For Gay Couples: A Primer on Choosing a Surrogate Mother
This guest post by Katharine Swan is from The Rainbow Babies
Although adoption has traditionally been a way for singles and couples who, for whatever reason, cannot have a child, many gays and lesbians are not satisfied with this option: they want a child who is truly “of their flesh.” Surrogacy allows gay men – or lesbian women who cannot (or do not wish to) bear children – the opportunity to parent a biological child.
There are two different kinds of surrogacy. Traditional surrogacy fertilizes the eggs of the surrogate mother by way of artificial insemination. In gestational surrogacy, however, the egg is fertilized in the lab, to be transplanted into the surrogate’s uterus once the fertilization is successful.
Although surrogacy is a viable option for same-sex couples who want to parent a biological child, choosing a surrogate mother is a delicate task. The initial stages of finding a surrogate are especially important, as the decisions you make now could have a lasting impact on your family.
Asking the Right Questions
Interviewing a potential surrogate mother is crucial. There are many factors that determine whether a woman is the right person to carry your child: her physical health, genetics, emotional well being, and support network all have a bearing on the development and well being of your child. Beyond that, you also have medical, legal, and financial considerations to keep in mind. Raising these questions early in the interviewing process will help you quickly weed out surrogates who will not mesh well with your vision of the future and your family.
Is she comfortable carrying a child for a gay man or couple?
It is important to be honest and upfront with each woman you interview, not just because of the importance of a good relationship between you and your surrogate, but because you need to know whether she is comfortable with the fact that you – and your partner, if you are in a committed relationship – are gay. If she is not, your relationship may become increasingly more strained, and your baby could be adversely affected. By no means should you attempt to initiate a surrogacy agreement with a woman who cannot accept your homosexuality.
Is she physically healthy?
Your surrogate’s physical health is extremely important, as it will determine the health of your baby when he or she is born. A thorough physical should be performed to ensure that she has no diseases or physical conditions that will cause problems during pregnancy or delivery. If the woman has already become a mother, it is important to ask questions about her previous experiences, as a difficult pregnancy or labor in the past may not bode well for the future.
Also, if you plan to use the surrogate’s eggs, it is important to ask questions about her medical history. Her genetics will be passed on to your child, so you will want to carefully screen out surrogates with any genetic illnesses in their families.
Can she handle the emotional side of surrogacy?
There is no doubt about it – it is a difficult thing to carry a life inside one’s body for nine months, just to give it up. Whether or not the child is related to the surrogate biologically, it has been a part of her.
For this reason, it is vital that you ensure your surrogate can handle the emotional impact of surrogacy. A counselor can help determine her emotional status, as well as provide professional support before, during, and after the pregnancy. Even with professional psychological help, however, you still have a lot of talking to do before settling on a surrogate.
There are many issues that could arise during surrogacy that could be emotionally or morally upsetting to the surrogate mother, and how she would handle them may affect your decision of whether to enter into a surrogacy agreement with her. For example, you need to know if she will be able to handle decisions that you make about the child’s future, such as aborting the child if it shows signs of physical or mental disabilities, or using “selective reduction” to abort one or more of the embryos in the case of multiples. Being on the same page as your surrogate on major issues like these is especially important, as she also will have to live with whatever decisions you make.
Does she have a strong support network?
How a woman’s family and friends are handling the possibility of her becoming a surrogate has a significant bearing on how she will handle it herself. If she is married or is already a mother, it is especially important that her husband and children be supportive of her decision. After all, they will be who she turns to when she is tired, anxious, upset, or needing someone to talk to.
Is she comfortable with the medical requirements of being a surrogate?
Becoming a surrogate mother requires a great deal of medical treatment. She might need daily injections, which can be distressing for some people. There is also the possibility that she could end up carrying – and giving birth to – more than one baby. Be sure to discuss these possibilities with her and find out where she stands – even if the questions seem overly intimate. After all, if she becomes a surrogate mother for your baby, you will soon be sharing more than just a conversation.
Does she understand the legal ramifications of surrogacy?
Before entering into a surrogacy agreement with a woman, you must be sure that she understands the rights that she will be giving up – especially if the child will be biologically related to her. To ensure that there are no misunderstandings or legal loopholes, it is advisable to seek legal counsel in making and carrying out the surrogacy agreement.
What type of reimbursement is she expecting?
Your greatest concern should be, of course, the mother’s physical health, emotional stability, and compatibility. However, payment is still a major issue, particularly for the surrogate. It is expected that the intended parents pay for all medical, hospital, and counseling bills that are related to the surrogacy arrangement, but the cost does not stop there. In the United States, surrogate mothers usually receive between $10,000 and $20,000 as payment or a monetary “gift” of appreciation. Each potential surrogate may have a different idea of what is fair compensation, so it is important to broach this subject early on.
Making the Right Decision
Choosing a surrogate isn’t an easy decision. You may feel overwhelmed as you weigh pros and cons of the women you have interviewed. However, perhaps the best advice anyone can give you is not to hurry through the process – take the time to gather all the information you need, consider what factors have the most bearing on your situation, and make a decision that will best support your desire to have a family. Remember that this is a decision that can affect the rest of your life, as well as your child’s.