After delivery, what are the relationship like between surrogates and the families they helped create? How much contact do they have with one another? These are important questions to consider prior to matching. Prospective surrogates should consider the type of relationship they would you like to have with IPs after delivery. Prospective intended parents should think carefully about their post-delivery comfort levels and preferences.
As with any situations that we consider but have not yet experienced, it is impossible to know exactly how we will feel about some circumstances until we have actually lived them. Despite this, it is important to explore your existing opinions on the amount and type of contact before, during, and after pregnancy that you would like to have with your surrogate or intended parents. During the matching phase, be honest and forthcoming with the opposite party about your expectations.
Most intended parents and surrogates would like to have a close relationship before and during pregnancy. At the very least, after pregnancy, most IPs and SMs would like to maintain at least a friendly relationship. It is reasonable to expect that after delivery, the frequency and intensity of communication with one another will decline sharply, but many SMs and IPs still hope to maintain some degree of amicable contact.
Some IPs and surrogates prefer a cordial, reciprocal relationship before and during pregnancy, but prefer to have little to no contact after delivery. In rarer circumstances, little or no contact is desired even throughout the pregnancy.
There is nothing wrong with having a relationship that is less touchy-feely and is more business-oriented. There is, however, a huge problem when either surrogates or intended parents intentionally misrepresent their expectations. Do not promise a warm friendship before, during and after pregnancy, match with someone who desires the same, and then intentionally fall short of that expectation. In cases like this, intended parents might feel distanced and disconnected from their child who grows within another's womb. Surrogates end up feeling used and discarded. I have seen several instances both scenarios, and it is no less than heartbreaking.
As I said before – you don't ever really know how you will feel in any given situation until you are actually experiencing it for yourself. Both parties should enter a surrogacy arrangement with a clear knowledge of their own and of each others' expectations, but they should also have an understanding that there is always the possibility of change. Changes on contact expectations are usually never easy, but talking to the other party about emotional shifts and evolving comfort levels are imperative. It is better to discuss these feelings and be open about them instead of leading the other party on.
Though there are journeys which end on a less-than-happy note, I think most surrogacies finish in a comfortable place, with contact expectations met. At the very least, there is a level of acceptance, even if the ending situation isn't ideal. On the opposite end, close, familial relationships remain between the IPs' and SMs' families.
Post delivery contact is even more important in traditional surrogacy. Julia and Luna both asked Jenn about her current relationships with children and families she delivered via traditional surrogacy:
JuliaKB: My question is about the
relationship TS might have with the child/ren (both your own experience
and more generally, if you know).
Luna: I am curious whether you have any
contact with the children, through letters, pictures, calls, meetings,
etc. I'm pursuing open adoption right now, so these are the kinds of
things I think about…
Below is Jenn's response:
general, most relationships I have seen end up being like long distance
relative. There are some that are not nice, and the surrogate is
dropped completely out of the picture. And that is sad. There are few who remain so close
that it's like a close knit extended family.
In my case, my
first TS ended badly. I was thrown on the side of the road like an old
cigarette bud. I delivered and was told lies – and that is the truth. I
was promised contact and pictures and was never given that. Then
– surprise! – 8 years later, "S's" father called outta the blue and asked if
she could come and visit us. I was shocked. To say the least, this child didn't know my family and we did not have any experiences with her. So, I
allowed it for the next two years, and it was awkward. I don't know what went into his thought process, but it
was hard on all of us -my former IF, myself, my kids and "S". But now
10 years later, we're ok. It's still uncomfortable at times, because
she does call me mom. But, we are doing our best.
2nd TS was very different – lots of phone calls and contact during the
pregnancy. But once delivery happened, we all had to get back to the
'normal' life we had before. Now we have lots of emails, lots and
lots of pictures (sometimes I can't tell if she's changed or not
because I get so many pictures). "R's" parents are much different and
it's good for our family. They have offered to come and visit but I am
not real comfortable with that yet. I don't know why. I guess because
my family is MY family and their family is THEIR family.
For my 3rd TS, I made
mistakes. I jumped into the surrogacy too soon and I didn't listen
to my head. I listened with my heart and my need to make the world a
better place. And well, I ended up with a business arrangement, meaning that the contractual obligations were met, but there is little of what could be called an existing relationship. To their credit, my former
intended fathers (IFs) are good about keeping up their end of the bargain of sending
regular pictures and email updates of the twins A and E. I honestly
do not believe I will ever have open contact with the twins, and I am
ok with that.
You have to ask yourself what kind of contact is best for you and your family. Be open and honest with that.
I think it's best to be open and honest. I have pictures of all my TS
babes up on my fireplace mantel and my kids see them and we talk about
them. We always refer to them as "so-and-so's" kids. I never refer to them
as my children. I do not want to threaten the parent relationship I
have with my children. I always have believed that the openness makes
the reality of surrogacy seem less "freakish" or "hidden". If I am
simply Jennifer from day one, when these kids hear the truth that I am
their biological mother but not their mom, then it's ok. They will
always associate me with me and my children with me.