The Lawson’s anxiously await to hold their first child born through a surrogate.
Find out if pursuing the path of surrogacy is right for you and your partner.
By Lauren Felechner
West Coast Surrogacy
For many women and men, conceiving a child is life’s miracle that brings immense joy and pride. The first positive pregnancy test, the slight pop of mama’s belly, shopping and nesting—this all leads up to that elating moment when mom and baby see each other for the first time. A successful pregnancy and birth is the goal, but for some like Nicole Lawson from Sherman Oaks, it is unattainable. Surrogacy wasn’t Lawson’s initial go-to solution to build her family. Her first pregnancy occurred when she was 27 years old, but was distraught just eight weeks later to find that the baby no longer had a heart beat. Sadly, this wouldn’t be Lawson’s first miscarriage. “I figured that at 27 years old, getting pregnant would just happen,” Lawson said. After a prescription to Klomed, four rounds of IUI, IVF attempts and three miscarriages later, Lawson decided to switch doctors. This decision brought the clarity and closure she needed, as she was finally able to find out why she wasn’t able to conceive to full-term. “I have a severe case of a bicornuate uterus, where my uterus is split in half by a bone. Some women are still able to conceive with this condition, but I wasn’t,” Lawson explained. Due to her medical condition, Lawson’s doctor recommended she pursue surrogacy.
Advances in the medical industry have opened the doors for couples and individuals to have the family they always wanted, but—for whatever reason—nature simply would not permit. Surrogacy is among the countless medical miracles that can be the answer to many prayers. Simply put, surrogacy is the process of having another able-bodied woman carry and birth your baby. However, the process of becoming a surrogate is anything but simple. Read on to find out more information on what to expect before, during and after your trip down surrogacy lane.
Who Can Be a Surrogate?
Potential surrogates must undergo and pass a lengthy physical and mental exam to determine if she is a prime candidate. According to Amy Kaplan, President, West Coast Surrogacy/West Coast Egg Donation in Irvine, some of the main guidelines for potential surrogates include: must be between the ages of 21 to 40; have children of her own; have a history of full-term pregnancies without complications; a non-smoker; living a stable and healthy lifestyle; and have a support network of friends and family. “We look to see if she is willing to make lifestyle changes during the pregnancy—if requested by the intended parents—(i.e. refrain from coloring her hair, painting her nails, willing to eat organic food if provided an allowance, refrain from drinking caffeine, etc.)” Kaplan stated. She continued, “A surrogate does need to pass a psychological evaluation, as well as a medical screening exam. During this exam, a reproductive endocrinologist will evaluate her uterus and review her medical and pregnancy history. She and her partner/husband will also have screening for infectious diseases and drug use.” Becoming a surrogate does not have to be a one-time deal. As long as a woman meets the required criteria, she can be a surrogate as many times as she wishes. However, many fertility specialists prefer to use a surrogate candidate with no more than seven pregnancies.
What Does the Process Include?
The preconception phase is a complex one that can last several months. Besides being matched with the right surrogate for the intended parents and entering and passing the medical screening processes, the intended parents and surrogate then enter into the legalities of the surrogacy—a legal contract—where this phase alone can take up to at least two months to ensure that all parties are on board with the proposed terms and conditions. “The attorney will represent the intended parents and draft the legal contract between the parents and surrogate. This attorney will also file the documents to establish the legal parentage of the child/children,” Kaplan explained. “In California, this paperwork is filed and the Judgment of Parentage is granted prior to the birth. The parents’ names are listed as the legal parents on the birth certificate. This is the case with same sex couples as well. The surrogates name is not listed on the birth certificate.” This contract is a vital aspect of the entire course because it provides both parties with provisions that they have agreed upon. According to Kaplan, the surrogate does has the right to make decisions about her own body and about reduction and abortion, however, that decision could lead to a breach of contract. She also has the right to be compensated, reimbursed and have her medical expenses paid in accordance with the contract terms. Like many, Lawson and her husband paid $80,000 to $90,000 for each of their surrogates.
Nicole Lawson cradles her first born minutes after being delivered.
Once the legal contract phase is completed, the fertility phase begins. This phase involves having both the surrogate and egg provider taking daily hormone injections. The surrogate will then have an embryo transfer and approximately 10 days later, she will take a pregnancy test. If she is pregnant, she will continue on hormone injections for several weeks while being monitored by the fertility specialist. She will soon “graduate” and be under the care of an OB doctor as she would with her own pregnancy.
During the pregnancy, the surrogate has sessions with her counselor or life coach and also develops a relationship with the intended parents—based on what feels appropriate to all parties. The intended parents will be present for as many doctor appointments as they wish, as well as for the birth. Postpartum, the surrogate and parents receive support by attending monthly support groups and individual sessions up to three months after the birth. If they wish to remain in contact or receive updates postpartum, that is completely up to all parties involved.
Why Choose Surrogacy?
Many women and couples choose surrogacy as their route for conception simply because it is a necessity. The multitude of reasons can include: suffering from a medical condition that makes pregnancy either dangerous or impossible; multiple miscarriages; unexplained infertility; or have a condition that requires a medication that isn’t safe to ingest during pregnancy. “Some of our patients have included women that are survivors of cancer, and those that have had hysterectomies. We have many single men that have realized that they no longer want to wait for a spouse/partner to become a parent, and gay men are also a large part of our clientele,” Kaplan explained. Without surrogacy, Lawson would not have the two children she has today. “That moment when my surrogate had my first born, it was just awesome. It was beautiful. It’s a stranger carrying the one thing you’ve wanted so bad for so long,” Lawson explained. “Both surrogates were amazing in their own right. I was such a freak with my first surrogate; I think I called her almost every day. It wasn’t because of her, she was great. I was just so nervous and wanted this so badly because after three miscarriages you just feel hopeless. But I was definitely much calmer the second time around because I was able to take in more of the experience.”
Advice for Potential Surrogates
“If you are surrogate-curious or looking into surrogacy as a way of family building,” said Kaplan, “I encourage you to consider and acknowledge the courage it takes for you to be where you are in the inquiry. Surrogacy is a leap of faith, a surrendering of sorts for everyone involved, and an experience that is bigger than all us,” Kaplan said. “It is a place where humanity is at its purest; strangers coming together to create a miracle. Families working together in a relationship that goes beyond what you’ll read in a textbook or an article.”
Becoming a surrogate is a selfless act, and searching for a surrogate showcases one’s desire to expand their brood and be a parent. Both are self-sacrificing positions to take for the better of another person’s life, and thankfully, Orange County is filled with resources that can help women, men, couples and potential surrogates take that next step in making their dream come true.
For more information about surrogacy, visit www.westcoastsurrogacy.com