As an past agency owner you might expect me to say "hire an Surrogacy Agency and have them help you choose a carrier for your situation" and you would be right. I believe that it would save you time, money (in the long run) and headache to hire a professional to assist you in finding a woman who has all the qualifications that are needed, no, REQUIRED in a surrogate. However, I am also realistic and I know many women who would rather find their own Intended Parents either on line, using newspapers or even assist a family member or friend. In this case, if you, the Intended Parent, are looking at all these other options I think its wise that you know who would make the best candidate for you as a Gestational carrier.
The very first thing I would suggest is that you contact your clinic/RE. Most, if not all, clinics require certain age, weight, health expectations etc and it's the best thing for you to have some idea of what they, the clinic, expect. You may find this hard to believe but there are SOME clinics that WILL NOT use surrogates at all. They limit their practice and its best to know what your RE would do if you did bring a surrogate into your particular situation. (as a side note, there are some OB's who will not work with a pregnant surrogate so its best to find that out as well)
So, other then the medical list that the clinic gives you, what else should be considered when choosing a surrogate? Below is a guideline.
A potential Surrogate should:
......have her own health insurance and NOT on Medicaid or any government assistance for that matter. If she doesn't have her own health insurance then the IP's should provide a policy for her
......have her own transportation. She should not rely on IP's or Family members for rides to and from her many appointments
......have her own child/children. She should have had relatively uncomplicated pregnancies and she should be parenting her own children
......NOT have any past legal issues such as restraining orders against others, or one on herself, criminal history, DUI's etc. Most agencies will perform a background check and I recommend them for anyone entering into a contract with the intentions of trusting this woman with your unborn baby
......NOT have a history of drug and alcohol abuse. She should not smoke or take drugs of any kind unless prescribed by her doctor
...... be located in a 'surrogate friendly state' or at least be comfortable traveling to a state that is surrogate friendly for the birth. (that may mean 4 to 6 weeks before the baby is due)
...... Not be relying on surrogacy reimbursements to live on (i.e.: pay her general living expenses)
......have an OB who is willing and able to support her surrogacy pregnancy and is comfortable communicating with the Intended Parents and will assist them in making decisions for their baby.
......have the support of her family. Her husband/significant other and children should all be aware of what she is doing and be willing to assist her in anyway they can during the pregnancy
......have the same thoughts and desires as her Intended Parents regarding selective reduction, abortion and contact after the birth etc. It is SO IMPORTANT that everyone be on the same page regarding all sensitive issues.
Eating while Pregnant....such a natural activity, a necessity even. You are expected to eat whether you are carrying one or two....or more babies. So this article hasn't much to do with surrogacy BUT as a surrogate you may have the uncommon pressure of *people* asking you "what are you eating?" There is an entire grocery store of food now on the no no list for pregnant mothers! I have no clue how WE, the baby boomers, the X generation, or the Y generation even made it through the entire 9 months in-utero high on mercury from our mothers over-dosing on canned tuna! What will the iGen's do? Buy pre-formulated maternity diet packets from Amazon.com?
Read below the things that should be avoided now.
Raw meat such as sushi, seafood, rare or uncooked beef, or poultry because of the risk of contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella.
Raw eggs, or foods containing raw egg such as Caesar dressing, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream or custard, unpasteurized eggnog, or Hollandaise sauce because raw eggs may be contaminated with salmonella.
Soft cheese such as blue cheese, feta, Brie, Camambert, and Latin-American soft white cheeses such as queso blanco and queso fresco because they may harbor harmful bacteria.
Fish containing accumulated levels of mercury in their fatty tissues such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish.
When a pregnant woman consumes large amounts of mercury, her baby may suffer brain damage resulting in developmental delays (for example, delays in learning to walk or talk).
Fish containing high levels of an industrial pollutant called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in their fatty tissues such as bluefish and striped bass, and freshwater fish such as salmon, pike, trout, walleye from contaminated lakes and rivers. According to the March of Dimes, consumption of large amounts of PCBs by pregnant women is linked to decreased attention, memory, and IQ in their babies. Check with your local Health Department to determine which fish in your area are safe to eat.
And this list keeps growing.... deli meat, liver, (well...I can live with out this one!) and artificial sweeteners...where will it end? After reading this new and updated list, posted out there on the Internet by the March of Dimes and the FDA, the only thing left for pregnant women to eat seems to be FORMULA! Yuck. And this is what your IP's are reading folks...it doesn't matter that you ate subs from the local deli when you were pregnant with YOUR kids but when you are carrying for someone else THEY want you to eat like they think THEY would eat. No Egg Nog for you over the holidays (unless you cook it), no Caesar salads at the Red Lobster...oh and while at the Red Lobster no Bass or Swordfish and stay away from that shrimp! No colas and no Equal in your ice tea. Wait...doesn't ice tea have caffeine? NO CAFFEINE! Seriously, there are plenty of healthy choices and eating right is the best interest of everyone involved. But if your IP's are questioning your diet or if YOU have questions its best to have a talk with your OB and see what the current guidelines are. Because, trust me, they change!
I hate to say it but I feel pretty well qualified to bore you to death on the subject of carrying twins. Having carried 2 sets of twins and giving birth to them consecutively in 2000 and 2005, I never thought that I would be sitting here today reliving each and every painful memory of the 34 1/2 weeks and 37 weeks of pregnancy. (how many years is that?)
How did this HAPPEN??? Two sets of TWINS! Well...that's IVF for you. Transfer over 1 embryo and you have a chance of twins...which is not to say you can't have identical twins from one embryo but lets not get into semantics! I agreed to 3 embryos. Yes THREE. EACH TIME...you would have thought that I would have learned my lesson after my first successful transfer, which, by the way, started out as a triplet pregnancy. That first Ultra Sound just blew everyone out of the water. It left me with my head spinning. After the shock the only choice was to move forward and pray that we all "came out" ok.
Now is the time I give you a little back ground on my reproductive life. (Feel free to speed read.) I have two children of my own. A son born in 1986 and a daughter born in 1996. Same marriage, same father. Yada yada yada. (I was diagnosed with secondary infertility due to hormone imbalance but we conceived naturally). I had "natural child birth" with both of my babies. YouTube - Bill Cosby - Natural Child Birth Pt. 1 and YouTube - Bill Cosby - Natural Child Birth Pt. 2 should explain how that works. Never did I think that I would EVER go under the knife....for myself, my kids or anybody else, for that matter.
So here I am pregnant with TWINS for the first time and thinking I am going to have natural child birth...why would I think anything different? Because I was stupid! That's why!! Ok...maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part because I was healthy and I knew no different. At about 32 weeks I had a horrible gallbladder attack. I was sure it was a heart attack. I was rushed to the hospital where the emergency room was convinced that I was in early labor. A night of IV's and I was sent home to a lovely home made breakfast prepared by my main man...fried eggs, fried blueberry bread and bacon, whole chocolate milk...yummm (Everything a gallbladder, I mean pregnant woman, could love) That afternoon I was back in the emergency room with a new doc on the floor who looked at me and asked if I had a Bilirubin test MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Bilirubin and sure enough, when the results came back the consensus was that I had a gallbladder issue...later the ultra sound confirmed it.
To make a long story short, I was on the next plane from Rochester, NY to Tampa, FL. Although the symptoms were under control I stayed close to the hospital until one night...after a Surrogate get together at my condo (Thank you again IP's!) I started to see black spots...a little dizzy and uncomfortable but I was only 34 weeks...and my husband was due to be in town at 36 weeks...our goal. My IM came with her stethoscope and low and behold my blood pressure was so high she wouldn't let me even start dinner....I was whisked away to the hospital and before I knew what was happening the OBGYN, Dr. Joy, had my tests back and said "we are getting the hell out of Dodge". Why? I'm in the hospital...I will rest...I will be good...but it was too late...my kidneys were shutting down and worse things were to come the longer we waited. I had no one there...I was alone facing my first ever surgery. My IF was trying everything he could to get my husband even in the state but we needed to get those babies out of me. I felt out of control and vulnerable. But there was nothing else that could be done. I had an emergency C-Section on March 14th at 7 PM which resulted in 2 baby girls weighing 5 lbs 1 oz and 4 lbs 12 oz. (I hope my memory is right on the time...it was a little foggy for me...)
These girls are now almost 8 years old! Healthy and full of life. Was it worth it....YES...because THEY ARE healthy and full of life....and continuing to give their parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends the benefit of their love, their smiles, their laughter. And that was the whole reason for being a surrogate in the first place!
**By the way, I had my gallbladder removed a couple of months later which resulted in a 7 day hospital stay.
How many times have I heard "you are playing God!" ? Since 1998, too many times to count. The very first time, when the bloom was still on the rose, was in my IP's own home. They had a nanny/housekeeper and she was a much older woman. I was staying there during my first transfer and in conversation she stated that I was playing God. I invited her to elaborate and she sure didn't mince words! Basically if God wanted my IP's to have more children they would get pregnant on their own. If that wasn't a possibility then they should adopt. *I* was preventing them from looking at adoption as an option by offering my body to carry their child. Some child out there would be homeless because of me! Well I was stunned. And it did make me think...but it DID NOT make me change my mind.
So here are my views on the GOD issue. Surrogates are not playing God. Egg Donors are not preventing adoptions from taking place. Reproductive Endocrinologists and Embryologists are NOT pretending to be God (although some may act God-like) We are all using the gifts that God gave us. We are using our brains and our bodies to make and give life. And if you are really REALLY religious then are we not making another follower of God? A Catholic? Baptist? Jew? Methodist? add your religion here_______! And What about all the other medical marvels happening in the world? Heart transplants? Kidney donations? Bone marrow donations? How about blood transfusions? Are these not prolonging life, enhancing life? And doesn't a new human being, a very much wanted baby make a life complete for those parents who desire to enhance THEIR own existence?
One last thought...would any God really allow anyone to take the credit for our own creation? I think not!
Ok ok...so maybe "Surrogate Dad" isn't the right title for the role of the man in the life of a woman who wants to be, (is, or was) a surrogate. BUT he plays an important, if not understated, role in the entire journey. From the start he must get his mind wrapped around the fact that HIS woman wants to carry another man's child. The same woman who may have stated "That's IT! We are NOT having any MORE KIDS!!" (this often happens when 2 kids under the age of 4 are hanging on her legs screaming for a snack and the one in her arms is spitting up formula) Once he understands that her statement perhaps meant that she doesn't want to raise any more kids but carrying one for 9 months is fine, then he may relax a little...until he finds out that HE needs to be psychologically tested...and tested for STD's (how long IS that cotton swap for a Chlamydia test?) AND sign a contract agreeing to all sorts of things that he wouldn't normally think about..(allowing IP's to put HIS partner on life support if necessary?) He may not realize that all though he agreed to support his wife/significant other in her quest to be a surrogate that HE may have to step in when the IP's call when she isn't feeling well, that HE will have to take care of their kids when she is on bed rest or at appointments, that HE will have to give multitude of shots loaded with hormones that turn HER into a Witch (whom he has to actually live with!), that HE will have to miss work when she is in the hospital, that HE will have to hold her when she is sick, tired, scared, crying, that he can't have any sexual intercourse (for HOW long??)...all because of this surrogacy that SHE wanted to do! Ahhh the unsung heroes!
Intended parents out there....Intended DAD's especially, should step up NOW and thank the God above for these men who are the main support of your wonderful surrogate mother. Without them, these surrogate mom's may end up on YOUR door step at 2 am for ice cream and pickles and a foot rub....or just to complain!
PS: I know and appreciate all of the significant others that single surrogate mothers rely on: Partners, mothers, fathers, girl friends, guy friends...all are so important to surround yourself with...but because I am married...I wanted to send a shout out to husbands and the men who actually LIVE with a surrogate and put up with all the BS...especially mine...Joe, You Are The Best!
The surrogacy world is pretty small...at least it was in 1998 when I first entered with no clue. A Virgin Surrogate. ( Sorry, I just couldn't help myself!) Because I had volunteered to be a surrogate for friends (and by volunteering I do NOT mean there was no contract or no money involved because there was) I didn't even know that there were places online that existed or how anyone would go about being a surrogate other then doing it for family or friends. I just trusted that if it was meant to be for my situation it would happen. As it turned out, my IM knew a RE in Tampa. Apparently he had been featured on CNN and they went to school together. By the time the 1st transfer took place I had discovered SMO Surrogate Mothers Online, surrogacy and had a bunch of like minded women who were willing to support me through every step I was willing to share with them. A group of women sent me flowers and candy while I was on bed rest after the embryo transfer. I was elated to have this kind of bond! Unfortunately that transfer failed and I waited months for my IM to be able to take the hormones again and be strong enough to attempt another egg retrieval. (Which lead to triplets, but that is another story).
Through all of this I met and made life long friends! Teresa a TS in VA (we "met" when she lived in Alaska!), Kat a GS in CT, Carolyn in FL who was pregnant with TRIPLETS when we started chatting! Laura in CA who never did reach her dream of surrogacy but stuck by the rest of us anyway and Laura in FL that always was offering her support all the while looking for her own Intended Parents! (Her dream finally came through when she was 46!) Donna, GS in TX and Janine a GS in FL both still great friends. Through SMO my IP's found their attorney in FL and through that office I met my business partner, Sita, a GS for 2 couples and Helen who has been a GS 3 times (at least!) Stacie also a GSx2...women who understand more then anyone what its been like to give birth for others. I have a LONG list of wonderful people I have met through Surrogacy Consultants of Florida that remain close to me.(Forgive me for not listing everyone!) Both Surrogates and Intended Parents.... and then there are the professionals who have become more then a resource but a SOURCE of comfort and humor and friendship. Thank YOU! Thank you! Thank YOU! This isn't the path I envisioned I would be on when I had my own children but I am ever grateful for the curve (s) in the road that lead me to where I am today.
I have personally worked with wonderful, delightful, positive thinking and long suffering Intended Parents. People who, before attempting to even explore the world of surrogacy and egg donation, suffered. Suffered miscarriages, stillbirths, emotional pain and infertility issues too numerous to list. Perhaps they were just born without the ability to carry a baby at all. But no matter what brought these couples and individuals to my agency, we were committed to assist and guide them through the process (whatever that might be).
My business partner, surrogacy liaisons and I where there when, yet again, these IP's suffered failed transfers, miscarriages, still births and emotional pain. The only difference was that we were there for them....and so were their surrogates ( and THEIR families) suffering as much if not more. Most Surrogates never had any infertility issues....no miscarriage or stillbirths. Never a wonder if she will carry her baby to term let alone get pregnant. And so we banded together as a team, it seemed, we were all able to give strength to each other...the carriers seemed more determined and the IP's more confident that this time, OUR team, would eventually prove successful. No matter what...through it all.
I have had the pleasure of working with many couples and singles who were in the process of using a surrogate to complete their family. However nice, fair and even tempered most were there were always the few who actually "used" the surrogate! The expectation that the intended parents had of a woman who agreed to carry a child/children for them was that as long as she was being "paid" by them, she owed them...she owed them her privileged medical information, an accounting of her where-about's, what went on in her bedroom, what she ate, drank and how much she weighed. It didn't matter that a surrogate wasn't paid anything while she (and her family) jumped through the medical testing hoops, the legal expectations or the waiting games (waiting for the egg donor, waiting for a cycle to begin or end, waiting for a vacation to be over.....) A surrogate may get a few dollars when she started her medications and/or for an embryo transfer but until she was actually carrying a child she really wasn't getting "paid" anything. And yet the demands can continue for months and sometimes over a year. Isn't it time that intended parents acknowledged that someone putting their life on hold for others deserves better? Deserves to be treated with respect? Deserves to be put first in matters that directly affect her, the surrogate? I think so...