Having a child through surrogacy is a little like making an omelette – bear with me here – even though you have assembled all the right ingredients, it only takes a little extra heat and it can turn into a mess!
Supporting surrogacy relationships
The relationship between the Intended Parent(s) and the Surrogate and her family is often what determines a positive outcome in surrogacy. Making sure that the relationship is managed well and that everyone has a safe place to share how they feel as they progress through the surrogacy journey can be tricky, but is also incredibly important. All too often, teams miss opportunities to make space for regular time to reflect on their journey and to prepare themselves for what lies ahead – transfers, pregnancy, birth and parenthood.
Implications counselling for surrogacy
Due to laws governing surrogacy in Australia, all parties involved must have what is called ‘implications counselling’ prior to proceeding with a surrogacy. Depending on your state, this is either with a counsellor at your fertility clinic or independent of your clinic. Although it has the word ‘counselling’ in it, this mandatory process really isn’t designed to provide you with a space to talk and reflect on your journey – instead, it is about ensuring you know what you are getting into. Most of the sessions are therefore devoted to the counsellor explaining how surrogacy works in Australia and is designed to be informative.
Counselling for the best surrogacy outcomes
So, beyond the requisite sessions, how much counselling is enough? Well, this depends on your team. A bare minimum would be a session separately per trimester for the Intended Parent(s) and the Surrogate (and her partner if she has one). Toward the end of the pregnancy when birth is imminent and the team needs to prepare for the new arrival, booking surrogacy counselling sessions for each party, together with a group session to discuss and finalise plans for the birth, is ideal.
Beyond the minimum, it is a good idea to book monthly sessions as you travel through surrogacy, to make sure you have plenty of time to prepare yourself for the road ahead. Group sessions are an excellent way to iron out any small niggles before they turn into harder-to-deal-with issues down the track.
It is also often useful to access the support of a surrogacy counsellor at specific times in the journey, such as if an embryo transfer is unsuccessful, if your team experiences pregnancy complications or a miscarriage, or if you have a change in circumstances. These times can give rise to sadness and anxiety, so having extra support is beneficial.
Counselling for parents and surrogate post-birth
After the birth, it’s incredibly important to remember that the focus shifts and becomes much more about the fourth trimester – the time when the Intended Parents are adjusting to becoming parents (often for the first time) and managing the demands of a newborn, while the Surrogate is coping with both physical and psychological changes post-birth. For the new parents, sessions with a surrogacy counsellor that focus on adjusting to life post-baby can be useful to make this transition smoother. For the Surrogate, having a session with a fertility counsellor with expertise in surrogacy post-birth provides a safe space to discuss any issues surrounding the birth and coping with the postpartum period.
Seeking surrogacy support counselling
Surrogacy is one of the biggest journeys you will ever go on. A major strategy to mitigate the risk of relationship breakdowns or a team member ending up negatively impacted by the experience is to make sure you get ongoing support. After all, everyone wants to be the best version of themselves for the new arrival, and for any children already involved in the surrogacy relationship. Think of surrogacy support counselling like your insurance policy for the journey: it can’t guarantee you a smooth trip, but it can bring peace of mind.
If you’re seeking further information, or if your surrogacy journey is already unfurling before you and you need a warm and supportive counsellor along for the ride, the experienced team at Happy Minds Psychology are here to help. We can offer face-to-face consultations in our inviting Ocean Grove office or remote consultations via Telehealth Australia-wide. Call us on 03 5292 8833, email [email protected] or reach out through our online contact form.