I’ve known this bubbly, fun and vivacious woman for a few years through one of my networking organizations I attend. When she attended one of my recent comedy shows I was amazed, when, in passing conversation she mentioned “when I was a surrogate…….” A surrogate mom? Yep, a surrogate mom!
I will admit, I was intrigued. All we tend to hear about surrogate moms, and the surrogate situation typically are the “horror stories” that make the news. A mom goes to court to retrieve her child, months or years after a family has lovingly raised the child as their own. The story of a couple who refuses a baby they have had a surrogate carry, because it wasn’t “perfect.” Any number of tragic stories have made headlines over the years, and we have all seen them played out, often with a tragic ending for a number of the people involved.
I always wondered who would choose to be a surrogate. And why.
So, when Amanda mentioned she had been a surrogate I was intrigued! I asked if she would consider an interview for my blog. And…… of course, she readily agreed!
Tell Me Your Story…
I asked. She answered. And now I know just about every damned thing there is to know about being a surrogate. (Or at least more than a darned lot of people know!) Or maybe not, because I’m really not smart enough to have thought of all the questions I should have asked. That being said……… I’m happy to tell you what I WAS smart enough to ask, and if you think up 2,569 other questions, pose them to me, and I’ll bet, sure as shit, Amanda will be happy to answer them for all of us! ‘Cause that’s just the kind of person she is!
The first burning question I had for Amanda was, “What in the world made you decided to become a surrogate?” She explained that she had done quite a bit of volunteer and charity work throughout her life, and while a lot of it was great, the impact that was made felt very temporary. You feed someone a meal, and in a few hours they are hungry again. You give a homeless person a blanket, they are a bit warmer, but their homelessness isn’t necessarily solved.
But, she explained, “I wanted to change someone’s life, and nothing changes your life more than having and raising a child.” How flippin’ profound is that? (Don’t let anyone say that Amanda is just another pretty face! Hell no, she is PROFOUND!)
Since I knew that Amanda has a husband and 3 children of her own- I of course wondered how the decision to become a surrogate affected her family. She said that her husband felt that the decision was totally hers, and he was very supportive of it. Her twin boys were almost 3 at the time- and really didn’t even seem to notice. Her daughter, Kylie, however was 5 and felt that most the people they came in contact with should know, loud and clear, that her mommy was having a baby, but it wasn’t theirs! THAT got a lot of different reactions, as you can well imagine!
Traditional Surrogacy vs. Gestational Surrogacy
Talking about the details of how being a surrogate works would make your head spin! Details you would have NO IDEA about, would take a novel to spell out. The first decision is whether to be a “traditional” surrogate, meaning your own eggs are used, or being a “gestational” surrogate. In this case, an egg “donor” supplies the egg, and you carry the baby to term. Gestational surrogacy is the type that Amanda chose, because, as she said, she “just couldn’t imagine her own child walking around out there, without any involvement or communication.” She described herself as kind of “being the oven” until things were finished out!
Typically, surrogates go through an agency, and the agency makes sure that all the legalities are being followed and everyone is doing what needs to be done in the proper manner. There are a number of “rules” you must follow to become a surrogate. One that REALLY surprised me is that you must have already given birth. I had no idea that was a rule! I pictured a perfect surrogate being a young, single woman! But nope! And, if you are married, the husband must be willing to support you being a surrogate. That one makes sense to me! It’s hard to show up at the company Christmas party with a VERY expectant wife, and tell everyone from the office the child isn’t yours— if you aren’t FULLY on board with the whole concept!
So, once you get past all of the complicated laws, rules, procedures and paperwork, it’s time to move forward and start the process.
Who Makes the Choice?
Amanda told me that as a surrogate, you can be as specific as you want as to what parents you choose to work with. You could decide to only accept a “traditional” married couple. Or a single mom. A single dad. A specific race. If you only wanted to work with a family that had certain religious beliefs, you could choose specifically by that criteria. As the surrogate mother, you can completely decide what criteria is important to YOU. Whatever YOUR criteria is, that is the only IP (Intended Parents) the agency would match you up with. And the same goes to the Intended Parents and their choice of a surrogate.
Amanda said she didn’t care about most of the criteria I mentioned above. Her biggest concern was that the adopting parent or parents be someone who was open to maintaining communication throughout the pregnancy and after the birth. She wanted the Intended Parents to be involved. One of the first people the agency suggested to her was a single IP in Hong Kong. Amanda knew that it would be realistically impossible for him to be at any regular Dr. appointments, possibly miss the birth of the baby and the time difference would make communication difficult overall, so she turned down the match. When the agency contacted her and let her know they had a gay couple in Manhattan who wanted to be involved with the surrogate throughout the pregnancy, and were open to keeping in contact after the birth, Amanda knew she had found the perfect match.
A “Match Made in Heaven!”
Amanda said that the intended parents, Xavier and Andrew flew all the way out from New York for their “in person Match Meeting” and everyone immediately felt like they had know each other forever. They all hit it off immediately, and became instant friends.
Her “matching” family had already chosen an egg donor. Amanda explained to me that getting two women and their “cycles” matched up is really complicated. There are drugs involved for the both the surrogate and the donor which really mess with your hormones, and can give you symptoms of PMS to the EXTREME! Something I didn’t know was the IVF drugs don’t stop once the egg is implanted. You must continue using them through the first trimester of the pregnancy. Needless to say, ladies, if you had extreme PMS type symptoms for months on end, your husband would have to be a SAINT to be supportive of the decision!
Once the two women involved (in a gestational surrogacy) have their cycles lined up, they must rendezvous in the same location, so that the egg can be implanted into the surrogate. Amanda explained to me that the implanting of the egg isn’t exactly the most delightful procedure.
In Amanda’s case, there were 16 eggs extracted from the egg donor and fertilized, 5 of which progressed into healthy embryos. When it was time for transfer, 2 of the embryos were implanted and the remaining 3 were frozen for future possibilities.
Baby on Board!
Although Xavier and Andrew were not in California for the transfer, they all kept in constant contact throughout the pregnancy. They flew out for both the “confirmation of pregnancy” (an ultrasound to verify implantation and growth) and the 20 week anatomy ultrasound, where they confirmed the baby’s gender with 3d images! At 37 weeks and 6 days, Amanda went into labor and Xavier and Andrew hopped on a plane! Because labor was a bit of an early surprise, Xavier and Andrew missed the birth, but got to party on the plane with Amanda and Neil’s delivery room updates, and they arrived at the hospital just a few hours later!
The lovely little girl that Amanda helped to bring into this world is named Olivia and she is nearly 5 years old. Amanda, Olivia and her parents are all amazingly close. Amanda’s whole family went to New York to celebrate Olivia’s first birthday. Most of the family were there for her 3rd birthday, and last year Amanda and one of her twin boys went for her 4th birthday.
Not Your Typical “Surrogacy”
Amanda explained to me that she has a VERY atypical relationship with the family she was a surrogate for. Olivia actually calls her “surro-mom.” Amanda’s kids are referred to as “surro-siblings.” The titles along with this close of a relationship is not the norm for a surrogate and Intended Parents, but it works for all involved in this particular situation. The interesting thing is that Amanda showed me a picture taken in June of her son and Olivia. Although they share no actual DNA, you would SWEAR that those two children are siblings! They have the same heart shaped faces, and even the same shape to their feet! Crazy, when you consider that Amanda didn’t donate her eggs!
When Olivia was 2, her parents asked Amanda to be a surrogate for a sibling for Olivia. The whole family flew here to California to be present for Amanda’s 3rd ultrasound, and it was there they all found out that baby Ava had stopped growing and no longer had a heartbeat. Needless to say, everyone involved was devastated at the news.
There are risks in every pregnancy, and obviously surrogacy pregnancies are no different. Amanda told me of one friend who had had her own child, then was a surrogate. Something happened, which resulted in her needing a hysterectomy after the surrogacy. She had wanted more children of her own, but that plan was changed.
Another friend of hers has 4 children of her own, and has been a surrogate 4 times, resulting in 5 children! She loves it, and it is fulfilling to her. (Honestly, I can’t in my wildest dreams imagine being pregnant that many times! Ouch!)
The question outsiders always discuss, wonder about and have questions about is the financial aspect of being a surrogate. Amanda mentioned to me that often, people’s first response is, “You make BANK on being a surrogate, right?” Ummmmmmmmmmmm…. no, not really. Amanda shared with me that each independent agreement and each agency varies in their packages, but typically an amount is agreed upon for carrying the baby. In addition, there are amounts laid out for the “transfer fee” (relating to implanting the fertilized egg), travel expenses, medical bills, a “missed work fee” and other things. Other agencies offer an “all-inclusive” type of contract that should cover all of the fore-mentioned occurrences. And while it may sound like a lot to some, as Amanda said to me, “If you’re looking to be a surrogate for the money, you are in the wrong business.”
Personally, I can’t imagine WHAT amount of money would make it worthwhile to me! I know what pregnancy did to my body in the past, and believe me, it wasn’t pretty! Then there is the weight gain, the discomfort of pregnancy, tiredness, nausea………. on, and on, and on, and on. OK- I’m not gonna lie here. Give me 5 million dollars and I’ll be your surrogate. See, we all have our price! For that amount I can disappear for a while, have the baby, get my body rebuilt, and reappear, looking trimmer and better than ever!
While surrogacy is not something I could ever imagine doing, (not to mention, I’m about 5,000 years too old to consider it at this point) I’m glad that people who can’t have children can have the option. And women who consider it a true gift to others can decide to become a surrogate.
Hopefully, this article helps you to understand surrogacy a bit more, from the standpoint of a woman who has been through it, and that you can see the positive that can come from it! My eyes were sure opened as to the details of making surrogacy work! I’m sure that Xavier and Andrew are happy to have Amanda as a part of their family’s story!