Lauren Dove, our social worker, shares her experiences working in the field of surrogacy.
When I began with the firm, my focus was solely on the adoption side, working with expectant mothers. It is a field I feel led and called to, to walk with someone potentially making such a monumental choice for their child. Though I didn’t know it when beginning my time with the firm, I later realized working with gestational carriers is something about which I am equally passionate.
Though being a gestational carrier also requires a level of selflessness and is an emotional experience, it is so vastly different than adoption, as gestational carriers are choosing to pursue this opportunity, to become pregnant with a child to whom they are not genetically related.
When people find out what I do as a career, it often comes with questions, since its somewhat of a unique career path. As part of our gestational career matching program, my role involves working with potential gestational carriers from the very beginning. Along with our program coordinator, I assist with the initial contacts with someone who contacts the office about being a potential gestational carrier.
The Home Visit
Once the initial screening is completed, which starts with our preliminary questionnaire, I schedule an in-person home visit with the potential surrogate and her family. At this visit, I get a better understanding of her expectations of the surrogacy process, discuss the process with the carrier and her partner, and talk about potential “what if” situations.
It is always interesting to hear the backstory of what brought someone to the idea of acting as a gestational carrier. Many people assume it is “about the money” and while I am sure the compensation received when acting as a carrier is a compelling reason to be a surrogate, in every visit I have completed, it stems from their desires to help others! Many of our gestational carriers are also married. It is equally compelling to hear their partners’ interests and commitment to pursuing this opportunity.
I recall one carrier’s husband saying, “The absolute best moments of my life were witnessing the exact moments that each of my children entered the world. If our family is able to help another family have that same feeling, then that’s what we should do.”
After the home visit and collecting the medical records from previous pregnancies, the profile creation and matching process begins which culminates with an in-person meeting between the intended parents, the carrier (and partner if she has one) and our team from the law firm. Though we often have a good sense that these individuals will get along well, I am constantly amazed at the often-instant chemistry. It is a beautiful thing to witness and there is something special about watching the beginning of these potential relationships unfold!
After the contract is completed, I provide ongoing support for the carrier leading up to the transfer and throughout the pregnancy and postpartum period. From simple conversations like receiving a bill from their OB office, to conversations about how they are feeling emotionally and how they feel their contact is going with the intended family, I want the gestational carriers that work with our program to know that they have support, a listening ear, and that no issue is off limits.
As delivery nears, I spend a lot of time with the intended parents and the carrier to make sure everyone has appropriate expectations regarding their hospital experience. Who will be in the delivery room? What are the hospital’s policies regarding a surrogate delivery? Who fills out the birth certificate? This is such an exciting time for all involved with emotions running high, and my goal is for everyone to have a smooth experience. I talk with the hospital to determine their specific policies, provide them with a court order that shows the intended parents are the decision makers for the baby from the time of birth, and make sure there are no unanswered questions as delivery draws near.
There is something so special about visiting with the carrier and the intended parents at the hospital after delivery. In addition to making sure the hospital has no questions, I enjoy talking with the carrier about her experience and seeing the joy exuding from her as her goal from this experience has been fulfilled – she has helped create a family. This is also the time where we can spend a little time talking about the weeks to come, what resources she has as she transitions to post-partum life that does not involve caring for a newborn. Meeting with the intended family in the hospital, and seeing their first days as parents (whether it is their first child or third) is also such a sweet time.
Whether it be an adoption or a surrogacy, I continue to be in awe of the women with whom I work. I cannot think of many other careers that get to work with such a special group of people, a strong group of people, and a selfless (albeit in very different ways) group of people. I get to walk this road with these women, no matter the joy or the heartache, which is not lost on me, all while at the same time seeing a family begin.