By Frank Golden
It gets more and more challenging running a surrogacy agency. I love my job. I love what I do, but I can’t deny that the industry is changing. More surrogacy agencies are opening, more Intended Parents are enrolling, and more women are attempting to be surrogates. It’s exciting, but it’s also a bit scary; as the demand for surrogates increase, many agencies are reducing their standards to accommodate the influx of Intended Parents. As an agency owner and as an Intended Parent, I go out of my way to ensure that Golden Surrogacy continues to maintain the highest of standards; I’m proud to say that we’ve been successful.
As other agencies lower their standards by adjusting their surrogate requirements, Golden Surrogacy has developed stricter requirements for our surrogate candidates. It seems counter-productive to some – we are limiting the amount of surrogates we onboard just as the industry is really taking off – but we’re doing it for good reason: we care. Our team at Golden Surrogacy continues to educate ourselves on reproductive health and the factors that can affect a healthy pregnancy and delivery. We take this information seriously and as a result, have adjusted our surrogate requirements to further ensure a healthy, positive experience for everyone involved.
Primarily, we’re looking for surrogates who are between the ages of 24-36. We have find that women in this age group are mature enough to understand the emotional implications of undergoing a surrogacy journey; they are also at the optimum age to carry a healthy pregnancy. Many agencies will recruit surrogates that are over 40 years old. There are women who are perfectly healthy at 42 and are able to carry a healthy pregnancy, we aren’t saying otherwise. However, according to our extensive research and our personal experience, we feel that recruiting surrogates under 40 years old is in the best interest of our Intended Parents.
Another serious factor we consider when recruiting surrogates is the number of cesarean sections the candidate has had. We will not accept surrogate candidates who have had more than one cesarean section. Many agencies will accept surrogates who have had two, three, or even four C-sections. C-sections are common, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are low risk procedures. A C-section is an invasive process that can leave damaging effects on the surrogate, and in some cases, on the baby. Once a woman has had multiple C-sections, her doctor will more likely than not recommend another C-section. Our goal at Golden Surrogacy is to ensure that you go into each journey with the best possible chances for success; we don’t want anyone to go into a journey expecting a C-section. They do happen; in fact, our first child was born via C-section. Sophia was a healthy baby, but the delivery was not the best experience for our Surrogate or for us. Aside from the medical downsides of C-sections, I understand the negative emotions associated with a complicated delivery – it’s frightening. I don’t want any Intended Parents to go through the same stress I went through when Sophia was being delivered. I also don’t want Intended Parents to deal with the additional financial expense associated with C-sections. We implore Intended Parents to ask their agencies about their cesarean section policy. If the agency allows women with multiple C-sections to join their program as surrogates, make the choice to select a different agency, or educate yourself on the potential risks and go into the process emotional prepared to face those risks.
There are a number of other medical requirements that all surrogates entering our program must meet. Surrogates must have a Body Mass Index, or BMI, under 30. Weight is such a sensitive topic; we hate telling women that they do not meet our weight requirements, however, it’s for a good reason. Overweight women, on average, tend to have more complicated pregnancies. We also require that Surrogate candidates have had a child within the last seven years. This ensures that her pregnancy and delivery medical records will be readily available for us to collect and review. Golden Surrogacy also requests medical records from general practitioners. This gives us a better synopsis of the surrogates entire medical history. When we review medical records, we want to see a history of healthy pregnancies and deliveries and a lack of major medical problems.
Aside from medical requirements, there are a series of lifestyle requirements that are equally important to ensuring the best possible journey. Golden Surrogacy’s on-staff psychologist visits the homes of each surrogate candidate to assess the stability of her living arrangement and to gain a better understanding of her support system. Surrogates and their spouses or live-in partners are both required to undergo a psychological evaluation in addition to the home visit. Surrogates are mothers, in stable relationships or have stable support systems, are financially stable, and are becoming surrogates for the right reasons.
Other factors Intended Parents should be aware of when selecting an agency are legal representation and escrow. Some agencies have in-house legal representation; Golden Surrogacy does not, and there’s a good reason for this. Each state has its own specific surrogacy laws that need to be considered when writing up contracts. Golden Surrogacy pairs Intended Parents and Surrogates with the best reproductive legal representation from the state in which the Surrogate resides and will give birth in. This ensures a seamless legal phase in which the contracts are ideal for all parties. In terms of escrow, we recommend working with an agency that does not manage escrow in-house. Agencies that manage escrow in-house collect all the money needed for a journey and disperse it as needed. We feel that this is a conflict of interest. Intended Parents pay us an agency fee, and that’s the only money that belongs to us. There’s no reason for us to have access to the money needed for medical expenses, travel expenses, surrogate compensation. Golden Surrogacy uses a third party escrow company that manages all funds for Intended Parents. This company disperses funds at the appropriate times and informs Intended Parents of each transaction. If Intended Parents are looking into an agency that manages funds in-house, we encourage them to ask probing questions about the management of their money.
Golden Surrogacy goes out of its way to ensure that Intended Parents and Surrogates have an excellent experience throughout the entire course of the journey. We consider ourselves to be a premiere boutique agency that takes on a limited amount of clients each year. Surrogacy is not a numbers game, and it’s can’t be treated as such. Unfortunately, as the industry continues to gain momentum, many agencies are more concerned about taking on more clients, and as a result, are less concerned with providing superb customer service. This does not sit well with us, not with me and not with my team. We work around the clock, and I mean literally around the clock, to ensure that all of our Intended Parents and Surrogates are informed, comfortable, and confident throughout their journeys. I always tell my team that Surrogacy is not a “nine to five” job. We have our cell phones on us at all times and are always ready to answer questions or to address concerns. Not many agencies have this mentality. Unfortunately, to some agencies, clients are just nameless numbers. This is completely unacceptable, and it frustrates me to think that agencies would provide less than average service for sake of money.
As an Intended Parent and as a surrogacy professional, I refuse to cut corners in any way. This means that Intended Parents will be given honest answers, answers they might not be happy with, but they’re honest and in the best interest of our clients. Our match time might be a little bit longer than other agencies, and many Intended Parents are looking for the quickest match possible. We’re not going to match you instantaneously. We’re going to search for a quality candidate that meets all of our strict requirements; we’re going to ensure that she has insurance; we’re going to ensure that she’s emotionally sound; and we’re going to ensure that the surrogate’s personality and values match with those of the Intended Parents. In this industry, we can’t race toward the finish line. Unfortunately, many agencies are in a race, and in my opinion, it’s a race with no winner. We’re dealing with life, and it’s beyond worth it to do everything right.
To all Intended Parents reading this blog, please prepare yourself for the changing industry. Be prepared to speak with agencies that make empty promises, present substandard surrogate candidates, or provide below average customer service. Unfortunately, this has become a reality in our industry, and it’s a shame. Golden Surrogacy is actively working towards changing those standards. We will never reduce our standards for the sake of making more money. It’s not why we’re in this industry. We’re in it to provide Intended Parent and Surrogates with a seamless experience that results in a healthy baby. Whether or not Intended Parents choose our agency, we want them to see us as a resource. If something doesn’t feel right with another agency, call me and we’ll talk about it. I mean that with all seriousness. The number is (312) 212-3384. We’ll be waiting to answer your questions, give you solid advice, and hopefully provide some comfort as you begin this process.