Celebrities such as Sally Obermeder, Kim Kardashian, Tyra Banks, Nicole Kidman, and Sarah Jessica Parker have all been very public about their use of a surrogate to help welcome their children into the world. Surrogates give a parent the most powerful and beautiful gift imaginable.
The parents (or parent) sign a contract with the surrogate mother, which includes sections such as a clause for the parents to make decisions about abortion should a reason, such as multiple pregnancies, occur. We have so many questions about the process — who are these amazing women, and what drives them to make such a sacrifice?
Jess* is just about to go through her third round of surrogacy. (*Her name has been changed for anonymity.) "It truly was the most rewarding experience," Jess writes on Reddit. "I had pretty low self-confidence and was basically always a quitter growing up."
"I got the idea in my head that I wanted to help a set of parents become a family, and it completely changed me. It was incredibly hard work, but I persevered and was able to carry twins for a very deserving couple, then a little boy the following year to help complete another family."
Jess has just been matched with a family for her third surrogacy journey. "I'm looking forward to doing this crazy thing all over again!"
Below, Jess bravely answered some of the public's most burning questions about what it's really like to be a surrogate, and the answers are brutally honest.
Is it difficult to let the babies go to their intended parents after birth?
Not at all. I knew what I had signed up for when I applied to be a surrogate.
I had no genetic link to the babies, and I adored the families I was carrying for. I was so happy for them to finally be parents. The best way I can describe it is as if the babies were nieces or nephews. I cared for them and loved them while I had them, but I still got to sleep through the night once they were born!
Was it fun?
For the most part.
As a gestational surrogate, I have no genetic link to the baby I am carrying. Therefore, I go through in vitro fertilization (IVF) in order to become pregnant. It involves hormone injections and many doctors appointments, so it's very time consuming.
When I carried the twins, I had terrible morning sickness that didn't go away until I delivered. But the good definitely outweighs the bad. I've stayed in touch with both couples and watched the babies grow, and that part has been very fun!
Do you believe in prebirth imprinting? Do you think a baby born by another mom will be less compatible to their biological parents?
I have read things that lead me to believe that babies do pick up on some things, such as stress levels, while in utero. I don't think that the baby is any less compatible to its biological parents, though. I spent a week with the nearly 2-year old twins recently, and those kids adore their mother. They were so wanted that you would never know that she didn't carry them herself. The babies don't know anything different, and I don't believe they're any worse off because of it.
How much money do you make being a surrogate?
The compensation varies. If you go through an agency, you agree to their standard package. If you match independently, you can ask for whatever you want, but you just have to find a couple willing to pay.
The standard for a first time surrogate is usually $20,000 to $25,000, plus all the medical expenses are covered.
I received a $25,000 base pay for my first journey, which was paid in monthly increments starting when the pregnancy was confirmed. I received the last payment after delivery. For twins, you get a bit extra. In my case, it was another $4,000 after delivery. There are other payments listed in the contract, depending on circumstances. If I went through a Caesarean section, for example, I would've received an additional $1,500.
Subsequent surrogacies get paid more, because you're now "experienced." So I earned the same amount for the second pregnancy, which was one baby, as I did with the first pregnancy, which were twins. It's certainly not enough money to live off of if you look at the journey as a whole. Both times, it was about 18 months from matching to delivery, and I was lucky enough that both IVF cycles took on the first try. Some people invest a lot more time into it.
What happens if you miscarry or have a stillbirth? Are you still compensated? Has this ever been a fear for you?
It's not morbid — it's stuff that has to be discussed during the contract phase of surrogacy.
The payments are in installments throughout the pregnancy. And though different lawyers might do it differently, in my case, I received a small fee when I started IVF medications, a small fee after the embryo transfer, and the first actual payment once a heartbeat was confirmed.
If you miscarry, or lose the pregnancy at any point, you keep whatever payments you've received up until then, but you don't get paid the full amount until you're full term, or close to it. It would be the same if the parents opted for an abortion, for whatever reason. Miscarriage was a fear for me, probably more so than my own pregnancies. Luckily, I've been fortunate to never have had one.
I didn't want to disappoint the parents because I knew how much they had invested in their baby, even if I knew it wouldn't have been my fault.
What happens when there are multiple fetuses, but some might not make it to term?
One set of parents, whose surrogate became pregnant with twins and a single baby, opted for an elective reduction because the twins were showing signs of health problems. The surrogate ended up carrying the healthy single baby to term. You can't really "not believe" in abortion to be a surrogate. It's part of the contract that you would agree to it, if the parents made that decision. Legally, if you were pregnant, you could still make the decision to not go through with it.
There have been cases of this happening (which do give surrogacy a bad rep) and there have been surrogates who have ended up keeping the child they carried. Personally, I would've had an abortion if that was what was asked of me. I felt like it was not my baby, and not my decision.
But, I was very fortunate that it didn't come up.
Do you do anything differently for your surrogate babies than you did for your own pregnancies?
I did, actually. For both IVF cycles, I gave up caffeine through the first trimester, which I did not do for my own pregnancies.
It felt as if there was pressure on me for the cycles to be successful, even though my decisions had little to do with if the embryo(s) implanted or not. I felt that if giving up caffeine lowered my chances of miscarriage, I could give it up for a few months. I had no contractual obligations to eat or not eat anything specific, though.
I mostly followed standard practices when it came to pregnancy. I also did a lot of research during the twin pregnancy and ultimately decided on a natural birth after having epidurals with both of my own children. I also opted for a natural delivery with the second surrogacy. I likely wouldn't choose pain medication in any pregnancy moving forward, whether it was my own or another surrogacy.
Emotionally, how different were your own pregnancies compared to your surrogate pregnancies? Do you keep in touch with the families at all, even if it's just something small such as photos and letters?
It's hard to compare the pregnancies because there was about a five-year break in between my youngest daughter and my first surrogacy. I was 20 and 21 when my daughters were born, so the emotions for that were mostly a mix of excitement and fear.
For the first surrogacy, it was all excitement. I was on such a high after the first natural birth, and I had a thrill of completing something that I had dreamed about doing for a very long time. There was some sadness saying goodbye to both sets of parents when it was time for them to go home, but not in a devastating "I'm giving away my baby" kind of way.
It felt very similar to if a sibling who you care about is moving away, but you know that you'll see them again. I cared about the parents, and I was sad to see them go. And again, it marked the end of an amazing journey that I had invested a lot of myself into.
I do keep in touch with both sets of parents. The nearly 2-year-old twins actually came and visited us about a month ago. Between the two families — one in Europe and one in South America — we keep in touch via text messages, email, Facebook, and Skype. You have to love technology!
This post was written by Holly Royce. For more, check out our sister site Now to Love.