One of the most selfless gifts you can possibly give someone is helping them to have their own family. There are several names for surrogates, including gestational carriers and surrogate mothers. In short, they are women who are carrying someone else’s baby. Helping those who are unable to do so on their own. While we may have heard about celebrities using surrogates, it is becoming far more common, with hundreds of Intended Parents in the Greater Philadelphia area needing the help of a surrogate.
The experience of going through surrogacy is powerful, and requires care and compassion for both surrogates and the intended parents they work with. Director of the Surrogacy Center of Philadelphia, Andrea Hoshmand McAfee tells us, “This is a lifelong relationship, and we have to get it right—for everyone’s well-being.” For over a decade, Andrea has been passionate about finding meaningful matches for intended parents and gestational carriers, and helping all parties navigate the complex process of surrogacy from beginning to end. The process is incredibly intimate, and different in each case, and it’s important to Andrea that her agency stays true to their core values. “Surrogacy agencies have different cultures. We focus on helping local families in the Greater Philadelphia area, many who have struggled with infertility for years. We know all our families very well and work hard to make our program accessible to all. If people are looking for a transactional process, I tell them they’re not a good fit and refer them to a different agency.”
Surrogates and Intended Parents in the Surrogacy Center of Philadelphia program live in the tri-state area, providing many opportunities for a life-changing, shared experience. “We are a proud local agency. All our staff members have been surrogates themselves and live right here in the Greater Philadelphia region. We are there for critical appointments and the birth. We know how to refer people to local resources for additional services. If people are scattered all over, an agency can’t provide that kind of care.”
Many ask what’s involved in becoming a surrogate. To begin, surrogates must be in good physical and mental health, between the ages of 21 and 40, and must have already carried and parented at least one child. The medical standards for surrogacy are strict, ensuring a surrogate can safely and successfully go through a surrogacy cycle at any fertility clinic in the area. But being a surrogate requires more than checking these boxes, says McAfee: “You have to be someone whose heart is in the right place. You want to help a family that has struggled and dealt with one heartbreak after another. Surrogacy isn’t easy, but the reward in the end is indescribable – you gave life. You made someone’s dream come true.”
As one would imagine, the matching process is detailed and thorough, and McAfee notes that it’s not necessarily who’s been on the waitlist longest, but more so about bringing people together who have similar values and personalities that mix well together. In some instances, it takes several meetings to ensure each side feels comfortable and informed about the journey ahead. “This is a big commitment, so it’s our responsibility to make sure everyone’s needs are met. We usually get it right on the first meeting and people are so excited to move forward.”
With that goal in mind, the Surrogacy Center of Philadelphia has developed exceptional processes and program resources to help along the way. The agency works with legal professionals that specialize in this unique area of family law. A very detailed contract is put in place that protects all parties and spells out everything a surrogate can expect – coverage of all medical costs, a full compensation package with monthly allowances, psychological care, childcare during appointments, and follow up. An independent attorney reviews the contract with the surrogate, and since that cost is covered by the agency, there is no worry about rushing to keep hourly legal fees down. “We wanted to take that pressure off because this is not something you want to rush through. People should ask all the questions they want and get a complete understanding of what they’re signing.” The attorney will also help with the pre-birth order, which gives parental rights to the Intended parents in advance of birth.
Compensation is a significant part of the surrogacy experience. Most surrogates receive compensation packages of $40,000+. McAfee wanted to make sure that surrogates come out of the process, not only helping create a family for the intended parents, but also achieving their own goals. So, every surrogate in the program has a personal financial advisor that helps them understand their compensation package and works with them to set and achieve their financial goals – whether that is paying off debt or saving for their own children’s college. Surrogates are also provided with a health coach who helps them throughout the surrogacy pregnancy and in the postpartum recovery period. Finally, there are social opportunities with other surrogates in the program, including luncheons and family playdates.
In describing the decision to become a surrogate, McAfee explains that when intended parents opt for this route, most have run out of options – from repeated miscarriages to several rounds of unsuccessful fertility treatments. “I want women to know that when they become a surrogate, they’re giving the gift of hope. You’re helping someone have the family they have hoped and prayed for over years of heartache.”