Having a Baby via Surrogacy: What to Do and What to Avoid
We were very fortunate when it came to building our family. The opportunity fell in our lap and today we’ve got two amazing little boys! Not that every step was easy though. Any road can be bumpy; no matter how far you’ve come, you may still encounter roadblocks.
This is our story, from the idea of kids until we were all Taylors. Please read to the end, as there’s more than a warm fuzzy moral.
One day a friend casually mentioned that she had a cousin who had been donating eggs and now was interested in carrying a child for a couple. “Would you be interested in something like that?” Um, we hadn’t talked about it more than random comments about having kids, never actually discussing it in any detail. So, we talked and then met this person, this surrogate, in order to understand why she wanted to do this. She was smart, caring, wise, and beautiful and had no ulterior motives. Amazing. And she liked us. (Thank goodness.)
Step 1: Do the Legal Stuff
It’s not every day you strike up an agreement with somebody to create a life and then hand that life over. Where do you even begin? We started by researching online all of the different types of surrogacy and adoption methods. Naturally, we met with a lawyer who specialized in family law. She gave us instructions and reviewed our potential gestational surrogacy contract. Her instructions: Have contract notarized, have baby, complete secondary parent adoption. Cool, easy.
Step 2: Make Baby
Become pregnant. We hadn’t been saving up for years to have a baby through IVF or something clinical. Plus, we found out that most reproductive clinics would not work with a surrogate who was also the egg donor (aka a traditional surrogate). After some discussion, we thought “we’re pretty chill people,” so we went with the home method. It worked and boom: life was growing!
Step 3: Tell the world
When you never ever have given becoming a dad a second thought, you have never thought about how to tell people or what anybody might say. Well, we started by telling the OB/GYN to find out if she was the right fit for our situation, and she certainly was. Since she was good to go and baby was growing, we felt we could tell other people. Friends were so excited and surprised and had so many questions, appropriate and not! Family, uhhh, some were thrilled beyond belief. Others were silent and then just said, “How is this happening?” Some were outright cruel. I wasn’t prepared for that. In my mind the only response to give when somebody shares such incredible news is just to smile and hug and be excited for them. I didn’t think telling anybody would make me go back several years in personal growth and comfort with myself. Life: surprises around every corner.
Step 4: Have baby
Simple enough. You know, get woken up at 12:55 a.m., rush through the house like a crazy person and drive (safely) to pick up the oven and the bun for delivery. It went perfectly … except the speed bumps in the parking lot. Yeah, let’s just say I’m glad her water didn’t break in the car. We checked in, our OB was there to deliver and we welcomed a little boy. He was such a surprise; came out peeing and we were all crying and cuddling and crying….
Step 5: Do the Paperwork
We made sure ahead of time that the hospital’s lawyers and social worker were aware of our situation and they were good to go with it. We brought everything legal we had, just in case … and then the Vital Statistics clerk came in. If you’ve not had a child in a hospital, this is the person who completes the paperwork for the Social Security Administration and starts the birth certificate process. She came in, saw us and immediately began questioning us, questioning our surrogate if she was sure everything was in order. She then left to make some calls, came back, questioned us more, gave us more paperwork and then before leaving made sure to tell us that she disagreed with our process and that the birth certificate still would have just the birth mother’s name on it. No. Just no. After feeling sufficiently dampened on our big day, we moved past it and got to leave.
As time passed, we all grew close. Our surrogate became our BFF and is now a part of our lives like an auntie. We waited to complete the secondary parent adoption because we knew that there’d be one more little person eventually. Two years later we were preggers again and went through all the same steps again.
What was different
Taylor baby No. 2 was born the evening before Thanksgiving. We would be celebrating with hospital cafeteria turkey feast. This also meant that the hospital had a bare-bones staff. Our nurses all knew what to do to get us out of there, they gave us the appropriate paperwork and cute baby footprints, but there was no Vital Statistics clerk. (We were okay with this.) We were given some paperwork that seemed right and a phone number for the Department of Health to ensure that their records were appropriately updated. Okay, that was new!
Actually, it wasn’t new. After we contacted the Department of Health after the holiday, we got a call back from somebody who worked with surrogacy specifically. He said that he just needed to get a copy of the surrogacy agreement to update the names on the birth certificate … and that was it. Wait, what? Really?! I called him back and thoroughly explained our whole situation, starting three years prior and he repeated what he had said before.
“Yep, please just send me a copy of the contract and the birth certificate when you get it. I’ll update it all.”
I’m not one to question a good thing, but I am one to go back and question if something else had bad blood behind it. I asked if there was a change to surrogacy or family laws in the last few years that made the process so different. The man told me that there hadn’t been any changes. The clerk at the hospital had provided wrong directions and had completed the process incorrectly.
“So we don’t have to go through any sort of adoption? At all?”
“No, that’s why you have a surrogacy agreement.”
“So our lawyer and the hospital lawyer were wrong?”
“And nothing’s changed in the last few years, legally?”
“Correct. Nothing was done correctly from the start. Send me the paperwork and I’ll fix it.”
Sent. Fixed. We have birth certificates with our names on them. Us. The 100%-legal-from-the-start parents.
Why I need to share our story
When other couples will face much more difficult or multi-layered battles? Simple: if somebody had shared accurate information or been willing to do the job they’re paid to do from the start, we would never have had to face the opposition and stress that we did. We could have enjoyed the whole birth experience without feeling like an incomplete family. If we had been given correct information from the start, we could’ve skipped hours of phone calls and exposing our personal information to strangers who never needed it to begin with.
The moral of the story
Go through the process as directed by your state or province. Work with those who maintain family records and deal with like situations daily. Push back. Get clear answers and clear guidelines from those who manage the process. Don’t lose hope. There are people, such as a social worker or Department of Health, who can and will help.
Even though the road may be long and bumpy, don’t be discouraged. Create the family you never thought possible. Two dads, two moms, one of each, fly solo… There are so many types of families. All a baby needs is a loving home to welcome it and a family willing to do the work. The other pieces will fall into place.