After having my son in 2010 after a long fertility journey and with the assistance of an egg donor I knew that if I wanted to expand my family I would need the assistance of a gestational carrier. Entering into my third trimester of my pregnancy I developed HELLP syndrome. HELLP syndrome is a life threatening obstetric complication usually considered to be a complication of pre-eclampsia. Often women like myself develop HELLP have already been followed for pregnancy- induced hypertension or are highly likely to develop pre-eclampsia. After eight weeks in the NIC unit I welcomed my baby boy home.
In June of 2014 I entered into my own surrogate journey in Florida through an agency outside of my own, Creative Love. It was important to me that all parties in my own journey were properly educated and protected. In order to enter into a surrogate arrangement in Florida medical clearance to use a gestational carrier is statutorily required. You must have medical reason and clearance in order to enter into a gestational agreement. Once you enter into a surrogate journey many important steps should be followed to better help the journey become successful. Rushing the process can result in missing important steps that could affect a potential positive outcome or delay the process. Taking each step one-by-one will help ensure the process is that much correct.
1. The intended parent(s) match with a surrogate whether through an agency and/or family friend. I advocate working with an agency for a first journey whether as intended parent(s) or a gestational carrier can be very instrumental for a smooth journey. When working with our agency intended parent(s) are introduced with potential gestational carriers that have been pre-screened medically, have had past pregnancy delivery records reviewed and approved by a medical doctor, if the potential surrogate has medical insurance their policy has been reviewed by an insurance industry expert and approved for usage, the carrier has passed a psychological evaluation along with an MMPI-2, and cleared a criminal background check. Creative Love is an agency that will be your eyes and voice during an experience that is so new to you. Creative Love will work closely with your clinic to orchestrate the whole journey. Our agency works with you from inception to conception and birth.
2. Once you have a potential matched with a gestational carrier Creative Love will make arrangements for a meet and greet between everyone. Once everyone is committed to moving forward together the agency will work with the intended parent(s) fertility clinic to arrange for the surrogates final medical clearance. If the surrogate has medical maternity coverage with a surrogacy exclusion in their current insurance policy Creative Love will work with you to refer you to leading insurance experts to retain the proper maternity coverage. Intended parent(s) are responsible for all medical cost related to the entire surrogate journey. From the IVF clinic to all maternity and medical related to the pregnancy.
3. Now that you’ve been matched with your ideal surrogate making sure that you’re working with a leading fertility clinic is important. Remember not all fertility clinics offer surrogacy. Don’t assume because they offer IVF, IUI’s, and Donor Eggs that they will enter into a surrogate journey. We would be happy to refer you to leading fertility clinics allowing you to increase you surrogacy success. Depending on the location of your gestational carrier you might have to retain a remote monitoring clinic for your gestational carrier during the process for several screening appointments before the actual embryo transfer. Creative Love will arrange all of these appointments for you.
4. Isn’t it great working with an agency! All the unnecessary stress has been eliminated. Now that your gestational carrier has been medically cleared to move forward before any injections can take place the “Gestational Surrogacy Agreement” or “Pre-Planned Adoption Agreement” must be drafted. These important documents are not something that should be rushed. These agreements cover the important details between parties including obligations and expectations. The documents also cover parental rights, control over medical decisions of the baby being carried, medical cost, medical liability, future contact post delivery and many other important issues. Working with an attorney with experience not only drafting a surrogate agreement, but also someone that has a vast knowledge and experience petitioning the court to ratify and change the birth certificate, an attorney that has experience with first and second parent adoptions related to same-sex-couple. Finalizing a surrogate contract between parties can take a few weeks and should never be rushed over several days. Once the legal contract has been signed by all parties then the intended parent(s) can establish the escrow account.
5. The escrow account is a federally insured escrow account controlled by an attorney outside of the attorney that drafted the surrogate agreement and the reviewing attorney that represents the surrogate. The intended parent(s) should be prepared to fully fund the escrow account of all funds due to the gestational carrier throughout the journey. (with the exception if it is a twin pregnancy and/or c-section). This funded escrow account protects the gestational carrier in the event something should happen to the intended parent(s). It’s important that the intended parent(s) have a will or legal document giving parental rights to the unborn baby should something happen to them during the pregnancy. The escrow agent pays all fees due to the gestational carrier throughout the journey so that their are not conflicts of money between the gestational carrier and agency.
6. Now that we’re in full swing of things and the journey is moving along. Once the surrogate has completed an ultrasound at around 6.5 weeks with confirmation of a fetal heartbeat with a beta score >3000 the gestational carrier then begins to receive her larger compensation payments. The surrogate is typically under the care of the fertility clinic for 10 to 12 weeks. At the same time they are also seeing the OB/GYN. Typically the surrogate continues in estrogen for 10 weeks and progesterone for 12 weeks. By the second trimester they are officially released to the care of only the OB/GYN. If the gestational carrier lives within the same area that she delivered her own children then typically they will use the same doctor for the surrogate journey and deliver at the same hospital. It’s important that the surrogate has a nice comfort with her OB/GYN. The intended parents do have the legal right to all OB/GYN records after each appointment. The surrogate must be under the care of an OB/GYN and not a nurse or birthing center. The intended parents have the right to research the OB/GYN and approve or disapprove.
7. Here we are at the home stretch. It’s now time for the drafting attorney to make contact with the delivering hospital risk manger and nurse administrator to share the birth plan. The attorney will ensure that the hospital is well aware of the surrogate arrangement To ensure that the intended parent(s) have full access throughout the labor and delivery area. That a private room is proved to the intended parent(s) based on availability. That the intended parent(s) have access to be in the delivery room and access the nursery.
8. Within three days of the birth the intended parent(s) attorney will petition the court for a date to ratify the birth certificate. Once the birth certificate has been changes the original is sealed within the court. Same-sex couples have to take several additional small steps.