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?
Experienced surrogate – and Circle’s Outreach Coordinator – Sarah, shared her thoughts on going through postpartum as a surrogate.
“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,” Sarah shared in her blog. “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 blood draws and ultrasounds to check on the peanuts, no more happy reports to send to the parents. No more 20-week ultrasounds with the parents visiting, often the first time they’ve gotten to see their baby in person. 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.
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.
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.
So how do you 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.