Written by: Barrie Drewitt-Barlow of The British Surrogacy Centre LLC
It’s no wonder the bags under my eyes are getting worse! After years advocating same-sex parenting and experiencing three surrogacy’s that gave us our five children!
I miss partying and spontaneous trips but as Tony, my partner of 24 years, likes to remind me “It’s worth it! It’s great to have a biological family of our own and we’re getting older!”
Parenthood via surrogacy was pushed upon us. We tried the adoption & fostering route but in the mid 1990`s, the gay-friendly revolution was only beginning and our local social services were unwilling to work with same sex couples. We fought for same sex couples to be given the rights of heterosexual couples but it got us nowhere. Our critics shouted that we should not be applauded for recommending surrogacy as an option to same sex parenting when there were so many children in care; however that option was just not there for us.
It was during a trip to LA in 1996 that we met Gail Taylor and Will Halm. They created the world’s first, gay only surrogacy agency, Growing Generations. We signed up immediately! By December 1999 Aspen & Saffron, our first twins were born.
Due to our experiences, we decided to open a centre promoting same sex parenting, and offering project management of surrogacy cases globally for clients of every sexual orientation. The British Surrogacy Centre and our “Ten steps to Parenthood via surrogacy” were born!
With surrogacy, there are no host/donor infertility issues. You use the egg of one woman and the uterus of another who has had no infertility issues before. Most likely, she has had several successful pregnancies prior to being your surrogate. If you use the right clinic and method, the chances are that your surrogate is going to get pregnant. In my view, gestational surrogacy is the best method for many couples fighting infertility and the only method for a same sex couple. There are 10 steps to parenthood via surrogacy:
Is surrogacy is for us? If yes, you need to determine if you are going to do the facilitation yourself, or use an agency/ project manager. This decision will largely depend on your own organisational skills and your location.
Surrogacy and commercial surrogacy are illegal in many countries, it may also be illegal to advertise for a surrogate.
Many couples use help for their first surrogacy. Let’s assume, we have decided to use an agency:
There are agencies globally that can help you. Some are better than others with higher success rates. When looking at reviews online remember that they can’t please all of the people all of the time. Some agencies have been around for many successful years with minor setbacks, but you can only judge them on how they treat you.
You’ll need to arrange an introductory consultation. They will discuss all of your options, give advice on all aspects of surrogacy and allow you to ask questions. If you choose an international agency, you may well have to travel to them. However, agencies may work online with you and some even tour regions! Ask them the following questions
How long have you been in business?
How many couples are you currently working with?
How many couples have you helped previously?
Which clinics do you work with?
What’s the waiting time for finding a surrogate/egg donor?
What’s the cost?
How are your surrogates/ egg donors vetted?
Is there a money back option if the surrogate does not get pregnant?
Will you give discounts after the first failed transfer and thereafter?
What on-going support do you give, i.e. birth certificates/ passport?
After the initial meeting, the contracts and retainer need to be discussed. When you have your agency, you will sign a retainer agreement. The agency will begin working with you to find the perfect surrogate and /or egg donor. No agency has surrogates/egg donors on a waiting list and if you are told they do, they are unlikely to be the right agency. Be prepared to wait for a good surrogate; don’t rush into the first offer because you want to get the process underway!
Testing and registering with the clinician. Registering can be either in person or occasionally, by telephone. However, all medical testing will need to be performed to FDA, HFEA or locally equivalent guidelines. The clinic might also have their requirements to add to this. At minimum, HIV and STD testing will be conducted on all parties. Most will require you to undergo counselling. You may also have sperm tested and frozen at this time to cut down waiting times.
Your facilitator will use your Sperm’s quarantine period to match you and your surrogate/egg donor. You have to be forthright with your facilitator; let them know the type of relationship you are looking for with the surrogate, an involved approach or a more distant one talking with the surrogate only after Drs Appointments etc.
To find your perfect match, you will complete a detailed profile on you and your partner with photos. This profile can be matched with possible egg donors and surrogates and shared with the matches. Names can be left out but this depends on the type of relationship you wish to have with your surrogate and/or egg donor.
Meeting surrogates/egg donors is a personal choice. Once the facilitator has egg donor profiles for you and recommended a couple of surrogates, you may wish to meet them. Or, you may wish to use an anonymous egg donor. The facilitator will enable this by assigning the egg donor a number, and referring to you only by the first letters of your forenames. Although they will select possible matches for you, the decision on the egg donor is ultimately yours. They should decide on a matching surrogate.
Once you have your final matches, you need to think about their contracts. In some countries these may not be legally enforceable.. In the UK, the courts would not take the contract into account if you needed to uphold any part of it. In contrast, in California, a surrogacy contract is enforceable. If the contract were broken, the courts would decide the outcome based on the agreement made. When composing your contracts, consider a clause mentioning what should happen in the eventuality that you were both to die during the pregnancy. You would need to decide the child/ren’s next of kin and your wishes for the child/ren’s future if the worst happened.
Physicians meet your surrogate and egg donor to calculate where they are in their menstrual cycles. Each will be put on medication and monitored over a few weeks preparing for egg retrieval and transfer of embryos. Most likely, the surrogate would be on medication to regulate her cycle to that of the egg donor and make her uterus ready for the transfer. The transfer of the most viable embryos is normally anywhere between 3-5 days after retrieval of the eggs to allow fertilisation. Physicians will usually not transfer any more than two embryos because of the excellent success rates. By all means increase your chances transferring two embryos, any more than two and there is an increased chance, of a problematic pregnancy.
Now the wait begins!
At this stage you’re looking for confirmation of pregnancy. Pregnancy testing can be done after the 10th day.
Obtaining Parental Rights. Depending on which country your surrogate is giving birth in; you will have to follow a different procedure. In the UK, you cannot apply for parental rights for your baby until 6 weeks after birth. This is the surrogate’s “cooling off period”. Even if the baby and surrogate have no biological link, she is seen as the legal mother and has all the rights associated with it.
In the USA, each State is different. California, allows you to establish parental rights to an unborn child. From four months of pregnancy, the courts can be petitioned to establish you as the legal parents of any children born to your surrogate between two dates; it also allows you to have your names placed on the birth certificate. You should establish your parental rights during the first semester.
The birth. From the moment your baby is born, it is your responsibility look after him/her. Depending on where your surrogate gives birth and the clinic’s views on surrogacy you may need to do certain things. In California for example, you will need to show the hospital a copy of the pre-birth court order so protocols can be put in place for your baby to come straight to you after the birth.
If your baby is born abroad and is with you, you will need a paper copy of the birth certificate to arrange for a passport with the embassy to go home. Also, check with the airline at what age they will allow an infant to fly with them as it does vary. Happy Parenting!
For more great information like this please vist Pink Parenting (www.pink-parenting.com). The Premier Parenting Magazine for the LGBT Community!
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