The Surrogacy Journey Overview
March 15, 2023 by Frank Golden
The Surrogacy Journey Overview
“Where do I start?” This is a question I often get asked during consultations with Intended Parents. It is a very important question and, depending on who you ask, will come with a variety of answers. If you are speaking with a fertility expert, they might recommend you start with their clinic. An attorney might suggest you begin with legal. An agency might tell you to start with them. But I am going to give you the only correct answer and then dive into the surrogacy journey overview where I will break down what every step of your surrogacy journey will look like if you choose to work with us here at Golden.
First things first: where you should start. The only correct answer for where you should start is to stop and put a budget together. You might be skeptical about why an agency director is not telling you to start with them. But don’t worry, there is no catch. I have gone through the process of becoming an Intended Parent and I know how overwhelming it can be. As you consider entering into your journey, you deserve to be as informed about the process as possible. Let me tell you why the best thing you can do for your journey at the start is to slow down and create a budget.
First, let’s look at why you should not start with a fertility clinic. If you are a couple who needs to create embryos for their surrogacy journey, you may run into a situation where your first egg yield or embryo creation process is not successful. This is not uncommon, and is an event couples should be prepared for. However, if you started your journey at a fertility clinic, this situation can be problematic. Surrogacy journeys can be expensive, and if you find yourself in a situation where you need to find a new donor or do a secondary retrieval, these unexpected incidentals can negatively impact your ability to find an agency you can afford. Or, if you have already found an agency at this point and have paid the agency fee, you may find that you can no longer afford to create additional embryos. These may be hypothetical situations, but there are real cases where couples run into unexpected circumstances that are detrimental to their journeys. For this reason, I tell couples to stop and determine a budget before doing anything. With a proper budget you will find that you can weather any storm, regardless of which stage of the journey you are on. Whether it be embryo creation or the Surrogate search, you will be able to navigate that stage in a way that produces the best outcome (an adorable baby and money left over to give them a sibling).
Once you have put your budget together, I recommend you find a surrogacy agency (you know, like Golden😉). A reputable surrogacy agency will be able to go through the process with you and determine service providers you will need on your journey that fall within your budget. If you are a couple who needs to create embryos for their surrogacy journey, Golden would send out a referral for you to visit with a fertility center. We would do this with three to four fertility centers because we want you to select a doctor and clinic you trust, and we want you to validate that they meet your budgetary requirements. Now that we determined you should start with an agency following the creation of your budget, I am going to provide an overview of the next steps on your surrogacy journey.
Coming from the side of the agency, the first thing we will do is send out all our agency documentation. These would include retainer agreement and background checks. The fun begins after this step!
Intended Parent Profile and Orientation
Next, you will complete your Intended Parent profile and we will schedule your orientation call. This is a time for you to tell us who you are in an effort for us to get to know you better and find you the perfect match.
Embryo Creation Phase
Following this step, you will be working with your fertility clinic. The goal for this stage is to have your embryos ready to go by the time your agency finds a match. If you have embryos that are created, tested, and cryogenically preserved at the time of matching, you can move right into that stage. If you were an Intended Parent who already have cryogenically preserved embryos, that is great! All that is left to do is sit back, relax, and let us find your match.
The matching process is arguably the most important step on your surrogacy journey. It is also one of the most stressful steps. From an agency standpoint, we do our best to alleviate any additional stress.
“Is this person qualified?”
“Has she been vetted?”
When you are working with Golden, these are things you do not need to worry about. We pre-screen all of our Surrogates in advance so that when you hop on your match call, you can rest easy knowing she is qualified and vetted. In fact, we send her information to your Reproductive Endocrinologist for preliminary approval. This all happens before you even see her profile. At Golden, we want you to focus on getting to know your potential match without having to worry about the other details.
If you are interested in pursuing her as a potential match after seeing her profile, we will schedule a match conference. This is a time where Intended Parents and Surrogates get to meet under the supervision of the agency’s care team. To prepare you for the match conference, we will send you a match call guide and do a preparatory call. We do this to make sure you are fully aware of what to expect, prepare potential questions, and alleviate any concerns or nerves you feel going into the call.
Once there is an official match and both Intended Parents and Surrogate agree to move forward, the next step would be for your Surrogate to visit your clinic. This is the first opportunity for her to meet with your Reproductive Endocrinologist. They can conduct all additional screenings, such as a saline ultrasound and bloodwork. Once your Surrogate receives the seal of approval from your clinic, we are ready to jump into legal.
Golden will refer you to an independent attorney that is not affiliated with our agency. We do this because it is best practice that the attorney representing you and your Surrogate come from the state your Surrogate lives and gives birth in. Golden has a network of the absolute best professionals in the industry. These reproductive law experts are familiar with all the family-building statutes surrounding an agreement in their states. During this stage Golden will facilitate helping you attain legal counsel and will review the first draft with you to ensure that the contract coincides with all the documentation you signed here at the agency. We also supervise all legal components to make certain you are having a smooth legal experience from beginning to contract finalization. Legal typically takes somewhere between 4-8 weeks. The exact amount of time legal will take depends on a variety of factors such as your attorney’s availability or the time of year. Trust us when we say that we are doing everything we can to move you through this stage in an expeditious manner. Once we have a finalized contract, your attorney is going to send over a document to your clinic called, “the legal letter of clearance.” This letter essentially lets the doctors know that there is a proper legal document in place and that the Surrogate is authorized to begin medical procedures.
It is at this point that your clinic will put together a medical calendar for your Surrogate that corresponds to her cycle and scheduling. This is protocol and typically takes 15-20 days with a combination of medication and monitoring appointments. During monitoring appointments, your clinic is checking hormone levels as well as conducting ultrasounds on a remote basis and transmitting that data back to the clinic. If the cycle goes well, following the 15-20 days you will receive a tentative embryo transfer date.
This is a momentous time in your surrogacy journey. I always recommend Intended Parents attend this appointment even if they are not local to the clinic. This is essentially the day of conception, and we want you there to celebrate this moment with your Surrogate. If your embryo transfer is a success that means that your Surrogate is officially pregnant! CONGRATULATIONS!
For the rest of your journey, your care team is monitoring your Surrogate by making sure she is attending her OB appointments and checking in on her. A very important component of the surrogacy journey is communication between you and your Surrogate. To ensure we have a cohesive relationship, your care team will conduct regularly scheduled “check-ins.” This is a time to chat with your Surrogate and receive status updates. If there is a time you need help initiating dialogue with your Surrogate, that is what Golden is there for. We exist to be by your side every single step of the way.
And there you have it! These are some of the key steps when going through a surrogacy journey with us here at Golden Surrogacy. As you can see, the surrogacy journey comes with ups and downs and the best thing you can do to prepare at the start is to create a budget. Once you have your budget, reach out to us here at Golden and you will have a team of experienced professionals to guide you through the downs and cheer alongside you during the ups. While creating a family can be a long journey, it is a journey that no one should do alone, and an experience that everyone deserves.