My biological baby girls were born five weeks apart. Clearly, I have a unique story. Following three long years of failed infertility treatment, I was told that I would never become pregnant. Surrogacy was the recommended path for me and my husband to see our frozen embryos develop to a live birth. Once we were matched with the most amazing surrogate, we were shocked to learn that I had also become pregnant. Our surrogate and I carried my baby girls at the same time and we welcomed our “twinblings” into the world in spring 2016.
I naturally had a lot of fears and anxiety about surrogacy before I ventured down the path. I worried about a delay in bonding with the baby at birth; I fretted about the pregnancy experience as a “stranger” carried my child; I had concerns about how friends and family would react to the situation. Being pregnant at the same time as my surrogate put me in the unique situation of comparing a “normal” pregnancy with a surrogate pregnancy side-by-side. For those considering the surrogacy path, I can hopefully ease a lot of your anxiety as I compare my experiences with both types of pregnancies.
I’ll start by saying that I feel absolutely no difference today in love or closeness to the baby that I carried and the baby that our surrogate carried. Throughout the pregnancies, I really worried that I would struggle to bond with the baby that our surrogate was carrying in the same way that I bonded with the baby that I was carrying.
During the pregnancies, I will admit that there was more of a connection to the baby that I carried. I felt her kick regularly, I laughed when I felt her hiccups, and I assumed that she heard and learned my voice while I carried her. With our surrogate living five states away, we only saw her once during the pregnancy and so we didn’t connect in the same way with that baby during the pregnancy. I never once felt that baby kick, and the baby heard our surrogate’s voice much more than mine or my husband’s. We saw the baby at the 20-week ultrasound and felt amazed and awed by her existence, but on a day-to-day basis I have to admit that I felt closer to the baby that I carried.
It may surprise you, however, that I actually bonded more quickly and easily with the baby born via our surrogate immediately after birth. The reason for this is simple: delivering a baby is physically challenging and unfortunately I experienced some dangerous and scary delivery complications. While the daughter that I delivered was initially placed on my chest, she was quickly taken from me and I was wheeled into an operating room for an emergency surgery. I did not feed my daughter her first meal; she was given formula by my (terrified!) husband. I was so physically wrecked for weeks after the delivery that I was incapable of spending much time with the baby that I delivered. We called in emergency help from caring family and friends, and my husband now admits that he was extremely nervous that I was not bonding appropriately with the baby because I was so sick and weak.
In contrast, I was healthy and energized when my other daughter was born. Right after she was born from our surrogate, I cut her cord and we spent a long time looking at each other as we did skin-to-skin contact. I fed this daughter her first meal, I felt an immediate connection to her, and I forgot nearly instantly all of my worries about not being as closely bonded to her during the pregnancy. I remember all of the first moments of my daughter’s birth from our surrogate, exactly how her cry sounded, and all of the moments of her birth day right down to the meals I ate and the magazines I read to pass the time while we waited for her arrival in the hospital. In contrast, I have extremely limited memories of the day that my other baby was born; her birth day is mostly a scary and overwhelming blur in my mind.
Before my experience, I also worried that I would have a difficult time trusting a surrogate – a stranger – with my baby, and I assumed that I would have a lot of anxiety throughout the surrogate pregnancy.
Again, I was surprised here by my initial fears and the resulting reality. I ended up having far more anxiety and stress with my own pregnancy than our surrogate’s pregnancy. Every day I would freak out about something different with my own pregnancy. Did that Starbucks coffee have too much caffeine? I feel a bit nauseated; could it be listeria? I feel a tiny cramp – I’m losing the baby! And then of course I got stressed out about my stress as the books and doctors told me that maternal stress can result in low birthweight or an otherwise unhealthy baby.
In contrast, I very rarely felt anxiety about our surrogate’s pregnancy. She was, in my mind, a professional at pregnancy. She had far fewer complications during her pregnancy, she was even-keeled about everything, and she reminded me regularly about the fun and positive aspects of pregnancy. The baby that she delivered was so healthy that she was large for her gestational age; in contrast, perhaps because of my stress and anxiety, the baby that I delivered was small for her gestational age (but thankfully otherwise healthy).
On the Surrogate Experience
Surrogacy still being somewhat rare these days, one of my initial fears about the surrogacy path was the reaction of others. I figured people would be judgmental, questioning why we chose surrogacy over adoption, or making assumptions that I had chosen surrogacy for vanity or career reasons. My heart would race whenever I thought forward to the day that I would disclose our surrogate pregnancy at my workplace or on Facebook. I read accounts of intended mothers wearing fake bumps throughout the pregnancies to avoid revealing the surrogacy arrangement, and while I thought that was a bit extreme, I also understood the reasons these women chose to do that.
In the end, all of these fears were for naught. I was so touched by the endless support and excitement that people felt about both my and our surrogate’s pregnancies. Due to our unique set of circumstances, I had to explain the surrogate aspect of our pregnancies every time I spoke of our looming arrivals. Not a single person reacted negatively. So many people came forward with their own experiences with infertility, and many were curious to learn more about surrogacy. Nearly everyone considered our surrogate an angel and wanted to know more about her, and I was thrilled to share our overwhelmingly positive experience.
I also will say that although my own pregnancy was so special because it was such a complete surprise, I can honestly say that our shared pregnancy experience with our surrogate was leaps and bounds more amazing and special than my own. I was inspired on a daily basis by this selfless woman; I was reminded of all of the good in the world; I was endlessly touched by her excitement for our pending arrivals.
Being pregnant myself was obviously very different from our surrogate pregnancy. I don’t want to take away from the awe-inspiring, intimate and special experience that is pregnancy for a “normal” woman and couple. But I also will say outright, and without hesitation, that the surrogacy experience was the most amazing thing that I have ever experienced in my life. I will never forget what our surrogate did for us, and while I never miss being pregnant myself, there are times that I truly become wistful for the surreal and inspiring moments that I regularly experienced in our surrogacy pregnancy.
(Photos by James Currie Photography & Sweetly Cherished Photography)