Given we have so many supporters not familiar with surrogacy, we thought it might be worth while writing a post about the process. Surrogacy is a complicated process and an expensive one at that. So we thought you should know what we go through in order to have our babies.
Before I start here are some common surrogacy terms explained:
· Intending Parents (IPs): Couples looking for a surrogate or who have a surrogate
· Intending Mother (IM): The mother looking for a surrogate or who has a surrogate
· Intending Father (IF): The father looking for a surrogate or who has a surrogate
· Gestational Surrogate (GS): A surrogate who has no biological link to the baby she carries. Either the IPs sperm and eggs are used to make the embryo, donor eggs and sperm or a combination of both.
· Traditional Surrogate (TS): The surrogate uses her own egg but the Ifs sperm or donor sperm.
For surrogacy to be legal in australia it must be altruistic, meaning the surrogate must not be paid for carrying the baby except for her reasonable expenses.
Given this, the biggest hurdle for a couple requiring a surrogate is to find one! It is illegal for a couple to advertise for a surrogate and it is illegal for a surrogate to advertise their services. This makes it very difficult for IPs to find surrogates. A lot of surrogates are IPs sisters, female friends, even their mothers. But for IPs, like us, who don’t have this option, they have to rely on the kindness of strangers.
So how do you find a surrogate? Well thank god for the modern technology, the internet! There are several websites designed for IPs looking for a surrogate and surrogates looking for IPs to meet up. IPs and surrogates need to be careful what they write though as remember its illegal to advertise or make comments designed to encourage surrogates to come forward.
So many IPs post their stories and wait and hope that privately a surrogate will contact them. And that’s basically it. So as you can imagine this is a very difficult process and can take months, even years.
The law states that a surrogate must be over 25 years of age and have had at least one child – although it does say there may be exceptions – whatever they may be.
The law also says a couple must have a medical reason for requiring a surrogate. So contrary to popular belief, surrogacy is not used because the woman is too busy to be pregnant or too vain.
The law also requires IPs and the surrogate and the surrogate’s partner to attend counselling. The counsellor is required to ensure both couples fully understand the process and the issues that may arise during the process. The counsellor must then write a report saying they are comfortable that both couples understand the process.
Both couples are then required to obtain legal advice. This legal advice must include any issues that may arise out of the process. It also ensures both couples understand that the surrogate and the surrogates partner are legally the baby’s parents. This means that it is completely up to the surrogate to give up the child to the IPs. Basically if the surrogate decides to keep the child there is not a lot the IPs can do except to start a legal case.
But on the other hand, there is also the possibility that the IPs can change their mind and decide not to take the child. So the legal advice covers all this sort of stuff – ensures everyone knows of what could go wrong.
Once the legal advice is obtained an agreement must be drawn up between the couples. The law does not state what must be in this agreement – which is a strange thing. The only thing the law does say is that the agreement is not enforceable. Weird right? What’s the point of it then? Well who knows really? But I guess it is a good opportunity for both couples to put down in writing what they expect from the process.
Probably the main thing that’s in most agreements is what costs the IPs will cover. Whilst it is illegal for the IPs to pay the surrogate, the law states that the IPs must pay all reasonable expenses incurred by the surrogate. So reasonable expenses might include – legal and counselling fees, medical fees, parking, petrol, life insurance, death insurance, health insurance, maternity clothes, drugs, loss of wages, required child care etc etc. Basically anything the surrogate might have to pay for to get pregnant or whilst pregnant or recovering from giving birth the IPs must pay for. But what is deemed reasonable to one surrogate and IPs might be different to others.
Once all this is taken care of the IVF process starts. The IVF process is the same as any other IVF process, they take the IMs eggs (or donor eggs), take the IFs sperm (or donor sperm), put the two together and then hopefully create some embryos. One (or two in some cases) embryo is then transferred to the surrogate who will hopefully get pregnant. As you are aware Medicare does not assist in any of the costs related to the IVF process.
Of course the IVF process could take one go or it could take multiple times.
Once the surrogate is pregnant Medicare and the health funds come to the party. A surrogate is considered as any other pregnant woman. Basically it is not recognised as a surrogacy. Given this the surrogate has full control over the pregnancy and makes all decisions relating to the prenatal care. Generally though the surrogate and IPs work together on the process.
Once the surrogate has the baby, the surrogate will hopefully hand over the baby to the IPs. The IPs then must wait 28 days but no more than 6 months to apply for a parentage order. This basically changes the legal parents from the surrogate and her partner to the IPs. The birth certificate is changed to reflect this change. Both parties must consent to the parentage orders.
Prior to the parentage orders being granted, both couples must attend more counselling. The counsellor must ensure that both parties are ok with the process and the granting of the parentage orders are in the best interest of the child. And yep another report needs to be drawn up.
And that’s the end of the process! As you can see it is a long and stressful process for all involved.
Of course I have only just touched on the mechanics of it. Between all the steps a lot of bonding occurs between the surrogate, her partner and the IPs. I have not attempted to touch on the emotional part of it.
Anyway I hope this explains the process for everyone. Please feel free to ask me questions and for those experienced in the process, if I have missed anything let me know and I will update.