Surrogacy Stories: Meet a Birth Doula

Surrogacy Stories is a blog series compiled by Heartland Surrogacy. In this series we will bring you personal perspectives on surrogacy from a variety of people; surrogates, intended parents, and the professionals who have been lucky enough to work with them. This week, we meet a doula, Andrea Shandi, to learn about the support doulas can offer during a surrogate pregnancy and delivery. 

Hi Andrea, thank you for taking the time to talk with Heartland Surrogacy! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

“My name is Andrea Shandri and I am a professionally certified doula & childbirth educator.  I am always excited to share how doulas can benefit everyone involved in the birth and postpartum process!  I also started Iowa Doula Agency two and a half years ago.”

First, what is a doula? What is their role in pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum? period

“A doula is a trained birth & postpartum professional who supports all involved (both gestational family and intended family) before, during, and after the birth. We come alongside the birthing person and their partner to provide emotional, physical, and informational support in many different ways. Doulas also help families think about and  learn what they would like to experience during the birth.”

How is a doula different than a midwife?

“While sometimes their roles overlap a bit, a birth doula and a midwife have different scopes of practice. A midwife is the hired medical professional who oversees the health and safety of the birthing person and baby.  A birth doula is the non-medical support person who commonly performs tasks like comfort measures, such as applying cold wash clothes and lip balm, massage, positional support. Doulas also provide  emotional and mental support like helping to build confidence and teach methods of self-advocacy for the birth process.”

What type of training do doulas undertake?

“Many birth and postpartum doulas choose to become certified through a certifying body.  Each certifying body has a different list of tasks that must be completed prior to obtaining certification. For example, Iowa Doula Agency recognizes three main doula certifying bodies – DONA, ICEA, and CAPPA. Generally speaking, birth and postpartum doulas must complete a multiple-day workshop, online coursework, a breastfeeding and childbirth education class, an intensive reading list, writing assignments, and obtain evaluations from birthing families and their care providers.”

Why did you decide to become a doula?

“As I began college, I knew I wanted to be involved with birth somehow so I started out on a Pre-Medicine track. After realizing the chemistry classes I needed to take, I quickly dropped it and moved on with a different degree (ha!), however, my fascination with the birthing process did not wane. Fast forward to 2010;  I was pregnant with my first daughter and took a Bradley Method childbirth education class. We learned what a birth doula was and I hired one right away. After my birth experience, I knew that I wanted to be a doula!  I attended my training workshop a few months after giving birth. I’ve been a doula for five and a half years and have attended over 130 births, both in home, hospital, and birth center.”

As you know, Heartland Surrogacy matches gestational carriers with intended parents. What do you think are the benefits of having a doula for a surrogate giving birth? Are there any additional benefits for the intended parents?

“I think having a doula would benefit all involved! Prior to the birth, the doula would encourage conversations that help define the birth-related hopes, goals, and concerns of both the intended parents and the gestational carrier.  As an example, if skin to skin was desired, we’d love to see the intended parent read, perhaps wearing a robe, to hold the baby immediately.  We’d potentially have the intended parents be positioned close to the bed, especially if they don’t plan on cutting the umbilical cord right away. Also, we know scent is important during birth and transition, so we could discuss the gestational carrier wearing a small piece of material in her bra for a few hours during labor and then place that piece of material close to baby’s face after birth.”

Prior to the birth, a doula may suggest that the Intended Parents record their voices reading a book so that the Gestational Carrier could play it on her belly. A doula could work with both the Intended Parent(s) and the Gestational Carrier to suggest various methods of providing sensory support to the baby, emotional support to the intended parents, and physical support to the gestational carriers!”

Could the new parents benefit from a doula postpartum, even if they were not the ones who recently gave birth?

“Of course – even more so! Whether you birthed the baby or not, the postpartum period is an important transition that naturally has many challenges, including sleep deprivation. A postpartum doula would meet the emotional, physical, and informational needs of the new parent(s).   The postpartum doula would divide her skills and meet the needs of the gestational carrier, as well as the Intended Parents. For instance, the postpartum doula would still hold space and provide newborn care support, meal support, and household support to the parents and provide opportunity for the new parents to nap! Additionally, the doula can check in with the gestational carrier to support her physical and emotional needs. Hiring a postpartum doula means that you’d be preparing for the best experience possible during the new nights and days as parents.”

How should someone go about finding a doula?

“There are a few different avenues to finding a doula. One is a website called Doula Match. This website is a popular choice because it allows the option of searching based on zip code. Personally, I’m partial to the Iowa Doula Agency, because we have an extensive website that is an informational haven and lists our doulas and their biography, so you feel like you’re talking right with them. We also have two monthly “Meet the Doulas!” events, one in-person at our studios in Valley Junction and a digital “live” meet up with one click!”

What is the average cost?

“There’s a range of fees for doulas in the area; Iowa Doula Agency boasts multiple tiers of birth and postpartum doulas that meet the local market and fit most budgets and experience needs. Our doula fees range from $475 – $875, with add-on options available.”

Thank you so much for your time and sharing your experiences with us! 

 

Positive Affirmations for Surrogates and Intended Parents

Affirmations are positive, specific statements that can help you to overcome negative thoughts. They help you visualize, and believe in, what you’re affirming to yourself and can help you make positive changes in your mindset and your life.

Heartland Surrogacy has written and complied affirmations for both surrogates and intended parents to use during the IVF cycle and pregnancy. You can use the affirmations in a variety of ways: try saying them aloud while looking in the mirror, writing them down in a journal, or even repeating them silently in your head.

Affirmations can be a powerful tool to help you change your mood or even manifest the changes or outcomes you desire.

Affirmations for a Gestational Carrier during the IVF embryo transfer
All medication is working well in my body.
These embryos will find a thick place in my uterine lining and successfully implant.
I trust my body.
My body will allow an easy implantation of the embryos.
The parents and I trust my body to be ready for their embryos.
The lining of my uterus is ready now.
I allow new beginnings in my life.
I willingly release thoughts of fear and doubt.
The embryos will implant in my lining.
I now choose positive thoughts that nurture and support my life and these embryos.
I accept the responsibilities of carrying these embryos.
I welcome my time to be a surrogate.
I have full trust in my intended parents.
I set my worries aside and I allow my body to do its job.
I am confident in my ability to be a surrogate.
The embryos will implant.
A sense of hope settles in my heart.

Affirmations for a Gestational Carrier during the “two-week wait” between embryo transfer and beta HCG pregnancy blood test 
Everything I could have done, I have done.
Everything is going to work out the way it’s supposed to.
I am at peace with the outcome of this transfer.
The universe is doing what’s best for these embryos.
The two-week wait is going to go by quickly with a positive outcome.

Affirmations for a Gestational Carrier during Pregnancy 
My body knows how to carry a healthy baby.
I am going to have a smooth pregnancy and a great outcome for my intended parents.
The baby is safe and happy.
I am doing the best I can in this moment.
I accept the responsibilities of caring for these babies.
My body knows how to have a healthy pregnancy,
I now choose positive thoughts that nurture and support my life and the lives of these babies.
I feel the love of these babies’ parents.

Affirmations for Intended Parents during an egg donation cycle
My egg donor is going to create plenty of healthy eggs.
We will create many healthy embryos.
Our egg donor will response well to stimulation medication and complete a smooth cycle.
Our egg donor will experience a positive and smooth retrieval.
I am sending out positive energy to the Universe and the Universe is sending positive energy to me.

 

Affirmations for Intended Parents during the IVF embryo transfer 
All medication is working well for my surrogate.
I am at peace with the outcome of this transfer.
The universe is doing what’s best for these embryos.
I am already a loving parent for these embryos.
These embryos will find a thick place in the surrogate’s uterine lining and will successfully implant.
I trust my surrogate’s body.
My surrogate and I are happy.
I feel love from my surrogate.
The surrogate and I trust her body to be ready for my embryo.
I allow new beginnings in my life.
I am at peace with the surrogacy process.
I am grateful for my surrogate and the love that she provides to me and my family.
The embryos will implant in my surrogate’s lining.
I now choose positive thoughts that nurture and support my life and the life of the new babies.
I willingly release thoughts of fear and doubt.
I have full trust in my surrogate.
I set my worries aside and I allow my surrogate’s body to do its job.
A sense of hope settles in my heart.
We are on our way to becoming parents.
This is the beginning of a beautiful journey.
I welcome my time to be a parent.
Everything I could have done, I have done, and now it is out of my hands.
Everything is going to work out the way it’s supposed to.
Our embryos went to the right spot and have settled in for the next nine months.
The two-week wait is going to go by quickly with a positive outcome.
I am enveloped in much love and caring. Our surrogate is enveloped in much love and caring.

Affirmations for Intended Parents during Pregnancy
I trust my surrogate to care for my baby until it’s time to come home.
The baby is safe and happy.
This pregnancy is going to be healthy.
We love and care about our gestational surrogate.

 

The Best Podcasts about Surrogacy

Podcasts can be a fun and low-pressure way to learn about something new. However, it can be difficult to find podcasts about surrogacy that are informative and unbiased.  We did the screening for you, and found some balanced and engaging stories about surrogacy. Below you will find summaries of and links to podcasts featuring gestational carrier stories. These podcasts include the decision to become or use a surrogate, challenges with treatment, pregnancy and birth, and the reward of placing a new baby in the arms of their intended parents. We have also included links to Resolve’s tele-seminars that provide introductory information about surrogacy, as well as other third party reproductive options.

Source: The Birth Story podcast

Podcast: The Birth Hour: A Birth Story Podcast

Title: Gestational Carrier Birth Story

Date: March 1, 2016

Perspective: Carrier and Mother

Synopsis: If we had to pick a favorite surrogacy podcast, this would be it, because it features an interview with both the gestational carrier and the intended mom. The surrogate shares her desire to become a surrogate and the intended mom shares her journey through infertility and multiple failed in vitro fertilization procedures. Together, the two women share how they met and matched and their unique experiences during the pregnancy and birth. They are open about many details, from the legal documents to the medical appointments.

Podcast: The Birth Hour: A Birth Story Podcast 

Title: Surrogacy: Carrying my Brother’s Babies

Date: September 1, 2016

Perspective: Gestational Carrier

Synopsis: This podcast features the story of a woman who acted as a gestational carrier for her brother and sister-in-law, who underwent a lifesaving hysterectomy. In the episode, she shares details of her decision, as well as her pregnancy, labor, and delivery. She also provides an honest perspective of life after a surrogacy birth, including lactating, recovering physically and emotionally, and the act of giving the babies “back to whom they belong.”

Podcast: Conversations

Title: Shannon Garner’s Surrogate Pregnancy

Date: July 24, 2016

Perspective: Gestational Carrier

Synopsis: This podcast features a comprehensive look at the surrogacy process, from the carrier’s first interest in becoming a surrogate, to the treatment and birth, to the long term relationship and contact level after the baby’s birth.  During this in-depth interview you will meet an altruistic (not paid) gestational carrier in Australia who carried a baby for a gay couple. She covers issues such as explaining surrogacy to her own children and the emotions involved in growing a baby and then placing him with his parents.

Podcast: Just a Parent Here Myself

Title: Sanctuary and Surrogates

Date: November 2, 2016

Perspective: Father

Synopsis:  This podcast features an interview with a father of twins via gestational surrogacy. The episode begins with him and his husband’s decision to pursue parenthood and their choice to explore surrogacy. This episode also takes an in-depth look at their process to secure donated breast milk for their twins. The instant-father-of-two also shares his personal parenting challenges and the steps he took to address them.

In addition to these podcasts, we also recommend tele-seminars by Resolve, the National Infertility Organization. Their podcasts include the basics of planning a surrogacy pregnancy, as well as podcasts on the emotional aspects of using third party reproduction.

Tele-seminars and Podcasts

We recommend you start with these:

Check out 20 Tips for Successful Surrogacy

Emotional Aspects of Using a Donor or Surrogate

Gestational Carriers; The Dos and Don’ts

What podcasts about surrogacy, infertility, or parenting do you enjoy? 

 

Children’s Books to Introduce Surrogacy

become a surrogate in iowa

When you are holding a new baby in your arms, the idea of talking to them about surrogacy seems years away. However, it won’t be long until you can start introducing the topic to your child. Most experts recommend talking about surrogacy (or adoption or sperm/egg donation) with children at a young age. Instead of surprising them with the news when they are older, it is better to slowly introduce the topic with age-appropriate language and build on the information as they grow.

One great way to introduce the topic is through children’s books. Books can help familiarize children with the concept of surrogacy through cute illustrations and engaging stories. Below are some of the many books available for children about gestational surrogacy. In fact, there are so many different books available that many families can even find the ideal story that also incorporates egg donation, multiple births, and/or same sex couples. Add a couple of these books to your bookshelf and include them into your child’s daily story time as often as possible. Soon, these stories, and the idea of surrogacy, will be fun and familiar to your child!

 

Hope & Will Have a Baby: The Gift of Surrogacy by [Celcer, Irene]

Hope and Will have a Baby: The Gift of Surrogacy by Irene Celcer “Follow an inquisitive little boy who learns of his parents’ quest to have children, and the success they ultimately achieve in creating a family. Told in a language a child can understand, read the tale of how mom and dad met, fell in love, and ultimately built a family.This story on the gift of surrogacy is part of a book collection that brings to light the many reproductive options of family building. Come and celebrate the unique gift couples can receive on their way to becoming a family.”

What Makes A Baby by Cory Silverberg  “Geared to readers from preschool to age eight, What Makes a Baby is a book for every kind of family and every kind of kid. It is a twenty-first century children’s picture book about conception, gestation, and birth, which reflects the reality of our modern time by being inclusive of all kinds of kids, adults, and families, regardless of how many people were involved, their orientation, gender and other identity, or family composition. Just as important, the story doesn’t gender people or body parts, so most parents and families will find that it leaves room for them to educate their child without having to erase their own experience.”

The Very Kind Koala: A Surrogacy Story for Children by Kimberly Kluger-Bell “The Very Kind Koala is a charming picture book for young children which provides an introduction to surrogacy through the simple story of a koala bear and her husband who needed the help of a very kind koala to carry their baby in her pouch. Parents can begin reading this story to children as young as 3 years of age to begin the dialog about their own helpful surrogate.”

The Twin Kangaroo Treasure Hunt: A gay parenting story by Carmen Martinez Jover “This children’s story is ideal for gay parenting. The story is about two kangaroos: Jack and Sam, a gay couple, who have their own twins by means of an egg donor and surrogacy. Using kangaroos in the story enables children to easily understand the complicated methods related to their conception in a simple and loving way.”

Your Tummy Time: A surrogacy story by Natalia Padgen “This personalisable children’s book…allows you to handwrite both your child’s and surrogate’s name within the story and provides space to include family photos. Creator and writer, Natalia Padgen, created this book while her surrogate was pregnant with her baby to promote positive memories and experiences, and avoid any awkward ‘finding out’ moment later in life. The book has been designed to become part of family history, rather than just a story book.”

For more surrogacy book reviews, see Creating a Family: The National Infertility and Adoption Education Nonprofit’s list of suggested books for children conceived via surrogacy 

How did you introduce the topic of surrogacy to your child? Or how do you plan to? 

Which children’s books about surrogacy do you find most helpful?

 

 

 

 

Surrogacy Stories: A Lactation Consultant Tells Us About Lactation Options in Surrogacy

Surrogacy Stories is a blog series complied by Heartland Surrogacy. In this series we will bring you personal perspectives on surrogacy from a variety of people; surrogates, intended parents, and the professionals who have been lucky enough to work with them. Today we bring you a surrogacy story from Natalie, a lactation consultant. Please stay tuned for future Surrogacy Stories from a doula, attorney, and a surrogate!

Natalie is a Lactation Consultant, La Leche League Leader, and has also worked as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor at WIC. She has over 11 years of experience in this work, in addition to breastfeeding four children herself. Natalie is passionate about helping families with breastfeeding, including in special circumstances such as surrogacy.

 Hi Natalie, thanks for talking with us! First of all, what is a Lactation Consultant?

Natalie: An IBCLC is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. IBCLCs are healthcare professionals specializing in the clinical management of breastfeeding and lactation.

As you know, Heartland Surrogacy matches surrogates with intended parents. What feeding options are available  after a surrogate birth?

Natalie: Parents have a lot of feeding options. They can range from inducing lactation before baby arrives (or after), supplementing (see SNS, below) at the breast with infant formula or human milk, bottle-feeding human milk from the surrogate mother or donor, to bottle-feeding formula. And there can be various combinations of these options as well. Depending on what both families would like to do, sometimes a surrogate or gestational carrier will continue to provide milk for the baby/babies for a period of time after the birth. Another option is for the surrogate to donate her milk to a milk bank or other family in need.

baby-105063_1280

Is it common for new intended parents to use a combination of above?

Natalie: Each family is, of course, unique. And like all families, creative ways can be used to feed and care for babies. So, yes, using a combination of above is common, just as using a combination of feeding method in common in other situations outside of surrogacy.

Good point! What resources do you recommend for intended parents, particularly if they plan to induce lactation or use a supplemental nursing system (SNS)?

Natalie: Many parents looking to breastfeed a child they did not birth will use the Newman Goldfarb protocol; this can be found on the asklenore.com  But also evaluating your situation with an LC as well as finding your breastfeeding support is very important. For lactation consultants [who are supporting a parent that is trying to induce lactation], there are many great professional groups online consisting of people with lots of different experiences.

Image result for supplemental nursing system

[The supplemental nursing system (SNS) (above) consists of a container and a capillary

tube leading from the container to the mother’s nipple. Image by MommyGear. ] 

 

What advice would you give to a gestational carrier who plans to pump or nurse after delivery?

Natalie: You have some great options. Communicate with the intended parents, see what you are both comfortable with. Perhaps that could be nursing in those first days or providing milk longer term. Keep an open mind. Plans and feeling can change on both ends. There are not necessarily right or wrongs here, but respect feeling and boundaries.

baby-21167_1280

What options does a gestational carrier have if she will not be nursing the baby?

Natalie: If the intended parents will not be using the carrier’s milk, the carrier may choose to continue lactating and donate her milk instead. If the carrier decides not to express milk or to stop, she may find it helpful to talk to an LC or a breastfeeding counselor. If she has been expressing milk for some time, she may want to gradually cut back pumping as she weans off the pump. This will help her body adjust more easily and help prevent engorgement, plugged ducts or mastitis.

In general, I recommend communication and to keep an open mind. Everyone will have their own feelings and that is OK. And everyone should have their own support team as well.

That is great advice, thank you Natalie! To learn more about Natalie’s work, please visit her website at qclactation.com

To find a La Leche League meeting or leader near you, visit their website. 

Surrogacy Stories: An Interview with an Intended Parent

Surrogacy Stories is a blog series compiled by Heartland Surrogacy. In this series we will bring you personal perspectives on surrogacy from a variety of people: surrogates, intended parents, and the professionals who have been lucky enough to work with them. Today we bring you a surrogacy story from Isabelle, an intend mommy. Please stay tuned for future Surrogacy Stories!

Isabelle and her husband Bob have been battling infertility for the last four years. Unfortunately, they have dealt with just about every infertility diagnosis imaginable, and some unimaginable scenarios too. Fortunately, Isabelle and Bob are resilient and hopeful people, and they are confident that surrogacy is going to finally expand their family. Isabelle blogs anonymously at In Quest of a Binky Moongee: The Journey of Making a Baby despite the Diagnosis of Diminished Ovarian Reserve. Curious as to what a binky moongee is? Check out her blog!

Thank you so much talking with me today! Can you tell me a little bit about the journey to build your family, before you pursued surrogacy?
Isabelle: Our journey started almost five years ago. Even before we started trying for a baby, I was told that I needed surgery for uterine fibroid removal if we wanted a chance to have a baby. That started our very long journey of trials and tribulations. After the surgery, I was diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve with high follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and extremely low anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH). We tried to conceive naturally, then did four conventional in vitro fertilization (IVF) stimulation cycles, four minimal-stimulation IVF cycles, two intra uterine insemination (IUIs) converted from IVF, two transfers with my own eggs, one chemical pregnancy with my own eggs, two transfers with embryos made with frozen donor eggs (one of which resulted in a chemical pregnancy). After all of that, my husband and I still have a strong desire to have a baby. I never thought that I would have any problems carrying a baby. My lining had always been nice and thick with trilaminar pattern (which is what you want for implantation). We were just going to pursue another cycle of donor egg IVF and do a fresh transfer. We thought that everything was going to be fine. So we chose another donor and were going to start all over again…

ivf-1514174_1280

How did you and your partner decide to pursue surrogacy?
Isabelle: Before our new donor egg IVF cycle, we were trying to cover all our bases including checking if my lining was receptive for implantation. We were supposed to do a test called “endometrial receptivity array”, but it was canceled due to a fibroid that had grown bigger and blocked the view of the lining. I was told to seek surgical counsel about the removal of the fibroid. A second opinion with my previous reproductive endocrinologist (RE) revealed that the growth that was thought to be a fibroid could actually be adenomyosis. This condition may cause pregnancy problems such as late term losses, placental issues, and other potential complications. Her recommendation was for us to pursue surrogacy. We could still try to transfer but the risks would be great. A surgeon with whom we consulted also recommended surrogacy as the best and safest way for us to have a healthy pregnancy and bring home a healthy baby.

What was difficult about this decision?
Isabelle: My dream since my childhood has been to carry and give birth to my own babies. Even with the egg reserve problem, I was confident that my babies would grow in my womb. When the dream was shattered, the most difficult thing was to come to terms with it. And it was difficult for us to determine if we should try to transfer in me first and risk having complications, or just go straight to surrogacy. We had already had to grieve the loss of donor eggs. To have to also grieve the loss of my own pregnancy was a big blow.

Was there anything “easy” about making the decision to pursue surrogacy?
Isabelle: The easy part was that both my husband and I were on the same page in terms of our priorities. We wanted to bring a baby home in the safest way possible. So it didn’t need any persuasion on my part for him to be on board. He was in fact ready for surrogacy before I was. Our friends and family have been very supportive, which made going into it a lot more manageable. And we are blessed to have the funds for such an expensive endeavor.

lovers-1259124_1280

How did you feel once the decision was made?
Isabelle: We felt hopeful that this was the right path for us, although there is still a little fear or worry that even this wouldn’t work. But if we want to reach our goals, we have to move forward and try the one thing that our doctors recommended.

How did you find your carrier?
Isabelle: My reproductive endocrinologist had a patient who worked with this agency in another state and successfully brought home her babies. This patient has nothing but high praises for the agency owner. My RE herself even told me that this is her favorite agency to work with. Our communication with this agency has been very smooth. The owner showed us a few profiles and we really liked one of the potential carriers. After an interview, we felt very comfortable with this potential carrier because our wishes and preferences all aligned. After a lot of prayers, we decided to work with her.

How did you know she was the right match for you and your family?
Isabelle: She is more than we had wished for in a gestational carrier. We wanted her to be over 30, in a stable married relationship, and have a passion for helping others fulfill their dreams of building a family. Our carrier is compassionate, open, honest, and easygoing. She and we have the same view on important issues such as the amount of communication prior, during, and after pregnancy, termination and reduction, and other topics. And she is a follower of Christ just like us. Now that we have been working together for a while, it has been such a blessing that she keeps us in her prayers all the time.

holding-hands-1599054_1280

What stage are you at in the process now?
Isabelle: We are working on the legal contract now. We will soon move forward to a transfer.

We are sending you best wishes!! Is there any advice you can share with other intended parents?
Isabelle: This has been such a roller coaster ride, but I believe firmly that this is the way we will bring our baby into the world. If you have been told that you may need a gestational carrier, I understand the emotions you may be feeling. Take your time and let yourself process all of your emotions. If this is the right path, you will know. If you have a hard time processing your feelings, a therapist who specializes in third party reduction is a tremendously helpful resource. I wouldn’t be where I am right now emotionally had I not had my therapist by my side. Join online support groups or support groups in real life. Ask questions from those who have walked the same path. I gained invaluable knowledge from friends and friends’ friends who have done surrogacy before. Surround yourself with support. One day at a time and one foot in front of the other. You will get through it.

That is great advice! Thank you again for participating in this interview!
To read more about Isabelle’s story and to follow along on her journey as an Intended Parent via surrogacy, please follow her blog!

New Marketplace Helps Fundraise Family Building

Infertility Fundraising

Heartland Surrogacy loves to support businesses that give to important causes. We’ve recently learned about Sweet Pea, an online marketplace that gives to couples dealing with infertility. Here they tell us about their business and ways to get involved:

surrogacy funding
Sweet Pea is a family business, with founders that have struggled to make our own families grow. First-hand experience with infertility inspired us to give back to the community in the way that matters most to us. We don’t have good things to say about infertility. We wouldn’t wish this struggle on anyone, but the one thing that seems to make the pain of infertility lessen just a bit is having a strong community of people who are experiencing the same struggle. At Sweet Pea our goal is to nurture the infertility community while helping make those baby dreams a reality.

We are an online marketplace featuring boutiques, fashion items, and home decor, but the most important part is of our vision is that each month we hold a photo contest to raise money, directly funding infertility treatments for four couples struggling with infertility. We know there isn’t just one right way to grow a family, so Sweet Pea supports fertility treatments, surrogate care, and adoption costs. If the burden of infertility is weighing on you, visit Sweet Pea’s site for some financial and community support. With Sweet Pea you can save a little time by shopping online and know you are helping families grow, two tiny feet at a time.

Our site officially launches on September 5th, 2016 where we will begin selling products and raising money for infertility! To get involved just follow these three steps:
  1. Shop– Browse the site and see what Sweet Pea has to offer. You will discover unique clothing and decor that accents your style.
  2. Vote– Make your way over to the Photo Contest page where you can read stories of couples who are hoping to grow their family and place your vote.
  3. Share- Spread the word to family and friends by sharing your favorite boutique items and photo contest votes on social media.

Zika Virus and Surrogacy

zika and surrogacy

The Zika virus, spread by a specific type of mosquito and sexual contact with an infected male, has been linked to microcephaly and other severe brain defects. Heartland Surrogacy is asking our surrogates to avoid travel to Zika-affected areas during pregnancy. For surrogate applicants, as well as intended parents using their own embryos, we are requiring an 8-week waiting period after possible exposure before beginning a surrogacy journey, per CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) suggestions.

The following information is provided by the CDC:

How to protect yourself if you are pregnant

Areas where Zika virus is spreading

Suggested wait before getting pregnant

Emotional Support During Surrogacy

emotional support in surrogacy

The journey of surrogacy is emotional for everyone involved. Emotions can run high during many parts of the process: getting matched, starting IVF, waiting to find out if the pregnancy will hold, delivery, and presenting the IPs with the gift of life. If complications arise, the team may also be faced with miscarriage or other pregnancy complications.

Emotional support is important for IPs and surrogates alike. Intended parents often go through a long road of fertility obstacles before deciding on surrogacy. Gay intended parents have the added stresses that are specific to the GLBT community. Seeking infertility support groups and/or individual mental health care can help parents through the emotional ups and downs of surrogacy.

Gestational carriers will endure the side effects of pregnancy hormones while caring for their family and possibly working or going to school. While carriers typically enjoy pregnancy, this does not always exempt them from mood swings and other taxing pregnancy discomforts. While it can be helpful to chat (or vent!) with other pregnant women, surrogates are in a unique situation that can make connecting with others difficult. We advise surrogates to keep all mental health appointments, get help from their partner or other family members for household responsibilities, and take the time to rest whenever possible. Maintaining open communication with the IPs will also strengthen that connection and be a pleasant reminder of the reason for the surrogate’s sacrifice.

Support and cooperation from the surrogate’s partner, if applicable, is crucial. The partner will also undergo background checks and a psychological review. Once the pregnancy is underway, the partner can be supportive in the same manner as with other pregnancies: by making an effort to complete more household chores and childcare. After delivery, the surrogate will need continued emotional support as she recovers from her incredible journey.

Image by John Ted Daganato.

Surrogacy Stories: An Interview With A Gestational Surrogate

Surrogacy Stories is a blog series compiled by Heartland Surrogacy. In this series we will bring you personal perspectives on surrogacy from a variety of people: surrogates, intended parents, and the professionals who have been lucky enough to work with them. Today we bring you a surrogacy story from Nicole*, an Iowa gestational carrier with Heartland Surrogacy. In a recent interview, she shared with us some of her experiences as a surrogate. We are proud to represent such a strong and compassionate woman!

support in surrogacyTell us about your surrogacy journeys and what kind of support you had.
I’ve been a gestational carrier twice. My immediate family was most supportive. My husband helps a lot with childcare and household chores (he stays home part time, so he’s already a pro!), and I have two close friends that are very supportive.

How did you decide this was the right path for you?
[laughs] I think like any big decision in my life: I am quick to research and quick to decide. Over time I’ve learned to always remain flexible, but my decision-making remain the same—I take the plunge!

Where did you get information on becoming a surrogate?
I researched online, especially in surrogacy forums and on agency websites.

Why did you choose to go through an agency both times instead of private arrangements?
I didn’t really know the ropes; I wanted someone to guide me and mediate with the parents. I definitely didn’t want to get myself into a pickle! I knew an agency would help prevent that.

What makes you a good surrogate (or what would your IPs say)?
I have easy pregnancies, enjoy being pregnant, and look good pregnant [laughs]! I am open-minded, mostly agreeable, and willing to work with a lot of different people. My IPs have liked that I’m in the medical field because it helps me understand the medical side of the process better. They also like that I have a well-established marriage and family.

How were these pregnancies different physically and emotionally from the pregnancies with your own children?
Everything is different. None of my pregnancies have been the same. The hormones [used for a surrogacy pregnancy] make a big difference on how things go in the beginning, such as with side effects.

What kind of relationship did you have with IPs during and after?
Good relationships with lots of communication and mutual decision-making. I have always maintained contact after the pregnancy and they have been respectful of my family. I enjoy being able to see my surrogate babies, either in pictures or in person. Seeing them, I feel like when I see my nieces; they are family.

surrogate compensationWhat goals did you achieve through your compensation?
My kitchen was from 1959! It badly needed to be remodeled. It was also really important for me to pay off student loans early and get rid of other debt. The rest we have put in the kids’ college fund.

How did your family/work life change during and after the pregnancies?
Mostly in the same ways that a typical pregnancy would. For my last delivery, I was placed on bed rest for the last two weeks and then I had a C-section, which meant an extended leave from work. These are risks of pregnancy, and it was unfortunate that happened, as it was a challenge for our family. But I am motivated by the happiness of my IPs, even at times that it called for a bigger sacrifice.

One big change for my marriage was that in my last pregnancy, I was told we couldn’t have sex [near the end]! That was tough. For other women, it may not be a big deal because they’ve stopped by that time anyway, but we never had!

What do you think about Heartland Surrogacy?
I am delighted to work with this agency. They sure do know how to take care of their carriers! It’s wonderful to have them facilitate the process and [make sure] that everything is covered. Because they’re a small company, I think access to the staff is also a luxury that all their clients have.

*name changed for privacy