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A guide to finding a surrogate mother

How do intended parents go about finding their surrogate mother? Many intended parents will work with a surrogacy agency to find a surrogate and start a surrogacy journey. Finding a surrogate is a big milestone in the surrogacy process. This guide for intended parents will explain how to find a surrogate mother to have a baby through surrogacy.

 The first steps to finding your surrogate mother.

The first steps to finding your surrogate mother.

This guide will help you understand the steps in finding your surrogate mother. Understanding what surrogacy is, what the surrogacy process is like, and what to look for in a surrogate are good first steps. Intended parents come to surrogacy for many different reasons, and they have different expectations for their surrogate mother and their surrogacy journey.

1. Research surrogacy agencies.

Most intended parents start their surrogacy journeys by researching agencies to find those that best suit what you’re looking for.

What should I look for in an agency?
Intended parents should look for surrogacy agencies that are reputable, have high surrogacy success rates, and who have managed many surrogacy journeys. The more journeys an agency has completed, the more experienced they are at navigating the ins and outs of surrogacy and any challenges that may arise. Larger agencies tend to work with more surrogate mothers, so the wait time to be match may be less.

What services should a surrogacy agency provide? There are many surrogacy agencies in business, and they all offer something a little different. Larger surrogacy agencies are able to provide all surrogacy services – surrogate matching, surrogacy coordination, legal and accounting needs and social work services – all under one roof. Smaller agencies may offer on a few of these services, and intended parents are responsible for finding their own legal or social work support. If you are someone who would like to have your entire surrogacy journey and the details managed by someone, a larger agency may be a better choice for you. If you prefer to be more "hands on", you may like working with a small surrogacy agency. No matter which size agency you decide to work with, you should read reviews and ask to speak with parents through the program to ensure they are reputable and successful.

Are there any warning signs for a surrogacy agency that I should avoid?
If you ask an agency questions, or for information on their statistics and success rates and they are not able to provide them, you may want to find another surrogacy agency. If you speak with an agency and just don't get a good feeling, you should trust your gut. Participating in surrogacy groups on social media and forums is also a good way to learn if a surrogacy agency is credible.

2. Understand the screening and selection process.

How are surrogates selected? First, women must fill out a surrogacy application to see if they qualify to become a surrogate mother. Once they apply and their initial application is accepted, many surrogacy agencies have prospective surrogates undergo a mental health screening. A typical screening process involves an extensive medical and psychological assessment as well as thorough criminal and financial background checks.

What makes a good surrogate? A good surrogate mother is a woman who meets all of the surrogate requirements for an agency. Some criteria for becoming a surrogate include:

• She must have delivered a child of their own, and is currently parenting at least one child.
• She must have had successful pregnancy(ies) and birth(s), without complications, as documented by medical records.
• She must be between 21-44 years of age.
• She must have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of no higher than 33.
• She must live in a surrogate-friendly state in the United States.
• Must be financially secure.
• Must lead a stable, responsible lifestyle.

Surrogate requirements vary by agency, and you should be able to review surrogate criteria for an agency on their website.

When a surrogate applicant meets all of the surrogacy agency's requirements, she is considered ready to be matched with intended parents. Upon matching, she will need to pass a surrogate medical screening at an IVF clinic.

Can I bring my own surrogate? In some cases, intended parents have a family member or friend who may offer to be their gestational surrogate. If you want to do surrogacy with your own surrogate, you can absolutely do that. If you're working with an agency, the surrogacy agency can work with you to discuss compensation and put legal contracts in place. If you are working independently, you should speak with your legal counsel.

3. Matching with your surrogate.

Finding your surrogate mother match is a big decision in your surrogacy journey. If you are pursuing independent surrogacy, you will likely work one-on-one with women to find the best match.

If you are working with a surrogacy agency, they will work with you to help you find the best surrogate match.

Before you can be matched with a surrogate, you'll work closely with your agency Program Coordinator to talk about what you are looking for in your surrogacy journey, and in your surrogate mother. Do you want a surrogate who lives near you? Are there qualities in a surrogate mother you're looking for? What type of relationship do you hope to have with your surrogate during the surrogacy and after the birth of your baby? Answering these questions honestly will help you and your agency find the most appropriate gestational carrier match.

3 steps to matching with a surrogate mother:

1. Intended parents should determine what's important to them in their surrogacy journey and surrogate mother.

2. Fill out the agency's intended parent profile, which helps the agency and potential surrogates learn who intended parents are as people, and as future parents.

3. Be open-minded. If they're new to surrogacy, intended parents might not know what to expect in a surrogacy journey. Reviewing surrogate profiles and learning about the women who want to carry a baby for you is a chance to meet new people you might not normally have met. Intended parents may find that they instantly click with a surrogate and her family who live on the other side of the country with a completely different lifestyle!

How are surrogates and intended parents matched?

How do agencies determine who would be a good surrogate mother for intended parents? Agencies will base the match on a few criteria: the level of communication desired during and after the journey, the location of the surrogacy mother (each state has a different set of surrogacy laws), the number of embryos to transfer, and all parties' views on selective reduction and termination.

If intended parents approach the matching process with an open mind and honestly, they will find their perfect match.

4. Meeting your surrogate.

The first meeting with your surrogate could be via phone call, video call or even in person. Agencies have different processes for how intended parents meet their surrogate for the first time.

What should intended parents expect when meeting their surrogate for the first time?

They should expect to be nervous, anxious, excited – and everything in between! Surrogate mothers and intended parents have said that when they first met each other, it felt like going on a blind date. But once the ice was broken, the conversation started to flow!

For the first meeting with their gestational surrogate, intended parents should not be surprised if it starts off shaky, or there are lulls in the conversation, or nervous laughter. Intended parents are meeting the woman who might carry their baby for them – there are very few other meetings in the world that might be this important! It's completely normal to feel any and all emotions, as everyone approaches the first meeting differently.

Tips for meeting your surrogate mother.

First and foremost, be yourself! If you act naturally, share your honest and true feelings about the journey and your expectations, you'll start what could be a longer relationship off on the right foot.

5 tips for the first time you meet your surrogate:

1. Prepare for the meeting. Think of topics you'd like to discuss, something you read about in her profile that you want to learn more about. Or perhaps you have found something you have in common – a love of hiking, travel or cooking – that you can use as a conversation starter.

2. Ask questions, but share information, too. Think of this meeting as a two-way street: you should not only be asking your surrogate questions, but you should be sharing information and stories about your own life. This is a first meeting, not an interview. Remember: she's just as nervous as you are!

3. Share your hopes and dreams for surrogacy. This is the perfect time for intended parents and surrogates to share their initial expectations from the journey, including visits and communication.

4. Try not to give a list of requirements. Chances are, your agency has found you a good surrogate match based on the requirements you shared with them for your parent profile. Plus, your surrogate will be following the guidelines and protocol given to her by your IVF doctor and her own OBGYN.

5. Don't stress! Try and remember that meeting your surrogate is the first step in a very exciting process: building your family! Prepare for the call and go into it with an open mind.

Follow the tips above, plus these additional tips, to navigate that first meeting. It's perfectly normal to start the conversation by telling your surrogate you're nervous - it often is a great ice breaker!

5. Building a relationship with your surrogate mother.

You've matched with your surrogate mother...what's next?

Part of the surrogacy journey for intended parents is to build a relationship with their surrogate mother. The relationship between intended parents and surrogates is unique to the individuals in the surrogacy journey.

Surrogacy is one of the most emotional and intimate experiences people can embark on together, and developing a strong bond with the woman who is carrying your baby can help intended parents feel connected throughout the journey (and beyond!).

Circle Surrogacy & Egg Donation, for example, is a "relationship-based" agency. This means that Circle Surrogacy encourages a deep relationship between intended parents and surrogate mothers. This relationship-first approach is evident in the thorough screening process, and their emphasis on getting to know surrogate mothers and intended parents to find their best match the first time.

Here's why Circle Surrogacy thinks it's important to build a solid relationship with your surrogate:

It has an impact on your child. Studies have shown that children who know about their birth story feel a stronger sense of self-identity. If at any point your child (or children) asks about meeting his or her surrogate, having a relationship will help make the experience that much smoother

It has an impact on the pregnancy. Throughout the pregnancy, you and your surrogate will make decisions together that will impact her body and your baby. Starting with an open dialogue will help inform your communication style to make sure your surrogate feels included and respected – the same goes for you too.

It has an impact on your surrogate. Many of our surrogates go into this experience feeling it will be one of the most meaningful acts of their lives. We want them to feel appreciated and proud of their selflessness. Surrogates who have positive experiences with their intended parents may either come back to do a sibling journey with you, or go on to help another couple.

It has an impact on you. A strong relationship with your surrogate will bring you closer to her, her experiences and your baby. It opens the lines of communication for her to share her feelings, silly cravings and emotions with you. Sometimes, intended parents can feel a little removed from the pregnancy, a strong relationship with your surrogate makes you feel much more a part of the growth of their baby.

 Costs of Surrogacy for Intended Parents

Surrogacy success story: Byron and Matt

"Besides the birth of our son, getting to know [our surrogate] Misty and her husband and their kids has been the next best thing in this whole process...And now that our son is here, we [still] talk every day. And we send pictures and videos. But not just about the baby. This is now about our families, not just Baby Byron, and while he brought us together with Misty's family, it's now something so much bigger."

- Byron and Matt, dads through Circle Surrogacy