"It's the intended parents that you miss the most" — and other musings about the surrogacy bond

Stories about surrogacy seem to come in two flavours: sweet or bitter. The reality is far more nuanced. Below are three glimpses of the special intimacy forged between intended mothers and surrogates.

5 minute read

When I write or broadcast about surrogacy, I tend to focus on the mechanics, the chain of events, and the law. The complex and uniquely intimate relationship between the intended mother and the surrogate gets largely overlooked.

Below, I offer three glimpses into the mother-surrogate bond. I reported on each of these surrogacies but not all of these details made the final cut. I share them with you now.

  • Surrogate “Sophie” describes her relationship with the intended mother

  • Surrogate Jessica imagines how the intended mother might have been feeling during their crisis

  • Intended mother Stefanie describes her relationship with her surrogate at its peak

In each case, and for different reasons, the relationship subsequently broke down, and the two women no longer communicate. But their closeness to each other deserves to be remarked and remembered.

Sophie

“People always think you're going to have trouble giving up the kid, but it's the relationship with the intended parents that you miss the most”

“Sophie” was a surrogate for a Canadian family. Just before the birth of their twins, and in the midst of a medical emergency, the relationship between Sophie and the intended mother exploded. The two women have not spoken since. 

Read her full story (37:00 mins).

Below are Sophie's thoughts on the intended parents (IPs) several years after the surrogacy: 

“People always think you're going to have trouble giving up the kid. But it's the relationship with the IPs that you miss the most. That is the hardest break, the hardest split up. Mine was like an awful divorce.

“I mean, you never have the babies — you're just carrying them. For me there was no bonding. But the IPs are in your life every single day. Every day. They're going through the really big highs with you, the really big lows with you. I don't know how people get attached to the kids, but definitely there's a very, very strong relationship with the IPs. It's really a big kick in the stomach when it ends.”

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“We pretty much always made ourselves available. We prioritized our communication. So if I wanted to reach out, or tell a story, or share something, she was always there to reply.”

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[Toward the end of the pregnancy, Sophie ended up in hospital, with a life-threatening condition.]

“I did think that when I woke up in the ICU, she would come and say, ‘Wow, I was totally wrong,’ or ‘Thank you for not listening to me and coming here, otherwise our babies would be dead.’ I hoped for that. I hoped for that for awhile — maybe a year. And I just realized it wasn't going to happen. For a long time it used to be my fantasy. I worked it out in therapy.

“I had a great therapist. When I brought up the notion of egg donation, she wouldn't really let me consider it until I had worked through the fact that I was still longing for recognition from the intended mother. Because she thought I was just going to try to find it in another situation — being an egg donor to try to remake that friendship that had ended so disastrously.”

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“Did you know I dream about them? I dream about them more than I dream about my dead mom. I dream about them a lot — sometimes four or five times a month then not for a bit.

“In my dreams the intended mother will be trying to leave with the kids. She's hiding the babies or running from me or she's locking up the door so I can't get in. I don't think I've ever seen the actual kids. It's always the IPs. I saw the stroller once.

“I'm always so happy to see them. I just want to say, ‘Hey, don't be mad. I hope you're loving this life you worked so hard for.’”

Jessica 

“I wanted to respond back, I wanted to talk to her, and I still do”

Jessica was a surrogate in 2016. She and her family lived in California, and the intended parents lived in China. About a month after the family's twins were born, it came to light that one of the babies was actually Jessica's own genetic child. The two women have not communicated since shortly after that discovery. 

Listen to her full story (23:42 mins)

Below are messages from the intended mother in the midst of their crisis. (They were communicating on WeChat, a Chinese social media app that also provides rudimentary translation. At the time, the two babies were named Max and Matt.)

Intended mother: The relationship between Matt and Max is very close. So I had wanted a peaceful solution to this matter. I don't know how you look at Max now but many years later you will be grateful for his birth...

Intended mother: How is Max these days? I have been raising Max for a month. We have had feelings for him. My mother is also very fond of him. He is a particularly good baby. I do not want Max to be involved in a lawsuit when he was born... You know we both are the victims. I hope we can solve this problem peacefully. 

Intended mother: For you, Jessica, I will always thank you. I even want to let Max and Matt to see each other every few years if possible. I love you... 

Intended mother: ...I do not have any wrong and I am so grateful to you. I want to see you again this week. If you are available please tell me. I want to see you and Max. 

Listen to Jessica speaking about her intended mother almost one year after the surrogacy had ended (1:45 mins)

Stefanie

"We literally stayed up till four in the morning every night talking"

Stefanie was born without a uterus. She and her husband, who lived in New Jersey, hired a surrogate to bring their triplet boys into the world in 2008. 

Listen to Stefanie describe, about seven months after the births, the relationship she had with her surrogate (3:45 mins).

For more on Stefanie's story, first broadcast in 2010, listen from minute 37:27 all the way to the end.

To also hear the surrogacy story of Melanie, a surrogate from Ottawa, start earlier at minute 28:55. 

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If you have something to share about any topic related to assisted reproduction, please get in touch: alison.motluk@gmail.com.

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