Many women considering becoming a surrogate ask about how the experience is different from when they were pregnant with their own children, especially when it comes to their emotions. These are important questions to ask as you think about wanting to help others grow their families using a surrogacy agency.
Our experienced Circle Surrogacy specialists address these concerns with the compassion that comes from having gone through this experience themselves. Gestational surrogates are unique women who have a strong desire to help others who, for various reasons, are unable to have their own children.
In this blog post, we'll describe the differences you can expect as a gestational carrier compared to when you were pregnant with your own children. You'll also hear the personal experience of Jeni, who shares what was different about her surrogate pregnancy as you think about becoming a surrogate yourself.
Differences Between Personal and Surrogacy Pregnancies
What's it like carrying a baby for a couple or individual who you've only recently met? If you ask women who have been gestational carriers, the experience is one of the most rewarding accomplishments of their lives. One woman featured in a newspaper article summed it up this way:
"Something really magical happens when you watch someone hold their baby for the very first time, and you know that wouldn’t happen if not for you … It’s overwhelming."
Preparing for the differences between a personal pregnancy and a surrogate pregnancy, however, is an important part of the journey. Those differences are both physical and emotional and begin before you even become pregnant.
Planning to have your own child is something many women might think about for months or years before they actually get pregnant. It's typically something they've discussed with their partners. When someone considers becoming a surrogate, they may not even be familiar with the surrogacy process. The motivation of gestational carriers is altruistic—they want to help others have a baby. Yes, they consider the compensation involved, but rarely is that the primary factor behind their decision to become a surrogate.
Physical Differences and Similarities
One of the requirements for becoming a surrogate is that a woman has completed at least one pregnancy and birth without complications and is currently caring for the child. The in vitro process used for surrogacy is, of course, one of the most significant differences between a personal and surrogate pregnancy.
Gestational carriers have no genetic connection to the intended parents' baby. Using in vitro fertilization (IVF), a fertility clinic creates embryos that are transferred into the surrogate mother. Intended parents may use their own genetic material or use an egg donor.
Experienced surrogate, Jeni, shared this about the IVF process for surrogates:
"In the weeks leading up to the scheduled embryo transfer, my body was prepared to become pregnant thanks to the medications commonly used in IVF. I attended monitoring appointments at an IVF clinic to make sure that my body was responding properly to the various medications. A short time later, during a quick and painless procedure, the embryo transfer took place with the intended parents at my side. I continued with my medications and monitoring appointments until we were about 10 weeks pregnant, at which time I was weaned from the medication and released to my own OBGYN. The IVF process was by far the greatest physical difference that existed between my personal pregnancies and surrogate pregnancy."
After becoming pregnant, a surrogate mother experiences the same physical symptoms that occur during personal pregnancies. Intended parents may want to be part of the surrogate's medical appointments in person or via video chat to establish a stronger bond.
The Mental and Emotional Experience
As you can imagine, the emotional experience of being a surrogate mother differs significantly from the feelings a woman has as she prepares to give birth to her own child. As Jeni shares: "The most obvious way my surrogate pregnancy differed from my personal pregnancies was that although I was pregnant, I was not getting ready to become a mom. I didn’t need to scour through paint color choices for the nursery. There was no need to begin stocking up on diapers, and I didn’t have the difficult job of choosing names for the babies. I did not need to be mentally preparing for motherhood."
For Jeni, the focus became the shared pregnancy journey between the surrogate and intended parents and all of the important milestones and special moments in between: "Getting to see the babies wiggle and squirm on the ultrasound monitor was always such a joy. I had the pleasure of feeling the kicks and nudges of the babies as they grew in my belly. Most important, I had the honor of being present as two babies were born and a new family was created."
Since surrogates are not preparing for motherhood, they must instead prepare for the emotions of the delivery and "giving the baby back" to the intended parents. Circle Surrogacy supports surrogates throughout their journeys with social workers who understand the roller coaster of emotions gestational carriers experience throughout the pregnancy and in the postpartum period.
Sometimes called the "fourth trimester," postpartum is a critical time for all mothers. It's very different for surrogates because they are not caring for a child even as they recover physically and emotionally from the delivery and their surrogacy journeys. We encourage surrogates to seek support from others after the delivery even though they aren't caring for a baby.
"I found that recovering from my surrogate pregnancy was far easier than it was with the birth of my own kids," Jeni said. "This was because I could focus my time and attention on recovery rather than caring for an infant. Getting a full night’s sleep (for the first time in months) was a luxury for which I felt extremely grateful. In addition to rest and relaxation, knowing that I had just given the gift of family was the perfect recipe for recovery for me."
Your Support System
When you're pregnant with your own baby, your extended family and friends are all ready to help out in any way they can during the pregnancy. They plan baby showers and check in often to ensure you're feeling well. For surrogate mothers, your immediate family provides support along with the team at Circle Surrogacy. In addition, many surrogates form strong connections with their intended parents and even their families during the pregnancy. Because the nature of the surrogacy journey is so unique, the shared bond is one that surrogate mothers and intended parents treasure.
These connections often last long after the delivery. In fact, several international studies looking at surrogacy births 10 years later found positive feelings among parents of surrogate children, surrogate mothers, and the children themselves.
If you want to become a surrogate mother but have questions about the experience and what to expect physically and emotionally, our team at Circle Surrogacy is ready to provide the information you need to make a sound decision.
We've been matching surrogates with intended parents for more than 27 years and are among the world's leading surrogacy agencies. You can start the process by submitting an application. We look forward to hearing from you!