advice, it comes with a simple caveat – you need to work on your relationship together, to find out what is best for your team. The ideas in this post are no more than ideas, and cannot replace a good heart-to-heart conversation between yourselves where you come up with your own ways of supporting your surrogate and her family.
Sarah has written a book, More Than Just a Baby: A Guide to Surrogacy for Intended Parents and Surrogates, which is the only guide to surrogacy in Australia.
You can find more information in the free Surrogacy Handbook, reading articles in the Blog, by listening to more episodes of the Surrogacy Podcast. You can also book in for a consult with me below, and check out the legal services I provide.