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By Mary Ellen McLaughlin

One of the common questions we see on the discussion boards of the surrogacy communities we follow is typically posed by women who are considering becoming surrogates for the first time:  “Do I do it myself or go through an agency?”

Responses from others who have taken this path before vary, but lean toward recommending registering with an agency for the first time. At the same time, many say they have been do-it-yourselfers for subsequent surrogacies, recommending that route only after learning the ropes via the first agency experience.

Of course, I represent an agency, so forgive my bias. But the fact is that not all agencies are alike. And neither are all surrogacy journeys. There are many complexities involved and details to be managed in being a surrogate. The medical aspects aside, issues range from the legalities (contracts, compensation, meeting state laws over surrogacy arrangements, for example) to the surrogate’s emotional readiness to day-to-day dealings with the intended parents.

Frankly, once our surrogates begin the process, they’re happy to have an agency in their corner. If you’re thinking about embarking on this journey yourself, here are four reasons to consider an agency, and key points to keep in mind as you’re talking to likely candidates.

  1. The agency is your advocate in this process, representing your interests in everything from finding the right intended parents for you, helping to navigate issues that arise during your journey, to ensuring that you have someone in your corner with your best interests at heart. If you’re talking to an agency, ask for specific examples of how this role has actually played out with the surrogates with whom they have worked.
  2. As part and parcel of this role, the best agencies will ensure that their staff is available to you 24/7, to hold your hand, answer your questions and anticipate your needs.
  3. The agency has experience in dealing with all the aspects of the surrogacy journey. It knows what to expect for all the facets and, thus, can anticipate and effectively manage any bumps that may occur on the road.
  4. The agency also has developed the resources necessary to meet the surrogate’s interests, from legal specialists in family law to insurance programs to meet supplemental healthcare needs.

Anyone who’s considering becoming a surrogate knows it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Once you’ve talked to several agencies using these points as a guide, go back to those message boards and ask members of the community to share their experiences, pro and con, with the agencies in question. You’ll benefit by extra careful due diligence in the long run.

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By Robin von Halle

We normally stay away from politics in this blog. Religion, too, for that matter.

But a very troubling movement has been stepping up the pace lately.  Some legislators at the state and national level are proposing measures that would severely cut away at women’s reproductive rights.

Fertility. Infertility. They are opposite sides of one coin. And these proposals have implications for both of them.

Here’s how blogger Keiko Zoll, a self-described “infertility advocate” put it:

“…Infertility patients need to pay attention to healthcare legislation, particularly anti-abortion legislation. Anti-abortion legislation, in a cruel twist of fate, can pose a serious threat to our access to care. Here we are, trying our damndest to have our own children, and yet (I know how ironic this sounds) we need to be vigilant about others’ rights and access to terminate their own pregnancies.”

In Iowa, proposed legislation would define life as beginning at conception, effectively making abortion illegal there. What would that mean for infertility patients? It would mean that if all the eggs collected were fertilized during an IVF cycle, it would be illegal to dispose of any of them, even those not biologically suited to be transferred to the uterus.

In opposing the legislation, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) pointed out:

“In human reproduction…fewer than 20% of fertilized eggs implant in the uterus. Given the uncertainty…it is unreasonable and imbalanced to give constitutional rights to fertilized eggs or embryos. HF 153 would result in a requirement that all embryos be used for procreation purposes, or be kept in a frozen state forever. We question whether it is the intent…to grant those frozen embryos the right to vote upon reaching 18 years in frozen animation?”

Similar “Personhood” legislation is sweeping across North Dakota, Montana, Texas, and Oklahoma. Then, there’s Georgia, where a bill would require any miscarriage, whether in a hospital or elsewhere, to be reported and investigated. And, of course, there’s the de-funding of Planned Parenthood, a much-needed resource for overall women’s health services going far beyond abortion.

We’re a small business. We don’t have a political action committee. We just want to help people create families, finding and matching them with egg donors and gestational surrogates. But as part of the larger community, we all need to be aware of changes in the environment that might affect both sides of the reproduction coin. And be prepared to give voice to our concerns.

What kind of guidelines are out there for gestational surrogates and intended parents? Does it vary state by state? These questions and more are answered by Mary Ellen McLaughlin, partner and surrogacy expert at ARR. Watch her explain surrogacy guidelines in the video blog below:

Have questions about surrogacy? Mary Ellen McLaughlin, ARR partner and resident surrogate expert, has the answers. McLaughlin busts the many myths surrounding the gestational surrogacy process through her new series of online v-casts. Check out the first one here:

by Carin

Now, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. When people look sadly at me because I can’t have kids of my own, I still tell them how lucky I am. I have a wonderful husband, an incredibly supportive family, wonderful friends and, despite the surgeries, I am in excellent health. Even with the infertility stuff, I was grateful to have insurance to cover most of what was needed. I also truly believe that fate waited until I was ready to give us the greatest gift. One week after my surgery I got a call from the agency. They had found us another surrogate. This one was in Illinois and lived in the south suburbs of Chicago. She was promised to another family who had backed out due to financial reasons. The agency had already set up a meeting for Friday (we got the call on Wednesday) and didn’t want to have to change it. Of course I still couldn’t drive and my husband had already taken a lot of time off work. I frantically called my husband and told him that he needed to take another day off because this could be the one. Luckily, he had a very understanding boss who let him go for the afternoon.

Meeting this woman and her husband were like a dream come true. There I was, shuffling along, one week after another “C-section,” clutching my little pillow to my abdomen, sitting in a conference room listening to a woman tell me that she may be willing to carry my child. After the meeting, we were each told to go home, talk it over and to let the agency know within 48 hours if we accepted each other. We didn’t even make it home before we called the agency and told them an exuberant YES! The other couple waited until the next day but they were as impressed with us as we were with them.

After a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo that is very important but not necessary to rehash here, we were ready to start her on the stimulation drugs. In February 2009, two embryos were transferred into our surrogate. Two weeks later, almost exactly five years from the date of my first pregnancy test, we got the news that it had worked. She was pregnant. Of course she was ecstatic (as we were five years ago) but we knew better now. So much can go wrong. We refused to get excited until after the first ultrasound. We saw the heartbeat but I still couldn’t bring myself to breathe. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. At the end of the first trimester I was able to breathe a little bit. We told our families and kept waiting anxiously for each new appointment. I don’t think I truly felt comfortable telling people until halfway through the second trimester. I refused to allow myself to hope and believe that this could actually be happening. To her credit, she put up with my craziness, my skepticism and was a constant source of comfort and support. A deep and lifelong friendship had been forged. We were truly blessed to have found each other, as fate had intended.

Even now, with our four-month-old blessing, it is hard for me to believe that I am actually a mom. I had been told that as soon as I hold the baby in my arms, I would forget all the troubles that came before him. On the one hand, that was true. On the other hand, I never want to forget. That struggle has made me who I am today. I don’t mean a crazy hormone-deprived person who suffers hot flashes (but never when I am actually cold enough to need them). My infertility journey has taught me that I could handle much more than I thought I could. I was stronger than I thought I was. It made my relationships better and more open. Like I said, everything happens for a reason. This little boy will be loved and cherished always, as will the woman who gave up her eggs to allow him to exist, and the woman who selflessly carried him and delivered him safely and securely into his mother’s arms.

Visit our Web site at www.arr1.com.

About Us

Conception Connections is a blog about alternative paths to family creation. It is maintained by Alternative Reproductive Resources. Contributors include intended parents, egg donors and gestational surrogates in addition to ARR staff. Our goal is to facilitate conversations about trends, issues, current events, technology and personal stories surrounding infertility, egg donation and gestational surrogacy. If you'd like to contribute, please e-mail shodge@hodgemediastrategies.com. We also welcome your comments and suggestions. Note: Comments are moderated and posted on approval.

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