Dear Sassy Surrogate: What happens with an unexpected loss of an IP?

Dear Sassy Surrogate: What happens when there is an unexpected death of an intended parent?

We all go into this process hoping for the best; however, sometimes the worst happens. The Sassy Surrogate had some great help writing this. We went to Ariane Nicholson, Social Worker with Full Hearts Counseling, LLC for the emotional side of things and to Ellen Trachman, Managing Attorney of Trachman Law Center, LLC for legal side of things.

Emotionally what may happen with the loss of an IP

By Ariane Nicholson, Social Worker with Full Hearts Counseling, LLC

Grieving the sudden loss of an intended parent can be very similar to grieving the loss of a close friend or relative but may have additional layers. When dealing with an unexpected loss of an IP, like other grief, you may experience a wide range of emotions. These emotions may come in no particular order, and you may experience them in varying degrees of intensity. There is a crooked path one takes through the different stages and emotions when grieving. A gestational carrier may experience denial, anger, confusion, guilt, shock, depression, as well as other emotions. In addition to the emotions you might feel, you may also experience physical reaction to your grief like agitation, anxiety, apathy, despair, fear, impatience and helplessness.

You must give yourself permission to struggle through and experience each and every emotion. It is important to be aware that you will have some good days and some bad days and then some even worse days. Be aware that these emotions will vary in intensity, will come at unexpected times and will not be predictable.  

In addition to normal grieving, as a GC, you may grieve the loss of the IP for yourself, as well as for the baby you are carrying, which will intensify your grief. You will grieve for this child and his/her future without that parent. You might also grieve the loss of your dream of why you became a GC to begin with or why you chose to carry a baby for this particular family. This may make you feel guilty or selfish but it is imperative to understand that these feelings are normal. 

Allow yourself to experience this emotions, and give yourself the time you need to mourn. Give yourself permission to grieve, however that might look for you. Seek the support of others, whether it is professional help or close family and friends before those feeling become too overwhelming. Be patient with yourself and the other, surviving, IP. They may not be able to be there for you at the time they are grieving, as they will be dealing with their own grief. Give them time to come around and to be able to focus on you and the baby again. They will also have intensified feelings experiencing a loss during their surrogacy journey. On the good days, allow yourself to take a break from grieving and to focus on you. Always remember, you are carrying a very important baby and to take care of yourself and the health of the baby. 

One way to help connect the baby to the parent they have lost, might be to write things down that were special about the IP for the baby to have in the future. Write down the memories you have of the IP, how they felt about the pregnancy, why you chose to carry a baby for them, what kind of parent they hoped to be or you thought they would be. This might help you through some of your grief and will be a wonderful gift for the baby to have. This is not an easy road to navigate but you will get through it and this baby will be a huge blessing to all of those people grieving the loss of the IP and will help everyone stay connected to the IP and get through the loss together by loving this precious child that you brought into the world. 

Legally what may happen with the loss of an IP

By Ellen Trachman, Managing Attorney, Trachman Law Center, LLC

As always, when it comes to legal advice, the answer is β€œit depends.” (I know, attorneys are the worst!) πŸ˜‰  There are a number of key factors that will make a difference as to the legal situation resulting from the death of an intended parent. If there were two intended parents and only one passed away, the legal situation is similar as before the death. Although devastating for everyone, there is still an intended parent surviving to raise the child. If, however, you were matched with a single intended parent or both intended parents died, the situation is much more difficult. 

As a general practice, most intended parents (as well as any other current or expecting parents) are encouraged to have wills in place, or, at a minimum to a named guardian for their child in the agreement you sign with the intended parents. The agreement also likely provides that you will assist with helping the guardian secure custody and legal rights to the child in such a situation. Contact your assisted reproductive technology or family formation law-specialized attorney as soon as possible to discuss next legal steps. 

I would hope this never happens. I am so sorry if this is your experience. Call your lawyer and lean on your support team of friends and family.  

While we hope it never comes to such difficult circumstances, if you are interested in being a gestational carrier, apply here. If you are interested in more information on how we support not only intended parents but all parties through the entire gestational carrier journey, sign up for a free initial consultation here.