Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were thrilled to bring home baby number three — but does it feel the same bringing home a baby from a surrogate, or as Kim recently clarified on her website "gestational carrier," as it does after carrying two of your own?
The question is all over the Internet, with advice from surrogacy centers and gestational carriers on how to form a deep, emotional bond with your child who wasn’t in your womb.
“What if you are not carrying your own child, how do you and your family begin the bond that will last a lifetime?” asks surrogacy advice website Simple Surrogacy.
“Even from the early stages of pregnancy, the baby has a strong sense of smell and hearing. Through touch, smell and hearing, the baby attaches themselves to the woman carrying them,” they say. “One thing intended parents can do from the beginning is talk to the baby. The more the baby hears the intended parent’s voices, the more familiar and comfortable baby will become. As intended parents, you can even send tapes of your voice and have your surrogate play them for the baby.”
It also helps to be part of the pregnancy as much as possible, like going along to doctor appointments and throwing a baby shower even though you don't have a baby bump.
Also: “Taking the time to organize and prepare your home before the birth of your baby is vital. Nesting your home, preparing the nursery and baby proofing the house, gives intended parents a feeling of connection to the baby, and provides the feeling of parental protection, which is a vital aspect of bonding,” says Simple Surrogacy.
Since the baby does have a physical connection to the gestational carrier or surrogate, providing a transitional item is recommended.
“Having the surrogate mother sleep with a teddy bear, which she plans on giving the child, gives a newborn a sense of familiarity and comfort, just from the scent of the surrogate mother.”
A lot of skin-to-skin contact at home between biological mom and baby is key.
While attachment theory suggests that bonds between mommy and baby begin forming before the baby is even born — the baby can hear her voice and she can physically feel the baby move.
Because of that, Surrogate.com says “an emotional transfer needs to take place from the surrogate family to the intended parents.”
There are ways to prepare for that, and if the biological or intended parents have done the steps, the transition home should be easy.
Accept the fact that you didn’t carry the baby, grieve over that if you have to, and move on to the child’s needs. Again, be very involved in the steps throughout the pregnancy, be present for doctor’s appointments and questions, and act like a mom would act (because you are.)
It’s healthy for the gestational carrier to hold the baby after birth, because confirming her smell and touch will help calm the baby, but it's also important that the biological parents are present as well.
And don’t forget about your surrogate or gestational carrier, she will worry too. She did a wonderful thing for your family, so keep her in the loop as to what’s happening. Remember, she doesn’t long for your child.
“Surrogates do not want to keep the baby,” writes one surrogate who carried a baby for a loving couple. “Many women say they don't know how a surrogate could carry a baby without bonding with it. But I think those women feel that way for the same reasons I could never work in hospice care. I think I'd be constantly depressed because I'd get attached to all the people who died every day…Surrogates are gifted with caring for people at the beginning of their lives. They never question whether they will form a maternal bond because we know that gestating a human does not a mother make. I bonded with my own keeper babies in utero because I knew I'd be bringing them home. They were my babies, and I was their mother from day one, so I actively bonded with them. I say active because it took a conscious effort to love and nurture my babies day in and day out. In fact, our bond grows stronger every day because I foster a maternal love for them. We never give that part of our hearts to our surro babies.”
In one study, surrogates were found to have improved self image after helping another person realize her dreams of motherhood.
"All of the surrogates reported positive feelings since the birth of the child. These included feeling satisfied, fulfilled, resolved, and better about themselves. All felt surrogacy was beneficial for themselves. Five reported an increase in confidence and an enrichment of their lives," reported the study. "Another nine reported a stronger marriage and greater appreciation of family and children. Five to two of the respondents were able to articulate a clear positive influence on their lives by being a surrogate mother — for example, increased marital communication, being inspired to pursue further education and increased individuation from extended family. They also reported that their immediate family had adjusted better than their extended family."
As for breastfeeding, someone who used a gestational carrier like Kim could do it if they so choose, with a combination of medication to induce lactation and pumping, but most moms do not go that route.
Most experts advise patience above all else. Taking the time to understand and go through the adjustment period and process will definitely help the bonding happen.
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