Starting out, I didn’t know exactly what to expect— though I could imagine the possible effects. When I first found out I was pregnant with my daughter, it was a complete surprise, and I was initially in shock and did not know what to feel or think about being pregnant. I was only 19 after all and had no plans of getting pregnant for at least a few years. After a few days, I let that news sink in and ended up embracing the news. I remember for the majority of my pregnancy being very excited and happy. I just loved it. And from time to time, I would actually miss being pregnant (but with no desire to start over with a newborn no matter how adorable they are, lol).
The day we met Brittani and her husband, I had stood in front of my closet for a long time. What exactly do you wear to meet the woman who might carry your baby?
I felt like we were going out on the most important blind date of our lives. Circle had played matchmaker, and we were getting ready to meet their results. Sure, we had Skyped with Brittani and her husband before our official match, but this was different.
This was in person.
I can’t remember what we spoke about during our lunch. The funny thing about meeting a surrogate for the first time is that we already knew so much about her. We both had filled out very long questionnaires for Circle about
everything, from our personal lives to and our parenting styles, to our views on selective reduction. I knew more intimate details about Brittani than I did about some of my friends.
Our friendship started slowly, mostly updates on medications and doctor’s appointments. That soon morphed into sharing our weekend plans and daily activities. Good lord what did intended parents (IPs) and surrogates do before texting! We would text each other a few times a week, checking in on how things were going.
You hear about people becoming parents through surrogacy, but don’t often get a first-hand account of it all. Luckily the Marsolis share a candid account of their journey. Take a look into their lives and surrogacy with You Can’t Make this Sh*T Up (loving the title!).
Many intended parents who contact me to learn about the process of surrogacy are concerned about how they will explain their journey to their children later down the road. While I cannot speak in a professional manner to this question (I am not a licensed social worker or mental health provider), I thought it might be helpful to share my personal experience on the matter.
What has worked for my family, simply put, is transparency. We never felt like we needed to consult with a child psychologist or draft a detailed plan on how and when to inform them. Instead, we chose to make it a non-issue – meaning it was never kept a secret or hidden from our children. It was always part of their birth stories from day one, and photos of the joyous occasions can be found all around the house.
Our kids know how they came to be, and we continue to maintain close relationships with our gestational carriers, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to be a mom thanks to the unselfish acts of kindness bestowed upon us by our surrogates.
For those interested, there are several great children’s books on the subject of surrogacy, which many people find helpful when they are explaining their children’s birth stories:
- A Tiny Itsy Bitsy Gift of Life – An Egg Donor Story by Carmen Martinez Jovel
- Why I’m So Special – A Book About Surrogacy by Carla Lewis-Long
- Sacha, The Little Bright Shooting Star by Sofia Prezani
It is typically recommended that a gestational surrogate who is breastfeeding stop doing so at least one month before undergoing an IVF treatment cycle whereby an embryo is transferred into her uterus.
The process of breastfeeding induces the secretion of certain hormones, including prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin induces amenorrhea, or lack of ovulation and periods. Timing during an IVF cycle is critical, and doctors need to synchronize a surrogate’s menstruation with that of the egg producer, hence the need to know when the surrogate is getting her period. Also, elevated levels of prolactin associated with breastfeeding might have a deleterious effect on implantation, although we don’t have strong data to support it.
Finally, the hormone oxytocin, released as a result of breastfeeding, causes uterine contractions, which in turn could be harmful to the implantation process when an embryo is trying to attach to the lining of the uterus.
What about IMPLANON? I was told I can’t move forward until I stop using this form of birth control and return to my natural menstrual cycle.
IMPLANON is a hormonal contraceptive that slowly releases a form of progesterone. It prevents pregnancy in several ways. One way is by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary. But more important, IMPLANON also changes the lining of your uterus. During in vitro fertilization, the uterine lining has to be in perfect synchrony with the growing embryo. If this is altered in any way, such as the premature secretion of progesterone produced by IMPLANON, the embryo will fail to implant.
When I was 5 years cancer-free, I felt secure enough to start considering what family-building options I had. As I began exploring surrogacy as an option to have a family, I quickly realized how much information there was to learn about the process and how to make a successful journey work. After we had done our research, educated ourselves and signed on with Circle Surrogacy, we felt comfortable sharing our plans with our support network. I was taken aback by the responses I heard and immediately came to realize how many misconceptions there are about surrogacy. These myths are the result of a lack of information, coupled with a few over sensationalized cases in the media. After having been through my own amazing journey to parenthood, I thought it would be nice to clear up these common misconceptions.
Surrogates are only in it for the money. Though it is true that surrogates are compensated for their efforts during the process, there are a variety of reasons women want to be a gestational carrier. After all, shouldn’t they be compensated for helping bring a life into this world? A surrogate is generally paid $25,000 for at least a year of time and dedication. Let’s be honest; this amount of money won’t make her rich or drastically change her lifestyle for long. Some reasons that women want to become surrogates are things like, “my sister struggled to get pregnant and I want to help someone avoid such struggles,” or “I have had easy pregnancies and it isn’t a stressor for me. I would love to help someone else who can’t have a baby.” Most reasons are altruistic, with an honest desire to help others become parents.
The baby will be biologically related to the surrogate. In traditional surrogacy, the child is biologically related to the carrier; however, this isn’t the case in gestational surrogacy. In a gestational surrogacy arrangement, embryos are made using eggs from the intended mother (or eggs donor) and sperm from the intended father (or sperm donor). The embryos are implanted into the surrogate who will carry the pregnancy to term, and there is no genetic connection between her and the baby. Today, traditional surrogacy is rare due to the complexity that could be created by a genetic bond. Therefore gestational surrogacy is more common. My surrogate described it best when she said, “It’s your bun, I am just the oven.”
To read the full blog post, click here.
Let me introduce myself. I am Brett Griffin-Young, a dad through surrogacy and adoption. I also have been working for Circle Surrogacy for the last four years. As the International Outreach Associate, I represent Circle Surrogacy around the world in various ways. I have been civil partnered (married) to my husband, Matthew, since July 2006, and have been a couple since February 2001. We live in Nottinghamshire, England, raising our son and a daughter!
Matt and I discussed having children one day, but it was always a case of “one day.” In April 2008, I was celebrating my 35th birthday in London with a friend from Canada. While walking along the River Thames, the conversation turned to Matt and me becoming parents. Yet again, our initial response was “one day.” At that moment, our friend turned to us and said, “Tick tock. Tick tock. You’re not getting any younger.” We burst out laughing at this, but then immediately realized what she was saying. She was right. If we did not act now, there was every chance we would spend the next 20-30 years saying “one day!”
For the past 20 years, since the Johnson v. Calvert case in California, most surrogacy stories in the U.S. press have been positive. So many people of so many walks of life have had their dreams fulfilled by caring women who changed their lives, and American media recognized this. But in recent weeks, the press has been filled with horror stories, stories of other countries where surrogacy is unregulated, where people without the funds for a surrogacy arrangement in the U.S. have been flocking, hoping that nothing would go awry. Not surprisingly, there have been very serious problems.
Having been personally involved in U.S. surrogacy for 23 years, I have been searching for years for another country that has clear legal guidelines in place, where a lawyer or social worker with a solid reputation could offer U.S. and international parents a way of having children that not only abides by the law, but also gives them certainty of returning home with no legal problems and makes sure their wishes are fulfilled. There is a remarkable dearth of such locations. Something must change.
For years I have called for and assisted with the drafting of regulations in the United States that would ensure the safety of children born through surrogacy, well-intentioned women carrying these children, and fit individuals and couples to parent these children. We must now call for such regulations internationally. The individual state legislatures in the United States, national governments throughout the world and the Hague Convention itself must demand laws that require intended parents who wish to go through surrogacy to demonstrate first that they are fit parents to bring home children. Once authorized to proceed, their home countries should permit applications to nations where surrogacy is legal, where the rights of the intended parents to the child are recognized, where their funds are protected in legally supervised accounts, and where surrogates are screened and matched with intended parents—not only for their similar views on termination and selective reduction, but also for their financial stability and their thoughtful motivations for moving forward with a surrogacy journey.
Had such regulations been in place, most likely none of these horror stories would have occurred. It is only by burying our heads in the sand, and failing to recognize the longing of infertile and gay couples and single individuals to have a family that we encourage this type of malfeasance. It’s time to take action.
The heartbreaking surrogacy stories we have heard about recently illustrate the media’s tendency to use the bad situations to bring home the problems with any topic. Some argue that this is sensationalism. Others would say it is only through the media’s hyper-focus, digging for minute details, and broad circulation, that things change. Journalists have long been the agents of dramatic change worldwide. Let us hope that these horrible stories, so different from the ones we have been hearing about primarily in the United States for the last 20 plus years, will be the driver for long overdue change.
But the change cannot be to ban surrogacy. Extreme approaches have never worked. Banning a much desired and needed service only forces people underground or abroad, to unregulated and unprotected places. Only by thoughtfully implementing measures that focus on protecting everyone involved in a surrogacy arrangement—surrogates, intended parents, and most importantly, children—can we foster the much needed change for which these articles so desperately call.
Childhood is a time fraught with uncertainty and insecurity. Growing up, almost everyone, at some point, has felt like the odd man out — or felt just plain different. While some children are fortunate enough to have adults in their life who celebrate their “differences” and encourage them to let their true colors shine, others aren’t so lucky. Made By Raffi (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books), a unique new children’s book about one brave little boy who forges his own path despite peer pressure, is a must-read for all children.
While being perceived as different can be difficult for kids who just want to fit in, seeing other kids being brave, and celebrating themselves for who they are, can be a powerful tool. Craig Pomranz’s heartwarming book is one such tool for both children and their parents.
We caught up with Pomranz to ask him some questions about his newly released book, advice for parents and kids who might be struggling with feeling different, and about his own childhood experiences.
Q: What or who was your inspiration for penning Made By Raffi?
A: The book was inspired by my godson. As a little boy, he wasn’t so interested in sports or rough and tumble play. When he was about 9, he asked for knitting needles for his birthday, and I was delighted to supply. He really took to it and found it very peaceful and comforting. At some point, I guess he was teased. He then began to ask questions about why he was different.
I was fascinated when he came up with the term “tomgirl,” because it brought into focus the huge difference between a little girl who likes traditional boys’ activities – a tomboy – and a little boy who likes traditional girls’ activities. A tomboy is admired for her toughness and independence. But “tomgirl” connotes a negative idea: a little boy who is effeminate or weak. I thought to myself, this is huge. I can really help kids and parents by telling this story.
Q: What message do you hope to send readers?
A: I hope the book supports young boys and girls who are perceived as “different” because of their appearances or hobbies and at the same time encourages all kids to try many different kinds of activities. I also hope it provides comfort for worried parents. It is healthy for children to experiment, try on different identities, and discover themselves. They should do so openly and without fear. It is a funny, colorful book, because kids should also be able to laugh without malice—differences are fun!
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a breakthrough decision today. The decision made in Mennesson v. France will be overwhelmingly helpful for European intended parents who are currently engaged in the surrogacy process or thinking of doing so in the future.
Today’s decision holds that, by denying the recognition of a parent-child relationship to children born through surrogacy abroad, French authorities undermined the children’s identity within French society and thus violated the children’s Article 8 right (Right to Family Life). The Court held that the Mennesson’s twins’ rights to respect their private life had been infringed as everyone should be able to establish the essence of his or her identity, including parentage.