Saturday, September 7, 2013
Why choose altruistic surrogacy?
Welcome to this brand new, squeaky clean blog.
I've been blogging for some years now, mostly to do with my pet-keeping hobby and craft business, though I did flirt with the idea of a 'chronicles of motherhood' blog when my children were very young and my sanity levels were questionable. I didn't have a lot of positive things to write back then though, so I decided against it. Though I've always kind of wished I'd had the guts to stick to it, to write how I was feeling and document those painfully slow days with a new baby and an toddler barely out of babyhood herself.
But I didn't. I self-censored myself. Things did get better. We all got used to our new lives, the baby grew up into a nearly-toilet-trained handsome little boy and the toddler is now a very well spoken pre-schooler. And I love them with every fibre of my being.
My husband and I were told early in our marriage that we'd have a lot of trouble concieving a baby naturally thanks to some rather serious health complications we'd both faced in our teens. We tried for a long time, then resigned ourselves to the assisted fertility process. We purchased health insurance to help us pay for the priviledge of becoming parents, then discovered that we were pregnant with our daughter within a fortnight! And 18months after her arrival to the world, we were welcoming her little brother.
Our family was complete.
It was late last year, around the time when families are gathering together to celebrate christmas and people are making their new years resolutions, when a passing comment between my hubby and I led to the idea of looking into surrogacy. I had managed two successful pregnancies, not without minor complications, but at the end of the day both babies had arrived safely and very well cooked (9lb and 10lbs!). We knew our family was complete, but there was that little part of me that wanted to experience pregnancy one last time. But without the newborn at the end!
I also wanted to give back in 2013. I wanted to do something to help change someone's life for the better. Our business was working well, but selling craft kits and handmade plushies wasn't exactly making a meaningful difference to anyone. Surrogacy would. Being able to grow a baby for a family who otherwise would have no other means to bring their child into the world was such an incredible concept.
I started an extensive google search. And I learnt a LOT! It was actually really overwhelming in those first few weeks of learning. And quite a few times I questioned whether or not I could actually do this.
In Australia surrogacy is only legal if done altruistically. That means no payment for the actual process of carrying the baby. You do need to be reinbursed for any medical costs, transport to appointments, parking costs, loss of income from attending appointments, medications required, therapies used etc etc. But no 'wage' for being a surrogate. You do that just because you want to.
Once the embryo is transferred to your uterus (in the case of gestational surrogacy, when you're not genetically related to the baby), it actually becomes YOUR baby legally. This means you, as the surrogate have the legal rights to decisions around what happens with the pregnancy/fetus. So you would really need to trust your surrogate! Also, once the baby is born, it is still legally the surrogate mother and her partner's child. Even though they both have no genetic contribution! A parentage order is made through the courts after the baby has been in the care of the actual parents for 28 days, and the legal guardianship is transferred to them.
The reverse of this is also true though: if the intending parents decide at any point during the pregnancy or following the birth (before the parentage order has gone through) that they don't want the baby - then legally the surrogate and her partner are 'stuck with it'. In the eyes of the law it's their child. Obviously they could choose to terminate (if early enough into the pregnancy) or adopt the baby out following birth. But both options would be horrendous emotional minefields.
There's a process of counselling and personality testing for all parties involved, as well as separate lawyers for both the surrogate and partner, and the Intended Parents so a 'surrogacy agreement' can be drawn up. This is a ridiculously expensive piece of paper that outlines what will happen over the embryo transfer, pregnancy and birth, but isn't worth the paper it's printed on, because it all comes back to the fact that the surrogate has the legal rights. Again, you would REALLY want to trust your surrogate here in Australia.
So after coming to terms with all that a surrogate journey in my country would entail, and deciding that it was still something that I felt compelled to do, I set about familiarising myself with the world of families seeking surrogates. Surprisingly there didn't appear to be a great many of them (which I think comes back to the fact that it's illegal to advertise that you need a surrogate, or would like to be a surrogate! They do like to make a complicated process just that little bit worse). But I did stumble across a family who's story struck a cord with me. They were the same age as my hubby and I, and had experienced a similar background with some serious health complications that had led them to this situation. We started emailing and over a matter of months came to know each other quite well!
Obviously there is a lot more of the story to fill in between then and now, but I'm chuffed to say that we are currently 10wks pregnant with a very precious surrogate baby. I have been writing a pregnancy diary for the baby, and for his/her mum, and will share some of those extracts, and this unique journey as it unfolds over the next few months. But I think for now I've probably prattled on enough :)