Intended parents ponder many big questions after making the hard decision to work with a gestational carrier (or “surrogate”). Who is this person who will carry and care for our baby for nine months? How do we establish trust? What can we really ask of her? What are the boundaries of this new “relationship”? And, yes, it will be a relationship.
Surrogacy professionals will be able to guide you and your surrogate through the minefield of seemingly overwhelming questions, and a knowledgeable attorney will work with you to create a sound, realistic contract. Working with the right team removes the guesswork from your shoulders so that you can focus on building a relationship with the gestational carrier.
What do surrogacy contracts address?
After selecting a carrier, your attorney will draw up a formal contract detailing the duties and legal expectations of all parties. There are global issues that every surrogacy agreement should address, including all agreed upon and negotiated expenses and fees, schedule of any reimbursements or payments and how they should be made, the scope of the agreement and length of time the parties are under contract with each other, relevant state laws and estate planning issues, how and when legal parentage shall be established for the intended parent(s), and expectations regarding future contact with each other. Typically, fees are about $5,000 higher for an experienced surrogate than for a first-time surrogate. There will also be additional fees and expenses for a multiple pregnancy.
Agreements may also address lifestyle changes for the gestational carrier; it’s common for intended parents to ask her to limit caffeine, avoid hair dyes or other products, and follow doctor’s orders with respect to any strenuous exercise. Some clients have made requests about not eating certain fish and/or cheese. It’s always best to discuss such requests together before putting them in the contract. Intended parents must also understand that some of these matters are detailed so that all parties understand each other’s expectations, but that it may not be considered a “breach” of the agreement if it’s not followed precisely.
It’s critical for all parties to understand that, regardless of what the contract states, ultimately, the carrier has control over the clinical management of her own body. This includes not only prenatal care, but also decision-making regarding termination of the pregnancy or selective reduction of a multiple pregnancy. This is why it is so important for all parties to speak with each other and with a mental health professional before drafting a contract, so that they are on the same page philosophically around these highly sensitive issues.
“Accepting the need to use a donor was hard”
The first meeting almost universally feels like a “blind date” for all parties. From that point on, it’s best to discuss expectations together. Good communication from the beginning is almost as important as having a clear, well-drafted agreement, and will set a solid foundation for the relationship. Most parties will find a rhythm that works for them, whether it is best to “talk” via e-mail, text, Skype, or telephone, and when to get together and where. You should decide together what doctor visits everyone will attend and what to expect from each other at the time of labor and delivery.
Some parties are close during the pregnancy and go their separate ways after birth—not because there was any issue with the relationship, but because that is where life takes them. Some intended parents and carriers become close, and stay close even after the baby is born. Every surrogacy relationship is unique and will grow organically over time.