I’ve been on several surrogacy forums for a number of months now. Talking and engaging with surrogates and other intended parents. And everybody’s reasons and experience that have bought them there vary incrediblly. There are people who have had cancers and lost their uterus, so can not carry children. There are people with serious heart congenital heart problems who are advised that to have a pregnancy would risk their own death, and there are people like me who have PCOS or endometriosis or incompetent cervix or whatever, who can’t seem to get pregnant at all, or who have been pregnant multiple times, but it’s always ended in sadness and tears.
It’s becoming extremely unsettling to see that these forums have a very distinct element of ‘Us’ versus ‘Them’ about them. They should be a place of support and if needs be, comfort, but they’re definitely not always used that way and are frequently turned into place to air grievances. Particularly among the altruistic surrogacy arrangements happening here, in Australia – it doesn’t appear to be a problem for people engaging in surrogacy overseas, as they don’t have a great deal of contact with the women who are carrying their babies. The IP (intended parent) forum feels that the surrogates (as a collective, which of course they are not!), are ‘hyper critical, judgemental, even smug’. And they often express that surrogates don’t really understand that infertility is no picnic and there is a good lot of angst spread around by well meaning IPs who want their surrogates to take it easy, or look after themselves better because infertile people know how fragile a pregnancy can be. A good percentage of IP’s have experienced pregnancy, some of them multiple times with no success, and/or shocking outcomes. All those experiences leave harsh emotional scars which are not unlike PTSD – you can’t ignore what happened to you and there are many triggers that will ‘set you off’. It’s also very harrowing accepting that your body has failed you completely and that you need to rely on a third party to have a family… and when you do find that third party, many of those feelings bubble to the surface. The lack of control, the loss, the grief, the guilt… all of it that you would prefer to forgo in favour of being able to carry a child yourself. It’s just awful. For some IMs they feel bitter resentment and jealousy fighting side by side with extreme appreciation and gratefulness – yes, uncomfortable bedfellows if you ever heard of any! They’re thankful that someone is wanting to do this for them and give them the amazing gift of motherhood, but deep down in places they can’t talk about with their surrogates, they feel envious of the women who can bear their children when they can’t.
So many of the surrogates don’t seem to understand any of this, and they will dismiss and ignore the IPs concerns, to the point where the IPs state they feel, ‘mocked and ignored’. Within the groups there appears to be a decided lack of respect sometimes – perhaps the failing of modern communication methods dealing with such highly emotive subject matter, but there is a demonstrable lack of tact, insight and genuine empathy. The altruistic surrogates, knowingly or not, wield a great deal of power over their IPs waiting in the wings, and some of them apparently use it – demands for thousands of dollars for maternity clothes, demands for a credit card from the IPs for ‘pregnancy related expenses’, demands for all sorts of things however loosely related to the pregnancy they might be. They have the functioning uterus and some of them almost hold their IPs hostage as everyone nervously wait the birth. What an uncomfortable and potentially ruinous situation to find yourself in. But it also works the other way – there is a situation I have heard about recently where some IPs have left an altruistic surrogate high and dry with some extensive medical and legal bills…! The wonderful generous surrogate has gone through with giving this couple a life changing gift, devoted a year of her life to growing them a baby, and they have left her with some of the bills, and then subsequently those same IPs served her with legal documents for a parentage order and are demanding that the surrogate sign paperwork so they can get the child a passport to go on holiday, but won’t finalize the medical bills the surrogate is liable for! What an absolute clusterfuck of a broken down relationship. Personally, I believe that horrid people like this should be named and shamed – mostly in case they plan on trying to have a second child using surrogacy in the future…
It’s no wonder that this seriously feels like so much of an ‘Us’ vs Them’ scenario when everyone is approaching the situation from opposite ends. On the IP forum, there are women crying to be understood, on the Surrogacy form, there appears to be women who are crying that they’ve been discarded. The entire process is supposed to be a journey that tries to connect two parties from the disparate ends of the fertility spectrum. It requires mutual respect, understanding, tolerance and support between those parties to effectively create new families. But it’s not always what is happening and just like in many other areas of life, people are always very quick to complain when things are not going well, but rarely take the time to share the positive feedback that their experiences are creating. It’s an ongoing discussion that is not going to be neatly solved all in one stroke. These highly emotive and complex issues aren’t really able to be adequately addressed by a series of initial counselling sessions when a trio (or more) of people enter into a surrogacy arrangement… I am assuming that, like with most relationships, good communication is the key. If either party has a problem, they need to address it directly, (and quickly before it festers), with their surrogate/intended parent rather than blurt out one side of their story all over a forum to garner support for their aggrieved point of view. There’s always two sides to every story, but with the ‘Us’ vs ‘Them’ mentality that is frequently being demonstrated on the forums, no one is getting all sides of any story which just escalates and amplifies hurt feelings and indignation all round.
It really shouldn’t be ‘Us vs Them’, neither of these parties are what is most is important in this scenario… it’s the tiny new humans being created that are important. Them and their Beginning of Life story, that will be a part of them forever. I wish we could all just focus on what is best for those babies, follow through with our responsibilities and obligations that we agreed to, and forget our own egos for a while. It’s really just one more scary aspect of trusting someone as you take that giant leap entering into surrogacy.
Well, we are getting all legal now. After the check up with the fertility specialist, and then the ‘go-ahead’ with the counsellors, the next port of call is legals. Never have I deal with lawyers and had such a feeling of pointlessness… yeah, I know hard to believe considering i have been the Claimant in two PI cases and been involved in a couple of conveyancing situations and worked with lawyers from time to time, and even have some friends in the legal profession… but yeah. Pointlessness.
We are getting a lawyer to draft an official Surrogacy Agreement which will demonstrate the intentions of the Intended Parents and the Surrogate birth mother to formalise our endeavour into surrogacy. And why does it all seem so pointless? Well, that would be because in the Surrogacy Act Qld, 2010, Chapter 2, Section 15 (right after they finish all the legal definitions BS) there is this little gem at the heart of the entire act:
That’s correct… we go to a lawyer (and again I hunted through the Surrogacy Forums and Facebook Groups to find a good one who doesn’t ream you on their fees) and we draw up what looks like a legally binding contract to state the intentions of both parties, and get it all notarised, signed off, filed and what not, and at the end of it we have a $2,000 piece of paper that is not in any way, shape, or form, legally enforceable. Because the Act pretty much provides for the surrogate to change her mind and keep the child… the government apparently is not in the business of removing children from their birth mother’s regardless of how those children are conceived or whose biological children they may be.
There are however, plenty of bits of the agreement that are enforceable – those would be the bits where we agree to to bear all financial costs for the entire duration as pertaining to the endeavour. But the agreement affords no protection for IPs that any successful live birth will be surrendered by the birth mother, and just as bad, no protection for the surrogate should the IPs decided not to accept legal responsibility of the child. Is it any wonder that this whole thing makes people so damn twitchy… talk about an exercise in trust and faith – two commodities I don’t really possess in any meaningful way.
We really want another child, and think that our son would be over the moon to have a sibling… But I can’t help feeling that if anything bad is going to happen – it’s going to happen to me. This unfortunately is based pretty heavily on personal experience – I have spent my entire adult life pushing shit uphill with a shovel. I honestly feel like the more I’ve ever really wanted something, the less likely it was to ever happen. So if a surrogacy arrangement is going to fuck up for anyone, and then those anyones are going to find themselves in the high court fighting to regain custody of their own child – then yes, that shit is going to go down on my watch, on my surrogacy agreement, with my child. And no one wants to be at the centre of a landmark legal case involving the wrangling over a small child… no one wants that to become their lot.
There’s no excitement here for me, only fear. And it’s not that I don’t trust our surrogate, I do. I do not believe she has any interested in effectively kidnapping someone else’s child (should we be so lucky as to actually have a successful pregnancy) – if she wanted another child, that would be easy enough for her to accomplish without going through this whole convoluted situation. No, I honestly believe she is entering into this with the best of intentions and the sincere and genuine motivation to help us.
But they’ve always said, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions…’ and I can’t seem to shake my habitual pessimism on all this.
I got an invitation today from a friend to attend her baby shower. Yes… another one of those. This friend had tried for three years to conceive and eventually managed to get pregnant without any medical intervention other than some acupuncture (which probably did more for her mental state than her physical state, but I digress) so she’s one of the lucky ones in my book. But seeing she is someone who struggled for quite some time with the whole conception thing, you might expect that she would have a teeny weeny bit of understanding how those of us who have turned into the epitome of an IVF Cautionary Tale, would feel about attending the baby showers of well… the pregnant people.
I don’t want to go to this thing! Are you nuts?! To sit around and watch the cooing and the oohs and ahhs over cute little baby stuff that people will bring. It sounds like a special fucking torture to me… and I can’t perceive a reason why I SHOULD willingly put myself through that. Especially at the moment when my own circumstances feel so precarious. If I go, I get to spend an afternoon gritting my teeth and smiling appropriately and trying not to say things that are negative or depressing or just plain sad. If I go, I get to spend the afternoon trying not to burst into tears inappropriately or running off to the bathroom to hide when I feel myself getting upset.
But if I don’t go… then I’m an awful friend, perhaps even just an awful person all round.
So we had a group counselling session today with Nicole, the TrickCyclist and our surrogate angel who is turning out to be someone who is so excessively generous and genuine that I can see us being life long friends… it is rare that I find a female friend that I just ‘click’ with, but I have felt that she is just our kind of people, if that makes any sense.
We had pretty much the same chats with Nicole that we had had in our individual counselling sessions and covered off an extensive checklist of ‘stuff’ that they need to review. Basically the psych’s job in this situation is to make sure we have discussed a lot of the hard stuff up front and that there are no ‘red flags’ that would indicate that we shouldn’t go ahead. If anyone is interested these are the sorts of areas that they are required to discuss:
Areas covered with Intending parents:
Family and social support
Financial and work considerations
Relationship with the surrogate (current and future)
Disclosure of arrangement to others (including work and family/friends)
Considerations around informing the child
Intentions regarding continuing treatment in the case of failed attempts
Impact of the arrangement on their son
Implications of an unsuccessful outcome(s) on all parties (including their son)
Possibility of a multiple birth
Possibility of complications that may affect either or both parties (including loss of job, relationship breakdown, severe illness, injury, or death of partner, or death of both).
Control and complications during pregnancy (including activities/conduct/health of surrogate, prenatal screening, foetal abnormality, termination of pregnancy)
Possibility of a breakdown in the surrogacy agreement (particularly dealing with a disabled or seriously ill child issues around birth complications and decision making.
Areas covered with the Surrogate:
Motivation for entering into a surrogacy arrangement.
Current/ future relationship situation.
Family and social support.
Financial and work considerations.
Relationship with the intending parents (current and future).
Disclosure of arrangement to others (including work, family/friends).
Impact of the arrangement on her own son.
Future relationship with any potential child and the intending parents.
Intentions regarding continuing treatment in the case of failed attempts.
Implications of an unsuccessful outcome(s) on all parties.
Possibility of multiple birth.
Possibility of complications that may affect either or both parties including control and complications during pregnancy.
Possibility of a breakdown in the surrogacy agreement (particularly refusal of Intending Parents to accept the child).
Issues around birth complications and decision making (particularly the relinquishment of the child by the surrogate).
Possibility of loss of job, relationship breakdown, severe illness, injury, or death, including death of both intending parents).
Activities/conduct/health issues, prenatal screening, foetal abnormality, potential termination of pregnancy.
All good hard stuff to discuss I can assure you. And while everyone is entering into this with the purest of intentions… the whole situation scares the living hell out of me.
I just can’t bring myself to be happy about this, let alone be actually excited at the prospect. I have spent so many years managing my expectations regarding infertility, pregnancy, babies, children and all these things, that the idea of it actually working is such an anathema to me that I just can’t see it happening for us – and yet here I am going through all the processes anyway. The psych says ‘You should allow yourself to be excited about it, there is plenty of time for disappointment down the track if it comes to that’… but it’s just not that easy to let go of a mentality that you’ve been carrying around for a decade.