Pursuing surrogacy in Australia is a bit like the Serenity Prayer – you need to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can and the wisdom to know the difference. Easier said than done, when all you want is to hold that bundle of fun in your arms.
Often, Intended Parents have been through a rough journey to arrive at the point of realising that surrogacy in Australia is a way forward for them. They may have spent a fortune working towards carrying a child themselves only to find out that that’s not possible for them. Some Intended Parents have known for a long time that the only way for them is the hope that one day they find a Surrogate who will be prepared to carry all their hopes and dreams.
Everyone’s surrogacy story is different. One thing that isn’t different is that it’s probably a good idea to be as psychologically resilient as you can to prepare for the ups and downs of your surrogacy journey.
Surrogacy In Australia & Resiliency
In a recent New Yorker article, Marina Konnikova writes about resiliency, “If you are lucky enough to never experience any sort of adversity, we won’t know how resilient you are. It’s only when you’re faced with obstacles, stress, and other environmental threats that resilience, or the lack of it, emerges: Do you succumb or do you surmount?”
Sounds pretty relevant for Surrogacy, right? Here’s what you can do to increase your ability to bounce back from setbacks, disappointments and letdowns, and how you can get maximum effect from the joy, hope and highs that surrogacy also brings.
What is Psychological Resilience?
Psychological resilience is a quality that allows people to come back at least as strong as before when they are knocked down. Rather than responding to traumatic events, setbacks or failure in ways that drain their resolve, highly resilient people find a way to change course, begin the healing process and continue moving toward their goals.
That’s not the same as liking what happened. There is a quality of acceptance that is embedded in being resilient – surrendering to the setback and making plans to come back.
As a psychologist working in surrogacy counselling, I often find myself saying to clients that keeping your eyes on the horizon can help lessen the sting of what is currently happening. Running into difficulties with a surrogacy journey is scary for everyone. Having the wisdom to know when to take a deep breath and just allow events to unfold, or when to muster some courage to make a stand for what you need is tricky, but not impossible. So, what creates this resilience?
What Creates Resilience?
Research has identified some of the factors that appear to make a person more resilient. These include having a positive attitude, working on your optimism, having the ability to regulate your emotions and the ability to view failure as something you can learn from.
Psychologists have found that being optimistic can help blunt the impact of stress on the mind and body in the wake of disturbing experiences. Having a cool headed response to a stressful event gives people access to a clarity of thought that means they can pick a positive route to deal with the event.
Researchers are still debating how resilience is created. This is particularly true about how much of our bounceback is related to our genetic predisposition. However, we do know that early environments and life circumstances play a role in how resilient genes are ultimately expressed through the study of epigenetics . In a nutshell (because I’m a psychologist, not a scientist!) the field of epigenetics demonstrates how it’s possible that an outside stimulus can create change at a genetic level – actually altering whether or not a gene is expressed. Why is that important in resting resilience? Well – it means learning to be resilient actually changes us at a molecular level. Cool, right?!
Start Working On Your Bounce Back
Here are some ways to start working on your psychological bounce back, and some key resources to dig into.
- Break out of negative thought cycles. To end these negative thought patterns, we need to short circuit the neural pathways that have been created in our brain. Exercise can help to break free of these patterns. If exercise isn’t possible (thanks, Covid) try to do something else that uses both your mind and your body. A useful approach is to practice deep, slow breathing for 5 minutes in short bursts. Deep breathing helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system, taking you from stressed to calm quickly.
- Push back on Catastrophizing. Catastrophizing is the expectation that the worst is going to happen, which sets us up for unnecessary stress. It often stems from over estimating the likelihood of the bad event or situation occurring. Here are three quick statements if you are thinking the worst is going to happen.
- “It’s not happening right now” – in this moment the worst in not happening and you have time to plan
- “Whatever happens, I can cope” – remember your own inner resources
- “What would I tell someone else who was having this kind of thought?” – changing perspective can help you see things differently
- Overcome your fear of failure. Human beings try to avoid failure at all costs. Never giving ourselves a chance to overcome challenges and practice resilience. So find something is ok to fail at, and practice failing and coming back and starting over.
- Learn from your challenges & setbacks. There’s always something to be learned from our greatest failures – whether they were within our control or not. Write out a list of the things you learnt from your challenge or setback. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you grateful for any part of this situation. However small?
- In what ways are you better off than when you started?
- How did you grow and develop as a result of this situation?
- Remember, “THIS TOO SHALL PASS“. Another technique that can help you better handle stress involves remembering that how things are now won’t last forever. Tell yourself that “this too shall pass.” The ability to think about a future where whatever you are struggling with is no longer happening helps you get through difficult experiences. It can reduce the intensity of negative emotions and the distress caused by the situation.
- Think about what you would say to a friend. Changing the way you respond to a situation can have a big impact on how resilient we are. It is difficult to change our behaviour as it creates neural pathways in the brain that are often deeply entrenched. That’s why we typically display the same behaviour. It can help to shift perspective if we stop and reflect about how we would advise a friend to respond to a problem. This change of perspective can help slow our responses down, providing us time to cognitively reappraise the situation (fancy psych talk for thinking differently about something). This is also a key skill in building our Self Compassion – check out Kristen Neff’s work on Self Compassion – and thank me later!
- Feel the fear and do it anyway. Human beings will pretty much do anything to avoid feeling uncomfortable. We are wired to run towards the joy and get away from the pain. Being more resilient means that you are building your psychological skills to take on the stuff that scares you. So find something that is scary – and go for it. The more you take on the things you’re avoiding, the more you will realise you have the skills to take it on.
Making the decision to pursue surrogacy in Australia can feel daunting. There is no doubt that it takes courage to make a stand for creating a family via surrogacy, and a great deal of perseverance when setbacks occur. It’s worth remembering that nothing important in life comes without its own share of heartbreak. That’s how you know it really matters. Creating a more resilient response to challenges, setbacks and failures is a powerful way to support you on your journey to becoming a parent.
Working with a Psychologist who can provide coaching in developing psychological resiliency is one way to support yourself through setbacks. Happy Minds Psychology offers psychological assessments for surrogacy in Australia and infertility counselling services from the convenience of your own home using telehealth. To book an appointment call us on 0431666050, visit our contact us page or send us an email to [email protected] .