Managing Surrogacy Relationships
The options of starting a family through surrogacy are peaking. Demand and competition are driving the clinical costs down, and it's more affordable for couples who want their own biological child or who want to raise a newborn through the gift of surrogacy and egg donation.
The giver of the gift of surrogacy and the people who are accepting it have needs and expectations of how the relationship should develop. If a comprehensive plan hasn't been made, then complications can arise.
Let's start by giving a hypothetical situation. Mr. and Mrs. Smith need the help of a surrogate. They accept the offer from a friend, Mary. They feel comfortable with this friendship and trust that this woman will take care of herself during the pregnancy. Mary asks for a certain amount of money to cover costs during pregnancy, and the Smiths agree. In the back of their mind, Mary is being "paid" to carry their baby.
Mary gets pregnant via in vitro fertilization (IVF) and is now carrying twins for the Smiths. The Smiths call her every day to see how she is. They ask if they can do anything. They want to attend all the appointments. They ask the OB if Mary's working, eating, sleeping and sexual activities are OK for their babies.
Mary feels overwhelmed and micromanaged. After all, she has given birth before, and she knows what she is doing. Resentment sets in. Soon she is avoiding phone calls and gritting her teeth through appointments, and her husband is wondering what in the world they got themselves into! The Smiths feel her pulling away and become worried and start to mistrust her actions. They have a right to ask these questions. After all, they are "paying" her, and she is carrying their children. The rest of the pregnancy is filled with stress on both sides, as Mary now can't wait to give birth and get these people off her back.
The babies are born healthy and strong, and the Smiths take them home. Now Mary hardly EVER hears from them. It may be months before she even sees them, and they used to be close friends. She feels used and left behind, forgetting how she felt during the pregnancy. Regret sets in.
As for the Smiths, they are coping with two new lives! They are not getting the sleep they used to and bills from the surrogacy and new babies are piling up. Their lives have been turned upside down, and they can barely get time alone with each other let alone make calls to Mary.
Can you see what happened? No one really discussed expectations. The before, during and after pregnancy relationship needs were not met, and therefore, a bad taste has been left behind where the beauty of families working together to bring a much-wanted child into the world should have been.
Before anyone makes the choice of surrogacy, certain aspects need to be thoroughly thought out and discussed. Here is a short list:
* Should a family member be asked to be a surrogate?
* Would a friend be a good choice? (If the answer is yes in either of these categories, then there is a separate list of concerns to think about.)
* What race, religion and marital status would you like a surrogate to be?
* What is the working status preference of a surrogate?
* What do you envision your role in the pregnancy?
* What are your expectations as to the amount of contact with the surrogate during and after the pregnancy?
* What are the financial expectations, and how will that be handled?
These questions are just the tip of the iceberg, but they open up a dialog and can make a huge difference in a surrogate relationship.
Having someone to mediate is also helpful. A successful surrogate arrangement can be done independently, but having a third party assist you with relationship management can be invaluable. Having a third party to handle the escrow account can be a great relief on both the intended parents and surrogate. Mixing the topics of money and babies is a sticky situation at best and should be avoided - if possible - in order to concentrate on the pregnancy and the surrogacy relationship. A well-managed escrow account can make all the difference.