Ten Important Surrogacy Things for Gay Couples

by Judith E. Beckett, R.N.

  1. Research, research, research!
  2. If you are reading this article and have decided that surrogacy is the way you want to go to start or grow your family, you have probably already done at least some research on the topic. Reproductive technology is very new and the political and cultural climate is changing faster than you can research and read, however. Garner all the information you can before you take the first step toward parenthood through surrogacy. Surf the web for ads, bloggers, message boards, websites and organizations. Send for catalogues and brochures from the various agencies, have a few chats online if that’s your thing, check out some bookstores or libraries, and talk to friends and acquaintances that’ve been there and done that. Then start reading and learning.

  3. Surrogacy arrangements can be made privately or through an agency.
  4. Privacy or your financial circumstances could be the deciding factor here. If you are reluctant to come out as gay,lesbian, bi or transgender disbursements,to an agency or unable or unwilling to pay for the added agency fees, you may choose to find a surrogate on your own. Many couples and surrogates have made successful surrogacy arrangements without the assistance of an agency. Placing a classified ad on the internet and surfing surrogate message boards are two ways to locate an individual interested in entering into an arrangement with you. Sometimes the surrogate is a friend or relative.

  5. Laws regarding surrogacy vary from state to state and in some states there are no surrogacy laws at all.
  6. Briefly, so far, it seems like six states are Surro-Friendly allowing both individuals and couples to enter into surrogacy contracts. In eleven states and the District of Columbia, it is either completely illegal or there are limitations such as prohibiting surrogacy agreements between surrogates and unmarried couples. The laws in the remaining 33 states are either unclear or mixed. Information on the net is not consistent from site to site so it is best to contact specific state legislatures directly. Find out what the law is in your state, in the state where your surrogate lives, and in the state where your child will be born. Be aware that laws are changing quickly.

  7. You need a lawyer.
  8. Any arrangement, whether independently arranged or through an agency, should involve legal, medical and psychological professionals. Surrogate relationships and arrangements have not yet been tested or regulated by law in most places and legal issues can arise that have no precedent. Laws that exist vary from state to state, so your attorney will need to be familiar with surrogacy and family law in all the states involved. If you’re making arrangements independently, your lawyer will also be drawing up the contract between you and the surrogate.

    Handing Over BabyEmotional and psychological issues can easily become legal issues. A psychologist or counselor with experience in surrogacy arrangements should meet to assess all members of the agreement (including the husband of the surrogate if she has one) before a contract is signed. Assessments must be available to all parties. Consider making arrangements for ongoing counseling for all three of you throughout the pregnancy. The surrogate may request to continue counseling for several months after your infant is born as well. You will need to pay for all of that.

    Extensive lab testing for you, your partner (if you have one), and the surrogate and her husband to rule out diseases prior to insemination will be just the first of your many encounters with medical professionals. The surrogate needs to be examined by a physician so the physician can verify that the surrogate can conceive and carry the infant to term. That brings up the subject of medical insurance. Can you spell AFLAC? Insurance is something else to discuss with your lawyer.

  9. Surrogacy is Expensive.
  10. There are two types of surrogacy. Traditional surrogacy is accomplished through Artificial Insemination (AI). The sperm of the Intended Father (IF) is placed into the vagina or into the uterus of the surrogate mother (SM) to fertilize the surrogate’s egg. Most gay male couples will be seeking a match with a traditional surrogate since an egg and a uterus are needed while sperm is not a problem. It’s important to know that if your sperm (or your partner’s) will be fertilizing the surrogate’s own eggs, the child conceived and your surrogate will be genetically related.

    Gay men, if they have a known egg donor (such as a family member or an anonymous donor), and lesbians who are able to produce viable eggs but unable or unwilling to carry a child to term themselves will be looking for a gestational surrogate. Gestational surrogacy is accomplished through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Embryo Transfer. Eggs retrieved from the Intended Mother (IM) or chosen egg donor are fertilized with the sperm from the Intended Father or the chosen sperm donor. After several days of incubation, when the fertilized eggs have developed into embryos, they are transferred into the uterus of the surrogate for gestation.

    On average, having a child through traditional surrogacy costs about $50,000. Gestational surrogacy costs about $70,000 but could cost more than $100,000. Costs associated with surrogacy are complex. Ask agencies for detailed written estimates. Comparison shop between agencies looking at both fees and success rates, the “dollar-for-baby” ratio. All costs, fees and compensation agreed upon should be outlined in your contract but understand that there is potential for unexpected costs to arise. Examples include the need for additional procedures such as amniocentesis or the termination of an abnormal pregnancy, medical complications for the surrogate or the baby, multiple pregnancy, or compensation for lost wages of the surrogate or her husband.

    When writing a classified ad, mention a range of fees and iron out the specifics later. If an agency is not involved, one of the attorneys or another third party should be placed in charge of an escrow account containing the surrogate’s fees and estimated costs to be dispensed as they are due or arise. An agency will ask you to pay all fees up front and they will make disbursements for you. If you have decided to go it alone, of course you will need to make all these arrangements yourself. And this is just the beginning.

  11. Don’t rush in.
  12. In choosing an agency, be an informed consumer. Intended parents need to obtain detailed information regarding any agency they consider hiring. First of all, does the agency serve gay and lesbian clients? Then, how long have they been in business, how many clients have they served and how many babies have been delivered? What is their pregnancy success rate? How large is their staff and what are their qualifications? Are surrogates physically and psychologically screened before acceptance by the agency? Has the agency ever been sued by a client or a surrogate? What kind of insurance do they provide?

    Of course, all surrogates are not the same either. Many are experienced while some have never been a surrogate before. (Experienced surrogates are more expensive than inexperienced.) Most are married and all should have at least one child substantiating their ability to bring an infant to term and give birth to it. A surrogate might work full-time, part-time, or be a stay-at-home Mom. She might be an Evangelical Christian who would never dream of being a surrogate for a gay, lesbian, or trans person. Surrogates become surrogates for a variety of reasons. Why has this candidate chosen to be a surrogate mother? Prepare a Surrogate Questionaire or Profile for your surrogate candidate to fill out. Examples are available online but try to identify and then include issues that are important to you and your partner. Choosing a surrogate for your child might not be the single most important decision you will ever make but it’s right up there. Put aside all romantic dreams and fantasies, set high standards, and be patient. Wait for the perfect match for you!

  13. Be cautious!
  14. It’s hard to know who you can trust these days. Check references. Look for red flags. If it seems too good to be true, it is. Pay attention to any feelings of discomfort or uneasiness that arise in your interactions with the surrogate and be open about them. Ask all questions and expect forthright answers. If problems arise early in the process, move on. Learn from it and chalk it up to experience. Once you are pregnant, your contract is your bulwark.

  15. Communicate.
  16. Surrogacy arrangements are intense and can be stressful. Get to know your surrogate slowly through e-mail, letters, pictures, telephone conversations and, finally, a face-to-face interview. Make sure that you are in agreement concerning the major issues. Topics such as abortion, selective reduction, fees and expenses, and the amount of contact the surrogate will have with your child (if any) are all highly emotional and they must be explored before any decision is made. Listen closely and be as clear as you can be. Be honest about what you want from the relationship.

    Misunderstandings can grow into disaster. Designate a third-party to be a mediator in case you hit a snag later on.

    Communicating openly with your partner is equally important. In fact, it’s good practice for resolving issues and making decisions as you parent your child together. If you can’t put it into words, consider writing a letter to him or her. If there are serious communication problems, consider couple’s counseling now.

  17. Take care of yourself!
  18. How do you spell surrogacy? S-T-R-E-S-S!!! You will be faced with all the anxiety that usually accompanies pregnancy and childbirth, but also the additional worries of possible legal complications, unplanned for expenses, and the possibility that the surrogate might have trouble letting your baby go. Yoga, tennis. stamp collecting, meditating, running or bouncing a ball around the court – if that’s the way you relax, do a lot of it. Do it intentionally. Know yourself. How do you respond to stress? What are your healthy ways of coping? What are your unhealthy ways? What about your partner? How can you help each other to unwind? Consider finding a surro-buddy (single or couple) online or in your community, someone else going through the surrogacy experience right now for mutual support.

  19. You are a pioneer!
  20. Don’t expect everyone to be as excited as you are about you and your partner having a child with a surrogate. Decide ahead of time who you will tell and how much you will tell them. Friends and co-workers, even family members, may not be as supportive as you might wish. Be prepared to hear unkind, impolite and even homophobic comments from people you care about. Don’t internalize them because it’s not about you. Once you have a child, you no longer come first: your child does. The child you will have will be a pioneer in his world as well. What will you tell him about his origins? How can you help him to meet the unique challenges with which he will be presented? What must you do to create the loving and supportive environment he will need to grow up happy and healthy?

    Since it is estimated that in the United States surrogates have carried nearly 10,000 babies to term for their parents since 1976, it’s clear that others have explored the joys and challenges of this new territory before you set out. It is an amazing, extraordinary, fabulous and loving trail that you are blazing.

So lay the groundwork, make provisions, and gear up your courage. You and your perfect match will soon meet. May you get pregnant easily, deliver safely, and settle in happily with your new little one.

Information published on The Rainbow Babies website is not a substitute for proper medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or care. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Disclaimer: The Rainbow Babies provides sample contracts and legal/social health articles for informational purposes only—please do not consider it as legally-binding advice of any kind.