Some intended parents and surrogates go into the surrogacy process with a ready-made match that seems “meant to be” — often as close friends or family members.
These scenarios, in which the intended parents and surrogate find each other prior to beginning the process with a surrogacy professional, are called “identified surrogacies.” While it is true that identified surrogacy offers many benefits for intended parents and surrogates, there are also some serious implications to consider before using a friend as a surrogate or being a surrogate for a family member.
Contact a surrogacy professional to learn about the different kinds of surrogates you could choose to work with. Below, learn more about working with an identified surrogate or intended parents, and find important tips for friends and families pursuing surrogacy together.
Benefits of Identified Surrogacy
Under the right circumstances and with the right professional, identified surrogacy can be a positive experience for everyone involved. Here are some of the benefits for surrogates and intended parents who pursue surrogacy with a friend or family member:
- Matching services will not be necessary. Identified surrogacy puts intended parents and surrogates a few steps ahead in the surrogacy process, as they will not need to create profiles and wait to find the perfect match. This may also save on some costs for the intended parents because they will not need to pay for an agency’s matching services.
- Identified surrogacy may be less expensive. Many friends and family members offer to do an altruistic surrogacy, or a surrogacy in which the surrogate is not compensated for her services. This can offer significant savings for intended parents; however, it can also seriously complicate the intended parents’ relationship with the surrogate family. At times during the pregnancy, the surrogate may begin to feel resentful of the intended parents, or the intended parents may feel overwhelmingly indebted to the surrogate. For this reason, some form of compensation, as well as third party support services, are highly recommended in identified surrogacy.
- All parties may feel more relaxed and enjoy a stronger sense of trust. Intended parents who have an established relationship with their surrogate can feel certain that she will genuinely care about the baby and receive proper prenatal care throughout her pregnancy. Likewise, the surrogate can feel more confident in her decision to carry a pregnancy for intended parents who she knows to be loving, genuine and deserving.
- It may be easier to stay in touch throughout the child’s life. Many surrogates want to receive periodic updates from the families they help to create, and staying in touch with the surrogate may make it easier for the intended family to explain their child’s story as he or she grows. Working with a friend or family member helps ensure that the intended parents and surrogate will remain in contact — and, if all goes well, the experience can even strengthen the bonds between the two families.
Challenges of Identified Surrogacy
While there can be many benefits to working with a friend or family member in surrogacy, identified surrogacy also has its own share of challenges. Even the most solid intended parent-surrogate relationships can be negatively impacted if the following issues are not addressed:
- Financial disputes may arise. This is one of the most difficult challenges to reconcile in an identified surrogacy arrangement. The surrogate and intended parents should each work with their own attorney, who will act as that party’s financial ally. That way, it will be left to the attorneys to negotiate and compromise on compensation on the surrogate’s and intended parents’ behalf. While some surrogates feel that they can alleviate financial concerns by offering to do a non-compensated (or “altruistic”) surrogacy, these arrangements can also put a lot of pressure on the intended parents, who may feel indebted to the surrogate. Similarly, the surrogate may initially be comfortable with a non-compensated surrogacy, only to later feel taken advantage of. It is important that both parties have legal representation and reach a fair financial agreement prior to beginning any medical procedures.
- The surrogate may experience difficult feelings during the pregnancy. Every pregnancy has its ups and downs, and regardless of the surrogate’s relationship with the intended parents, she is likely going to experience difficult days during her pregnancy. She may not always feel comfortable talking with the intended parents about the difficulties she is experiencing. However, if she doesn’t voice her concerns, these feelings can eventually damage her relationship with the intended parents. Having third party support available can be vital to help remedy these situations and mediate contact between the two parties when difficult feelings arise.
- The intended parents may also experience difficult feelings throughout the process. Similarly, the intended parents may experience unexpected emotions during the surrogacy process. For example, an intended mother may feel envious that she cannot experience the pregnancy and carry her own child, or the intended parents may feel anxious about the surrogate’s prenatal care. It can be difficult for intended parents to broach these topics with a friend or family member; many do not want to appear critical or bossy when the surrogate is making such a sacrifice for them. Intended parents should consider working with an agency or counselor to help them address these difficult feelings and successfully navigate their relationship with their surrogate.
- Surrogacy can stress family relationships and cause old issues to resurface. The stress involved in surrogacy can sometimes bring up old feelings or unsettled disputes, especially between family members. For example, if an intended mother is using her sister as a surrogate, old sibling rivalries may resurface. An agency social worker can collect a comprehensive family background on the surrogate and the intended parents to identify any interpersonal issues ahead of time and help prevent them from resurfacing.
Why Work With an Agency?
Some intended parents and surrogates who find each other on their own may wonder if they should complete an independent surrogacy without the help of an agency. While a surrogacy agency’s matching services will not be necessary in identified surrogacy, agencies still offer essential surrogacy services to friends and family members who choose to work together. In fact, many of the identified surrogacy challenges listed above can be solved with the help of a surrogacy agency.
Here are a few of the services a surrogacy agency can offer to identified surrogates and intended parents:
- Contact mediation and support: An agency can provide third party support and counseling services to help intended parents and surrogates manage any difficult feelings they have surrounding the surrogacy. Agency social workers can help both parties set clear boundaries and mediate contact when needed, including financial negotiations.
- Screening and assessment: When intended parents and surrogates find each other through an agency’s matching services, both parties will be thoroughly screened to determine that they are ready to commit to surrogacy physically, emotionally and financially. An agency can provide the same screening services to identified surrogates and intended parents, ensuring both parties that the surrogate is healthy enough to carry a pregnancy and that everyone truly understands and is ready for the process.
- Process coordination: Intended parents and surrogates will encounter many legal, emotional and social requirements throughout the surrogacy process. Agencies help both parties safely and legally navigate surrogacy and can coordinate with trusted fertility clinics, doctors, attorneys and insurance companies to efficiently complete the surrogacy and protect each party through every step of the way.
Tips for Identified Surrogates and Intended Parents
If you are planning to pursue an identified surrogacy with a friend or family member, it is important to be fully prepared for the exciting yet challenging journey ahead. As you consider your identified surrogacy plan, keep the following suggestions in mind:
- Be prepared for your relationship to change. Surrogacy is a life-changing experience, both for intended parents and surrogates. Following the birth of the baby, the two parties will be forever linked in a new way, and the surrogate-intended parent relationship will be different from the existing family or friend relationship the two parties share.
- Seek professional guidance. Established attorneys, surrogacy agencies and social workers can help friends and family members navigate the legal, medical and emotional process of identified surrogacy while keeping their relationship intact.
- Create boundaries. A social worker or counselor can help you establish clear boundaries and expectations for each party’s roles and responsibilities at the onset of your surrogacy journey.
- Stay in contact. Throughout the pregnancy, it is important for the intended parents and the surrogate to continue checking in with each other. It is important for the intended parents to continue to offer their support and meet the surrogate’s needs, and for the surrogate to help keep the intended parents informed and involved in the pregnancy.
In many ways, identified surrogacy is very similar to any other surrogacy arrangement. However, there are clearly some additional considerations for intended parents who are using a friend or family member as a surrogate. With a clear understanding of identified surrogacy and proper preparation and support for both parties, this special form of surrogacy can be a wonderful way of adding to your family.
Next Steps to Surrogacy
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