The Organization of Parents Through Surrogacy
 




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THE SURROGACY EXPERIENCE: A HANDBOOK FOR THE HEART
by: Janetti Marotta, Ph.D.
1655 Stanford Ave
Palo, Alto CA 94306
(415)858-2908

 


Surrogacy is often the last choice in the infertility experience. When one comes to surrogacy, particularly artificial insemination (AI) surrogacy, it is usually when all else has failed. Making the decision to pursue AI surrogacy is a stretch for multiple reasons. Financially, it is the most costly option, averaging between $20,000-$50,000. If the surrogacy experience goes wrong, the emotional and financial costs can be tremendous: unlike adoption, once the pregnancy has begun, there is no turning back. It can take months to be matched, several inseminations to achieve pregnancy, and then the pregnancy. Emotionally, surrogacy requires full-heartedly embracing the reality that pregnancy cannot be achieved or maintained through natural conception or through the various artificial reproductive techniques. Furthermore, surrogacy demands our acceptance of having no control in this aspect of life, and placing yourself into the arms of humanity and into the womb of another woman.

When a surrogate has been found, through an agency or through friendship or family, there is an overwhelming excitement and a simultaneous anxiety. "I can't believe she will have a baby for us!" "Do you really believe she'll come through for us?' The task is to stay on the side of trust and keep fear at bay. Be critical-minded, but not critical. Work toward earned trust, not blind trust. Hold on to your own personal power, but relinquish "holding the power."

Most importantly, when meeting with your surrogate be honest to your most real self. This forms the foundation for the entire experience. It is crucial to state who you are and how you relate to life, how close a relationship you desire with your surrogate, and how you would meet some possible challenges, e.g. genetic defects, or multiple pregnancies. Surrogacy is a powerfully intimate experience, and if not based upon honesty from the beginning, can result in difficulty, or disaster. However, if approached with love and trust, surrogacy can become a wonderful experience, filled with lessons "beyond imagination".

When the inseminations begin, the first test commences. Years have been spent attempting to achieve pregnancy. Now, you are left out of the physical process. Now it is your husband and the "other woman" who are attempting to create a baby. The inseminations are timed with your surrogate's cycles, not yours, and your spouse responds to her biology. The surrogate can be seen as the central figure, while you are the "fifth wheel". However, if a connection can be maintained to the humanitarian gesture underlying this experience, to the fact that this woman is giving, not taking, ..the passage can widen to an expansive vista. Here, you are challenged to push through feelings of disconnection and leap into emotional involvement through engagement with the process. The surrogate becomes not the "other woman," but the "woman who is having a baby for us." By transcending attachment on the physical level, you can find freedom to respond on the emotional and the spiritual level.

The announcement of a positive pregnancy test comes as the sweetest of music. A tremendous burden of infertility, endless failure, is lifted. The vision of a baby emerges from the dark. But with a next dawn there may return familiar fears. The question, "Why should this time be any different?," can take hold. As the surrogate encounters the physical effects of the pregnancy and "shows," the contrast between the two of you is poignantly obvious. While the baby's kicks may cause discomfort, both physical and psychological, for the surrogate, you long to feel the presence of life within you. You would welcome the nausea, the aches and pains. It becomes easy, once again, to feel left out and powerless.

What surrogacy continually demands is a commitment to being "in this together." Yet, it's all too easy to feel on opposite sides. Here, again, are the lessons. There's a constant pull towards misunderstanding how the surrogate feels, because it's not how you would feel. Surrogacy offers us endless opportunities to let go of our own limited vantage point. From a neutral vantage point, feelings can be viewed as just "different." Expansion unfolds as the other's thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are interpreted from their own perspective, not ours. Shopping for maternity clothes together can capture the spirit behind this venture. By letting go of feelings of loss, jealousy, etc., and embracing the space you are both in as different and complimentary, orienting around this common purpose can realize the vision.

The birth is the vortex of the surrogacy experience. This is where all the energy from staying connected can explode in an expression of love. Where could there be more loving than that experienced in the culmination of a naturally conceived pregnancy, well, here, perhaps. At the same time, this vortex can lead again to deep and painful misinterpretations. The time of labor is tenuous. Boundary issues can again emerge. Any birth is fraught with physical risks and pain. With the fact of pain, the surrogate may be pulled into taking care of herself and not be able to think about you or anyone else. This is a time when you can again easily feel shut out, deprived, and suspicious. Every effort must be made to let go of the need to be "in control." This may be difficult because you are already filled with tender concern for the baby that is now so close. When the physical pain subsides for the surrogate, your psychological pain will also subside. Now you can re-group, re-center on the vision of being "in this together," for you still are. Here also is where the spiritual dimension of the experience may be keenly felt. This is not solely her child, or your child, but truly a "child of the universe." Ownership, attachment, pride of pedigree, are eroded in the face of pure and universal love. Who holds the baby first? Who cares?

There comes an inevitable moment when the couple wants to spend private time with the baby. During this time of physical disconnection, promoted by separation from the couple and separation from the baby, the surrogate may feel lonely, neglected and unimportant. There may also be an experience of power lost. The baby is with the couple, and her central role is now over. The couple holds the reward, while the surrogate's arms may be empty. This experience can resonate with what may be the number one fear of surrogates, themselves - the fear of being used and expendable. At the same time, if the baby spends time alone with the surrogate, the couple can tap into that all too familiar feeling of waiting with trepidation. Anxieties about the future can take hold. The couple can fear losing the intimate bonding experience crucial from the beginning. Such fears can resonate with what may be the couple's number one fear - that the child could be taken away.

Again, patience on the couple's part is called for. While there is an urge to bask in the celebration of parenthood, the call is to bring the surrogate into this embrace as a co-parent, and to remain in the territory of love that has nurtured this effort.

Prior to the birth, a decision (perhaps implicit) was made regarding how close the relationships would remain among surrogate, couple, child. Now that the baby is born, that agreement is realized. Because AI surrogacy involves a step-mother adoption which may take months to complete, the underlying fear of the child being taken away can accrue energy. Even though surrogates seek and obtain some level of custody in only 1% of cases, emotions can often outweigh probability estimates. That fear is often reinforced by the public, who, because of the media, mistrusts surrogacy. As well, friends and family may reinforce separation as a confirmation of ownership, of "safety."

What can become magical is the emergence of a new kind of family. This family cradles the baby at the center of concentric and overlapping circles, the couple, the surrogate, both nuclear families, the full compliment of grandparents, and even three circles of friends. This is family constructed out of wanting "what's best for the child." Because of the shared victory over adversity, this circle radiates with an intense love. This "expansive family" may be another perhaps unexpected reward. Here is where feeling "different" can be felt as feeling "special" for all concerned.

There has been repeated practice over the months of the surrogacy experience in using connection as the critical vehicle to promote expansiveness. This surrogacy adventure gives birth to a new little being who has emerged from the contractions and expansions of each individuals' connection to themselves, each other, and to the natural flow of the universe.


 

2007 OPTS - The Organization of Parents Through Surrogacy