Jen Rachman, social worker at Circle Surrogacy, contributes to Cure Magazine in “The other option: Surrogacy after cancer.” Here she shares her experiences on her journey to parenthood.
In 1754, the term “serendipity” was coined by Horace Walpole from the fairy tale Three Princes of Serendip. The story’s heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”
I was looking for something exceptional in my surrogacy, but I was not necessarily in quest of the exact journey on which I was about to embark. When I applied to become a surrogate, I had never thought of all the different walks of life waiting and hoping for someone to come along and help create a family for them. With that in mind, I can now say I have experienced serendipity in its greatest form.
As a gestational surrogate, you have no genetic link to the child you carry. Your body becomes a home to your intended parents’ (IPs) child. And through your nine-months of gestation brings a lifetime of happiness for a family that may not have been created without your generosity and help.
With that in mind, we compiled a list of the top five benefits of becoming a surrogate.
1. Enriching the lives of your IPs as well as bringing one into the world. IPs pursue surrogacy for many reasons— some are same-sex couples, some are heterosexual couples who struggle with infertility, and others are single parents who want to start a family. Your act of becoming a surrogate gives the gift of life to you IPs.
An independent assisted reproduction arrangement gone wrong makes headlines in Australia. The intended mothers and sperm donor found themselves in the Federal Circuit Court arguing about parentage. “The case is a clear illustration of the danger for all concerned when a known donor arrangement goes sour,” says Stephen Page, one of Australia’s leading surrogacy lawyers. Read his blog post about the court case below, or click here.
Family structure has changed markedly in the past few decades. Starting a family is now possible for a greater variety of intended parents due to the advances in assisted reproduction technologies (ARTs), allowing lesbian and gay parents to start families for example.
Despite the increasing numbers of couples and individuals helped by ARTs, these families have not been sufficiently represented in studies looking into how families develop. In order for policy and support to reflect the reality of life for these families, research needs to include all family forms. The science behind ARTs is developing rapidly and as such the science focusing on the psychological, social, and emotional well-being of these families needs to keep up.
Of the extensive literature on family development conducted over the last century, comparatively little focus has documented the well-being of same-sex parents and their children, particularly families headed by gay dads. Studies including families with lesbian mothers have found children do not show signs of psychological maladjustment, do not have poorer peer relationships, and do not show differences in gender identity. Indeed, children of lesbian mothers appear to be functioning well into adult life.
Even fewer studies have focused on gay fathers and their children. The few studies that have followed children of gay fathers have found these children did not show adverse effects and were well adjusted.
Understanding the development and experiences of these families is important, as increasing numbers of gay men are becoming fathers. Not enough is known about the well-being of these fathers, and the development of their children. Therefore, more facts and less assumption are needed to understand the effects of gay parenting to ensure that the correct support is in place, if needed.
This need for information is what drives the New Parents Study, an ambitious study that follows families with babies 4 months old are visited at their homes, with a follow-up invitation to Cambridge University when the babies are 12 months old. Families included are those who have gay parents, where the child was born through surrogacy; families with lesbian mothers, where the child was born through donor Insemination; and heterosexual couples where the child was born through IVF.
The New Parents Study is an exciting project to work on as we are following couples who are first-time parents. The study brings two groups based in Cambridge— the Applied Developmental Psychology Research Group and the Centre for Family Research— together with groups based at the University of Paris in France and the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands. All of the groups involved in the New Parents Study have yielded findings over the years that demonstrate that the dynamics of a family are far more important than the family structure in determining the child well-being.
Another reason being involved with the New Parents Study is so exciting is that we can learn more about fathers who are primary caregivers. In addition, we have the honor of seeing these families grow and develop while hearing about their family stories.
With such an ambitious project, we are indebted to the on-going support and assistance we receive in reaching potential participating families (charities, clinics, agencies and support groups). Circle Surrogacy is a great example of partners of the New Parents Study.
On March 20, National Science and Engineering Week presents “What Makes A Family.” This gives researchers, clinicians, charities, parent groups, and the general public the chance to engage in discussions on recent research on family development and how researchers can take account of the public’s interests in family development.
To become a surrogate mother and help a couple or individual create a family is one of the greatest things a woman can do for another. And for that selfless journey— or 9-month, full-time job— we’ve decided to increase our overall standard benefits package for surrogates.* We know this money is important, as many surrogates use it to start a child’s college fund or for a down payment on a house.
We’ve also added a $250 application bonus just for filling out and completing the application process. So if you’re ready to get started, read on to learn about our new fees and applying to become a surrogate with Circle.
We want to encourage you to complete the surrogate application process within two weeks to get you matched with our waiting intended parents as soon as possible. If you submit all requested materials (including forms and releases) within 2 weeks of completing our online application, you’ll receive a $250 bonus.
While our standard fees have increased, it’s important to understand that all amounts are finalized during contract negotiation and the total amount of money you earn for a surrogacy depends on several other factors, which we are happy to discuss with you. The real reward, however, is not financial—it is the opportunity to provide a couple or individual the chance to have a family of their own.
A pregnant body is a beautiful body, but many women have a hard time coming to terms with their ever-changing figure. Your body becomes a home to an intended parent’s child. And your transformation to accommodate new life is truly remarkable. Here are some ways to celebrate an exciting nine-month journey with a new passenger on board.
1. Keep a weekly or monthly photo journal or create a pregnancy blog-replete with pictures of you and your growing baby. Not only is this a fun way to share your progress with the intended parents, but it’s also a way to embrace your beautiful shape. Be sure to include signs that mark how far along you are and have fun! Try taking pictures of your bump from different angles, too. Ask a family member or intended parent to take a photo from above, from the side, or of you lying down.
2. Craft (or order) a maternity calendar shirt with numbers 1-40 to represent each week of your pregnancy. Take pictures each week, marking off the weekly points you have passed and count down to the expected due date. The One Little Minute blog has great instructions for making your own.
3. Take pictures holding fruits and veggies that match the size of the baby in your belly. Here is a guide where you will find a different legume for each week that line ups with the baby’s size. From a poppy seed to a watermelon, your baby has a food item to match him or her for each week in your tummy!
4. Make a do-it-yourself paper mache body cast (or buy a kit). This lets you create a keepsake from your surrogacy pregnancy, reminding you of your physical and emotional strength. This site gives a great overview of the belly casting process and provides detailed instructions on how to make your own.
5. Get creative, have fun with paint, and turn your bump into a canvas. Women have painted messages over their stomachs (the gender of the baby, the due date, etc.) to share with the intended parents, family, and friends. Others have simply used painting as a creative outlet and a way to connect with the child.
6. Start a personal journal. Writing about your pregnancy is a gift to yourself later in life to refer back to and also helps you focus on the here and now. It provides you with time to self-reflect and allows you to feel. During the hectic and emotionally trying nine months of your surrogacy pregnancy, you deserve and need some “you” time to recognize and appreciate the beauty within yourself and in your term. You will experience a wide range of emotions, each of which you should allow yourself to process and feel on your own.
7. Share the gift of healthy pregnancies with women in developing countries and spread the maternal love across the globe. If you receive gifts, ask that people purchase cards for you through “Send Hope Not Flowers”. You may want to suggest that the intended parents do the same. The organization promotes life-saving maternal health programs and healthcare to women who cannot afford it on their own. By purchasing a card for you, your friends and family will make a donation in your honor.
Susan Bowen, a cancer survivor at 29 years old, and I (her surrogate) documented our two-and-a-half year emotional roller coaster ride with surrogacy— the intention of offering hope to others who may be facing their own infertility struggles. Susan and I co-wrote “I Got Drunk at my Baby Shower: Our Successful Surrogacy Story,” offering unique vantage points of an intended parent and surrogate throughout the same timeline. This gives readers insight to some of the very different thoughts and experiences along the way.
What an interesting experience it has been to watch people’s reactions when they learn that Payton and Jordan were brought into the world through surrogacy. People don’t seem to hear the whole statement and keep talking before suddenly stopping. Then the onslaught of questions: “Wait, what did you say?” “Oh my gosh! How did that work?” “Do you still keep in touch?” “Was it hard for her to give them up?” “Why did you use a surrogate?” “How did you trust that she would do everything ‘right?’”