Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Conference Call

I had my conference call with the caseworker at the midwestern agency I had been talking to.  She was very nice and I liked her a lot.  She answered many of my questions and clarified some things for me.

For example, she clarified that Missouri does not, in fact, issue PBOs.  This is something I had been attempting to research in the last few days and had gotten very confused about.  She said that instead, they issue a parentage order.  She explained that the only difference between these two things was that the parentage order is issued after the baby is born, but before it leaves the hospital.  The end result is the same - the biological parent(s) goes directly onto the birth certificate, and I am not required to appear on it and then "give up" the baby for adoption.  We also discussed the possibility of me delivering in Illinois, since I am only about half an hour away from a good hospital on the IL side.  IL is one of the most surro friendly states in the country, so it's something that we can talk about with potential IPs when we get to that stage.

Once she had gone over my paper application with me and I had asked my questions of her, she told me a little bit about a couple in the Chicago area she had in mind for me.  From what I heard about them I said I would like for her to show them my profile.  She said that they are currently out of town but she will show them my profile about a week from now.  If they decide they like me, she will then send me their profile for my husband and I to go over and decide if we would like to set up a conference call with them.

Before now, this has been such an abstract idea to me.  I have wanted to help a couple achieve their dream of family.  Now I have been given information on a real live couple who has their own unique story that has brought them to using surrogacy as a means to become parents.  The thought that I might meet THE couple in the next week or two has me excited and frightened at the same time!

Monday, March 26, 2012

First Steps

I had decided I was interested in surrogacy, but wasn't sure where to start.  So I did what just about everyone does when they need answers - I Googled it.  When you google "surrogate" or "surrogacy" the first things that pop up are several websites with tag lines like, "Surrogates Needed.  Great Pay!"  Having done no prior research, I assumed I'd found what I needed.  There were several different agencies I could choose from.  So after a couple days of browsing around, I went ahead and filled out the preliminary application form for the agency whose website I liked the most. 

In case you were wondering, not everyone can be a surrogate.  There are more requirements than just the desire to help a needy couple (or, I guess get "great pay" like these websites seemed to think is the driving reason to be a surrogate).  You have to live in a surro friendly state.  You have to have had at least one child of your own, and had full term, uncomplicated pregnancies.  There are upper and lower age limits, weight requirements, and neither you nor anyone in your household can smoke.  These seem to be the most basic requirements, although some agencies are pickier than others.

Based on the website's info, I learned that once my initial application was accepted I would have to complete a much more detailed application, submit my medical and insurance information, undergo some medical and psychological screening, and have a background check and STD test run on both my husband and myself.  So when I received a fairly curt reply from the agency that based on my initial application I would be approved but they would not work with me until I was finished breastfeeding, I was a little confused.  I understand not wanting to match you with someone until you are finished breastfeeding, since you can't start any IVF meds during that time.  But it seemed like it would take quite a while just to get through all the initial screening, and I didn't see why we couldn't get some of that out of the way before my daughter was weaned.

So I decided to dig a little deeper.  Luckily, through continued Google searching I stumbled upon a website called Surrogate Mothers Online (SMO).  Man, and I glad I found that site.  The forums there are so helpful, and lucky for me they contained a thread listing just about all of the surrogate agencies out there, along with extensive reviews of each agency.  Upon reading reviews of those big agencies that I had found websites for, I realized why they are advertising so heavily.  It turns out that they DO need surrogates, because surrogates in the know do not use those agencies.  Complaints ranged from the irritating (such as continued attempts to match you with IPs who don't meet even your most basic requirements), to the bad (drawing up contracts which heavily favor the IPs), to the potentially life ruining (failing to ensure that IPs have enough money to pay for the surrogacy journey, and then failing to pursue them when IPs stop paying your bills).

Using the SMO forum, I was able to identify several highly regarded agencies.  I also discovered that you don't even need an agency in order to do surrogacy.  If you are willing to put yourself out there and do your own legwork, this is potentially a much cheaper way to go for the IPs, and therefore they don't need to be gazillionares to have children via surrogacy.

After some more research and consideration, I decided that at this time I am more comfortable moving forward with an agency than going independent, for a few reasons.  First, you just never know who you are going to meet online.  Just as agencies screen potential surrogates, they also screen IPs, and they don't share contact info until you are officially matched.  That way I'm not out there in internetland for some baby-crazy person to start harassing.  Secondly, I like the idea of having the agency mediate through the contract negotiation phase, as that part makes me nervous.  I think it will be much easier to ask for what I think I need to make sure my family and I are covered and secure during this process without having to deal with the IPs directly.  And I think most importantly, I like the aspect of financial security you get from an agency.  Most agencies require that the IPs create an escrow account at the beginning of the journey with enough money to cover both the expected costs as well as contingencies of the IVF process and the pregnancy.

There are a lot of good reasons to choose either option, but I feel like with my level of inexperience, the agency route is the better choice for me.  After extensively reviewing the feedback for many agencies, I contacted about five more agencies, and then narrowed it down to two.  I contacted the first one back in February, and although they did not want to match me until I was done breastfeeding, they let me fill out all of the initial paperwork and collected and reviewed my medical records.  I also did a phone interview (my caseworker is super sweet and a former surrogate herself), and now they are just waiting for news that I have weaned my daughter and am ready to go.  They are an agency in California with clients all over the world.

The other agency is a smaller agency based in the Midwest, with most of their IPs also being from the Midwest.  Since it is smaller it might take a little longer to match, but the draw is that I could potentially be much closer to my IPs.  I have just finished submitting my paperwork to this agency, and I have a call with the caseworker tonight!  She has no problem screening and matching while I am breastfeeding since the process takes a few months, and has even mentioned that she has a couple in Chicago that she thinks I might be a good match for.  So we will see how the interview goes tonight!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why am I Doing This?

Right now you may be thinking, why the heck would you want to do something like this?  I'm sure there are many reasons that people are drawn to surrogacy.  But as best as I can explain, here is my reason:

The journey began for me last summer, when I was still pregnant with my own child.  Even before I gave birth, I knew I would miss being pregnant.  Now, as family and friends can attest, I was never one of those women who looked forward to pregnancy.  In fact, until a couple of years ago, the very idea of pregnancy was revolting to me.  But, it was a necessary evil that I had to get through to get the end result, a child.

Much to my surprise, I LOVED being pregnant.  I loved everything about it.  Other than some mild queasiness, I never had any morning sickness.  During my first trimester I was exhausted, but I loved being lazy.  My husband is a nurse, so not only was he able to understand the biology behind why I had suddenly turned into such a lazybones, but he was a rockstar when it came to taking care of me.  Seriously, I feel sorry for any woman who has ever had to be pregnant without my husband to take care of them.  Which is really every other mother in the history of the human race, now that I think about it.  But back to the point, I loved being nurtured by my husband.  Then my second trimester came along, and the rest of the pregnancy was super easy.  I loved watching my body grow and feeling the tiny flutterings grow into strong punches and kicks.  I loved how people treated me while I was pregnant - everyone was super nice and went out of their way to do things for me.  Even my labor and delivery were great.  I ended up being induced post-term at 2:30pm, and by 9:45pm I had my baby in my arms.

Then there is being a mother.  Oh my God, I wish I could find the words to describe it.  But there aren't enough words in the English language to put a label on the emotions that a parent feels for their child.  The word "love" doesn't even come close.  I love lots of things - my friends, my car, reading, ice cream.  I can even say I "love" my husband, and I love him a lot.  But what I feel toward my daughter is something else entirely.  "Love" doesn't explain how I can be perfectly content to spend hours on end just watching her play and babble.  How even though I want get a babysitter and enjoy a night out of the house, all I really want to do once I am out is go back home.  How I can struggle to get her down to sleep and then half an hour later I have to fight the urge to go wake her up just so I can cuddle her some more.  How every time I make even the smallest decision, I think first of exactly how it could possibly affect her.  Having my daughter has fundamentally changed me.

My daugther and me
I'm not saying everyone should become a parent.  Some people certainly should not become parents, especially if they do not want to.  But I have several friends and acquaintances who do want to become parents and are struggling or have struggled with infertility.  Chances are you do too - it is estimated that at least 1 in 10 couples are faced with some form of infertility.  My heart breaks for these people.  Having children should be a natural right of passage in the progression of life, and the most intimate and binding expression of love between two people.  But these couples are robbed of that because of their biology.  I wish I could do something to change that, but it is out of my power.  I can't change anyone's fertility or help them get pregnant.  What I can do, however, is help someone get to that ultimate goal - becoming a parent.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What is Surrogacy?

You may be wondering, what the heck is a surrogate?  It turns out this is can be a very loaded question, so to start I will give you the Wikipedia definition:

"Surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman carries and delivers a child for another couple or person. This woman, the surrogate mother, may be the child's genetic mother (called traditional surrogacy), or she may be biologically unrelated to the child (called gestational surrogacy)."

I will be a gestational surrogate, meaning I will have no biological relationship to the child I carry.  We will use the process of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to impregnate me with someone else's already created and growing embryos.  These embryos will either come from the egg and sperm of both parents, or as is often the case in a couple with fertility problems or a same sex couple, an egg donor and the father's sperm.  I will carry the child, and once it is born, I will give it to its parents (referred to as the Intended Parents or IPs), who will have full legal and financial responsibility for it.

Sounds simple enough, right?  Not so much.  Surrogacy is a hugely complicated path toward creating a family.  First of all, there are laws to consider.  There is no national law regarding surrogacy, so each state is different.  Some states are considered "surrogacy friendly," others have ambiguous laws regarding surrogacy, and in some states, surrogacy contracts are unenforceable or even illegal.  Some states allow surrogacy only if it is uncompensated.  Some allow it only if one or both parents are biologically related to the child.  Some states only allow heterosexual married couples to use surrogacy to build their family.

And then there is the issue of the birth certificate.  Traditionally, any woman who bears a child is listed as its mother on the birth certificate.  If she is married, her husband is automatically listed as the father.  Any changes made to this normally require legal proceedings in which the "birth parent" gives up custody of the child and the new parent adopts it.  However in the surrogacy setting, this arrangement isn't the preferred way of doing things.  For one thing, even if birth mothers have an adoption plan in place before their child is born, there is still a certain amount of time after the child is born in which they can change their minds.  This creates huge problems in the event of surrogacy, where the intended parents have payed (usually out of pocket) all of the costs for the IVF procedures for getting the surrogate pregnant, as well as all of her uncovered medical expenses, fertility and pregnancy related travel expenses, and usually additional compensation for her pain and suffering during the pregnancy as well.  Not to mention, the child isn't even biologically related to the birth mother and father, and is almost always related to at least one of the IPs.  These possibilities make the whole situation very risky for intended parents and leaves the door open for huge battles in court.

Then there is the issue of the adoption from the GS's perspective.  Most GSs don't want their name anywhere near a birth certificate of a child that isn't theirs.  What if the IPs change their mind, or something goes wrong and the adoption isn't approved?  All of a sudden you have a child that you weren't planning on having.  And placing a child for adoption, even one that isn't biologically yours, can have ramifications down the line.  For example, most people are not approved to adopt a child if they have placed a child for adoption in the past.  What if complications from this pregnancy result in loss of my fertility?  My husband and I are planning to have another child of our own one day, and if (God forbid) we can't do it "the old fashioned way," we definitely want to keep adoption open as a option.

The solution to these complications is the pre-birth order (PBO).  This is a legal document that is completed before the child is born, ordering that the intended parents be placed directly onto the birth certificate at birth.  The PBOs eliminate most risks both to the GS and the IPs, and are almost always obtained where possible.  Since there aren't many laws regarding surrogacy yet, there are very few states with any written laws regarding PBOs.  Therefore, the ease of obtaining a PBO varies widely by state, county, and even individual judge.  A PBO must be obtained in the state that the child will be born in, so the GS's state is the one that matters, unless she is planning to travel for the birth.

In the state of Missouri, which is the state that matters in my circumstances, there are no official PBO or surrogacy laws.  But a PBO can USUALLY be obtained given that at least one of the IPs is biologically related to the child.  At the time of birth, the parent who is biologically related to the child is placed on the birth certificate (if both are, they would both be listed).  The GS and her husband do not appear on the birth certificate at all.  If the other parent needs to be added to the birth certificate, they will complete the same procedure as is done in a step parent adoption after the baby is born.  This works for both heterosexual (often referred to as "traditional" couples in surrogacy) or same sex couples.

Got it?  And that's just barely scratching the surface of everything that needs to be considered before going into a surrogacy arrangement.  Anyway, I hope I have explained the basic process clearly enough.  Please let me know if you have any questions or if I need to clarify something!

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I am a hopeful Gestational Surrogate at the very beginning stages of a surrogacy journey.  I haven't decided 100% that I will actually end up being a GS, so for now this is a private blog - really more of a journal to chronicle my experiences and emotions as I go through this process.  Hopefully I will soon embark on my first GS journey, in which case I will open it up so that people can share my story and others considering surrogacy can learn something.  In researching this process I read many many blogs, both of surrogates and intended parents, and I found them very helpful and eye-opening.  What I didn't find were blogs that started from the very beginning - before a GS considered the process, chose an agency, and matched.  I'm hoping that by starting my blog now, I will be able to fill in those gaps.

In addition to being a GS, I am a person, with my own life, interests, and family.  I may or may not include that information in my blog posts.  Whether to do so, and in what detail, I haven't decided yet.  Perhaps it will depend on how public this blog ends up becoming.  As I move through this process and interact with agency professionals, doctors, intended parents, and eventually (hopefully) their child, I will never include personal identifying information without their approval.  Having been a surro blog reader myself, I know that it's disappointing to follow along through a surrogate's trials and tribulations of meds, transfers, and pregnancy, only to find out that I won't be rewarded with the name and/or pictures of the baby at the end of the story.  But since these are real people with real lives to live, I have to be respectful of their wishes, just as I'd hope they would do for me.

I do, however, intend to be completely honest regarding my experiences during this time.  If I'm elated, you'll know it.  If I'm in pain, or stressed out, or angry, you will know that too.  And if I'm pregnant, you'll definitely know that!  So I hope you follow along with me on my journey as we see where it leads!

Just a word of warning to those who want to follow my blog: I am verbose.  I was that kid in high school who thought the 10 page requirement for a research paper wasn't long enough.  I will probably drone on and on about things.  Oh look, I'm doing it now!  Anyway, when we get down to the nitty gritty, I will try to keep posts short and to the point, but just remember you've been warned!