I liked this. I related to a lot of what was being said. So I figured what the heck, lets post it on my site! Here you go, something to pass the time!
Life After a Surrogate Birth
You’ve just delivered a surrogate baby, what are you going to do? If you answered you’re going to Disneyland, perhaps you should postpone that a month or so. Chances are you’re going into that amusement park thrill ride all its own: post partum mood swings.
I’ve read many surrogate birth stories over the past two years, and they’re all wonderful to read. But some have stuck out for their honesty in dealing with the emotional aspects of the time after the birth. And those that have shared a common theme: it’s not all happy all the time.
I think this is an important message to get out there to those in the world of surrogacy who haven’t been through a birth yet: either as a surrogate or as an intended parent (IP). Many birth stories I read (by surrogates; I’ve read a few by the new parents themselves, but not as frequently. Hard as it is to believe, it seems they have something else to concentrate on ;)) would describe the amazing moment when the child was born and handed to the IPs, and how seeing how happy that made them made the surrogate feel an amazing surge of peace and pride for doing this amazing thing. Very few of these birth stories mentioned the down time that follows for MANY surrogates.
It seems in part to avoid scaring others, and in part to avoid having others think they are “regretting their decision” or “want to keep the baby,” many surrogates don’t mention or downplay the sadness they experience after the delivery. And while I’m sure there are some surrogates out there who never have a single pang of sadness, that would seem to be a highly unlikely scenario. Though not for the reasons many outsiders initially assume.
In today’s society, if you mention surrogacy, people often still think instantly of Mary Beth Whitehead (15 years later!). One of the main questions surrogates are asked is “how can you be sure you can give up the baby?” That is what everyone focuses on. And many surrogates report feeling totally “watched” in the days and weeks following delivery, as those around them – especially those who were skeptical about the whole surrogacy thing to begin with – wait for them to fall apart and realize they made a huge mistake and they want that baby back. They feel the only way to avoid having to explain and justify any sadness is to deny any has occurred.
But would it not be normal to be sad at the end of a surrogacy? I equate it to being involved in a play: for weeks or months you rehearse, you submerge yourself in a role, as the time for opening night nears your life tends to become more and more focused on this event, and then you have that wonderful shining moment on the stage, everything goes off wonderfully, the audience loves it, you couldn’t have been better. And. Then. It’s. Over. With a surrogacy, you’ve dedicated at the very least nearly a year to helping someone else be a parent when the delivery comes. And with very few exceptions, I’ve always heard the moment of seeing the IPs with their new child as being the highest high a surrogate can experience. But after that, where is there to go but down?Add that to the totally normal hormonal mood fluctuations following any birth and you have a woman ready to cry.
Those who’ve described the downtime most vividly often talk of feeling totally elated one moment and devastated shortly after because their part in this is done. It’s not the baby they miss – that is something everyone is emphatic about because of common perception – it’s either the surrogacy itself or the IPs or the “specialness” of being pregnant, or simply the hormones going for a joy ride. And it’s completely normal, if not often discussed.
I think it’s important that surrogates know this so that when the time comes, they know they’re not the only surrogate who’s ever cried when the baby left the hospital, or when they said goodbye to their IPs, or alone at night afraid to let anyone see them.
I also think it’s essential for IPs to be aware of this, because as almost any parent can tell you, it’s very easy to become totally myopic when you bring home that child for the first time. Besides the rigors of adjusting to an infant’s schedule, the whole process of adjusting to being a family leaves little energy or attention to other details. For IPs who’ve been trying to years to have a child then turn to surrogacy – or even just those who came to surrogacy initially as a way to conceive – the end of the surrogacy is not an end at all, but merely the beginning of their dreams.
(disclaimer, the following doesn’t apply to me as my IF is worlds most empathetic, but I thought it was good info for my Google readers)
As natural as that is, the IPs should remember this is the end of the surrogate’s role and dream. As easy as it is to get swept away in the day-to-day minute-to-minute minutiae of new parenthood, it is important to remember the person who brought you to this point of obsession! Many IPs speak of wanting to make a “clean break” and simply be a new family, and worry that keeping the surrogate involved in their lives will be more difficult for everyone. (Of course, the amount of contact after the birth one desires differs greatly from case to case – and is something everyone should discuss early and often.) But of the surrogates I know who had the easiest return to being “a woman who once was a surrogate” versus being “a former surrogate who wonders exactly how XXX is doing” were those who had some input from the IPs as they made the adjustment to being a family, who were allowed some time to say goodbye to the baby they carried in the hospital (often in private – something that scares a lot of IPs, unfortunately), and who felt appreciated for their role in making their IPs family a reality. It’s this bit of extra hand-holding that actually often turns out to be a big source of closure……………………………
I’ve played out the end of this surrogacy journey over and over in my head. I planned and prepared very early on to be sad when it was done, and got ripped a new one on a certain surrogacy “support” site for stating that expectation out loud. How dare I? It seemed that the upset was not over that I would be sad, but that I was saying out loud that I expected it. I expect to be sad. There, I said it. I expect to miss being pregnant, miss caring for the baby, miss bein that “important person” to someone else. Selfish? Yes. And I expect to miss it. I never had PPD with my childrens’ pregnancies, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I got a touch of it with this one. And you know what? That’s OK. It’s all part of the journey.
For me ( and only me; disclaimer disclaimer, etc) I would have to be a really unfeeling and shallow person to be able to just hand those new parents their new baby and go on with my life as if nothing had happened. Also, I fully intend to “bond” with these babies ( to an extent). They will know they are loved from the very first moment they are able to feel it. That safe secure feeling of comfort. Why? Because I love them. I can’t emotionally detach myself from these babies, and I really feel like it would be doing them a huge disservice to attempt to do so. They should feel safe, loved, while they are with me. I owe them that. And while the love I feel for them isn’t the same as the love I feel for my children, it is still there. I can’t turn it off. It is the same love I feel for my friends’ children, for my nieces and nephews. It isn’t “this has to be mine” love, but rather “I love that this is yours” love. Does that make even a little bit of sense?
This does NOT mean that I will regret handing them to daddy. On the contrary, handing them to Daddy is the reason I’m doing this! This does NOT mean that I require to be this constant involved person in their lives ( as if that were even possible). It means that I carried them. That I love them. That they changed my life forever and I will never forget them. And when we part for the first time ever, I expect to be sad. Not regretful, but sad.
Is it wrong to expect that? I feel almost safe expecting up front for things to be less then “sunshine and rainbows” for those first few weeks. It can’t sneak up on me and catch me with my guard down. That it would be naive to think anything otherwise. But I’ve had so many “you’ll regret this” and “you’re making a mistake, we know you too well” ( insert my derisive snort here) barbs tossed at me that i almost feel like I’ll have to hide my sadness; Sadness that is normal! And healthy! And expected! I just hope with the time comes that I’m wrong about that assumption; that I’m “allowed” to feel sad without any judgment following.
What do you think?