Personal Story

Twiblings: Being Pregnant During Surrogacy

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.

Nancy At Gate

On Bonding

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.

2 Bumps

On Anxiety

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.

All 6

Final Reflection

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)

Related Courses

IVF - In Vitro Fertilization
Learn More
The most complex fertility treatment, this course will help you do it right the first time.
Featuring experts from
Mount Sinai, Cornell, +7 more
IUI or "Artificial Insemination"
Learn More
Data on IUI success rates depending on who you are, what it costs, the risks, and how to decide between doing IUI and IVF.
Featuring experts from
Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, +6 more
The IVF Laboratory
Learn More
Lab quality determines success. This course explains how to vet a lab to give yourself the best chance of a good outcome.
Featuring experts from
NYU, Columbia, +6 more
Learn More
Does acupuncture & traditional Chinese medicine really make a difference for fertility? See the data on IVF, other fertility treatments, and trying naturally with acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
Lifestyle Choices, From Diet To Supplements
Learn More
All the data on lifestyle choices and their impact on fertility, including decisions around diet, exercise, drinking alcohol, caffeine consumption, smoking, recreational drugs, and using supplements.
Featuring experts from
Cornell, UCLA, +4 more
Embryo Transfer
Learn More
We cover how many embryos to transfer, medicated vs. unmedicated cycles, fresh vs. frozen, and the do's and don'ts on transfer day itself.
Featuring experts from
Columbia, NYU, +3 more
Learn More
Breaking down all the data and information on what endometriosis is, how to best diagnose it, and what the best treatment is depending on who you are
Featuring experts from
Learn More
ICSI costs $3–$5k but only improves birth rates in specific circumstances (hint: it’s not as simple as “helps with male factor”). We break down when it’s truly helpful.
Featuring experts from
Columbia, Cornell, +6 more
PGT (PGS) Genetic Screening
Learn More
Giving you the full picture: where it helps, where it doesn’t, and how you might think about this expensive add-on based on your specific priorities.
Featuring experts from
Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, +6 more
Male Factor Infertility
Learn More
Male factor infertility impacts anywhere between a third and half of a couple's difficulty in conceiving. The primary factors often end up being related to varicocele or some form of azoospermia. While a semen analysis can help characterize if there is an issue, the test can be inconsistent, difficult to interpret.
Featuring experts from
Cornell, Mount Sinai

Related Lessons

Expert's Perspective
Fertility for Black Patients: Expert Interview

We were honored to interview Dr. McCarthy-Keith, Medical Director at Shady Grove Fertility Atlanta, on topics pertaining to Black families & fertility patients. In addition to sharing valuable insights, Dr. McCarthy-Keith answered questions from members of the community.

Expert's Perspective
Improving IVF Success Rates: Using Low Oxygen in the Lab

Selecting a clinic is as much about selecting their laboratory as anything else. A key determinant of lab quality is the conditions they use to culture embryos. Using low oxygen in the incubator is preferable, yet a third of laboratories don't do this.

Expert's Perspective
Freeze Eggs or Embryos?

When the option to freeze embryos is available to patients, many disregard the option to freeze eggs. Owen Davis, ASRM President, weighs in on why egg freezing is still an important option to consider.

Expert's Perspective
Is it safe to ship cryopreserved eggs (and embryos)?

Patients are increasingly eager to ship their eggs and embryos to clinics out of town, out of state and out of the country. Vitrification has made that a far more delicate process. Peter Nagy, Ph.D helps explain the outcomes, steps and costs associated with shipping gametes from one clinic to another.

Expert's Perspective
From MacBooks to MAC Cosmetics: How Our Daily Routine Impacts Fertility

Dr. Cooper lays out the evidence on the products & habits that harm fertility, and realistic steps we can take to protect ourselves

Expert's Perspective
Early Pregnancy Loss

Early pregnancy loss is the only focus of the team at Montefiore-Einstein in NYC. Here are some of their high-level observations on how to deal with the medical challenges.

Expert's Perspective
The Male Fertility Evaluation: Enhances Options and Signals of Future Health

20 - 25% of U.S. couples annually undergo IVF without having the male partner properly checked. This drives tens of thousands of unnecssary treatments, as well as needless cost and suffering. What's more, bypassing this crucial step causes us to miss a vital signal into that man's future health.

Expert's Perspective
How Long Are Frozen Eggs and Embryos Good For?

IVF treatment is a relatively new treatment, and egg and embryo freezing are newer still. So do we know how long these gametes can be safely stored and still work?

Expert's Perspective
How We Might Treat South Asian Women Differently

As a field we're beginning to appreciate that women of different ethnicities may require unique treatment to achieve comparable outcomes. Here, Stanford professor Val Baker eluciates some of the nuances in treating women of a South Asian background.

Expert's Perspective
Treating East Asian Women For Infertility

East Asian women may metabolize estorgen differently and this may be the reason their rates of success tend to lag those of Caucasian women. This may add insight on the woman's choice of a fresh versus frozen transfer or how much gonadatropins to take.

Expert's Perspective
When Is The ERA Test Appropriate?

The Endometrial Receptivity Assay is a test used by clinicians to discern when an embryo should be transferred to the uterus. The developmental state of the embryo and the uterine lining must be in sync for the embryo to implant. Here we look at the theory behind the ERA's usefulness and what the data implies about who, if anyone, should have the test performed.

Expert's Perspective
Dr de Ziegler's Guide To Endometriosis

Dr. de Ziegler breaks down the misconceptions around surgery being the only way to diagnose endometriosis, weighs in on the decision between IVF and endometriosis surgery, and much more.

+ Show More Articles
Medical Research
What Mosaicism Means for Live Birth Rates

New data compares results transferring different types of mosaic embryos, with surprising outcomes.

Medical Research
IUI Success Rates Doubled With Endometrial Scratch

Medicated IUI success rates remain stubbornly low with live birth rates often around 10% per cycle. Investigators determined whether incorporating endometrial scratch bolsters IUI success rates. For the moment, it appears so.

Medical Research
Why It Matters Which Doctor Performs Your IVF Transfer

According to FertilityIQ data, 70% of patients have a different doctor perform their embryo transfer. Scott Morin & Eric Forman of RMA New Jersey study to what extent that matters.

Medical Research
When One IVF Cycle Completes All Your Family Building Goals

For some IVF patients a single cycle can deliver two children through two pregnancies. For many Americans, two children is the ideal number. So who are the best candidates for "one-and-done" IVF in a safe and responsible manner?

Medical Research
When IVF Babies Grow Up, Are They Healthy?

An Israeli study rigorously followed up with adults who were conceived via IVF, and compared their cognitive function, medical and mental health with naturally conceived peers. This is a unique study focusing on the long-term health of IVF babies and adults.

Medical Research
Does Your Clinic Influence If Your Embryos Are Good

Theoretically, the quality of your eggs and sperm should determine the quality of your embryos. However, this month we're reviewing data that shows which clinic you go to, and how they care for you and your embryos, could be a crucial determinant.

Medical Research
IUI or IVF For Unexplained Infertility

Roughly 30% of infertility cases are labeled "unexplained," so how should patients decide between IUI vs IVF when we don't know the underlying issue? Here's one clue for a narrow subset of the newly-diagnosed "unexplained" population.

Medical Research
Weight Loss and IVF

The average American woman has a BMI in the high 20's. So for women undergoing IVF, with a BMI in the low-mid 30's, does weight loss improve rates of success? A team from Sweden ran a thoughtfully-conducted trial that offers up surprisingly complex answers.

Medical Research
The best starting point in treating PCOS? It’s not Clomid.

PCOS is responsible for 80% of cases where a woman isn't ovulting. A new study compared pregnancy success of clomiphene citrate (clomid) vs. letrozole (femara), with some strong results.

Medical Research
CRISPR, Gene Editing and IVF

Gene-editing in IVF made a big breakthrough this month and the CRISPR technology is now a reality. Here we catch up with Paula Amato and the team from Oregon Heath Sciences behind latest breakthrough.

Medical Research
The Impact of Sugar, Soda and Caffeine on IVF

The team at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston reveals surprising results on how sugar, soda and caffeine each impact (or don't) oocyte numbers and ultimate IVF success rates.

+ Show More Articles