We asked Julie to share some of her experience choosing our firm to help grow her family through surrogacy. Some of her answers are visible on our Instagram account (@jftlegal) and the rest you can read here. Thank you, Julie, for sharing your story.
1. What led you to pursue using a gestational carrier to grow your family (as opposed to other forms of family building)?
After seven rounds of IVF and three miscarriages it was recommended that we check into using a gestational carrier. Over the years we received multiple suggestions to pursue adoption; however with a failed private adoption this was not an avenue we wanted to explore further. Our infertility specialist had recommended use of a carrier and while we were hesitant due to misconceptions, but we decided to take a chance and explore this option.
2. What were some of your favorite moments of the experience?
Our carrier was wonderful. She was constantly texting me with updates throughout the entire process. But my absolute favorite moment was when she texted me a picture that was a line-up of various brands of early pregnancy tests that all showed positive. While carriers are encouraged not to do this (and you know if you’ve done IVF you are encouraged to wait for the blood test) it was so exciting and it was a bonding moment with my carrier because I could see just how excited she was about this baby as well. Every little milestone of the baby moving, kicking, or causing weird cravings was quickly communicated and our carrier shared in this joy.
3. What are three things you googled when looking for information as an intended parent? Did you find the information you were looking for?
I was concerned about doing things right for our carrier and the baby at the time of transition. I never felt lacking in information as far as the legal process or the basics of transition; additionally, if I had questions I knew I could just email Shannon at JFT and get all the information I needed. When I would google information most of the resources out there were for the surrogate/carrier. For example, I was curious about how to properly handle the birth. I knew I was going to be overjoyed and excited and I wanted to make sure that my carrier didn’t feel forgotten and left out, especially since she was so kind to share everything with me during the pregnancy. I could find nothing but information intended for the carrier so I read through various materials and decided that I wanted the carrier to share in the joy as much as she wanted. It was wonderful to see her hold my little girl and share in the love for the new baby.
4. What are some things you wish you knew about the process before getting started? Is there anything you’d do differently if you were to repeat the process?
I would have done this a lot sooner if I didn’t have the idea in my head that this was only for the super rich. You only hear about it when a celebrity takes this route to building their family so there is plenty of room for misconceptions. I wish I had considered sooner the fact that the women who chose to be carriers are doing this because they are incredibly generous in spirit. I think from the intended parents end we know they are receiving money and can maintain the view that this is purely transactional. Additionally, infertility can saddle the individual with a sense of shame and inferiority. Once you realize your are gaining a teammate that is equally invested in seeing you become a parent you can shed these old fears and enjoy participating in the process.
5. What is something you wish others knew about the process of using a gestational carrier as a way of growing your family?
The biggest thing I wish they knew is that it’s not as awkward working with the carrier. It might seem strange at first but what I experienced is that she was equally invested. I would like intended parents to know that, if their carrier is open to it, they should be involved with every aspect of the process. Take transfer day as an example. While the intended parents don’t have to be there, go! I know from having done IVF that transfer day is special and that you are encouraged to wear cozy socks and you have to drink and insane amount of water to fill your bladder. This day is typically one of giddy excitement for participants. I decided I’d make the same efforts for my carrier as I would for myself and decided to put together a goodie bag of cute, cozy socks and a pretty Tervis mug with a bendable straw so she could fill up. After transfer you are encourage to rest for the remainder of the day and I knew she was staying in a hotel for the night since she lived an hour away. I arranged for her to have flowers in her room with a little note. I want others to know that this can be a warm, and joyful process.
6. What advice do you have for others who may be considering using a gestational surrogate?
My best recommendation would be to quit Googling random bits of information about this process and just go speak with the professionals for a consult. There just isn’t a lot of solid information for intended parents and if you really want to know what to expect, and what it costs, etc., you need to stop trying to find it online.
7. What are some expectations you had about the surrogacy process at the beginning? Do you feel like they were met or were unrealistic in any way?
I initially thought that the process would be mainly transactional and that I wouldn’t be as involved with the entire process. I thought that I would miss out on a lot since I was not going to be carrying the baby. Another misconception I had was that a surrogate would be presented with a number of different intended parents to choose from. I was concerned that we would have to wait a long time to be chosen. However, what I learned is that JFT does a bit of work behind the scenes to ensure that the intended parents and the carrier will be a good match so they only present one at a time that they feel will be mutually beneficial.
8. What was the hospital experience like for you, as an intended parent? Any tips you have for others as they prepare for that time?
Delivery was great except for the fact that only one of the intended parents was allowed to be in the OR during the c-section (admittedly the room was quite small and the carrier naturally wanted her husband to be with her for support which is completely understandable). The hospital experience for an intended parent is rather confusing because the nursing staff is going to be focused on the health and healing of the carrier (for obvious reasons) along with the health of the baby. Intended parents do get lost in the shuffle and you do need to step up and advocate for yourself if you have questions. For example, our carrier was committed to providing breast milk for the baby and when the lactation consultant came she spoke only to the carrier. While my husband and I tried to engage the lactation consultant with questions related to feeding she would give a brief response and quickly leave. Even my carrier tried to direct the consultant to communicate feeding information to us, but to no avail. We were able to retrieve more information from our carrier than anyone else. I think nursing staff aren’t as experienced with these arrangements and the moment for intended parents doesn’t feel quite as special as you expect it to. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll be over the moon with your baby but I recommend to try and make a little magic for yourselves like a special arrangement for the door or flowers for the room.
9. What led you to using the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson as the entity that assisted you on your family building journey?
We were incredibly fortunate to be directed to JFT by our infertility specialist. Once I did a little research and saw the amount of experience the law office had with all manner of family building I didn’t look further. After the initial consultation with Jim and Shannon my husband and I felt very comfortable with them and we knew this was the best direction and fit for us.
10. What were some of the most common questions you received from family, friends, or strangers that knew about the way you chose to grow your family?
The biggest question you will hear is “don’t you worry they will want to keep the baby?”. Now, this was a fear when my husband and I went to our initial consultation just because of a failed adoption experience. But Jim was thorough in explaining why we had nothing to be concerned about; we were able to completely put aside that fear. So we had to explain why there was no worry on many occasions. Many were just curious about the process in general and they had questions about the carrier. It was nice to be an advocate for both the process and to the generosity and kindness of the carriers.
We’re so thankful for Julie’s willingness to share their process with such detail and vulnerability. If you are interested learning more about the process of growing your family through surrogacy, click here.
Photo: Jeniffer Araújo