When first considering whether to become a surrogate (also referred to as a gestational carrier), many women are intrigued by the concept of helping someone achieve their ultimate goal of becoming a parent. Surrogates know firsthand how much love and joy children can bring into the lives of parents, and feel a deep need to help someone else experience that incredible feeling. Before taking the plunge to embark on this amazing journey, it’s best for potential surrogates to know what being a surrogate is like – the good, the bad, and everything in between!
However, unless you happen to know someone who was involved in a surrogacy arrangement (as a surrogate or an intended parent), it can be hard to learn more about what surrogacy entails. Furthermore, many important details about surrogacy are largely excluded and overlooked by movies or TV shows, where the truth of surrogacy is often fictionalized for more entertaining plots and dramatic storylines. For example, the movie Baby Mama starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler is one of the most well-known films about surrogacy, but it does not represent a realistic portrayal of the process or the relationships involved in a surrogacy journey.
Surrogacy also isn’t frequently discussed in such a public manner, making it difficult for surrogates to find solid, high-quality information about the experience of surrogacy. That’s why surrogacy agencies, especially experienced ones like Reproductive Possibilities, can be a lifeline for potential surrogates! Surrogacy agencies can provide an invaluable amount of information, guidance, and support for any questions you might have. To help you get started on your surrogacy research, we’ve provided a comprehensive outline of what it’s really like to be a surrogate!
Becoming a Surrogate
The vast majority of women who become surrogates do so by first applying to a surrogacy agency, the beginning of the agency’s screening process. The application itself is a questionnaire consisting of questions regarding your medical and personal histories, including any criminal history. Surrogacy agencies also have a list of qualifications and requirements that potential surrogates must meet in order to be considered for the program. The criteria to become a surrogate differs from agency to agency, but typically includes specifications like age, BMI, tobacco/nicotine usage and exposure, mental health history/medications, income and/or financial stability, and pregnancy/delivery history. Learn more about our surrogate qualifications and requirements here.
If you meet all of the requirements, the surrogacy agency will then complete a one-on-one interview to gain a more in-depth understanding of your background, as well as your expectations and understanding of the surrogacy process. After the interview, if the surrogacy agency decides that you are a good candidate, then you are officially on your way to becoming a surrogate! The next step is to match with intended parents (with the assistance of our incredible Intended Parent Coordinators).
Being a Surrogate
Once you have been successfully matched with intended parents, it’s time for your surrogacy journey to officially begin! From here, the agency takes the lead in coordinating initial communication between all parties, arranging your screenings (criminal background check, home visit, medical/psych screening), and helps navigate the process for you as you move towards the embryo transfer and hopeful pregnancy stage of your journey.
The first assessment completed during your screenings is a criminal background check. This will be run on both you and your spouse or partner (and any adults living in the home that are 18+). The second is a home visit which will be completed by a private social worker in your area. During this visit, the social worker will spend some time talking to you and your family and will also do a walkthrough of your home to ensure that it is a safe and healthy environment. The third and most important part of the screening process is the medical and psychological evaluations. This is typically called the “marathon day” as you will travel to the fertility clinic for an appointment that covers all the required testing (bloodwork, saline sonogram, standard physical, etc.).
Once you have completed your screenings and have been approved by the fertility clinic, you will complete your gestational surrogacy contract with your intended parents. This contract covers everything from your compensation to things like life insurance, and your thoughts on supplying breast milk after delivery. Once the contract is completed and signed, the fertility clinic will begin you on a schedule of injectable medications (aka IVF) in preparation for an embryo transfer!
Remember that in gestational surrogacy, the embryo is created using the genetic materials of the intended parents and/or a donor(s). You, as the surrogate, would have no biological relation to the baby. This embryo is then transferred directly into your uterus after completing your schedule of IVF medications (these medications trick your body into thinking that it’s pregnant so when the embryo is transferred to your uterus, it has a better chance of taking!). If the transfer is a success, then you will be pregnant and your intended parents will be on their way to becoming parents!
As long as there are no medical complications, pregnancy as a surrogate is pretty similar to your standard pregnancy. You will have regular prenatal care with your OB/GYN and all details surrounding your pregnancy and delivery will be monitored and handled by your coordinator, your intended parents, and your OB/GYN.
As a surrogate, you are most likely someone who has enjoyed, if not loved, the experience of being pregnant. Loving being pregnant is one of the top reasons women agree to become surrogates! Even if you experience some not-so-fun symptoms, many surrogates find the pregnancy stage to be a time of profound happiness and reflection. Your body is creating a life and with surrogacy, you are making someone’s dream come true. Plus, you also have peace of mind knowing that all of the pregnancy expenses throughout your journey are being covered by your Intended Parents.
Many surrogates like to connect with other surrogates so that they can talk about their unique experience with someone who knows exactly what they’re going through. Even if you have the most amazing support systems through your family and friends, nothing beats talking to someone who shares in this unique experience. Most surrogacy agencies can connect you with local in-person or online surrogacy support groups. (At Reproductive Possibilities, once you are approved after your initial interview, you will be invited to join our surrogate-only Facebook group!)
Throughout the pregnancy, you’ll also be in regular contact with your very excited intended parents! The frequency and means of communications vary from one journey to another, the details of which are determined during the matching process. Many surrogates and intended parents often form strong relationships during the pregnancy stage. Activities such as attending or video calling during ultrasounds, sharing ultrasound images, talking to intended parents about their hopes and plans for the baby, and connecting over new pregnancy developments are all shared moments that can bring surrogates and intended parents closer together.
To a certain degree, you may feel a sort of bond with the child you are carrying. The level of bonding and emotional attachment is something prospective surrogates are sometimes concerned about. What if it’s too much and you get too attached?
While it’s not uncommon for surrogates to experience feelings of affection during pregnancy, surrogates generally understand their role in the surrogacy process. This is something that is heavily discussed and explored during the screening process so surrogates know what to expect. Plus, surrogates are mothers themselves and have already experienced the bliss of having their own family. Surrogates share a connection with the baby they carry and that feeling differs from the one they shared with their own child(ren). With surrogacy, they go into this knowing that the child they are carrying is not biologically theirs, and is meant for another loving family – one that may have been waiting years to meet their baby.
Life After Surrogacy
The moment when a surrogate watches her intended parents hold their baby for the first time is nothing short of life-changing. Emotions run high during every childbirth, but when someone who has dreamed of parenthood finally gets to make that dream a reality because of YOU, there’s nothing like it.
After delivery, your relationship with the baby and their parents usually depends on what was agreed upon during the matching process, though some do change their minds depending on the relationship that was built during the journey. In some cases, the surrogate continues to have a close relationship with the family by exchanging cards, sharing photos and/or updates, and sometimes even arranging visits! Others choose to keep in touch sporadically or casually. There are even some intended parents who are not comfortable keeping in contact after birth due to personal reasons. Again, your thoughts and ideas about the possible relationship after surrogacy will be discussed during the matching process so that everyone is on the same page before you agree to move forward in working with each other.
After the baby is born, surrogates may experience a postpartum period that is similar to regular pregnancy. During this time, your hormones begin to fluctuate to return to their pre-pregnancy levels. While the postpartum experience is different for everyone, you likely will need some recovery time to allow your body to heal (physically and mentally!). Giving birth is one of the hardest things that the human body can go through so it’s important to devote a lot of time and thought to your postpartum self-care routine.
The Surrogate Experience
It’s said that the pleasure and satisfaction from even a simple and small act of kindness can improve a person’s day. Imagine the life-long peace that comes from a successful and life-changing (for you and your intended parents!) surrogate experience. Many former surrogates happily remember and comment on the impact that their surrogacy journey has had on their lives. The excitement and happiness often extend to the surrogate’s family as well (sometimes even the surrogate’s own children!), who get to witness the amazing strength, generosity, and kindness that their mother has selflessly displayed.
Because no two pregnancies or surrogate journeys are alike, the overall experience is ultimately different for everyone. When these journeys are guided and coordinated by an established and experienced surrogacy agency, the surrogacy process can run very smoothly! Prospective surrogates are encouraged to connect with a reputable surrogacy agency that they trust and feel that they can lean on, during every step of the process. Reproductive Possibilities can answer any questions you have about becoming a surrogate or what it’s like to be a surrogate, but can also connect you with former surrogates, support groups, and more!
If you’re ready to take the first step in an amazing journey, we invite you to complete an online application. If you have any additional questions about what it’s like to become a surrogate, we are here to help! Contact Reproductive Possibilities today.