Your Surrogate Birth
Congratulations. Your delivery date is approaching. It’s been a long journey, but you’re ready to take the final steps. Here’s what you should know about the birth of a surrogacy baby and your role in the event…
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Also in The Guide
- What is Surrogacy
- Managing your surrogacy costs
- How much to pay your surrogate?
- Surrogacy for Gay families
The Birth of Your Surrogacy Baby
When the surrogate is preparing to go into labor (naturally or induced when the time is right), the Intended Parents will get a call (from their agent of the surrogate herself) to arrange their visit for the delivery. The baby will be born at a local hospital chosen by the surrogate’s obstetrician. The parents will then travel to the hospital to welcome their new son or daughter.
But before the baby arrives, the circumstances of the delivery should be discussed and a “delivery plan” agreed upon with your surrogate. The delivery plan clarifies many details about the parent’s role in the delivery. Some parents feel strongly about witnessing the birth or cutting the umbilical cord. All elements of the delivery plan should be discussed with the surrogate and hospital. Crucial requests in delivery plan should be discussed early, preferably during the initial matching process with your surrogate.
Who will be in the delivery room?
Can the Intended Parents witness the birth? Can one or both parents be in the room? Can they take photos or video of the delivery? Will the parents be allowed to cut the umbilical cord? These are the most common topics for your delivery plan and should be discussed well in advance of the due date.
Whether you will be in the room during delivery depends on your relationship with the surrogate. If you’ve spent the past nine months building a trusting relationship with the birth-mother, it’s likely that she’ll let you let you be present for the “grand finale”. But don’t assume that’s true. Discuss your wishes with the surrogate, listen to her concerns, ask the hospital about its own policies… then come to an agreement that satisfies everyone.
Some Intended Parents have NO desire to be present in the delivery room. They’re content to let the surrogate deliver while they pace in the waiting room. In this case, the baby will be brought to them according to hospital policies. Some hospitals (if they’re familiar with surrogacy cases) will bring the baby out for a quick greeting as soon as it’s cleaned up and presentable. Other hospitals will give the baby and surrogate time to to rest before letting you in for a personal introduction.
Who will introduce the baby?
Some surrogate mothers bond very closely with the babies they carry, and so they need to personally pass the baby along to the parents to feel a sense of closure. This can be an important symbolic moment when the surrogate finally completes the challenges of the past year and is able to realize the results of her efforts. You should respect this and allow the surrogate to personally present your baby. This may require some time for the surrogate to rest and recover before she’s ready to make this gesture.
Hospitals also will have policies that may decide how the baby is introduced to the Intended Parents. There may be limitations on who can be present in the delivery room. More generous hospitals may offer a special room for the Intend Parents to meet and bond with the baby. You’ll want to figure out ahead of time what the hospital’s policies are on transfers.
Bonding with Your Surrogacy Baby
“Attachment” is the psychological term referring to the bond between a parent and their child. In a typical pregnancy, the parents’ attachment (called Prenatal Attachment) to their baby begins early in the pregnancy. In a surrogacy pregnancy, Intended Parents will attach to their baby after the delivery. Prenatal Attachment is critical to the well being of the baby as well as the healthy development of the family.
Attachment happens in two directions… the parents bond with their baby, and the baby also forms an attachment to the parents (called Parent-Infant Attachment). While some believe the baby’s attachment begins in-utero, the process primarily develops after the birth through the interactions between the baby and the primary caregiver (usually the mother). Intended Parents can help build the baby’s attachment through their nurturing actions, starting immediately after the delivery.
The attachment process is not immediate, and it’s not uncommon for Intended Parents to feel a lack of connection with the baby at first. Don’t worry! Attachment will happen during the initial days that the new family spends together. Interactions at this time can be critical to a healthy emotional bond between the baby and the parents. In turn, the attachment between parents and newborn forms the basis of a healthy long-term emotional family relationship and the future social development of the child throughout its life.
The Prenatal Attachment is the bond that the parents develop toward the baby during pregnancy. In a typical pregnancy, the mother bonds with the baby through the experience of being pregnant — watching the fetus grow and move and become more “real”. In a surrogacy pregnancy, attachment will happen through other means.
Although carrying the pregnancy certainly aids the process, attachment is not limited to the birth-mother. Intended Parents can likewise attach to the baby during the pregnancy. During the prenatal attachment process, the parents can follow the baby’s development, imagine how it will look, celebrate its milestones and generally engage with the pregnancy. This helps the Intended Parents attach to the baby. That attachment process will quickly increase once the baby is born.
Prenatal attachment does not directly affect the development of the fetus, but it is thought to impact the parents’ care and attentiveness for the baby. The attachment is responsible for the parents’ sense of affection, protection, and nurturing for the baby. As such, a healthy prenatal attachment will have an important indirect effect on the baby’s well-being after the birth.
The prenatal attachment encourages the parents to be more attentive caregivers for the baby. The parents better respond to the baby’s needs. This encourages the attachment that the baby will later develop for the parents.
Parent-Infant Attachment is the deep emotional connection that an infant forms with its primary caregiver (the Intended Parents in this case).
According to Attachment Theory, after the birth, the baby often feels worried, threatened and stressed due to the new experiences of the external world. In response to these strange experiences, babies cry and look for comfort and security from the caregiver as a basic survival strategy. The way the caregiver responds to the baby’s fear and stress will determine the bond between them. This forms the basis of the long-term relationship between the parents and the child (and possibly the child’s ability to form trusting relationships later in life).
Transferring the Attachment
Through the pregnancy, the baby will naturally develop some attachment to the surrogate. The term “transfer” refers to handing the baby from the surrogate to the parents. This includes both giving physical custody to the parents, but also the transfer of the baby’s emotional attachment from the surrogate to the Intended Parents.
The physical and emotional transfer of the baby at the hospital is the culmination of the surrogacy journey, and it’s an emotional time for everyone. A successful transfer is the ultimate goal that everyone has been working toward for the previous year(s).
Some simple steps both before and during the delivery may help make the transfer successful. Parents should check whether these are allowed by the hospital and amenable to the surrogate.
To help facilitate the transfer of Parent-Infant attachment, here are a few suggestions for the surrogate during the pregnancy…1. Parents can record their voices (talking or reading books to the baby) and have the surrogate play these sounds to the unborn baby.
2. The surrogate can play some of the Intended Parents favorite music, which will then be familiar to the baby once they return home.
3. The surrogate can sleep with a teddy bear that will go home with the baby, so the newborn will have the familiar scent nearby while becoming accustomed to life with the intended parents.
During the delivery, some experts also recommend the following: 4. Let the baby rest on the surrogate’s body for a short time before being handed to the Intended Parents. This will help ease the baby’s stress by confirming its sense of smell, touch and hearing.
5. Allow as much skin-on-skin contact as possible between the baby and the intended parents. This is one of the best ways to promote attachment between the baby and the new parents, and begin the process of replacing the baby’s attachment with the surrogate.
6. Let the surrogate see the family that she helped create. This gives a sense of completion for the surrogate, as well as for everyone else involved in the long journey. The intended parents can reinforce the positive conclusion by visiting the surrogate again within a couple of weeks of the baby’s birth.
The Return Home
Of course for American couples having children in the U.S., the new family can return home as soon as the birth certificate is issued (about 3 days).
But for international couples, the baby will need to apply for citizenship and a passport in order to travel home with you. That process can be complicated, depending on your home country. Some countries are friendly toward surrogacy, and the baby will have little problem applying for a passport at the local consulate. Other countries are very averse to surrogacy agreements, and they make the process quite difficult (or impossible in some cases).
Your agent will arrange for a local birth certificate and the baby’s birth registration. Intended Parents must personally apply for a passport and citizenship papers. Consulates of some countries may also ask for affidavits from the clinic, surrogate mother, and hospital as required by your embassy. A DNA test is usually required (check in advance with your consulate if the DNA test must be performed by a specific lab). Some consulates will require the surrogate to appear in person to testify that she’s waiving her parental rights voluntarily.
Intended Parents’ agent should help them compile all the paperwork required by the consulate. There are also consulting services, specializing in surrogacy, able to assist you with first-hand experience of almost every embassy or consulate’s requirements.
Please note that the embassy/consulate will require the parents to submit the paperwork in person, often with a personal interview (and possibly with the baby). The agent’s role is to guide you and assist you with the paperwork. If the surrogate is required to appear at the embassy/consulate, he will make arrangements for her time and travel and accompany her.
For more details, read these articles in the Surrogacy Guide:
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