Becoming a Surrogate: How I Decided to Help Families Grow

Surrogacy is a huge decision, not to be taken lightly. But it’s a decision that changed my life, the lives of the people that I had children for, and my children’s lives.

Having said that, how did I come to this decision?

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Well, interestingly, I was looking on Craigslist for someone to do my yard work, and ran across an ad for egg donors. I thought, “wow, that would be cool.” The opportunity to help people have children that could not, for medical or relationship dynamic reasons, felt almost like a calling.

From there, I researched all of it: donating my eggs, surrogacy, etc. A surrogate forum made me come to the final decision. I read through ad after ad— people that couldn’t conceive, gay couples, straight couples, single people, all with their own reasons for wanting a child. It blew me away that something that came so ‘easily’ to me (and I didn’t want kids but was blessed with them), wouldn’t happen for people that would likely sell a limb to have a child. I couldn’t believe how unappreciative I was for what I had: my two kids that I took for granted when you look at it in that context. We are closer than ever because of our experience in surrogacy.

So, I found Circle, in my research. I liked Circle because unlike the other agencies I had contacted for information, they didn’t seem like pushy car sales people. No, I don’t work for the agency. But, after four surrogacies, all through Circle, I can say that I’m happy with the choice that I made.

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I’ve always worked full time and made decent money so the choice wasn’t financial. It was, in part, a choice to have a connection to people, even if temporary. Of course, it was the idea of what a footprint I could leave in someone’s life, if it actually worked. Imagine my surprise, when it did work, four times.

From there, the relationships that you gain and the experience and appreciation that you have, just changes with each step of the process, all the way through birth and the relationships since. What I gained the most, was an appreciation for my own kids. When you’re involved in a ‘world’ where people cannot have children, it’s an eye opening moment for you, as a parent.

Granted, not all of my couples are in touch the same amount, as I left it up to them what they felt comfortable with. But, knowing that my life changed, along with theirs makes me feel like I did something that mattered, not just for them but for myself and my kids.

The decision, again, isn’t to be taken lightly but know going in that you’re not just changing their lives, you are changing your own life (not just because you’re going to gain weight). They are pounds well worth it!

If you are a surrogate, parent, or egg donor, and would like to contribute to the Circle blog, send us an email!

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photo credit (l): Shutter Daddy via photopin cc
photo credit (r): Michael Sharman via photopin cc

 

Irish Surrogacy Case: High Court Weighs Naming Mother on Twins’ Birth Certificates

Currently, surrogates who give birth in Ireland are treated in law as the mothers of the children they deliver. But a married Irish couple who completed a gestational surrogacy arrangement with the wife’s sister is challenging this policy in an action currently before Ireland’s High Court. The surrogate supports her sister’s request to replace her as the mother on the birth certificate.

The couple contributed their own sperm and eggs, which were fertilized in vitro, and implanted in the uterus of the wife’s sister, who then gave birth to twins. After the birth, the parents asked the local registrar to change their children’s birth certificates to reflect their true genetic mother. 

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After the request to replace the surrogate’s name with the commissioning mother’s name was passed to the national registry office, it was denied. In testimony before the High Court, the Registrar General has pointed to the “invariable and irrefutable rule” of mater semper certa est, arguing the position that whoever gives birth to a child must be considered the mother.

So far, the Court has heard testimony from registry officials, infertility experts, and reproductive endocrinologists. Professor Andrew Greene acknowledged that the genes of a child make up a “major contribution” of who a person is. Dr. Mary Wingfield said the “principle of intent” should be the primary consideration in determining the parentage of children born through surrogacy.

The attorney for the parents pointed out the possible difficulties faced by a commissioning mother who is not recognized as the legal mother on her children’s birth certificates: she may be unable to make medical decisions for her child, and there could be implications for the children’s inheritance under Ireland’s Succession Act.

Despite a 2004 report from the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction that recommended that children born through surrogacy should be presumed to be children of the commissioning couple, Ireland has not enacted surrogacy legislation. While surrogacy is not illegal in the country, the policy that the surrogate is treated as the mother has made surrogacy a risky option for intended parents if the surrogate delivers in Ireland.

For that reason, Irish intended parents, like many Europeans, often turn to the United States and other countries where surrogacy can be pursued and birth certificates can be issued which reflect the true parentage of the children. In the United States, children born through surrogacy can obtain U.S. passports which allow them to travel back to Ireland with their new parents.

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Motherhood through Surrogacy: From the Perspective of a Young-Adult Cancer Survivor

At age 26, I was on my own, self-sufficient, secure and independent. I was already a few years into building my career as an adolescent therapist; a job that well suited me. I had my own apartment, and was about to move in with my boyfriend of several years. I took care of myself physically and emotionally. Life was perfect, until the routine trip to the gynecologist that wound up saving my life.

When you hear the words, “you have cancer,” there is truly no way to be prepared to absorb all that comes with it. My now unstable life became filled with terms like prognosis, oncologist, surgery, treatment and chemo.  My doctors overwhelmed me with choices about what course of action to take.  Suddenly, my secure sense of self became unraveled and presented me with a new identity – cancer patient.   My oncologists’ (who are wonderful) main goal was to rid me of cancer as quickly as possible. The recommended course of action when diagnosed with ovarian cancer is to have a complete hysterectomy.  Being only 26, the idea of parenthood wasn’t even on my radar yet.  But suddenly the idea of losing my ability to bear children was becoming a reality.  Not willing to relinquish the option of one day having children, I stressed to my doctors how important it was for them to make every attempt at preserving my fertility.

Over the course of 7 months, I endured three surgeries, and six rounds of chemotherapy. The treatment took my hair, put my body in menopause, left me feeling twice my age. The doctors weren’t able to save my ovaries. I recovered and slowly acclimated to my new normal – survivor.

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I sought support both online and in my community, determined to find other people like me facing cancer in their 20’s. In all of my searching, I only found two other young women with similar diagnoses and quality of life issues. TWO!  I knew that there were others, but how could I locate them? 

After a few years, they found me, through a blog I started about my experience with cancer.  I was contacted by “I’m Too Young For This,” an organization working to meet the needs of survivors under 40.  In forming this link, I suddenly had access to a group who not only were in similar positions, but also were all over the country.  I began attending social events with this group and met young adult survivors.  What I quickly came to realize that even though our diagnoses were different, our quality of life issues were the same.  They too were faced with issues of infertility, how cancer impacted relationships, intimacy, employment, finances etc.   I finally felt understood.  Over time, I have continued my relationship with the group, now known as Stupid Cancer.  My involvement has waxed and waned depending on where my life has taken me, however, the people I have met and the relationships I have formed have enriched my life.

As I moved further away from my date of diagnosis and it became less scary to invest in the idea of leading a longer, healthy life, my thoughts about future began to change.  My then boyfriend and I were married in 2005, and after several years were comfortable exploring the idea of having a family.  I had come to accept the loss of my fertility and began exploring the options.  I reached out to my oncologist and those at Stupid Cancer about surrogacy and adoption.  I met a few survivors who also had been gathering information about family building.  It quickly became apparent that there was a lack of information about surrogacy.  My husband and I came to the conclusion that we preferred the idea of using a surrogate to build our family.

We met with Circle and immediately felt comfortable trusting them with guiding us through this process.  We signed our contract with them and moved on to the matching process. Within four months of meeting our surrogate we were expecting our son. The entire experience felt “right,” as I believe this is the way we were intended to become a family.  Our surrogate is truly an amazing woman, who we felt connected to from the start.  Going into the experience, I had some anxiety about feeling envious or jealousy toward our surrogate as she was able to bring our child into this world; something that I couldn’t do.  I remember feeling surprised that I didn’t feel this way toward her at all.  As we were awaiting the arrival of our son, I felt humbled and grateful that she was doing this for us.

The day our boy was born was truly the most amazing day of my life.  It was as if all the struggle, loss and upset caused by cancer had been undone.  Or perhaps more so, solidified the reason for the journey. 

stupid cancer show


Surrogacy in India: What to Make of the New Guidelines

Until last month, surrogacy in India was an option for intended parents of all backgrounds—including gay couples, single individuals, and unmarried straight couples. This set India apart from most other surrogacy destinations with stricter requirements,many of which only permit uncompensated surrogacy or limit surrogacy to heterosexual married couples.

While the United States remains a popular destination for surrogacy because of its favorable laws for intended parents of all backgrounds, in recent years, intended parents from Israel, Australia, the United States and some countries in Europe had been turning to India in growing numbers because of low costs.

imageOver the past few months, however, the Indian government has moved towards restricting the practice for certain groups of foreigners. A July 2012 letter from Ministry of External Affairs limited surrogacy to intended parents from countries where surrogacy is recognized. Intended parents would now have to obtain a “letter from the Embassy of the foreign country in India or the Foreign Ministry of the country” stating that 1) the country recognizes surrogacy and 2) the child/children will be permitted to enter the country as “a biological child/children of the couple commissioning surrogacy.”  The letter also mandated that a couple doing surrogacy in India be heterosexual, married for at least two years, and first obtain a medical visa before doing surrogacy in the country.

Though initially it appeared that singles and gay couples could get around the India regulations by obtaining a tourist visa, a letter released last month made clear that the Indian government would not permit this to occur any longer.  Barring an unusual situation, surrogacy in India is now limited to heterosexual couples who have been married for at least two years.

Everything hinges on obtaining medical visas, which intended parents must obtain in order to visit India. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs’ position was clarified in the December letter:

Tourist visa is not the appropriate visa category and such foreigners will be liable for action for violation of visa conditions. The appropriate visa category for commissioning surrogacy is a medical visa.

The letter goes on to state that gay couples and single individuals will not be issued medical visas for surrogacy:

The foreign man and woman intending to commission surrogacy should be duly married and the marriage should have sustained for at least two years. Please also note that current Indian laws do not recognize gay marriages.

Even before the December letter, gay couples had already begun to have issues obtaining appropriate visas. In December, Norway’s Crown Princess made headlines when she traveled to India on a diplomatic visa, posing as a nanny, to care for the children born through an Indian surrogate to a gay palace employee and his partner, who had encountered difficulties having their visas approved.

Representatives from Indian fertility clinics set up a meeting with government officials earlier this month to discuss the recent restrictions. However the meeting was postponed and has of yet not been rescheduled.  As of yet, there is no report of a changed stance. At least for the time being, Indian surrogacy is no longer a safe option for gay couples and single individuals. It is limited to heterosexual couples who have been married for two years.

“I believe instead of about 200 children a year being born to Australian intended parents a year [in India], it will be down to five or 10,” says surrogacy attorneyStephen Page of the impact on the changes in Australia.

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Is legal surrogacy coming to Washington D.C.?

The District of Columbia Council will consider a bill to legalize surrogacy in the U.S. capital this year. In Washington, D.C., surrogacy agreements are currently prohibited and those who participate in compensated surrogacy arrangements can face a fine or imprisonment.

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Any person or entity who or which is involved in, or induces, arranges, or otherwise assists in the formation of a surrogate parenting contract for a fee, compensation, or other remuneration, or otherwise violates this section, shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or both. DC CODE § 16-402(b) (emphasis added)

The current law makes D.C. one of a handful or jurisdictions in the United States where it is not a viable option for a surrogate to deliver a child. Intended parents who reside in Washington, D.C., however, can pursue surrogacy so long as their surrogate resides and delivers in a state where surrogacy is allowed.

The new law would make surrogacy agreements legal in the District and establish regulations.

“District laws should encourage responsible parenting, not create obstacles for those hoping to raise children but who are unable to do so by traditional means,” said David Catania, who introduced the bill. “This legislation will legalize surrogacy parentage agreements, which are increasingly desirable or necessary options for a number of our residents.”

We’ve written  a lot about the variety of surrogacy laws that exist across the United States. Some states authorize and regulate surrogacy if certain conditions are met. Other states have favorable high court decisions. Many have not addressed surrogacy in their legislatures or high courts but surrogacy is commonly practiced without issue.

Washington D.C. is not alone in restricting surrogacy. In Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, and Washington State, unfavorable laws or court decisions make compensated surrogacy not a viable option when the surrogate lives and delivers in those states.

If you’re considering becoming a parent or a surrogate, make sure you work with an agency that has legal experts on staff, who can advise you about the intricacies of surrogacy law across the country.

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via DCist.

photo credit: WilliamMarlow via photopin cc