Over the course of your surrogacy, you will be challenged. There will be times when not everyone is on the same page. and that’s OK! (And also very normal.) The not-so-secret to a successful surrogacy partnership is to understand what is needed to establish a healthy surrogacy relationship with your gestational carrier. Here are 14 tips to help you proactively build a solid relationship.

1. Be Transparent With Your Expectations

Establish expectations of one another on the front end. Prior to entering into your gestational surrogacy agreement (GSA), think about the specific wants and needs that you envision within the surrogacy. The same goes for asking your gestational carrier what her expectations may be. Some of these topics are discussed during the psychological evaluation and other more finite details are usually mapped out within the lines of your surrogacy agreement. Either way, a bit of transparency in the expectations of the surrogacy will certainly help circumvent uncomfortable conversations later on throughout the surrogacy pregnancy.

2. Get to Know your Gestational Carrier

Getting to know someone is not just about remembering their birthday or that they prefer Almond Joy to Mounds bars. Invest in learning about who she is as a person, as a mother, and as a friend. If she is amenable to you and your partner meeting her family, then get to know her kids and the people who support her. Who knows, you may even pick up on a few parent tips in the process! Don’t forget her spouse or partner. When the doors close (and the hormones set in), your gestational carrier’s partner is playing their part in supporting the surrogacy. Remember them and acknowledge all that they are doing both directly and indirectly to support the success of the surrogacy.

Read: What to Expect When Your Gestational Surrogate is Pregnant

3. The ART of Communication

Communication is not just about being able to easily talk to someone. It is about investing into the relationship with transparency and openness. Go ahead and anticipate some really heavy conversations. Although most of these conversations will be worked out within the terms of your GSA, you may still find that there will be more to talk through. Most of these are likely to involve those “what-if” scenarios such as birth complications, additional testing, and details involving travel or birth plans. It can be a number of things! Talk and listen, then decide together on the best way to navigate your surrogacy together. You know, the whole “stronger together” mindset.

4. Find out What Method of Communication Works for Everyone.

Everyone is uniquely different in their preferred methods of communication. In a surrogacy partnership, you will have a lot to discuss on a regular basis regarding appointments, medical expenses, baby kick updates and so on. It is good to talk through what works for everyone. Sometimes a quick text is great, while others may not embrace texting. Maybe a shared Google Doc is great for tracking the ongoing running tab of medical expenses. Some people may prefer a good old fashion phone call. Just try to stay away from “Tweeting it out” type of communications. Trust us on this one, folks. Best to keep those conversations private versus blasting the more private details of your surrogacy out to the vast abyss of social media.

Pro-tip: no one likes a stalker.

5. How Often is Often Enough?

Pro-tip: no one likes a stalker. Maybe you want to be an all-in intended parent (IP). That is great. However, make sure you give your gestational carrier a bit of space and time to reply. During your surrogacy, she will be living her life and managing her own family’s events and day to day happenings. She also likely has kids of her own and will be active in their lives. Most gestational carriers fully understand the importance of keeping their IPs informed. On the other side of the spectrum, if you do not want to constantly be in the know of every detail within the surrogacy, you may still want to simply check in with her on a regular basis to let her know that you are engaged and are concerned. Wherever you fall in this spectrum, a good practice is to have a discussion on the frequency of contact. This may sound silly, but talk about how often each party would like to hear from each other.

6. Be Proactive on Setting Communication Boundaries

Setting communication boundaries is key to fostering a healthy relationship with your gestational carrier. This one is simple. Anytime your phone rings before your alarm goes off (with the exception of your gestational carrier going into labor!), it is usually not the best time to receive a call. The same goes for texting etiquette. Middle of the night texts asking how many times the baby moved that day will probably warrant an angry face emoji at best. It all begins with being respectful of the other person’s personal time. You want to know that when anyone involved in the surrogacy receives a call, text, or knock at the door in the middle of the night, it is for something that is incredibly important and not something that can simply wait till the following day to respond to.

Read: What to Include in a Surrogacy Agreement

7. Consider Involvement Boundaries

Ask yourself and your partner, how involved you like would to be in the surrogacy? Then ask your gestational carrier how much of that involvement is she comfortable with? Your gestational carrier is putting herself through a lot of physical change. There will probably moments where she will like to have some privacy with her care provider without an IP present. This is where maintaining a balance of privacy and concern come into play. She also may or may not be comfortable with someone present during certain appointments and even labor and delivery. This is also something to discuss and have a clear understanding of so that you can navigate these situations with both respect and understood expectations.

8. Practice Trust Falls

Trust is key in all relationships in life. Whether at work, with family, in relationships, and not surprising, with your gestational carrier. It is vital to the success of your surrogacy and fostering a healthy relationship to have a mutual trust and understanding. You are in this together with the absolute common goal of you, the IP, bringing home a healthy baby in the end. Remember, your gestational carrier has experienced pregnancy before and she has a good idea of what to expect and how her own body will respond. You have entrusted her with the ultimate responsibility of carrying your child to birth, so be sure to practice patience with that same trust throughout the surrogacy.

9. Work as a Team and Have a Unified Plan

Unexpected things can and will occur throughout the span of your surrogacy. By deciding to work together as a team to tackle the unexpected, you’ll find things will go much more smoothly versus trying to troubleshoot it alone. Talk through the different scenarios and trust each other’s input. Showing someone that you value their feedback can go a long way in nurturing a relationship.

Empathy is the fundamental cornerstone of the foundation of your surrogacy.

10. Empathy is Free, Yet Priceless

Lean in here. Empathy is the fundamental cornerstone of the foundation of your surrogacy. Pregnancy symptoms are not easy on any woman. Her body changes rapidly and it can also take an emotional toll on her. She’ll need a support system of her own to navigate this but more importantly, she will need the support of her IPs, uh hem, you.

11. Understand and Support Each Other’s Challenges

IPs who enter into a surrogacy probably did not think that they would be building their family this way. There is a set of grief that comes with not being able to carry your own pregnancy as well as navigating the complicated feelings that can occur as a result. Your gestational carrier will also have her own set of struggles to contend with. Feelings can certainly complicate things, but try not to let it steal the joy and incredible act that is a surrogacy. Support each other through whatever challenges you may come into together.

12. Relationship Pulse Check by Trimester

Consider a relationship pulse check each trimester. Take a moment to check the temperature of the relationship and recognize when something may not be right. If you find that there is tension or you enter into a disagreement, it may be a good time to take a step back and seek a counselor together. Some GSAs actually have counseling sessions per trimester built-in to their agreements. Even without tension, check-ins are also great for self-care, which is something everyone should practice.

Read: Understanding the Legal Side of Surrogacy: 5 Steps

13. Prenatal Care and Birth Plans

Having given birth prior, it is likely that your gestational carrier has a preference for who she would like to have to oversee her prenatal care, the hospital she would like to deliver, and the birth plan. In some cases, this is glazed over when entering into the GSA and then when the time arises to discuss the care and birth plan details the IPs and the gestational carrier may not be on the same page. Talk about this early on in your surrogacy. You certainly do not want to hit any communication barriers. Here’s the thing, your gestational carrier has done this before and it is not her first rodeo. She can be a great asset in helping you navigate what to expect during the surrogacy pregnancy. As for those unexpected events that may occur, for example, emergency cesareans or other unforeseen pregnancy complications, talk through the what-if scenarios and devise a prenatal and birth plan together.

14. Agree on Post-Birth Communication

This can be a tough area for many surrogacy partnerships. What happens after your baby is born? It all boils down to the individuals and the relationship that has developed throughout the surrogacy. All gestational carriers enter into a surrogacy knowing that their role is to nurture and grow the fetus until the moment of labor and delivery. They know that the baby that they are carrying is not their own. However, there is a deep care and relationship that develops. Not just for the baby she is carrying, but for you and your partner. Talk about how or if, you want to continue that relationship post-birth. Knowing what to expect in regards to post-birth communication and continued relationships will often strength your surrogacy partnership.

Deciding to proactively take steps to foster a healthy relationship with your gestational carrier will be worth the effort and it isn't tricky to do. There are clear trends here: good communication, clear expectations, trust, and most of all, empathy.