A big difference between a surrogacy pregnancy and a traditional pregnancy is that while you’re pregnant as a surrogate, you’re not preparing for a baby. You’re not prepping a nursery, thinking of baby names, or preparing your children for the arrival of a sibling.
But what about once that baby is born? What is the postpartum experience like?
Postpartum feelings as a surrogate
Three-time surrogate, Sarah (who is also a rockstar on Circle’s surrogate team!) shares her postpartum experiences:
“I have been a surrogate three times. Aside from being a wife and mother to my two children, surrogacy has been my life for a long time. This last journey was very hard on me physically, but it was also hard on me mentally. What made this pregnancy hard for me mentally was that I knew this was going to be my last journey.”
The end of a journey for a surrogate can be difficult both physically and mentally. Physically, your body is preparing for birth, and you don’t know that’s going to be like until you’re in the delivery room. Mentally, you need to prepare for life after you have the baby for your intended parents.
Sarah remembers feeling a little lost and empty. “Just like that, I was done. Something that had been a serious part of my life for the last 6 ½ years was just over. No more excitement over getting an Intended Parent’s profile. No more medical screening trips, or transfer trips, or time spent meeting the parents and getting to know them. No more huge anticipation of the big day, where these parents who have tried, longed and cried thinking this day would never come. And just like in what seems like the snap of two fingers, it’s just over.”
And when it’s over, surrogates can be left feeling…empty. Sad. Exhausted.
But do those feelings outweigh the feeling of pride over what you just accomplished?
Not at all!
A surrogate pregnancy often comes with a little more attention than a personal pregnancy. From the beginning, you will have a team supporting you, asking you questions, and arranging your appointments. Many people are looking after you and are concerned about your wellbeing. You’ll have many more appointments with doctors, especially in the first trimester. You’ll likely be in contact with the intended parents, giving them updates and sharing how you’re feeling. What you accepted as the “norm” with your own pregnancy (weird sleep habits, baby kicks, and even food affinities), you’ll be asked about by parents who are anxious to hear every detail of your day and the baby.
And then just like that, one day it is over. One day you’re pregnant, and the next you’re not.
The difference? You aren’t bringing a baby home to “show” for your pregnancy. That can take a little bit of getting used to.
Sarah said, “The weeks following my delivery, I still looked pregnant. But I’m not carrying a car seat to explain the way I look. I go to the grocery store or coffee shop, or my children’s after school activities and wonder if anyone knows that I just delivered a baby. I’m buying extra-long pads because I’m recovering from pushing a baby out! My breasts are rock hard because my body knows it just had a baby and thinks it needs to provide nourishment. I’m walking more slowly. I’m tiring more easily. And yet, I know I’m going to be ok.”
The feelings of postpartum are mixed with the emotions of having just given the biggest gift possible to someone else. You saw the pure joy on their faces the first time they laid eyes on their baby, the baby they never thought they’d have or hold.
What is delivery like for a surrogate?
Does not bringing home the baby make it any less life-changing? Our surrogates tell us that it’s equally as life-changing, but just in a different way.
Seeing the intended fathers hold their baby girl for the first time. I’m grateful I got to experience my delivery with them there. – Andrea, Circle Surrogate
The best part of my delivery was by far watching the excitement of my IPs, the looks on their faces as they waited, as patiently as they possibly could. They were beyond thrilled to finally meet their little girl and do skin to skin and feel her warmth and movements for the first time was such a fun moment to watch. Seeing them pace back and forth with anticipation of her birth reminded me of delivering my oldest son and all the emotions that go along with that unknown first moment you meet. Seeing them in that moment made all the difficult parts of surrogacy disappear and remind me exactly why I wanted to do it in the first place. – Tenley, Circle Surrogate
The best part of my delivery experience was of course the moment that baby girl was born. The doctor laid her on my stomach to clean her off, IM came over next to me and we held hands while we both looked and touched baby girls soft silky skin. IF got to cut baby’s umbilical cord and then they gave her to IM to do skin to skin. It was amazing to watch their whole world change and know I had a huge part in that. Right before they left to go to their separate room with baby, IM came and gave me a big hug and thanked me, of course, there were tears from us both. Then IF came and gave me a huge hug as well, he could hardly speak but did manage to say “thank you” as well and in that moment the entire room was in tears. – Whitney, Circle Surrogate
How surrogates get through the postpartum phase
“How do you go from having such an impact on people’s lives and doing something so great and fulfilling and rewarding to just being done?” this was what Sarah found the hardest. “It was a struggle, and I’m sure the postpartum hormones didn’t help! One minute I wanted to cry for no reason at all, and the other, I’m so happy and grateful for my life and the people I have in it, including the parents of the babies I have carried.”
Your body will heal, you will lose the baby weight (you can exercise without having to worry about taking care of a newborn!), the swelling will go down, and eventually, you will no longer look pregnant.
Our surrogates have shared that they are often asked about how they deal with delivering a baby and then leaving the hospital “empty-handed.” But they feel quite the opposite!
“I’m so excited to go home and get a good night’s sleep!” one surrogate shared. “There’s not a newborn keeping you up all night!”
Another surrogate was excited for time with her family. “I could go home and focus on my husband and my children, without having a newborn to care for.”
A surrogacy journey affects you physically and emotionally. Just as you’ll allow yourself to heal physically, you have to allow yourself to recover mentally as well. Take good care of yourself, allow yourself to “feel,” and remember the great gift you just gave to deserving parents.