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.