Surrogacy 101

Surrogacy 101

What Is surrogacy?
Basically, it is when one woman carries and births a child for someone else.  It has become popular and controversial in recent years, and is often misunderstood. The first documented surrogacy arrangement occurred in the early 1980s, with the first successful birth via surrogacy happening a few years later. In recent years, celebrities such as: Tyra Banks, Jimmy Fallon, Nicole Kidman, Neil Patrick Harris, and many others, have chosen the surrogacy route to expand their families, thrusting the topic into the spotlight.
Why Surrogacy?
Reasons for surrogacy range from inability to become pregnant, to multiple miscarriages, medical conditions, and more. Surrogacy is not for just the rich and famous; sometimes friends and family step in, as was the case in 2005, when a 58 year old mother acted as a surrogate for her daughter and son-in-law, giving birth to their twin daughters, her granddaughters. Amazing!  Unlike this case, most of the time, surrogate candidates and families are connected via agencies or independently through online groups.
Surrogacy Misconceptions
Today, there are any misconceptions, the top of which is that surrogates give away “their” babies, when in reality,  rarely is a surrogate or her husband genetically related to the child she is carrying. There are two types of surrogates: gestational and traditional. Gestational surrogates have no genetic relationship to the child they are carrying. The embryo has been created at an IVF clinic and is transferred into the surrogate’s uterus with the hope that development will continue. Traditional surrogates become pregnant using their own eggs, along with the sperm of the intended father. In this type of surrogacy, there is a genetic relationship to the surrogate carrying the pregnancy. Traditional surrogacy is a rarity today, as scientific advances have led to very high success rates of pregnancy using IVF with gestational surrogates.  Another common misconception is that surrogates are primarily financially motivated. While compensation is part of the equation, the act of surrogacy is altruistic in nature.  Surrogates all have children of their own and cannot imagine a life without them, opening their hearts and minds to the possibility of helping others become parents. There are two types of surrogacy arrangements, commercial and altruistic. Commercial surrogacy is when the surrogate mother is compensated a set amount of money for each month she is pregnant. Altruistic surrogacy is when the surrogate does not receive compensation for carrying the pregnancy. In both types of arrangements, intended parents bear costs, such as IVF fees, pregnancy co-pays, insurance premiums, and legal fees. Intended parents also bear 100% of the parental responsibilities once the child is born, which they are thrilled to do. This is what they have been dreaming about, striving towards, and praying for!   In both arrangements, surrogates must be financially stable and not reliant on government aid.
Personal Experience
On a personal note, I first became involved in surrogacy in 1999, when I was hired as a doula for a surrogate. The intended mother did not have a uterus, and hence, had known since she was a teenager that she would never be able to carry her own child. Watching the joy of the parents as they held their baby for the first time was indescribable. There were so many tears of joy and gratitude. The surrogate was incredibly honored to have been trusted with the care for their daughter in utero and was so happy to see them all together as a family for the first time. I knew from that moment on, that I too, wanted to bless a family in the same way when the time was right to do so! While surrogacy is not for everyone, if the idea tugs on your heartstrings, there is a family waiting for your help.
How do you become a Surrogate?
The first thing you do if you are interested in becoming a surrogate is research, research, research! Learn the legalities, requirements, and ethical agency options.  Know your personal preferences regarding intended parents and expectations. Join groups, ask questions, and be in touch if you would like additional information. Surrogacy has changed my life, as well as the lives of so many families in the best of ways. It is such a gift!

By Kimberley Humble

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