By Diana Cummins, Communications Manager, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association
Published in Resolve for the journey and beyond, Winter 2014
Surrogacy has recently received a lot of media attention… not of all of it good, fair, or useful. The concept of “one woman carrying another woman’s baby” has led to a lot of sensationalism. While assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), are increasingly understood and accepted, there is still a lot of misinformation surrounding surrogacy.
In gestational carrier surrogacy, the woman carrying the pregnancy (the gestational carrier), is not genetically related to the child she is carrying. The eggs and sperm are derived from the “intended parents” (or, if necessary, egg donor, or sperm donor). Through the process of IVF, the eggs are fertilized in the lab, and then the embryo is placed into the uterus of the gestational carrier. Traditional surrogacy, which is rarely practiced in the U.S., is when the surrogate uses her own eggs to create the embryo. Today, most medical, legal, mental health and patient advocates advise against a traditional surrogacy arrangement given its myriad legal and emotional issues.
RESOLVE asked people who have been involved in gestational carrier surrogacy agreements to share their stories. Find out from intended parents who built their families with the help of gestational carriers and women who chose to be gestational carriers about their experiences, motivations, and advice for people considering this family building option.
Jenn and Brad Nixon
Jenn and Brad Nixon received an infertility diagnosis in 2009 after two years of trying to conceive. In 2012, they did three IUIs and became pregnant on their third try, but they lost the pregnancy at sixteen weeks. Shortly after Jenn’s D & C surgery, doctors discovered she had previously unknown heart issues which had caused her cardiac function to suffer. After multiple failed heart procedures, Jenn and Brad were told it would not be safe for Jenn to carry a pregnancy. “Once we found out that we needed to pursue other avenues to parenthood, right away we knew we wanted to do gestational surrogacy,” said Jenn.
The Nixons’ gestational carrier is a friend who volunteered to help them have a child. The Nixon’s gestational carrier did not ask for compensation, “So I [Jenn] try to repay her in any way I can. Just any little thing that makes her feel loved – just anything to say ‘thank you, thank you, thank you for helping make me a mom!’”
Jessica and Ryan Benson
Jessica and Ryan Benson received an infertility diagnosis in 2010 after a year of trying to conceive. They first tried fertility medicines, including Femara and Clomid, and then several IUIs. After two years of trying these options without any success, they completed many tests and mock cycles, from which their doctor determined they would need to use a gestational carrier to have a biological child.
They chose a surrogacy agency and met with their case manager. The case manager showed the Bensons four profiles of gestational carriers, and they agreed on one they liked. The case manager suggested they meet with her the following week. “This was honestly the first time in the infertility journey that I felt like things were actually moving fast!” said Jessica. The gestational carrier and the Bensons chose to work together. Jessica remarked, “At the beginning, the only things that went into the decision to work with her were that we were all on the same page when it came to important decisions. Our agency had an application with very poignant questions that she filled out independently. I think she’s an amazing person who is generous beyond measure.”
Even though the Nixons are not paying any compensation since their surrogate is a friend, Jenn comments that money has been the hardest part of the gestational carrier surrogacy process, and estimates it will cost more than $35,000. Jenn and Brad’s gestational carrier’s insurance covers her pregnancy expenses. However, the Nixons pay for her copays and prescriptions; expenses related to IVF as their insurance does not cover any of these expenses; and lawyer fees to cover the contract, their gestational carrier’s lawyer, the birth certificate amendment, a Last Will and Testament with provisions for guardianship, and a trust.
Myths and Facts about Surrogates/Gestational Carriers
Legal Aspects of Domestic Gestational Carrier Agreements
How the Role of the Fertility Counselor Supports the Gestational Carrier and Intended Parents