Remember it took us four tries to get to our donor? It appears to be the same for a gestational carrier.
For a donor, we had the one that belonged to U.CSF that never responded to the clinic after we expressed our desire to work with her. There was the one that disappeared after we paid the agency fee and met with her in person. There was the one that we failed two transfer using her frozen eggs. And then there is the current one that we have scheduled for a retrieval on September 1st, which is coming up fast.
As for a gestational carrier, we had my blog friend whose timing didn’t work out for us and her. And then my friend’s friend whose request for compensation was much higher than what we could afford. The third candidate was via an out-of-state agency that we liked a lot but had a second-hand smoking issue with her husband as a smoker. So now onto our fourth candidate.
This is with the Christian agency to which Dr. E referred us back in April this year. Since the concept of needing a GC was so new at that time, I didn’t contact this agency until June. I will call the owner “Winnie”. Winnie is a two-time GC herself and knows the process of surrogacy intimately. She came highly recommended by Dr. E. Dr. E in fact told me that this is her favorite agency to work with. When I asked Dr. E why this is her favorite agency, she wrote this: “Winnie is nice, easy to work with. Fees are low and she’s low maintenance. She loves what she does. She won’t waste our time. She’s organized, efficient and knows how to get things done.” I had a great first impression of Winnie. On our phone call, she was warm and explained everything clearly. She responded to all emails efficiently and quickly with complete answers. At our first contact, she had two profiles to show me. Both Christian ladies. One with health insurance and one without. Dr. E had already reviewed both profiles and liked the one with insurance. However, at that time, the one with insurance was being reviewed by another family and might not be available by the time we got around to interview her. So we kind of put this potential surrogate on the back burner and proceeded with the interview with the other potential surrogate with the other agency. When the other surrogate didn’t work out, Winnie happened to have checked in with me via email. When I learned that the potential GC who has insurance was still available, we decided to look into it more seriously.
You may ask how one may choose a gestational carrier. From commenters on online surrogacy forum to my friends who had used a gestational carrier, to Dr. E’s advice, I gathered that the most important things to consider are the big issues:
- How you will be communicating before, during, and after the pregnancy
- How often you will be going to visit
- How you both feel about termination or reduction
- How you both feel about transferring more than one embryo
- How she feels about C-section if it is required by the OB
- How she feels about having the intended parents in the delivery room
From reviewing many different profiles and filling out a few questionnaires for intended parents, I have formed my own idea of what we are looking for in a surrogate. We would like our surrogate to be a married woman who is at least over 25 years old with young child(ren) at home. I am sure that younger, unmarried women could also be good surrogates but they are just not suitable for us. A stable married life is not a guarantee but it would help calm my nerves as I feel that I don’t have to worry about potential changes in the surrogate’s life with a new boyfriend or other situations. I also feel that I need to be able to trust my GC, so I may be able to relate to one closer to my age than one that is almost 20 years younger.
Dr. E had a patient who worked with this Christian agency and just had twins via surrogacy a few months ago. Winnie, the agency person, shared this patient’s contact information with me as a reference as well as for any support that I may need as an intended mother. I will call her Miranda. Miranda and I instantly bonded. She is currently staying at home with her four-month-old twins so you can imagine how busy her life is. She set aside over an hour of her time chatting with me about the whole process while her husband watched the twins. Talking to her was so reassuring. She is a fellow follower of Christ. She shared about the agency’s responsiveness, flexibility, and problem solving ability during unexpected situations. I felt so much better after I spoke with her.
So back to the profiles of our potential surrogates. Bob and I really liked the potential surrogate that Dr. E recommended, the one with health insurance coverage. We will call her Annie. She is in her mid-30s, has three children that she homeschools, and just sounded like a good match in general in terms of the six important things that were listed above. The only things that made me paused in her profile was a few statements about why she wanted to become a gestational carrier. She wrote that she and her husband had lived many years dreaming and praying for a child together but it wasn’t happening, although there was no medical reason why they couldn’t have kids. They finally had kids together so now she wanted to help others realize this dream. This made me a little worried. I asked Dr. E her opinion. She recommended getting a clarification from the agency and Annie before we proceeded with the interview. It turned out that Annie had a baby at 16. She met her husband after that, got married in her early 20s, and started trying for a baby after that. “Trying” means no tracking or medical intervention. Just sex. So it took them quite a few years before they conceived their first child together (and her second child). Two years later, her third child was born and she was done with baby making. Dr. E reviewed her answer and didn’t see any issues using her. She in fact thinks that Annie remained an excellent candidate for us.
For a few days I was stressed out about this one piece of information because I wanted this to work so badly. At that point, we were in the process of filling out our profiles before we could interview Annie. After struggling for a few days, I wrote Dr. E again about my concerns to which she said, “She has three healthy children. I don’t think she has fertility issues. I think that she wrote that down so that she can show that she has empathy for other families. I am not concerned about her ability to get and stay pregnant or conceive based on her profile.”
Once I saw Dr. E’s response, I felt a lot better. I have to keep in mind that Annie has never had a miscarriage before. Every time she got pregnant, she carried her children to full term without any complications. There was no bed rest or any other problems. I also have to keep in mind that we are not using her husband’s sper.m or her eggs. We are going to use a proven donor’s eggs and my husband’s sper.m that will be selected by PICSI to bypass his DNA fragmentation problems. These are all brand new variables and vastly different from our previous failed cycles.
After we submitted our profile with our pictures, Winnie got back to us quickly letting us know that Annie and her husband reviewed it and they loved it. They agreed to set up a time to do an interview with us.
Since I had talked with two other potential GC prior to this phone call, I felt a lot more equipped to do an effective job of asking the right questions. So experience definitely helps. I typed up a few pages of questions all grouped into different categories, such as questions related to the process of surrogacy, pregnancy history and future pregnancies, her general health, lifestyle, and psychological wellbeing. I knew that the phone call would be fluid but it was good to be prepared.
Winnie, the agency owner, told us that the phone call would be about an hour. Our three-way conference call ended up lasting exactly two hours. Our phone call with the other potential surrogate lasted 45 minutes, so this was definitely a long phone call. I think it was because Winnie was moderating the call, asking us to tell each other our answers to some of the questions that Winnie posed. Bob was actively participating. The more we spoke to Annie, the more we liked her. She came across as someone who is very straight forward, honest, with no pretense. She has a heart for carrying a child for someone, and she has been wanting to do it since she carried her first child at 16. She loved all of her pregnancies. When we discussed about how much contact we’d like to have before, during, and after the pregnancy, we both wanted the same thing, which is to have contact multiple times a week if not daily, especially during the pregnancy. We all laughed when she said that she’d like to be able to text us if she had a good BM in the morning because she’d be carrying our child and we should know the details. We were on the same page on all the big issues that I listed above. When asked if she was willing to transfer more than one embryo, she told us that secretly she has wanted to carry twins and would welcome the opportunity. Her timeline works for us. She is not going to have any planned changes in her life in the foreseeable future.
One thing that she told me really touched me. When she first read our profile, she was surprised by our need to use donor eggs. She told her husband, “But I really want to carry a child for her using her own eggs!” Her husband responded, “If you really want her to use her own eggs, imagine how much more she would want to use her own eggs.” What a wise man. 🙂 It really touched me that he has such an open mind.
After we hung up, Winnie quickly called Annie to chat with her. Then she called me. She told me that Annie really liked us and would like to move forward with us if that was what we wanted. I told Winnie that we really liked Annie too. Since Bob left for work already, I would have to talk with Bob and pray about it.
For two days, we prayed constantly about this decision. This is a huge decision, not one that we could take lightly. Once we say yes to a GC, we would start to pay a lot of money for the retainer, for medical screening, for the psychological evaluation, and for the monthly allowance. So we had to ask each other: is this the person that we would like to carry our child(ren) for us for 9 months? Do we trust that she’d do what is the best for the bab(ies)? Do we feel comfortable with her making decisions about her body while carrying our child(ren)? Do we believe that God has picked out this person for us? Do we feel that we could be friends with her and her husband? Our lives will be intertwined in very intimate ways. Are we ready to invite Annie and her husband to join us on this journey?
After lots of prayers, the answer is a resounding yes!
We have a gestational carrier! She lives out of state so it will be quite an adventure to navigate working with a GC long distance. But I have the confidence that we’ll all make it work.
(Stay tuned for Part II!)