For some couples, the journey to growing a family may be a somewhat non-traditional one. Conception may not happen within the partnership itself. Instead, infertility, chronic health problems, adoption issues or being in a same-sex relationship may lead partners to choose surrogacy to assist in the family-building process.
Surrogacy involves sharing a pregnancy with a carrier — the woman who carries the child to delivery. It can be a good option for individuals and couples who want involvement with the pregnancy and prenatal care, the genetic makeup and the birth of the child. Such was the case for James Houghton and Casey Davis, who had been partners for nearly 12 years when they decided it was time to consider parenthood.
Adoption wasn’t a good option for the couple, so they turned to surrogacy. As with many couples who go this route, James and Casey wanted to be involved in the entire journey to parenthood. Here, they add their insights to some tips on how to go about the surrogacy process and finding the right carrier.
1. Consider the Emotional Considerations
Before deciding to use a surrogate, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, suggests you (and your partner) consider the following questions:
- How do you feel about someone else carrying your child?
- Are both partners ready to commit to surrogacy?
- How will you explain the pregnancy and birth to others and eventually to your child?
It may make sense for you and the potential carrier to speak to a mental health professional who specializes in reproductive psychology or infertility about these and other concerns. A mental health screening can help ensure that all parties have considered all matters. Reputable surrogacy agencies will conduct in-person mental health screenings, along with full background and medical checks, of individuals before offering them as potential surrogates.
“In our case, we wanted to be in constant contact with our surrogate and go to every doctor’s appointment with her,” said Casey. “That being said, we knew we had to find a surrogate who was willing to have a positive ongoing relationship with us, someone who would let us into her life and let us be with her every step of the way. During the interview, you have to feel comfortable asking probing and rather emotional questions. You’ll know when you have found the right carrier whose values and motives are similar to yours.”
2. Do Your Research
It’s critical to work with an agency that will manage all the details and look out for your best interests. You have plenty to think about throughout the process so choose a reliable agency and ask them plenty of questions about what can be expected, the financial obligations and risks, and more. Referrals from friends, family members and healthcare providers can be a real bonus here. The more informed you are, the more comfortable you will be with your decision. The RESOLVE website offers a Professional Services Directory, fact sheets, a list of questions to ask and other resources to use as guides in the surrogacy process.
“Make sure you feel 100 percent comfortable with all the people working at the agency that you choose,” James suggested. “You will have to be in constant contact with that agency and share very personal information with them. From choosing a surrogate to choosing your egg donor to finally hearing that first heart beat, these people will be your extended family. You should get the feeling that they want you to have a child just as much as you want it for yourself.”
3. Be Patient, Be Flexible
Many aspects of the surrogacy process can be arduous and unpredictable, as James and Casey know all too well. One of their favorite sayings was: “hurry up and wait.” Transfers fail, surrogates require bed rest, babies come early. The entire surrogacy process can take up to 20 months, so understanding what you can control and what you can’t will help reduce stress and make the journey better for all involved. The agency you work with should be flexible enough as well to allow you and your surrogate the latitude to forge a relationship that satisfies you both.
4. Look beyond Genetics
The preparation and love that goes into creating a family through surrogacy is a unique experience and one that can come with some concerns. Perhaps the largest hurdle you will have to navigate is choosing if and when you’ll share your child’s unique creation story with them. This choice is very personal. Once the child is in your arms and under your care, genetic code doesn’t much matter. You will bond with the child through the normal course of parenthood. So relax and enjoy the lifelong journey.