As a celebrity hairstylist, Jen Atkin is no doubt used to getting the inside scoop from her A-list clients, whose ranks include Chrissy Teigen and the Kardashian-Jenners. But the author of Blowing My Way to the Top: How to Break the Rules, Find Your Purpose and Create the Life and Career You Deserve chose to keep her own cards close to her chest when it came to expanding her family. In March, Atkin surprised her fans by announcing that she and husband Mike Rosenthal had welcomed their first child, baby boy River Julién, via a surrogate.
Since becoming a new mom, Atkin has taken pains to help demystify the surrogacy process and advocate for other, often overlooked parenting journeys, including fostering and adoption. To that end, she's supporting MAM Baby — a baby staple whose bottles she says have "made me feel confident in the feeding process" as they simulate breastfeeding — and its “Path to Parenthood” series, which features inclusive first-person stories like hers.
Here, Atkin shares her advice for others considering surrogacy, what she's learned as a first-time mom and why it's important to celebrate "every family’s unique journey without judgment."
You’ve maintained some privacy about your experience and have written about not needing to justify pursuing surrogacy. Why is it important to you to help normalize conversations around surrogacy?
I believe people should be able embark on whatever path works best for them when it comes to building their family. There are so many reasons one might choose surrogacy or alternatives to carrying a child. The method or process that parents choose to bring children into their life is personal and no one is entitled to that information. Our society doesn’t normalize surrogacy, adoption or fostering. Being adopted myself, I have always known the importance of celebrating every family’s unique journey without judgment.
Our favorite nurse Brianna said to us, “The journey as a parent can be very lonely. I have seen people become parents through loss, surrogacy, adoption and under some of the most complicated and devastating circumstances. Through posting you can help people find comfort in not being alone; a family can find a connection with other families who have gone through the same experiences, helping them find ways to escape the isolation. It doesn’t matter how you decide to become a parent, or if being a parent to a little human lasted a million days shorter than it should have — you are still a parent and it deserves massive celebration.”
What advice would you give anyone about to embark on the surrogacy experience?
Get to know your surrogate. They'll be a big part of your life and bring the most important little human into the world for you. Also, it is expensive, and I wish insurance companies or employers helped with this cost; it never hurts to inquire to see if they can help. Going through an agency with a good reputation can help alleviate so much stress and uncertainty; they are so familiar with the process and can answer all the questions you have. Also, I advise checking on your surrogate and their family often post-delivery.
How are you finding the newborn experience and adjustment to parenthood?
It really does take a village, but it has been exhilarating and life-changing. Making time dedicated to spending time as a family has become so important and it's become easier to unplug.
Was it difficult keeping your parenting journey private, or was it a relief to have that space?
It was surprisingly easy for the most part, I think because we were in quarantine and not seeing many people. Having the space made it so Mike and I were able to prep and plan how we wanted. We had our close circle of support to lean on and get advice from, so it felt like we were able to block out a lot of noise and opinion.
What parenting advice are you living by right now?
Asking for help when you need it is key. Being gentle with yourself while transitioning into parenthood is important. The internet loves to give unsolicited parenting advice at times, so just do the best you can because this experience is about you and your love for your child.
What have you learned about yourself during this process?
Becoming a parent only adds to your life, and I really enjoy unplugging from work and productivity to be present with my family. I also have so much respect for single parents and mothers as a whole. It truly is such a hard job to try to balance your new baby and your life before.
What do you look forward to?
I look forward to the leaps River takes in growth each week. It's insane how fast it really does go by. I look forward to the family time, and watching [dogs] Roo and Chewy be the best sisters.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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