By: Kerrie Olejarz
Throughout the whole pregnancy I struggled with enormous amounts of guilt about our surrogate Sumita. I dreaded her having to labour a baby that she could not keep or hold. I felt awful for any morning sickness she may have suffered, and when she was hospitalized I wanted to fly over and make things better for her.
My guilt became more intense with each week. I didn’t necessarily make it public, but did have a discussion with an Australian woman who had her son in the summer of 2010 and who went through the same emotions. It is difficult to explain the guilt but I eventually had to talk about it with a psychotherapist. I don’t have a mental health issue, but back in the spring, when my work place became toxic and the anxiety of the pregnancy piled up, I decided to see a therapist to find strategies to cope with it all. The physical symptoms I had been suffering from had me in bed for days and after multiple visits to the hospital and rushed specialist appointments, the diagnosis was stress. I had to figure out how to manage all of this and minimize the physical symptoms so I could still function and prepare for motherhood. I decided to embrace the positives of the pregnancy which was tracking along nicely and spoke to my therapist about my guilt. I needed to get myself in check and work on the good stuff, like counting down the days until I was off work, looking forward to my shower, booking three weeks’ holiday to end out my year at work and planning our trip to India.
It became clear in my therapy sessions that, because I had been through an actual labour and delivery myself and had lost the baby in the end, I was worried that Sumita –having to hand over the baby to me– would feel as horrible as I did. I knew that she knew this was a transactional pregnancy with a contract and an agreement, but still –she is human, and a mother. I ached for her and hoped she would have a C-section so the labour would be minimal, and quick. It is awful to hope for a C-section, but in my mind it was the easier route for her emotionally. I dreaded for her to go through a long labour, even to be induced. I wanted this to be as easy for her as possible, but this was not in my hands and I needed to be prepared for whatever happened.
The whole experience of surrogacy is difficult and exciting. Exciting for obvious reasons but difficult emotionally and financially. I often rationalized my financial anxiety; we could not afford to do this in North America but the cost in India was a fraction of that. Also, we would be helping a woman and family in India. The surrogacy journey is not for the weak, whether your surrogate is next door, in a different part of your country, or, as in our situation, 9,000 miles away. You work with a surrogate for reasons that many cannot understand, and it took many many years of heartbreaking experiences to get to that point.
Surrogates are wonderful women who do this for a multitude of reasons, but in India the primary reason is compensation. These women need the money, and at our particular clinic, most surrogates join the program based on word of mouth from other surrogates. Their main job for the duration of the nine months is to produce a healthy baby. They find sisterhood with other women undertaking the same process. They eat well, they have everything taken care of for them, they have outstanding medical care, and their job is to be the little oven for our growing bun.
Fortunately in the surrogacy world, surrogates are screened and counseled prior to joining the program. Only stable and willing women with the support of their family are accepted. There is no “forced” surrogacy at our clinic, and for that we could sleep at night. The tremendous guilt I already felt about the process did not need any added layers of anxiety based on the ethical and moral dealings of our clinic. Everyday we were thankful for our clinic’s amazing work and the strict processes in place. Every surrogate was well taken care of, every baby was growing to the very best of everyone’s ability, and every intended parent was kept in the loop of communication. Nothing was ever left to chance. Knowing all of this made the process easier and should really have lifted my guilt, but it was deep-seeded and had been festering inside me for over a decade. This was my issue to deal with. No one else could fix it for me. I just had to plough through the emotions and hope that I would not be an emotional wreck at the end.