If you missed my post on Saturday, you'll want to read it before you read this one! Here it is: A Big Announcement.
I really appreciate those of you who submitted questions! I have answers for you! (I did reword some of the questions.)
Q. Will it be hard to carry a baby for nine months and then give it away?
A. This is the most common concern I hear! What's most important to realize is that from Day One, I've known this is not my child. That creates an entirely different mindset. (Honestly, at this point it's much harder for Ann than for me. She would really love to be carrying her own child!)
Think of it this way. If my own infant lived with me for nine months and then was taken away, it would be devastating. But let's say a friend (who works full-time) and her newborn come live with me for nine months. I take on a majority of the childcare for those nine months until my friend moves away, as planned. I would miss that baby! But I wouldn't want to keep it. It was never mine.
So I don't anticipate wanting to keep the baby--it's my best friend's baby, biologically and legally! I do anticipate I will miss the baby, after having it growing inside me for so long. Add in postpartum hormones, and I expect it to be an emotional time. But I don't think it will be devastating--just challenging! Mixed in with those challenges will be the joy of seeing that child often, and getting to know it--not as mother, but as auntie!
In order to be approved as a gestational carrier, I had to meet with psychologists and do psychological testing. (The Engineer, Ann, her husband, and I all met with the psychologist together too.) It feels good to know that, while there are inherent challenges in this type of situation, I've been "approved" as the type of person who handles those challenges well!
It also helps tremendously that Ann and I are considering this a "shared pregnancy." We see each other often. She comes to appointments with me. We've found other ways for her to feel connected to the baby and the pregnancy. There are frequent reminders that I am not this baby's mother! I'm just providing it with a place to stay for 9 months. (And the name "Beth" means "House" in Hebrew, so...maybe this is a role I was always meant to play!)
Q. Have you spoken to other gestational carriers about their experiences, unique things to expect as a carrier, emotional ups and downs, etc.?
A. I haven't. There are online message boards for carriers, but I think this is such an individual experience--what I struggle with will be different than what others struggle with. I didn't want to create problems in my head--I really want to stay positive! However, at the psychologist's office, we had an opportunity to discuss potential issues that many carriers and parents encounter. The psychologist who met with all four of us specializes in these situations, so she had great advice.
Q. How do your husband and kids feel about it?
A. The Engineer thinks it's great! When I first brought it up, he was open to the idea but needed time to adjust to it. Eventually he got used to the idea and saw it as a positive, a cool gift I could give to our friends. When the psychologist asked him if he would have trouble giving me emotional support through a pregnancy when it wasn't his child, his response was, "No, she's still my wife!" I loved that--and he has really been a great support to me!
The kids understand it and are excited about the process of pregnancy. They like to see pictures and diagrams of embryos online. They are young enough that they probably don't realize how unique this situation is, and they just "roll with it"! Sunday, Zoodle was talking to some friends of ours, and said, "Mommy has a baby in her tummy. But it's not our baby; it's Coqui and Peanut's [Ann's other kids'] baby. Their mommy couldn't have a baby because she doesn't have a uterus because her uterus got sick." (He's 3 1/2 years old!)
Q. Are you planning a natural birth again? Is there anything unique with how doctors/nurses/midwives will handle your situation?
A. I absolutely want to do another natural childbirth (maybe another waterbirth) at the same birthing center where Zoodle was born. We haven't met with the midwives yet, but I expect them to be very supportive.
Q. Is it/will it be weird having to explain to acquaintances and people you see around town? Do you expect criticism from people who just do not understand, and what will you say to them?
A. It can be a "different" thing to explain, but people love us and have been so supportive! And a large number of my friends are also Ann's friends, so they were already used to the idea since she's been through this process before. As for strangers who make comments when my belly is bigger, I'll just have to figure out what I want to say and when. When someone says to my kids, "Wow, you're going to have a brother or sister!" do I just smile, or briefly explain? (The kids may take care of it for me!) I'll figure it out as I go.
As for criticism, I think the best thing to do is just to briefly educate people on the facts (e.g., this baby belongs to its parents biologically and legally), and stay positive. This process is an awesome thing to be involved in, and I want people to know that--it's not just a blessing for Ann's family; it's a blessing for me too.
Q. Are there legally binding forms you sign going into this that automatically name Ann and her husband as the biological parents when the baby is born?
A. Yes; we have a long contract that covers everything from Ann and her husband's legal parentage of the baby, to my responsibility to follow doctors'/midwives' orders, to the fact that I have no right to name the baby. (I thought that clause was pretty funny!) We worked with lawyers who specialize in these situations. The baby will legally belong to Ann and her husband at birth!
Q. Will you provide breastmilk for the baby?
A. At this point I am not planning to. It's important to me that I be able to emotionally transition from the role of the baby's "temporary home" to the role of the baby's "auntie." Providing pumped milk would, to me, feel like a "mother" task, and it's very important to me that my mind and body remember that Ann is 100% this baby's mother! I'll be adjusting to the baby's absence, and I think that purposefully continuing to lactate would make that adjustment more difficult for me.
I think this is such a cool process, but it's definitely not one that many people are familiar with. I want the people around us to understand it, and I hope the Q&A helped with that!
When I talk to a woman about this situation, she automatically wonders how she'd handle being a carrier. What a lot of women don't think about is what it's like to be a mother who needs to partner with another woman to bear her child. This is really a unique experience for Ann, complete with its own challenges and joys.
Ann has offered to do her own Q&A! If you have questions for her, please post them here as a comment, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I really appreciate her openness! The more we can share, the more people can get used to--and celebrate--the creative ways that God grows families!