Unravelling The Surrogacy Journey

April 3, 2018 by Frank Golden

Pregnant woman with a flower crown stands in front of the sunset as her dress blows.

I remember a time when I had no idea what Surrogacy was or what it entailed. I remember being a young gay man with intentions to start a family. I remember meeting Adam and knowing that he was the man I would start my life with. I remember learning about Surrogacy in more detail. I remember when Adam and I decided to pursue Surrogacy. I remember trying to answer questions, questions that I didn’t even know to ask. I remember being overwhelmed, stressed, excited, and at times, frustrated. Surrogacy has so many moving parts, and I didn’t know where to begin. I had no reference of what a Surrogacy Journey looked like, or what factors were important to consider. Many of our Intended Parents are on a similar page as I was several years ago. I remember what it felt like to be in their shoes, and I want to help them better understand Surrogacy and the journey ahead of them.

This blog is intended to provide IPs with a general overview of the Surrogacy process. There is so much information available in the media, online, through friends; it can very quickly get overwhelming. This blog is intended to provide a general overview of Surrogacy basics. I don’t normally write blogs in Q&A form, but for this particular blog, I think it’s appropriate.

What is Surrogacy?

Many people have an idea of what surrogacy is. There are talks of Surrogacy in the media, in movies, on social media. Surrogacy is more than just the latest Kardashian trend. Surrogacy is a complex, intricate process in which Intended Parents create embryos with their own genetic material, and then transfer those into embryos in a Gestational Surrogate who carries the baby to full term. In a sense, Surrogates “lend” their wombs to individuals who are unable to have a family on their own. Most often, Surrogacy is an option for couples struggling with fertility, single Intended Parents, and same-sex couples.

There are two types of Surrogacy: Traditional and Gestational. Traditional Surrogacy is defined as the process in which a Surrogate uses her own genetic material to help Intended Parents create a baby. She then carries the baby, containing her genetic material, to full-term. Gestational Surrogacy is the process I described earlier: Intended Parents create embryos containing their genetic material, or the genetic material of an egg/sperm donor. Those embryos are then transferred into a Surrogate who has no genetic relation to the baby. Our agency, like most agencies, only offer Gestational Surrogacy services.

How much does Surrogacy cost?

 On average, Surrogacy journeys cost $100,000-$150,000. This includes: agency fees, fertility clinic fees, egg donor fees, legal fees, Surrogate compensation, and Surrogate medical and travel expenses.

Our agency does not expect Intended Parents to pay this amount in full. We ask for Intended Parents to deposit at least $50,000 in their Escrow account upon completion of the legal phase of the journey. This money covers all expenses relating to the Surrogate, including her compensation. All fees relating to Surrogate Compensation will be managed by the escrow company and will be distributed in small chunks throughout the journey.

The other fees – legal, IVF, egg donor fees- are paid out by Intended Parents as needed. Our job as an agency is to inform Intended Parents of when, who, and how much to pay for each component of the journey.

What does an agency do?

Agencies work directly with Intended Parents and Surrogates and guide them throughout the entire process, from onboarding to the delivery of a healthy baby. Agencies recruit qualified Surrogates, match Intended Parents with Surrogates, and help manage the relationship between all parties. Agencies work directly with lawyers and medical professionals to ensure that Intended Parents are informed of the necessary steps and are taken care of throughout the entire process.

Essentially, an agency should make a surrogacy journey feel effortless to Intended Parents and Surrogates. This is such an exciting time for Intended Parents- Surrogacy Agencies should ensure that Intended Parents are enjoying the experience as much as possible. In a sense, Agencies should put all pieces of the Surrogacy puzzle together while Intended Parents sit back and watch.

How are Surrogates located and How Does Golden Surrogacy Screen them?

Our agency implements a very complex multi-marketing approach to Surrogate Recruitment. We believe that there isn’t one place or one way to find quality Surrogates. We utilize direct mailers, in-person “meet ups”, word of mouth referrals, digital, and social media marketing.

While we utilize a wide range of marketing strategies for recruiting purposes, we only market within a few “Surrogate Friendly” states. It’s incredibly important for Surrogates to reside in Surrogate Friendly states that allow pre-birth orders. Pre-birth orders grant parentage rights to the Intended Parents before their child is born. It does not matter what state Intended Parents reside in; it matters where the Surrogate gives birth.

Golden Surrogacy goes above and beyond to ensure that our Surrogates are quality candidates. We strictly follow ASRM guidelines to ensure a safe, healthy pregnancy for everyone. Surrogates are first asked to complete a detailed questionnaire. Once that’s completed, one of our Surrogate Coordinators will reach out and conduct an initial phone interview. Surrogate Coordinators are trained to listen for any “red flags” or potential concerns with the candidate. They quickly build report with Surrogate Candidates and ask them a series of questions before they move on to the next step of gathering medical records.

Surrogate Coordinators then collect medical and pregnancy/delivery records. Those records are  prescreened by our partnering physician. Background checks and psychological evaluations are conducted before Surrogate Candidates are officially on boarded and matched with Intended Parents. Intended Parents should feel assured that their Surrogate is a physically healthy, mentally stable woman who has been through a series of assessments before being on boarded as a Golden Surrogate.

How are Surrogates and Intended Parents Matched?

Golden Surrogacy has a very specific matching process. At least once a week, our team conducts matching meetings. In these meetings, Surrogate Coordinators and Program Coordinators discuss our current client base and Surrogate candidate pool. Before deciding on a match, we discuss personality similarities, pregnancy and delivery expectations, lifestyle similarities, amongst other factors. We work hard to match Intended Parents and Surrogates based on personalities and personal expectations for the pregnancy.

Once we feel that we have a good match, we allow Intended Parents to view their potential Surrogate’s profile. A profile contains pictures, lifestyle choices, interests, personality questions, and a letter to Intended Parents. Intended Parents also create a profile; Surrogates are granted access to Intended Parent profiles before their match call takes place. Intended Parent profiles are very similar to Surrogate Profiles and contain pictures, interests, etc.

More often than not, our matches are successful. If for some reason they aren’t, we will rematch Intended Parents and Surrogates until they are comfortable moving forward with each other. We never expect a Surrogate or an Intended Parent to force a bond with their match.

When do IPs and Surrogates typically meet?

There are few specific times in which Intended Parents and Surrogates are “required” to engage in a face-to-face meeting. The first time is usually post-match call. Many times, Intended Parents, after a successful match call, want to meet with their potential Surrogate in person. They might schedule a Skype call in lieu of an in-person meeting.

The second time Intended Parents and Surrogates meet is at the IVF clinic for their preliminary appointment. During this appointment, Surrogates are medically and psychologically assessed to ensure a safe, healthy Surrogacy Pregnancy. Intended Parents are also medically screened. Intended Parents might provide sperm sample, prepare for egg retrieval, or undergo other procedures during this meeting. This is an important meeting for Surrogates and Intended Parents- the medical components of the journey are started, and more importantly, this is the first time Intended Parents and Surrogates come together as a “baby-making” team.

The third meeting is usually at the embryo transfer. It is very important for Intended Parents to attend the embryo transfer. Everything, all the work and emotion, leads up to the embryo transfer. Up until this point, Surrogates have been working very hard to prepare their body for implantation. They genuinely want to achieve pregnancy on the first  transfer, and greatly appreciate Intended Parents’ support during that process.

The Final meeting is obviously at the delivery. Our team at Golden Surrogacy loves going to deliveries; not only do we get the pleasure of meeting a new baby, we get the honor of witnessing the strong bonds between Surrogate and Intended Parents. It’s a beautiful thing.

Aside from these require meeting times, we suggest that Intended Parents and Surrogates discuss and establish their own protocol for visits. Some Intended Parents want to visit their Surrogates multiple times. Some would rather communicate on the phone or via email. It’s really up to Intended Parents and Surrogates to decide what works for them.

 What is the role of an IVF clinic?

The IVF clinic is a crucial part of the Surrogacy Journey. The Fertility Clinic conducts all of the medical procedures relating to Surrogacy Journeys. IVF clinics collect sperm and eggs from donors and/or Intended Parents to create embryos. They assess the reproductive health of Intended Parents and Surrogate Candidates prior to embryo creation and transfer. They perform the embryo transfer.

We recommend that Intended Parents do plenty of research before choosing an IVF clinic. There is more to consider than just online reviews. Intended Parents should call IVF clinics to get a feel for how they operate. Were they friendly? Were they professional? Our Agency offers Intended Parents a list of recommended IVF clinics. The list contains credible IVF Clinics located throughout the country. While this list is helpful, we still recommend that Intended Parents do some of their own research before settling on a clinic.

How long is the average Surrogacy Journey?

The average journey lasts about 16-18 months. This can seem like a really long time to some of our Intended Parents- I totally get it. I was in their shoes at one point in my life. The decision to have a family is huge; it takes a lot of time and discussion. Choosing the right agency is another major decision and is also time consuming. Some Intended Parents save money for a long time before being able to afford a Surrogacy Journey. The decisions leading up to signing with an agency are time consuming and require careful consideration. Upon signing with an agency, many Intended Parents are overwhelmed and eager to begin their journey.

I always encourage Intended Parents to focus on the bigger picture. When you’ve waited your whole life to start a family, another 16-18 months isn’t a huge deal, really- and I say this from experience. The Surrogacy Process seems daunting at first, but it all comes together, and the result is well worth it. In fact, many Intended Parents, once they have their child in their arms, remember the entire journey as a fast-paced, beautiful, emotional blur.

I hope this general overview was helpful. As an agency, we are here to help make your journey as smooth as possible; For Golden Surrogacy that means regularly providing Intended Parents and Surrogates with fresh content that share crucial knowledge and insight into the world of Surrogacy. If this general overview left you with more questions, please look through our other blogs and podcasts-  they go into more detail about some of the topics discussed in this article.

Remember to take your journey one step at a time. The entire journey will come together; whether it takes $100,000, 16 months, and a lot of questions, at the end of it all, you’ll have your child.