I recently started working with a client who is going to be a surrogate. Wow, what a learning curve! It’s fascinating to think that her body will be supporting a life that is completely unrelated to her genetically – someone else’s egg, someone else’s sperm. It’s like a page out of a science fiction novel. But it’s also so, so heartwarming. She is giving the gift of parenthood to a couple who otherwise wouldn’t be able to see the face of their child, and she’s doing that purely out of the goodness of her heart. (In Canada it’s illegal for anyone to receive payment for being a surrogate.)
Surrogates have a lot of unique needs. Not only will she go through the physical changes of a typical pregnancy, but because the process is so expensive and intended parents usually only get one shot, it’s also not uncommon for two embryos to be transferred into the surrogate’s uterus. That means that there’s a good chance she might have twins and, consequently, a good chance she will have a cesarean birth. Her family life will change dramatically, including her relationships with her partner and her children (surrogates must have given birth to at least one child of their own, and have custody of that child). So there are a lot of unusual issues that surrogates must confront, and that’s where a surrogacy doula comes in.
How Surrogacy Doulas Work
How does my job as a doula change when I’m hired to serve a surrogate? Well, of course I hold myself to the same standards as I would with any other mother-to-be, with a few twists. Prenatal visits, for example, include conversations about the intended parents’ plans just after birth. Will they want to be the first to have skin-to-skin contact with their baby? What about postpartum? How will the surrogate get the support she needs to stay healthy emotionally and physically, and will the intended parents expect her to provide breastmilk? Surrogacy doulas can help both the surrogate and the intended parents to broach subjects they may not otherwise be comfortable bringing up (just like in other pregnancies).
We’re a sounding board, a resource sharer, an impartial emotional sounding board, a mother for the surrogate mother, and so much more. At the end of the day, I see my role as a surrogacy doula just like I do my role as a “regular” doula: supporting the mother. Because I think that’s what everyone needs, whether they’re birthing their own baby or someone else’s!