“Coucou,” my Belgium IPs and I would say to each other.
The house was calm. I remember no fussing to clean the dishes, mop the floors, or make beds, and my husband relaxing on his favorite couch snuggling up with our kiddo on that cool November Sunday morning. So why did I feel anxious, excited, and maybe disappointed at the same time? It was a feeling of hope— could they have flown all the way from Belgium to surprise me?
I was fairly easygoing about the surrogacy process. I did not have a specific preference for race, marital status, or location of my intended parents (IPs). I simply wanted to give the greatest gift. When asked how I felt about working with IPs from Belgium, I welcomed the opportunity— and to be honest, for selfish reasons. I assumed the farther they were, the less needy and nosey they would be. I say this because as a pregnant woman, often uncomfortable and moody, the last thing we need is to feel as though we are being smothered. To my surprise, I had one of the greatest international surrogacy experiences of a lifetime. I often communicated with my new family daily and Skyped once or sometimes twice a week. We send silly text messages, pictures of our families, inside jokes, and simply “coucou” to let each other know we are thinking of them.
Working with a family of different culture, background, and lifestyle has been a fulfilling reward for my entire family. With mutual respect of one another’s needs and acceptance of each other’s personalities and characteristics, we have found balance in our relationship.
Circle Surrogacy does a great job of setting up initial expectations for visits. It is recommended that IPs travel for the transfer, the 20-week ultrasound, and the delivery. It is up to the surrogate and her IPs to take full advantage of those visits. To either keep them light and casual or allow a natural growth and bonding process to take place.
It was important for me that this process be a “whole” family experience. That meant my children and husband being present every step of the way. They were there for the first Skype call, and we all traveled together for the transfer and first in-person meeting. I believe that our IPs admired the interaction between me and my family. That seeing us together with our children gave them a sense of peace about me carrying their precious baby and also an excitement that this would be them one day! From that moment, our relationship blossomed and our lives changed.
We left each other after the transfer with a tight bond, and with a beautiful beginning to an incredible story. We chose to continue growing our relationship through Skype calls and emails. While they were not frequent, it was just enough to build some excitement for our upcoming 20-week visit. We chose to welcome our IPs into our home, and they eagerly accepted. They stayed with us for 10 days. It was a great opportunity to learn more about each other, build trust and lasting memories. Although we come from different sides of the world and barely understand each other’s language, we discovered very quickly how much of the same we truly are.
It has also been a blessing to watch my children grow outside of their comfort zones and learn about different cultures and ways of life. We teach our IPs English, and they teach us French. My oldest daughter is picking it up quickly and is planning to spend a semester studying abroad her junior year of high school. She will be staying with our IPs (now family) learning about the fashion-merchandising world, being a business owner, and, of course, more about the European culture. This is just one of the incredible life experiences that has flourished from our international relationship.
Working with international IPs is going to be what you make it, what you want from it, and what you put into it. We have never had a problem communicating or being involved in each other’s lives because we let our walls down and chose to express our needs and desires from the relationship. The outcome has been priceless.
One Sunday night in November, a scheduled Skype call turned into a surprise visit from Belgium. 3 1/2 months after baby Charlie was born, my IPs felt that our time was cut too short after the delivery and worked with my husband in secret to quickly return to the US to spend more time with me and my family. I could go on-and-on expressing the amazement of this gesture. But to say someone loved me enough to fly across the world to be with me might only touch the surface of what this relationship has actually become.
Working with an international family was gifted to me. I did not choose them. However, knowing what I know now, I would make sure to request international intended parents. This has been an inconceivable journey still being traveled!