A surrogacy journey, jointly documented by Surrogate and Intended Mother.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

In whose best interest?

My first slightly negative post here I think, as I'm feeling a little bit cross with the system.

As I mentioned, Cheese Teamcake have our meeting with the midwife to discuss our rather complex birth plan coming up next month. The hospital we are under have so far been fantastic, and we have good reason to believe that they will carry on being supportive and accommodating. Sadly, that is not the case for all teams going through surrogacy. I know more than one case where hospitals have stuck rigidly to policies that clearly will not work for a surrogacy case and have caused great upset for the people affected.

Here are some examples of the flexability needed.

It is standard practice to allow a maximum of 2 people into the room with the woman giving birth. 
Many surrogates wish to have both the IPs present at the birth but naturally wish to have their own partner or some other close friend or relative with them as their birthing partner. It seems logical to me that the parents of the child should be allowed to be present for the birth, but that the woman going through labour should also be able to have someone there who's sole priority is their wellbeing. As I say, most hospitals are very supportive and accommodating  but some do not even try and teams are presented with a firm "no, only 2 people allowed in" with no discussion. Imagine being told you were not allowed to be present at the birth of your own child. How that feels for the surrogate who has carried out this entire journey to watch the joy and tears of 2 new parents as they meet their child for the first time.

Visiting hours.
Let's look at the logical viewpoint, bearing in mind surrogacy is completely legal and recognised in this country. It is important for the Intended Mother to start bonding with her new bundle of joy. Equally as important, is the surrogate being able to immediately take that place of special family friend, to allow them to share in the joy of this little family that they have helped create from a detached perspective. This is the healthiest thing for all involved; the mother trying to get to grips with her newborn, the surrogate trying to rest and heal and reflect on the amazing thing she has done, and the baby, who needs to start bonding via feeding, skin to skin, and all other things that hospitals recommend.

Again, unfortunately there are several cases I know of where the IPs have been told absolutely that they will only be permitted to visit during visiting hours (small windows of time, daytime only). Worse than that, this means that the surrogate has to care for the baby when the IPs are not allowed in, for example, through the night. Again, whose best interest is this in? It's certainly not in the best interest of the child, who in any other circumstance, would be being cradled, snuggled and fed by his/her mummy at every given opportunity. It cannot help the surrogate, who has already given so so much to this new family, and now has the exhausting and overwhelming task of looking after someone else's newborn. Nor is it good for the mummy, who has waited so long and fought so hard to get to this point, and is now being told they cannot be there to look after their own child.

These IPs are not asking for an en suite or anything ridiculous, they will sleep in a chair, on the floor, wherever is necessary, they just want to care for their own child. A surrogate is recognised in British Law, so why is it that some surrogates are told that if the baby is taken to special care for any reason (in which case the IPs will of course go with their child) and the surrogate refuses to stay in, they will be reported to social services for neglect?
 Things promoted all over the world as beneficial can be made impossible by these regulations
It's a ridiculous farce and does make me cross because I cannot for the life of me see why these hospitals are making these decisions as it doesn't do anyone any good. The proof that this is unnecessary lies in the fact that there are some incredible hospitals and staff out there who bend over backwards to accommodate this fairly rare but definitely not unique situation, and try and make it as smooth and as magical as any birth experience should be.

It is so sad that having worked so hard together as a team, and communicated so well, and balanced such a complex relationship so beautifully, the issue of red tape can come in and potentially ruin the most magical part, the part that both the surrogate and the IPs dream about.

It would be great to hear any other views on this, especially from anyone in the medical profession. Perhaps people have ideas of ways we might help stop this happening and how to educate those who don't really understand that surrogacy does not fit neatly into the box.


  1. Hello sweetie, just discovered your blog, how marvellous it is!

    We were worried about the kinds of things you describe above, partly on the basis of a little bit of prejudice towards the Isle of Wight and it all being a bit stuck in the 1950s. As you know, our little boy was born 10 days ago, 8 weeks premature, and he's (thriving!) in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). We've therefore had more opportunity than most to encounter challenges arising from being in a surrogacy arrangement (not to mention being gay dads).

    And. They. Have. Been. Brilliant.

    The midwife supervisor "called some colleagues on the mainland" (I have a vision of her heating up the telephone machine to do it) before our meeting to discuss this birth plan, and they were very accommodating. The main issues were really just logistical ones to do with not being able to accommodate men throughout the day on maternity wards.

    The NICU team have been particularly amazing. Never once have they questioned the fact that we are the dads and Lindsey is the surrogate. We've done all the nappy changes, feeding, skin-to-skin, you name it... Issues to do with consent have been handled extremely sensitively (they asked us all to sign everything rather than focusing on exclusively on Lindsey). They usually use "snoozies" (little knotted muslins that women nestle in their bras and then put in the incubator) to get babies exposed to mum's scent - I overheard a whispered "yes, two snoozies is fine" before we were presented with them, although we were left to sort out the no bra issue ourselves :) and now they're thinking of having snoozies for dads as well as mums as a matter of course. We have built a great rapport with the team and we can't think of anywhere else we'd rather have been during this time.

    There is no doubt that the Isle of Wight is not the most cosmopolitan place in the world. You can't get a 3G signal for love nor money. I don't think I've seen a black person since we got here 3 weeks ago. And we might end up in the local paper for having once sounded the horn on our automobile. But the hospital have been faultless from beginning to end.

    So if they can do it... surely anyone can! I think it boils down to the individuals, the teams, the culture you happen to find, wherever you are. There are some stars doing great things in unexpected places. There are some bigots and assholes spreading misery in supposed flagship institutions.

    I wish I had some advice for people who are finding themselves ill-treated, but thankfully for us that's not something we had to go through, so I have no personal perspective to add. I can only suggest you get people to check out the pages for healthcare professionals on the SUK website (http://www.surrogacyuk.org/healthcare_professionals), and/or... move to St Mary's on the Isle of Wight!!

    Best of luck with everything, Cheese Teamcake!


  2. I do wonder how this fits in with the 'Holistic' approach to healthcare that the NHS is constantly assuring us is a priority. If you are looking after the 'whole' person then its in everyones interest that you are all present at the birth, surely! I would appeal through any system they have in place. Good luck and thank you for sharing your story. x x x

  3. Surely it's neglect on the hospitals part if they deny the parents the right to looking after their own child!! What a joke... when I went in to have my girl, had they told me that I could only see her for two hours a day but someone else would be looking after her at all other times (no matter how close I was to that person) there would have been a national outcry (I'd have made sure of it!!) ... I honestly don't see how they can even possibly see that this is any different a situation just because a surrogate was involved.
    I think I may have been slightly spoilt with your team and your experiences, as you have said, everyone has been very accommodating, But some of the things I've heard about how some people are treated is disgusting!!
    There needs to be some sort of plan in place at all hospitals that includes all the (for lack of a better word!) "modern" ways of having a child.