If you’re considering surrogacy, you’ve likely put in hours of research - and that information is incredibly important as you prepare for your experience.
There are, however, several key facts about surrogacy and facts about surrogate mothers themselves that should not be overlooked. In fact, these interesting facts about surrogacy will put you well on your way to being an expert in your own right!
When most people think of surrogacy, they think of traditional surrogacy – the surrogate becomes pregnant in either the traditional way or through artificial insemination, conceiving with her own egg. In a process that dates back many generations, it’s only been in very recent decades that the second type, gestational surrogacy, became an option. Here, the surrogate carries a child that was conceived with the intended mother's or a donor’s egg and the intended father's or donor’s sperm. A gestational surrogate or gestational carrier has no genetic connection to the child.
While the United States is, overall, one of the most surrogacy-friendly countries in the world, there is no federal law to provide uniform regulation. Each state must create their own surrogacy laws, and some are more friendly to the process than others. For example, states like California and Illinois have mandated gestational surrogacy a legal, regulated process, while New York and Michigan specifically outlaw the practice.
While it may initially seem more convenient and cost-effective to work with a surrogate independently, it’s important to understand the role an agency plays in navigating potential roadblocks. You can only benefit from the experience and preparation afforded by an agency; their expertise can help you avoid pitfalls such as failed medical testing, legal problems and compatibility issues that might otherwise derail your surrogacy journey.
While we tend to hear more about celebrities working with surrogates to grow their families, most intended parents are just the people next door. They may be relying on insurance; currently, 15 states mandate some level of fertility coverage. Still, others use financing or loans to cover the cost of surrogacy.
Working independently of an agency or legal counsel can cause a myriad of legal problems, both before and after the baby’s birth. Depending on your state and the specificity of your legal agreement, the document may not provide the proper protection for the intended parents or the surrogate and could even result in delayed parentage. An agency can ensure that all i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed so that everyone is on the same page and can focus on a healthy baby.
Some intended parents find that they have no trouble feeling a bond with the child while in utero. They may attend appointments in person or via live video, send recordings of their voice, and connect deeply with the surrogate too. If some or none of these things happen, that’s okay too - it doesn’t mean you won’t bond thoroughly with your child after birth. Typically, intended parents are right there when their child is born and are a pivotal part of the birth plan – holding the baby as soon as possible with skin to skin contact, and perhaps even preparing so that the new mother can breastfeed. Having a newborn can be incredibly taxing, both physically and mentally, but it is a true bonding experience for parents and child.
While there are other general requirements a surrogate should meet, including age between 21-40 and non-smoking, the ideal surrogate will have already given birth to and be raising at least one child. From a medical perspective, it provides information about her health and her body’s response to pregnancy. Emotionally, it’s difficult to do something for someone else that you haven’t experienced for yourself; already having a child provides a bit of an emotional buffer but is also a big part of a surrogate’s “why.”
In fact, compensation is usually at the bottom of the priority list. Becoming a surrogate isn’t exactly easy – she must meet the stringent list of qualifications, both medical and emotional. She also faces potential health risks, bodily changes and the lifestyle adjustment required of pregnancy plus the medical and legal process leading up to it (and she may even clean out her local grocery store of fresh pineapple for the rumored benefits for implantation!). All this for what amounts to an average salary for the timeframe involved. Surrogate mothers are generally compassionate, altruistic women who enjoy being pregnant and want to provide this unique gift to another family.
This goes back to the ideal surrogate already having a child of her own – she knows what it’s like to have a family and wants the same thing for you. Most surrogates feel so grateful to have had relatively easy pregnancies that they want to use this to help others. She doesn’t see the baby as hers to keep – she’s simply carrying the baby for a while so you can ultimately take him or her home.
To learn more about the fascinating process that is gestational surrogacy, please contact us – we’d love to share all about this incredible gift!
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.