Surrogacy Journey: Single, Female & 40
Her surrogacy journey represents a growing trend of single females seeking to create a family on their own terms.
With only one month left until the biggest day of her life, Amanda called off her wedding after realizing she and her fiance weren't well matched for the long term commitment of marriage, and that ultimately their values and goals were not aligned for a marriage that would last the test of time.
Instead, she refocused her time and energy in what many women have done in her generation, and became more career-minded. At 35, she was aware of her biological clock's fertility limits, and utilized her company's health policy that helped cover the cost of egg freezing treatments.
It was one of the best decisions in her life - it preserved her fertility, bought more time to figure out what she wanted to do and lifted a huge burden off her shoulders of worry about her fertility health.
Fast forward 5 years, she had moved to the West Coast, traveling regularly around the country in a great job and on the cusp of the big 4-0. During her annual OBGYN visit she was confronted with a question from the MD, "Do you want to be a 50 year old Mom with a 10 year old?" This is when she realized she needed to make a decision....
During the next 12 months, as she was planning and researching becoming a single mother, she also learned she needed to have a hysterectomy.
This then led her to researching surrogacy and really evaluating how much she wanted to be a mother. It would take a lot more work, research and financial stability to get there using a surrogate. She has graciously agreed to our interview to share her experience to help other single intended parents like yourself in their journey to parenthood.
What are the key decisions future single intended parents need to consider and plan for?
At first it seemed like an impossible dream to go it alone being a single mother, continue my successful career and to be the only breadwinner. How would I find a sperm donor, how much would it cost and could I afford the services and the cost associated with raising a child by myself and what surrogacy agency would be the best fit?
The hardest part was not having a partner I fully trusted to speak to and to get another opinion, I had always imagined I'd be having a child with my partner/husband, not alone. That was a huge obstacle to get over mentally for me and to switch gears to start thinking about pursuing motherhood solo; or have someone to help with the research and not having two incomes to support the journey.
As a single parent, the most important long term consideration was that I had the full support of my family. Not only for immediate emotional support during my journey to become a mother but also long term to assist with child care and fostering a loving safe environment for my future child.
I am blessed with very supportive parents and an extended family support network locally.
How do you select a reputable sperm bank? And how did you select your sperm donor? Any tips?
- Ask your doctor for a referral. Some doctors will not directly recommend 3rd party service providers, but you can ask them which agencies have provided services for others seeking sperm donation.
- Research each website and thoroughly review the information. Some sperm donor agencies, based on their location or specialty, will have profiles that may suit your requests more than others. Personally, I have always enjoyed the outdoors and hiking and wanted someone that was college educated (and hopefully their parents too). Seattle Sperm Bank was a great fit for my profile needs and I advise you to closely read donor profiles. Would you potentially date your sperm donor? To me, that was always in the back of my mind in making a selection.
- Seattle Sperm Bank had great process and transparency - I even sent pictures of myself to ask them to narrow my search to someone that best genetically fit family heritage. My doctor had suggested that selecting someone that looked like my family could be more familiar and comforting in the future.
- Note: search engine results are just one point of reference and can not be the only or main source of selecting an agency.
What financial considerations did you take? What was your plan?
- I created a spreadsheet to estimate the next 5 years of the costs from conceiving my child to what is the estimated cost to manage our household. I also estimated my future income, calculated how much stocks I was willing to cash in, forecasted future work bonuses and looked at options in case I needed to borrow money.
- Like a remodel of a home, be prepared to spend more than forecasted - prepare enough that you are comfortable spending for unforeseen circumstances. For example, I am working with a second surrogacy agency (more on that later) or you may need to find a replacement surrogate and incur more medical clearance fees.
- I am lucky to have tons of family support and I factored this into my long term cost factors - that I would have childcare support with immediate family here to support me as I continue with my career.
- My goal was to be able to pay off all costs associated with surrogacy within 12-24 months. I estimated that my surrogacy journey would cost me $150K. I did consider taking out a loan but was lucky enough that my finances were in a place that I was able to bridge the gap. I was able to get pre-approved for a 0% APR due to low debt to income ratio and good credit and payment records with my credit cards, which would have been a great alternative to higher interest loans from the market.
How did you select the right surrogacy agency to partner with?
Well, after 7 months wasted and 3 missed matches using the first surrogacy agency, I am better at telling you what not to do! Please read carefully my tips and learn from my mistakes.
- Google, search engine and Ads - beware. Seems like everyone is (near) perfect when you find agencies by commonly used search terms. So take these reviews and websites with a critical eye. it is not to say none are good but to use it as only one point of reference and conduct more through research.
- Facebook Groups - better but not perfect. Facebook Groups that review agencies and act as support groups were much more authentic in its reviews and getting a more transparent view of agencies and their past service quality. However, the majority of the groups are written and managed by surrogates and intended for surrogates rather than intended parent focused. Finding the ones that are focused on intended parents’ needs is my suggestion.
- Find a local surrogate lawyer and seek feedback on agencies and ask for referrals. Who have they worked with, who is professional? They usually give 3-4 referrals at no charge. Of course, they would hope that when you consider to engage in surrogacy that you would use their services.
- Ask your OBGYN. Some doctors will not directly recommend 3rd party service providers but you can ask them which agencies have provided services for others seeking surrogacy and which ones are best to work with from their experience. Doctors usually like to refer to bigger surrogacy agencies.
- Personal Referrals. This is a great way of finding a credible agency as someone you trust or know has successfully used their services; however please be aware that this is only one point of reference for that specific journey. Things may have changed over time and depend on your case manager so it's still critical to do more research and cross reference. In my case, my reference was for a successful journey 5 years ago and by the time I selected them, it was basically a different firm run by different management.
What makes a surrogacy agency "great" in your opinion?
The surrogacy pre-screen process!!
This is absolutely the most important question to ask about the agency's PRE-SCREEN process! Get it in writing, double check they are being accountable to that check list, and make sure the check list is following best practices. Here are my instructions:
- Highly advise not to pay in full (or anything at all) before being able to review qualified profiles of surrogates. I made the mistake of paying in full prior to a match with the first agency and had 3 failed matches (never even made it through medical records review) with more bills. The current agency I am working with, that I chose after leaving the first agency, does not charge for 1st installment until “Match”. Match can mean that medical records are approved by the clinic ahead of time, before we interview and agree to go on the journey together. There was a huge difference in meaning from my first agency that stated “Match” was when I liked someone after an interview without any medical records reviewed yet, so be very clear on this point. 2nd Installment is not paid until Legal Clearance, which is usually a few weeks after. This shows that the agency is willing to invest and provide a lot of upfront work before ever charging the intended parents.
- Make sure you ask your doctor what the clinic’s surrogate requirements are and ensure the agency is informed and adheres to these requirements 100%
- Seek legal advice early - ask them to review your Surrogacy Agreement that you sign with your agency - it is worth the investment to make sure you are working with a reputable agency and are properly covered. An experienced surrogate lawyer can provide a lot of valuable insight since they have years of accumulated experience.
- Financial transparency is key. If you are confused by what the costs are and when you need to potentially pay, something is not right. A good agency will help you plan out your surrogacy step by step, including your financial expectations. If they can't or won't, it is a reason to be concerned.
- Use a third party Escrow company to manage the payment and reimbursements with your surrogate. Anyone that tells you otherwise isn't informing you of the potential for conflicts of interest and what is the best practice for surrogacy management. It's only $1,000-$1,200 fee and worth the cost.
- Boutique vs. Larger agency - I like the personal approach of being able to talk to the same people that understand my personal story and to form a relationship with. I tend to believe that smaller agencies are going to provide more flexibility; however, a larger agency has more surrogates and a more robust database with more options.
- Being comfortable with your Surrogate Coordinator is also key. I like someone that will be able to understand my style and needs in terms of communication. I really expect someone to follow up, close the loop and be responsible. Have this conversation upfront to best manage expectations and to start off on a good step.
- Besides looking at reviews, seeking referrals, and interviewing the agency, I always reviewed the backgrounds of the staff and founders when appropriate - I wanted the management to not only be empathetic and familiar with surrogacy but also business savvy / proven business background to feel confident that they would be good operators and manage my process effectively.
What surrogacy resources do you recommend?
When I was researching, I found this to be a real challenge to find comprehensive information. There aren't any comprehensive resources for intended parents and there still isn't. Here are a few sources that I found useful and that I hope help you in your journey!
- Nevada Adoptions Agency - official state website on adoptions, make sure find the proper source for your state - http://dcfs.nv.gov/Programs/CWS/Adoption/
- Lawyers - identify an experienced lawyer and understand each state's laws pertaining to your specific situation
- Cost of Surrogacy - transparent & simple to understand compensation list from SurrogateFirst - https://surrogatefirst.com/pages/surrogate-compensation
- How to Choose an Agency - a great list is provided at Art Risk - www.artparenting.com
- Facebook Groups - surrogacy agency review groups include “Proven Credibility”, “IP Unbiased Surrogacy Agency Reviews”, “Intended Mothers Through Surrogacy” - is my favorite
- Single Mothers by Choice - has a website & FB with meet up opportunities in bigger cities - https://www.singlemothersbychoice.org
- SEEDS - a nonprofit organization, founded by a group of egg donation and surrogacy agencies, whose purpose is to define and promote ethical behavior by all parties involved in third party reproduction. https://www.seedsethics.org
- Independent Surrogate Consultants - consider getting a few hours of time with a consultant for a small fee
- Agency posts tend to be the top search results, although these sources are useful, they are often not comprehensive
Last words of surrogacy wisdom?
Don't get overwhelmed! If you take small steps in understanding and finding the right partners to assist you, it's a manageable and exciting experience. If you are like me and have listened to your heart, you will be confident that you are making the right decision. Doing this as a single parent is daunting, and I still hope that I will eventually find a partner to share in the journey, but it is a journey that I wanted to take regardless of having a partner. Embrace the journey and know that there are people and resources to help you achieve your dream! It's worth it!