Gift of life -- surrogates help couples become parents
By Amanda Cuda, Connecticut Post, CT, September
Miguel and Luis were tired of being disappointed. The Bridgeport
couple, who asked that their last names not be used, had
been foster parents for many years. Time after time, they
would take in a child, become attached to him or her, then
watch the child leave.
Their pain over the constant loss was evident, particularly
to Miguel's sister-in-law, Jessica. "She saw how distraught
we were," Miguel said.
So Jessica, who also didn't want her last name used, decided
to help out by carrying a child for them. "I saw that
they were suffering," she said. "I just told them
'If I could, I would give you a baby.' And they said, 'Are
you sure?' "
She was. And she's one of many women who have chosen to
act as surrogates for couples who, for one reason or another,
can't carry the baby themselves. That includes gay couples,
such as Miguel and Luis, and also straight couples with
health or fertility issues.
According to the Organization of Parents Through Surrogacy,
an Illinois-based nonprofit support and advocacy group,
there are more than 1,000 surrogate births a year in the
United States, and there have been about 10,000 births to
surrogate mothers since 1976.
Many couples today are choosing gestational surrogates
as opposed to classic or traditional surrogates, said Dorothy
Greenfeld, director of psychological services at Yale Fertility
Center in New Haven, which will facilitate Jessica's surrogacy.
Gestational surrogacy occurs when the carrier contributes
no genetic material. The egg comes from the intended mother
or from an outside donor, which is what Miguel and Luis
will use in their arrangement with Jessica.
This is in contrast to traditional surrogacy, in which
the surrogate is inseminated with the intended father's
sperm. In that case, the surrogate is the baby's birth mother.
Greenfeld said that, although most traditional surrogacy
arrangements go smoothly, couples have increasingly been
more comfortable opting for a gestational surrogate.
"[Gestational surrogacy] may be more complicated
medically, but it's less complicated legally and emotionally,"
Though prices vary, the average medical cost for facilitating
a gestational surrogacy is roughly $20,000, said Dr. Andrew
Levi, a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist
in Trumbull. That includes in vitro fertilization of the
egg, the implantation and medical care. "It's a long
process," Levi said.
What makes the process tricky is the precise timing required.
Levi said that, in a gestational carrier arrangement, the
menstrual cycle of the carrier and the intended mother must
be synchronized so that both are in the middle of their
If the timing is off by as much as a day, the fertilized
egg will not be able to be implanted in the carrier.
Levi's office sees about six surrogate cases a year, nearly
all of them with gestational carriers. He said the only
traditional surrogates he sees now are women carrying for
gay male couples. Even some of them are using donor eggs
instead of the carrier's, which is the case with Miguel
and his sister-in-law.
Jessica said the only way she would carry Miguel and Luis's
child was if she didn't have to use one of her own eggs.
That way, she said, the baby wouldn't be hers at all, which
would make her more comfortable. Jessica will be implanted
with the fertilized egg in October. When the baby arrives,
he or she will be entering an already full house. Miguel
and Luis have adopted two children, and may soon be adopting
a third. But Jessica said that their love of children was
the reason she's decided to carry a baby for Miguel and
Luis. "I think they'll be great parents," she
Jessica has already started preparing for the procedure,
which has included a psychological screening through Greenfeld's
office. Greenfeld said one of the major things she considers
when screening a surrogate is whether she already has given
birth (Jessica has).
Though there are special circumstances where she would
find it appropriate for a childless woman to be a carrier
— as in a recent case she handled in which a woman
was carrying for her sister — most clinics prefer
that the surrogate has children, Greenfeld said.
One reason is to make sure that the prospective carrier
is medically able to carry a child to term, and to give
birth. Another reason is to ensure that the carrier will
give the child to the intended parents when he or she is
born and not take the child for herself.
"We want to make sure that she understands that she
has her kids, and this child she's carrying is for someone
However, she said, most surrogate arrangements —
even traditional ones — tend to go smoothly. "The
typical story is a good one," she said.
Many doctors refer couples considering surrogacy to an
attorney who can help coordinate the legal aspects of the
arrangement, and, in many cases, help the couple locate
Melissa Brisman, a New Jersey attorney specializing in
reproductive law, has facilitated arrangements for a number
of couples and surrogates in the state. She works with a
number of local fertility agencies, including Levi and the
Yale Clinic. Brisman, herself the parent of twin boys and
a daughter through a gestational carrier, is a national
expert on reproductive law, whose credits include serving
as legal editor of the e-zine "Infertility Digest"
and on the advisory of Conceive Magazine.
Connecticut's laws on surrogacy are fairly lenient, pegging
it as a surrogate friendly state, Brisman said. For instance,
Connecticut, unlike nearby New York, allows couples to pay
their gestational carrier. Brisman said that carriers can
be paid anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 for their services.
The state also allows the genetic parents' names to go directly
on their child's birth certificate for gestational carrier
arrangements, so the parents don't have to adopt the child.
New Haven attorney Maureen Murphy, who primarily handles
adoptions, has drawn up some gestational carrier agreements,
mainly for same sex couples. Even in her somewhat limited
experience on the topic, she confirms that Connecticut is
good about preserving the rights of the intended parents
in gestational carrier arrangements.
"I do know that the state [and the courts] are very
friendly to this," she said. Because Connecticut has
fairly lenient policies, many parents from other states
connect with carriers here. Andrea Sanzo, 38, of Farmington
carried for a couple from New York, with whom she was connected
through Brisman's office.
Sanzo approached Brisman after deciding she wanted to
play a larger part in helping a couple become parents. She
was already mom to a 9-year-old daughter, and had donated
her eggs to a friend who was having fertility problems.
That donation didn't lead to her friend getting pregnant,
but Sanzo enjoyed the experience and wanted to do more.
"I wanted to help a couple achieve their dream of
having a child," she said.
She did some research, which led her to Brisman, who then
connected her with the New York couple. "They looked
really sweet and nice," Sanzo said.
So, she carried the child — a girl, who will turn
1 next month. She is still friendly with the family. Throughout
the entire process, Sanzo saw and talked to the parents
frequently. "It was just really fun," she said.
"I had a great time."
Some carriers and couples choose to keep their arrangement
simply business, Sanzo said, but many don't. To her, it
just didn't seem right to be distant from people to whom
she had such a powerful and intimate connection.
"A friend of mine [who was a surrogate], after the
baby was born, she and the couple went their separate way,"
she said. "But to me, it was only natural to want to