Ask the Expert Recap: Paula Wirth

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Paula Wirth, a former 3x surrogate and Match Manager from ConceiveAbilities, recently answered member questions in this activity. Being a surrogate three times gives Paula a unique and intimate view on what the process is like and how life changing it is for both the surrogate and the family she helps. Paula's favorite part of being a Match Manager is providing support and advice for surrogates.

Every member who submitted a question in this activity was entered to win a $50 Amazon gift card, and we're pleased to announce that @lesliekayw is the winner of this random draw! 

Worried about unsuccessful transfer: I'm still weeks out from our transfer date but I find myself getting worried about the transfer failing or experiencing a miscarriage. I think I'd be holding onto guilt that I did something wrong. Any advice? - @mckinzeymurphy

PW: This is such an important question and one that many gestational carriers do not think about. Since we are young, healthy women who didn't have any issues conceiving on our own, we often times think a failed transfer will never happen to us. I would encourage you to stay as positive as you can for your upcoming transfer, but also keep in mind that failed transfers do happen and they are out of your control. Many gestational carriers will automatically jump to the thought that they did something wrong, but that is not the case. The truth is that multiple transfers are sometimes needed to achieve a healthy pregnancy and that is part of your special and unique journey. If there is a failed transfer or miscarriage I would recommend that you make sure you have a good support system for yourself and be open and honest with your intended parents on how you are feeling physically and emotionally before agreeing to move into the next transfer. Wishing you the best of luck with your upcoming transfer, sticky thoughts!

Pregnancy Differences: As a 3x surrogate and having 2 keepers, was your pregnancy different each time or were they pretty much the same? Were you able to predict the gender (if you didn’t already know) correctly with some of those old wives tale tricks? @Graves_cassidy

PW: Hello. What a fun question! One item that stayed consistent with my pregnancies was I delivered each pregnancy between 38-40 weeks and with each pregnancy my body never went into labor on it's own, I had to be induced or have a c-section. However, there were differences between also. I had my two girls and never felt morning sickness at all. Then I had my first journey as a gestational carrier and morning sickness the whole pregnancy. That was my first time carrying a boy, so I figured that was the difference (boy versus girls). Then I went on to have another gestational carrier journey carrying a boy and no morning sickness at all. The last pregnancy was twin boys and I had morning sickness again. I also did notice my two girls I carried higher, stomach up near my chest, versus the boys I carried lower every time. I always found out the gender of the babies via ultrasound pretty early, so no opportunity for guessing. I am in awe of anyone who has the will power to wait and find out the gender on delivery day!

IP Relationship: In your interview, I heard that your three journeys had very different relationships with your IPs. Do you think this is something you had a lot of control over, or was that the way they naturally formed? - @CKrippner

PW: Hi there. Great question! Relationships are all unique in their own way, especially in a surrogacy journey. Intended parents have their own (sometimes heartbreaking) story which brought them to needing to partner with a surrogate and that background does affect their expectation/need for the relationship. My three journeys were very different from one another because they were with three very different couples. I would say there is a lot of beauty behind having a naturally forming relationship versus trying to control how it will evolve. This is not always easy and can take some patience and empathy towards the other party, but in my experience this is the best way to build a strong partnership through the journey.

IP Relationship: My match meeting went so well yet now that I am pregnant the relationship with my IPs seems stressful and controlling ! How do I help my IPs relax and gain trust in me so we have a happy health relationship thru delivery and after? - @lesliekayw

PW: Hello. The Match Meeting is such an important and exciting part of the process. We expect these meetings to go well, as it is an opportunity to get to know each other and get to begin your journey which you are all excited for. It is not uncommon further in the match for a bit of the "honeymoon phase" of the journey to have worn off and anxieties for an upcoming delivery to appear. There are some stresses and anxieties that IPs have that have absolutely nothing to do with their surrogate and more to do with their history and fear of still not bringing a healthy baby home. If you are feeling them being stressed and anxious with you I would recommend kindly asking if there is anything you could be doing different to help them have the information they need or questions they need answered? Sometimes if it is a medical question or concern if they connect with your OB it can alleviate a lot of their angst. If after you ask them if there is anything you can be doing different on your end they say no, then believe them. Their stress and anxiety may truly not be connected to you at all and I would encourage you to try to understand that these are their fears, not yours, and surround yourself with people who can lift you up and support you during the remainder of your pregnancy. Remember, you are creating a miracle and that is so special!

Discussing surrogacy with kids: How did you discuss your surrogacy journey to your children? - @larissalien

PW: Hi there! This is a great question, and one I get asked a lot! The answer to this depends on the age of your children and their level of interest as well. When I did my first journey as a gestational carrier my girls were young, 5 months and 2 and a half, so of course their level of understanding was different than some carriers with older children. My husband and I chose to tell our girls from the beginning that we had the opportunity to help another family have a child and I was going to carry it in my tummy for them. I went on to do three journeys as a gestational carrier (GC), so their level of understanding grew with each of my pregnancies and they got older. If you have preschool age kids you may want to prepare yourself for some interesting conversations with their teachers. ;) My daughter also did get into the habit of asking random pregnant women if they were "carrying their own baby or someone else's"? As an agency we give out coloring books to GCs for their children that tells a story of a GC journey that they can read and color in. There are great books out there also that you can read to your kids that help explain the process: The Very Kind Koala, Sophia's Broken Crayons, or the Kangaroo Pouch. Ultimately it is your call for when you feel comfortable sharing this news with your kids, but in my experience I enjoyed having my girls in the know from the beginning so we could go through the journey all together. I cherish the pictures of my girls with each of the babies I carried after they were born.

Staying Fit: Hi there Paula, I am starting my journey. I have been matched with IPs and I’m beyond excited. I love to work out and stay fit. During my own pregnancies I did stay more fit with my second one, but do you have any tips on how to stay fit during a surrogate pregnancy? I have heard some times weight gain can start during the injection part. I’m just trying to stay healthy for this pregnancy. @brittanygalioto

PW: Hi there! Thanks for your question, I love that you are thinking about staying healthy during your surrogacy pregnancy. Congrats on your match! I personally did not have any issues gaining weight with the injection medication, but I know some ladies do. My best recommendation for you is to continue the workouts and healthy diet you are currently doing, as long as you feel up to it and the doctors approve it. Of course following doctor's directive is so important, there may be a period where they have you stop exercising or cut back on the intensity. It is so hard to start a new exercise regime when newly pregnant, but much easier to maintain existing exercise and healthy food habits. Best of luck on your journey!

Thanks to everyone who submitted a question to Paula! Watch for our next Ask the Expert in the coming weeks.