What to Expect When Your Gestational Surrogate is Pregnant
Even with thorough planning, expect outliers and unforeseen factors while your gestational surrogate is expecting.
Congrats! You've just found out your gestational carrier is pregnant. Finally, after years of waiting and innumerable months of planning, your dream of parenthood in starting turn into a reality. You also may find yourself in uncharted and unfamiliar prenatal territory. What should you expect if your gestational carrier is pregnant?
Spoiler and cliché alert: Expect the unexpected.
Each surrogacy partnership and pregnancy is uniquely different. There are many outliers and unforeseen factors that can take place over the course of the next 9 months. Here are few pointers on what to expect during your gestational carrier's pregnancy.
People Will Ask Questions About Surrogacy…Strange Questions
People are naturally inquisitive. As surrogacy is not all that common, the vast public may not fully understand it. This means that you will receive strange questions. Know that, accept it and anticipate them. Here is the good news—you will get really good over the next 9 months of predicting when they will be asked and how you prefer to respond.
Identify Potential Triggers
Some instances will be centered around baby preparation such as signing up for your baby registry and selecting a pediatrician. Other questions are likely to be focused on when you decided to announce that you are expecting via gestational surrogate.
Keep in mind that your family, friends, and co-workers are most likely rooting for you and will be happy to hear that you and your partner are expecting— they just might be a bit confused at first.
Consider How You'll Respond
Personally, I received an onslaught of oddball questions when we first announced that we were expecting via gestational carrier. At first, I was downright appalled by some of the questions that were asked, but quickly I realized that this was an opportunity to educate people around me on why I choose the option of surrogacy to build our family. A small sample of the really bizarre questions includes:
Did your husband have intercourse with another woman and how are you OK with that?!
Answer: *sips wine first* (A great perk of being an intended parent is that it is still an option.) Actually, my body cannot carry a pregnancy but we were able to create an embryo through in vitro fertilization (IVF). So for us to have a child we needed our wonderful gestational carrier, assisted reproductive technology to create and transfer the embryo— and a lot of money.
Will the mother have visitation rights?
Answer: The baby is biologically our child, which means we have full parental rights and I will be my future baby’s mother. Think of it as our bun that is just baking in another oven. A selfless and amazing oven, that is!
Check-ups With a Gestational Carrier
The finer details of your gestational carrier’s prenatal care is a topic that was likely worked out in the mass print of your gestational surrogacy agreement (GSA). (Check out What to Include in a Surrogacy Agreement) However, there are some non-traditional logistics to expect in regards to check-ups and her various appointments.
Meeting Medical Service Providers
It starts with meeting the people who will be overseeing your gestational carrier’s prenatal care and talking through their process of how they manage and communicate in a surrogacy pregnancy. When you do meet with the OB/GYN be aware that although they handle prenatal care routinely, surrogacy arrangements are very rare. This means that not all medical professionals will have a surrogacy policy in place. Also, because there are more people involved and invested in the care of the fetus, it can complicate things concerning communication.
Your gestational carrier will likely see many providers within the practice, and not everyone will know or remember that this is a surrogacy pregnancy. They will always default to asking your gestational carrier questions about future gestational tests, birth plans, and other various prenatal care-related questions. As an intended parent, this can be frustrating.
The best way to overcome these communication challenges is to make sure that your gestational carrier always requests that you are present during conversations that involve prenatal care (if possible) or that she simply indicates that this is a surrogacy pregnancy and the intended parents will need to provide their feedback in as it relates to fetal care decisions. As for disclosure of information, your gestational carrier will be filling out a HIPPA form that will allow you access to information regarding her care. This is both necessary and helpful to have in place for intended parents who may not be able to attend many of the appointments.
Non-Baby-Related Issues May Warrant Discretion
Discussing with your gestational carrier prior to pregnancy about her comfort level of you and/or your spouse attending prenatal appointments is key. Some intended parents want to be present and others cannot or simply prefer not to.
Yes, you should know about any matters that can impact the health of your growing baby but be sure to give your gestational carrier some space and an opportunity to discuss the nitty-gritty details of her symptoms in a private setting with the overseeing provider. Hemorrhoids, yeast infections, middle of the night leg cramps and leaky bladders are examples of the many other not-so-fun physical changes that can occur during pregnancy.
The Hospital Tour Might Be Awkward
The hospital tour can be both exciting and rather awkward for intended parents. It is likely that your gestational carrier has a preferred hospital either because it is close to her home or because she has had previous experience with it. This also means that it is likely she has sat through a few tours already and it is not necessary for her to attend. This both makes sense and also can make the scenario slightly weird.
Most tours are conducted in groups of expectant parents all who are visibly showing and waddling from room to room throughout the tour. As intended parents, you might stand out a bit and that’s OK! Explaining you are expecting via gestational carrier at the beginning of the tour will be both helpful for your guide and those awkward stares at your belly will rapidly decline.
Check-ins With Your Gestational Carrier
You’ll likely want to be in-the-know when it comes to how your gestational carrier is feeling. Big events such as when your baby kicks for the first time are obviously events that she will want to share with you along with a copious number of growing baby bump pictures. If you are like me, I wanted to be as involved as I could possibly be without being overbearing or reaching stalker status.
Follow The Pregnancy Through Books & Apps
Investing in learning about the developmental milestones as the pregnancy progresses on your own will not only help you stay engaged with the surrogacy process but you may find it will help pass time by faster too. There are many great books and pregnancy tracking apps available. They will walk you through fetal growth progression, what to expect in the various stages of the gestation and other great tidbits of information. You'll be able to help satisfy a bit of your need-to-know independently and be better prepared for check-ins with your gestational carrier.
Find the Check-In Sweet Spot
Keep in mind that pregnancy can be taxing both physically and emotionally. Aim for a balance of both your interest in the pregnancy and checking in on how she is feeling personally. Apart from being your gestational carrier, she is likely a mom, wife, friend, and daughter to the people in her life. Learning more about her and investing time in her interests will help build a stronger bond between partnerships.
A Shift in "Traditional" Pregnancy Dynamics
When someone is pregnant through traditional methods, it is a familiar experience that many can relate to. People know to expect the element of physical change with each passing trimester. Ultrasound images are often shared and celebrated to mark milestones. Family, friends, and co-workers may host a baby shower to help prepare the parents for the endless diapers and gear they’ll need once the baby arrives. Many of these facets are still in play when you are expecting through surrogacy, they are just done in a slightly different way.
Pregnancy Celebrations With Surrogacy
Ask yourself, what you would do if you were able to carry your own pregnancy? Are you and your partner the type of people who would want to go big with an announcement or would you take a more subtle approach? Would you throw a gender reveal party? Is baby shower something you would have wanted? Having a family via surrogacy doesn't need to change any of these milestones.
Who is involved? It's Your Call
Then there is the question of your gestational carrier’s involvement in all of these events. Expect a bit of needed direction from your family and friends as to how to proceed in planning and supporting you and guide them accordingly. Whether you want to have your gestational carrier’s involvement during these events or for it to be just for you and your partner, there is no right or wrong answer.
The pregnancy dynamic has shifted, but the reason for the gestational pregnancy is still the same: to build your family and become a parent. You are expecting a baby and you’ve probably have been waiting for moments like these for countless years. You can still do all of these things (or not)—it's your call.
Written by Candace Wohl | Award-Winning Blogger & Infertility Advocate
Candace Wohl is a writer, infertility advocate, speaker and mother through surrogacy. She is a co-author of the award-winning blog, Our Misconception, that has received a prestigious RESOLVE Hope Award for Best Blog, along with being recognized by Healthline as a Top Infertility Blog. Candace and her husband were also featured on MTV’s True Life, “I’m Desperate to Have a Baby,” a documentary on couples who struggle with infertility and MTV’s Check-Ups and Check-Ins. As an active volunteer for RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, she also leads a RESOLVE local support group, helping couples who are struggling with infertility and miscarriage, along with other advocacy work. She has been featured in numerous publications including Cosmopolitan magazine and Huffington Post.