Where Do I Start?
March 15, 2023 by Frank Golden
The surrogacy journey is a complex process with many different phases that all come with potential roadblocks. Big picture, it can be overwhelming for Intended Parents who know surrogacy is right for them but are clueless as to what their first step should be. During all my initial meetings with Intended Parents, they want to know where they should start. They know a surrogacy agency will eventually be a necessity, but is it more of a necessity than a fertility clinic at the beginning? What about finding an attorney for good, sage legal counsel to review documentation? Will an agency help find an attorney or will an attorney find the agency? Any questions you may have during this time are valid and have probably been asked before. There really are no dumb questions when it comes to surrogacy. All this to say, there is no right answer for the question “where to start” because no two surrogacy journeys are the same. What works with one agency is not guaranteed to work with another. For this reason, I have two different answers for clients depending on what type of Intended Parent they are.
Let me break down what I mean when I say, “type of Intended Parent.” I categorize potential Intended Parents as one of two types: those who have embryos created and ready to go at their fertility clinic, and those who are starting from scratch without embryos. Nearly every client I speak with fits into one of these two categories. If you are an Intended Parent reading this, you have probably already identified which type you are.
Now let’s get into the answers I give Intended Parents, depending on which type they are. If you are an Intended Parent who has embryos created and waiting for transfer at your fertility clinic, I would have a discussion with you to determine how many embryos you have. This is because your embryo quantity will determine your Surrogate matching timeline. I recommend all Intended Parents have at least three genetically tested embryos (PGT normal). If you do not, it is not the end of the world. You can still move on to the next phase of the journey but be prepared that it could hinder your prospects for matching with a Surrogate. Oftentimes, Surrogates are only interested in pursuing journeys with Intended Parents who have at least three genetically tested embryos, because it increases the Surrogate’s ability to become pregnant and makes the embryo transfer phase easier on all parties. Whether you have genetically tested embryos or not, the fact that you have created embryos means you are ready to discuss retaining the services of a surrogacy agency to get started on your Surrogate search. While you may think the reason I recommend finding an agency before an attorney is because I am biased as an agency director, that could not be further from the truth. As a former Intended Parent myself, I know not only what you are currently going through, but also what you will go through in the future. Finding an agency is in your best interest. Waiting to be matched with a Surrogate is the part of the process that will take the longest amount of time. This is inevitable and getting the Surrogate search started immediately after embryo creation will keep your journey from coming to a standstill. Additionally, an agency like Golden will not only find you a Surrogate match but also provide you with the resources to find an independent attorney, in your budget, that is specialized in reproductive law. Think of a surrogacy agency like the captain of the ship. An agency will be able to keep your journey on the right course and is equipped with the necessary resources to steer you in the right direction.
At this point you might be assuming that the answer I give to the other type of Intended Parent is to go out, find a donor, and create three genetically tested embryos. This is not true and not the advice I would give Intended Parents who fit in this category. In fact, the answer I give these Intended Parents is the opposite of what you might expect. If you are an Intended Parent who is starting from scratch, you need to stop your journey. You read that right. While the other type of Intended Parent needs to be “full steam ahead,” this type of Intended Parent needs to drop their anchor in the harbor. This may seem counterintuitive but let me explain. If you are an Intended Parent starting from scratch, you need to spend time accessing your finances before moving forward with creating embryos, finding an agency, or obtaining an attorney. Take the time to review what your entire journey will cost then tack on an additional 20% as a buffer for any unexpected incidentals. It is important to understand that at every phase of the journey, you may have a financial setback or repeat costs.
If you want to hear more tips about creating a budget for a surrogacy journey, click here.
Once your finances are in order and you have a budget, it is time for you to create those three genetically tested embryos. Again, this is the gold standard and will not only increase your chances of matching with a Surrogate, but will also expedite your journey. If for some reason your egg donor does not have a large enough yield, the eggs do not all fertilize, the embryos do not all test normal, or the quality is not sufficient for your family building needs, you might have to repeat that entire process. That is what I mean when I say you might have a financial setback or repeat costs. In any of these situations, it would be terrible if you already paid the agency to begin a Surrogate search, then you have a setback on the embryo creation side. If you did not budget for unexpected incidentals, this unfortunate but very realistic scenario would cause you to have to reassess your finances. I would hate for you to have to pause or give up on your journey entirely because you did not know all possible scenarios. I cannot overstate the importance of tacking on an additional 20% to your budget. You’ll thank me later.
Now, if you do have all your finances sorted, a budget in place, and are prepared to weather any storm on your surrogacy journey, I recommend you hire the services of a reputable surrogacy agency, like Golden, to get you into the matching matrix (the queue for matching with a Surrogate). The goal here is that by the time your agency is ready to present your Surrogate match, you have your embryos created, tested, and placed in storage, ready to be transferred. As I mentioned prior, waiting to be matched with a Surrogate is the part of the process that will take the longest amount of time. Utilizing the resources of an agency at this point will ensure your journey stays on track and on budget.
That is what I recommend for Intended Parents to get started on their surrogacy journey. I hope this helped you get a better understanding of where to start and what to expect. Again, the surrogacy journey is a complex process with many different phases that all have the potential to slow down your journey and get you off course. It is valid to feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. With the right agency by your side, you can rest assured knowing you are on a journey with an experienced guide who will be able to steer you in the right direction, in spite of any storm.