EXPERIENCE: A HANDBOOK FOR THE HEART
by: Janetti Marotta, Ph.D.
1655 Stanford Ave
Palo, Alto CA 94306
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
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
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.