We are currently in the middle of signing a contract with the surrogate agency we’ve chosen. It seems comparatively easy, right? We are simply signing a few (hundred?) papers and sending away an enormous check (literally, the largest amount I have ever seen on a check in person) that will not cover any of the cost involved in getting pregnant, maintaining a healthy pregnancy, or the costs of the actual birth. Simple.
Except that it’s not. One thing I did not understand when we started this process is that there is no easy step. In all honesty, each step we face often leaves me temporarily paralyzed in fear of moving forward. But, as I’ve also learned, the only thing worse than moving forward is not moving forward.
I don’t know why I thought signing a contract would be an easy step. Certainly it would have to be easier than what we’ve been through already, right? Wrong again. A few nights ago, as Kyle and I attempted to read and understand the contract in front of us, I began to have flashbacks to the papers I’ve had to sign before heading into each of my surgeries. Basically those papers say things along the lines of… “I understand that there’s an uncomfortable amount of risk that I may die during surgery. However, I am completely fine with dying on an operating table as a teenager/young adult. Furthermore, I promise that my family will not sue you for killing me.” Signing those kinds of agreements is always somewhat surreal, and I started to wonder if this would feel similarly, except this version says things like, “We understand that [the agency] is not responsible if our gestational carrier decides to claim herself as the potential child’s mother. Furthermore, we have no problem with accruing massive amounts of debt in order to fight that claim in court,” and other fun scenarios like that to imagine.
It took us a few hours to get through the entire thing, but we managed to reach the end– though not without feeling completely shell-shocked and incredibly apprehensive. One of the scariest aspects of pursuing surrogacy is that it is still fairly new, and the law has been rather slow in catching up. There absolutely are gestational carriers that claim to be the parent of the child, and some of them have even been supported by our legal system. One case (read: horror story) I read about involved a gestational carrier (meaning she did not have any biological claim) who cut off all communication with the intended parents, put her name on the birth certificate as the mother, took the children (it was a multiple birth) home from the hospital without permission, and then sued the intended father for child support– and she won.
That didn’t incident didn’t happen in a developing country; it happened right here in the 21st century US of A, not all that far from where we live actually– and our home state is supposed to be one of the good ones for surrogacy. It’s the kind of story that makes the rounds among “infertility circles” and causes each of us question whether or not we should entrust this incredible task to someone we don’t know. If you think leaving your infant with a babysitter for the first time is nerve-racking, try imagining what it would be like to have your child literally living inside the body of a near-stranger and having pretty much no control over that person’s actions or behavior. I don’t know how we will manage it.
Beyond trusting a gestational carrier, it is also necessary to trust that your agency has your best interest in mind, which brings me back to the contract. I completely understand why it’s important to establish a contract (for us as well), but that doesn’t make it any less scary when it feels like you are signing away your last hope of having a family (not to mention a hefty sum of money). I don’t know why I ever had the notion that this would an easier step– maybe it’s because I really like the people we’ve talked to so far from the agency?– but unfortunately it has not been easy. We hope to have someone who is both from this state and familiar with surrogacy laws look over the contract before we sign our names to it. Perhaps by the end of next week we will have officially joined this agency, which somehow feels both too fast and too slow for our liking.
In conclusion: lesson learned. Not a single step of this process is easy. In fact, the steps just continue to increase in difficulty. In a week or two we might even be looking back on signing the contract and thinking about how much easier it was than whatever step we’re facing next.
Also, did you know that surrogacy is actually illegal in 5 US states?