Life After Surrogacy: Easing Back into Your Routine
If you’ve considered becoming a surrogate, you may be wondering what life after surrogacy will be like.
You’ve delivered the baby. You’ve seen the look of adoration in the Intended Parents‘ eyes as they hold their baby. Now, this family is ready to begin the rest of their lives together.
You made that possible. It’s absolutely beautiful.
Your body just did something incredible. It grew and sustained life for 9 months. Well done! Celebrate what you’ve accomplished. Go ahead and take all the days the hospital gives you to recover. Ah, imagine all those hours of uninterrupted sleep!
But what do you do after coming home from the hospital with no baby to take care of at all hours of the day or night? While pregnancy and labor felt very familiar to you, this next part will be unexplored territory for you, your spouse and your family. The hours, days and weeks after delivering the baby are just as important as the ones leading up to the pregnancy. You need to take time for yourself, to re-integrate into a normal routine with your family, and to adjust to the change in relationship with the Intended Parents.
Let’s take a closer look at how to have a successful reentry into “regular” life after surrogacy.
Your Changing Body: Post-Partum Hormones
When a woman gives birth, her body receives a rush of oxytocin and other “feel-good” hormones that helps her bond with her baby and forget the pain of childbirth. You may feel almost euphoric after giving birth, especially if you got a good night’s sleep in! As your hormones return to their pre-pregnancy state, however, that feeling will fade. It might feel like your emotions handed you a one-way ticket to the amusement park’s biggest roller coaster ride. Your head and heart know the baby belongs to the Intended Parents, but your body and hormones do not. They will still do what a post-partum body does:
- produce milk
- cry some more
Even though you are beyond ecstatic for the Intended Parents, you might feel a little sad. That’s ok. That doesn’t mean you had trouble giving them the baby, or that surrogacy was too hard for you. This is a totally normal feeling.
Sometimes, the sadness is because you feel lonely. Just think, you’ve had a constant companion for the last 9 months. Even though you knew that baby was not your own, you were aware of their every movement and preference. You made daily decisions for the health and wellbeing of that baby. It’s normal to miss the baby.
It’s also normal to miss the Intended Parents. For the last 14+ months, they’ve been a constant fixture in your daily or weekly routines. They probably feel like family. But now their time will be consumed by their new baby. Instead of texting or FaceTiming you, they are snuggling their little one or trying to catch a few hours of sleep.
Depending on your agreement with the Intended Parents, you might receive regular updates, photos and videos from them. These can help you still feel connected to the baby and their new family, and remind you of the reason you chose surrogacy all those months ago.
Sometimes, the Intended Parents and/or Gestational Carrier don’t wish to stay as connected as they were during the pregnancy. Life gets busy very quickly for both your families. (And if this is their first baby, they might be in for a surprise!) It’s ok if you don’t remain best friends for life. Just be sure to communicate with your agency so they can answer any questions and give their own recommendations. If you live reasonably near each other, leave some room for spontaneous get togethers.
Another reason you may feel sad is the baby blues. The baby blues are not the same as post-partum depression. They typically last up to 1 week and are caused by all the hormonal changes your body is going through after pregnancy and labor. While you may experience them differently as a surrogate than you did as a mother, these feelings typically pass after 8 weeks.
Signs of Baby Blues, according to the March of Dimes:
- Weepiness or crying for no apparent reason.
If you need to talk to someone who has been there–or to just have a good cry–definitely talk to your surrogacy agency. Consider joining a support group with other gestational carriers. Being able to share your experience with others who get it can relieve the burden you feel.
If you find that you’re losing interest in things you once loved, or if it’s hard to care for yourself or your family, don’t be shy about asking for help. Tell your OBGYN about how you’re feeling—you don’t have to wait for the 6 week check-up. They will pay close attention to you for signs of post-partum depression.
To Pump or Not to Pump After Surrogacy
Some women will express breast milk (pump) and give it to the Intended Parents for a set amount of time. Some choose to pump so the baby can have the nutrient-rich colostrum and then stop after a few days. This is a decision you and the Intended Parents can make and revisit after birth. You may enjoy pumping milk and meeting up with the new family for the next several weeks or months. Or you may be ready to get back into your regular routine. There is no right or wrong choice here. Of course the Intended Parents will be grateful for breastmilk, but they will also be able to find alternatives such as donated or purchased breastmilk.
If you do not pump after giving birth, it will take about a week for your milk to stop producing. It will be uncomfortable, but your OBGYN or midwife may have solutions for you to ease the discomfort or hasten the end of the milk production.
If you had a normal vaginal birth, expect to take it easy for the next several weeks. Attend your 6 week post-natal checkup. Your OBGYN will be sure you’re healing properly and will evaluate you for any signs of post-partum depression.
If you had a c-section, expect the recovery to take a bit longer. Accept help from friends and family while you heal.
Several gestational surrogates have reported that they heal much faster after a surrogacy pregnancy because they get so much more sleep without a baby at home.
Want to Do It Again?
So you had a great surrogacy experience and want to do it again? Great! Here’s how to do it:
- Wait. You will have a 6-12 month wait before you can consider surrogacy again. If you delivered via a c-section, that wait will be at least 12+ months.
- Self-Care. Even though you need to resume your daily routines and time with your own family and kids, take time out for yourself. Do something special for yourself–you deserve it!
- Advocate. While you’re waiting to be gestational carrier again, advocate for surrogacy. Share your story as you’re comfortable. Who knows, you may be indirectly responsible for inspiring a new gestational carrier and connecting them with a couple.
As you can see, your surrogacy agency plays a big role in every aspect of your surrogacy journey–before, during and after pregnancy.