Why use a gestational carrier?
As you are likely familiar with, there are many paths to parenthood. Using a gestational carrier, also referred to as a surrogate, can be a beautiful choice for building a family. A gestational carrier’s relationship with you, the intended parent, should be collaborative, open and honest. The partnership and ongoing relationship you have with your surrogate can be customized to your values and needs, provided that you bring in the right third-party experts – for example a surrogacy agency and legal counsel – to help you shape your arrangement and make sure your surrogate choice will fulfill your expectations such as meeting clinical requirements, finding the right communication style and a mutual agreement around prenatal decisions.
Another benefit of surrogacy is involvement in the pregnancy from the very beginning. Involvement in the pregnancy can range from updates after doctors’ appointments to attendance at all appointments and delivery- and everything in between. In adoption the adoptive parents can be selected by the birth mother up until the final weeks of the pregnancy, and on occasion, even after the pregnancy. Additionally, the intended parents can, in many cases, be placed on the birth certificate to become the legal parents of the baby at the time of birth. Whereas in adoption, the birth mother has anywhere from 24 hours to a year to change her mind and keep custody of the baby.
Surrogacy is an effective and wonderful choice. Diligent preparation at the beginning of your arrangement with the right experts is critical to ensuring a smooth process from embryo transfer to bringing your new baby or babies home.
Why would a woman choose to be a surrogate?
Some intended parents have a misconception about what type of woman would be interested in becoming a surrogate due to rare scenarios that catch media attention or movies that do not accurately portray the realities of surrogacy.
Surrogates have likely fulfilled their own family, and see surrogacy as a way to give back. They love being pregnant, and may have had a close friend or family member navigate their own path to parenthood with a few challenges. You will often hear surrogates describe their involvement as a “calling.”
Questions that typically arise for intended parents are: Will the surrogate get attached to the baby? Will she experience some kind of postpartum depression after the baby is born? Will she want to keep the baby? Can she keep the baby?
The answer to all of these questions is most likely “no.” A carefully selected surrogate will understand the arrangement and see it as her opportunity to “give back.” An objective third-party agency can be instrumental in finding the right surrogate for you and help you build confidence in the process and in your decisions.
Who are best candidates for surrogacy?
Everyone deserves a family. Surrogacy is a beautiful approach to family creation and a great option in particular for couples struggling with fertility challenges, women with medical complications that prevent pregnancy, single men and women seeking parenthood, and same-sex couples ready to start a family. Surrogacy allows the intended parents to be involved from the very beginning of the pregnancy, and offers the ability to raise the child from the initial moment of their child’s birth.
How do you find a gestational surrogate?
Once you decide that surrogacy is the right option for you, there are many places to search for a gestational carrier. Many people initially begin the search for a viable surrogate with a family member or friend, or someone familiar to them. As with any approach, there are pros and cons to this option.
An initial level of trust is one benefit to working with someone you know as your gestational carrier, and this is appealing to someone who is new to surrogacy. If you go this route, first carefully consider how this new role will affect your existing relationship. This person would also need to be screened by a clinic to ensure she is able to move forward with surrogacy. In this case, some people like an objective third-party agency to help handle issues or decisions that arise with a well-intentioned friend or family member.
A second option is to go to the internet to secure or “match” with a gestational surrogate. Many of those surrogates are often ones who have been rejected from agencies due to unfavorable medical or background check information. As with anything, there are always exceptions; but surrogacy is not simple. Locating your own surrogate via a website can be appealing from a financial aspect, as surrogacy can be costly. However, managing the many steps of surrogacy, screening your surrogate and navigating unforeseen obstacles, is much more difficult on your own than with an agency that oversees hundreds of surrogacies a year.
The third, most common option, is working with a surrogacy agency. Surrogacy agencies are independent, objective and professional experts that manage the entire process from finding your surrogate to post-partum considerations and sometimes continuing the opportunities to get together such as holiday and summer gatherings. Not all surrogacy agencies are created equal, and intended parents need to be incredibly careful in their selection. References, number of cases a year and average engagement timeline should all be considered.
Intended parents will want to work with an agency that is experienced in all aspects of gestational surrogacy and should look to ensure the three most critical components of a surrogate program are covered.
The agency staff should be made of collaborative and complementary roles including licensed clinical, psychological and legal professionals, as each play an active role in looking at the big picture for you and your family. When interviewing specific agencies, there are several questions that you may want to ask:
- How does the agency’s gestational carrier screening process work? What is screened and when is the screening conducted?
- How do we know we are working with the “right” surrogate, and are we also a good fit for her?
- How does your matching process work?
- How long has the agency been in practice and how many cases does it manage in a year?
- Has the agency ever been in litigation or sued?
- Does the agency work with an independent, licensed and insured escrow company?
- What is the experience of the agency’s staff?
- What kind of support is provided to both the intended parents and gestational surrogates?
- How does the agency handle communications between all parties?
- Will I have a dedicated case manager?
- How can I be assured my parental rights are protected?
- Do you work with the LGBT community?
- Do you provide egg donor services?
Finding the appropriate third party to assist in your surrogacy arrangement may feel daunting from a time and resources perspective. However, this is not the time to be penny wise and pound foolish. Mistakes can be emotional, costly and time consuming. With the right agency partner, proper planning and transparency, there are few surprises.
How does the surrogate feel after delivery, knowing she is not bringing the baby home?
As an intended parent myself, I can’t speak first hand of the gestational carrier’s emotions, but the insights below are gathered from my research and experience in working with hundreds of surrogates.
A gestational carrier is often a ‘people pleaser,’ the type of person who enjoys giving gifts more than receiving them. Delivery is their “big moment” and they truly share in their intended parents’ excitement. Seeing the intended parents with their baby or babies is a reminder of how they personally have changed someone’s life as they helped create a family. This is a momentous occasion for everyone involved.
The intended parents are obviously overjoyed and feel grateful. Yet they likely have all the anxieties that come with bringing a baby home for the first time.
The gestational carrier’s work is done, and she is going home from the hospital. It is an odd feeling to go to the hospital, deliver a baby and not go home with this baby. Yet, the gestational carrier still experiences all the physical symptoms. She may experience a feeling of emptiness and sadness that the experience is over, not because the baby is gone.
A prearranged plan for communication and visitation between the intended parent and gestational carrier is a great guide. Obviously, relationships are organic, and can change. New parents can help to ease the transition by spending time with the surrogate and baby in the hospital. And if they are comfortable, the gestational carrier’s children can visit. Ongoing communication on some level is the ideal situation for everyone involved.