Surrogacy - A journey of love, patience and resilience!
Surrogacy is an amazing life experience, full of wonderful and selfless people. It is also a journey of patience and resilience.
Clearly, LGBT+ folks cannot have a child on their own and surrogacy offers us the fantastic opportunity to have a family. This is also not the only option out there and if you want to know more about how our journey started, I invite to read my previous blog on gay parenting here <LINK>
The journey is wonderful… and also requires a lot of preparation. This blog offers some insights on how it works for straight and gay folks alike.
Can you do it?
Surrogacy is illegal in many countries regardless of sexual orientation. That said, and depending on your nationality, you might not be allowed to go through surrogacy at all even, if you decide to do abroad.
France is a good example of this situation – or potentially “was” as a new law is in the making– Many French people have gone abroad over the years to have children through surrogacy, only to then engage in a real battle with the French administration back home to have their child recognised (e.g. nationality, passport, etc) I invite you to read the book Qu’est-ce qu’elle a ma famille ? by Marc-Olivier Fogiel to know more.
Your own country might allow you to go through altruistic surrogacy – e.g. Canada, UK, Australia. This means you could go through surrogacy at home, or abroad, if you find a woman willing to help you; but she may not be remunerated. Australians for example might end up in jail for reverting to commercial surrogacy (i.e. the surrogate gets remunerated), whether at home or abroad.
Ethical, financial and emotional considerations also have to be factored in. Though, the basics are similar to the conventional way of having a baby – “egg + sperm = baby”, surrogacy does not happen by “accident”. Each step must be carefully prepared and managed. There will be happy and exciting moments … and also frustration, lots of waiting and potentially heartache. I will explore some of these aspects below and in future blogs.
Where to do it?
This is probably one of the biggest decisions of the entire journey. And there are many considerations to factor in.
Surrogacy is a complex and lengthy process at the best of times, never mind the associated costs. We decided early on that we would make it as safe and positive an experience as possible for our future baby, for our eventual surrogate and for us. In the end, the list of eligible countries shrank to the USA and Canada.
It is possible to go through surrogacy in many (more) countries, but it would not necessarily be risk free. For example, the contract with the surrogate might not be enforceable putting you at risk of a change of heart (New Zealand). Surrogacy might not be legal for foreigners (India, South Africa, Mexico).
And gay folks, beware! Some countries might allow surrogacy, but only for straight folks. The number of official and eligible countries for us is definitely much smaller – i.e. USA, Canada, Columbia, Kenya, UK.
Some people decide to go ahead regardless. For example, gay folks cannot go through surrogacy in Ukraine, but a single “straight” individual can …
It is also necessary to choose between commercial and altruistic surrogacy. This is mostly a personal, ethical and financial decision. Regardless, we would never have opted for a country where there was a risk of having the surrogate being forced into carrying out our child.
Another consideration is the level of maturity of both legal framework and eco-system surrounding the surrogate woman and the intended parents. When we reviewed this at the time, it became clear that the US and Canada were the best options.
They catered for all of the above. They have also developed the entire infrastructure to support both intended parents and surrogates through the journey – e.g. fertility clinics, surrogacy agencies, lawyers, etc.
Finally, the nationality should also be a consideration. For example, the USA clearly comes with the US Passport … and the IRS / tax requirements associated with that passport. This was not the type of “gift” we wanted to give to our future child.
So we elected Canada!
Who to work with?
We were lucky. A couple of friends had already gone through surrogacy in Canada and they provided us with some useful insights on the process there and their experience with their agency. So, our choice was easy.
With insight, it was also the right choice. But we should have done a little more homework.
We discovered after the fact that surrogacy laws varied from province to province and Ontario turned out to be the most progressive and Quebec would have more been problematic…
The level of information available on the Internet to help with the surrogacy agency selection is limited and there are not that many agencies around.
There are a few key things to consider:
- How do they select their surrogate? You would want to find a surrogate who has a family on her own, who is in good health and ready to go through the journey with you. Some agencies seem to be more lenient than others. We opted for safety over speed.
- What level of support will the agency provide you with throughout the journey? This is especially important if you live abroad.
- How well connected are they? They should advise you on a lawyer, a fertility clinic, a counsellor, etc.
Flex your project and stakeholder management skills … and prepare your budget!
Once you have selected the surrogacy agency and if not already done, get the spreadsheet going! There is a lot to consider and plan for. And Budget for! As well as questions to ask!
Despite reading extensively about the process and talking to some friends before starting, we have been discovering new things throughout our journey.
You will find below some key items to factor into the plan and the budget
- Surrogacy agency
- Embryos, which includes
o sourcing the “eggs” from a donor (might involve finding another agency)
o making a “sperm donation” (will involve some medical testing)
o creating the embryos in vitro
- Surrogate costs; though Canada only sanctions altruistic surrogacy, the costs the surrogate incurs during the process are covered by the intended parents
- IVF and transfer
- Legal fees (contracts, birth certificate, passports, etc)
Overall the budget could be anything between CAD$72,000 – CAD$150,000+ In reality, there might not be an upper limit. If things do not work out 1st time, costs start rising very quickly as we discovered.
Canada also offers world class social security and medical care. The surrogate will be fully supported during her pregnancy which can make a substantial difference compared to the USA from a medical and cost perspective
Once you have signed with a surrogacy agency, three things need to happen before you can become “pregnant” – in any order:
1) Be matched with a surrogate
2) Source your embryos
3) Select (and meet) various additional organisations and individual to support you through the journey. This includes – at least –
a. A fertility clinic
b. A counsellor
c. A lawyer
d. Potentially another agency for the egg donation
We were told it would take 12-18mths to be matched with a surrogate – at it turned out, it has been already much longer! We decided early on to sequence all of the activities under our control – ie. 2) and 3) per above – to be ready to go the moment we would be matched with a surrogate.
I will write separate blogs respectively on each aspect over the following weeks.
Danielle MacInnes - https://unsplash.com/@dsmacinnes?utm_source=wix-media-manager&utm_medium=referral