What I Wish I Had Known the First Time I Was a Surrogate!
To look at the movies, you’d think that becoming a surrogate is an easy process. You decide you want to do it and – bam – an embryo magically implants and you are pregnant (and then in the movies you became psychotic - so let's not go that route here!). Simple, right? The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Becoming a gestational surrogate is a long and time consuming process. From when a woman decides to take the leap to be a surrogate to when she is actually confirmed pregnant can take 4-6 months – and that’s if things go fairly quickly and smoothly! Women who choose to give the ultimate gift of surrogacy are the biggest hearted people I know – they love being pregnant and they do it well– but there are some truths to the process that it’s important to know.
The Screening Process is Intense
The screening process takes far longer and is more involved than most people expect. All adults in your household need to submit to a background check. All medical records are reviewed. Then they are reviewed again. You and your spouse will submit to a psychological examination. And all of this is before you are even matched! From matching onward the screening ramps up and your medical records are reviewed yet another time as well as blood tests for both you and your spouse, ultrasounds (just for you – not your spouse this time!) and other medical tests as needed.
The Medical Regimen is Intense
The process of getting your body ready for embryo transfer can involve a lot of steps. The sheer number of medications alone is pretty daunting. Pills, patches, suppositories and injections. The medications need to be taken on a very strict schedule and often at the same time every day. And did we mention the injections yet? Most reproductive endocrinologists require you to self-inject medications daily as you prepare your body. On top of that, to make sure the medications are working properly and your body is ready there can be weekly blood draws and ultrasounds. And the medications, injections and testing don’t stop the moment you become pregnant. Much of it continues until around 12 weeks of pregnancy. It’s a *lot* of work!
You Don’t Have to be Young
If you are in good health it’s possible to be a surrogate until you are in your early 40’s! In fact, most women don’t act as a surrogate for the first time until they are in their early 30’s on average. What’s most important is that you are healthy and have had relatively complication free deliveries.
You Don’t Get Paid Up Front
There are images on the internet of pregnant women holding huge wads of cash. Ick! While you shouldn’t be out of pocket for expenses for long during the process until reimbursements come in, the big paycheck that agencies advertise don’t typically come all in one lump sum at the start. Most surrogacy agreements are structured so the payments are spread out evenly over the course of the pregnancy. Remember all that screening and medical regimen above that takes months to complete? Most of that occurs before embryo transfer and pregnancy. This is a long term job and the amount a surrogate makes in compensation can end up being far less than minimum wage for the hours she puts in!
Your Sex Life Will be Under Scrutiny
Yes. For real. Besides the obvious fact that you and your partner will be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, you will be asked to refrain from sex for a certain time period around the embryo transfer. Even if your partner has had a vasectomy or you’ve had your tubes tied, some reproductive endocrinologists ask their surrogates to refrain from having an orgasm for a certain time period surrounding transfer! Definitely make sure everyone is on board with this requirement.
Your Travel Will be Restricted
Different Surrogacy Agreements have different restrictions, but almost all will require you to agree to not leave the US for the duration of the pregnancy, to not travel to an area known to have Zika and to not leave your state at all after 24 weeks of pregnancy. It’s important to consider all major family vacation goals and events before you commit to a surrogacy journey.
It May Not Work the First Time
This is the hardest part about the entire thing. Sometimes it just plain doesn’t work, for a million unexplainable reasons. No matter how perfect the embryo was, how precisely you followed the medical protocol, or how healthy you are; sometimes a transfer just doesn’t work. The disappointment can be immense, but hopefully everyone is able and willing to pick up, dust off and try again in a few months when your body has recovered.
There is no Gift Like It
The precious gift you are giving makes every second of the hard parts worth it. To see the joy and light in your Intended Parents eyes as the move from being Intended to actual PARENTS is one of the most miraculous things you will ever witness. Share the love: become a surrogate!