Becoming a parent (including through IVF, adoption and surrogacy): Preparation, information and support

Many people talked about how they prepared for conception, pregnancy, labour and birth, adoption, IVF and surrogacy. This included searching for information from a wide range of sources, and discussing support from family members, friends and partners.

A few parents talked about preparing for conception and pregnancy, including by undertaking detox diets, seeing a naturopath, and taking prenatal vitamins such as folic acid, iron and calcium. Several women tracked their ovulation cycles in the process of trying to conceive. Jane, a mother of twins, described taking Chinese herbal remedies and receiving acupuncture while having IVF treatment. A few women talked about keeping fit and watching what they ate during pregnancy.

For some people, pregnancy was unexpected or occurred sooner than planned. Although this meant they could not prepare as they might have hoped, it sometimes led to change. For example, in response to an unplanned pregnancy, Luke, a young father of one, got ‘clean and sober’ a few months before the birth and stopped seeing his drug-dependent friends. Family members helped him stay drug-free.

When Joanne found out about her unplanned pregnancy, she ‘freaked out’ about having drunk alcohol early on without realising she was pregnant.

View profile

Many women described putting a lot of time and energy into preparations for their labour and birth, including planning a particular kind of birth. A few women said that engaging a doula provided them with valuable physical and emotional support, while others attended active birthing classes or practised perineal massage.

Beth discussed the different methods she used to prepare for her water birth.

View profile

As part of preparing to become a single parent with a surrogate, Matthew connected with surrogacy email groups and gay fathers’ groups. In preparation for the arrival of their adopted children, French and her husband discussed their planned approach to parenting together.

French and her husband decided on their ‘promise to God’ about how they wished to parent.

View profile

Most parents had access to several sources of information about pregnancy, including books, internet sites and discussion forums, twin or multiple birth blogs, birthing documentaries and YouTube videos. A few women downloaded apps on their phone, such as whattoexpect.com, or they subscribed to email lists to get weekly updates during their pregnancies. Some parents thought that there was too much information available, especially online, and as Joanne said, ‘it isn’t all filtered’. Others felt that the information in pregnancy books was limited, often only providing ‘dot points’.

Louise thought there was ‘information overload’ about pregnancy, which could create confusion.

View profile

Many women spent their pregnancies focused on understanding the changes occurring in their body and finding out about labour and birth. Because of this, and the assumption that parenthood couldn’t be ‘that hard’, many women did not seek information about caring for a baby or early parenthood.

Anna was well-informed about pregnancy and birth, but did not find out what becoming a parent would be like.

View profile

People who underwent IVF, surrogacy or adoption discussed how they obtained information about having a child. Daniel, a father through surrogacy, did not think there was enough information available for people considering this option.

Daniel said more information about the risks with surrogacy in order to help prepare people for when things go wrong would have been helpful.

View profile

French described Australia as ‘one of the hardest countries in the world to adopt into’. She explained that the inter-country adoption process was extremely thorough. It took her and her husband several years, with workshops, classes, extensive paperwork, and interviews in two countries. During IVF treatment, Josie accessed internet discussion forums. She wanted to know how people going through IVF might feel, and said online forums were ‘far more honest’ than fertility clinic websites.

Susanne and her same-sex partner researched online and attended seminars on assisted reproduction. This helped them with decision-making about conception.

View profile

People talked about support from family members and friends during pregnancy. Most people’s families were very supportive and excited at the prospect of a new baby. Tina, a migrant mother of one, went back to live with her parents when she was pregnant. A few people who went through IVF received financial and emotional support from their parents for this, which they appreciated.

When Erin was pregnant with her first child, her mother struggled to contain her excitement.

View profile

A few women had distressing family experiences during pregnancy, including violence or other relationship tensions, and a family member’s illness. Melanie’s mother found out she had cancer and Alice’s father was hospitalised for pneumonia. Matthew, a single same-sex attracted man, faced opposition from family members to his plans to have a baby via overseas surrogacy. Lara had a similar experience of opposition from her family to her having a baby with her female partner.

Mishi, an immigrant from Pakistan, experienced family violence from her former parents-in-law during pregnancy.

View profile

The role of friends was mentioned by a few people. Several women said they were the first in their friendship group to have a baby, including Cecilia, who said she found this ‘a bit isolating’. Josie and her husband chose not to disclose their decision to undergo IVF, and as a result Josie felt very alone.

Not having support from family and friends due to migration or moving interstate was also very difficult for expecting parents. A few people paid for their parents or other relatives to visit them for extended periods to support them during pregnancy and early parenthood.

Before Ajay’s mother-in-law came from India to stay a few months before their baby was due, had to learn new skills to support his wife.

View profile