8 Tips for A Successful Surrogacy Journey
Choosing a surrogate is probably not one of those things most people grow up contemplating. Even now, as you find yourself in need of someone to carry your baby, your perspective may be colored by misunderstandings about what sort of woman decides to be a gestational surrogate.
Here are Gail's eight tips to help you to have thoughtful and realistic expectations as to what’s essential and what might not be realistic.
Remember that a good agency will present you with candidates that meet the following basic criteria:
- they should be between ages 21-40
- she and all adults in the home over the age of 18 will have passed a background check
- they have had at least one child (but less than 6) and loved being pregnant
- Have had easy pregnancies and deliveries.
- she will have had a psychological evaluation, before going forward with a cycle and you will get to meet her at least via video call before you are matched.
With all these things being met, some intended parents have a perfect person in their head who is the ideal surrogate for them. It's important to remember the following:
1. Not every woman is interested in being a surrogate.
In fact, very few women are interested in being surrogates. You are not likely to find women who meditate daily, do yoga and only eat organic. These are warm-hearted women with young children who may not have the time to even go to the bathroom alone much less meditate or attend yoga. They are, however, excellent moms, dedicated to their family and helping you to create a family of your own.
2. Compensation is not the only reason women choose to be surrogates. Compensation is important due to the stress on the surrogate and her family but their primary motivation comes from a desire to do something truly amazing that they will be proud of for the rest of their lives, forever transformed by their experience. The joy they can bring to you as they deliver your child is the end goal. They do not see this as their child. The relationship they are building is with you, moreso than the child they are nurturing in their uterus.
3. Don't play OBGYN and decide to eliminate a surrogate candidates based on your non-medical assessment of the surrogate. Trust your reproductive endocrinologist's team to review the surrogate's medical records as to her medical suitability to be a surrogate. Your clinic will be using the ASRM guidelines for gestational carriers and may also have a few of their own criteria such as their recommended body mass index (BMI). Our recommendations beyond the ASRM are no more than 2 C-sections and a BMI of 30 or less. Keep in mind that most women who are willing to be surrogates have had children during the last 2-3 years. While a BMI of 30 falls into an “overweight” category it is not a negative when it comes to surrogacy. You will be hard pressed to find surrogates with “normal” BMI and many clinics will take surrogates with a BMI of 32.
4. A surrogate should have a good support system. This doesn’t mean she has to be married, as many wonderful surrogates are not. She may be in a committed relationship or single but with family and friends near by who can help out with her kids when needed and just be a positive source of support. Some future parents become obsessed with finding a married surrogate thinking that their surrogate will have a built-in support system. Sometimes that may be true but it’s better to have a single surrogate with supportive friends and family than a married surrogate with a partner who is not really involved in his wife's surrogacy. Be open. Every surrogate is an individual and worth considering. Don’t rule someone out because they don’t meet your ideal. You may pass up some amazing women.
5. Don’t fixate on finding a repeat surrogate. Some intended parents think it's easier to trust a repeat surrogate to hand over the child. Neither a first time nor a repeat surrogate wants to keep your baby. They have children of their own. There is also no statistical data indicating greater pregancy success using a repeat surrogate over a first time surrogate. Always look at both. If you limit yourself to repeat surrogates you will wait a lot longer to be matched and you will pay a premium since any woman who is willing to be a repeat surrogate will be compensated at a higher rate for her willingness to cycle again. First time surrogates will all have had at least one pregnancy and have been thinking about their surrogate journey and are excited to help you. A first time surrogate will probably have had fewer pregnancies than a repeat surrogate. The ASRM guideline for number of pregnancies is nor more than 5 so a surrogate can still be a good option if your pregnancy is number 6 but you don’t really want to push beyond that. While we all may know of women who have had more than 6 pregnancies, a uterus is a bit like a balloon - it can only be stretched to it’s limit so many times before it weakens.
6. Communication is key, but make sure you're all on the same page.
If you want to be at every landmark appointment, text daily make sure your surrogate wants this too. If, on the other hand, you can’t attend landmark appointments due to travel limitations you want a surrogate who is more impendent and understanding that you can’t always be their but you are very grateful and excited about this pregnancy. You want to make sure you both feel that you can have good communication. She is choosing you as much as you are choosing her. This is an interactive relationship not a business transaction.
7. Be respectful of the surrogate and her family. They are making this journey alongside of you and are a key part of the surrogate's life and happiness. Be thoughtful of her children and her partner throughout the pregnancy. Their lives are changing too. Don’t try to micromanage your surrogate but realize that she has done this before and given birth to healthy children. She may not do everything exactly the way you would but she will be thoughtful and make good choices. Think about sending a thoughtful gift for her children or buying dinner for your surrogate and her partner so they can have a night out now and then. Send flowers or a spa gift to your surrogate so she knows that you are thinking of her as an individual not just as the vessel to deliver your baby.
8. After the birth of your child don’t just grab your baby and disappear from her life. Allow her to see the baby and have some closure. Don't forget that her young children may need to see the baby too - remember, that they've seen the baby growing in their mommy's tummy and it is helpful for them to say hello and goodbye. If you have been communicating once a week don’t just stop but update her on how you and the baby are doing. The communication may naturally start to taper off to maybe an annual sharing of holiday cards and pictures. Women who have been surrogates are proud of what they have been able to do for you and enjoy seeing pictures of your children. They often refer to them as their surro-babies. Much like a teacher or babysitter likes to know how her past students or charges are doing so does your surrogate. They are happy for you to have your family.
All of this is going to be new to you and don’t worry about being perfect. If you can keep a sense of humor and interact with your surrogate much the way you would any new friend, you will have a wonderful relationship. Surrogates are women first, moms second and gestational carriers by choice. It’s a rare and magnanimous decision that few are willing to make.