Surrogacy has been around since the time of the Babylonians. The earliest indication that surrogacy was an acceptable infertility solution was described in the Bible when the servant Hagar had a child through Abraham because his wife Sarah was barren. Another biblical surrogacy was noted when Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived a child through Rachel’s husband Jacob. Throughout history using surrogacy to have a child has been controversial but effective.
There are two types of surrogacy; traditional and gestational. Traditional surrogacy or IVF embryo transfer is when a surrogate mother is artificially inseminated with the father’s sperm which makes her the genetic mother along with the genetic father. Surrogates can also be used in IVF to transfer an egg from another woman that was fertilized with the sperm of her partner/husband when the woman is unable to carry a pregnancy. Donor embryo adoption using surrogates is very similar to most surrogacy programs except there is not an IVF procedure involved because the embryos already exist that will be transferred. Gestational surrogacy is when is when an embryo is transferred to the surrogate uterus; the woman carrying the embryo has no genetic connection to the child. A gestational carrier does not share any genetics with the baby she carries and the baby does not have any genetic connection to the intended parents. This is one of several forms of third party reproduction. An agreement is made for the embryos to be transferred into the gestational carriers’ uterus and she carries the baby to term for the intended parents.
In traditional IVF embryo adoption, hopeful parents have very little if any control over the birthmother or her unborn child. In gestational surrogacy, intended parents have some control in that they can choose who will carry their embryo and be responsible for the baby while in utero. There is no risk that the surrogate will change her mind and keep the baby due to clear expectations, legalities and agreements that are in place to ensure that the intended parents are the legal parents when the baby is born when an adopted or donated embryo is used. A surrogacy specialist in embryo donation clinics will make certain that all legalities are in place prior to implantation. Specific state laws regulate gestational carriers and surrogacy and in some states surrogacy is not legal but it is legal to use a gestational carrier.
For the LGBTQIA population, male/female couples and single intended parents, surrogacy and assisted reproduction is often the only method that will allow them to become parents. Sometimes intended parents prefer to adopt an embryo which can carry genetic conditions they do not want to pass down to future generations, pregnancy may not be recommended for health or safety reasons or cannot successfully carry a baby to term. For the intended parent or parents, gestational surrogacy is an opportunity to make a dream come true. There are several surrogacy and embryo donation programs available for those who would like to use a gestational surrogate to carry their adopted embryo.
As part of the process in embryo donation adoption in-depth counseling and screenings are conducted. Extensive medical and psychological assessments as well as criminal and financial background checks are done. All parties must feel trusting, confident and comfortable with their decisions. When a gestational surrogate is used a legal contract is required where each party has their own attorney to represent and protect all legal interests.
A complex and emotional connection as well as strong and positive relationships often result from both donors who provide embryos to adoptive intended parents and their gestational surrogate. Psychosocial education and counseling by a qualified mental health professional is vital for all parties. Generally, when using a donor egg program, the intended parent(s) and the donor do not meet or develop a relationship; only non-identifying information is shared. In embryo adoption, the agreement between parties often allows for total openness that generally continues after the birth of the baby. This could develop into a life-long connection of two families through their agreement of open adoption.
Generally, women who decide to be surrogates have given birth and enjoy being pregnant. Often they know someone who has experienced fertility problems and they have compassion and empathy for anyone who wants a baby and can’t have one. There is a great sense of fulfillment in helping someone reach this life-changing goal. Although the gestational process seems to mostly be about biology and finances there is a very important human factor involved. When using a gestational surrogate as infertility services, intended parents are able to bond with their child as the fetus develops. A surrogate may be the only way for the dream of parenthood to happen for those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to raise a child. It’s a selfless act that warrants respect and admiration for any woman who is willing to serve as a surrogate. It’s important to remember that surrogates have to endure the nine months of pregnancy, knowing they will be turning the child over to the intended parents immediately after the child is born. It’s hard to imagine the emotions that come into play when this happens.
Donor parents have relinquished all parental rights and the donated embryos legally belong to the adopting intended parent(s) before they are placed in the uterus of the gestational surrogate. The child born to the adopting couple is their legal child; the surrogate has no legal claims or rights.
Parents often struggle with how much information they should share with their child about their beginnings and wonder how they will explain gestational surrogacy and IVF with embryo donation to them and intended parents would benefit from reading about surrogacy. Here are a few book suggestions:
Book list for children:
Sophia’s Broken Crayons; A Story of Surrogacy From A Young Child’s Perspective by Crystal Falk
Your Tummy Time: A Surrogacy Story by Natalie Padgen
The Very Kind Koala: A Surrogacy Story For Children by Kimberly Kluger-Bell
The Twin Kangaroo Treasure Hunt: A Gay Parenting Story by Carmen Martinez Jover
Surrogacy Helps Make A Family Grow by Sharon LaMothe and Tina Rella
Books list for intended parents:
Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction Is Changing Our World by Liza Mundy
Labor Of Love: Gestational Surrogacy And The Work Of Making Babies by Heather Jacobson
Surrogacy: An Essential Guide To The Surrogacy Process, Surrogacy Costs and Finding A Surrogate Mother by Dianne Whitfield
Successful Surrogacy: An Intended Parents’ Guide To A Rewarding Relationship With Their Surrogate Mother by Susan MZ Fuller
Surrogacy Was The Way: Twenty Intended Mothers Tell Their Stories by Zara Griswold