When most people have a child, they celebrate milestones like a Baby Shower, and later the birth, and then Birthdays, and Mother’s and Father’s Days, without having to consult or think about anyone outside their own household or immediate family. The celebrations are for the parents and the child and for the most part, no one else expects to be involved.
In altruistic surrogacy arrangements, the opposite can be true. Each team is different, but there are a few certainties that you can rely on:
- The surrogate doesn’t want the spotlight on her. She wants the parents to enjoy these events and that’s what she’s been looking forward to seeing – the family she helped create.
- The surrogate thinks these occasions are important and special, and not just because they are the celebrations of parenthood and the child. They are important for her too.
- The surrogate might say that she doesn’t need, or expect, acknowledgement on these special days. Parents could take her word for it, but they could also acknowledge her anyway.
- Sometimes these days can be challenging for the parents, perhaps because they bring up the grief of pregnancy losses or infertility. These days can also be challenging for surrogates, and even moreso if they feel ignored or forgotten.
So what are the events that might need some celebration or acknowledgement of the surrogate, and how do you do it?
First up, there’s the Pregnancy Announcement. You should discuss openly together as a team about how this is done. An announcement on the intended parents’s Facebook page that doesn’t name or acknowledge the surrogate and her family can be upsetting. Do your friends think a stork is bringing you a baby? She might not want a lot of attention, but she probably wants to be acknowledged.
And then there’s the Baby Shower – it’s a celebration of the baby in her belly. It cannot be separated from her, and therefore the celebration needs to involve and acknowledge her. Remember, she doesn’t want the spotlight – most surrogates feel uncomfortable with people (many of whom might be strangers) staring at her. It can also feel dissociating to be pregnant with someone else’s child, so whilst she wants acknowledgement that she’s doing a wonderful thing, she doesn’t want to be objectified.
Next up is the Birth Announcement. If you are announcing the birth to anyone – whether privately or on social media – you should include your surrogate and acknowledge her and her family. She may not want to be tagged in a Facebook post, but unless your friends think a stork brought you a baby, include her name in the announcement.
Don’t forget to celebrate the Parentage Order! In some States, Parentage Orders are made without a hearing for the parties to attend. Regardless of whether there is a hearing, or whether all the parties can attend, it can be important to mark the occasion as a team. A special luncheon or dinner to celebrate the final stage of the surrogacy journey and start the next chapter together.
And then there’s Birthdays. Birthdays are a milestone for the birthing mother – it’s the anniversary of a life-changing event that she and her family went through. Celebrating the child’s birthday is important for intended parents too – it’s a celebration of their first year as parents, joyous and challenging as it may have been. My best advice for birthday celebrations is to have one party for the child, and a separate gathering between the parents and the surrogate family, to acknowledge the relationship, the journey, and the challenges.
Next up is Mother’s Day. This day is important and can be sensitive for surrogates. She is the birth mother to your child. And whilst no surrogate is the same, I can tell you that no surrogate has ever been sad to receive a Happy Mother’s Day message from her intended parents. Plenty of surrogates have felt forgotten and ignored on Mother’s Day. And no doubt, plenty of intended parents have been oblivious to the slight. If you became a mother through surrogacy, your surrogate wants to know that you’ve thought of her at some point on Mother’s Day. If you’re a two-dad family that doesn’t celebrate Mother’s Day – that’s cool. But your surrogate is your child’s birth mother, and a simple ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ would help her feel acknowledged and appreciated on this day. It may not seem like much to you, but it’s important to her.
If you’re not sure how to acknowledge and show appreciation for your surrogate on these special days, here’s a few tips
- Make it a priority. If you know a milestone is coming up, make a plan to include your surrogate or show some appreciation toward her on that day.
- It doesn’t need to be elaborate. In fact, surrogates generally don’t want elaborate gifts and celebrations.
- Keep it simple and heartfelt. The ultimate celebration might be about you and the child, so any acknowledgement or celebration of your surrogate can be as simple as a handwritten card, a bunch of flowers, a photo of the baby or your family. Simple words like ‘thank you,’ ‘we love you’ and ‘we’re grateful for what you’ve done’ can be really lovely to receive.
- A phone call can sometimes be better than a text message. Everyone texts these days. Make her feel special and call her.
- If you are having a party, like a Baby Shower or Birthday party, introduce your surrogate to your friends. This is really important. Your friends might not know how to talk to the woman carrying your baby – they’ve probably never met a surrogate before. Many a surrogate has felt like a circus sideshow at these events. Make sure you use language that you’re all comfortable with (‘this is our baby’s birth mother…’ or ‘this is our surrogate…’).
- Include your surrogate in any speeches or social media posts. Don’t pretend a stork brought you a baby. Acknowledge her existence and show appreciation for what she’s done for you. Again, nothing elaborate – simple and heartfelt is all she needs.
You should talk about how to mark these occasions as a team, and don’t leave it to the surrogate to raise the issue. She may not have thought about it, but I can guarantee she will feel appreciated if you make the effort to acknowledge her at these important milestones.