Surrogacy, what does it all mean?
Before I explain my experiences with it, its best to do a quick glossary of terms I’ve learnt over the past couple of years of being in this world.
SM – surrogate mother, the woman who carries the child.
£15000 – the maximum a surrogate can be given in expenses in the UK for a straight forward arrangement. The amount a SM will get will be based on an individual basis – what it would cost one SM to be a surrogate won’t be the same as the next. It is illegal in the UK for a surrogate to be paid to be a surrogate – and this is an extremely good thing, and anyone telling you different is either ignorant (best case scenario) or they enjoy the exploitation of desperate people, taking them for all they’ve got and placing babies in bankrupted homes without a second thought for how they and the baby they place there will survive, or (worst case) they run a baby farm with lots of human traffiking victims forced to be pregnant repeatedly and never recieving a penny – this has happened. In any case, our expenses policy is a good thing. It ensures that all surrogates have altruistic motives, or in the very least, not JACKPOT motives, protecting the SMs, the IPs and the babies. Abroad, it is a different story – though of course, UK SMs give birth in NHS care and continue to be cared for with the NHS, where any health ramifications for SMs in the USA for instance will have to be paid for out of her pocket. This can be in the hundreds of thousands. Expenses are more there for this reason- but before any North Americans feel like coming over and nabbing a UK surro, Surrogates in the UK cannot be surrogates for people living outside of the UK – how long you have to be a resident in the UK before you can use a UK surrogate is something I don’t know – If you know, let me know!
IP (sometimes IM or IF) Intended parent, Intended Mother, Intended Father. The two people who get the child after birth. Always has to be a couple; single people cannot be granted parental orders. (See Single arrangements for further info). There is complete equality in the UK for gay and straight couples (and the spectrum between) and women and men (and the spectrum between) to seek surrogacy arrangements. This is not the case abroad, and as there isn’t enough surrogates in the UK, many IPs do have to travel abroad and have met with varying degrees of success and homophobia.
Arrangement/agreement – There is no legal framework around a surrogacy arrangment as of yet – ie there is no guarentee that the IPs will pay the money, or take the baby at the end, and no legal framework to ensure the SM will hand over the baby. All there is (at the moment) is an arrangement/agreement where all parties put down their responsibilities, and what they expect, and what the plan is if “such and such” occurs (eg: more money for mulitples, who to contact if IPs die while SM is pregnant, if everyone agrees to an abortion if the need arises, contact with family with SM after birth etc.), and then the surrogacy goes forward entirely based on trust. Many people on both sides of the arrangment have been let down and hurt (more often it is IPs not wanting to pay, or surrogates/ips thinking they’d recieve pictures or stay facebook friends but one party cuts the other out completely – cases of SMs keeping children are very rare), but the vast majority that take time at the beginning to get to know one another, and have a clear arrangment of what to expect, go very well and all parties are happy and satisfied. Again, abroad the situation is very different, and there are legal proceedures either side of the arrangment.
PO – Parental Order. Legal Document handing over custody from SM to IPs. Until this is granted, the parental responsibility lies with the SM, and if SM is married, her husband or wife too – they will be the people put on birth certificate – this doesn’t apply if the SM is not married to her partner). The PO cannot be applied for until 6 weeks after birth (as people less than 6 weeks post birth are not able to make legal decisions over child custody) and must be applied for by 6 months post birth. IPs generally take baby home on day of birth and just wait the 6 weeks out, applying as soon as possible. If the spouse of SM signs a legal document saying they did not agree to surrogacy arrangement and they withhold any responsibility, the sperm owner can put their name on birth certificate instead at birth – this is preferable as at least one IP can make medical decisions, travel with baby etc. in the interim before PO is granted. When PO is signed, a new birth certificate is created with the IPs names on it, and the SM and her spouse are removed completely – this is only if the SM agrees to the PO, of course. She is in the legal position of keeping the baby, regardless of whether she is related to the baby, at any point until the PO is granted.
GS – Gestational surrogacy. This is where the SM has IVF treatment with the IM/donor egg and the IF/donor sperm. SM is not genetically related to baby. To be a surrogacy arrangement, one IP must be genetically related to child. GS is preferable for some surrogates as being genetically distinct from baby makes any concerns relating to that obsolete, is usually more supported by her family. Also, the recompense is usually higher than that of TS. It is preferable to many parents, particularly IMs, as it is the only way the IM can be genetically related to child. There are also more surrogates willing to be GSs – and it takes away a completely unfounded but ever-there concern that a TS surrogate will want to keep the baby more than if they were GS because they are related to them.
TS – Traditional Surrogacy. This is the surrogates own egg and the IF’s sperm. To be surrogacy, one IP must be genetically related to child, so donor sperm is not acceptable. This is preferable for SMs as it’s straight forward and less stressful – IVF can involve a host of drugs which can have some not so nice side effects, and lots of needles and things stuck up and in strange places, and blood tests and urine tests and reams of paperwork, not to mention the travelling (which can be difficult to work around their own children and employment). With TS, the insemination can happen in her own home. Many IPs would have needed donor eggs in any case (for instance, in a male same sex relationship), and this way they can see the walking, talking genetic material of their egg donor. It is preferable for IPs as it is much cheaper than the other route (no IVF costs for instance) and the recompense to a TS is around £6000-£12000, where GS is £12000-£15000.
IVF – In Vitro Fertilisation. An embryo is created in a lab with egg and sperm and placed inside a woman’s womb which has been regulated somewhat to give the best chances of success. The level of regulation can vary widely.
Single arrangement – You can have a surrogate and have a single arrangement, it just cannot be called surrogacy, and the custody change over is different. Instead, this is called a co – parenting arrangement, and that surrogate will stay on the birth certificate, and either share parenting with the IP, or sign over custody, but will forever remain the mother on the birth certificate. Expenses cannot be paid in this arrangement.
Surrogacy where neither IP is related is plain adoption – for the IPs to be given child, they must be a close relative to the SM and social services must be involved. If they aren’t a mother/brother/sister of SM, the baby is placed in social care – the surrogate cannot decide where baby goes. IPs can apply to social services for the baby, but baby will be placed in foster care until the courts decide who gets awarded custody, and then it is likely baby will be placed and adopted with a family that has been waiting longer for a child. Again, expenses cannot be paid in this scenario as this may be construed as the IPs buying the surrogates baby – a pointless exercise in any case as it is unlikely they’d be granted custody.
There are more (BfP, AF etc.) But this is enough to be getting along with.