Whatever the reason, fertility issues, health problems, etc., you’ve come to the conclusion you want to use a surrogate to have a baby. Many couples have found themselves in this very position without knowing where to start. You are not alone.
I have been on the other side of this decision before both as a gestational surrogate and as a general medical professional, but I am not going to say I know how it feels to be in your shoes because I don’t. Instead, we’re going to focus on what you should be familiar with before you ever write a check.
What Is a Gestational Surrogate?
So, having said all that, what is a “gestational surrogate”? There are actually two types of surrogacies, traditional and gestational, with the main difference being the genetic contribution of the carrier. In the latter case, the surrogate has no biological ties to the child/children. Embryos are created using an ovum from either the intended mother (if she is able to produce viable eggs) or a donor and sperm from the intended father during a cycle of In Vitro Fertilization—or IVF. Then, they are implanted into the primed uterus, with the hope that they will attach. Many experienced doctors will recommend that several be implanted at once to increase the odds of success. In my case, out of four that were transferred, two stuck.
Traditional surrogacy is usually only used when the mother cannot contribute eggs at all. Instead of using an external donor’s ovum, the carrier will use her eggs, fertilized by the intended father’s implanted sperm.
Many prospective parents have doubts and fears about surrogates, one of the first being whether the carrier will have problems with giving the baby up at the end, even if they are legally bound to. I myself have been asked many times “how could you carry someone else’s child? Didn’t you get attached?” Truthfully, no. As I tell people, I was the incubator, nothing more. Don’t get me wrong, I loved those little boys, but they were not mine. I held them after they were born, and I even have a few pictures of them when they were little. Do I have regrets? Only one. I haven’t seen them since they were four weeks old other than a picture when they were little. They are now almost sixteen. Carrying the baby does not make it yours, a fact that surrogacy candidates are made to accept early on.
What Type of Woman Becomes a Surrogate?
This is a hard question to answer. Personally, I chose to because I wanted to help someone else, but there are many other reasons as well. Financial gain is one. It is not a cheap medical procedure for the parents to pay for, nor is it cheap to hire a surrogate. The range these days can be anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 or more. It may sound excessive, but a surrogate is putting her body through nine months of pregnancy after the months and months of preparation that is required. There is testing, blood work, pap smears, STD testing, and more to try and guarantee the baby’s health throughout.
What Should You Look for in a Potential Surrogate?
First and foremost, mental stability. Don’t laugh—Just like you might fear, there are women out there that aren’t prepared to deal with handing over that baby when the time comes. Make sure you have a good psych evaluation before you transfer embryos or hand over any money.
Another thing is physical health. Many physicians won’t use a surrogate who has a BMI over 30 because of complications during pregnancy that can be exacerbated by weight. With today’s escalating problem of obesity, it is something to clarify with your doctor. Other medical factors need to be cleared too. Does your carrier have heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, or a history of any of these? Those could be a deciding factor as well.
What Happens When You’ve Chosen a Surrogate?
Once you have found a woman you would like to hire as a surrogate, start by getting to know her and her family. Invite them over for dinner or go out together. Get to know her on a personal level, so you have a better idea of how easy or difficult she may be to work with. Also, if she’s an experienced surrogate, she may have a lot of valuable advice for you and be a good resource for a much smoother process overall.
When you’ve finally chosen the perfect surrogate for you and you are ready to give her a deposit and set up transfer, hold on! First, you need to have your attorney (preferably a family law attorney) write a surrogate contract for you. Cover yourself and your surrogate in case there are any issues. You would be surprised what can come up:
- What are you going to be paying for during the pregnancy? Is she getting payments or a lump sum for her fee?
- What happens if mom and dad are killed during the pregnancy? Who gets custody of the child/children at the time of birth?
- At what point do you consider it a full term pregnancy? This can come up if there are complications and she has to deliver early.
- Who will make the decision to abort should there be an issue that might cost your carrier’s life?
- Does your home state allow surrogacy? There are some states who don’t and won’t allow your names to go directly on the birth certificate. In this case, you will need to adopt your own children.
- What kind of contact does your surrogate want after birth, if any?
- Who will be in the delivery room with her?
These are only a few things to cover in your contract. There are some sample contracts online, so do your homework in that department before you begin your journey.
What Should You Do During the Pregnancy?
When you do finally begin, stay in contact during the pregnancy on a regular basis, not just by sending the check. Your carrier will want to hear from you. You might also consider doing little things for her like sending her small gifts. No, they aren’t required, but it will make her feel like she’s important to you too, not only as the carrier for your children.
Remember, pregnancy is hard on a person’s body, not only the physical changes, but the mental challenges that go along with it. This woman is putting her life on hold, in many cases, for a year or more trying to get pregnant for you. She can be your angel, or this can be the worst thing you both will ever go through. It’s up to the both of you to make it the best possible outcome for everyone involved.
From one gestational surrogate that had an awesome journey, good luck and hugs to you!