1. Mind Before Body
In surrogacy, it takes three to tango, so just as you would with anyone you decided to have a baby with through natural means, make sure that your surrogate is someone who is healthy not just physically but mentally too. If you’re using a surrogacy agency, make sure to ask whether their surrogates, now more commonly known as GC or Gestational Carriers, have undergone a Psychological Evaluation. If not, make that is your first step. We were working with a family member which is often a wonderful and happy way to approach the process. Unfortunately in our case, knowing our GC as a family member and friend gave us a false sense of security so we didn’t realize that she had a history of serious psychological issues until it was almost too late.
2. Ask Around
When accepting someone’s offer to become your surrogate or GC, make sure to ask her if it’s alright for you, and potentially your spouse, to talk to those people close to her about what they think of her offer to undergo this process. Even a Psychological Evaluation won’t always tell the whole story. We assumed that just because nobody came and talked with us about their concerns, that everyone around her felt just as we did; that our surrogate was going to be a great choice. In fact, several people close to her could have shared important information about our GC’s mental history, but they felt that it wasn’t their place to speak out. If we would have asked people directly, with our surrogate’s permission, maybe we could have avoided a lot of heartbreak for everyone involved.
3. People Lie
Even if you are able to ask around, people won’t always be honest with you, especially concerning sensitive matters like postpartum depression, eating disorders, or general mental health. In fact, I had actually asked our GC’s spouse directly about any problems and he lied, directly. Some people feel that their loved one’s mental issues are extremely private. People can also sometimes feel shame surrounding mental illness or issues involving eating disorders, self mutilation, substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, or other tough topics.
Still, I believe that it’s likely we would have eventually spoken to someone who felt comfortable sharing what they knew and we could have asked our GC to meet with a fertility counselor earlier on. Not only that but I think we could have had the opportunity to help her get the help she needed earlier in the process which might have saved the surrogacy or allowed her to walk away in a positive mental state.
4. Knowledge Is Power
Make sure that your GC knows what she’s getting into. It’s that simple. If you’re working with an agency, make sure that they educate their surrogates on the process before it begins, and if you’re working with a family member, ask the fertility clinic or fertility counselor to speak directly with your GC or give you clear, solid information for her to read before you accept her offer, no matter how good it sounds. Both you and your surrogate should know the risks and responsibilities involved way before getting started. When we asked our GC and her spouse whether they knew what they were offering, they laughed at us for even asking and said that they would never make an offer like this without knowing what they were doing. It turned out that they hadn’t done any research on the topic, talked or even thought about what they would feel like after the baby was born, and didn’t know any of the common necessary legal steps when carrying someone else’s child. So no, they did not know what they were doing, which caused a lot of embarrassment and sadness for all of us when it inevitably came out.
5. Don’t Beat Yourself Up If It Doesn’t Work Out
Knowing what I know now, I could have saved all of us from countless months of heartbreak and grief but, like I said, in surrogacy, it takes three to tango. To be a surrogate, a person must be mature, stable, willing to give up her time, energy, and even her body to the process. Not everyone is up to that responsibility. Not everyone who offers to be a surrogate even knows what they are offering to do, and many who do know simply won’t follow through for any number of reasons that often aren’t anyone’s fault.
As a biological parent, and as a surrogate you are unbelievably vulnerable and it takes a very special combination of vulnerability and strength to create your unique version of the miracle of birth but hearing so many beautiful birth stories and even being at the birth of a wonderful friend’s baby daughter, I know that these struggles are worth it. Sometimes we have to climb the highest mountain to see the most beautiful sunset. I wish you the best of luck in the mountain you are climbing and safe travels to you in your journey, wherever it may lead.