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Giving Another Parent the Ultimate Gift
To a person who can't give birth to her own child but desperately wants to be a parent, matching with a surrogate mother is the closest thing to meeting a miracle. By becoming a surrogate, you agree to carry a baby who is not genetically yours. Parents typically hire surrogates because they're not able to get pregnant for one reason or another. If you agree to help those would-be parents start or expand their family, you'll be well-compensated—but the process can be a bit of a roller coaster, both physically and emotionally.
Why Do Women Become Surrogates?
Most surrogates are motivated by two reasons: money and emotional gratification. The typical compensation varies from place to place and agency to agency, but surrogates are generally paid anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 or more for their time and services, with extra payments for carrying multiples, undergoing certain medical procedures or providing breast milk after the baby is born. Parents who hire a surrogate may also pay her related medical expenses and other costs along the way, such as maternity clothes and the surrogate's child care costs when she has doctor's appointments.
The other major motivator is the desire to help someone else have a child. Surrogates generally must already have their own children and understand the happiness that a new baby brings. And while pregnancy is miserable for some women, others enjoy the process and are happy to be pregnant.
Who Can Be a Surrogate?
Becoming a surrogate is a lengthy and involved process. The agency you work with will want to be sure that you're both physically and mentally prepared to have a healthy pregnancy and carry a baby that you're not going to get to keep. That's why agencies typically only accept surrogates who have had successful pregnancies in the past and are raising their own children. A mom who's been through pregnancy before knows what she's signing up for, and she already has her own children to love and nurture. That's reassuring for the parents who are entrusting you to willingly give the baby over once he's born.
Surrogates generally must be in their 20s or 30s, although some agencies will work with women in their early 40s. You must be physically healthy, with a BMI that falls within the normal range. Surrogates must not be smokers, receive government assistance or take certain medications. Every agency has its own specific requirements.
How Can I Become a Surrogate?
The first step toward becoming a surrogate is to contact an experienced surrogacy agency. It's essential that you go through an agency, which will screen both you and the prospective parents to make sure you're all committed to the process. An agency will also facilitate all the medical details and legalities that go into a successful surrogacy. You may need to look in a large city to find a reputable agency. If you don't live locally, plan to make several trips to visit the offices in person.
Expect to fill out a lengthy application that asks for information about your medical history and background. If you meet the agency's criteria, the next step will probably be a phone or in-person interview, followed by an extensive screening process. Both you and your partner will likely be asked to undergo a psychological evaluation, and you may be asked to schedule a home visit too.
Eventually, you'll be matched with prospective parents. After you all sign contracts, you'll probably undergo fertility treatments and embryo implantation, and, hopefully, become pregnant.
The application and screening process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. If you don't get pregnant on the first try and the prospective parents want to try again, it's possible that the entire surrogacy process will take far longer than a year, including your recovery time after giving birth. The physical and emotional toll can be huge, not just for you but for your partner and children, too. The financial compensation may not be worth the stress for you, so it's crucial that you consider all angles of the issues before you make this huge, but gratifying commitment.
Kathryn has been a lifestyle writer for more than a decade. Her work has appeared on USAToday.com and Indeed.com.