In response to my last post, someone commented with a question. I'm going to answer it here, because I think it's a good one:
When you state your requirements for the type of IPs you are prepared to work with, are you allowed to say you'd like IPs who would welcome the chance to get to know you and be a big part of the pregnancy?
The short answer is yes. When choosing the IPs, you can be as picky as you want. You are, after all, helping them voluntarily. You are sacrificing your body, risking your fertility and health, and donating a year or longer to the shared goal of making them parents. So you have a right to choose the IPs that you are most comfortable working with.
There are many things that people care about. Some of the most common I've seen are: location, family structure (individual v. gay couple v. traditional couple, how many current children, etc.), religion, age, how many embryos they want to transfer, whether they are using their own genetics v. donated eggs, level of communication during and after pregnancy, and "hot button" issues like whether they would want to reduce higher order multiples or terminate pregnancy for certain reasons.
For example, I will tell you what my requirements were for IPs when matching: I wanted a couple in a long-term committed relationship (gay or straight). I wanted them to be located close enough to me to be able to attend important appointments and be there for the birth. And I wanted to feel like I was part of a "team" with my IPs - I did not want to be treated like I was their employee or a uterus for hire. I was not interested in manufacturing or forcing a friendship. If it happened naturally, great, if not, that's OK too. I also didn't have many requirements for contact after birth, although I asked to receive occasional pictures and updates of the babies.
If, as a surrogate, you want to have a friendship with your IPs and have regular communication after the birth, that is something you can ask for. However, it's not something you will necessarily get. For example, when my IPs were telling the agency what they wanted, they told them they wanted regular communication with their surrogate both during the pregnancy and after the birth, including skyping and visits. In reality, they did not want to do these things. I will never know if it was something they lied about intentionally from the beginning because they were saying what they thought potential surrogates would like to hear, if they changed their minds during the process, or if they simply didn't feel enough of a connection with me personally to want to do that. Luckily, close friendship was something I was not counting on, or I could have ended up very devastated by the way things turned out.
I don't say this to condemn my IPs, I really am fine with the way things turned out. I had some frustration along the way, but it was more to do with the difference in our communication styles rather than one of us doing something wrong. Were we the best match ever? Probably not. Were they everything I asked for? Yes, they met all the requirements I gave my agency. If I could go back in time would I still choose to work with them? Absolutely. Being able to give them their sons was a priceless experience, and they deserve all the happiness that parenthood brings. I am hopeful that occasionally in the future they will think of me and send me some pictures of the happy ending that I helped make possible.
My first surrogacy journey was a great experience, and it was also a learning experience. I have learned when things really matter to me, and which things aren't as important. If I do another journey, I will have a totally different list of requirements:
- I will work with any IPs, not just couples. Originally I thought it was important for children to have two parents, but being in the surrogacy community for a couple years now, I've seen that single IPs usually have a great support system of family and friends, and their children will have no shortage of love. I still would prefer to work with a couple over an individual, but I won't turn down an otherwise perfect IP because they happen to be single.
- I no longer care about location. Sure, having someone local or semi-local would be a definite perk, but there's no point in being close enough to go out to lunch if the parties involved aren't actually going to want to do it. The main reason I wanted IPs who lived close to me was so they could come to appointments and the birth. Well, my IPs who lived a 5 hour drive away did not make the birth. From belonging to the surrogate message boards, I know that IPs were able to travel across the country, and even across the world, and make it in time for the births of their children, because they planned well in advance. What's important to me is that the IPs have the ability and desire to attend transfer, big appointments, and birth, and are going to make it a priority.
-I am going to be much more picky about the relationship I have with my IPs. Going into the last journey, I didn't feel like it would be right to force a friendship on someone. I still think that's wrong. However, I have realized it's not about trying to be friends with the people you choose to work with, it's about choosing to work with people who it would be easy to be friends with. Next time I'm going to look for someone I have more of a natural connection with. Probably someone more "like me" -- maybe we share more common interests, are closer in age, have the same cultural background, or are in the same place in our lives. I want it to be easy for us to keep in touch, and care more about each other than just our progress through the pregnancy.
-Communication is HUGE. I know now that I need to find someone else who is a big emailer. I am much better at written communication (hence the blogging) than verbal communication, so most of the time I prefer email. And while I am happy to text, I feel that important things should be communicated by actually putting the phone to your ear and calling someone. Most of my frustrations with my IPs had to do with communication, and it is extremely important to me that communication is great on my next journey.
-Most importantly for me, and probably the thing that will make it the hardest for me to match again, is that going forward I will only do SETs (single embryo transfers). Carrying twins was easy for me, and we were lucky that we had no complications, bed rest, or extreme preterm delivery. However, there is not guarantee I would be that lucky again. Even with a perfectly healthy pregnancy, the monitoring that was involved was irritating at best - I think I probably had about 5 extra appointments and 8 extra ultrasounds, not to mention several internal ultrasounds, simply because it was twins. Also, I have now had a vaginal delivery and a c-section, and I can say with certainty that I never want to have a c-section again. There is never any guarantee that a c-section won't be necessary with any birth, but the rate of c-sections in twin deliveries is about 60%, way too high for my comfort level. Most IPs' doctors tell them that increasing the number of embryos transferred increases their odds of success, and some are even hoping for twins. I know now that these IPs will not be for me. I will only work with IPs who are looking for ONE healthy baby at a time.
So there it is, my list of requirements for my (possible) future surrogacy. If I do another one, it will not be for another couple years, so I have plenty of time to revise my wants and needs before the time actually comes.