Surrogacy Information By Surrogates For Surrogates
What’s Surrogacy Really Like?
You’ve thought about it for a while now. You want to find out if it’s even right for you. It’s such a major decision impacting nearly every aspect of family life, including your future. You believe in informed decisions based on a combination of research-based facts and insight from people who’ve been there themselves. Today seems like a good time to see what’s out there. So you google “surrogacy” and get millions of hits. Now what?!
That’s where surrogate2surrogate comes in. We’ve asked experienced surrogates to tell us what’s really important, from what they wished they knew before jumping into how they decided the next surrogacy will be their last.
We’re your source for surrogate perspectives who want you to benefit from their experience as to help you arrive at a plan that makes the most sense for you and your family.
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Is Surrogacy Really Right for Me?
The first time I heard about surrogacy was from a friend of my mom’s when I was in junior high. I remember being intrigued she got pregnant without taking the baby home from the hospital. I remember being a little puzzled because I thought that only happens with adoption. And then didn’t give it any more thought. Looking back, it planted a seed somehow.
I was so lucky to meet my husband in college. We both wanted kids someday. Which ended up being sooner than we originally planned. But, from the moment my daughter was born, I was so in love I couldn’t imagine my life without her. My husband graduated before I did and found a wonderful job with great benefits. So we decided I’d leave school to be a stay-at-home mom and grow our family. Two kids later, we are so blessed to be raising such smart, happy, strong kids. Like we’d always dreamed.
When our youngest enrolled in preschool, I started thinking about going to back to finish my RN. I looked into it and couldn’t believe how much tuition had gone up! Even one of those distance-learning programs requires a lot of time away from home. Meaning additional expenses for books, travel plus after school childcare for the kids. We really wanted to find a way and that’s when surrogacy popped in my head. I did the research and knew it would be so amazing to give people who have tried so long a kid of their own. I love being pregnant and get pregnant so easily it seemed like a perfect fit. I talked to my mom’s friend to get her perspective and the thing that really stuck in my mind was saying my focus should be all about the Intended Parents (the people I would help have a baby), not me.
I did my research and we decided to go with the agency my mom’s friend used. Once we decided to move ahead, it all happened pretty fast. The agency said I was exactly the kind of surrogate IPs look for and had someone in mind they thought would be great for me. We had a match interview and really hit It off right away. They were a couple who had a little girl and then were devastated by experiencing infertility when trying to have a second child. It felt like we’d known each other all our lives, making plans to meet during the holidays which were just around the corner. The IPs were very open, constantly telling us how grateful they were I was willing to be their surrogate. It was surprisingly easy and smooth. Up until it wasn’t. The agency said the IPs suddenly stopped responding to calls and emails. Which seemed very strange because they had frozen embryos ready and pushing to get going right away. After several weeks of waiting, it turned out the Intended Father’s firm took a big huge hit with a sudden downturn in the stock market. We learned the radio silence was them desperately trying to find a way to move forward. Instead, it broke their hearts to have no choice but to step away from surrogacy until their financial situation stabilized again. Talk about an emotional roller coaster!
The agency said they had another couple they’d thought we should consider but this time we didn’t go into it so much with our heart on our sleeves. We were more cautious, not letting ourselves get too excited since we knew from experience things can fall through. However, everything looked good so we decided to go ahead. One of the things I’d been very clear about was only wanting to transfer one embryo at a time. It was on my profile and we specifically talked about it during the match interview.
The interview started out really happy and open and then took a sudden, very uncomfortable turn. The IPs said they were re-thinking things and asked me to agree to transfer two embryos instead. I was a little nervous but stood firm. I was so glad the agency backed me up, pointing out it would be very hard for me to no longer work with them. However, I had been very clear I would only transfer one. So if the IPs changed their mind and now wanted me to transfer two, they needed to look for another surrogate. We tried to end the conversation on a positive note, but things were definitely not quite the same. I asked the agency what to do now and they said to give the IPs a little time to think things through. There were a few tense days for my husband and I. But it turned out the IPs’ fertility specialist did not support their request to transfer two, either. So we went forward with the contract in full agreement again.
We weren’t sure how this would affect our relationship and I thought maybe they seemed a little distant for a while. I remembered what my mom’s friend had said about this being all about the IPs, so I didn’t let it bother me. They told me later they were so used to every blood test would be negative and every ultrasound showing nothing, they held back from the disappointment they thought would surely come. Until they saw the heartbeat! They had never gotten that far before. So they finally started believing this really could really come out the way they’d always hoped. From then on, they were nothing but kind, thoughtful and sweet. Yes, the shots made lumps that were painful. No, I didn’t particularly enjoy using the vaginal suppositories for a couple weeks of bleeding with shots alone. But our relationship couldn’t have been stronger and we pulled together as a very close team to deliver their strong, healthy baby girl. I was determined not to have any expectations for a relationship afterwards, given our ups and downs. Turns out we keep in touch every few months and it’s been so fun to see her develop and grow over time!
We both started trying at the same time. I got pregnant right away. Silvie kept getting her period. At first, we joked I always had to be first at everything, never imagining Silvie wouldn’t catch up really fast. Then we started shrugging and saying, “Oh, they’ll only be a few weeks apart!” But as the weeks stretched into months, we stopped joking about it because it made her feel sad. Neither of us had ever known anyone infertile. So we studying up to learn everything we could about it. We found out healthy young women trying to get pregnant who haven’t within a year should see a fertility specialist. We learned from experience seeing a fertility specialist and going through fertility treatments doesn’t mean your struggles will end.
Silvie didn’t have a specific diagnosis explaining infertility, she just didn’t get pregnant or kept losing the baby right before or just after the heartbeat ultrasound. Every time, I held her when she cried, crying right along with her. I started feeling really bad I could get and stay pregnant so easily. Some well-meaning friends told Silvie she should stop putting her body through so much and just adopt. But her dream had always been having a baby of her own who’d be best friends with mine, just like we were. This wasn’t our dream at all and there just had to be something I could do to help. I ran out of ideas, other than being there for her like always. That’s when I found out about surrogacy.
By now, I’d had two children in a row. I loved being pregnant, easily carried them both to full-term, no complications. I asked my OB what she thought and she said I’d be a great surrogate. So I told Silvie what I’d learned, offering to carry her baby for her. It seemed like the perfect solution. However, Silvie did not agree, almost seemed offended I would offer. She seemed to think I was giving up on her somehow. She said she was still so young and wasn’t nearly done trying on her own. I quickly assured her I would do anything to help her but if it was something she felt absolutely comfortable doing. She got really quiet and sad. So I dropped it immediately and never brought it up again.
It’s been four years and Silvie keeps doing treatment cycles, saving up money for a while after they fail and then trying again. Naturally, I haven’t given up on helping Silvie. I’ve just done it in ways that make her feel loved and supported. I also decided to help another family have a child a little over a year ago. I really got to thinking why I want to be surrogate and it’s really far more than helping someone I know. My kids opened up a whole new world of happiness for me I want to help others, like Silvie, who have tried so hard for children of their own experience it, too. We looked at several profiles, going with the one that really touched our hearts. Our IPs happened to be an international couple and English wasn’t their first language. We were nervous that might create distance or difficulty getting to know each other. But it’s been just the opposite. We feel very comfortable in all ways you’d expect. We got along right away when we met and found having an interpreter in the interview went much more smoothly than we thought. Everyone agreed we wanted to work together and the whole process moved forward fairly quickly. Our communication has been so easy. We use an app that lets us translate what we say into each other’s language and the IPs checked in with me nearly every day the closer I got to delivery. We agreed to induce to make sure they could be here the day their baby was born and no words can describe the look on their faces as they held their baby boy in their arms for the first time. We still keep in close touch and are making plans for our whole family to visit them in their country within the year. I may not have been able to make a difference for Silvie the way I originally hoped. I’m just so happy it opened up a future that helped such a wonderful couple on the other side of the world have a family instead.
Being surrounded by children my whole life and loving the happy chaos they create, having lots of my own was never in doubt. When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, I met another woman due the same time in our Mommy and Me Meetup. Turns out our kids were near the same age, too, and we ended up being great friends. I was surprised to find out she was a surrogate as I’d never heard of that before. I was fascinated by the idea of helping people who couldn’t have their own children and was very interested in how it all worked out for her in real time. Something that really impressed me was how involved her kids and partner were in the process. Her kids really understood Mommy was caring for this baby until it could go home to live with its parents. Her partner took her to appointments whenever she needed him to and was there for her during the delivery, just like with their own kids. After she came home from the hospital, I could really see how personally rewarding it was for she and her whole family. So I asked her to give me the phone number of her agency. I wanted to call and found out more about specifics and make sure I met the criteria before talking to my husband. I found out I needed to lose about 5 pounds but everything else was a go.
I was excited to tell my husband what I’d found out and how much I wanted to do this, too. To my utter surprise, he was completely silent. I could see he was upset so I waited to hear what he had say. He didn’t say anything, just got up and left. We’ve always had an honest, open relationship where we can tell each other anything. So I was devastated and couldn’t help but cry. I knew I needed to give him space, so I waited a week or so before asking him to explain. This time he didn’t get up and leave but just shook his head, as if to say he couldn’t talk about it. He’s such a loving, caring man, I knew we were okay between us. I just knew I’d need to give him a whole lot more time and let him come to me, instead of me bugging him about it. It took about a month to talk it out in bits and pieces. My husband has a deep feeling he doesn’t want his wife to carry another man’s baby. He knew I really wanted to do this and didn’t want to tell me no. I initially thought it was a matter of him learning how everything really works because nothing about this involves a relationship with another man. However, I found out feelings like this don’t respond well to facts. My attempts to provide information just made him dig in more, creating tension and breaking down the trust we’d always had between us. I asked the agency what to do and they were honest in telling me I would not be a good candidate for surrogacy. Just as I had seen with my friend from the Mommy and Me group, surrogacy is a family commitment, requiring an extremely solid support system. Most especially from your spouse. I’ve had other surrogates say nothing is worth doing you can’t agree 100% to do together. So I decided surrogacy is not for me and have returned my focus to where it should and always will be: family.
Compensation and Benefits
You may be wondering how the whole payment thing works. Something that’s important to know before getting into the specific numbers is whether anyone will be requiring you to file your compensation as part of annual income taxes. This process involves filing a form (1099) where either the Intended Parents, the attorney who holds the trust account or the agency reports your compensation to the IRS and the state of California. There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. You just definitely want to be sure you work with Intended Parents, a trust account manager and an agency who agree with the approach you prefer.
Beings this was my first time, I really didn’t know what to expect when it came to money. It actually turned out much more simple than I thought. You don’t get any money until after contracts are signed, so everything up to that point is paid for you. After contracts are signed, the money to pay for surrogacy expenses is put in a trust account. In my case, it was managed by my IPs’ attorney’s office. They let me choose whether I wanted a check in the mail or direct deposit. All I do is turn in a form every month to the agency, they authorize the money to come out of the trust and then it shows up in my account within a few days.
So, the first thing you get is a monthly expense allowance. It’s a couple hundred dollars to help with expenses between contracts and getting pregnant. I got this allowance for the whole surrogacy. If I’d lived further than 50 miles from the clinic, I would’ve got mileage. But mine was local, so the monthly expense allowance helped to cover that.
There are three benefits I got based on where I was in the process. One was the start of injectible medications and second was the embryo transfer (ET). Both were $1,000 each. The ET fee covers lost wages and the drive to and from the clinic. All my ET expenses were paid in advance by the agency. Airfare, ground transportation and hotel were paid for me and my traveling companion. We ended up eating at the cafe in the hotel or ordering room service. So all those costs plus hotel parking got charged to the room. No out-of-pocket or receipt worries for me at all.
More monthly payments kicked after my ultrasound pregnancy confirmation. The base fee started the first of the month after the ultrasound ($40,000 breaks down to $4000 a month). I also started getting a couple hundred dollars a month for housekeeping. So I continued my monthly expense allowance with the base fee and the housekeeping allowance added through the month I delivered the baby. I started making the monthly medical insurance premium payment the second month of getting all three benefits which was reimbursed along with everything else I turned in at the end of the month. My third benefit based on where I was in the process was $800 for maternity clothes I got 12 weeks after the ET. If I’d transferred two, 16 weeks after the ET I would have gotten an additional monthly multiple pregnancy allowance. But I’m SET (single-embryo transfer) all the way, so that didn’t apply to me.
The surrogate contract includes Lost Wages for me + my traveling companion. We had to both turn in 3 pay checks in a row used to figure out lost wages for the contract. I didn’t require any bed rest during the pregnancy. But after I delivered, I filled out the application online for State Disability Insurance (SDI). Since SDI only pays part of my take-home pay, I had to turn in a screen shot of what SDI paid and then request reimbursement of the balance from trust account. Lost wages for my traveling companion was more limited, though. The contract said she was allowed a total of 5 days which covered her take-home pay for being with me during labor and delivery.
The month after delivery, I had to figure out how much hadn’t been paid out from all ongoing allowances and fees. I was owed the full balance since the baby delivered after the minimum number of weeks listed in the contract for a singleton (on or after 30 weeks from the ET). Part of my benefits included medical insurance coverage for three months after the birth, so I kept making that payment a little while plus got reimbursed for Lost Wages and payment for expressed breast milk service. I was able to negotiate the amount with my IPs as the agency wasn’t involved. They told the IPs the only requirement was they pay me no less than $600 a month and I took it from there. It all seemed pretty intimidating at first. But with the agency going over all the details with me and then the attorney filling in any gaps in my understanding of how it all worked during contracts, it really wasn’t hard at all.
I’ve been a surrogate three times, so compensation is really just a part of the whole routine by now. After my first surrogacy, I heard proven surrogates usually increase their comp by somewhere between 5-10 thousand after each surrogacy. I asked the agency and they said I could set my own compensation fees. I went through my first surrogate benefit package and ended up going $7,000 higher on the base fee. I pretty much kept everything else the same with a couple exceptions. I didn’t plan on transferring more than one. But splitters happen! I decided from the very beginning I’d definitely carry if that were to happen. Because if you reduce, both babies die. I upped the multiple pregnancy allowance by another $300 because I’d heard surrogates talk about how much harder it was on their body than a singleton. I also increased a few of the invasive procedures amounts by a few hundred dollars each, the C-section and the reproductive organ loss. I also added something new by asking for an additional $350 a month if the IPs wanted me to eat organic for the surrogacy. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but organic food costs a lot more. My IPs ended up not asking for an organic diet, but I was ready if they had. Probably not everyone will agree with the adjustments I made. I just know this is what’s right for me and my family.
Will I Pass My Screening?
How will Surrogacy Affect My Family?
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