Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Dreaded Money Talk

Well, I was hoping this issue wouldn’t rear its head at all, or that at least it would be a little later in the game. But, the comments in the comment section and the personal e-mails that I’ve received the past week or so lead me to believe the time is sooner, rather than later. And that makes me sad. I probably seem a little dual-personality (Um, isn’t the correct word "psycho”???) considering how open I seem to be on here --- I mean, if I put parts of my life out for review on this blog, should I be surprised when people ask questions? Or cynical about not wanting to answer them?

Deep breath ---- Yes, the vast majority of surrogates, both traditional and gestational, are compensated for their “services”. Sometimes a girl will provide what is called a “compassionate” surrogacy and waive any sort of compensation, but that is probably most often a case of someone helping a relative or close friend. While I have no idea what the total cost of a surrogacy might be, nor do I want to know, I can assure you it is prohibitive, and that the couple, the Intended Parents, pay for everything --- medical costs and doctor bills, to include all screening, monitoring, and IVF expenses, legal costs, travel costs, cost for medications, testing costs, agency fees, insurance premiums, and the surrogate fee, which can vary greatly depending on the circumstance.

A few of you have asked why I needed to obtain life insurance and medical insurance. It’s fairly standard for couples to take out life insurance policies on surrogates. Most surrogates are mothers themselves, and heaven forbid something tragic were to happen during pregnancy or delivery, that life insurance is to help take care of the surrogate’s family. As far as medical insurance, for my first surrogacy, I was told that my personal Tricare health insurance, through the military, would not cover surrogate pregnancies, so my couple was required to take out a private health insurance policy to cover the pregnancy and delivery. Of course once the baby is born, he or she goes immediately onto its parent’s health insurance plan. I subsequently discovered that Tricare does indeed cover surrogate pregnancies, although there is a proposal currently working its way through Congress that would exclude surrogate pregnancies from Tricare coverage. Some private health carriers cover them, some do not, in which case it is the couple’s responsibility to provide coverage. And let me tell you that in between the premiums, the co-pays, the deductible, and the fact the plan only paid 50% benefits, my first couple could have just paid cash for the delivery and come out ahead. But, that’s why it’s called insurance, right? And thankfully, we didn’t have any complications.

Bearing in mind that talking about money – period -- makes me uncomfortable, nonetheless, I have a few points to make about surrogate compensation:

Um, why wouldn’t we be compensated? Everyone else involved in this process is: lawyers, doctors, agencies, social workers …. I guess I don’t understand why people assume just because it is something we want to do, and something that takes a special person to do it, that somehow means we should do it for free. I can think of lots of noble callings; teaching, working with the blind or disabled, saving the freaking tree monkeys in the rain forest, for goodness sake, but no one expects any of those people to do it without compensation for their time and trouble, just because it’s something they feel passionate about.

I’ll admit, when I first started researching surrogacy, I had no idea that compensation for surrogates was the norm. I also had no idea -- no CLUE -- how much time, effort, and sheer pure dedication is put into this on the part of the surrogate, and why being compensated for that is really only fair. Had I gotten further into my story, you would have heard about the traveling that is done and the time spent away from family that surrogates sacrifice. You are often at the mercy of a reproductive endocrinologist’s schedule and calendar, and especially if you are traveling out of state for testing and transfers, you don’t usually get to pick and choose the times that are most convenient for you to travel. I personally have missed birthdays, soccer games, school parties, and other events that made me sad to miss, but which were unavoidable if I was really committed to doing this. I can’t even imagine the juggling that surrogates who also work full-time must do. Reason number one that your family must be supportive and understand that your being a surrogate affects THEM, too.

And on the part of the surrogate, let’s not forget:

**The dozens and dozens and dozens of doctor’s appointments for ultrasounds and blood tests and specialized fertility tests like hysteroscopies and hysterosalpingograms, endometrial biopsies, polyp removals, etc. I’ve traveled all the way to Maryland, and all the way to New Jersey, numerous times, just so a doctor could shoot water in my uterus and dye in my tubes and take pictures, to see for himself that my innards are healthy and that I am a qualified candidate to carry someone else’s child.

**The hormones and medications that we take by mouth, by patch, and by shots that we give ourselves in the thighs and the belly and the ass (daily or twice daily shots for almost three months for every pregnancy attempt, if you really want to know, and yes, I’m talking the big long needles like you get at the doctor’s office that we jab into our own rear ends, or have our husbands jab for us, which some of them enjoy a little more than is appropriate, in my opinion) and by suppository, if you truly want to talk about something pleasant.

**The thrice-weekly trips to the doctor in the weeks leading up to an transfer to make sure via ultrasound that your lining is not too thick and not too thin, and to check that the hormones you’re taking to suppress your own ovulation are working, and blood test to make sure that your progesterone and estrogen levels are being manipulated appropriately, and let's not forget the side effects from shoveling all these hormones into your body, and the steroids which make you grumpy and hungry (good practice for being pregnant, right?) ….

**And then the thrice weekly doctor’s visits to repeat everything after a transfer to see if it worked.

**The miscarriages and d&c’s when it doesn’t work, and the nine-months worth of lifestyle changes when it does. Gaining weight, swollen ankles, morning sickness, fatigue, varicose veins, more doctor’s appointments, bedrest, heartburn, travel and diet restrictions, and all the other multitude of normal pregnancy complaints. Amnios, if necessary. I’ve canceled or postponed vacations with my family because I was unable to take part in activities, or travel out of state, due to pregnancy. I didn’t get to be with Blaine when he was getting his radiation because of a surrogate pregnancy. Not something we saw in advance, but that’s the way life goes sometimes, right?

**The chance of more serious concerns regarding the risks of delivery. Thankfully, serious problems are rare, but I do know a few surrogates who have had emergency c-sections, or serious, frightening, life-threatening complications during delivery.

And you know what? Yes, we do it all willingly. No one can force someone to be a surrogate and we all know what we’re getting ourselves into. In fact, pretty much every surrogate I’ve ever known has been THRILLED to get to experience all those things, even an occasional hardship, if it meant in the end we got to realize our dream of helping to make or expand a family. But given everything we undergo, even willingly, even HAPPILY, I don’t think I should be embarrassed about the fact I am compensated. Yet every time someone asks me, or I hear that they’ve asked my mother or my sister or my friends, “How much does she get paid to do that?” it takes a little of the joy out of it, and makes me feel defensive. And tainted. And snippy. Since when is it anyone else’s business?

Surrogate fees vary depending on circumstance and expectations, but I can tell you this: No one should EVER consider being a surrogate for the money, because a) that’s the wrong damn reason to do it, and b) you could make a lot more money getting a job working a fast food counter, for only eight hours a day, as opposed to what a surrogate receives for being pregnant twenty four/seven, nine months long, and the months and months of work and commitment that go into the process beforehand, and c) again, the money is not what it’s about. It’s about getting the opportunity to be a part of something that is bigger than yourself, and helping another family in a way they can’t help themselves, and, even selfishly, the pride and joy and happiness you get to feel doing it.

I told Blaine when I started this story that I hoped no-one asked me about money because it makes me so uncomfortable to talk about. I have always refused to discuss my compensation with anyone --- I’m a private person, and it makes me cringe when I’m asked because I’m always so surprised that someone *would* ask. If you really want to know, google it and find out. If you’re just asking to be nosy, then don’t.

I’m not embarrassed that I’m compensated; I’m embarrassed that people ask about it as if that’s the only reason I do it. I might be hoping for too much, to want to share a story this personal and yet still set up my own personal boundaries. I don’t blame people for being curious; it’s just not something I’m comfortable talking about. I hope you can understand and respect that.

I’m willing to share this story. In fact, I’ve been looking forward to it. But I’m not willing to talk about money. Blaine said, “Someone will ask. Probably several will ask. You know they will.” And I replied, “I hope they don’t. I think it would take the fun out of the story-telling.”

And they did.

And it did.

And so this is the last I’m going to talk about it, so that the fun doesn’t stay away for good. I’ve hesitated several days, wondering whether to even post this or not. I feel a little bit like Sybil ... "Here, here, read my blog! Comment! Ask questions! Oh, but not that."

However, I’d really like to put this specific topic to rest … hopefully this will do it. With any luck I answered any questions you might have, so we can move on. If not, let me suggest again, try googling. But don’t ask me. I’m sorry if that makes me sound defensive …. I’ve had a crappy day, and I guess I am.

39 comments:

Cathy in MI said...

I hope you are putting the money issue to rest and not the whole surrogacy story. Please tell me you are not stopping the surogacy story, it's so very interesting to me.

I did not ask and I do not want to know about your compensation. It did not even cross my mind, so know that know ALL of your readers had that same question.

Thanks for being open & honest.

katie said...

You are so right. I am glad that you posted this. I agree with you 100 percent. It is like me asking every person I know how much their husband makes or they make whenever they talk about wanting to make a purchase of some kind. Than implying that they cannot afford it. It's rude in my opinion and none of anyones business.
I loved reading about your journey to motherhood, and I haven't been here for a while, and I see that you are telling your other story.

I think it takes an amazingly selfless person to go through all of this for someone else. Thank you for being willing to share this story. Don't let a couple of "nosy" people ruin it for the rest of us, who can understand exactly what you are saying.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Kristie, your strength and determination are amazing. Hadn't thought about all the needles,tests, etc....Yikes! You are brave and generous and absolutely correct that everyone who is uber-curious can google all the factoids. Thanks for sharing with your blog family! Hang in there, kiddo!

Deb said...

I roo hope you are only putting the money issue to rest and not the whole story. I love readying about it!

Deb said...

Oops...I meant I too....sorry.

Kristen said...

I don't read comments on blogs- so I'm not aware of what actually went down, but I'm so terribly sorry that some rotten greedy apples spoiled the story for the rest of us. For shame!

I, for one, was really looking forward to hearing how you helped a couple of families grow. I also really enjoyed being preggers, and have toyed with the idea here and there. Your story was very interesting!

In any event, please know that not all of your readers are rude-in-the-financial sense.

Anonymous said...

I don't read the comments on blogs so I have no idea what was said, but.....I can no believe that some people would even think to ask such a personal question. I feel like you have given us such a gift by letting us into this most private, emotional, moving story. Why would anyone question the gift giver. I am soooo sorry you were put through that, I hope they are ashamed of themselves. Please don't let a few ruin what has become something I look forward to reading each morning.

Anonymous said...

I can honestly say that it NEVER even occurred to me that a surrogate would be paid! I can't believe that is the first thing that comes to so many people's minds. And then the nerve to ask you about it! Thank you so much for sharing the details about WHY a surrogate would be compensated - it so makes sense and is definately deserved. You are a special person to go through so much for another family's happiness - I can't wait to hear more of your story!

Rhonda in Texas

Missy said...

Please continue your story. I always wanted to be a surrogate, but can't (my uterus quit on me after three pregnancies). I am living vicariously through your experiences. I think you're so cool :)

Anonymous said...

Please do not stop telling the original story! I so look forward to reading everyday. To tell you the truth, I never even wondered about the money. I know people do not do it for the money...I just want to read the story.
Lisa from Texas

Tammie said...

As someone who has been facing infertility issues for the past six years, I have completely enjoyed reading your entries about your experiences. We've been considering alternatives lately, and I love hearing the "other perspective" of things.

I understand that you did this simply to give back to others because you once dealt with the infertility issue yourself. How I wish others could see this too.

Don't quit talking about the surrogacy part...it was just getting good!!

Grandma J said...

I commend you for putting your life out there for us to see. It never seemed like anyone would do this for the money.... What ever the compensation, it was well earned.

Renee said...

Being one of your dear friends, I know what you got paid -- tons of Sonic DDP and chocolate! And a lifetime of pedicures....

Anonymous said...

Asking someone their salary is rude, wrong and unacceptable no matter what the occupation is. You can be defensive if you want. I would be too.

You are a wonderful Mom and a very good person.

Karen in Texas

RM in MA said...

Krisite,
Thanks for continuing your surrogacy story. Sorry that you had to stop and answer the "money" question. I guess it is a point of curiosity for some. I would hope that next time they would just use "Google" to answer their questions rather than asking such pointed and personal questions. Looking forward to the next entry!

Denise said...

Oh Kristie - I am sorry that someone asked about the financial aspect. I love reading your blog and hearing your story. I read intently of your adoption story and was also enjoying your surrogacy story. All things I would like to do. Adoption may still happen in our future (just never know) but surragocy is out after 3 c sections with my boys. I was advised after my last son that they recommend no futher pregnancies for me. Anyway, back to you, your family story is intriguing and you are a talented writer. Don't let a few spoil your joy in writing...write what you want and when you want and leave it at that.

Take Care!

Denise

Anonymous said...

I hope you continue your story - whatever you feel like you want to share is fine with me.

Lisa C.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, well, ya know, I've never been a surrogate, so I can't say I really know how you feel, but being a conspicuously adoptive family, I have been asked the question, "How much did your kids cost?". I would think that makes me have a little bit of understanding as to how it feels being asked about surrogacy and compensation.

I think it's amazing that you are sharing your story with how you helped other families build their families. It's unfortunate that price tags are something too many people care about.

I guess some people don't get that family building is a private subject and the fact that you are sharing your side of the story is a huge deal.

Whether you decide to continue the story or not, I just want you to know that I think it's awesome that you've been a surrogate and very cool that you've allowed even this much of the story to come out.

Marie
www.caringbridge.org/visit/marielle

Anonymous said...

I hope that you still share the rest of the story.I love reading your blog and really want to hear the rest of what happened..I never asked about $$ and never will :)
So please go on and on PLEASE,I want to hear the rest..Someday your story will be in a book on the BESTSELLERS list..
Guess how much compensation you will get for that!!!!
Take care..
www.caringbridge.org/visit/hannahpadgett

Anonymous said...

Shame on people for asking Kristie...
it's none of their damn business. I agree that NO amount of compensation would be enough to cover not only the "lending" of your uterus, but also (and maybe even more so) of your heart!! (And YES, you should definitely be compensated!)

Pat in CA

Anonymous said...

Kristie,

I cringed when I read your update today! I truly will never understand cruel, or insensitive people no matter how long I live. What a gracious post addressing this issue. I hope it puts an end to questions like this.

Postcard Cindy

Beth said...

Well, first off, of course a surrogate should be compensated. Your comparison to others in helping professions is especially apt. We would never expect a social worker or teacher to do his/her job for free. And on one level, surrogacy is a job. But what you've done such a lovely job of showing us is that it's also so much more than a job -- it's a sacred honor, a privilege, probably an incredible rush, and also a huge huge sacrifice.

I echo those who say that I hope you continue this gripping story (because as usual, your writing has pulled me in, and I hit refresh every morning to see if you've updated).

I would no more ask you how much you were compensated than I would anyone else. It's just rude and it's your business and your business alone.

Anonymous said...

I would never dream of asking how much you were paid or even if you were paid - how can you put a pricetag on something so precious? I wish I could do something like surrogacy, but I had bad pregnancies. You are an inspiration.

Cindy
Virginia

Stephanie D. said...

Ooooh, tacky people, where do they come from??? ;)

GF, you did a nice job of explaining your thoughts & feelings on this subject. I admire you for hitting in head on. It really is NO one else's business but yours & Blaines!

Hope you continue the story, I sure am enjoying it. Thanks for sharing it with us. I always thought I would have loved to have been a surrogate mother but unfortunately, I had to have a hysterectomy after my 2nd son. I always thought the joy of helping someone become a parent would far outweigh any discomforts.... I'm sure that "your parents" think you are the the most giving woman in the world!!!

Oh and to be honest, to be a parent, I would have done anthing and pay ANY amount....parenthood is the greatest joy in the world. "Your parents" have all been blessed to have you in their lives. :)

Anonymous said...

"I’m a private person" ...
did you really right that?!!
Anyway, compensation is your business! I am just thankful you are sharing the story and I hope you finish it!! If people want to know about the money...let them become a surrogate themselves.

Kristina
Brookville OHIO

Anonymous said...

oops... should have previewed my previous comment....did you really write that!!

Sorry!

K-

Anonymous said...

Kristie,
I love reading your blog -- you are so down to earth and honest. Given that, I'm glad you vocalized what you feel when asked about compensation for surrogacy. On the other hand, there are women reading this considering having a child through a surrogate, and there is a need to know what they are facing financially. I think people think they know you, and thus feel comfortable asking something they'd ask a close friend. I also think there are women reading this that are considering becoming a surrogate, and are unsure how THAT may impact them financially (trips, doctor, etc.) So although some readers may have asked too personal a question,I'm not sure the motivations were all out of rudeness.

Thanks SO much for telling your story -- I love seeing an update.

Anonymous said...

What Anonymous said may be true, but since circumstances/fees/compensation etc are probably different from place to place or agency to agency, and even since Kristie had her last surrogacy, people should seek out answers to their questions just like Kristie did originally... by asking questions of the agencies.

Pat in CA

Anonymous said...

Kristie, I think you are taking this the wrong way. I didn't ask about the payment, but I can't say I haven't wondered about it. I mean from either perspective, it is a question that would like to be answered. Just because you were paid doesn't make it less noble. I think it is a great thing you did, and you should have been compensated. We who have followed your blog feel like you are a friend to whom we can ask anything and not be judged. Please don't judge. You are a pro at this, we are just learning.

M, Ms. R, Mom, Auntie M, Marey said...

When I was a little kid I learned it was not polite to ask:

*Who did you vote for?
*How much do you get paid?
*Are those real?

Rene S said...

Just so you know, compensation never crossed my mind! Hearing about your travels, appointments and what must have led to sitter costs might have made me think about it later. But, I just wanted you to know that for me, it was not even a question. Thanks for sharing your story and explaining the process and logistics so eloquently.

Anonymous said...

Sorry you had a crappy day.

Hoping tomorrow is better for you :-)

Elizabeth said...

Kristie, I hope your post puts the money issue to rest once and for all. My husband and I are in the contract phase for our surrogacy journey and hope to cycle with our GC this summer. Several people have asked me if surrogacy is our GC's "job", and comments and questions like that infuriate me on her and ever other surrogate's behalf.

Anonymous said...

Kristie:
I rarely open the comments so I wasn't aware of the questions but I guess I'm not surprised, unfortunately. Some people have no class and/or manners. I find your story so interesting and I hope you keep telling it - even going into the subsequent surrogacies (did I spell that right?). I will NEVER ask how much you get paid, how much you weigh or what your real hair color is (I don't know about you but my real color is not what you see!).

Diane in Cincinnati

leeanne said...

Well, I didnt want to know either. In fact it really didnt even cross my mind, and if it would have I would have never dreamed of asking or my mom would have been rolling over in her grave because she taught me that sort of thing is personal and none of my business. You just dont ask those kinds of questions. I had no idea that so much went into the process. Wow. I'm also very impressed with you and your capacity to be a surrogate. Not everyone would be able to do that, which makes the fact that you DID do it that more marvelous and special. Please keep the story going. I love reading your blog. Thanks for sharing.

wendyk said...

I never thought about you getting paid, but yes it does make sense that you would. I certainly never would have asked if I had thought about it. Money is not anyone's business what you make, spend, or otherwise do with your money.

Please continue with the story!

URBAN BLONDE said...

I also did not ask nor do I want to know about the money issue. Nor will I ask you what brand underwear Blaine wears, what side of the bed you like to sleep on, or who got suspended at school.

I for one admire your courage and selflessness to help couples become families. As someone who suffered 8 miscarriages and 2 successful pregnancies I am reading your surrogate story as an interested observer.

Plain and Simple, your blog is one I NEED to read every morning because I enjoy your writing.

And just because I'm a bitch I want to tell those rude people who push too far whether it be about this issue of money or something else "they" FEEL you should reveal to shut up and stop spoiling it for the rest of us.

So there. I feel better now. LOL :)

Blondie

Anonymous said...

You know, if you look at the profile of one of the people who asked about the money, she had a reason and a history to ask.

You are very defensive, Kristie, unusually so -- and a quick "the compensation (between XX,000 and XX,000) arrived after the birth" --
would have been a way to put everyone to rest.

just saying.

Monica H said...

Kristie,

I first want to say that I was not asking about compensation because I am nosey, and I have googled it, but I didn't think what I googled was accurate or consistent across the board. I asked you because I wannted to know your point of view, since you are the only person I've come across who is a surrogate and shares so much about her life. And I certainly did not ask because I thought you were doing it for the money.

I know that everyone involved should be compensated for their time and efforts, but I was curious to know what percentage of the $50,000-$75,000 you actually got. I was asking because I was secretly hoping that you as a surrogate got more than the doctor or lawyers. I'm sorry I asked.

And I thank you to Anonymous @ 2:36pm (right above me) for saying that. I wasn't asking to be "rude" or a "rotten greedy apple". And to those who have "NEVER" thought about compensation, be glad you have never needed to.