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  • Writer's pictureKirsten McLennan

Surrogacy – a step by step guide

I still remember the moment our IVF specialist recommended gestational surrogacy. We had seen him for a second opinion, after several failed and cancelled IVF cycles and two miscarriages. He diagnosed me with having a thin endometrium lining and explained that surrogacy was our best shot of having a baby, “a plant needs thick and healthy soil to grow”.

But we weren’t ready just yet. It seemed overwhelming. We didn’t know anyone who had been a surrogate or who had a baby through surrogacy.

Almost a year on, after more failed cycles and another heartbreaking miscarriage, we decided to give surrogacy a go. And once I started to research it and talk to others, I discovered it wasn’t as daunting as I had first thought.

In the end, thanks to surrogacy and our amazing gestational surrogate Leigha, we now have a beautiful two-year-old boy.

But today I wanted to write about what you can expect with the process. So that hopefully someone reading this may not feel as overwhelmed as we did at the start.

I’ll start by saying we did international commercial surrogacy in the United States. Commercial surrogacy in Australia is illegal and while altruistic surrogacy is legal (in some States), it can be a long and arduous process.

Here’s a breakdown of my personal experience with the process.

Step 1 - Choosing a surrogacy agency

We skyped with 6 agencies. All 6 were excellent. We ended up choosing a boutique agency, Rocky Mountain Surrogacy as we had an instant repour with the owner Tess and we loved how hands-on and genuine she was. An agency matches you with a surrogate; recommends IVF clinics and lawyers; provides a cost estimate; and guides you through the process.

Step 2 – The match

At our initial catch up with Tess, she already had two surrogates in mind. She emailed us their profiles, and both looked good. Surrogates go through a rigorous screening process, so you feel confident from the start. Our only requirement was that the surrogate had carried before.

We skyped with our surrogate Leigha two days later and had an instant connection. This is so important! You must be able to trust this person 100%.

Step 3 – The legal process

Once we were matched, we met with a lawyer who specialises in fertility law. Having a lawyer is not essential but I strongly recommend it, especially if you’re doing international surrogacy.

Our lawyer helped us with the contract; managing our funds through an escrow account; the pre-birth order; and citizenship for the US. With the pre-birth order, in the US you can sign it before your baby is born to be legally recognised as the parents.

Step 4 – The counselling session

Surrogacy is such an emotional and intimate experience and it’s a big commitment. Our mandatory counselling session proved invaluable as we talked through what to expect, our hopes, fears…. anything and everything that was on our minds!

Step 5 – The IVF clinic

We already had embryos – which we shipped across – but we needed a clinic for the transfer. Tess from Rocky Mountain recommended Utah Fertility Center and organised an introduction. Within a week, we skyped with Dr Russell Foulk and we were immediately impressed.

Step 6 – The screening process

Blood tests, blood tests, blood tests! It’s basically all the same screening tests you do for an IVF cycle (e.g., infectious diseases etc).

Step 7 – The IVF cycle

Only 3 months after we were matched, we did our first transfer. It sadly failed but for the second cycle, we did an Endometrial Receptivity Analysis (ERA), changed our transfer time (as Leigha was pre-receptive) and fell pregnant. We heartbreakingly lost our baby around 9 weeks due to a Sub-Chronic haematoma. But our next transfer was a success and 9 months later, our rainbow baby was born.

Step 8 – Pregnancy

Once Leigha was pregnant, we skyped in for all the scans and any significant appointments. We were in contact nearly every day and Leigha kept us across every detail, big or small. We built a strong and beautiful relationship that I’m sure we’ll have forever. Everyone is different though so it’s best to openly discuss what kind of relationship you want before your first transfer.

Step 9 – The birth

We talked about the birth once Leigha was in her second trimester. We had adjoining rooms at the hospital and when the time came, we were all in the room. Once our son Spencer was born, my husband cut the cord and then we all had skin on skin contact. As you can imagine, there were floods of tears. Relief, love, gratitude, happiness…we felt everything that day.

Step 10 – Coming home

Three weeks after Spencer was born, we flew home. With the help of our lawyer, we organised a US passport and citizenship. Once home, we worked with our Australian lawyer to get Spencer’s Australian citizenship and passport. For some reason I felt nervous about this part of the process, but everything went very smoothly.

This is a brief overview of my personal experience with the surrogacy process. If anyone has any questions, you can follow me on Instagram at straight.up.infertility and contact me at any time.


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