Babies don’t come on a schedule. As much as we would all like our babies to be healthy, full-term infants, this isn’t always the case. Premature labor and delivery are always scary situations – but it’s even more so when you add in the complicated details of surrogacy.
Every year, about 15 million babies are born premature around the world. And, because many surrogacy journeys involve twins, the rate can be high in gestational surrogacy. While your surrogate and her doctor will do all they can to reduce the likelihood of a premature birth, it will still be a possibility.
If your baby is born premature and ends up in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), you probably won’t know what to expect. Rest assured that your specialist will support you through this step, although most of the information will come from your child’s doctors.
Here are just a few things you might expect when your baby goes into the NICU after birth via surrogacy.
1. You’ll need to stay in the surrogate’s state a lot longer.
Most surrogacies take place across state borders. So, if your surrogate went into labor early, you were probably already trying to get to her quickly, with little time to prepare. Now that you’re here and your child is in the NICU, you will likely face a long stay in her state with no plan.
How long you stay in a surrogate’s state will depend on how long your child remains in the NICU. You’ll need to speak with your child’s doctor for guidance. Use whatever information you have to create a plan with your spouse or support person during this time.
Here are a few tips:
- If you have older children, consider sending one spouse home to care for them and set up long-term care with a friend or relative.
- Look at long-term, furnished apartment rentals to give yourself a “home base” during this uncertain time.
- Look at your finances and make a budget for this stay. Your hospital costs will likely balloon during your child’s stint in the NICU, so save where you can. Consider reaching out to a financial advisor to stay one step ahead.
- Ask your surrogate for suggestions on where to eat and stay in the area (more on that below).
2. Your child won’t look like you expect.
All intended parents dream of the time they first meet their children. None of those visions involve the scary sights associated with the NICU.
Your child will likely look impossibly small and fragile among all the wires and monitors required in the NICU. It’s a shock for any parent, but preparing yourself ahead of time can minimize those staggering emotions and help you jump right in to supporting your child. Remember that this is normal for a child in the NICU, although it may not be a “normal” sight for you.
Your child may not look how you imagined, but they are still your child – and they still deserve bravery and strength from their parents.
3. There will be strict NICU rules.
Babies in the NICU are dealing with a variety of health concerns, so a safe, sterile environment is critical in keeping them safe. Hospitals have strict policies on NICU visitation, and your child’s doctor will give you the information you need.
Visiting hours may be shortened, and hospitals may prohibit extended family members from visiting. You may be required to wear a hospital gown, mask or gloves when in the NICU, and you will be required to wash your hands diligently and frequently.
Depending on your child’s health, you may or may not be able to hold them right away. Even if you can’t hold your child, you may still be able to hold your baby’s hand, stroke their head and talk to them. Defer to your doctor’s advice about what is best for your child at this time, and be patient. Every recommendation from the hospital is designed to give your child the best start at life possible.
4. Your surrogate may be a greater support than you think.
Your surrogacy partnership doesn’t end after your baby is born. Most intended parents and surrogates create a genuine friendship during pregnancy, and that relationship often continues after birth, too.
Your surrogate will be just as worried about your baby as you, and she may even feel guilty that she couldn’t carry your child to term like she expected. Remind her that it’s not her fault and, if you feel comfortable, invite her to spend time with the baby in the NICU. This may help her emotional and physical recovery after birth.
Don’t forget that you are on the surrogate’s home turf. She will likely have many suggestions for places to eat and places to stay in the area, and she may even offer to go grocery shopping or run other errands for you during your NICU stay. Don’t be afraid to accept the support she gives; she will be trying to help however she can.
As always, if you ever have questions about your relationship with your surrogate, your specialist is only a phone call away.
5. You’ll need to look out for yourself, too.
When your baby is admitted into the NICU, it’s tempting to focus all of your energy on them. You’ll likely spend all the time you can by their side, going through the same motions of feeding, rocking, holding and just being there. But, as any caregiver will tell you, sitting by a hospital bed for 12 hours straight every day will get exhausting – and it will wear you down.
As tough as it can be, remember your own health during this time. Make sure you’re getting the rest you need, and don’t forget to keep a healthy intake of food and drink, even when you don’t feel like it. During a NICU stay, you will be grieving your original plans for bringing your child home, and that will impact your mental health. Lean on your partner, if you have one, and make a plan, so each of you can get a break. It can be hard to step away from your little one’s bedside, but remember that the doctors and nurses in the NICU are taking good care of your baby.
As you navigate the NICU stay, remember that your specialist at American Surrogacy will always be there for you. They will be just as invested as you in your child’s health, so don’t be afraid to check in with updates and for support. We know how tough this time will be, which is why we will do our best to coordinate with your attorney and other surrogacy professionals and let you focus on your child’s health.