Possibly now, more than ever, surrogacy seems to be in the spotlight thanks to some high-profile celebrities. With this increased focus comes a lot of conversation about what surrogacy is, what it isn’t, who has access to it, and what it means for you and your family.
To state it plainly, surrogacy is a method of assisted reproduction during which intended parents work with a gestational surrogate who carries their baby until birth. Intended parents who may consider surrogacy include heterosexual couples who have struggled with infertility, independent parents unable to carry a child, intended parents who have a genetic defect or health condition they don't want to pass onto the child, and gay and trans individuals or couples.
Common concerns about surrogacy, debunked (by women who have been there)
I had the chance to talk to two incredible women who became mothers through surrogacy, Adrienne and Amy. Both women shared their unique experiences with surrogacy, talking about everything from the cost, their worries, and the magical moments their babies were placed in their arms after nearly 10 months of being grown and cared for by their remarkable surrogates.
The cost of surrogacy
While it’s impossible to tell you exactly how much surrogacy will cost, generally speaking, when pursuing gestational surrogacy you can expect to pay anywhere from $80,000 upwards of $200,000.
The total cost depends on several factors, including agency fees (if you go with an agency), lawyer fees, screening and support for the surrogate herself, surrogate compensation, legal fees, and insurance.
“I knew [surrogacy] would [cost] a lot. It was still a little more than I expected, but the Guarantee Program Circle offered made me feel there was a commitment on their end. This helped a lot,” Amy says.
Circle Surrogacy is one such agency that offers its clients an all-inclusive Journey Protection Guarantee Program. This is a single, fixed cost for the surrogacy journey plus a 100% refund of their agency expenses if you don’t have any remaining embryos and do not bring home a baby.
This type of program offered by surrogacy agencies is one way to feel more comfortable about choosing this route. It guarantees you your hoped-for outcome with the promise of your money back if the process is unsuccessful.
In addition to the costs of the surrogacy process itself, there is also the price of IVF — the egg retrieval, transfer, and storage of any eggs or created embryos — which the intended parents will pay directly to their fertility clinic.
“I had done my research, so I knew the general range of the [surrogacy] pricing, but I think, for me, the more surprising thing was how much egg retrieval can be. That can be upwards of $20,000 if your insurance doesn’t cover it. Then the transfer fee is another amount. There are just a lot of fees and costs that go into it before the actual surrogate is even involved,” Amy explains.
Knowing what to expect, doing some research, and gathering data from the beginning can help you feel more prepared or, at the very least, not blindsided by the overall price. Additionally, choosing an agency like Circle that presents all the fees upfront and is transparent about each step of the process and its costs is a huge added bonus.
Judgment from others
As with all things concerning reproductive health and medicine, many people find it necessary or acceptable to share their opinions of others’ choices. Surrogacy is no exception. In fact, some critics go as far as to call it “womb-renting” or are quick to point out financial disparities between the surrogate herself and the intended parents.
When I asked Amy and Adrienne about their concerns regarding people’s judgment of their choices, they both set the record straight, exposing the very real and human side of their experiences for both them and their partners, as well as their loved ones.
“I was worried about telling my own parents,” Adrienne admits — but not for the reasons you might automatically assume. “They just didn’t want to see me disappointed again since we had so many previous losses when I tried to carry a baby.”
For so many women, having a baby is a familial or communal experience. From sharing the news to the baby shower, and finding a community of moms to bond with and share stories, motherhood is rarely a solo mission.
“I didn’t care what people would think,” says Amy. “I knew from a young age that surrogacy or adoption would be one of the routes I would have to go. Seeing my sister pregnant, however, got me a little sad about missing out on getting to surprise everyone with the news of being pregnant. So, I held back on telling them when the transfer was actually happening and when it took. It was my chance to surprise them, to announce to them we were pregnant.”
While both Amy and Adrienne were surrounded by supportive circles, this doesn’t negate the fact that people will ask questions and share their opinions whether or not you ask for them.
Your relationship with your surrogate
Something you might hear surrogacy naysayers talk about is the relationship between intended parents and their surrogates. They might question the surrogate’s motives or the ability of the intended parents and the surrogate to forge a real connection.
Amy and Adrienne have nothing but good things to say about the women who carried their children before they were born. They also both expressed initially having doubts about the matching process, which, at Circle Surrogacy, is performed by Matching Specialists.
This process will be unique to each agency, so keep that in mind while you find the right one for you. Circle, unlike other agencies, has real people sort through profiles to hand-select the best matches based on appropriate legal fit, personality and surrogacy expectations, and expectations surrounding termination and selective reduction.
“Going through the matching process, I wondered why it wasn’t like a [dating app] algorithm. Instead, it was real people looking at files to match people, and it ended up being a really great match. We ended up being good friends,” Amy says of the matching process.
Adrienne’s experience was similar. It was a perfect match right from the initial call.
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“When we met, I connected with the reason our surrogate wanted to go on this journey. She is so kind, thoughtful, and calm – Just such a warm and fun person,” Adrienne shares.
Both Amy and Adrienne remain good friends with their surrogates and have loved watching their relationships bloom and grow beyond the ten months of their babies’ gestation.
Will your baby bond with you?
Perhaps, more than any other concern, women fear that missing out on carrying their babies will weaken their bond with them. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
“My husband [and I] were terrified the baby would connect with the surrogate and not us,” Adrienne explains. “But the second the baby was born, he looked me right in the eyes…and it’s still the exact way he looks at me now. I constantly feel how much he loves us.”
This fear of bonding, no doubt, comes from societal expectations. It’s all around us, all the time. Mothers should be this and not that. They should do this and not that. Motherhood, however, is a completely individualized experience.
“Society puts a lot of guidelines, that turn into restrictions, on what motherhood should be or what motherhood actually is — a mom nurses her baby, a mom carries her baby, a mom delivers her baby. And really there are so many ways to become a mom, to become a family,” says Amy. “I carried my daughter in my heart. I carried her in my mind. I carried her in my desires. I carried my child. And you can’t argue with me about that bond.”
Making the best choice for your family
For some intended parents, the decision to pursue surrogacy may come after a long and difficult fertility journey. For others, it may be their only option. Whether you are considering surrogacy or getting ready to dive in, we hope reading these first-hand accounts from Amy and Adrienne showed you the beauty and power of surrogacy and the strength of the two women who helped bring their babies into the world.
Brighid Flynn is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia where she lives with her husband and puppy. She is just beginning her journey toward motherhood.