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Also called “Private Surrogacy,” independent surrogacy is the process of facilitating your own surrogacy experience without the support of an agency like Hatch.
Being an independent surrogate means you find and screen your own intended parent match, oversee the coordination of medical processes throughout IVF, pregnancy, delivery and postpartum recovery. You also handle the financial and legal aspects of your case.
Going the “independent” route often appeals to surrogates for a variety of reasons, which may include lowering costs for intended parents, removing the third-party mediator and opting for direct contact with the intended parents, establishing your own compensation package, or starting a repeat journey with the same intended parents.
Additionally, independent surrogacy allows intended parents to pursue surrogates who are missing agency qualifications (such as BMI, personal or medical history), or desire intended parents who do not wish to terminate or reduce pregnancy under any circumstances.
While some of these are valid considerations for the parties involved, it’s often much more complicated than this. Let’s explore some of these risks to understand what independent surrogacy looks like.
It’s important to understand the implications of independent surrogacy for everyone involved. These include:
Because of these drawbacks, pursuing surrogacy without an agency is generally more challenging. Intended parents must consider their comfort level with the surrogacy journey. Evaluate your relationships and support systems for the intended parents before deciding who to choose for support.
Our beloved surrogacy coordinator and 4x surrogate has seen it all. Let’s read some of her advice and thoughts on a few commonly asked questions surrounding independent surrogacy.
Surrogacy is a costly process, regardless of if you use a third-party agency to screen and coordinate the journey. Because the main expenses result from medical care and insurance for the pregnancy and delivery, you cannot avoid these expenses through private surrogacy.
At Hatch, we offer need-based discounts to intended parents who don’t qualify for infertility financing to provide full-service facilitation in an affordable way. Surrogates can also opt for lower compensation packages, but it’s important that the surrogate still has the same level of commitment to the pregnancy even with lower compensation.
Additionally, surrogacy costs can be lowered if the surrogate has existing insurance that covers the process, if she does not work and will not experience lost wages, or if she has support systems in her life that can offer childcare or support during the medical appointments.
The desire to communicate directly with your intended parents rather than using a third-party is understandable, and your agency will never interfere with your communication. Once matched, you’ll be put in direct and regular contact with each other for direct, consistent communication. Building a positive relationship with the intended parents is one of the best parts of surrogacy, and a good agency will do everything they can to put you with a wonderful match that you will enjoy communicating with. However, there may be topics that make communication more difficult, such as financial questions, pregnancy complications, or miscommunications.
Both you and the intended parents are emotionally invested in the pregnancy, and if you must communicate directly about finances, this can impact your friendship. Involving an agency can be beneficial to find solutions and mediate financial concerns. Your surrogate agency will provide guidance on how best to communicate medical concerns to protect your relationship, helping you keep the relationship positive by stepping in for the tough conversations and offering compassionate support every step of the way.
Going independent gives you some freedoms when setting your own compensation fees depending on your wishes. However, a good agency will also listen to your wishes and take your needs under careful consideration. When you choose independent surrogacy, you will need to negotiate your fees directly with the intended parent(s), or through an attorney which can negatively impact your relationship.
Surrogacy compensation packages offered by agencies are not one-size-fits-all. Hatch has comprehensive compensation packages because we want our surrogates and their families to feel taken care of as they give the greatest gift to a loving family. However, your personal needs may be different and your agency should be open to discussing a plan that works well for everyone involved. Hatch ensures that your full compensation is safely deposited in an escrow account before you start an IVF cycle. This affirms that you receive all of the agreed-upon compensation stated in your surrogate contract in a timely manner. We know that surrogates aren’t doing this for the money, rather, surrogacy is a human experience and the compensation is there for the inconveniences you and your family undertake to help make another family possible.
As a 4x previous surrogate and someone who has worked behind the scenes for years as a Surrogate Match Coordinator, I can attest to the fact that it is not easier to facilitate your own journey. When going through the surrogacy with an agency, there is quite a lot the staff work on behind the scenes to ensure your journey goes as smoothly as possible. Your agency’s staff will work on your case every single day, and even in the middle of the night if emergencies arise. I’m thrilled to be a part of an amazing team at Hatch that has stepped in for my own journeys, so that I could enjoy the human experience with my intended parent(s) instead of being buried in paperwork, insurance reviews, and chasing down medical offices.
Undue stress during pregnancy is not ideal for anyone. Your surrogate agency can also be an objective advocate for you to ensure you’re being treated fairly—sometimes, surrogates are so supportive of their intended parents that they lose sight of their own needs. This is a team process, and the agency is an integral part of that team.
While some surrogates think that a repeat journey with the same intended parents is a no-brainer, life happens and issues can still arise. In many ways, it’s harder to be objective or protect the best interests of both you and your family when you already have a relationship with the intended parent(s).
An agency can be a great asset in helping to facilitate a repeat journey. Sometimes, once an intended parent already has a relationship with their surrogate, they feel like they can ask even more of them on a sibling journey, and you might not be comfortable with this. You’re still contributing the same efforts you did in your first journey, and possibly more now that the intended parents are more experienced and have a greater awareness of their own needs. Because you’re a previous surrogate and you already know the ropes, it makes sense that you’re more prepared for all that needs to happen in your next journey after completing your first. However, going independent means taking on extra work you didn’t have in your first journey through an agency. You will need to communicate on the tougher stuff directly with the parents if you wish to pursue independent surrogacy, and this may change your relationship.
A good agency is screening you thoroughly to keep you, the intended parents, and the baby safe. If you are declined by an agency, you can ask for the reason to understand if you can do something about this, such as losing or gaining weight. Agencies choose candidates who have the best chance for a successful and positive experience throughout the screening process, and are prioritizing the health of you and the intended parents.
If you don’t qualify because of medical reasons, proceeding with independent surrogacy is not a good idea for your health, or the baby’s. If your state laws mean that a surrogacy contract can’t be upheld, this could be a very messy legal process and you may inflict penalties for participating in a surrogacy. However, if you don’t pass the psychological evaluation, continuing with surrogacy could mean putting your mental health at risk, especially with taking hormones for the IVF process. It’s also important to consider how the intended parents might feel if you go with independent surrogacy and they find out that there were red flags undisclosed at the beginning of the relationship, such as criminal histories or past pregnancy complications. This will undoubtedly compromise your relationship, and there could be even greater financial, health and legal repercussions.
Lastly, but most importantly, remember that the agency also screens intended parents through consultations, approval from a therapist ensuring their psychological preparedness, and background checks for your safety. It wouldn’t be pleasant for a surrogate to find out later there were red flags with the intended parent(s). All that being said, screening only goes so far for both parties involved. Surrogacy is a process rooted deeply in trust. The intended parent(s) are trusting you with the most precious 9 months of their baby’s life, and you are trusting that they will be good parents for that same child’s entire life. The only way to do it right is through honesty.
This may be one of the toughest things to consider when choosing to be a surrogate. The hard truth is that a potential surrogate is better off avoiding surrogacy, either independently or through an agency, if she isn’t okay with the parents choosing to terminate or reduce the pregnancy if there is a serious health concern for the baby (or babies).
Magical thinking, or believing that nothing could possibly ever go wrong, can put everyone in a very difficult situation. The technology for testing embryos and transferring the healthiest embryos is very good, but it’s not perfect. If a potential surrogate feels strongly that she
wouldn’t be okay with the parents choosing to terminate or reduce under any circumstances, surrogacy is probably not a great fit, because although small, the risk of this issue coming up throughout the process is always there.
No one can legally make a woman undergo a termination or reduction—not the agency, not the parents, not the attorneys—but when everyone isn’t on the same page about those choices in the process of surrogacy, the relationship goes south very quickly, and a difficult situation becomes an impossible one.
Hatch has been around since 1991, and we’ve only seen a small handful of intended parents who said they wouldn’t terminate for any reason. So our experience shows that there are very few intended parents who would be on the same page with their surrogate on this matter. This means that we’re unable to match surrogate candidates who won’t allow the parents to make those difficult decisions in the event of medical problems for the baby.
Most agencies wouldn’t keep a surrogate waiting for that right match, because it could be a very long wait. The bigger challenge, whether independent or through an agency, is that even if the intended parents say that they would never terminate or reduce under any circumstances, they may feel differently if a serious medical concern comes up. Your surrogacy coordinator would never want to see any surrogate put in a situation that compromises her beliefs or makes her uncomfortable, and there’s no way to guarantee how the intended parents will feel or what their wishes will actually be based on discussing the issue as a hypothetical situation.
We certainly see surrogate candidates and intended parents who are on the same page about continuing a twin pregnancy when both babies and surrogate are healthy, and we see surrogate candidates and intended parents on the same page about termination and reduction only in the event of a serious medical issue. But keep in mind that you might not both agree on what constitutes a serious medical issue. Anyone starting a surrogacy journey should think critically about this tough subject.
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