I hope this doesn’t seem too much of a self-indulgent blog entry, in a world where thousands are dying every day due to Covid 19 some of my feelings may seem like first world problems but I wanted to record my perspective as a surrogate, pregnant during a pandemic.
Surrogacy by its nature is a team effort, working together and supporting each other to create life. For me that’s always been a huge motivator for being a surrogate. I firmly agree it ‘takes a village’ to raise a child and in surrogacy that all begins a little earlier. Everyone has a role to play, personally I have so much respect for anyone having the trust in another person to carry their child and feel that my role in physically carrying the child is perhaps the easiest part of all.
We are fortunate that this surrogacy journey has gone so smoothly and we’ve already had the opportunity to make many memories, days out together, fun activities, scans and appointments.
In March 2020, the Coronavirus (Covid 19) outbreak began to change our way of life as it did for most people in the UK. After concerns about contact with someone who may have Covid and restrictions that (at best) only one of them would be allowed in the room, my IPs made the difficult decision not to attend the anomaly scan of their baby.
Sanitising my hands upon entry to the antenatal clinic, I check in and go to the machine to buy credits for the photographs, this is where overthinking and indecisiveness kicks in; one, three (definitely not enough), nine, twelve, fifteen (too many?). Grabbing my ticket, I clean my hands again clumsily spilling gel over my maternity notes, goodness knows how many fingers have touched that machine today, I’m a bundle of nerves.
Called into the scan room, I’m asked to wash my hands before the procedure, by this point I’m pretty confident they are very clean! I’m not even thinking about the actual scan, my mind is over 100 miles north imagining the guys, hopefully waiting that they will get a videocall on their TV to join in. ‘I’m sorry, we absolutely can’t allow any recording of a medical procedure’, I try to explain the surrogacy situation and that it’s not by baby but it is quickly clear there will be no exceptions.
On the bed, I’m covered with the familiar sensation of cold jelly, ‘we don’t want to know the gender!’ I quickly pipe up before the scanner hits my stomach. This is something we have discussed many times as a team and reached a joint decision. I feel guilty, a voyeur, not knowing where to look, normally at a scan I would be watching their faces; seeing their reactions, the nerves, excitement and hope. I try to focus on the screen, keen to remember any information I need to pass on. The sonographer shows me that all is well, the four chambers of heart of this baby, their baby, I’m grateful baby is healthy but feel a sense of sadness that their eyes should be those to witness these moments, first hand.
I leave the hospital quickly and head to my sister’s house around the corner, I have to be with someone else, in person, to share the pictures and chat about the scan, if I can’t be with them, at least I don’t want to be alone.
That evening at 8.30pm, UK lockdown was confirmed, no non-essential travel, work from home wherever possible, for three weeks at least and then the situation will be reviewed. It makes complete sense, it’s the right thing to do but what will this mean for our pregnancy? I find myself in tears that I might not be able to swim again, one of my favourite things whilst pregnant.
With more time to myself and more time to research I begin to think further about the rest of the pregnancy and birth. Day by day hospital restrictions are increasing, RCOG guidelines are being updated, homebirths cancelled, only one birth partner and no support after birth at most hospitals. I read online about women in New York, leaving the state as they aren’t allowed anyone for birth support even during labour.
My IPs bought me a ‘portal’, my TV now does large screen images and has a camera that follows you around the room for video chats, as well as some crazy filters! It was incredibly kind and thoughtful of them but in all honesty I find it a bit surreal. I’m used to video calls for work, but not really video calls with friends. I’m adapting now but it’s taken me some time to realise I don’t have to sit up straight and I can even bounce on my gym ball if that’s more comfy.
Baby’s movements grow more and more prominent every day and I can feel it kicking on the outside now. With each exciting development then follows a sense of sadness, they should be able to feel this, they aren’t there to share it.
There are times I find myself feeling guilty that I’m not chatting more with my IPs. I guess it’s the isolation, you get used to talking less in general and video chat fatigue kicks in.
The guys couldn’t be doing more but I am sure they must feel very helpless. They have recorded chats, stories and even a show tunes playlist for baby to listen to on the bellybud speakers so I can play their voices and favourite music direct to baby. This week I managed to grab a short video of baby kicking visibly on the outside, I had to break it to baby’s daddies this was to ‘The Killers’ rather than a musical number!
For many people at the moment, the unknowns are a difficulty we share; whether pregnant or not. I wonder, when restrictions might be lifted at the hospital, when will we be able to see each other again as a team, will I be able to keep myself well and this baby safe amidst this chaos?
Although we still have several months to go we have brought forward our birth plans; hopeful that we can ensure that both parents can be there and that I have the support that I need to help me through labour and birth.
Reminding myself that this feeling of being alone is only physical and temporary really helps, whether at the end of screen or a phone, I am incredibly lucky to have lots of support. Both of my sisters are pregnant, sharing our bump selfies and imagining what it will be like when the day comes where we can photograph the three bumps together and do those awkward side hugs that pregnant ladies need to negotiate.
I’m grateful that I’m part of Surrogacy UK; both on a practical level, with specific Covid 19 support, tools and guidance as well as informally, my amazing surrosisters; the people who truly understand how it feels to be carrying someone else’s baby, in these strange times.