Many hopeful parents who are welcoming a child through “non-traditional” paths like surrogacy or adoption worry that they and their child will have difficulties bonding with one another as quickly and easily as babies carried and raised by their biological parents. While research suggests that emotional bonds do begin to form in utero, you’ve likely seen enough “non-traditional” families to know that their family bonds, regardless of genetics or who carried the child, are just as strong and real.
However, forming your parent-child bond with your baby can be a little different in surrogacy. Even in the womb, babies have senses. For nine months, your baby will have grown accustomed to the sound of your gestational surrogate’s voice and her smell, and he or she will be comforted by this. Psychologists suggest that removal from those familiar touchstones upon birth can be jarring for babies.
So, a common practice used in surrogacy is the “emotional transfer” from the surrogate to the intended parents at birth. This process will help your baby get to know you and bond with you, and it will also ease the emotional transition from the first nine months spent with their surrogate to their life with you.
These are the three key steps of transitioning a baby to his or her intended parents in surrogacy:
Step 1: Preparation During Pregnancy
Remember that the emotional transfer is about caring for the needs of your baby, not proving your status as your child’s rightful parent. Your surrogate wants to help you however she can, so always be respectful with your requests.
With that in mind, you and your surrogate can work together to help prepare for emotional transference and lay the groundwork for your parent-child bond while she’s pregnant by:
- Being involved in the pregnancy. Attend doctor’s appointments if possible, video chat with your surrogate and share your excitement together. This will help you feel more connected to your surrogate, the pregnancy and your baby.
- Getting excited. Throw a baby shower, prepare the nursery and find a pediatrician. You may have had disappointments in the past, but allowing yourself to get excited about the pregnancy will jumpstart your own sense of parental attachment to your child before his or her arrival.
- Talking to your baby. Make a recording of your voice for your surrogate to play (there’s even a special set of headphones for this) to allow your baby to begin to recognize your voice.
- Create transitional touchstones. Your surrogate can play a transitional sound, like a certain musician, song, or white noise, to your baby that you can then play when you bring him or her home so it’s a familiar sound, and your surrogate can sleep with a transitional object, like a special blanket or stuffed animal, that will later go home with you and your baby so he or she has a familiar scent in your home.
Step 2: Start Emotional Transfer in the Hospital
The moment a baby enters the world is a stressful and sudden experience. As a new parent, your first instinct will be to hold your baby as soon as possible, but your baby will need a little more time than most to adjust. Here’s how to begin emotional transference at the hospital:
- Confirm the baby’s senses. This is a common practice in any birth: Babies are placed on the chest of their mother to touch, smell and hear things they recognize in a new, external environment. The surrogate isn’t the baby’s mother, of course, but having her touch or hold the baby first is the best way to confirm the baby’s senses before you hold your child.
- Physical transfer to the parents. Once the baby is stable and calmer, the moment you and your surrogate have been waiting for can happen: she can hand your baby to you for the first time. This is a good way to physically transfer the baby, but it’s also a nice emotional moment for surrogates and intended parents as the culmination of your journey together.
- Skin-to-skin contact. Once your baby has been physically transferred to you, spend as much time as you can physically bonding with him or her. You can hold your baby, stroke their cheek and have skin-on-skin contact to allow your baby to grow accustomed to you and begin emotionally bonding with you.
Step 3: Stay Patient
That strong parent-child bond doesn’t happen immediately for everyone — parents who gave birth to their baby struggle with this, too. Some parents will worry that crying episodes or fussiness is due to the surrogacy or improper emotional transfer, but don’t worry — it’s normal baby behavior.
In those early weeks with your baby, there are a few things you can do to help strengthen that emotional transfer process:
- Visit your surrogate. If she’s feeling recovered enough, bring your new family to visit your surrogate and her family within the first few weeks of your baby’s life. This can be a reassuring and affirming experience for your baby as well as your surrogate, who will take pride in seeing your family together.
- Practice normal bonding methods. All parents, including those who gave birth to their children, need to continuously work to promote healthy and strong bonds with their children throughout their lifetimes. Talk to your baby, play with them, sing to them, hold and cuddle them, go on walks together, read to them and spend time together to strengthen your bond.
- Start telling their surrogacy story. Day one is actually the perfect time to start. They’re not too young. By routinely talking about your family’s special way of coming together and your surrogate’s role in your lives, your child will grow up echoing your feelings of positivity, and will one day know they can ask questions freely and talk openly about their surrogacy story.
Even though you didn’t have those first nine months to bond with your child, after emotional transfer you’ll have the rest of your life together to experience firsthand how strong family bonds are. Remember you can always reach out to your American Surrogacy specialist for advice about emotionally transferring a baby born via surrogate. Contact us now at 1-800-875-BABY(2229) to learn more about getting started.