We previously had Crystal Patel share an Intended Parent's perspective in an Ask the Expert activity. Having been through the process with ConceiveAbilities as an Intended Parent, Crystal understands firsthand the joys, and challenges, of navigating the surrogacy journey.
Question: Advice to intended parents. What would be your words of wisdom to intended parents embarking on a surrogacy journey? - @Tisha
CP: Patience is a virtue. Repeat that to yourself a few hundred times. It does not come easy, nor does it come overnight. We are conditioned to want everything immediately, but this is a journey. With time, you will learn to trust the process and most importantly trust the people in place to help guide you.
Also, try to have an open mind as you embark on this journey. One of the most difficult things to come to terms with is that no one will carry this pregnancy exactly like you, but with time you will come to learn that it is okay. Trust your gut, but be openminded with your expectations. I still remember the first time Kunal and I met our Match Expert, Alicia. We walked into the room with a list of concrete things we thought we must have in order for this to be successful. Alicia never dismissed our thoughts or feelings; instead she took this as an opportunity to really understand why we felt the way we did. It’s important to understand that you DO have control in what this will look like, but also trust the experts in place to help guide you on what is really important at the end of the day.
Question: How did your surrogate help make you feel connected to the pregnancy as the journey progressed and was there anything you wished she would have done differently in that regard? - @Mlmeier
CP: Our journey has looked quite different then I had hoped due to COVID, but technology has been such a gift through this time. Kamila always virtually calls me during all of her appointments if/when the obstetrician allows it. She emails the medical summary after every appointment once it has been uploaded electronically into her chart, even if I was there virtually for the appointment. She took it upon herself to purchase Belly Buds, which allows Kunal and I to read to Zahra; Kamila plays the audio for her so she can learn our voices. As she has progressed along in the pregnancy and can begin to feel her move, she always texts to let us know if she was active that day, or warn us that she was up at all hours of the night so we might have a party animal on our hands.
Ironically, a majority of the time when we are texting one another, we aren’t even talking about the baby. I think Kamila knows on some level that I need to know that she and Zahra are safe. We’ll talk about the sports that her children are participating in, or talk about work, or what crazy ideas we are coming up with next to convince our husbands to partake in. I realize not all Intended Parents may want as close of a relationship as we have, and that is perfectly okay. There are multiple ways to be connected throughout the process and it will look different for each family. I would encourage Intended Parents to be honest from the beginning of what their expectations are. This way your surrogate can help you feel connected throughout the process based on your preference. A piece of advice: remember that your surrogate has a child of her own, maybe a career or spouse as well that she is tending to – don’t let your mind travel to a dark place if she doesn’t text or call back immediately - she’s also living her life as a mother, spouse, and support system.
Question: What were your biggest fears going into this journey as an intended parent? What resources did you use to help navigate this and what support helped you along the way? - @Tisha
CP: How much time do we have? In all seriousness; I think our biggest fear was what will this relationship look like with our surrogate? How can I trust that she’s taking care of herself every day, that she is eating healthy foods, that when she makes decisions throughout the day, she is protecting our child that we worked so hard to create?
I also found myself playing the dreaded “What If?” game quite a bit. What if the transfer doesn’t take? What if there isn’t a heartbeat? Nothing good comes from putting yourself through this misery. Celebrate your victories; big and small and put one foot in front of the other every day; and then repeat. The world makes us view everything through a jaded lens and you can’t do that in this situation. My husband and I leaned on each other a lot throughout this process and also our family members. I have always believed that you go to different people for different things. Some days I needed to voice all of my concerns and was looking for no response; just an ear to listen - my older sister. Other days I needed tough love to remind me that the probability of my fears was small, and I had to power through and not be paralyzed by my thoughts - my Mother.
The foundation for this to truly work is a combination of finding the right person, with the right motivation, who aligns with your values. Agencies like ConceiveAbilities exist for a reason to professionally and personally manage your journey. Match Experts exist for a reason which is to help guide you on what’s important when you yourself are overwhelmed and don’t exactly know what you should be looking for in a surrogate. Your Match Manager is there as your beacon to guide through the steps when difficult decisions need to be made. You very much have control in what this will look like, but understand all of these important people, including your surrogate are on YOUR team. They are all working together towards the same goal – to help you create your family.
Question: What is one (or two, or three) thing you wish your surrogate, or surrogates knew? For many surrogates, becoming and staying pregnant has came so easily to them that it is easy to forget everything that our/an intended parent feels and is going through. For instance, an intended parent who has suffered multiple first trimester miscarriages may be guarded, apprehensive when hearing (or seeing) a heart beat during those first trimester ultrasounds. - @Kristina F.
CP: Intended Parents have gone through so much just to get to this point. We all have overcome our own unique set of challenges and obstacles to get here. For Kunal and myself, it took four rounds of IVF to create ONE embryo. We had a very difficult time believing that things would go right. Most Intended Parents believe they are in the 1%. If something is to go wrong, naturally it will go wrong for us. For us, Kamila provided our strength and optimism when we felt like we had none to give. She never dismissed how we felt, or tried to sugarcoat the situation, but constantly reminded us that it be will be okay. We have our plan. We will continue to work our plan and move forward.
I still remember attending the first heartbeat appointment. I had a lucky red cloth in my hand, a religious good luck charm given to me by my parents. I have always had it with me for important events: job interviews, IVF egg retrievals, etc. I had tears in my eyes as we awaited the ultrasound. Kamila’s husband, Juan, could sense the fear and emotion in the room and was such a calming presence. He asked what the symbolism behind the cloth was, and to remind me that the faith I needed was in that room. I felt at peace. We were there with family and it was going to be okay.
Question: When you first looked at the profiles for a gestational carrier, what information were you most interested in seeing/learning about them to help determine if you thought they’d be a good match for you? - @Mlmeier
CP: Our surrogate’s support system was incredibly important to Kunal and I. We have leaned on our families not only while navigating infertility, but also through all the challenges and joys that come from living life. Family is the center of who we are, and that support comes in all shapes and sizes. Even if they are not family per say, I needed to know she had a network in place that she could depend on. For Kamila, it was her husband Juan and her mother. In the early stages of pregnancy, when Kamila wasn’t feeling well, her mother was there in a second’s notice helping to take care of her daughter (and mine), and also manage her children. This is such a big responsibility you are taking on for another family and I felt better knowing that she had people she could lean on.
Not that it is a requirement, but my surrogate was also similar to me in personality type: A-type, direct, but still warm. I have the tendency to be a bit neurotic, and when I display this wonderful quality to doctors and staff, Kamila defends me and Zahra with all her might. “Listen, Crystal has been through a lot to get here. She is scared and needs for you to be patient and answer her questions.”
I trusted that ConceiveAbilities had ensured that all the clinical criteria had been met, and that she had passed various levels of background checks. For me, I wanted to look at a profile and walk away with a better understanding of who she was as a human being.
While it is not your responsibility as a surrogate to continuously calm us down, just know that we are a bit broken at times and an extra check in, smile, or being strong for us when we can not will go a long way.
Question: Thank you for the transparency you have provided in all of your responses here on the Surrogacy Learning Center, @Crystal P. I would love to hear your/an intended parent's perspective on one last question. I am a 3 time surrogate however the first embryo transfer for each of my three intended parents was ultimately not the one that resulted in delivery. Is there such a thing as too much optimism, in your opinion, from a surrogate? I recall a time or two during my surrogacies when I wasn't sure if my optimism could seem naive or be viewed differently. In my heart and in my mind however, perseverance would pay off. It had to. I wanted their dream of a child to come true. - @Kristina F.
CP: Kristina, that's such a great question. From my perspective; I don't believe that there is such a thing as too much optimism, but maybe more in regards to knowing when to let it shine. I know for myself, I love that Kamila doesn't join me when I begin to entertain my deep, dark thoughts. She listens and when appropriate reels me back in to focus on what we can control. Having faith and believing is a big part of this process and if you are able to do that for us when we can't; that's a positive in my eyes.