Although there are some differences throughout various regions of the country, there are generally more couples looking for a surrogate mother to carry for them than there are qualified gestational carriers available (this is particularly true in larger cities). So it’s natural for couples to wonder what factors a potential surrogate mother might consider when deciding whether or not work with a couple.
Whether couples and gestational carriers are looking to match up with one another through an agency or independently, there’s no question that the whole process feels like a courtship for everyone. Both parties put time and effort into getting to know one another so they each can make the best decision.
There are several factors that all surrogates and couples run through as part of the very basic, initial screening – the number of embryos each is willing to transfer, their views on selective reduction and pregnancy termination, their desire for a close relationship versus a professional transaction, religious views that could restrict behaviors on either party’s part (such as dietary restrictions), etc.
These requirements are somewhat easy to address. But what about other components of the surrogacy relationship – the basic personality match as well as the parts that are more difficult to discern? Aside from having personalities that “just click” (this is often described as the case for many intended parent-surrogate mother matches), what other factors might a potential surrogate mother take into consideration when deciding whether or not to work with a couple?
Naturally every woman has her own requirements that are based on her personality, preferences, and prior experiences. And having successfully matched with six different couples myself (while also not matching with several couples over the years, too), I’ve had the chance to really clarify what’s most important to me. These three factors may or may not be essential to other gestational carriers, of course, but they’re also not uncommon, either.
1. An openness from the beginning to developing a close, personal relationship
Feeling close to my intended parents was always important to me, and I wanted to work with a couple that felt the same way. And for the most part, I did, though some surrogacies went better than others. This is only natural, of course, because we’re talking about human relationships and a wide variation is expected. However, I found that those couples who initially expressed their desire to develop a close relationship were indeed the ones I ended up closest to throughout and after the pregnancy and delivery.
The first couple I carried for said, at the outset, that they wanted to see how things naturally developed between us – they didn’t want to commit to any preconceived expectations for the relationship. This felt like a red flag at the time and I raised my concerns with the agency, but they dismissed my worries as “first time jitters” on both of our parts. Ultimately the experience did not go well for me, the relationship was very tense and they cut off all communication with me immediately after the birth. Looking back I could see the signs of their lack of desire to have a relationship with me from the very start. It was a hard lesson, but one that used to help me find better matches in the future.
2. Timely communication
By timely I don’t mean instant. There were plenty of times during my surrogacies that I just couldn’t respond as quickly as my intended parents could, merely because I was caring for my own young children while pregnant with their baby. So it’s very important to consider context and life situations when assessing how slow is too slow with communication. But some things are very time-sensitive (medical, legal) while in other situations it’s just polite to respond quickly. Responsiveness was definitely something I considered when deciding whether or not to work with a couple.
I was once matched (through an agency) with a sweet couple. We had one meeting and seemed to hit it off. In the meantime, I was introduced to a friend of a friend who was also interested in me carrying for them. I told them I was talking with a couple from my agency and I would let them know if that match fell through. A month went by before I heard anything from the agency couple and by then I’d already moved on to talking with the second couple. I told my agency that I just wasn’t comfortable proceeding with a couple that took that long to get back in touch with me.
3. Trust in my body
For couples who’ve struggled with infertility and have been through many procedures and possibly losses themselves, any pregnancy is likely to be a mix of anxiety and nervous anticipation. And for any woman who would have loved to carry for herself (which describes all of the women I carried for), the loss of control that comes with having someone carry your baby is stressful, undoubtedly. Those are issues that I always took into consideration when talking with potential couples, because it surely can’t be easy to turn over all physical control (and enjoyment) to another women.
However, I also had a history of easy, healthy and uneventful pregnancies and births and I had a deep need for the couples I worked with to trust me and my body. I always felt good about the process and enjoyed my pregnancies and did not want that dampened by overbearing concern from my intended parents (I know some degree of concern is natural, of course – but too much would be hard for me to endure). My best relationships started with “You’re an expert at this and we’re lucky to have you carry our baby because we know you can do this successfully. This vote of confidence was essential to me.
I spoke with one couple for several months and we seemed to be very compatible. She had carried their first child, but because of her own physical issues, it was a complicated and difficult pregnancy and she was advised not to carry again. She was cared for by many high-risk doctors during her pregnancy and she expressed, many times, that she wanted me to see the same high-risk doctors to ensure I was getting good prenatal care. Despite my explanation that I didn’t need high-risk care, she felt strongly about it and I was forced to tell her I couldn’t carry for her. I tried to explain very gently that we had significant differences in how we viewed my medical care that could not be resolved, and neither of us would be happy with a compromise. She was very upset, understandably so, but I still think it was a good decision that was in both of our best interests.
These aren’t the only qualities I looked for when meeting and talking with potential intended parents, but they are some of the bigger issues I took into consideration. If you’re an intended parent, I’d love to hear your feedback on this. Or if you’re a surrogate mother, does this ring true for you as well? Or are there other factors you take into consideration when deciding whether or not to work with a couple? Leave a comment and let us know!