Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi! My name is Dana and I’m a 32-year-old mother of two and stepmom to two grown boys. I’m a full-time student working on my bachelors in economics planning. In my free time, I enjoy growing vegetables, canning and preserving foods, fermentation, and brewing wine. I’m really into nourishment through healthy food. I enjoy building things and fixing up the house. I am an advocate for sustainable living and social justice.
For those of us who don’t know, what does a gestational surrogate do?
A gestational surrogate is a woman who becomes pregnant with someone else’s baby. The gestational surrogate (GC) gets pregnant through in-vitro fertilization (IVF). A traditional surrogate is someone who uses her own egg, a less common form of surrogacy these days. I am a gestational surrogate and gave birth to a beautiful girl last May. I am currently working on a second surrogacy journey with the same couple.
I have yet to meet or even hear of one person who has used a surrogate for any reason other than that they cannot carry their own child. Gay men make up a large portion of the intended parents (IP) who use surrogates.
What lead you to become a surrogate?
I first realized surrogacy existed when I considered being a surrogate for a dear friend. Eventually, she was able to conceive on her own but the idea of surrogacy stuck with me.
Also, I was a young mom; I had my first child at 20. I felt sad that I was done having babies after my second and last child. My reproductive drive is still alive and well! I’m one of those women who actually enjoy being pregnant!
I also became a surrogate because I wanted to bring in some extra income for our family. I had these crazy requirements: I didn’t want to work full time, didn’t want to work evenings, weekends or in retail and I didn’t want my household work or involvement in my kids’ school to have to drop too much. Surrogacy became a brilliant option. Besides growing my own family, I have never made a better decision than to become a surrogate.
Tell us about your own family and how they feel about your work as a surrogate.
My eight-year-old daughter thinks it’s super cool and likes to tell her teacher and friends that I’m a surrogate. Honestly, she would like to keep the baby. She’d like me to have triplets of my own for her to have and keep! That being said, she didn’t have a difficult time with not being able to keep the baby. We’ve always been very open with our kids about how babies are made. She understands how a baby can be someone else’s and yet grow inside me.
My twelve-year-old son got annoyed that I wouldn’t climb onto his top bunk for bedtime when I got into last months of pregnancy. He was basically just annoyed with my reminding him to be gentle around me. He and I horseplay a lot and pregnancy gets in the way of that. Otherwise, he could care less. He did really enjoy seeing the baby after she was born.
My husband, Jason, has been fantastic. He was worried in the beginning about the legal and medical implications and risks but supported me the whole time. He has been my number one fan. We are actually parting ways (not having anything to do with surrogacy) but, Jason remains extremely supportive and is a party in the current contract.
How did you find the couple you’ve been working with?
I met the amazing intended parents through an agency. The agency suggested me and a couple other surrogates for them to consider. We met and have been working together ever since.
What steps did you need to go through to get approved to be a surrogate?
There was an original screening with the agency to make sure I had previously had a healthy pregnancy, didn’t smoke, was within a certain BMI range, etc. Once I was matched with the IPs, Jason and I met with a psychologist and I underwent a psychological evaluation. We had a home evaluation as well.
My IPs paid for an attorney to represent me and we put together a contract specifying all the details of the arrangement. I underwent medical screenings including blood work to check things like my thyroid function and blood count. Jason and I were tested for STDs and I had a cervical cancer screening. The reproductive endocrinologist checked my uterus for abnormalities and potential problems.
Could you tell us about the logistics of a surrogate pregnancy?
There are a lot of medications involved in preparing for the embryo transfer, mostly different hormones to suppress my ovulation and prepare my body for implantation. I give myself subcutaneous shots for about a month and then intramuscular shots for about another month. There is a very long abstinence period before and after the embryo transfer which lasts for over a month.
After the first two months or so, once I’m off medications, the reproductive endocrinologist releases me to a regular OB where I receive the same care as I would for a natural pregnancy.
At what point after birth is the baby given to the intended parents?
She goes to the intended parents immediately after birth. We worked on a birthing plan together and made it clear that the parents wanted to be the first to hold her. It is much more crucial that they bond with her than me! I did get to hold her several times in the hospital and her parents let me visit them and invited me to her upcoming birthday. She’s a doll!
Do you have an on-going relationship with the parents or the baby you carried?
I do! They let me follow them on Instagram and even send me stats and updates from baby wellness checks! Of course, we are working on a second journey so we are in touch about that but I think we will probably always be in touch.
How much do surrogates generally earn for carrying a baby?
Some surrogates carry for free, especially when they’re doing it for a friend or relative but I am one of the many surrogates who are paid to carry a baby. I have heard of surrogates receiving $14k on the low side and as much as $40k but I know some surrogates receive less and more than those ranges. I would say the typical range is $25,000 to $35,000 and I fall in that range.
What are the biggest challenges of being a surrogate? The biggest benefits?
It is a challenge making decisions that so acutely affect me, with another person. It is difficult feeling like I don’t have control over all the decisions regarding the pregnancy. For example, my IPs and I have different opinions on the safety of the flu vaccination. I am privileged to be working with a great couple who respects my preferences and I truly hope they would say the same. I venture to say that the hardest part for IPs is also not having full control. Surrogacy requires trust, compromise, and letting go of a few expectations.
What’s one thing you learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives?
Don’t be quick to judge. It is difficult for me to hear people say things like “if someone can’t have their own children, maybe they just weren’t meant to have kids” or “why don’t they just adopt?” Most of these comments (which I mostly just see on the internet and very rarely in real life) come from people who are not in touch with the difficulties of not being able to have children on your own. I guess the thing I have learned is that if you aren’t in someone’s shoes, you don’t get to have an opinion.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Dana! Have any of you guys had experience working with a surrogate? Or being one? Do you have any questions for her?