As the story goes with pregnancy, you’ll hear couples say, “One day we were just living our lives, and the next we had a baby!” This is true. One day there were two, and then there were three. With surrogacy (and adoption), the all-of-a-sudden feeling is even more pronounced because the entire baby-making experience is outsourced.
While Sam and I certainly are following along from a distance with our surrogate (like we would our sister), for us, there aren’t any daily physical, emotional, or logistical signals whatsoever that a child is coming. No doctor’s appointments, no belly growing, no morning sickness, no heartburn. Nothing. Just a due date barreling towards us like an unsuspecting rogue wave.
We can drink, and travel, and slurp raw oysters, and eat brie, and sleep on our bellies, and do everything else we’ve been doing for our entire adult lives up until we get a phone call someday soon telling us that our surrogate is going into labor. That’s when we’re supposed to hop in the car and drive the three hours to be there for the birth. It’s gonna be a bizarre feeling during that ride; like we’re off to pick up our embryo after 9 months at uterine camp. My, how you’ve grown!
I’m sure all first-time parents feel ill-prepared to handle parenthood, but with the legal and logistical complexities of surrogacy, it’s not just, “How do I keep my baby alive?” it’s, “How do I get out of the hospital, get my baby home, and keep it alive?”
This became quite apparent when we — and other intended parents (IP’s) — got on a call with a post-birthing doula to talk about expectations around the big day and the days after. What was supposed to be a conversation about swaddling and washing turned into an anxiety-fest like we were trying to catch the last helicopter out of Saigon.
Leaving The Hospital
That child might biologically be yours, but it certainly won’t seem like it to everyone else in the hospital since it came out of another woman’s vagina. This is why having court-approved paperwork, powers of attorney, and notarized signatures are paramount. If that paperwork is not done that’s not your baby, legally speaking.
Getting Baby Home
We’re lucky we’re close enough to our surrogate that we can drive. A lot of IP’s are matched with surrogates in far away states, or other countries. IP’s have to fly in weeks in advance of the due date to ensure they’ll be there at birth.
Want to fly home with the baby the next day? You can’t. You have to wait at least seven days.
Want to drive home in one three-hour stretch? You can’t. The baby has to be out of a car seat for 30 minutes for every hour they are in one. Apparently their necks are not that of a boxer’s quite yet. They can suffocate if their head falls forward.
If their head falls — What?! How is this not common knowledge? How did life evolve past the first road trip?
Keeping It Alive
If you’re on a long journey home, you better have food for the baby, too. Easier when a mom can breastfeed; a bit more challenging when both parents have nipples, but they can’t be milked, Fokker.
That’s why you have to prepare for milk storage (if your surrogate is providing milk).
Car seat. Diapers. Change of clothes. Legal documents. And a cooler with ice. Check!
Speaking of cold storage, if you want your surrogate to send you breast milk, she better be proficient with DIY. Instead of talking about diapers and calming tricks on the call, one woman was telling us how to teach our surrogate to drill holes and duct tape coolers when sending breast milk.
Drill holes and duct tape? Everyone was certainly on their own now.
When staring at the prospects of ultimately nurturing the life you’ve outsourced, you could understand how jolting it would be to one day be 100% responsible for it, far away from home.
Needless to say, we didn’t get to swaddling on the call. We’re still stuck in the red tape swirl of legally getting our baby out of the hospital, with enough breast milk in the car for our weak-neck bundle of joy to make the multi-stop journey home. Swaddling will have to wait.