How to Cope with a Surrogacy Pregnancy Loss
Surrogates often imagine what the day will be like when they see the IP's faces looking at their baby for the first time. We all hope that we are the lucky ones that get pregnant after the first transfer and give birth to a healthy, full term baby. Surrogates are, after all, the healthiest women to carry a pregnancy and give birth. The surrogates who make it to embryo transfer are among the 7% of women that apply to be a surrogate so you would think with the strict vetting process you’d always get a positive outcome. Even after all of the testing to ensure that only the best possible surrogacy candidates make it through, loss is still experienced. Loss can be devastating, not only for the intended parents but also for the surrogate.
Surrogates have a lot of pressure on them to give birth to a healthy baby. The IPs have spent a lot of time and money to have a baby. As a surrogate, I felt like birthing a healthy baby was my one job. I was going to do everything in my power to do so. I even followed superstitions regarding foods to eat to make the embryo “stick” after transfer. I was eating avocados and pineapples like crazy. I had acupuncture in the hospital room before and after the embryo transfer. I was doing everything in my power to have a low stress lifestyle for the weeks leading up to and following the transfer.
A few weeks after the transfer I was sitting on my deck at home watching my kids play in the yard. I remember feeling so relaxed. Our Colorado home was built on a hill surrounded by evergreens. It was late July, I still remember the air smelled of pine and it was the perfect temperature. I can remember this day vividly because it ended up being such a traumatic experience. As I was sitting there I started to have intense cramping. I ran to the bathroom and blood starting pouring out of me. Not just blood as if I got my period, but like a slow faucet. With each cramp the faucet would turn back on. The cramping felt like early labor. I was sweating head to toe from the pain and panic. I called the fertility clinic to ask them what I should do. I thought for sure I was having a miscarriage. They told me to come in the next day for an ultrasound unless the bleeding didn’t stop, then I should call them back with instructions of what to do next. The bleeding and cramping did slow down after about an hour.
I spent the rest of the day and night filled with worry and guilt. I was convinced that I miscarried. I cried as I thought about how much the IPs wanted this baby and I felt like I let them down. I racked my brain for what I could have done wrong. I was mad at my body for failing everyone. I thought maybe I wasn’t the best candidate for surrogacy and I just wasted so much of their time and money when they could have had someone better. SO many irrational thoughts ran through my head until the next morning. I went into the fertility clinic for the ultrasound and they saw a heartbeat right away. They also saw the blood clot that caused the bleeding. They told me it’s common with IVF. Why didn’t they tell me this before I went into a downward spiral?!?! As some of you know, I ended up giving birth to a healthy baby boy. You can read about the birth story here.
I have met many surrogates who had a failed transfer or a pregnancy loss. They have described similar feelings of guilt and feeling as though their body failed them. We all know this is not the case. Surrogates tend to be highly sensitive people that enjoy bringing joy to others, so when that doesn’t work out, we are really hard on ourselves.
If you are an intended parent and your surrogate has a failed transfer or a pregnancy loss, make sure you are sensitive to her feelings because it’s likely she is beating herself up about it. Check in with her frequently. This might be a good time for a group counseling session or a surrogacy meet-up. If you are a surrogate, know that it’s not your fault. Find a meet-up or a facebook group to talk with other surrogates and you’ll most likely find others out there who have had a similar experience. I am a big advocate for counseling, processing these feelings can’t hurt.
No loss is too small to grieve, loss is loss. Be there for each other.