Beginning a surrogacy journey is a profound decision filled with hopes, dreams, and a myriad of emotions. It’s a collaborative venture that requires a harmonious relationship between the intended parents and the surrogate to ensure a smooth and positive experience. The essence of this relationship is built on trust, understanding, and open communication.
Lisa Schuman, a seasoned therapist with nearly three decades of experience in reproductive medicine, sheds light on this topic in a recent discussion with Fairfax Surrogacy. Having worked with numerous clinics and testified before the state Senate Judiciary Committee to legalize surrogacy in New York, Lisa brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. Her personal experience, including fertility challenges and a tumultuous surrogacy experience, further enriches her insights.
In this post, we share Lisa’s practical advice on how intended parents and surrogates can develop a well-nurtured relationship, which is pivotal for a smooth surrogacy journey.
Scheduling a weekly touch base is a must
The relationship between intended parents and their surrogate often starts on a high note, fueled by mutual appreciation and the shared joy of the exciting endeavor they are about to undertake. However, the initial excitement can gradually give way to a period of quiet during the mid-pregnancy phase, potentially leading to feelings of distance or objectification if not navigated thoughtfully.
“One of the things I think is really important to do is to establish a weekly Zoom call with your surrogate,” Lisa says, “Even if it feels a little bit forced.” This scheduled virtual face-to-face interaction is a reliable and consistent way to build a rapport, talk about the surrogacy process, and share life’s mundane yet bonding anecdotes.
“It’s a way to be able to stay in touch with each other in a very personal way so that by the time you get to the middle of the pregnancy, you guys will have this build-up of a relationship. You’ll start to develop this foundation that you can fall back on no matter what. If you have difficulties, if you have problems, and even if you don’t, it will just bring you closer,” she shares.
“If you see somebody face to face over and over again, your body starts to recognize that person as somebody who’s safe, somebody who you feel comfortable with, somebody who can bond with. So without realizing it, you’re starting to create a bond with this person.” – Lisa Schuman, LCSW
Navigating the delicate discussions
Any surrogacy journey could include an infinite number of scenarios, some of which may be uncomfortable yet crucial to address. Among these, the topics of medical testing and termination stand out as particularly sensitive yet important discussions to have. Lisa shares that while the surrogacy contract will cover a broad range of scenarios, it’s impossible to anticipate every potential issue that might arise. The unpredictable nature of life and the inherent gray areas in medical prognoses make these discussions both challenging and essential.
“How will you know that you and your surrogate and your partners are going to be on the same page about every single issue that could ever be and every gray area? It’s not possible,” Lisa says.
The primary concern here revolves around whose decision it will be should a medical issue arise concerning either the surrogate or the fetus. Lisa suggests a pragmatic approach: categorizing these issues into two distinct buckets. If a problem arises concerning the surrogate’s health, it should be the surrogate (and her partner, if applicable) who makes the necessary decisions. If the issue pertains to the fetus or embryo, the intended parents, who will be parenting the child, should have the final say.
Lisa stresses the importance of involving a mental health provider in these discussions to help ensure a thorough understanding and agreement among all parties involved. “I think it’s really important to sort out with your mental health professional this particular issue,” she says.
This professional involvement can provide a supportive foundation for navigating the complex emotions and decisions that may arise, fostering a well-prepared and well-understood approach to these sensitive topics.
Maintaining the connection beyond delivery
The surrogacy journey ends in a moment of profound joy and emotion – the birth of your child. This event is monumental not only for the intended parents but also for the surrogate who has nurtured this life into existence. The bond that develops through the months of anticipation and shared experiences is unique and deeply emotional. However, as the intended parents transition into their new role, the whirlwind of parenthood, often called the “baby fog,” can momentarily overshadow the established connection with the surrogate.
Lisa emphasized the importance of acknowledging this transition and the emotions that accompany it for both parties. Having played a pivotal role in this life-altering journey, the surrogate might feel a sudden void as the regular interactions leading up to the delivery suddenly cease. On the other hand, the intended parents, now enveloped in the joys and challenges of caring for a newborn, might inadvertently delay reaching out to the surrogate.
To navigate this delicate phase, Lisa suggests a simple yet thoughtful approach: scheduling a reminder to check in with the surrogate post-delivery. This small act ensures that the bond with the surrogate remains acknowledged and informed amidst the new-parent haze. “Put a reminder on your phone so that you know that you can send a picture to your surrogate, let her know how you guys are doing at home, you know, just touch base with her,” Lisa says.
Chronicling the journey as a bridge of communication
Surrogacy intertwines lives in a unique way. Lisa developed a remarkable tool, My Lifebook, to chronicle this extraordinary journey from its inception to the joyous conclusion – the birth of a child. Unlike typical memory books that capture birthdays and other milestones, My Lifebook documents how the child came into being, including the shared endeavor of intended parents, surrogates, and possibly donors.
My Lifebook serves as a tangible narrative, illustrating the collective effort and love that surrounded the child’s entry into the world. It provides a way for intended parents to share their story, their hopes, and the significant milestones along the surrogacy path. It’s a space to acknowledge the surrogate’s role, perhaps through a family tree representation, placing everyone who contributed to the child’s life in a visual, understandable format. Lisa shares, “It really helps them have a good sense of how they came into the world. You know, some people grow in their mommy’s tummies, and some people grow in other people’s tummies, and they need to kind of understand that.”
For more information
Building a successful relationship with your surrogate is a blend of open communication, understanding, and empathy. It’s about navigating the medical, legal, and emotional landscapes together, forming a unique bond that’s cherished forever.
Whether you are considering surrogacy or are already on this path, know that you’re not alone, and there are resources like The Center for Family Building and Fairfax surrogacy to guide and support you.
For more information and guidance on embarking on your surrogacy journey, feel free to contact Fairfax Surrogacy to schedule a no-cost consultation today!
About Lisa Schuman:
Lisa Schuman, LCSW, is a seasoned family-building expert with nearly three decades of experience in reproductive medicine and family building. As the founding director of The Center for Family Building, Lisa has dedicated her career to providing support, education, and counseling to individuals and families navigating the complex world of fertility. With a Master’s degree in Social Work from Yale University, Lisa’s extensive knowledge and compassionate approach have made her a sought-after expert in her field. She has worked with numerous fertility clinics, testified before the state Senate Judiciary Committee to legalize surrogacy in New York, and has been recognized with several awards for her outstanding contribution to the field. Lisa’s personal journey through fertility challenges enriches her professional insights, making her a profoundly empathetic counselor. Through her practice, Lisa aims to empower individuals and couples with the knowledge and support they need to build their families successfully.