Episode 7 – Sarah-Jayne (SJ) Duryea – Psychologist

SJ has worked in the industry for more than 15 years as a Registered Psychologist, working with women and couples who are pursuing their dream of having a family, whether via IVF, surrogacy, sperm or egg donation, or adoption. She is passionate about helping women manage antenatal and postnatal anxiety and depression, as well as the areas of perinatal and antenatal psychology. 

As well as a mum, through surrogacy, to two children herself, she is passionate about helping parents manage parenting trials and create secure attachments to their young children. 

If you’d like to arrange your own session with SJ, you can find her at happyminds.net.au

In this episode we break counselling into 4 stages

* pre-surrogacy

* mandatory

* ongoing (while pregnant)

* ongoing (after birth)

This episode was recorded in October 2021.


These podcasts were recorded as part of the free webinar series run by Surrogacy Australia. If you would like to attend one, head to this page for dates and registration links. The recording can also be found on our YouTube channel so you can see the photos that are described. Find more podcast episodes here.

The webinars are hosted by Anna McKie who is a gestational surrogate, high school Math teacher and surrogacy educator working with Surrogacy Australia and running SASS (Surrogacy Australia’s Support Service). 

Follow Surrogacy Australia on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube

Are you an Intended Parent (IP) who is looking to find a surrogate, or a surrogate looking for Intended Parents? Join SASS.


Welcome to our podcast series with Surrogacy Australia. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen, and in turn for helping us spread awareness and appreciation for surrogacy. I’m your host, Anna McKie, and these recordings are from a regular webinar series that I run. You can find upcoming dates on our website at surrogacyaustralia.org. During the one hour webinars, I will walk you through the surrogacy process in Australia, and you can type in questions for us to answer.

My co-hosts have all done surrogacy in Australia and they alternate between surrogates, gay dads, and straight mums. This episode, recorded in October 2021, features psychologist Sarah Jane Jure. SJ has worked in the industry for more than 15 years as a registered psychologist, working with women and couples who are pursuing their dream of having a family, whether via IVF, surrogacy, sperm or egg donation, or adoption.

She is passionate about helping women manage antenatal and postnatal anxiety and depression, as well as the areas of perinatal and antenatal psychology. As well as a mum through surrogacy to two children herself, she is passionate about helping parents manage parenting trials and create secure attachments to their young children. If you’d like to arrange your own session with SJ, you can find her at happyminds.net.au. In this episode, we break counselling into four stages.

pre-surrogacy, mandatory, ongoing while pregnant, and ongoing after birth. The questions I pose to SJ are, why would we need counseling before we find a surrogate? How do we prepare for the sessions? Will we pass the counseling? My surrogate is pregnant and is having some individual counseling sessions. Should I be worried? I thought we could talk about everything as a team, so why would she need to talk to a counselor? Why would IPs have sessions during the pregnancy?

Why would a surrogate or new parents need any counseling once surrogacy is over? And how many sessions should we budget for our surrogate? Some of the valuable insights by SJ, talk around the ideas that babies are gestated in the body as well as the mind, get your house in order before doing the cha-cha, the dance of surrogacy, and buffing up on your emotional coping skills. I hope you enjoy the episode. So this first stage here, so imagining that we’re a gay couple and we need a surrogate,

or a hetero couple and we’ve been told that we need a surrogate to start or expand our family. So SJ, why would we need counseling then before we’ve even found one? Okay, so the answer to this question, I guess, is what I would say to anybody who is embarking on a massive giant project. And that is that you need to have your house in order. So by that I mean,

you know, making sure that your journey up to the point where you find your surrogate and you form your team, or you find your IPs and you form your team, that that journey doesn’t impact or impede on from, I guess, when you form that team onwards. You know, it’s really about preparing you to cope better with the crazy roller coaster that surrogacy can be. You know, surrogacy,

Surrogacy isn’t for everybody. It has a lot of, I call it, rather than a rollercoaster, I often use the analogy of a cha cha cha. It’s a little bit a couple of steps forward, a couple of steps back, dodge to the side. You need a really good partnership to be able to do the surrogacy journey really, really well. And I think making sure that your coping strategies

as an individual are the best that they can be so that when you go into that relationship in your team, that nothing that you’ve experienced in the past is going to get in the way of it being a good experience. And trying to, we all carry with us coming into surrogacy teams, we carry with us our personalities, our experiences. It’s making sure that we’ve got a plan to manage that.

And, you know, working with a psychologist who’s experienced in that area gives you a chance to have a bit of a reflective space. Yeah. So a bit of time and space to be able to think about, okay, how am I going to manage some of these things that occur for me? You know, how can I make sure that I’m the best I can possibly be before I start this journey? Just like, make sure the foundation’s right. And it’s not saying…

there’s anything wrong, it’s making sure that you’re coping mechanisms for dealing with stress in your everyday life because it’s all going to be tested, having a baby with multiple people that’s making sure that you’re like, yeah, I’m ready, I’ve got everything else. Because we’ve all got other life pressures, don’t we, with work and our own families and things. So you want to make sure that that’s in order, as would you say, to get your house in order? Your house in order,

the curve balls that come your way in life generally. When you’re in surrogacy, there’s a lot of pressure. You’ve got nine months of pregnancy to get through. Everybody at some point gets a little bit of anxiety because everybody wants us to go well. We all bring a lot into those teams. All of our past experiences are personalities. And I think making sure that you’re buffing up on your emotional coping skills. So…

you know, when the pressure is on that you try and keep your cool rather than exploding or becoming really, really, really anxious that you’ve got mechanisms and strategies in place that are as good as they can be before you kind of start that journey. It’s great. It’s better than doing it, you know, towards the end of pregnancy when the pressure really is on and your focus needs to be on, you know, either.

giving birth if you’re a surrogate and looking after yourself, or if you’re an intended parent, you know, caring about your surrogate and thinking about preparing for becoming a parent. Yeah, because, yeah, when you’re in the pressure cooker situation, that’s not the time to start unpacking and learning all the skills. You want to have a good skill set going into it, I guess. Cool, I reckon that’s a good overview of the first stage there, like the pre, you know, tune up, so to speak.

So what have we got here for our second one? So the mandatory counseling, the official one, if you like. So I guess some people here tonight might be wondering, so if we have a surrogacy team and we’re getting ready to have those individual and group counseling sessions, how do we prepare for those sessions? And I think a common fear is people are thinking, are we going to pass? So what advice have you got for people there for preparing and will they?

Let me address the passing comment first, because that’s something, you know, I guess what I, my experience is working with teams, often that’s the first contact that people have had with a psychologist or counsellor. And that brings a whole bunch of nerves, as well as it being one of the most important things you will ever do, which is, you know, bring forth a baby.

It’s not pass or fail, right? It isn’t pass or fail because it’s really just about thinking realistically about, do you have the coping mechanisms in place? Thinking about the implications of what you’re doing. Have you thought it through? Do you have what it takes to be able to cope with this cha-cha, this journey that you’re going to be on? And really, you know, thinking about the birth story.

for your child, particularly for intended parents, thinking about that one day you’re gonna be sitting down with your child and they’re gonna be asking about where they came from, you want that to be positive. Any checks or balances that set you up for that positivity, it’s essential. I think that’s the way that I see that part of the counseling. I know it becomes…

Oh my gosh, you know, a lot of anxiety is, you know, am I going to fail this? You know, this is just another tick box. Actually it’s there for a reason, you know, it’s to make sure that, you know, we’re taking it seriously. It’s a long process and it needs to be. Yeah. And it’s life we’re talking about here. So we want to be considered and working together. And is it, it’s altruistic surrogacy. It’s a model of surrogacy. There’s commercial surrogacy is the other one. The altruistic surrogacy is a,

from my understanding, a giant investment in relationships with people, many adults coming together. And so the counseling is not necessarily an audit of their ability to be a good parent. It’s their ability to navigate having a baby with multiple people, which is an unusual thing to do. And so it’s a way of, and also talking to somebody who’s experienced in it to say, hey, here’s what other teams have done before. And here’s the wisdom that we’ve got from them

you know, share with you as a team, let’s all be thinking about these things because there’s a child at the end of it that we need to consider their story. So, and I was just thinking is that too, that they, with the not pass or fail, it might be if a team has something else to think about, it might be let’s have a couple of weeks off and go away and see how everybody feels about this and let’s come back and have another session. Is it more just a pause as opposed to a fail?

that do these implications counseling, these psychological assessments in surrogacy. I have a huge amount of respect for my colleagues here. I do the same thing. We give, if there are things that need to be worked on, it is a recommendation that we can make. So, if there’s somebody in the team needs some extra support to manage some anxiety that may be cropping up, we may have a surrogate that perhaps

has experienced some post-natal depression in the past. It’s not, it doesn’t exclude that person by any means, but it may mean that chatting through the situation and the context means that there’s some extra support that might be required. And it’s about listening to that, taking that seriously and thinking about having a plan to manage it. Yeah, because as you said before, we’re all gonna have lives ups and downs. So it’s just…

Let’s, yeah, what’s the plan in place there? So coming into those sessions with you, is there any things that teams could chat about that are good things to cover? I mean, I think a lot of us obviously know some of the classics about termination and how people feel on those big issues and what if somebody dies during the pregnancy and that. Is it those sorts of conversations people should be having together? Absolutely. There’s a lot of conversation that needs to occur. The big,

I guess the biggest tip that I always have for teams going to surrogacy is do your research. Make sure that you’re looking at sources that are as evidence-based as we possibly, there’s not a huge amount of research in surrogacy generally. I wish there was more, there needs to be more, but there are definitely credible people who work in the industry who…

are able to, like, you know, your services for a start, you know, being able to give information, making sure that you’re reading that, you’re understanding it, you’re talking to your surrogate, you’re talking to your IPs, you’re really, it’s almost like you kind of have to live and breathe the information, you know, don’t leave any stone unturned. That really sets you up for this type of sort of mandatory counselling, because it allows you to…

have had those really sticky conversations like you were sort of mentioning there about termination, what would we do if? It allows you to practice your communication, practicing talking to each other about really difficult things that may pop up. Like you said earlier, you’re creating, you’re bringing forth life with other people, which is a weird thing to do when you think about it. So being able to…

have really difficult conversations, practice that prior to going into some counselling sessions. There’ll be things that the counsellor will point to or tell you about or discuss with you that you won’t have thought of. That’s kind of our job to find those places to help fill in those gaps. But the best teams that I see come through, and I guess I mean, the ones that have the sort of most straightforward journeys are the ones that

They get the house in order, they prepare and they do their research. They listen to the podcast, they read the blogs, they get onto forums, they ask questions, they really get a handle on it, they read books. And talking to the right people. Yeah, and other people that have gone through it and learning from their journeys and going, oh, wow, that team had that issue happen. What has that happened in our team? How do we all feel about that? And…

learning from your peers, I think. I think you saying do your research, that’s probably one of my whys, my main motivators for doing the webinars and these resources is what does that mean when people say, I’ll make sure you do it, but what does that look like and how do we gather those podcasts and books and stories and yeah and so that as a team you know, yes we have done it instead of going okay we read chapter one, oh are there another 10 chapters? Oh

didn’t know that. So it’s tricky. So yeah, you want to walk out of the counseling going, yes, we had prepared as well as we could have. And then, you know, even when you find questions to ask them that they hadn’t thought about, they were still prepared enough to answer them as in the session with you, I guess. Yeah, I think it’s, yeah, the more information you have, I guess the more you go into the counseling with, the more you’re going to get out of it, because the further you can go.

And we want to go as far as we possibly can because what we’re doing here is something so extraordinary that we wanna make sure that it goes well, right? And the only way you can work out what’s right for you is if you put the effort into the research and you take responsibility for that. Yeah, that’s good. As a parent, as a parent.

That is what you are going to be doing at 24 seven. So, you know, having, you know, taking responsibility at that point, it’s great practice, right? Investing time into all of these readings and filtering it through and going, what sits right with us? You’ve got to have time to digest that. Yeah. That’s good. I reckon that’s a good summary of that section there. All right, moving on to number three, perhaps a scenario here of my surrogate is pregnant and is having some individual counseling sessions. Should I be worried about that?

the other ones we’ve got written there are, I thought we could talk about everything as a team. So why would she need to talk to a counselor then? But then also why would IPs have sessions during pregnancy themselves? What are your thoughts on those? I think that, well, just let me address that first question. So your surrogate’s pregnant and having some counseling, should I be worried? I think you should be jumping up and down with glee, to be honest, because what that’s doing is it’s allowing your surrogate to, you know, to…

offload some of the things that she’s thinking about. Now, there’s a presumption there that that might be something that’s negative. Often, and correct me if I’m wrong, Anna, often there’s a bit of a parallel journey going on, right? So there’s something, it’s not just about giving somebody the best gift in the world. It’s often about things like giving back to the universe, proving I can do this.

having this amazing act of altruism that’s going to change somebody else’s life. It’s not necessarily, you know, can I do this? Do I, you know, have I got this? And sort of those kinds of parallel journeys that show up. So having casting is a great place to kind of enrich and to reflect on those things for surrogates. So it’s not just about.

you know, going into a counseling session, like venting, which is not very helpful for anybody anyway. You know, those counseling sessions are a great way to reflect on, you know, what you’re bringing to the team, what you need to take better responsibility for maybe, or different strategies to be able to cope with some things to just kind of, I guess, let it out. So actually.

Sorry, Anna. Control what you can control. And I think I know from other surrogates, sometimes they get frustrated in their pregnancy. And then there’s this parallel going, yeah, I signed up for this. I know this is what I wanted. So why am I whinging about the pregnancy aches and moans? I’m grateful to be doing this, but I’m still hurting and tired and COVID and there’s lockdowns and I can’t see my IPs. And so those frustrations are normal. And I guess then they can take it out on you, so to speak.

As a counsellor, vent to you. Hopefully not take it out on me. I’m joking. Get it out, right? Get it out. You know, sometimes it takes somebody independent to validate how you’re feeling and just go, yeah, that sucks. But somebody who’s not invested in the outcome. And it’s that kind of, it’s that sort of free and clear.

you know, of any sort of impact, you know, the counselor is obviously wanting your team to do well, but it’s not personally invested. So you have to share how you’re feeling and, you know, talking about those aches and pains and, you know, talking and sharing about, you know, how it may feel when things are a little bit up and down with, you know, could be medical things, could be anything. Thinking about what they…

brings the party. So, you know, I would be, you know, if, if it was a surrogate that I was working with, and they said, I want some counseling sessions, fantastic, bring it on because it’s only going to enrich the team. And same as with IPs. Yeah, enrich the individual and the team there. So, so it’s something that you would recommend, is it something that people should plan for, like a particular number, like once every three months, or individually, or as a team, is there a recipe?

Ooh, it really, I’m gonna do the psych thing and sit on the fence here. It is a bit of a, okay, at the start, are there some things that we need to sort of plan in? And most teams that I work with, I absolutely, absolutely firmly believe towards the end of that third trimester and absolutely into the fourth trimester, having sessions, even if it is just a surrogate.

that’s an absolute must. But I really think I piece as well to discuss what that feels like and what that sort of birth journey was like too is extremely important. Because that’s about how you’re gonna parent and that sort of thing. But yeah, I think, I think for, just to address that bottom question, why would I piece our sessions during the pregnancy, similar to the surrogate, it’s about thinking about

How am I showing up in this team? How can I be the best version of myself? Having a chance to reflect on how is it going? How am I doing? What can I do more of? What can I do less of? What can I do better at to support my surrogate and her family? How am I feeling? Surrogacy for intended parents brings up a lot of anxiety.

You know, your beautiful little one is cooking away in somebody else’s tummy. And you know, it is, you can’t, you can’t be there every second of the day to check that the baby’s still moving, you know, that the symptoms of pregnancy are still there. It can bring up a lot of anxiety. And being able to talk to a counselor, being able to share that and reflect on that is really, really important. That lack of control that you would be experiencing and not having it in you.

and kicks little confirmations all day that it’s fine. Yeah, and I know something you’re very passionate about too is helping people prepare for parenting and that in surrogacy, people are so grateful and thankful, but it doesn’t mean parenting is gonna be grateful and thankful all the time. And these little babies take everything from you and don’t say thank you for 15 years, probably not even then. So it’s preparing for.

that transition of, and it’s okay to find that heart. Yeah, for sure. I think, you know, thinking about, and I say this to teams, thinking about, you know, we know that babies are gestated in the body, but they’re also gestated in the mind. So, you know, through a pregnancy, you’re calling to mind your baby. I mean, I work in perinatal psychology, you know, not just in surrogacy land. And, you know, I often talk to women about,

calling their baby to mind? You know, what is your baby gonna do for a job when it’s older? What type of baby, you know, is the baby gonna be born with hair, without hair? You know, how are you calling your baby to mind? How are you cooking that baby in your mind? Yeah. But surrogacy, it’s kind of split. So, you know, the surrogates, they’re thinking about the baby in a certain way, right? You know, as a belly buddy or a little passenger, you know, however they may be referring.

intended parents though, they’re on the path to becoming, you know, fathers or mothers. And that’s the process. And I think it’s really important to acknowledge that. And that’s, you know, counselling is a great place to do that and to reflect on this. You know, how are you calling to mind your baby? Because one day somebody will be putting that beautiful pink wriggly thing in your arms.

And you’ll go, all right, now it’s on, life has changed. And now I’m actually going through these massive adjustments that it takes to become a mother or a father. So, you know, we know that that’s the process, that the psychological process that means that the whole of your identity, your world, your relationship, your place in the world changes.

when you start adjusting to becoming to parenthood. And you need to do that, right? Because that’s what your baby needs you to do. Needs you to adjust your life and to prepare your mind and your heart. And your relationship, right? And your identity changes when you become a parent. So, you kind of having a place to be able to talk about this stuff prepares you.

as much as it can, right? It prepares you for thinking through and talking through these sorts of things. It’s from the moment that baby’s placed in your arms, you know, you’ve got to be, you’ve got to be there, right? You’ve got to be the safe haven for your child and the secure base. And so it doesn’t, you know, it’s not about you anymore. It’s about this little bubba. You know, and it’s also thinking about

Well, how do I manage and preparing for managing as an intended parent, managing how your surrogate’s feeling post-birth, how your relationship’s going post-birth, how your baby’s going. You’ve got a lot of things that you’re gonna be managing. So any sort of preparation that you can do for that is really, really important. That’s great. Yeah, I really like that analogy of preparing your mind for Bubba as well. And it’s making me go,

everybody, hetero couples that are for easily, we should all have done this. That this, you know, thinking about the baby’s place in our life, I think, you know, yeah, if people had had if everybody had to experience this sort of counselling and preparing these children in service, you very loved and probably come into very stable homes because people are very considered.

in their choice to be parents. It’s never an accident. No surrogate baby was ever, oh, oops. That happens. It’s very deliberate. But I do, you know, there is a sort of, I guess working in perinatal, it tells me that there’s a lot of similarities that, you know, it’s still parenting. It is still that adjustment. Yeah. You know, babies, it tells me all those things. But I think in surrogacy for me, it’s…

there’s an added layer because you’ve brought, like you sort of mentioned, you’ve brought forth this baby via a team approach, which absolutely has beautiful things about it, but we all bring our own personality into surrogacy. It can have some downsides or some things to consider too. Yeah, so I guess I think it’s, yeah, it’s really, really important to have a space

place to be able to reflect. You know, they say that parenting is the best type of parents are the ones that reflect and they think, you know, they think about what’s my baby doing? What am I doing? How are we interacting? I think the same is true of surrogacy, you know, we come into surrogacy with very, very different journeys. You know, there’s often I see a lot of grief, a lot of grief and loss. So it has to be

you know, I don’t, I guess I don’t subscribe to the belief that has to be not there. I don’t think grief works that way. It’s always a part of us, but it’s about how can I manage some of the impact of that as I go through this journey. And so counseling is a great place to do that. Yeah, safe space there for it. So yeah, that’s fantastic summary there. So we’ll go on to our fourth one.

given birth and what life looks like after surrogacy. Sometimes it might be relinquishment counseling in some states, but then perhaps some ongoing counseling anywhere from birth to 12 months or beyond for some people. So why would anybody, a surrogate or the new parents need any counseling once that project’s over? And sometimes IPs might wonder if they’re aware that their surrogate’s adjusting hormonally to life after and the end of a project and finding her.

you know, weigh again. Are there a number of sessions that they should budget for? What would be reasonable? But yeah, so why would anybody need it? Well, I think we’ve touched on, I think everybody, I think automatically goes to relinquishment. So going to thinking about, you know, how can surrogate to deal with the impact, all the sort of hormonal changes, the emotional changes.

any post-natal depression issues that might be showing up. You know, I think that is an absolute goal, has to happen because it’s, again, it’s a safe space to be able to share how you’re feeling and to reflect on that journey. The after birth part for both sort of sides of the coin, surrogates and intended parents, a chance to be able to talk through the birth story is really, really important.

you know, on behalf of, you know, on the surrogate side, you know, we know that one in three women suffer some form of birth trauma. That is a widely, you know, accepted stat that we have. We know that that’s really common and it varies obviously more or less in terms of how traumatic it is. But it’s about making sure that if there’s any issues that are picked up, that we’ve got a plan for that, that we’re providing, you know, support.

And I believe that, you know, that that’s extremely important that we have that in place. So it’s managing, talking through the birth story. It’s thinking about this magical fourth trimester that we talk about a lot. Yes. And I know for some surrogates who might not end up with full blow and like myself, post natal anxieties and depression, it’s a tricky period because you might have some birth trauma and it might not be because it physically didn’t go well, but it just…

or certain things didn’t play out in your mind because often the birth for surrogates is sort of the money moment in some ways, wanting it to go in a particular way. And it’s tricky because surrogacy is joyful and there’s a baby here and so the intended parents and all of their friends and family are very joyful that there’s a little one here. And so then sometimes as a surrogate, it might be tricky to go, well, why am I not joyful? I’ve got this birth I need to reflect on or

you know, the time around the birth, give or take a week, can be a complex time. So she might muddle those feelings up with that. Is she upset with the IPs or is it just helping her? Is it to help them see the things for what they are? That’s the different elements within a journey, I guess. Yeah, I think, I think, you know, what typically happens for intended parents is that they,

that adjustment is the word here, right? So surrogates are adjusting hormonally, emotionally, to, I guess, after birth, what happened and the absence of the baby. The intake of parents are going, oh my gosh, now it all starts, right? This is the thing I wanted. I remember feeling so hazy, so excited, but just so completely clouded because I was so…

It’s the peak experience, right? When the surrogate hands over that baby or however that works, that just that moment of being with your baby for the first time, the surrogate seeing that, it’s this amazing peak experience. And I think it’s an adjustment, right? So, intended parents are really busy with Bob.

want to be there for the surrogate, but there’s a reality to looking after a newborn and making sure that all that lovely attachment and bonding is starting straight away and that you’re really working on that. And I think having some counselling at that point to be able to take that somewhere else is really, really important for both sides. And somebody that

so that you’ve got some relationship and some trust built up. Yeah, that makes sense. So somebody that, yeah, you’ve already established your relationships, you don’t have to unpack everything. And if there were underlying issues at other points in the journey, they’ve got a history of that. And then how many sessions then, would it be reasonable for teams to, again, you might need to sit on the fence on that one, because is it a, you know, let’s say for three months and then touch base and see…

how everyone’s going? Yeah, look, I think it’s really hard, isn’t it? Because it really depends on where everybody’s at. And the last thing you want to do is sit in front of a counsellor, have nothing to say, nothing to reflect on. I just feel that you’re there because you’re, again, you’re ticking the box. But I think a lot of the answer to that question probably comes if you’re doing your homework at the start. Because…

You might say, look, okay, and I often say to teams, it’s really good to create a trimester plan that goes over the whole pregnancy, including the fourth trimester. So making sure that part of that is talking about what counseling you think you might need or might want, how much space you think you might need upfront to be able to talk through how you might be feeling. Everybody has feelings. You’re entitled to them, they are valid.

So being able to say, look, I think at least once a trimester and then maybe, you know, a little bit more leading up to birth and then certainly into fourth trimester, probably, you know, once a fortnight for a couple of months, something along those lines might work for me. But it just really depends on, depends on how you’re feeling, you know? Yeah. And I think sometimes one technique is to have them booked in.

and then cancel if you need, because I’m sure the psychologist can fill up the session, that won’t be a problem. So, and I found myself, if I knew it was, I didn’t have to worry. So, for myself, public knowledge too, so struggle with postnatal depression, we went on a mental health care plan. And so I had continued counseling up until 12 months. So.

Partly because, you know, and towards the last, it was only once every couple of months towards the end, it was quite intense in those first three to four months for me. And then there’s a little tip to some teams, if the surrogate’s expressing milk and she then weans off that, I found that’s a dip in her coping mechanisms because the oxytocin hit that you get from expressing milk dips off. So as I piece, you know, all those little things to be aware of.

And it’s a lot to manage for our peas, who are now peas, you know, managing to care for them and a baby, it’s just, and you don’t get a training period with the baby. It’s like into the trenches. Off you go. And there’s also this kind of unwritten thing that sits there, you know, because I’ve tried so hard, I’ve gone through, you know, the nth degree to be able to bring forth my baby. I’m not really entitled to have a day where I’m feeling exhausted.

or strung out or fed up that actually my life has completely changed. And actually you’re going to feel like that. That is part of, that is part of the fourth trimester for parents, right? Remembering that the fourth trimester it’s, it’s about the, you know, the Bob’s experience of coming into the big, wide, loud, bright world after sort of bumping around inside, you know, listening to some beautiful room music.

going out into the world is a really hard experience for a newborn. So they’re going through it, they’re a little bit disruptive for those first three months, that fourth trimester. So for intended parents, they’re coping with that whilst trying to form an attachment and a bond with their baby that they’ve kind of caught, hopefully they’ve managed to call to mind in their head and think about, but that’s not often the case. It’s not always the case, I should say, right? So it’s watching out for,

you know, depression, which is really kind of a sort of, you know, issues with adjustment and attachment post birth. And knowing that just because you didn’t happen to carry that child doesn’t mean to say that it’s not a difficult adjustment to make becoming a father or a mother. Yeah. So watch out for that’s really important.

Yeah, and I know that’s something you’re very passionate about is helping the parents adjust. Well, obviously surrogates too, but being a mum yourself and your husband, you know, through surrogacy twice, it’s that adjustment. You’ve lived and breathed it, you know, this is very rare in our, you know, world. So we’re lucky to have you. So, so I think that’s our four stages. So there we go. So I’m going to stop screen sharing and we’ll go back to big versions of you and I for everybody there. They get full screen of us.

I will just do the general housekeeping and say, if anybody does need to duck out at any point and head off, you’re welcome to do that. You stay for as long as you need and want to, but we’ve definitely got time for some questions. So an anonymous question is that, if you are already undergoing counselling by someone who specialises in fertility, do you still need to do this type of counselling? Or can your ongoing counselling be considered in this instance? Just because somebody’s got a background in fertility,

doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve looked specifically at surrogacy. Yeah. Doesn’t necessarily mean that. Yeah. So you need to sort of check that and make sure that you’ve got that clarified. I think it depends also what state you live in and how, whether you have the counseling covers an assessment and is mandatory. So it just depends on really the experience of the person that you’re working with.

So in terms of ongoing counselling, where it’s not, you know, it’s part, it’s just supporting your team. You know, it could be really helpful if you’ve got a trusting relationship with an existing counsellor and they’ve got some experience, that could help you. But I definitely think it’s something you probably should talk to the person that you’re working with and get a little bit more information. And that particular counsellor might say that…

this is not my area of expertise and he’s who I recommend. SJ, any other pointers that as we were going through, you went, oh, I wish I’d mentioned such and such. Have you got any that spring to mind? Yeah, I just, just on the point about closing the project, I think that’s really something that I didn’t talk about. So that final section there about counselling after the event.

Obviously some states there’s counseling that you need to have post-birth, right? That’s about checking, checking that you’re, you’re ticking those boxes. But any sort of project, yeah, this is, this is I can’t think of a bigger project that you would ever do. And so being able to close it out, to make sure that everybody is where they need to be.

to make sure that people are, you know, team members involved in that, including the children of the surrogate and the family of the surrogate, particularly, those partners, you know, that they’re okay, that everybody’s got what they need to kind of close it down. And, you know, when you’ve had a really great experience, I had a really great positive experience and I felt awful after it finished and probably so did my lovely surrogate.

because we had such a great time. We didn’t want it to end. So just close down project well. I was gonna say a bit like building a house or a musical production or the grand final of footy. We might have had a great lead up. Yeah, you didn’t want it to end and they say like, oh, what do I do now? Yeah, exactly. So any sort of project needs to have a start and finish. There’s signposts. So closing it down, making sure that everybody’s left.

well, they’ve got what they need. That everybody has managed that, that come down from that peak experience is really, really important. Yeah, good point there. Look, I think just a real general point for people who have never, you know, never spoken to a counselor or psychologist before. Thinking about chemistry is really, really important when you see any counselor or psychologist, whether it’s to do with surrogacy or not, making sure you get somebody who

makes you feel validated, like what you’re saying is important and actually does matter. And that the chemistry and the communications, you know, you like them, really, really important. It needs to be a safe space. And when you’re dealing with something like surrogacy, it’s extremely important that consent is managed well, that we’re thinking about communications, especially when we’ve got kind of multiple parties.

that it’s handled really, really well. So I’m just gonna point out that chemistry and trust is really, really important. So you’re basically giving people permission if they don’t click with the first counselor that they have a session with, it’s okay to say, thank you, I’m sure you’re right. You don’t have to say it to their face, but I’m sure they’re right to some people, but you just haven’t found the gel and that’s important. So you’re allowed to shop around. Absolutely, and look, I think it’s really important. I’ll say to most clients on the first session,

you know, if the chemistry is going to be right, how are you feeling? You know, it’s really, really important. We don’t take it personally, it’s not a personal thing. Sure. And then on that, so you’re in Melbourne. So Melbourne have the PRP panel for part of theirs. So sometimes the counselling through an IVF clinic. So are you one of the people that people could access for that mandatory official counselling? In Victoria, because we have the PRP, the mandatory, the implications

of the counselling happens at the clinic. So you’ll have some amazing counsellors with the clinics that will take you through the individual sessions for both parties and then the group session. And then it is not a, it’s not something you have to have but the panel really, really do encourage and appreciate an independent psychological assessment. And that’s where you would come to myself in Victoria for me to be able to work.

through that with you, to do that assessment with you. So that’s a little bit like immediate date. You know, you kind of, you know, you pick that person, you turn up for the assessment and I’ll then, you know, ask you a bunch of questions and hopefully you feel comfortable enough to answer them. And then I write a lovely report for the panel for you. Yes, so then they can engage with you for any of those.

pretty much any of those four stages, but slightly different in Victoria, the mandatory is done through an RVF clinic, unless of course they’re doing traditional surrogacy, not through a clinic and doing home inseminations, in which case then they can come to you for counseling. So yes, Victoria’s pretty much, I nearly have my overview of this, one of the few states in Australia where you must use the counselors in the RVF clinic, that’s quite unusual. Are you able to do counseling for teams interstate?

Yes, absolutely. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So, for instance, New South Wales, you would be able to have both of those things with me, right? So you would be able to have the implications part. And then, you know, I can then write a report to be able to sort of, you know, help you through. I tend to adopt my teams. So by that, I mean, I, you know, I want them to do well, as they go through that process. So that’s when

you know, there’s the offer there to speak to any counsellor that’s experienced insurgency or myself for ongoing counselling. So then I can be part of that journey with them from that point onwards. Beautiful, because you’ve got that history. So for anybody listening tonight or in the recording that and if you’re not in Victoria, you are still able to access SJ. If you’re feeling the chemistry from her tonight and would like to. So picking up that happy minds.

website. So James and Stu, some of my regulars on the webinar, lovely to have you back lads. They understand that we have to have mandatory counselling to proceed through the surrogacy journey or sometimes called implications. But how influential are the results of counselling on the success of the parentage order? Yeah, is that one before pregnancy? Does that correlate? Or does that counselling have anything to do with the one post birth at all? It all contributes. The way that I would think about it is it’s about preparation.

right? What tools, strategies, skills, how ready are you for the journey? You know, that all feeds into that kind of end experience of holding that baby in your arms, how your relationship is with the person who has done this amazing thing for you, how you all come out of it. So, you know, it really is important to think about in my world, I guess in my head.

I think of it as the journey in and the journey out. And so how did, you know, what are the things before the baby arise in your arms that you can do to make sure that things go well? And most of the time it’s about taking responsibility for our emotions, what we’re bringing to the table, how we’re showing up, how, you know, how supportive we’re being and how sensitive we’re being either side.

you know, what we’re doing for our team, that makes a huge impact on how it all goes down. And in reality, I mean, parentage orders are a legal thing, but in some states, there’s a report that needs to be written and we need to see what’s this team like now. We see everybody, we see everybody in the same room, including the baby, to look at how…

how everybody is with that baby. So yeah, it makes sense. It’s really connected, James asked you. Yeah, yeah, good question, lads. So another one here from Min. So is it common for IPs to feel that they can’t complain when parenting is difficult because they feel they should be lucky to even be parents? Is that common? Yeah, look, I think…

I think it’s not just IPs, I think it’s parents in general, you know, they’ve got the beautiful little, you know, little baby in their arms, it smells so good. And yeah, and I think it’s really natural to start thinking, you know, I should be grateful. You know, we do a lot of that as human beings. So I think it’s quite a normal thing. Yeah. Yeah, I guess surround yourself, surrogacy or not, with a village of people, other parents, that get it and that you can.

have a safe space to talk about, you know, all of your feelings without judgment. One of my biggest fears, I’ll share something with my IP hat on here. One of my biggest fears with being an intended parent was when I became a P, would I be accepted by the other mums in the mums group? And I have to say wholeheartedly, that was not an issue because once you’re a P, you’re a P.

And with everything good and bad that entails and that massive adjustment that we need to go through, you’re a parent, everything changes. Yeah, so hopefully it is positive there and you find people to talk to. A question here is, so how can IPs make a surrogate feel comfortable with accessing optional psychology counseling sessions before, during and after the pregnancy? So without being intrusive.

or coming across as judgmental if a surrogate is seen to be having challenges. So the IPs can identify that counseling would be helpful, but the surrogate perhaps is not saying yes. How can you? Table. Yeah. Yeah. Difficult one, isn’t it? I think you’d want preferably you’re facing that situation before you’re pregnant and you’re chatting about that and what the plan might be. Because, yeah, I think it’s like I think how you also describe it, that it’s kind of heading you off at the.

pass if you can, which is easy to say in hindsight. So that’s what you know, if you’re if you’re at the start of this journey now, I absolutely think that you know, a minimum agreed number of sessions, you know, maybe it’s one per trimester per person at the start just takes that issue off the table. But I think if you’re I think if you’re running into trouble, maybe going in yourself as an intended parent being the role model, setting the the time and the example.

and discussing with your counselor, okay, what strategies have I got to kind of help surrogate to understand that it might be useful? Yeah. Having a team session rather than, you know, thinking about, you know, I have this thing that if there’s one team member in any team that’s not performing, it’s the whole of the team’s responsibility. And I think that’s true in surrogacy as it is in life. Yeah, everybody needs to pull their weight, so to speak.

you know, they’re all valued members of the team. They’re thinking about that group counselling session. I know with some of my SAS teams who are pregnant, one way to help with that issue, you know, how do we get a surrogate to mention that is when I do a group email that might be first, second, third trimester check-in, hey, team, how you going? Here’s some relevant resources or podcasts to listen to, or here’s some things to chat about or consider some counselling. I email out each party.

on the team separately first and say, hey, I’m going to do this update email. Would you like me to put anything in it? So then it looks like it’s coming from SAS and going, oh, SAS said this is a good thing to talk about at this point in time. Oh, this is what a bit of the recipe. So you can blame it on SAS or other parties. Oh, this is what other teams have done. So then it takes a little bit of the heat away from either party making that suggestion. Because it’s a trick.

You know, it’s awkward. Service is awkward. Really close relationship. It is it is a relationship that you will never you will never have with anybody else the way that you have with your your sort of threesome, foursome, your twosome, whatever you may be in. Right. It’s this unique period of time that is so, so, so special. And so, yeah, you want you want to come out of it feeling validated and heard.

Definitely, yes. So, yeah, and so those feelings are important if they’re coming from the IPs or the surrogate. Yep, definitely. My end with the last one here. So, what are some red flags that you’ve seen when you’ve met teams? I’m gonna say, you’re welcome, Lindsay. Okay, so one of the key things, and it goes back to something I said at the start of the webinar, is teams that haven’t, I’m gonna call out IPs here.

IPs that perhaps haven’t really got to grips with or addressed some of the journey in to surrogacy factors. That is not about not grieving anymore. It’s not about any of that because that carries on. It’s about thinking about, you know, managing anxiety, managing the impact of the grief, managing some of the

disappointments, the changes in expectations of what our body can or can’t do, making sure that that is managed before you then, as well as it can be, and most of the time it’s ongoing before you start off, you know, in your surrogacy team. So in terms of red flags, that’s, to me, that’s kind of one of the centre ones, thinking about teams that perhaps haven’t completed what they needed to complete.

or haven’t got to a stage where they can progress. And the majority of what you’re saying there would often be there for the intended mums coming into surrogacy. They’ve often been on quite a journey of health to come to surrogacy. Have sometimes the gay dads, have they, or dads to be, have similar things? Look, it’s, I guess it’s a slightly different, slightly different scenario.

But there’s definitely pieces to that, the kind of the injustice of that and how that feels to be in a relationship where you want desperately to be a parent, but it’s not easy and you have to bring in third parties when it’s actually something that’s private. Those things can sometimes show up, but yeah, I mean, some of the sort of very, very, some of the things around grief and loss for sure.

are some of the things that can sometimes give rise to strong anxiety. And then, you know, we see lots of kind of control, lots of checking what’s going on. Totally understandable when you stand back and look at it, but it does need to be managed. Yeah. I was just thinking of the red flags there. I can think of teams who, while pregnant, struggle. But I suppose it’s not perhaps a red flag because then you’re in it.

I’m thinking, I suppose in the early stages of pregnancy, the cracks might start to show. Yeah, I think just as a general red flag, just to sort of pick up on what you said there, Anna, about it’s not a, for people who meet for the purposes of surrogacy, so not those teams that meet, sorry, sisters or sister-in-laws or this preexisting relationship, but those teams that meet for the purposes of surrogacy.

It’s not an equal relationship. So even though it can feel like your best friends and your soul sisters, soul brothers or whatever you might be, right? It actually isn’t a meeting of equals because one person needs something desperately off another person who is beautifully willing to do that. But it isn’t a meeting of equals. It’s not, you’re not meeting each other on the basis of friendship. You might develop a beautiful friendship down the track.

It’s always holding on to the appropriateness at that time, as you’re going through that journey of the fact that it’s a little bit unequal and what that might bring about. It’s preparing for that. And that’s a reality to what those types of surrogacy teams can have to navigate. And again, Council, great place to talk about those things. Absolutely. Any last bits of wisdom? Buckle in.

Get your cha cha shoes on. Look, I guess I say to all of my teams, surrogacy is the most amazing journey. If you get your house in order and you show up and be who you need to be for the people that you’re working with, you take it step by step and day by day, you’ll get there, you’ve just got to keep going. It’s an exercise in grittiness.

Yeah, that’s a good word, isn’t it? Grittiness and being their authentic selves too, that although the relationship might be unbalanced because of the motivators there, it’s you still need to be you. And you still need to show people your warts and all, because they may be the thing, if you may have two left feet in your chao chao dance, that’s okay. Don’t pretend you don’t see anything else. There’s always somebody who’s gonna wanna dance with you, but it’s about, you know, thinking about,

It’s not just a nine month pregnancy that you’re having to be, you know, to be somebody that you’re not, if that’s what you’re doing. It’s actually an awful long time to maintain that. So being yourself and being who you are, warts and all, but being the best version of yourself, I think is where you need to be. Thank you for joining me.

If you’re looking for more resources, check out the show notes for this episode and consider joining us in one of our webinars so you can have your questions answered on the spot. Please subscribe to this podcast if you found it valuable and share it with someone so they too can benefit from this conversation. Until next time, welcome to the village.

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