You don’t have to look far to find stories about people who have been through the surrogacy process. But more often than not, these stories are only about the Intended Parents: the individuals or couples who are on the ‘receiving end’ of third-party reproduction.
It’s not so often that you hear about the experiences of surrogates themselves – or about their own children and partners.
Surrogates are moms, too. At Family Source Consultants, it’s one of the requirements for becoming a surrogate. That means most women who are carrying a baby for someone else will be surrounded by their own family for the majority of their pregnancy.
Of course, while family is an important part of a surrogate’s support system, the situation can take some getting used to! Young children who see mommy with a big tummy may be surprised that they don’t end up with a little brother or sister. And then there’s the surrogate’s partner: how do they feel about seeing their wife or girlfriend carrying someone else’s baby?
CEO and Founder of Family Source Consultants, Staci Swiderski says “Family support is important and essential for surrogates, whether it be a spouse, partner, sibling, parents, etc., their support provides benefits physically, emotionally, and mentally that oftentimes can’t be found anywhere else. FSC provides substantial support for gestational surrogates in our program, however, it is required that all surrogates do have full support from their family when making the decision to move forward with a surrogacy journey”.
What the research says
A UK study published in the journal Human Reproduction is one of the few to investigate the experiences of a surrogate’s family members.
The great thing about this study is that the responses were largely positive. Most children of surrogate moms – around 86% in fact – were happy about their mom’s involvement in surrogacy. Nearly 70% mentioned rewarding aspects of having a surrogate for a mom and that they felt proud of their mother for being able to help someone in this way.
Many of the children referred to the surrogate baby as a ‘half-sister/brother’, or as a ‘tummy sister’. Interestingly, the study also showed that some surrogates’ children also maintained contact with the Intended Parents and developed a positive relationship with them and the surrogacy child.
Real-life experiences from FSC surrogates
The findings of the UK study are very similar to the experiences of Kayle and Kathryn, two surrogates for Family Source Consultants.
Kayle became a surrogate for the first time in 2017. She is currently on her second journey: a sibling for the same couple. Having had her first child at a very young age, Kayle began thinking about other people who couldn’t fall pregnant as easily.
“I knew a few people with fertility issues, and I said, one day I will help those people,” she says. She originally signed up to become a surrogate back in 2012, but her husband changed her mind. “He decided it wasn’t the right time for us and always thought of the ‘what if’s,” Kayle explains.
After the birth of her third son, the subject came up again. “I told my husband there are families out there who can’t have children and can’t adopt due to certain circumstances,” says Kayle. Her husband had to spend some time reading up about surrogacy and discussing it with the husband of Kayle’s friend, who was herself a surrogate. But in the end, he gave Kayle his support to sign up with Family Source Consultants. He even took time off to help her through the pregnancy.
Although she has also been supported by her mom, her sisters, and her best friends, it has taken some time for them to get used to the idea.
“Some have their doubts or worries, which everyone does. Being a surrogate doesn’t affect our relationship at all,” she says.
Kayle’s children didn’t quite understand the situation until they had their first Skype meeting with her first IPs. “We explained everything to them when they met the Intended Parents and didn’t seem bothered,” she says. “They even went to school telling all of their teachers! My youngest would let strangers know in the stores when they would congratulate me on the pregnancy. Now they couldn’t care less.”
She says her oldest son was rather unfazed about her latest pregnancy, responding with, “Mom, you’re pregnant again!”, while her youngest son tells anyone who will listen, “My mom loves to carry babies!”
Her husband tells people that she is a great surrogate and a wonderful person for helping others. Other times, he’ll say, “My wife is pregnant, and it isn’t ours!”
Overall, Kayle loves being a surrogate mom and says it’s the best decision she ever made.
Advice from a former surrogate
Fellow FSC surrogate Kathryn has a similar story. Kathryn has been a surrogate once, carrying twin girls. At the time, she had three children: a 14-year-old son and two daughters aged nine and six. “I always knew I wanted to carry a baby for someone else,” she says. “I enjoy being pregnant and have easy, healthy pregnancies and deliveries. I even said immediately after giving birth to my daughter that I should carry a baby for someone else.”
Kathryn’s children provided the support she needed. “They loved that they got to watch a baby grow in my belly but that we weren’t bringing the babies home,” Kathryn says. “They still love that I helped a family have their dream come true and enjoy visiting them when we can.”
The rest of her family was also proud of her surrogacy and let her know she was doing a wonderful thing. “They had no shame or worry about me being a surrogate. My family was there for me the entire time, and they were super helpful both physically and emotionally.”
Kathryn’s biggest challenge was in the postpartum phase of her surrogacy journey, following the birth of the twins. Although she had had a great relationship with the IPs during her pregnancy, their contact decreased after they were born. “I understood that they were busy raising their little girls, but not keeping in touch as often was difficult for me.”
She says that having support during the surrogacy journey is crucial, especially from family. She advises anyone considering becoming a surrogate themselves should make this a priority. “Make sure the entire family is on board and everyone is fully informed about the process,” she says. “Everyone should understand their potential responsibilities.”