Despite accounting for barely one-half of one percent of the U.S. population, estimates suggest that U.S. Military wives carry out upwards of 20% of the nation’s surrogacy pregnancies each year.
Then again, perhaps it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
Delivering a child for another couple or individual parent is the ultimate service one can give. It requires a real sense of love, compassion, and duty for a woman take on such a responsibility – a duty which, for military wives, mirrors the honor and sacrifice demonstrated by their husbands in service to our country.
If you’re a military wife who’s considering serving as a surrogate mother, I commend you, and hope you realize the beauty and magnitude of what you’re doing.
But, and maybe more importantly, I urge you to be careful. Partly because there is no federal regulation dictating the legality of surrogacy on a national level, surrogacy is rife with schemes and fraud, and this absence of regulation can you leave vulnerable in every sense of the word.
That said, I certainly don’t mean to scare you away from your calling to serve. I only insist that you approach the process responsibly and deliberately.
The first step is to find and connect with your intended parents. And by connect, I don’t mean trading emails. You should sit down and meet face-to-face with your intended parents to see if there’s a mutual fit and decide if you can feel confident in your decision to deliver a child for them. Bringing a new child into this world is no small responsibility. You owe it not only to yourself but also to the new life you’re helping to create to carry out a pregnancy only for those parents with whom you’re comfortable and think will be able to welcome a new child with love and warmth.
Surrogacy agencies can act as a great resource to help you connect with intended parents, but be selective in choosing your partnership. Too often times, surrogacy agencies treat surrogates as a mere pawn in a larger business transaction. You deserve an agency which recognizes the vital role you play in surrogacy’s miracle and treats you with the care, respect, and gratitude you deserve.
Once you’ve found your intended parents, the next step is to execute a legal agreement which you fully understand and which properly protects you. Please be aware: you should have your own legal representation. If your surrogacy agency or intended parents are asking you to accept joint representation, refuse. And, to be frank, walk away right then and there. There is too much at stake in a surrogacy agreement for both intended parents and surrogates not to have their own separate, individual legal representation. In a fair and equitable surrogacy arrangement, intended parents should cover the cost of your legal representation. Don’t be afraid to make this demand.
Within the agreement itself, there a few matters which must be addressed to ensure your proper protection. As you know, there can be unexpected occurrences during your pregnancy, and sometimes these developments prevent you from following your normal routine. A properly drafted agreement will provide additional income to you in this situation, or will provide for help in your home if necessary. A sound agreement will also protect you from any financial losses resulting from the pregnancy by ensuring that all potential expenses are covered. These are just the basics -- there are many more situations that should be covered by your contract and a competent lawyer can address those with you.
Additionally, you should refuse any request to use your Tricare health coverage to pay for the medical expenses associated with your pregnancy. Such requests are manipulative by nature and can expose you to legal and financial penalty. Your intended parents should purchase a separate individual insurance plan for you. If you’re asked to cover the pregnancy’s medical expenses, take this is as a sign to look elsewhere.
As you consider surrogacy, also keep in mind that not all states uphold surrogacy agreements. You need to ensure that your agreement contemplates this potentiality, and ensures you are protected by choice of law provisions if you have to relocate. Be sure to plan ahead and work with your legal representation to develop a strategy if you are forced to relocate during the pregnancy.
While it does require a certain degree of effort to make sure you are properly protected and have laid a solid foundation for a healthy relationship with your intended parents, this investment of time and energy at the beginning will help to ensure your pregnancy is free of needless stress and worry. But don’t let it discourage you. Instead, know that taking proper precautions at the beginning of your journey into surrogacy will allow you to best serve as a loving, nurturing carrier for a new child.
Fred Silberberg is a Certified Family Law Specialist and Founder of Future Family Starter, a full-service surrogacy consultancy and legal practice in Beverly Hills, CA.