Hello, I am Tracy Matthews. Thank you for joining us. I have been a surrogate mom 3 times and have delivered 2 boys for a local couple and 1 boy for an international couple. You can check out my surrogate stories and stories of other Building Families surrogates by visiting our website at www.buildingfamiliesinc.com. I have a lot of information to share with you this evening so let’s get started.
Let’s talk about what motivates a woman to consider being a surrogate mother. One of the main motivating factors I had and that I encounter is that many women have completed their own families but really enjoyed their pregnancies and want that feeling again. They feel that surrogacy is a good way to experience another pregnancy while helping a couple achieve their own dreams of having a family.
Many people experience fertility challenges and almost all of us know at least one couple who have struggled to have a family. Some of our surrogates consider this process as a way to help someone who has struggled, like they have seen their close friend or family member struggle. It wasn’t my experience but now having been involved in this for the last 7 years, I’ve met many couples that have conditions that prevent them from being able to be pregnant or are cancer survivors that need a surrogate mom to grow their family.
I like to call surrogacy a “win, win” situation. By that I mean that the intended parents win because they get their dream of having a baby and the surrogate mother wins too by helping participate in the fulfillment of that dream. While your motivation shouldn’t be strictly financial, it can also help you work towards your own goals such as buying a house, saving for your children’s’ college education or starting a savings or retirement account.
As Carol mentioned, I’ve been a surrogate mother 3 times. You may ask yourself what motivated me. When I began looking into this whole thing, I knew that I had completed my family but I wanted to be pregnant again. I have two girls, now ages 12 and 13. I LOVE being pregnant and I’m good at it. So I looked into surrogacy as a way to be pregnant again without having the responsibilities of raising another child.
While various agencies have different requirements, I will now touch on the qualities that are important to Building Families when choosing the right surrogate moms for our program. When Building Families is looking for surrogate moms, there are many, many qualities that are important. First, you must be between the ages of 21 and 39 because we have found from our experiences that this is the optimal age range in which to be pregnant. Second, you have to have given birth to at least one child and be actively raising that child. This is important because you have to have proven that you can successfully carry a baby to full term. We also want to make sure that you have an active role in your child’s growth and upbringing which makes you better understand the position of the intended parents throughout the entire process. Third, you must have a strong support system. This is probably one of the most critical requirements of all. You need to have family, friends, and others surround you that will help you with your kids when you are pregnant and tired or if you should have to go on bed rest for some reason, you need to have people that will be able to help you with your family and your responsibilities. Lastly, you must be financially stable and not receiving any public assistance. Surrogacy is a stressful process and if you are already experiencing stress from financial concerns, you could add even more stress by going through this process. Any compensation received for surrogacy should be in addition to how you normally support yourself and should not be relied upon as income.
There are also some health related requirements that must be met. You must be in good overall health. You must not have had more than two c-sections. With every C section you have, you increase your risk of possible uterine rupture and you don’t want to take that major medical risk while you’re volunteering to help someone. You have to have a Body Mass Index, which is a height weight ratio measurement, of less than 30. Excess weight during pregnancy can cause health issues for the pregnant woman and may cause the pregnant woman or unborn baby undue harm. You have to have a good pregnancy history. No gestational diabetes, preterm labor, blood pressure issues or any other pregnancy complications. You must be a non-smoker. You must not be taking any medications during pregnancy unless they are approved for use during pregnancy. An example of a medication that would be okay might be something to treat a thyroid disorder. You must have regular menstrual cycles. This shows that you are building a uterine lining each month which is important in achieving pregnancy. You must also have a recent pap smear with normal results.
Many women considering surrogacy might wonder how they are going to decide what agency to choose. One of the first questions to ask is how long an agency has been in business. There are many agencies out there and knowing they’ve been successful over the course of many years lets you know that they are doing something right.
Also, do some research on the agency’s reputation in the industry. Ask the agency for references from other surrogate mothers who’ve been through their program. If they can’t provide a reference to you, that in itself is a red flag. A good agency will have plenty of surrogates just waiting to tell you about their experience with “their” agency.
Make sure the agency has a supportive staff. Make sure that the agency’s staff and how they interact with their surrogate moms meet your specific needs. Some agencies act as a matching service while others provide full support in a family atmosphere. There is no right or wrong answer here…it’s just important to make sure that it’s right for you.
Make sure that you have someone available to you when you need them. Even if your agency acts as a matching service only, you need to have a “go to” person available for questions throughout the entire process. Some agencies use dedicated case managers that are available, at all times. You may find yourself in situations where you need help communicating your needs to your intended parents and your case manager can guide you to take the right steps to resolve your concerns.
You need to make sure you have psychological support. I cannot stress this enough. Surrogacy is an emotional process and you will need help at times. In this picture is Dr. Vesna Radojevic (Dr. Rad as we like to call her). She’s been with Building Families for 15 years and has been a psychologist for 25 years. Even while you are going through a surrogacy, life happens. Our psychologist is available for everything even when it’s not surrogacy related. We’ve had situations where surrogates unexpectedly lose a family member or have a close family member suffer a health concern and you need to have support for all of those life curve balls.
Now I’d like to have a candid conversation about the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of being a surrogate mom. We’ll start with the good. It is an amazing life experience. Participating in helping someone achieve a dream is indescribable. You form lifelong bonds with the couples that you help and with your fellow surrogates who go through this process with you. Your compensation can help you reach your own financial goals.
Now on to the bad things. The surrogacy process can be very inconvenient. There are many doctor’s appointments during the fertility process and they can’t always be scheduled at a time that works best for you. You also have your own busy life to consider. For example, I’ve had to work around my kids school and sports activities along with a hectic work schedule and it’s not always easy. It can also take many tries for you to get pregnant. Many women think that they will be able to get pregnant easily because they did so with their own kids. But it doesn’t always work out that way. There are a lot of factors that play into the success of surrogacy and it doesn’t always work the first time or even the second time in some cases. This can lead to a feeling of disappointment. You want so badly to help the couple have a baby and a failed cycle can be rough. It can be quite an emotional roller coaster. First, you’re excited, then you are anxious and waiting to find out if you are pregnant, then you may find out it didn’t work. You also have to take a variety of medications….a couple of which are injections, nobody likes to give themselves shots.
Now we’ll touch on a few things that could be considered the “ugly” things you can encounter being a surrogate mother. If you should become pregnant with three or more embryos, you may face selective reduction. You also have to consider the question of medical abortion should something be wrong with the baby. No matter how you feel about selective reduction or medical abortion, the most important thing is that you communicate your feelings and beliefs openly and honestly with your agency during the application process. And make sure your beliefs are reflected accurately in your surrogacy agreement with your intended parents. This is not something you want to deal with after you’ve become pregnant. There is also a possibility of miscarriage just like in any other pregnancy. It doesn’t occur any more frequently than in a naturally occurring pregnancy but it is something that can happen. Lastly, there can be more disappointment. For example, you may have a failed transfer and find out that your couple decides not to try again or you may have multiple failed transfers when it seems that all should be going perfectly.
Now I have some Do’s and Don’ts that I’ve compiled throughout my three surrogacies and after seeing what other surrogates have gone through. Do ensure that your IPs are screen by a psychologist. This is a very emotional process and it’s important for all parties to be sure they are prepared for that. Do choose an agency that screens every party BEFORE matching. You don’t want to get into a situation where you have met a couple and are excited to move forward only to find out they aren’t qualified or you don’t pass their screening criteria. This can be devastating. Do make sure the trust account is managed by a bonded entity, and not anyone associated with the agency. Ask for the trust administrator’s information. Unfortunately, there have been situations where agencies have stolen money from intended parents and in most cases, the agency has been the one managing the money. Do be absolutely and completely honest when answering agency questions. There is a reason for every question asked of you throughout the process and it’s critical that you tell the agency everything to avoid any issues after you’ve invested in the process. Do ensure your contract contains all of the terms you’ve agreed upon including anything you’ve discussed verbally with the agency or with your couple. Do your research. Know what you are signing and always protect yourself.
As for the don’ts, don’t pay out of pocket for anything related to surrogacy. There may be a time or two when you have to pay a few dollars here or there for items that will be reimbursed later (for example an office visit co-payment when you are visiting the OBGYN) but this should be a rare exception and not the rule. Don’t proceed with a surrogacy arrangement if there are any red flags or bad feelings. Use your gut instinct as a woman and as a mother. If you have even the slightest doubt, walk away. Don’t sign a contract that binds you to an agency with a financial penalty if you decide to change your mind. This could make you feel pressured to move forward with something that you are not ready to do. Don’t work with an agency that doesn’t allow you to select the couple that you are going to help. You need to be absolutely comfortable with the family you are helping and it should be your choice whether or not you work with someone.
Now we have some time for questions.
Okay, we have a couple of questions. So I am going to start with those, but please feel free to continue sending questions as I go through the ones that I have received. The first question is:
1. How can I be sure that the agency has my best interests in mind?
Well, one rule of thumb is that the communication you start off with is not going to get any better. If the communication with your agency isn’t going as you expect it to from the start, it’s probably not going to change. So if you have a feeling that it’s not going to work out or that they agency doesn’t have your best interest in mind, then it’s a good idea to move on to another agency.
2. How do I know the couple will take their baby?
That’s a really good question. I think this one goes back to making sure the couple is appropriate for surrogacy. We have received inquiries from couples that give the impression that having a baby is just maybe another thing on their list to do in their life. That’s why it’s important to make sure the couple is screened by a psychologist to make sure they are truly prepared for this process.
3. You didn’t mention anything about legal representation. What is your opinion about that?
Well, Building Families feels strongly that both the couple, and the surrogate mother need to be represented by independent attorneys through the process. You should make sure to cover yourself. That you as the surrogate mother have your own independent representation, that is completely separate from the representation of the intended parent.
Ok, it looks like those are all the questions, if there are any others you can submit them now or always feel free to send us an email, which you can find the information on our website at www.buildingfamiliesinc.com