Alternate Family Arrangements

Interview with a Surrogate

I’ve never been pregnant my own self, but dammit I want to tell baby stories and I’m not too good to steal other people’s. I’m starting with my perfectly fertile friend Stacie, who agreed to share the story of her surrogate pregnancy.

Turns out I’m really shitty at interviews and not everything recorded, so this’ll be partly direct quotes and partly a reenactment of our long, meandering conversation. Anything that sounds less than brilliant is my fault.

First, why surrogacy?

 I decided to do it because I was a sahm and I didn’t want to go to work full time. I had really easy pregnancies, I didn’t get morning sickness, I didn’t get any of the miserable things people have . . . my first baby was born in 5 hours and my second baby was born in an hour, so my body apparently likes to give birth. I may not always enjoy it but I’m good at it. 😉

How did you get into it?

 I started googling surrogacy in Utah. It’s kind of hard finding agencies that will work with people in Utah because only in the last six years or so did they change the laws so people could actually be surrogates. Before that you couldn’t do it here. You couldn’t get paid and there was no way to have it work in the legal system so that the baby belonged to the intended parents and not the surrogate. So they changed that in  . . . 2008? And now Utah is actually a great market because there are a lot of sahms who want extra income.

Stacie went through an agency but didn’t want to name it because of some issues she had. In general, though, she highly recommended finding either a reputable agency or a good lawyer with experience in surrogacy law. The contract is everything, and the laws are continually evolving.

The agency connected Stacie with a couple of prospective parents:

 I met this couple from Tennessee and we were a great match . . . you hear a lot of horror stories of surrogates that get matched up with couples and for whatever reason it just fails miserably. There are a lot of issues that can come into play, like jealousy. Mothers that couldn’t get pregnant could be jealous of the surrogate.

They have usually someone who’s  . . . a one-on-one mediator for the surrogate and intended parents. We ran into trouble [with the facilitator], but we had a good relationship outside of that, so it actually turned out for the better. Agencies know there can be problems and do a lot to smooth things out.
It’s a business transaction but also a very personal relationship. You have to have a lot of trust.

And they had a baby together. Stacie was a gestational surrogate, so the embryo was all their genetic material–their bun, her oven. There was a scare early on, but aside from that the pregnancy went smoothly. The intended parents had lost a surrogate baby before, so they were nervous but optimistic. According to Stacie:

I didn’t go into actual labor with this baby on my own. I was about 39 weeks and they were here at the doctor’s office and . . . my body was ready so the doctor offered [to induce] and a few hours later the baby was out.

How did her husband feel about the surrogacy?

When I first brought the idea to him he was incredibly skeptical of what would be involved and whether we’d have a good relationship with intended parents because even he understood it’s not just business. There’s a lot of emotions involved so he wanted to be sure we had a good rapport with them . . . he was less concerned about having a bond or anything, but we all became pretty good friends. He definitely enjoyed the experience and we all enjoyed the money.

Stacie’s kids didn’t seem too concerned about the surrogacy, she said. “Mommy’s having this couple’s baby for them” seemed a perfectly sensible situation to them. A whole lot of surrogates have kids at home–it’s not a legal requirement, but it’s recommended that potential surrogates have had a successful pregnancy and have a child that they’ve kept. Surrogacy is not just about medical issues, but emotional issues as well, and some surrogates struggle with surprisingly strong feelings of attachment as the pregnancy progresses. Each situation is different, and things go more smoothly if everyone involved has a good idea what they want out of the surrogacy. As Stacie discussed:

Everything turned out the best for all of us, and it doesn’t always happen that way for other people.

Every surrogate has something different they want to get out of the experience. Having a lifetime relationship was not a priority for me–I’m very easily able to make the separation between me and the baby. It always felt like “their baby.” For some surrogates it’s a very emotional experience and they want to be a part of the baby’s life–they want updates, they want to know what’s going on. I know some people who wanted that kind of relationship and agreed on that and when the baby comes the family will go off and do their bonding . . . and the surrogate will just kind of get dropped. It’s really damaging for the surrogates when that happens.
As long as everyone’s communicating what they need and want and how they’re feeling and they’re working through that, it’s okay. But when one side is just done, saying “I don’t care about your feelings . . .”

As with every aspect of surrogacy, this issues can and should be included in the contract. It’s all about the contract, and everything from what tests and interventions will be allowed to compensation in case of injury to how much contact the parties will have after the birth should be spelled out in the contract. As Stacie put it, it’s important to have a good relationship between the surrogate and the intended parents, but the contract is part of that. This is a business arrangement, and pregnancy carries risks. A good contract protects everyone involved.

But even with a contract, surrogacy exists in a bit of a legal gray area. Laws vary widely from state to state and country to country, and sometimes the law just doesn’t know what to do. The IRS, for example, has no firm policy on whether and how to tax surrogacy income.

Surrogacy circles are developing cultural norms and standards to smooth the way and deal with common issues like divorce during surrogacy and insurance issues, as well as deciding who should become a surrogate and how.

For Stacie, once was enough. It was a good experience overall and at first she planned to carry another baby for the same couple, but the more she thought the more she realized it was time to move on. As she put it, not all her reasons were the healthiest: when she got into surrogacy she wasn’t confident she was qualified for much else. Some women essentially choose surrogacy as a career, carrying babies as long as their bodies can healthily do it, but Stacie felt it was time to challenge herself with something else.

As always, the most important thing is knowing who you are and knowing what you want.

Featured Image via user Bartosz Kossakowski

Jo S

Jo S. is more scared of you than you are of her. She's a stay-at-home mom in the heart of Utah, where three kids is considered a small family. She cooks, crochets, blogs, and runs a small but dedicated skeptical book club.

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