It’s homework time people. Nobody likes it; nobody wants to read it, but you HAVE TO READ YOUR CONTRACT! Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. Everything you ever wanted, needed, and never even though of knowing is in there. It’s the Rosetta stone of surrogacy and I’m talking to EVERYONE here. Surrogates, egg donors, and intended parents alike. If you think of absolutely any questions whatsoever, I promise you will find the answer in your contract.
“Hey, my surrogate wants to go cross country skiing, can she do that?”
The answer is in there! I’m not kidding. And by the way answer is no.
Fertility lawyers need to think of every situation and every solution.
“Can I have sex after a transfer?” Or
“Is organic food reimbursable?” Or
“Who pays the insurance copays?” Or
“Does the surrogate have a right to see our baby after she gives birth?”
It’s funny, the questions you think of after entering a legally binding situation, stuff that never would have occurred to you before this crazy journey began. But you know what? You are in no way the first to think of these questions, so ask away. Your attorney will gladly give you the page number of your personalized contract that will tell you all you need to know.
Before you’ve even put pen to paper your lawyer will have told you so much. They’ll have gone over every single page with you. You’ll have tweaked it here and there and it’ll have gone back and forth between law firms. There is a lot of legislation to do with surrogacy and that’s a good thing, even if it is tedious. And you know what? You won’t remember most of it. There is no way, unless you have a photographic memory, you will know what and where you read that certain line that you now need to know. And that’s ok too. You’ll have a copy that will become your best friend. Your own personal bible, your treasure map, so to speak. Do you want your stress levels to go down and your anxiety to melt away? Then read your contract! It will guide you through with the comforting reassurance that can only come from the law. Knowing your rights and staying well informed from beginning to end makes for such a smoother journey. Trust me, I know. I’ve read these things from cover to cover multiple times. They make for great bedtime stories. Not only because it’ll probably put you to sleep, but also because you will sleep so much easier once those nagging questions have been answered.
I feel like the old school mistress looking down her glasses, pointing a ruler at you and telling you to “Pay Attention!” But seriously I mean it. I don’t want to boss you around or tell you what to do. It’s just the Mom in me wanting what’s fair and best for everyone. You see, the more informed you are the better you feel. The better you feel the smoother things go. The smoother things go the better the chances of that cute little baby in the picture with its new parents. Get it?
…Now go and wash your hands, it’s flu season. And bundle up warm, it’s cold outside (well unless you are here in California, it’s gorgeous here 😉
During this time of year my mind turns to the thought of gift giving. What do they mean to the giver and the receiver? Everyone’s perceptions are different and it truly takes a special talent to know exactly what someone wants and be able to give it to them. It also takes a gracious recipient to fully appreciate what has been given. This same principal works in surrogacy for both physical gifts, and gestures, but it’s not always perceived the same.
Recently I was chatting to a friend and she casually remarked that her friend had just received something she called a “pop-out gift”. She explained that it was something her husband had given her after she had delivered their baby. In her case, it was an iPad. Neither of us had ever heard of this term before so I went to the all-knowing internet and looked it up. Apparently it is a fairly common practice to give a gift to the woman who has just delivered your baby. Sometimes it’s called a Push or Labor gift. It can range from something as sweet and simple as flowers or to the more extravagant jewelry. It depends upon the means of the giver. I had received small tokens after the birth of my own children, and my surrogacies, but never knew it had a name or was in fact an actual tradition. So I asked around and yes, many of my friends and family were in the know and had received all kinds of variations of a Push gifts. Their opinions ranged widely on the topic as well. Some believed it was a throughly deserved right for the woman to receive the appreciation she so greatly deserved while others believed it was a vulgar expression done only by those who were “spoiled,” almost considering it a form of bribery. I can understand both sides.
There is something called The 5 Love Languages that my mother showed me a long time ago. It is a test you can take to determine how you, your partner, and even your children best express and receive love. The categories are as follows: Words Of Affirmation, Acts Of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Mine is, without a doubt, Receiving Gifts. I believe this is why I became a surrogate in the first place. The definition of this category is difficult to understand if it is not your personal language. Let me explain. To others it may seem frivolous or petty but what it really is is the tangible expression of love. It’s a physical expression that we can literally grasp and know that someone was thinking of us! It works both ways for me. I show my love by giving something (in surrogacy’s case: a baby) that I know is valued to the ones I care about, and I want to know I am loved by receiving something from them in return. There is no price tag involved, it’s not the dollar value of the gift itself, it’s the knowledge that someone went out of their way to think of me. This is huge to me and it’s what I strive to do everyday for others. Whether it’s buying my kids a Slurpee after school because I know they’ve been craving one; or making my husband booties because that’s what his grandmother used to do for him; or even giving a family a child of their own because that’s what’s been missing in their lives. I love to give, it’s how I show love. Now others love in different ways and knowing this is key also. I can’t be hurt when I don’t receive things the way that I give. I have to understand that kind words, selfless acts, time spent together and hugs maybe mean more to others then physical act of giving.
It all comes around to understanding again. What seems to be a constant theme in all of my blogs. They don’t call it a “labor of love” for nothing. The act of labor is all for love no matter if it’s your own or for someone else. If someone feels compelled to give you a gift because of it that’s amazing. However it should not be expected. Honestly the look on a new parent’s face or even just the knowledge of what you have done can be as rewarding as a little blue box from Tiffany’s.
On June 26th, 2013 the Supreme Court of the United States overturned California State Ballot Proposition 8, ruling that the amendment it created to ban same-sex marriages is, in fact, unconstitutional. Also overturned was section 3 of The Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), thus unbarring the federal recognition of same sex marriages.
This was a huge step forward for so many couples waiting to become families. In these cases, with natural conception an impossibility, it really has changed and continues to change the world of IVF and surrogacy. In the past, only one of the Intended Parents could be listed as the legal parent of the child; now both possess complete custody. Both partners can now be fully recognized as a legal family, with all the coinciding benefits: health insurance, life insurance, wills and trusts for spouse and children. All included, no one gets left behind. Everyone is taken care of.
This is an amazing time for gay parents, especially here in California. With our world-leading surrogacy laws in place and now fully legalized marriage equality, we are truly leading the way into a new era. TV titles such as “The New Normal” and “Modern Family” have nailed it. We are slowly changing societies view of what a traditional family is. I have many friends in this community and the collective sigh of relief can be heard throughout. They are starting to become accepted, which is all they have ever wanted. These parents go through all the same struggles as any family does but they have been doing it on the outskirts without the aid, care, or understanding of the masses. This changes now.
Taking our families to places like Disneyland or even just to school, I now see openly gay families who are not afraid to show their love and devotion out in public. These kids can start to grow up without feeling stranger’s eyes on them constantly. Without the gossip and unnecessary drama of a once taboo subject, their families are normal. And now we’ve got the documentation to prove it!
I predict a large influx of gay IP’s using California in the upcoming years. Surrogacy itself has become more of a common place word. With big names like George Lucas, Jimmy Fallon, Angela Bassett, Nicole Kidman and Neil Patrick Harris all using surrogates, it’s not as unknown or misunderstood anymore. We’re mainstream baby! Now that gay marriage is becoming more global, there is nothing in the way of longing parents having much wanted children of their own and being accepted by their communities. Because let’s face it, gay or straight, it really does take a village to raise a child.
Also, besides the moral uplift of all of this there comes the practical and financial ones as well. More marriages = more money. More babies = more money. More families = more money. All going to our economy. It’s a win/win situation. Basically any loving family rocks and now we can show the world just that. Keep growing and keep changing for the better world, it’s working. It really is.
This is one of the only words in the English language that elicits a positive and negative response simultaneously in the human brain. The levels very, depending on the person’s point of view. To someone who is using a surrogate to start their own family, it could be the equivalent of winning the lottery. Killing two birds with one stone, if you will. Some of the best news they’ve had in years! To someone finding out for the first time they are carrying twins, it can also send up a red flag of a potentially high risk pregnancy. With twins come Complications such as: bed rest, premature delivery, fetal demise and others. A new father may become doe-eyed at first, then as the realizations of double the responsibility sink in, his eyes may then keep widening with nervous apprehension. To feel so excited and so scared all at once is a roller coaster of exhilaration.
I recently discovered these feelings myself. When I filled out my surrogacy application I, like most others, put down that I would be willing to carry twins. It is clearly stated that the probability of this happening through IVF increases due to several facts. People tend to use more than one embryo in a single transfer to increase the likelihood of one sticking and turning into a positive pregnancy. When you are going through so much it’s best to hedge your bets as much as possible. Also, you’re on fertility medication and have been accepted as a surrogate because of your beautiful uterus. All of this makes for a pretty cozy environment that persuades embryos to stay put. It’s by no means a guarantee however, it just increases the odds. In the past 10 days, my IPs found out that they are going to become parents to not one, but two baby boys, sometime here in the next 7ish months. They are ecstatic; it’s what they dreamed of! I’m so happy for them. This is exactly the payoff moment of why I do what I do. I’m also nervous as hell. I openly admit it. I’ve heard a range of twin stories from “easiest pregnancy I ever had!” to “Oh my god, I was on bed-rest the whole time and I was so sick!”
I can’t speak for other surrogates, but I do get the strong feeling that though most of us are generally excited about the concept of carrying twins, when the reality hits it’s a whole new ball game. My head races with all the complications that “could” happen and I start to freak out. My main panic attract came about by worrying the babies won’t be getting enough nourishment and they will come too early. That’s when I took to the old faithful social media and reached out to friends who were twins or have had twins. I discovered I wasn’t alone and that yes, my fears are justified, but there is absolutely no reason to freak out any more then with the other three pregnancies I’ve had.
You see, our bodies are amazing things that can adapt to almost anything we throw at them. Well, we fortunate few who pregnancy comes easy to, can anyways and Doctors are very used to twin pregnancies and know what to expect and what to look out for from beginning to end. Now I really do believe I’m getting the easiest end of this deal. The parents are the ones who’ll have to deal with the midnight double feedings and diaper double-dutch. Which of course, they are more than happy to do :). I’ve been down similar roads before. This will be a new adventure for me. My IP put it best. “You’ve been pregnant before, we haven’t. This will be great because it’ll be new to both of us. Something we can experience as a first together.” They are on board and ready to dive in and that gives me the confidence to take the plunge too.
Funny enough while putting my thoughts together for this blog I got a call from the lovely Ms. Ann at SAI wanting to share something she had heard on the news this morning: A mother in Ireland may have just beaten the world record for time apart delivering twins. Her first was born after her water broke at only 23 weeks and was born June 1st of last year weighing just 1lb 3oz. Bizarrely enough her contractions stopped after the first and the other’s fluid remained. Her second twin was able to stay in her womb until August 27th and weighted 5lbs 7oz at birth. A full 87 days later! Both twin girls are perfectly healthy now and doing very well.
Stories like this just go to show that yes, we can worry and fret about unpredictable things in our future, but they also can turn out miraculously. I’m excited. I know the home these boys are going to is going to be so full of love that, in my bones, I can tell anything will be surmountable.
Twins, wow, what a word!
We husbands can add a few details perhaps left unsaid by the surrogates. Thankfully, all I have to say is positive and should be fun.
My wife might tell you that we learned about surrogacy through a friend who had been a surrogate twice in the past. She might also then say, since her pregnancies were so smooth and easy, that providing the gift of children by acting as a vessel felt like an enriching experience. She would be completely right to say that. What she might not mention is, that after toying with the idea off and on for a couple of years–at one point she considered offering to carry her cousin’s child, but their adoption went through–she really didn’t start seriously thinking about it until around 10pm on December 20, 2011.
Now, it’s not that I’m good with dates or anything…okay, I am…but I have a secret I’ll divulge: Google. I had to look up the Season 1 Premiere of HBO’s Hung. The missus and I gave it our obligatory chance (it’s HBO so it must be good) and during one the main character’s epiphany moments of what his special talent might be, my wife turned to me and said she was thinking she might want to seriously look into being a surrogate. Being well aware of her special talents, I took the high road and knew what she meant: she didn’t have a problem being pregnant; it would be equivalent to her getting a part-time job (but without leaving home); and she would make another couple extremely happy.
It didn’t take very long for me to consider it. If she wanted to go through the whole experience, I would support her. I was amazed at her ability to cope with her body changes with such grace the first two times around. Thankfully, my wife handles discomfort and pain well. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been so comfortable with the idea. It’s not that she internalizes it; she’s just good at gritting, bearing it, and taking frequent naps. If she felt she could do it, so could I.
What I didn’t say up front was that I was really looking forward to her pregnant body as she fills out quite nicely. I didn’t have any hang ups in relation to her carrying another person’s child. It’s her body, not mine; and she could make whatever decision she wanted in regards to it. Granted, I would have to live with those decisions. This was a part that served well. She bounced back smoothly from the past two pregnancies and had limited signs to show for it.
What I didn’t realize until we were well into the process was how much fun it would be to mess with friends and family. Telling them Mary’s pregnant and then watching the sideways glance since they all knew I had a vasectomy 5 years ago. We’d let them hang on that for a little while, let the room get a little uncomfortable and then delve in for the laugh. But what turned out to be the most fun and satisfying part of the whole experience was seeing the happiness on the Intended Parent’s (IP’s) faces. They were just so delighted, which in turn, made me delighted. I remember the inexplicable happiness of holding both my girls when they were first born. It was similar to watching a really good, heart-touching movie. I got all the warm and fuzzies and then got to go home and have a good night’s sleep.
We’re working on our next surrogacy now since the first one went so well. This time, like last, we’re partnered with a same sex couple that is more local that the last. This experience, so far, has been much more enriching. I remember the excitement of witnessing the beginning of the process, the joy of knowing my child was growing, the adventure of seeing nature mature right in front of me…and most of all, the anticipation of seeing my child for the first time. These guys are going through all the same experiences I went through before. I get to live vicariously through them and relive the whole experience, but this time, do it with the idea of giving such a priceless gift, as well.
I had a friend who had been a surrogate twice already. She got me thinking on it. I had had such easy pregnancies and was looking for a way to use my own special “talents” to help someone else. I asked her out for a cup of coffee and picked her brain. She told me she thought I’d make a great surrogate. I’m happily married with two children and no plans for more. I’ve always been perfectly healthy, and my husband had a vasectomy after our second child. “No more kids than hands” was our motto. We love them both dearly and they are such perfect little clones of each of us, that we felt complete as a family. To be able to give that to someone else was such a mind-blowingly easy choice to make. My husband, kids, friends and family were all on board as well. Knowing all that; I submitted my application to Surrogate Alternatives (SAI) and began the process.
I met my first couple back in December of 2008. They were a lovely German couple who had been trying in many different ways to conceive for almost a decade. My heart just reached out to them. We instantly hit it off and began our journey together. Unfortunately, after many attempts, roadblocks and heartache they decided to stop trying. It was just too much for them and I completely understood. They told me it was nobody’s fault, just a lot of bad luck and that if they ever wanted to try again they’d choose me in a heartbeat. It was tough for me, but in retrospect I’m so glad it went this way because I now knew what could happen and was able to be mentally prepared for it. We are still good friends to this day.
SAI then placed me with another couple in September of 2011. They were a wonderful gay couple from Australia who had already had twins via surrogacy and wanted a younger sibling to complete their family. This time around it was easy-breezy! They had frozen embryos from their last time. We only used one and on the first attempt that little embryo stuck! Both they and I were amazed and overjoyed. My pregnancy was so easy too. Everything ran like clockwork with absolutely no hiccups. These guys were so supportive every step of the way. We exchanged emails, phone calls and communicated through Skype. I would give the guys updates and ultrasound pictures and we would chat about our lives. They even made it out for a couple of doctor visits and our families got to go to Disneyland together! My kids loved the fact that we were helping them have a baby and bragged to everyone they could about it.
On September 23rd 2012 (which also happens to be the Founder of SAI’s birthday) their beautiful, perfectly healthy, little baby girl was born. I was just about a week early so they made it out the day after I delivered and were greeted with the newest member of their family. I was surprised at just how helpful and accommodating the hospital here was towards the whole surrogate situation. They made everyone feel so comfortable and the process ran smoothly. After the family got all the required paperwork done they went home with their little one and we still exchange emails and they send me super cute pictures of her.
I had such a warm feeling regarding every aspect of my journey that after I healed from my delivery I spoke with my husband and we decided we’d like to help another couple. All of the shots, doctor’s appointments, etc. is so worth it for the payoff of seeing a parent hold their child for the first time. Everyone who longs for a child of their own and to become a parent should have the opportunity; and I want nothing more than to be able to make that dream come true. I’ve been blessed with strong fertility and I have no desire for any more children of my own, so why shouldn’t someone else who is in need benefit from my help? It’s as simple as that.
As of this week, my contracts are signed with another gay couple and I’ve started injections. The embryo transfer should take place in Mid-March. This couple is local! It’s also their first rodeo and they are so elated to be starting a family! I can’t wait because this will be a totally different experience for all of us involved. Wish us luck and positive, sticky thoughts 🙂
Have you heard about this? A gynecologist in India has been charged with human trafficking and forgery after selling a baby using fake surrogacy papers. He and his “clients” have been making the international headlines for the past couple of months and it looks as if this has been going on for some time now. Dr. Bharat Atit, along with three of his staff, were arrested and booked after it was discovered that a newborn baby had been illegally sold via the Doctor by a woman and her boyfriend. Now they are investigating previous claims and more cases are coming to light.
The woman involved, claimed rape towards her boyfriend when she was 5 months pregnant. It was discovered that she had done this because they were arguing over the price of the child and she is to use this claim to cut the boyfriend’s percentage. Once this was found out she dropped the charges, however, this opened the investigation to that of the Doctor.
This newest scandal involving surrogacy in India raises the issue of legality when it comes to these delicate waters. India has had issues before dealing with the health and treatment of their surrogates during prenatal care and the backgrounds of the women that were being used.
India was a place that was considered to be “a great deal” to go to for people looking to start an “inexpensive” family which made it easy for some, to turn a blind eye to the murkiness involved. However, with these new legal issues piled on top of the old health ones, they may be losing their drawing power for even those with lesser morals.
First, it is used as a method of human trafficking. Second, the surrogates are treated like cattle. Yes, it is cheaper, but at what cost? This is a child we are discussing. A child carried by a person no less important or critical to the process than the intended parent. Having a child when you physical aren’t able to is tricky enough, without weighing on your conscience as well. People are now coming to realize it’s not worth the gamble of saving money. This is a child we are talking about and ensuring that child has the best start in life starts at conception.
Overall, India doesn’t seem to present a viable option for surrogacy now to those who were able to justify their means to an end before.
As I am doing research for this blog I have also just learned that India has now implemented new guidelines this year which no longer allow foreigners of same-sex couples, single individuals, unmarried couples or couples who have been married less than two years to commission a surrogate there. Also, if you did qualify to utilize their surrogacy programs, you would still be required to provide a letter from your countries government expressly giving you permission to bring your child home from India and that your country would agree to recognize this child as a product of a surrogacy pregnancy and birth.
I think the chapter on surrogacy in India is closing, and very quickly. After everything, it is my opinion this is for the best.
When people find out that I’m a surrogate, the very first thing they usually ask me is “How much do you get paid?” I felt their question was insulting, but I’ve come to realize that it’s just plain curiosity and they’re not judging me. I now tell them “I don’t.”, which is true. We surrogates do not get paid to have someone else’s baby. It’s not a buying and selling market, like if you wanted a new pet. This is a person’s child, a human being that they themselves could not physically carry.
As surrogates, we are helping them receive what they have been yearning for. We do what we do for the emotional fulfillment and to give something back because we are capable. We do get compensated for pain and suffering (which let me tell you…and I will in another blog post sometime down the road…there is plenty of), however, that compensation equals to about the same as working a part time job. That compensation allows us to do what we do, making it financially possible to be pregnant for another, while having our own family as well. We’ve gone through having the joy of our own children and the money allows us to do the same for someone else. The compensation can help put surrogates in a better financial position as well. We can go back to school; put a down payment on a home; it can help a stay-at-home mom set realistic goals and feel useful. People seem to have this idea in their heads that if you carry someone else’s child you get all your debts paid off, free plastic surgery, a platinum card, AND a new car! Not to mention getting showered with gifts from your intended parents who must be millionaires themselves (not!).
The truth: it’s expensive to conceive a child if you can’t do it the ol’ fashioned way. Most people who come to the decision that they need a surrogate are already financially strapped. They have probably gone through tens of thousands of dollars already via fertility treatments, etc. Just because someone wants their own baby using modern technology doesn’t mean they are wealthy. This is why Surrogate Alternatives is so helpful. They know all of this. They deal with the finances. They help everyone understand what is needed and what expenses to expect and why some things are necessary and some are not.
Please remember, it’s more than just the intended parents and the surrogate involved. There are many factors to consider: the different types of insurance needed, fertility clinics, lab work, travel, doctors, hospitals, lawyers, and the red tape that is the law. From personal experience, you should not do this on your own. On both sides of the playing-field, it can be financially and emotionally challenging. Having experienced professionals that know the ropes and have gone through every possible scenario is invaluable. Someone in your corner to fight for you and make sure things come out all right can be the difference between life and death for some (thankfully very rarely). And when it all works out beautifully, oh how amazing that is!
I want to bring you all hope, not discourage you. Yes, the money is an issue but remember the rewards: the surrogate who can be proud of herself and her children, who are proud of her because she gave something special to someone in need, while improving her (and her families) life. The new parents who finally get to bring a beautiful baby (or two) home with them and be together for the very first time as a real family. It is that boost up a tall wall. The reality of surrogacy is that it may be an unconventional situation, but those same feelings of happiness are still there once you have climbed over that wall. We are not in the business of selling babies, we are an alternative route to parenthood, walked together creating families.