EXPERT LEGAL ADVICE ON SURROGACY, COMMON CONCERNS ABOUT SURROGATES, AND A MOVING LETTER FROM AN INTENDED PARENT TO HER GESTATIONAL CARRIER
After joining me on âTurn the Pageâ for a compelling three-episode series on surrogacy, my guests offered additional information to support you in navigating your exploration of, and foray into this family building option.
Jeni Denhof, a former carrier and Program Manager with the surrogate parenting agency Circle, thoughtfully and sensitively responds to frequently asked questions and common concerns about surrogates in her blog post, âA Surrogateâs Point of View:â What if my surrogate wants to keep my baby? What if she becomes attached to my baby? Will my surrogate take care of herself while she is pregnant? What does my surrogate want from me throughout our journey? Will my surrogate be sad after the baby is born? What does my surrogate want from me after our journey?
Circleâs Director of Legal Services, Dean Hutchison, Esq., suggests that comprehensive screening of both carriers and intended parents, with a similar due diligence applied during the matching process, and support for all parties throughout the journey, can prevent the types of horror stories that may dissuade some from considering surrogacy. His frame of reference includes 12 years with Circle, through which over 1,100 babies have been born to both international and domestic parents (43% same sex couples, 44% heterosexual couples, 7% gay individuals, 6% heterosexual individuals) from over 70 countries since 1995. Circleâs stats seem to align with Deanâs guidance that a successful process is very much tied into appropriate screening at the onset. The Agencyâs April 2016 published fact sheet states, âOver 1,250 women, on average, start the process of becoming a Circle surrogate each month. Of those, about 1.7% ultimately match with intended parents.â
Intended parents who apply to partner with a surrogacy agency write an introductory letter that describes markers of their journey. Praveena Nallainathan, whose daughter, Priya Joy, was born in January of 2016 with the help of Circle, shared âPeople often ask how I found a carrier. I explain that I used an agency to help match me, but in truth it all started with a letter. When I had to write the letter, I scoured the Internet for samples, and didnât find many, so perhaps excepts of the letter that I wrote to my gestational carrier will serve as a good resource for your listeners and readers.â
The circumstances that Praveena candidly describes may reflect some of the vulnerabilities of other intended parents:
âDear Wonder Woman (She has always been my favorite super hero, and thatâs what I think you are!),
Thank you for taking the time and genuine interest to consider me, and for wanting to help.
TODAY IS OCTOBER 4, 2014. Six years ago to the day, I lost my baby girl, Ayanna, at five months into pregnancy. Â At each year anniversary, I write a short diary entry to honor and remember her. Â This has become a favorite, private ritual. Â This year, I am writing my letter to you. What could be more perfect?
MY JOURNEYâ¦My ex-husband, Johnny, and I, had tried to conceive naturally for many years. We finally got pregnant six years into marriage through our first IVF try. Â We were elated. Like any happy parents to be, we debated girl names, browsed HGTV for nursery ideas, and dreamt about how pretty and smart our baby girl was going to be. Â However, this all changed on October 4, 2008. I went into pre-term labor. Â It was a traumatic birth for me, both physically and emotionally. I remember being drugged up and delirious. Â I could not connect to any emotions. Instead, from the hospital bed, I watched Johnny. Â He slid down the hospital room wall sobbing. Â He came to the bed, stroking my head with tears streaming down his face. I could tell that he thought this was unfair. Â We were able to see and hold our baby girl everyday for three days while we were in the hospital. It always marvels meâ¦she already had my nose. Â I was a mother. We named her, Ayanna – an African and Indian name (a blend of her parents) meaning beautiful flower and innocent.
There were many medical theories for the loss. I had three different surgeries to address each possible problem â incompetent cervix, fibroids, and thin uterine lining. Â We underwent 6 more unsuccessful IVF tries. I had trouble getting and staying pregnant. This took a toll on our marriage. Frankly, we never were the same after we lost the baby. We separated two years later and ultimately divorced. I feared that I might be also losing my opportunity to have a family.
Over the last many years, I have thought long and hard about what was possibleâ¦in me alone, as a mother. My doctors confirmed that I had no issues with creating good, healthy eggs. But the problem was my uterus. They explained that a gestational carrier would be a GAME CHANGER for me. I prayed. I thought. I cried. I talked to my parents. Â I talked to my counselor. It became crystal clear â I can do this! LIGHTBULB! I wanted to be a mother. I knew I would make a good and loving mother. And, my mom, dad, brother, friends, and workplace were behind me.
When I got down to making embryosâ¦success! When the nurse called me, she said, âCongratulations â you have 4 girls and 2 boys.â What nextâ¦My embryos and I are looking forward to meeting you. Â After a very long time, hope soars in me again.â
A very moving letter that thankfully resulted in the miracle of birth, albeit not without challenges! Learn more about the realities that both Jeni and Praveena faced throughout their respective passages as carrier and intended parent by listening to our conversation.
Jen Rachman, whose now four-year-old son was born through a surrogate, talks about the surrogacy processÂ from her perspective as an Outreach Coordinator with Circle. Jen brings a unique personal frame of reference to this discussion: Ovarian cancer, diagnosed when she was 26, left her infertile and prompted her search for alternate routes to parenting.
Dean Hutchison addresses common fears and offers advice related to both international and domestic surrogacy law in the final episodeÂ of the series.
Wishing you fertile outcomes in your family building pursuits, with hopes that your steps are encouraged, strengthened, and informed by these accounts of ultimate success!