For a long time, I sought out a therapist who understood surrogacy and who I’d be able to talk at length with about everything that swirls around this odd area of my life. I recently realized though that in seeking out a unicorn therapist, I was limiting growth in other areas of my life. I decided not to let perfect get in the way of good and found a new therapist to begin working with. Optimistic that even with rudimentary knowledge of surrogacy we could make quick progress, I jumped into the first session open hearted and vulnerable.
“I know nothing about surrogacy. Can you walk me through this? Slow down – I can’t keep up.”
I went from trying to share the rumbling thoughts in my mind to having to switch to a technical explanation of surrogacy — the differences between gestational and traditional, what terminology I use for my parents, what my upbringing entailed, etc. Even after 15 minutes of trying to explain how I came to be, she was still lost to the point of not knowing what to even ask. My chest tightened but I chose to remain open despite the desire to walk out right then and there.
Context switching around something so personal and complex is incredibly difficult. To properly explain everything, I need to be clear headed enough to present facts which forces me to create space from how what I’m talking about impacts me. To be vulnerable, I have to then quickly run back into my soul and speak from there. I am usually quite good at this emotional sprinting but I have to be in the right headspace to do it with any grace. It feels like switching in and out of emotional accents. A strange third party shows up in my brain when this happens to mediate:
“Thanks for your efforts to explain, Technical Anne. Emotional Anne, can you bring us home and tie this back into the impact on your life?”
What made this so profoundly difficult though was the fact that as soon as I got on a roll in either direction, the therapist would ask or say something jarring that would demand a switch back. Mid-talking about something in my childhood, she used the word “Stepmom” to describe the mom who raised me (and who I call “Mom”). I wanted to let out a little shriek. In that moment, the gulf of understanding between us felt so massive especially if she thought stepmom was an appropriate term to include in any dialogue about surrogacy. At the same time, I needed her expertise outside of surrogacy and I knew I needed to be patient — these roles would likely be reversed with her explaining something to me in the future. I took a breath and sprinted back towards the technical.
I never fully appreciated the vast dictionary of terms I naturally had to carry around with me and how foreign those terms would be to someone who never had to use them. I must be talking to too many people around my age that I lost sight of just how many people have zero exposure to this world of fertility. I try to remember that each time I share about surrogacy with someone without prior knowledge, I’m helping hopefully make it easier for any other surrogate born kid they come into contact with and/or parents who had kids through surrogacy.
To other surrogacy kiddos out there:
- Have you ever had these jarring moments?
- What makes you choose to stay open?
- What’s the simplest explanation you give folks that seems to create a level of understanding?
Of course, if anyone has found a unicorn therapist who focuses on kids of surrogacy, do share!