There’s been a short video floating around Facebook over the past couple of weeks with the title #ENDMOMGUILT and it really resonated with me. It got me thinking a lot about the guilt I feel as a mother and how that has compared to being a surrogate. The guilt that can creep up as a surrogate is a whole new ball game.
My mom guilt started soon after I found out that I was (accidentally) pregnant with my first. I had a friend who had been trying to get pregnant without success for several months, and I knew telling her was going to be hard. In the end, I didn’t have to tell her. She must have figured out what was going on and, as I was sipping on a ginger ale, she approached me and said, “You’re pregnant, aren’t you.” I could sense that she wanted to be happy for me (even though she knew I wasn’t very happy), but there was a hint of sadness there as well. It’s been nearly 7 years and I still very vividly remember the feeling of guilt that went through my whole body in that moment. I would have given anything to trade places with her. It was the feeling that stuck with me and brought me to the place where I would consider being a surrogate, so I have to give some credit to that mom guilt.
C has made it clear that she has dealt with the fact that she will never be pregnant, but I still have a hard time wishing she could experience this pregnancy instead of me. Feeling a baby’s first little kicks is supposed to be a special, almost magical experience, but this time around I felt an intense amount of guilt because I was feeling it and she wasn’t. The same happened for the first ultrasound, and the first time I heard the heart beat. I didn’t even want to look or listen, and I didn’t want to feel excited. I wished that C&J could experience those things for themselves, or at least be there with me, but with the distance between us, it was impossible.
Yesterday was one of those days in pregnancy where things were not magical. Now that I am in the third trimester and completely out of the blissful second I am back to experiencing some really crappy pregnancy symptoms. I have insomnia, and am usually up from 3-5 am every night. My back and hips have been sore, and Squishy can’t decide if (s)he wants to stretch out the muscles of my lower belly or wedge its limbs into my ribs. I’m not even joking when I say that they are likely bruised at this point. The extra blood in my body is putting added pressure on my heart, which results in arrhythmia and palpitations that leave me short of breath. Yesterday I was experiencing all of these lovely symptoms all at once. I couldn’t pick up my own kids or help out around the house like I wanted to, like I should be able to. I also have a sinus cold and with little Squishy on board I can’t take any useful medicine. I try not to complain to C much about it, but instead keep her up-to-date as matter-of-factly as I can.
I made the mistake of letting out one little complaint at supper time last night. “You chose to do this so you can’t really complain,” was the response I got from my husband. And he’s right. I chose this. I am lucky that I get to experience the bad with the good. But dammit, pregnancy really fucking sucks sometimes. I know the sentiment that “I chose this” and therefore shouldn’t complain is likely shared by many, but doing a good deed does not mean that I am immune to the rough days of pregnancy. And at this point, the rough days are increasing. I have to remind myself that I am human and I have to take care of myself. Squishy is depending on me to take care of myself. If that means taking it easy more often than not, and complaining a bit or asking for help sometimes, then I have to do it and not feel guilty about it. But, it’s hard. I chose this.
Now that my belly is growing bigger and it’s obvious that I am pregnant, people often make comments about the pregnancy. If the person is an acquaintance then I will briefly explain the situation, but with strangers I don’t say much and it makes me feel bad. I have clients who ask if this is my first, how many other kids I have, etc. and I want so badly to be able to tell them that it’s not my baby; that I’m carrying this sweet little one for another amazing couple. But it would be inappropriate for me to get into my personal life in that context. I was leaving a patient’s room a few weeks ago and was wishing her well, when she responded, “And best of luck to you and your growing family!” All I said was, “Thanks,” and left the room. I felt awful. This isn’t my baby and it’s not my growing family and it’s not fair that I am getting these well-wishes when C should be. I know that she does from friends, family, and acquaintances, but not the well-meaning strangers in the grocery store. She doesn’t look pregnant, but in a sense she is, and she should be the one getting these messages. Not me.
I relayed this anecdote to some friends and one had a reply that made me feel so much better. She said that while yes, this isn’t my baby, my family is growing, and that these well-wishes extend to that growing family. C&J and Squishy are now part of our family. When people wish me well, they are wishing them well, too. They might not know that, but I have no doubts that if they knew and understood our unique situation that they would be extending those well-wishes to our east coast family.
Mommy guilt is real and surrogacy guilt is something that I have learned to deal with. But guilt has its place and I have to remind myself that without it, and without the guilt I felt when I first found out I was pregnant with my now amazing 6-year old, little Squishy may still be just a thought. Every emotion has its place and maybe I just need to acknowledge that it is all a part of this amazing process.