Monday, June 25, 2012

Explaining and understanding surrogacy fees and costs

Explaining and understanding surrogacy fees and costs

It can be overwhelming if neither side knows what to expect for surrogacy fees. It is important to note that the cost of surrogacy includes the surrogates' fees, the clinics' fees, medical and legal fees, psychological screening, medical screening and sometimes an agency fee.

 Not everyone asks for the same fees, but I've been in the surrogacy community since 2005 and there is definitely an average and standard as far as fees go. Not all surrogates ask for all fees and some fees are more or less. It can be hard to talk to a stranger about these fees, but knowing about them upfront can help eliminate misunderstandings, awkwardness and even shock later on. Each side should know what to expect and what is important to them. If you keep both sides in mind and know what to expect, negotiations should go smoothly.

The most common fee surrogates ask for is a base compensation fee. This fee is for the pain and suffering that goes along with the pregnancy and/or living expenses. A typical first time surrogate's base compensation is usually between $18,000- $20,000 and goes up about $5000 each surrogacy. These payments are usually split up into 10 equal monthly payments. An experienced surrogate can be well worth the money since she knows what all is involved and has been through it and knows if she can handle it. However, all surrogates start out as inexperienced and there are plenty of great surrogates out there with all levels of experience. If you are a first time surrogate, I highly recommend that you research surrogacy as much as possible.

On top of the Base Compensation, there are other fees that go along with a surrogacy. If a surrogacy pregnancy was as easy as getting pregnant and setting your life on cruise control, then more women would be doing it and there would probably be one low fee. However, a lot is asked of a surrogate and we go through things that we typically wouldn't with our own pregnancies.

One of the first fees a surrogate usually receives is the monthly expense allowance. A surrogate incurs costs from the beginning. A monthly expense allowance helps offset the costs that occur upfront and along the way. A monthly expense allowance typically covers local travel, phone calls, e-mails, faxes, birth control pills, etc.  This fee can range from $150-$300/month and begins at signing of contracts and usually runs through two months after birth.

Next is the embryo transfer fee. To prepare for an embryo transfer, a surrogate usually takes birth control pills for one month and then takes a series of shots. In addition, a surrogate is usually placed on some sort of "restrictions" and is on bed rest for a few days after the transfer.  The embryo transfer fee is usually $750-$1000. It can be paid all at once after the transfer, or broken up into two payments, one due at start of medications, the other following the transfer.

Most surrogates receive a maternity clothing allowance. This is on average $500 for a singleton pregnancy, $750 for multiples. This fee is usually due around 16-20 weeks.

It is important to have insurance- life and health. A surrogate is putting her life and her health at risk and that comes at a cost. Most surrogates are advised to obtain a life insurance policy if she doesn't have one already. The price can range from $50-$600/month. If a surrogate does not have health insurance that will cover a surrogate pregnancy, the Intended Parents will need to purchase a policy for her. Here in Utah the costs are around $160/month plus $7500 deductible. Some insurances elsewhere can cost closer to $600/month with a $60,000 deductible. It is important to note that the Intended Parents are responsible for all medical costs.

Surrogate pregnancies sometimes come across invasive procedures. These can include; amniocentesis, selective reduction, abortion and d&c. The possibility of these procedures should be discussed in the beginning and all parties should agree on their views regarding these procedures. Most invasive procedure fees are $500-$1000 each and should be paid at the time of the procedure. Along these lines, there is sometimes a miscarriage fee around $500-$1000. Sometimes the miscarriage fee includes a d&c fee, other times they are separate. Each of these procedures incurs additional pain and suffering and sometimes bed rest or healing time.

Bed rest fees that aren't due to invasive procedures come at a cost of their own. Bed rest can certainly disrupt a surrogates life and affect her husband and children. Bed rest fees can help with childcare or just the inconvenience and boredom of being on bed rest. Bed rest fees can range from $50 a day to $250 a week for Doctor ordered bed rest. If surrogates have to be on hospitalized bed rest, the fee can range from $100 a day to $500 a week.

Most surrogates charge a fee for carrying multiples. This fee is usually about $2500-$4500 each additional fetus.

Some surrogates will have to have a c-section. C-section fees range from $2500-$5000. I know from experience that c-sections are no fun and require a longer healing time than a vaginal birth. Some surrogates will combine this fee with her multiple fee. Some surrogates will not ask for a c-section fee if she would have to have one with her own children or if she has already had more than one c-section.

Most surrogates I know have a loss of reproductive organs fee. This fee ranges from $2000 partial loss to $10,000 full loss. A friend of mine recently pointed out that you could also lose the function of other organs, so keep that in mind.

Some surrogates will ask for lost wages for themselves or their spouses if they are working. Lost wages are usually for time taken off for the embryo transfer or the birth. Lost wages are usually about $150/day or actual    hourly/daily wage for time off.

Some Surrogates ask for an all-inclusive fee. This can be helpful for the Intended Parents because it is one fee that covers everything and they can plan and budget without any surprises. Most all-inclusive fees are about $10,000 higher than the average base compensation. For example a first time surrogate would typically get $18,000- $20,000 for her base compensation and then get other fees on top of that. With an all-inclusive fee that same surrogate would receive $28,000- $30,000 and that would be it. Sometimes there is an extra fee for multiples or loss of reproductive organs, other times all-inclusive means that it covers it all. Usually with an all-inclusive fee 10% is due at contract signing to be deducted from the full amount. Intended Parents are usually still responsible for all medical costs and legal costs.

Most surrogates have to travel for the embryo transfer and/or medical screening. The Intended Parents are responsible for travel costs and usually the surrogate is allowed to bring a companion. The surrogate and her companion usually receive per diem which is on average $50-$100 per person per day.

The Intended Parents as well as the Surrogate should know what each fee is for and the average cost of these fees. I hope that I have helped explain them.

Here are some helpful links on the costs of surrogacy:

This explains the most standard, common fees associated with the surrogate:

Aside from the links, this article was written by me through my own experiences and through my own research over the past seven years. Feel free to share the information within and either link to this blog post or  credit my name.


Jill @ Mormon Surrogate

Friday, June 22, 2012

Eagle Mountain Utah Fire June 22 2012

We were headed out yesterday and John noticed some smoke in our nearby mountains. As we headed towards Saratoga Springs we could see fire on that side of the mountain. We were headed to Lagoon, our local amusement park.

On our way home last night we tried to find the best spot to view the ongoing fire. We figured since we could see it so well from the Saratoga Springs side, that that must be the best place to view it. We drove around and pulled over a few times and thought we had a pretty good view.

Then we drove home and realized that we had a really good view from our front porch. 

These were taken around 1:00 this morning:

Things have settled down on our side- taken 10:30 this morning.

We have not been evacuated but a good area around us has. Be safe out there! I hear there is ash anywhere from 15 to 50 miles away, probably more.

Just last weekend my husband noticed a fire further down the mountain and reported it and even tried to help contain it.

Windblown Dump Fire forces Saratoga Springs home evacuations
Hot, dry and windy » Triple-digit temperatures, parched vegetation brings ‘Red Flag’ warning.
First Published 3 hours ago • Updated 1 minute ago
Gusty winds drove a northern Utah wildfire toward homes in the Saratoga Springs-Eagle Mountain area late Friday morning, forcing an evacuation order affecting about 250 families.
Interagency Fire Center spokeswoman Teresa Rigby said the winds whipped the Dump Wildfire’s flames through tinder-dry grasslands on the blaze’s eastern perimeter.
"We’re well above 750 acres now. I just hope we don’t lose any homes," Rigby said. "The fire has picked up substantially, that’s for sure."
The evacuation orders affected the Saratoga Hills, Eagle Top, Kiowa Valley and Silver Lake subdivisions — or roughly all homes south of the Pony Express Parkway, east to Smith Ranch Road and then east to Redwood Road. Evacuees were being offered shelter at Westlake High School, and the Red Cross was on hand to offer assistance as needed.
No injuries or structural damage was initially reported, but flames reportedly had burned within a quarter mile of some homes. Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Cami Lee described the burning terrain as "rocky and steep," and said the heavy smoke and ash was limiting crews’ visibility as they attacked the blaze.
The Saratoga Springs police at about 10:30 a.m. said there was a mandatory evacuation order for the entire subdivision of Saratoga Hills and adjacent subdivisions. Residents were asked to go to Westlake High school as soon as possible.
About 200 firefighters, assisted by two water-bearing helicopters and a fire-retardant dumping air tanker, had started Friday with 20 percent of the Dump Wildfire contained. The fire was sparked by target-shooters on Thursday afternoon — the 20th wildfire blamed on gunfire so far this year .
By Friday late morning, though, the flames had shifted from burning up remote mountain slopes and were causing concerns for commercial and residential property owners. That initially included Dyno Nobel’s property and Eagle Mountain, but as winds grew in intensity the fire seemed to take aim at Saratoga Springs, prompting the shifting of firefighting resources to saving homes there.
The immediate concern over the flames approaching the property of Dyno Nobel — which makes explosives used in the mining, quarry, construction, pipeline and geophysical exploration industries — abated as crews focused on halting the fire’s spread toward Saratoga Springs.
It could be a long, hot, gritty weekend of flame and smoke for Utah’s scrambling firefighting crews with temperatures soaring past 100 degrees, winds picking up and the state’s drought-like conditions leaving rangelands and forests alike tinder-dry.
remain from last year’s above average precipitation."
In northeast Utah, fire crews responded to five separate fires last week that were on or immediately adjacent to the Ashley National Forest. The largest of the fires was approximately 250 acres in size. Two fires were started by lightning and three others were human caused.
The largest fire occurred on last Friday as a result of a lightning strike. The fire was located on the Flaming Gorge Ranger District in the area of the 2002 Mustang Fire. The fire grew rapidly due to dry conditions, strong winds, and high temperatures. Approximately 65 ground personnel were assisted by six engines, multiple air tankers, and two helicopters. The fire was contained Monday.

Fireworks were responsible for a small fire near Dutch John, and a human-caused fire burned sixteen acres on a small island on the Green River. Two other small fires were located on the Duchesne Ranger District — one of which was caused by lighting and the other was due to a campfire that was not properly extinguished.
"The Forest has not seen these types of extreme fire conditions this early in the season for several years", stated Ivan Erskine, Fire Management Officer for the Forest. "Fuel moisture levels are exceptionally dry for this time of year. In addition, there is an abundance of already cured grasses and other light fuels that remain from last year’s above average precipitation."
According to John Erickson, Forest Supervisor, "These early fires are a reminder that, given the extreme fire danger conditions, visitors need to be exceptionally careful with any activity that could potentially cause a fire."
Indeed, The National Weather Service issued a statewide "Red Flag" extreme wildfire risk warning beginning Friday and extending into the weekend. Winds of 15-25 mph are predicted to lash the region, with gusts topping 50 mph.
Those risk factors also have led to bans on fireworks and open fires — except in approved campgrounds and established fire pits — on all public lands throughout the state.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Surrogacy Contract- Very helpful information and advice

I came across this today and had to share. The contract phase of surrogacy is certainly not the most fun part. I believe this advice can help newbies as well as experienced surrogates and intended parents. This also explains the surrogacy process for those of you who might be interested.

I don't know Tennessee law, but I'm sure it's different than Utah law, so not everything applies throughout the states or the country. (for example, there is insurance you can get that covers surrogacy here without long waiting periods or difficulty) Either way, great points on drafting contracts and building a relationship of trust.

Surrogacy Agreement Talking Points: An Attorney’s thoughts on Negotiating your Surrogacy Agreement By Julia J. Tate, Esq.

Pregnant belly
By Julia J. Tate, Esq.
When Intended Parents and potential Surrogates find each other, it can be a little like falling in love.  Everyone seems so perfect.  You seem to have so much in common with one another.  Your hopes and dreams seem to mesh so well.  You can’t imagine that there would ever be a disagreement that you couldn’t work out by just sitting down and talking.  The process of negotiating your Surrogacy Agreement should burst that idealistic bubble so that you get an Agreement that can serve as a firm foundation for your relationship.  After all, it’s hard to build on a bubble!
A new relationship between Intended Parents and a potential Surrogate (and possibly her husband) is also like other relationships in that we are often hesitant to ask important questions of one another.  There are things that we think we’d just really rather not ask – hoping instead that these topics will just arise in the course of the relationship.  Parties to a surrogacy relationship usually wait for a lawyer to raise these hard issues.  This is a less-than-optimal choice because, in addition to the danger that the attorney simply won’t think of a particular topic, it deprives the parties of the relationship-building experience of hashing out a difficult discussion.  These conversations and the way they are initiated and conducted give the parties a chance to get to know one another on a deeper level.  Trust in one another is built when the parties talk things through.  It is much better to have this sort of trust-building experience in the low-risk environment of contract negotiation than in the stress-filled environment of a conflict which arises once the pregnancy has begun.
Having the parties actually negotiate the Agreement themselves may help reduce the chances of the Agreement being broken during the pregnancy.  Studies on mediation (particularly divorce mediation) have shown that parties are much more likely to comply with terms to which they have agreed than terms which have been imposed on them.  Such parties have a “buy-in” in the terms, whether it’s a surrogacy agreement or a negotiated marital dissolution agreement.  Further, when parties have negotiated their agreement themselves they are more likely to understand each other’s values and the importance of certain terms of the agreement to one another.  Knowing why something is very important to the other person makes it more likely that we’ll actually do that thing since we all have empathy for one another, to some degree.
So, with the understanding I’ve set out above, I have proposed a list of Talking Points which parties considering entering into a Surrogacy Agreement may want to discuss.  I would like to use stronger language and say “should” or even “must” discuss, because the topics which prompt some hesitancy are probably the ones that are most important to discuss.  However, being committed to parties doing this negotiation without the compulsion of the supposed experts, I will simply suggest that these topics be discussed.
Traditional Surrogacy or Gestational Surrogacy 
By traditional surrogacy, we mean an arrangement in which the surrogate receives artificial insemination and becomes pregnant with a baby which is the result of the union of her own egg and the sperm in the artificial insemination.  Gestational Surrogacy is an arrangement in which the surrogate receives the transfer of one or more embryos into her uterus and gestates the baby on behalf of the Intended Parents.  The embryos transferred to her uterus may come from the union of the Intended Father’s sperm and the Intended Mother’s egg or the union of egg or sperm donated to the Intended Parents.  The key factor is that the Gestational Surrogate is not the genetic mother of the baby she carries.
The distinction is very important.  In a gestational surrogacy, in Tennessee, we can get a Court order prior to the birth, declaring that the Intended Parents are the legal parents of the baby and ordering the hospital to name them on the birth certificate.  We can’t do that in a traditional surrogacy.
The risks Intended Parents take when they decide to do traditional surrogacy are too numerous to list here.  In nearly all situations when I explain all the risks, the Intended Parents decide against traditional surrogacy.  If you are seriously considering traditional surrogacy, please consult with your attorney about the risks.
Money is a part of every surrogacy negotiation, even if the gestational carrier seeks to serve as a compassionate carrier and does not want to be compensated for her time and trouble.  Even then the parties should discuss compensation so that all the parties are clear on the decisions being made and the basis of those decisions.
In many respects parties can craft their surrogacy agreement in whatever way they want.  One big exception is money.  Every State in the Nation – and probably every nation in the world – has a statute on the books making it a crime to pay money or anything of value in exchange for a parent surrendering his or her parental rights to a child and making it a crime to receive anything of value in exchange for surrendering parental rights to a child.  So you can not draft a contract which says, in essence,  the Intended Parents will pay the Gestational Carrier so much money and she’ll surrender her parental rights to them.  You can not make these two events contingent on one another.  To do so would be a felony – at least in Tennessee.
Short of the above, on what basis do Intended Parents transfer funds to the Gestational Carrier?
Many contracts include provisions that state that the Gestational Carrier is being compensated for her time and trouble, for the pain and inconvenience that pregnancy and childbirth entails and for the risks to her own health and future reproductive capacity which she’s taking by carrying and giving birth to a child.  While these may play into the funds transferred to the gestational carrier, it’s useful to make it clear that these are not the only things for which the Intended Parents are compensating her.  Most recently, contracts have been designating percentages of the funds or even specific amounts as support to cover the Gestational Carrier’s housing expenses, clothing expenses, reduced earning capacity, food allowance and other specific items.
One reason for being so specific about the allocation of the funds is to prevent the Gestational Carrier’s insurance company from claiming that the funds that the Intended Parents pay to the Surrogate constitute “other insurance” from which the health insurance company should be reimbursed for amounts they’ve paid for her maternity care and for the delivery of the baby.  If we are clear as to the reasons behind the support payments, insurance companies are substantially less likely to be able to recover their payments.
Clients often ask how much is a reasonable amount for the gestational surrogate.  While I do draft a number of these contracts, I can not make an estimate on this topic.  It’s completely a matter for the parties to determine.
Health Insurance
It is very important that the Gestational Carrier have health insurance that will cover her pregnancy.  There are very few health insurance policies which provide for maternity coverage but do not provide coverage if the pregnant woman is carrying a child for someone else.  The coverage is for her health care and, if she’s pregnant, she needs health care, regardless of how she came to be pregnant.  Most policies do, however, have a provision in their terms relating to infertility treatment which says that the insurer will not provide benefits for surrogacy.  Usually this means that if the insured person has infertility issues and needs a surrogate to help the insured person have a baby, the insurance company will not provide benefits to cover the surrogacy.  If this provision is in the gestational carrier’s policy this does not mean that the insurance company will not cover her care, it means that
Often Intended Parents decide that they’d like to purchase health insurance coverage for their surrogate.  This is usually quite difficult, if not impossible without such a long waiting period that the arrangement just becomes impractical.
If the parties opt to work together, in Tennessee, and the surrogate does not have health insurance, she might be able to get coverage through TennCare which is Tennessee’s version of Medicare.  Getting this coverage is not a matter of certainty, however.  Further, even if the surrogate does get this coverage, she will be limited to the providers who have agreed to accept TennCare patients.  Relying on TennCare to provide the prenatal care and to cover the delivery is not the optimal choice by any means.
Life Insurance 
Most agreements include a provision under which the Intended Parents pay the premiums for a term life policy for about ten months from the date of the positive pregnancy test (or from the positive pregnancy test through a date which is about a month after the termination of the pregnancy).  Term life insurance premiums are fairly affordable now so the Intended Parents can easily provide a substantial amount of protection against the economic impact on the Gestational Carrier’s family of her untimely death.
Few insurers will write a term life policy for such a short period of time.  The shortest period of coverage which I have obtained is a two year policy.  Given these circumstances, the burden falls on the Gestational Carrier to get the coverage and pay the premiums for which the Intended Parents reimburse her.
Recently, some parties have decided to increase the amount of coverage beyond what would go to the Gestational Carrier’s family to provide for an amount of insurance which would go to the Intended Parents in the event of her death during while they are engaged in the surrogacy arrangement.  The Intended Parents invest quite a bit of money in their efforts to bring a baby into the world.  If tragedy strikes and the Gestational Carrier dies while carrying the Intended Parents’ baby, the Gestational Carrier’s family is not the only family to suffer economic loss.  The Intended Parents also suffer a loss.  Increasing the Gestational Carrier’s coverage by an amount which would go to the Intended Parents provides the Intended Parents with some compensation for the funds they’ve expended.  This insurance payment may be the difference between the Intended Parents being able to recommence their efforts to add to their family by surrogacy or having to adjust to not having this baby enter their family.
Lost wages
If the Gestational Carrier works outside the home, the contract will usually provide that the Intended Parents will compensate the Gestational carrier for her lost wages if she has to miss work.  This compensation is calculated based on the net wages, not the gross wages.  Net wages are the wages less the federal withholding which would have been taken from the wages had the wages been earned.  Other withholdings such as health insurance premiums, retirement contributions or other deductions are not deducted from gross wages in the calculation of net wages for purposes of reimbursement.  The idea is that the Gestational Carrier’s household should not sacrifice anything as a consequence of work missed because of the surrogacy arrangement.
Contracts usually also provide for reimbursement for the Gestational Carrier’s Husband’s lost wages, if he has to be off work to assist his wife during the meetings before commencing the surrogacy or during the pregnancy or child birth.
Compensation for lost wages usually includes caps on the amount of the Intended Parents’ reimbursement for the Gestational Carrier’s lost wages and a separate cap on her husband’s lost wages.
Values about abortion
Parties considering a surrogacy arrangement should thoroughly discuss their values about abortion.  One of the most difficult decisions which can arise in any pregnancy involves selective reduction.  This is the procedure by which the number of fetuses growing within a woman’s uterus is reduced in order to increase the likelihood of the birth of healthy babies.  Selective reduction terminates the lives of the embryos which are removed from the uterus.
All the parties need to understand the termination of life involved in selective reduction and thoroughly discuss how they feel about this.  It can be hard to discuss this because the parties are afraid of finding that their values differ on this topic.  They fear that this topic may be the deal breaker.  I urge people to completely discuss this, despite their fears.  It is much better to find out that your values differ before the pregnancy happens than when the need for a decision about selective reduction arises.  The worst scenario is that the need for a decision arises and the parties realize there is a conflict and one side ends up having to do something in conflict with their values.
If you do find that your values differ in this area, it is not necessarily the end of the agreement you’d hoped to reach.  You may be able to reach a compromise and make a plan which will work for everyone.  Even if you can’t reach this Agreement, surrogacy does remain open for you.  Another Gestational Carrier can be found and other Intended Parents can be identified for this surrogate.  The key is in getting a good match.
Values about children in broken homes and single parents
Although some attorneys do not cover this topic, I think it is important for the parties to consider.  I request that parties to contracts which I am drafting determine whether they want to continue the efforts to try to conceive if the Intended Parents’ marriage becomes troubled or breaks up prior to the pregnancy beginning or if one or the other of the Intended Parents dies before the pregnancy commences.  Some Gestational Carriers may find that they feel strongly that they only want to help a two-parent couple become parents and that, if the pregnancy will bring a child into a one parent home, they do not want to do it.  Again, this is best discussed before the issue arises.  A Gestational Carrier’s decision to terminate the Agreement at this point would result in the loss of all the funds which the Intended Parents have already invested in their efforts to conceive with her.
Attendance during embryo transfer
As much effort as Intended Parents put into their efforts to conceive, it is somewhat ironic that using assisted reproduction means that the parents of a child do not actually have to be present at the time of conception.
Embryo transfer, while a miraculous event, is a medical procedure from which the Intended Parents are likely to be excluded.  The Gestational Carrier may want them to be present as she commences to give them this tremendous gift.  Their presence or absence may seem to be an indicator to her of their commitment to parenthood and to this process.  This seems a reasonable way to look at it from her perspective as this is her only exposure to the long path the Intended Parents have been down in trying to form their family.  Gestational Carriers almost never have had problems with fertility themselves.  The Gestational Carrier doesn’t see the months of fertility drugs the Intended Mother has taken, the shots she’s given herself, the miscarriages she may have had, the grief she’s gone through when she’d started her period and found out, over and over again, that she’s not pregnant.  The fact that the Intended Parents are willing to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, having gone through all those experiences, is the indicator of their commitment to parenthood.  I suggest that the parties talk about all these experiences, despite the painful memories, so that the Gestational Carrier and her husband can know how dedicated they are to this endeavor.
Expenses can stand in the way of the Intended Parents being present at the embryo transfer.  Usually Intended Parents have already spent quite a lot before they decide to pursue surrogacy.  Then they are committing to even more expenditures throughout the surrogacy.  The travel expenses and the time off work to be present at the embryo transfer may be considerable.  The Gestational Carrier needs to take this into account if the Intended Parents are hesitant to commit to being present at the embryo transfer.
Attendance during the birth
The Intended Parents’ attendance at the time of birth is an entirely different matter than their attendance at the embryo transfer.  Prior to the birth, the Gestational Carrier has the right and responsibility to make all the decisions about the management of the pregnancy and the birth process.  After the birth, however, the Intended Parents have important legal obligations.  Usually they fulfill these obligations by being present and making the decisions themselves.  In situations in which the Surrogate and the Intended Parents live at considerable distances from one another, however, attendance at the birth could be a problem.  This is usually handled by phone contact with the medical staff.  Some situations may require more in-depth planning.  For instance, in international arrangements Intended Parents may be requested to designate an agent to act on their behalf and to make decisions for their baby if they are not able to do so.  This agent’s obligations usually extend even to take custody of the baby upon discharge from the hospital if the Intended Parents are delayed in getting there.  In this age of managed care, hospitalizations are remarkably short for healthy births so an insurer urging discharge before an international parent can arrive is quite conceivable.
As the pregnancy draws to a close, the parties will prepare a Birth Plan which they will share with the delivering hospital prior to the onset of labor.  This plan will usually set forth agreements such as who is to be in the delivery room and who will have bracelets allowing them access to the baby.  Those items do not have to be spelled out in the Gestational Surrogacy Agreement but I still suggest that the parties share their thoughts on the birth experience at this point.  This discussion lets them envision the process together and bond in their efforts to create this child’s entry into the world.  It lets them get to know what is important to one another as well as how they will each respond to one another when they do bring up matters of importance.  This builds trust between the parties.  So when topics arise such as who holds the baby first and who holds the Gestational Carrier’s hand while she’s in labor, please don’t dismiss them as premature since there is not even a pregnancy yet.  This is a chance to dream together.  Such chances are rare and should be handled as precious gifts.
Post-birth contact
Parties have different feelings about the amount of contact they want to have with one another after the birth.  Of course, emotions change as relationships are built throughout trying to conceive and throughout the pregnancy.  Arrangements for post-birth contact are as varied as are the people engaging in surrogacy arrangements and, so long as the parties are in agreement, contact which varies from the initial agreement is just fine.
So why would the parties need to include this in the negotiation if they can change their arrangements after the birth?  One reason is that talking about this lets you get to know the values of the people with whom you are about to get involved.  It’s part of the process of getting to know each other.  Another reason is that it sets a foundation that the parties can go back to if disagreements do arise.  Further, negotiating this provision helps put the parties in a place of thinking ahead about the pregnancy and the birth.  This can be useful in moving everyone into thinking about these other aspects of the Agreement.
There are really no norms on what people tend to put in this provision of the Agreement.  I suggest that people think of this provision as describing what they want from one another if they’re not getting along.  You may decide that, even if the adults in this arrangement have nothing in common and don’t want to spend any time together,  everyone still wants to know where each other lives so that, when the child grows up, if he or she wants to meet the Gestational Carrier, such a meeting can be scheduled.  Maintaining some degree of contact can make that possible.
Whatever your Agreement provides about contact after the birth, I will be in touch with the Intended Parents shortly after the birth and again a few weeks after the birth, to remind them to express their gratitude to the surrogate.  This is simply a recognition that, once the Parents get home with their child, their minds will be completely on their baby and not on the Surrogate.  For better than nine months, the Surrogate has been the center of attention, sometimes even uncomfortably so.  This shift in attention, coming at a time when her body is adjusting to a different hormonal state, can leave a Surrogate feeling abandoned.  After having done such a miraculous thing, the last thing anyone wants is for the Surrogate to come away from this feel any way other than completely appreciated.  For this reason, I believe it’s almost always in everyone’s best interest for the parties to talk at least a little after the birth.
Privacy concerns
Parties on the different sides of surrogacy arrangements have different needs around privacy.  Infertility treatment is daunting path which exposes couples’ most vulnerable sides.  For many people this makes using Surrogacy to form their families something that they want to keep very private.  Surrogates, on the other hand, have not gone through such a difficult path to get to the point of engaging in surrogacy.  Surrogates are performing a wonderful act of which they are rightfully proud.  They may want to talk about the experience and even describe it to various media outlets.  Articles and news stories about surrogacy help make it more accessible and understandable to the general population so, these disclosures, do have their place.  When they expose private matters, however, they are a problem.
Nearly all contracts include a provision which says that the parties will not disclose the identity of the other parties.  I would suggest that the parties think beyond not disclosing the other parties’ names.  Disclosing that a Gestational Surrogate lives in a particular State and is carrying or has carried a baby for a parent who lives in a different particular State can be a breach of that parent’s privacy.  Her friends and co-workers, who know she’s been trying to have a baby, may know that she’s been traveling to that State quite often.  It doesn’t take much for them to put the pieces together and then these people know all about her Surrogate.  These are the kinds of situations which the parties should discuss thoroughly.  Again, the process of negotiating the Agreement sets up the parties to think about what’s important to each other as situations come up.  The goal of the Agreement is not merely to set out the rules of what shall and shall not be done, but also to help you establish the relationships upon which you’ll make decisions throughout the pregnancy and after the birth.
These are some of the topics you’ll want to discuss in your negotiations.  Of course, each side may think of things that are important to them.  This is your Agreement.  The lawyer may write the document but Agreement in it and the behavior you’re setting out in it is all yours.  You have the right – indeed the responsibility – to bring up what matters to you and make sure it’s covered to your satisfaction.  Whether I draft your Agreement or you have another lawyer do this work, please make sure your Agreement meets your needs by speaking up.
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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Surrogate Sisters: The Ultimate Gift

I was a little late in posting this. It has already aired, but hopefully you can still watch it somewhere. I was hoping to embed the video, but you'll just have to click on the link above to watch the clip teaser. Hooray for another positive surrogacy story!

Surrogate Sisters: The ultimate gift

Editor's note: Surrogate Sisters airs on "Sanjay Gupta, MD" this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. EST and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. EST.
As people on CNN's Health team will tell you, one of my favorite sayings is, "It's better to be lucky than smart." This is one of those instances.  
A few months ago, I saw a picture on a friend's Facebook page of a kid's science project, showing how much sugar is in some popular drinks. The picture came from a "friend" of my friend. Intrigued, I sent a message to my friend's friend.
The recipient was Tiffany Burke, a photographer and mother of two in Bellingham, Washington. Turned out the picture didn't belong to Tiffany, but she told me something amazing.

She was in the process of becoming a surrogate mother for her brother and sister-in-law. Tiffany shared with me a link to the blog where they were documenting the experience.
I was blown away. I've talked with surrogate moms in the past, but this was the first time I met someone who was doing it for a family member. A million questions were racing in my head: How do you have the "Will you be my surrogate?" conversation?  Were lawyers involved?  How do you explain it to your biological children?
I shared the story with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and a few other members of the team.  They also were also intrigued.  We asked Tiffany and her family if we could join them on their journey.  They agreed.  
Over the next 9 and a half months, we will share the ups and downs, the joys and challenges, of this unique way one family found to grow.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hopeful match (surrogacy)

*Update- it's a match! Things are going well and moving forward. Please send your positive thoughts and wishes our way as we get through the early stages and set our sights on some new-fashioned baby making.

As most of you know, I am looking to be a surrogate again. I've been looking off and on for over a year now. I was matched last year, but it didn't work out. Not every match is a good match or the perfect match. You are committing to at least a year together, you don't want to settle. If it doesn't feel 100% great in the beginning, how will it feel while you're pregnant and then after the birth?

Some people think that it's just as simple as an Intended Parent (IP) looking for a Surrogate and a Surrogate looking for an Intended Parent. Not so simple.

Here's what I think:

  • Personalities should be compatible
  • You should agree on issues that could arise
  • Both sides should feel good about moving forward
  • You should agree or at least have some sort of idea of what you want as far as a relationship during and after
That is just a small list off the top of my head.

I know some awesome agencies, but they just haven't been able to match me, so I recently branched out on my own. Every now and then people contact me looking for surrogates. One IM (Intended Mom) contacted me about 2 months ago and I absolutely fell in love with her. She was new to it all and taking her time and in the end she found someone else. Nothing personal, it's just how it goes. (lot's of things factor in)

In the meantime, I put up a few ads on the surrogacy sites I belong to. I got a response here and there and I also responded to some Intended Parent's ads. One IM contacted me and we chatted and even talked on the phone. I really liked her and she seemed to like me. Then all of a sudden I had 4 couples interested in me at the same time.

Do you know how hard it is to be a surrogate and not be able to help all the wonderful IP's out there? Heartbreaking! I was hoping that this one IM and I would match, but the others sounded good as well if it didn't. (But I was really hoping for this particular IM) I figured if I couldn't match with them, I'd love to help them find someone else, which I've done before.

These other IM's have since been matched and,  moving forward except for one that doesn't feel like quite the right fit for me. Another IM might have been a good match but is hoping for someone closer to her.

Let me tell you that finding a match, can be like dating. You might find someone that you really like, but they may not feel the same about you. And of course the other way around. Feelings can get hurt. You don't want to string anyone along, you don't want to rush things, but you also don't want to sit and wait forever not knowing what's going on.

IM and I have kept talking and it seems that things are going good and even possibly moving forward. I've never really thought of what my perfect IM would be, and that's really hard to say because I've been blessed to work (I hate that term) with 3 AWESOME IM's. They were each wonderful in their own way. Well, it seems that I've found another awesome IM and for me, for this time around, I would say she is my ideal IM. That does not mean that the other IM's were not, they were too. They've all treated me wonderfully and I feel that I have a great relationship with them still.

So, keep your fingers crossed for me. I am beyond excited, and hope that this is it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Grudge VS. Forgiveness

We all know people who hold grudges. Some people could make a living of it, they do it so well.

I've been on both sides, although I don't hold a grudge for long. Maybe a few days at best if someone hurts my feelings. I wouldn't even call it a grudge. If I get hurt, I admit I can get defensive. However, I try to assess the situation and try to understand the true intent of what the person said that may have hurt me.

Life is too short and it is easy to misread people. Sometimes we get hurt when someone says or does something (or doesn't say or do something). Sometimes their intentions were good, you know, they meant well. There are some people who are naturally good at hurting people and I just don't think they are even aware.

It's no fun to have your feelings hurt for any reason, whether someone meant to or not.  It can be hard to get over hurt feelings, especially when you don't know for sure if someone was deliberately trying to hurt you or not.

Not only is it no fun to hold a grudge, but it really sucks to be on the other end of a grudge.

Grudges are contagious and they can spread if they are not contained.

Have you ever been in a situation where one person is mad at someone else, but somehow you get stuck in the middle? You can see both sides, but you don't want to side with either person. There's always two sides to every story.

It is usually a good idea to state the fact that you are hurt. However, you can't make a person change or even apologize. Some people will get offended/ and or defensive. Some people will turn it around and act like they are the victim and you hurt them. Others will feel bad and didn't realize they had even hurt you and will sincerely apologize.

Forgive and forget is not always as easy as said and done. It certainly depends on the situation.

Sometimes you have to ask yourself if you contributed at all to the situation. If so- then why not apologize for your side of things?

If someone continues to hold a grudge, you may need to stop spending time with that person. You may have to let them know that you care about them, but their behavior towards you is unacceptable. It really depends on how bad the situation is.  This can be extremely hard when the person holding a grudge is family or a close friend.

Perhaps you can be neutral and offer up a peace offering. Perhaps their heart can be softened.

Sometimes you need to learn from the experience and move on. Sometimes time is the best healer.

If someone is honest in asking for forgiveness, forgive them and move on. Do not look back.

It feels good to forgive and it feels good to be forgiven.

I try to live by the golden rule- Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Respect is a two way street.

We're all human, let's treat each other humanely.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What a coincidence- I may have read about myself in a book

So I'm sitting/laying, donating plasma, chilling out, pumping away and reading my book. (Body Clutter By Marla Cilley- FlyLady & Leanne Ely- The Dinner Diva) I get to a certain paragraph and I about jumped up and ran over to show my husband who was just across from me. You can't quite do that though with a huge needle in your arm, hooked up to a machine. So I (im)patiently waited for someone to walk by so I could ask for help. J____ walked by and I asked if she'd do me a favor and show the book to my husband. I showed her which paragraph to have him read. D_____ got curious and headed over to see what it was all about. He read along with my husband not knowing what was going on. John (my husband) and I are chatting back and forth saying, "That might have been us. Oh my gosh it is quite possible."

What I had read very well happened to us. D_____ laughed, "Yeah right." Me and hubby said seriously that exact situation happened to us down to every detail. Hubby proceeds to tell him- "Google it. Google my name and it will come up with pictures." I tell him, "John and our son was on the front page of the LA times as well as other newspapers and people told us they saw us on the news as well"  So then D______ starts teasing us about he's not as cool as us because he's not on Google, etc.

Here is what I read:

"On the news recently I saw a couple of ships returning to port after being out to sea for over nine months. One sailor was searching for his wife. When he finally found her, he could not believe the transformation she had undergone. She had decluttered her body!"

Now it could very well have been a coincidence. Sure it could have been someone else but that happened to us. My husband was on deployment in 2002-2003 (USS Shiloh) and between September 2002 and April 2003 I had lost 42 pounds. As they docked in port he looked and looked and could not find me because he did not recognize me! What an amazing feeling when he did finally realize it was me and he picked me up and we smiled at each other.

And someone caught it on camera. I didn't even know this picture existed until someone had found another photo of us a few years back and we started searching for others.

There were reporters and cameras all around us and we did speak to a reporter or two.

This picture was also on the front page of the LA times to our surprise.

Unfortunately this is the only picture we've found that included our daughter, hidden by the balloon. Look at how my son is holding on to his dad. Yep, tears are streaming about now. That's John's mom proud as can be in the background.

Photos and stories ended up everywhere and we still probably haven't seen or read them all yet. The part of the story that really makes me think it could have been us was that the ship was out for 9 months. Until that point, deployments were only 6 months, but it was the beginning of the war and they were extended. At the time it was a record breaking deployment for the time out to sea.

Maybe what I read was about us, maybe not. Either way it was really cool to read and brought back some awesome memories! Yes I should show some before and after pictures, but I don't have them on my laptop, and I want to get this published and I'm tired. So remind me and I will add them. K?