We had to leave our house at 9am to get to the agency by 10. Upon arrival they sat us down at a long table where we had a lovely view of the San Fernando Valley. This was the same room that we were in for our initial consultation, but it felt much different this time around. Maybe because this time we had to settle in for a very long day. This would be home for the next 5 hours or so. Fortunately, they were nice enough to bring us some lunch menus so they could treat us to a lovely meal during a brief break in between all of our meetings.
Our first stop was….
THE LEGAL TEAM.
We met with the owner of a fabulous company who is one of the longest running legal companies in the country for this sort of thing. Attorney A threw a LOT of information at us. I was quite frankly pretty shocked at some of the things he told us. There are still places in the good ‘ole US of A where there are strict laws PROHIBITING surrogacy contracts. A bit surprising too that these states consist of New York, Washington, New Jersey, D.C., Michigan and Louisiana. Most other states are stuck in 1 of the 50 shades of gray area surrounding the topic. Surrogacy is practiced, but legal hurdles are aplenty. Some states will actually make you legally adopt the child AFTER he/she is born rather than listing both intended parents on the birth certificate. Fortunately for us, California is one of the good ones. Surrogacy is permitted and pre-birth orders are granted throughout the state meaning that both Mr. Y and I will be named on the birth certificate. In case you want to see the full list of where surrogacy is legal, illegal, or gray…you can check out a map here: http://www.creativefamilyconnections.com/us-surrogacy-law-map
Attorney A also went through a few horror stories which wasn’t so pleasant, but it really drove home the need for us to have a good attorney on our side and an iron clad contract. He also made it clear that in our search for our gestational carrier, that we needed to stick with someone who lived in a surrogate friendly state. Even though WE live in California, if our carrier lives in Arizona (for example), we would need to go through a legal adoption post-birth since that is where the child would be born. It’s pretty unlikely a woman going into labor can hop on a plane to get across state lines back into California.
Beyond that we also discussed different forms of surrogacy: traditional vs gestational. You may have noticed that in the previous paragraph I mentioned a search for a gestational carrier. Over the last few months especially, I have become much more knowledgable in the jargon of infertility. To sum up, traditional surrogacy would mean artificially inseminating the surrogate, so she would be the carrier but would also be the biological “mother”. This is an uncommon practice nowadays and our agency won’t even entertain the possibility of doing that. Gestational surrogacy means that the carrier of the child has no genetic ties to him/her. In our case, being a gay couple, we found an egg donor and fertilized her eggs with our sperm via IVF (in-vitro fertilization).
NEXT STOP: THE PSYCHOLOGIST
This was actually one of the most interesting parts of the day. Aside from just assessing us as intended parents, she was also learning about who we are and what we are expecting of our GC (gestational carrier) so she could better pair us up. We also got some in depth lessons on why, and what types of women, become surrogates. It was actually quite fascinating. One of the most eye-opening moments for me was when she told us, when your baby is born, some GCs prefer that the doctor hand the baby directly to us after birth so we can have that experience of being the first people to hold our child. Other intended parents and GCs prefer that the doctor hand the baby off to the GC so she, in turn, can hand it over to the intended parents. This would be done because she has been working really hard to create a person for us and wants to officially complete her process by literally giving us our baby. I never thought of that as being a thing. Not sure why I found it so interesting, but its one of the most memorable moments of the day for me….perhaps because suddenly Mr. Y and I both got some dust or something in our eyes at that moment. Must have been allergies….who knows.
We then had to start discussing some of the more difficult topics: selective reduction should she become pregnant with twins or triplets….were we okay with the doctor aborting one or two? Were we okay with this for simply our desire to not have multiples, or only if it is related to the health and wellbeing of the carrier and/or babies? These are important things to know when selecting the proper GC for us. She would have to be on the same page on these topics before we could or WOULD even want to consider moving forward with her. Did we want her to breast feed after giving birth? Use a breast pump just at the hospital? Pump milk and mail it to us (yeah, that’s a thing)? Just formula? The questions and preferences went on for hours. I won’t bore you with all those.
Clearly, since we can’t produce our own eggs, we need to find an egg donor. So this was the next part of our journey. Learning about the egg donation process. A lengthy, icky, and expensive process. Not too much to tell. Pretty cut and dry. It was up to us to shop through the list of donors and figure out what our priorities were in a biological link. One of the nice things with this company (and I believe this is the case with almost all agencies) is that the women who donate have been screened medically and psychologically. So we can find out a whole lot of information about these women.
Finally – we’ve come full circle and meet again with our case manager at Surrogacy Company A, this time to really delve into the financials and to make some idle chit-chat. I won’t go into this because it was too traumatic. Damn it’s expensive to have children haha. It’s mind blowing to think someone can have a drunken one night stand and have a baby 9 months later, but for us it’s incredibly expensive, time consuming and there are soooooo many people involved in the process. It is truly shocking. Lots of moving parts and thats why my greatest advise I can offer anyone going through this process, is BE AS DILIGENT AS YOU CAN. As much as you would like to think everyone is on the same page throughout the process…they are not. You need need need to stay on top of everyone and everything to make sure things go as they are supposed to. More on that to come, unfortunately.