What’s New: Exciting Changes to Our Surrogate Program

We’re always looking for ways to improve the overall experience for our surrogates, intended parents, and egg donors. Here are a few examples of some recent improvements we implemented to make our surrogate program better:

1. New Facebook support group. We’ve always offered a forum for Circle surrogates to share their experiences, ask questions, and support each other. Recently, we changed the format of this forum to a Facebook group since it’s a platform everyone is more familiar with. Surrogates have the chance to access the private Facebook group once they join our program. There, surrogates can exchange questions, comments, and support one another throughout Circle’s program.


2. Updated Surrogate Compensation Package

  • Transfer fee is now $750
  • C-section fee is now $2,500
  • One month of housekeeping is included for all surrogates at $100/week
  • Standard compensation for breastmilk pumping in addition to reimbursement of supplies (if IPs request)

3. New monthly group video call check-ins. Our social workers are now hosting monthly group video calls for surrogates at various stages of the process. These calls provide another avenue for surrogates to ask questions and get support.

4. More opportunities to provide feedback. Many of the recent changes we have made have come from suggestions from our surrogates. Feedback helps make better improvements. Surrogates are encouraged to provide comments and suggestions to their program coordinators and social workers throughout the process. We also ask surrogates to give us their overall thoughts in an exit interview after the journey.

In addition, we introduced additional avenues for feedback:

  • Post-Match Surveys about the application, screening, and matching processes
  • suggestion box for anonymous feedback at any point in the process
  • Clinic feedback surveys about recent trips to your IVF clinic

5. Improved medical billing administration. We’ve recently partnered with NES Assurance to help us manage medical billing. Surrogates will have access to an online portal where they can upload bills, track the status of payments, and request reimbursement. This new streamlined system should help everyone stay on the same page about hospital and provider bills.

We have more improvements coming soon, including:

  • a clear and concise guide to insurance questions for surrogates
  • a mentor system that allows experienced surrogates to match up with women who are just getting started
  • an interactive map that will allow Circle surrogates to find other women near them to meet in person
  • a series of videos that explain various aspects of the process

We look forward to sharing these additional changes with you soon. If you have any comments or suggestions, let us know.

Elizabeth Banks Thoughts on Surrogacy

Elizabeth Banks

Around 10 percent of couples are affected by infertility in addition to gay couples many of whom would like to build families. Surrogacy has become one of the most viable options for couples who cannot conceive. Even though it is far more common today than it was 20 years ago when we got our start, it’s still new to the world in a lot of ways.

Most of the stories we hear in the media are the one in 10,000 stories, which overshadow the thousands of babies who are being born into beautiful, loving families due to the generosity of surrogates from several different states. Not to mention, those sensationalized stories often leave out pertinent facts to give readers proper context.

That’s why when a star like Elizabeth Banks–who you probably know from the Hunger Games series, 30 Rock, Modern Family and Wet Hot American Summer–speaks out about surrogacy, it’s a powerful gesture to the kids born via surrogacy, parents via surrogacy and surrogates.

Elizabeth Banks and husband Max Handelman have welcomed both sons–Felix and Magnus–via a surrogate mother.

“This experience has exceeded all expectations, taught us a great deal about generosity and gratitude, and established a relationship that will last a lifetime. I am also so very thankful to our family and friends for their support throughout this process,” she said.

“It was a womb issue for me. Embryos wouldn’t implant,” she said regarding her infertility issues. “It’s a big leap, inviting this person into your life to do this amazing, important thing for you. And it’s hard losing that kind of control. But our surrogate is so extraordinary, and she’s still in our lives. She’s like an auntie.”

That’s great to hear. We applaud, Elizabeth Banks, for speaking candidly about her experience. I hope she knows how much it means to us.

Frozen Gametes: What happens if there is a divorce?

divorce law

Circle lawyer Rona Yang wrote an article for the Boston Bar Association explaining–according to the law, what happens to frozen gametes if a couple divorces?

Here is an excerpt from that article:

Approximately 10% of women in the United States between ages 15 and 44 are unable to conceive or bear children. Same-sex couples require non-coital forms of conception to create children. Given the difficulties of adoption, prospective parents who cannot reproduce through sexual means turn to assisted reproductive technology. In its rapid evolution over the past two decades, assisted reproductive technology has become a fertile market for acquiring children, literally and metaphorically. For family law attorneys, this means dealing with the increasing prevalence of frozen gametes in divorces.

Most contracts governing the donation of gametes will stipulate to the disposition of cryopreserved embryos upon separation or divorce. But, what if the parties disagree about the contract provisions after separation or divorce? Intuitively, a family law practitioner would look at the terms of the contract. However, as the case of Baby M has enlightened all first-year law students, contracts are not ironclad; contracts can be invalidated for public policy reasons.  Are contract provisions governing the disposition of unused cryopreserved embryos enforceable against someone who is unwilling to implant that frozen embryo? Read the rest of Yang’s article here.

Welcome Baby Mason Dean!

baby born via surrogacy

Welcome to the world, Mason Dean! He was born September 21, 2015 in the afternoon weighing in at 6lbs., 8oz.

Both Mason and surrogate Terriyaka are doing well. Thank you, Terriyaka, you have given Mason’s parents, Russ and Maria, a wonderful gift.

If you are reading this thinking either, “I would love to build my family but I need to explore an guide to surrogacy for intended parentsalternative like surrogacy,” or “I would love to give the gift of helping another family grow and thrive while also helping my family financially,” we have the perfect guides for you.

Parents, reading our free guide An Introductory to Egg Donation and Surrogacy for Intended Parents will answer your questions about cost and process.

intro guide for surrogates For women considering surrogacy and wondering about the process, requirements and payment, our guide An Introduction to Surrogacy.

Finding a Surrogate Mother: The Process

finding a surrogate mother

Are you ready to embark on your surrogacy journey? To give you a clear picture of what the process of finding a surrogate mother entails we’ve compiled the 9 steps of the surrogacy journey for intended parents.

Over 1000 babies have been born through the following process:

Step #1: Initial Consultation.

Most intended parents start their journey with a free consultation that lasts an average of 2.5 hours depending on the agency. At Circle, you’ll meet with our staff by Skype or in person and learn about the programs and options available, the detailed process of matching with a surrogate, the legal process, any insurance issues, the financial implications, and basic medical information. Prior to your consultation, you’ll complete a basic questionnaire and submit photographs that assist our team in tailoring our services to meet your needs.

Step #2: Officially Becoming an Intended Parent.

To officially join a surrogacy program, you’ll sign a contract. At Circle, this is called an Agreement for Services. Following that, you are asked to transmit a portion of the fees. Next, you are introduced to your program coordination (PC) team that will guide you through every phase of your journey.

Step #3: Screening and Selection Process for an Egg Donor.

Egg donors are young, healthy women between the ages of 21 and 29 who live across the United States. They have had their medical records reviewed by a licensed reproductive endocrinologist and have participated in an intensive social work assessment by a licensed clinician. You can browse our egg donor database, or your program coordinator team can help you to complete an egg donor request form and send you egg donor profiles that match your preferences. Once chosen, your egg donor undergoes psychological testing. Some intended parents choose to bring their own egg donors, who might be family members or friends.

Step #4: Screening and Selection Process for a Surrogate. 

Surrogates are generally 21-41 years old and have undergone a mental health screening prior to being matched with intended parents. A typical screening process involves an extensive medical and psychological assessment as well as thorough criminal and financial background checks. When we have completed the screening process for a surrogate who we think will be a good match based on your preferences and legal needs, we facilitate introductions between the intended parents and the surrogate. This is initially done through profiles, and then by phone or Skype before you meet in person.

Step #5: Legal Agreements.

To ensure clarity and legal appropriateness, the egg donor and surrogate are assigned an independent attorney for representation. As the intended parents, you are represented by attorneys who draft all agreements. Circle’s in-house legal team represents its intended parents.

Step #6: Medical Process.

The process of in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer is managed and completed at an IVF clinic under the leadership of a licensed reproductive endocrinologist. We can direct you to many clinics across the United States that we have established relationships with or work with a different clinic of your choosing.. Your program coordination team manages every step of the process with the clinic for your surrogate and/or egg donor.

Step #7: Pregnancy.

When the joy of pregnancy is achieved, your PC team remains your primary support as you prepare for the birth of your child. They ensure that you and your surrogate are prepared to welcome your child home. Although you and your surrogate can arrange as many additional visits as you agree upon, we suggest you visit your surrogate 3 or 4 times, including, the major doctor appointments and delivery.

Step #8: Legal Representation.

The legal procedures vary from state to state, country to country and your Circle legal representative will explain to you exactly when and what documents will be filed to ensure that you establish parental rights. Intended parents who live outside the United States will have their attorney direct them on obtaining necessary legal documentation to get home with the proper court orders and passports.

Step #9: Birth.

Prior to the birth of your child, your PC team contacts the hospital to ensure they know who you are and why you are there. Finally, your story reaches a new chapter with the birth of your baby.

It is a glorious moment to leave the hospital with your baby in your arms. To take your next step toward becoming a parent, apply to one of Circle’s programs.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Surrogate Profile: Meet Kim

Selfless. Generous. Powerful. Beautiful. Heroic. These words come to mind when you think about gestational carriers aka surrogates. But some surrogates simply believe, “If you’re in a position to help someone, you should.”

That’s what one of Circle’s surrogates, Kim, told us.

surrogate with her family

Kim with her family.

“When you have four kids nine months goes by pretty quickly,” says Kim, who is on her second surrogacy journey. This time around she is carrying twins. Sometimes a surrogate will work with the same parent or parents if they would like to have another baby. In this case, she is working with new dads.

Every woman’s path to surrogacy is unique. For Kim, she wanted to make something positive out of her loss. Five years ago when her father died, she went in search of something meaningful. It was around that time she decided to become a surrogate. She was paired with a gay couple on her first journey and helped them build their family. In the process her family grew.

Her kids, one girl and three boys, think of her first baby born through surrogacy like a cousin. They skype. They send photos. They even exchange birthday gifts and Christmas gifts. Their closeness serves as a reminder that we’re more connected to one another than we are divided.

“I feel that family isn’t limited to blood and DNA, it is the people you choose and those who have touched your life,” says Kim.

Because of Kim’s nursing degree, she is very aware of all the need in the world. Kim added that she doesn’t work as a nurse, and her husband doesn’t use his degree either. She and her husband would like to make an even greater contribution to the world.

Right now her husband is back in school pursuing a degree to make both of their dreams come true. The plan is to take his agricultural knowledge and open an organic farm. And with Kim’s love of hospitality as a driving force, they would love to parlay their crops into a farm-to-table restaurant. That’s the dream, but she is receptive to what the world may have in store for her.

“I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up,” Kim added.

Talking to Kim was a great reminder of something we already know—that surrogates are very special individuals who contribute to their family while helping another.

 

[ To learn more about becoming a surrogate, click here]
[ If you are looking to become a parent through surrogacy, click here. ]

Life Four Months After Surrogacy VIDEO

We’ve put together a surrogacy video to share one mom’s experience having her daughter via surrogate.

Tara and her husband struggled to give their son a sibling long before they decided to work with a surrogacy agency in the U.S.

After a long journey with IVF and a failed U.K. surrogate, they had a beautiful baby girl, Bo, with the aid of a kind surrogate. Hear Tara’s story in her own words. She explains some of the challenges she faced along the way and how they were absolutely worth it because now their family is complete.

Tara on Having Her Daughter through Surrogacy (Video)

3 Books for Children of Surrogates

Many surrogates ask us about talking with their children about being a surrogate. There are a handful of books designed to help children understand how one happy family can help to create another.
This tale of a family created through surrogacy is a brilliant, clear understanding of what is sometimes a complex conversation for adults to share with a child.

The Kangaroo Pouch introduces young children, ages 2-to-8, to the concept of surrogacy. The story is narrated by a young kangaroo named Oliver whose mother has decided to help another family have a baby. The Kangaroo Pouch gently guides the reader on the surrogacy journey and answers questions they may have such as, why would someone choose to be a surrogate? What will family life be like during the pregnancy?  And most importantly, what happens when the surro-baby is born and given back to their biological parents?

The Kangaroo Pouch is designed to act not only as a conversation starter but also as a “how-to” manual for children to refer to throughout the surrogacy journey. The book has been reviewed by child specialists to ensure that it conveys age-appropriate messages.

[ Buy The Kangaroo Pouch here. ]
Geared to readers from preschool to age eight, What Makes a Baby is a book for every kind of family and every kind of kid. It is a twenty-first century children’s picture book about conception, gestation, and birth, which reflects the reality of our modern time by being inclusive of all kinds of kids, adults, and families, regardless of how many people were involved, their orientation, gender and other identity, or family composition. Just as important, the story doesn’t gender people or body parts, so most parents and families will find that it leaves room for them to educate their child without having to erase their own experience.Written by sexuality educator Cory Silverberg, and illustrated by award-winning Canadian artist Fiona Smyth, What Makes a Baby is as fun to look at as it is useful to read.
[ Buy What Makes a Baby here. ]

book for children of surrogate

This book is a great option for surrogates with intended parents who are gay.

This tale based on a true story about a charming penguin family living in New York City’s Central Park Zoo will capture the hearts of penguin lovers everywhere. Roy and Silo, two male penguins, are “a little bit different.” They cuddle and share a nest like the other penguin couples, and when all the others start hatching eggs, they want to be parents, too.

Determined and hopeful, they bring an egg-shaped rock back to their nest and proceed to start caring for it. They have little luck, until a watchful zookeeper decides they deserve a chance at having their own family and gives them an egg in need of nurturing. The dedicated and enthusiastic fathers do a great job of hatching their funny and adorable daughter, and the three can still be seen at the zoo today. Done in soft watercolors, the illustrations set the tone for this uplifting story, and readers will find it hard to resist the penguins’ comical expressions. The well-designed pages perfectly marry words and pictures, allowing readers to savor each illustration. An author’s note provides more information about Roy, Silo, Tango, and other chinstrap penguins. This joyful story about the meaning of family is a must for any library.

[ Buy And Tango Makes Three here. ] 

Sarah Jessica Parker’s Inspiration for Couples Struggling with Infertility

twins via surrogate

Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick with their twin girls.

 

“[We] tried and tried and tried and tried and tried to get pregnant, but it just was not to be, the conventional way—I would give birth as often as I could, if I could. I cherished all the milestones, the good and the bad,” Sarah Jessica Parker said about struggling with infertility as a couple.

Sarah Jessica and Matthew’s twins were born to a surrogate mother in Ohio on June 22, 2009. She described their gestational carrier as “strong, bright, independent, thoughtful, caring, gracious and generous.”

She went on to talk about meeting her daughters–now 6-year-old twins Tabitha and Loretta–for the first time in the delivery room.

“Meeting your children rather than giving birth to them, it’s as if, um, it’s—suspended animation. The gestational experience is gone,” she said. “It’s as if everything else disappears for a moment, and the world goes silent and—I can’t explain it except to say that nothing else existed. I don’t remember anything but the blanket on the bed that they were lying on and my husband’s face and their faces and my son’s. It’s literally as if sound is sucked from the room. Time stands still. It’s so different, and equally extraordinary. I am very poor at describing it. But it’s amazing.”

twins via surrogate

Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, their son James Wilkie and twins Marion Loretta Elwell and Tabitha Hodge.

It’s brave and wonderful that Sarah Jessica Parker was generous enough to share her feelings about building her family through surrogacy with the world.
[ Information for Intended Parents ] | [ Information for Perspective Surrogates ]