It’s hard to deny that your greatest support system, when in a relationship, resides with your significant other. While family in general can play an extraordinary role in our lives, the adult we tend to interact with and depend on, usually on a daily basis, is the one we share the most intimate of relationships with. This is why it is incredibly important to have them in your corner when you decide to start on this amazing journey known as surrogacy!
Reactions of significant others can vary from immediate support to a downright roadblock of; “No way, no how!” There is no right or wrong reaction, of course, because this is an incredibly intimate process, and most of what people see in regards to surrogacy are the sensationalized accounts through the media and movies. When it comes to talking to your significant other about surrogacy, it really boils down to communication. This might seem like a simple answer at a first glance, but most couples know that talking to, and communicating with, your significant other are two different animals.
So what should you do?
First you should read up on the topic and gather some basic information about surrogacy, and then set aside some one-on-one time to broach the subject with them. Obviously if they think it’s a great idea from the get-go, there’s not much more you can do except start the journey together! Though we do recommend touching on the subjects we’ve listed below, if for no other reason than to confirm their opinions on certain aspects of surrogacy.
For others who might need some advice on how to navigate the waters of the significant others who don’t think it’s a good fit for your family, here’s a few suggestions on how to have an open, honest conversation:
1. Stop and listen.
This goes for both the potential surrogate as well as the significant other. For my husband, he didn’t feel comfortable with the process because he thought it was only possible with a traditional surrogacy type of situation. Once he realized the child(ren) would not be genetically related to me, as in gestational surrogacy, he felt much better about the process. Sometimes it is going to come down to merely presenting them with the correct information on how surrogacy works. Other times it will not be quite so easy as that, as there are many aspects of surrogacy that can make people uncomfortable when it comes to their personal beliefs. However, when you start the conversation being open to hearing their concerns and objections, and learning the reasons behind them, it is always a better place to begin from than being on the defense for why you’d like to be a surrogate.
2. Force yourself to hear.
Perhaps you’re a little nervous bringing up the subject, since this isn’t something a multitude of women decide to do every day, and you’re already coming up with replies and reasons why this is something you should both agree to do. Essentially, you’ve stopped speaking to them but you’re not really hearing them, because your mind is still continuing the conversation even if the words are not coming out for your significant other to hear. One way to overcome this obstacle in your brain is to repeat their concern out loud when there is a pause in their part of the conversation; “So you’re saying you’re not comfortable with it because of xyz?” This not only keeps you on track with their part, but it also lets them know you’re legitimately hearing them.
3. Be open and honest with your partner.
This is especially important with certain aspects of surrogacy, because, as an example; you don’t want to be in the middle of a match meeting and have it be the first time your significant other, who has a strong belief in not terminating a pregnancy no matter what, finds out there could be a termination/reduction clause in your contract. You both have to be on the same page as a couple before doing so with an IP or IPs. Surrogacy can have a wide variety of impacts on a family, and being up front with the good as well as the potentially bad, (such as complications after resulting in not being able to have any more children of your own), is crucial in maintaining a healthy support system throughout a journey.
4. Pay attention to the nonverbal signals.
As humans we do not only communicate on a verbal level; a person can say one thing, but their body language can tell a whole different story. The same can go for you. If you think you’re heading on to a potential battlefield with trying to convince your significant other, your posture and eye contact can set the tone of the conversation before it’s even begun. Keep a neutral body stance and tone to your voice, maintain eye contact, and sit near them. Recognize if they are becoming uncomfortable, defensive, or perhaps even aggressive about the topic. At that point it might be best to hear them out, take a step back, and let them know you can talk about it at a later time, once you’ve both had more of an opportunity to look into it on your own.
5. Keep the focus on the here and now.
It can be easy to get sidetracked if a conversation turns from a discussion to an argument, which can lead to tangents on something not even remotely related to surrogacy. The best thing to do is keep your focus on surrogacy, and if things begin to veer away this might also be a good time to follow the step above: hear them out, take a step back, and let them know you can talk about it at a later time, once you’ve both had more of an opportunity to look into it on your own. You don’t want the decision to be a surrogate to cause your significant other to relate the subject to why they’re the only one to ever take out the garbage or do the dishes. Most of us in relationships can relate to the fact that, at times, certain subjects bring out the weirdest gripes imaginable–from either party.
6. Try to minimize the emotions involved.
This can be a little tricky, since surrogacy is an incredibly emotional act for a variety of reasons. It can be difficult not to have your heart set on being a surrogate before you’ve even mentioned the topic to your significant other. Bringing that level of emotion into the conversation can make it difficult on the discussion, especially if your significant other is not entirely comfortable with the prospect. In fact, bringing emotion into the conversation could completely backfire, or make the journey more difficult later on, since your significant other may feel pressured to agree in the face of your voracity on the subject. Keeping an even keel when discussing surrogacy is fair for both you and your significant other, because there are topics that need to be discussed with a level-head, and not necessarily with passion.
7. Be ready to relinquish an argument.
There is a chance this may be turn into an argument, and one you’ll really want to win because you feel so strongly about it. However, you may have to, once again, back off and realize it could take multiple conversations before your significant other is comfortable with surrogacy. This can also concern certain aspects of the surrogacy itself. They may be okay with you doing surrogacy, but would prefer certain provisions are put in place, or certain things are not done. When it came to talking with my husband about the process, I let him know what kind of couples I had the option of helping and he was comfortable with all of them except one: working with someone who was HIV positive. While I was fine with it, and read into the process for such an instance and had him read the literature as well, it still did not sit well with him. Understanding his unease, and knowing it really wasn’t worth getting into a fight over, I ceded helping that kind of parent/couple. You should also recognize if you may be trying to ‘win’ on something just to win, and take the time to reevaluate the situation.
8. Humor and playfulness can help.
Yes, surrogacy is an amazing and amazingly serious topic to discuss with your significant other, but injecting a little humor into explanations or conversations isn’t horrible. In fact, many surrogates use small bits of humor when speaking with strangers about the process without getting too in-depth; “I’m the oven, it’s their bun!”, “Think of it as extreme babysitting.”, “Keep Calm and They’re Not Mine.” You can do the same when bringing up surrogacy, or the various topics within surrogacy, to your significant other.
Here are some of the topics we’d recommend touching on during your conversation:
- Is your own family complete? It is highly advised to be finished creating your family before helping someone or a couple start or expand theirs. Complications can arise which may lead to you not being able to carry anymore children, biological or not.
- What kind of couples you’re comfortable carrying for, e.g. Heterosexual, Single, Gay, Foreign, and so on.
- How many babies you are willing to carry; never transfer more than you are comfortable with carrying!
- The possibility of an embryo splitting, even if you only transfer one.
- The risks associated with a multiples pregnancy.
- Views on termination, selective reduction, genetic tests, and amniocentesis.
- Pumping breastmilk for the baby or babies post-birth.
- How many transfers you’re willing to undergo if you do not become pregnant.
- If you will be able to go on bed rest with no major hurdles in case of such an event.
- Is your significant other okay with being tested, and adhering to the various rules in place?
- If everyone is on board with responding to communications in a timely manner, as contracts do require the signature of both people in the relationship. Also taking the time to review the contracts together, to make sure you both agree on all the terms.
- Taking and sometimes helping to take medications, especially the injections.
- If everyone is willing to invest the time needed to make the best effort toward a successful journey. Surrogacy is not a quick process, and not everyone becomes pregnant on the first transfer. Not to mention the other various aspects of the journey that can cause delays, which are usually out of your hands.
- Are you and your significant other able to take time out of work for the start-up of the process, various screenings and tests, not to mention anything that may/will come up as the journey progresses. Like doctor appointments and ultrasounds. Keep in mind multiples pregnancies are high risk, and high risk means more appointments and more time off of work.
- As with any pregnancy, surrogacy or not, there are risks involved, and in the most extreme of cases it can result in maternal morbidity or mortality. This is something that needs serious discussion, because it is one thing to take such risks for your own family, and touching on the subject with your significant other in how it relates to surrogacy is a must.
Even with the above suggestions, you may find your significant other unwilling to consider you doing a surrogacy journey. Every relationship is different, and of course we fault no one for not feeling entirely comfortable with the process, no matter how much information we provide or direct others to. This process is not for everyone, and not for everyone’s family. You may have to come to terms with the fact that, barring a change of opinion, surrogacy may not happen for you.
We do hope, however, that the above suggestions help you to have the best conversation possible with your significant other on the topic of surrogacy. It truly is an amazing process, and feel free to check out all the resources we have for you here on All Things Surrogacy!