What Should a Surrogate Mother Look For in Potential Intended Parents?

What Should a Surrogate Mother Look For in Potential Intended Parents?

Surrogacy is a very personal choice. The reasons why a woman chooses to be a Surrogate Mother vary. I chose to be a Surrogate Mother to help another woman who couldn’t conceive become a mother. When starting out on your journey as a Surrogate Mother, take time to think about who you are meant to help. Is it a single parent, a heterosexual couple or a same sex couple?

Once you decide who are wanting to help, you will begin to “date” potential Intended Parents. This is a very important part of the process. Just like dating a potential romantic interest , you quickly learn what you are looking for in this relationship.

Are you looking for someone who is wanting the same amount of contact as you are? For me, this wasn’t my birth story. This story belongs to the Intended Parents I worked with and to their babies. I was just the person who was lucky enough to birth them into this world. I wanted Intended Parents who shared that outlook. My Intended Parents were at all my appointments and were in the delivery room. I also wanted to make sure that parents cut the cords of their babies as my husband and I had done for ours.

How do you feel about selective reduction or termination of pregnancy due to birth defects in the fetus? This is a very important subject and one that makes you look inward. I needed to find Intended Parents who would take any number of children that resulted from this Surrogacy. I was not in favour of selective reduction for multiples. With that being said, I felt that I could not decide what another person could live with if it was determined that the fetus had a birth defect. In that case, I was willing to terminate if the Intended Parents chose.

Intended Parents are looking for certain things when it comes to their Surrogate Mother too. They will be dating you as much as you are dating them. I have spoken to couples who said their Surrogate was to only eat organic foods, or would refrain from exercising. I even spoke with someone who said they didn’t want their Surrogate to have an epidural during birth. And while those aren’t the people I chose to work with, there is a Surrogate out there for them that will work with their choices. It’s all very personal.

The main thing for me in my journeys was the relationship I built with my Intended Parents. I did not know them ahead of time. We were complete strangers who took the time to build an honest and open friendship. I wanted to feel like we could talk about anything. My Intended Parents and I became support systems for each other through the ups and downs of fertility treatments while fulfilling their dreams to be parents.

Lisa: Watching our First Surrogate and Intended Parents Meet

Lisa: Watching our First Surrogate and Intended Parents Meet

Watching First Surrogate and Intended Parents Meet under Fertility Match

When I was a Surrogate Mother, one of the most exciting things was meeting my Intended Parents for the first time. We were already matched and had emailed and chatted on the phone numerous times. But meeting in person was truly like a first date. Everyone is nervous to meet the other party. The reality of the situation sets in. The Fertility Match journey is beginning.

I was honoured to be part of this excitement recently. Our wonderful intended parents T & J met their surrogate L and her family for dinner and I was there with my family.

I can only describe this as a large (and loud) celebration. Like old friends coming together. There were lots of hugs and laughter. This is the joy of a Fertility Match.

This is the moment where and intended parent and Surrogate Mother bond begins. With this journey our warm, loving surrogate mother L wants her family fully involved. Her children are very excited for their mother to be the change for other people. L is not only giving an wonderful gift to T & J, but she’s being an incredible role model for her children. As I sat there watching T & J chat with L and her husband, I knew that their journey together is going to be an incredible experience for everyone.

This is our dream at Fertility Match.  To make this connection for couples in finding the right Surrogate or Egg Donor and changing lives in a positive way. It brings tears to my eyes even just thinking about what the future holds for so many intended parents who choose Fertility Match to help them with their journey.  Call us anytime if you have questions about our service. We’d love to hear from you.

-Lisa
Co-Founder of Fertility Match Canada

Ottawa Citizen: Baby Mamas: Pair launch a ‘fertility consultancy’

Ottawa Citizen: Baby Mamas: Pair launch a ‘fertility consultancy’

This is an article published by the Ottawa Citizen about Fertility Match Canada launch and our focus on making a difference in the fertility industry.

Ottawa Citizen, May 26, 2017
Wanted: women willing to give their time and their bodies to help other women become mothers — for purely altruistic reasons.

Ottawa’s Liz Ellwood and Lisa Casselman have opened up a new fertility consultancy [Fertility Match Canada] to help infertile couples find egg donors and surrogates. Fertility Match is one of fewer than 10 such agencies across Canada. And they all face increasing demands for egg donors and surrogates in a seller’s market.

Ellwood, 34, and Casselman, 41, have seen both sides of the surrogacy equation. Ellwood was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 24. Despite freezing eggs at the McGill Reproductive Centre in Montreal, they were not viable. She eventually decided to find an egg donor and a surrogate mother. She now has a five-year-old daughter.

Ellwood met Casselman while looking for a surrogate. Casselman was already carrying a baby for another couple, but the two remained friends. Casselman is the mother of eight — she already had three children and a stepchild and became a surrogate twice after that, carrying two sets of twins for separate couples.

“We’re looking to find some amazing people and guide them through this journey,” Ellwood says.

There are few statistics, but demand for donors and surrogates in Canada is much higher than supply. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of embryo transfers made to a surrogate increased by 23 per cent from 413 cycles to 533, according to the Canadian Fertility & Andrology Society.

Egg donation and surrogacy are legal in Canada, but donors and surrogates can’t charge for their services, although they can be compensated for their expenses, such as medical costs and pregnancy-related expenses, such as clothing, food and exercise classes.

Under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, agencies can’t charge for matching would-be parents with egg donors and  surrogates. Federal law prohibits paying a woman to be a surrogate, or advertising such a payment. It also prohibits paying someone “to arrange for the services of a surrogate mother” or accepting such a payment, or advertising of arranging these kinds of services.

It’s in stark contrast to the U.S., where egg donors and surrogates are paid, though those amounts vary widely.

Under the law in this country, Canadian donors and surrogates are helping infertile couples for altruistic reasons.

“No one really understands what ‘arranging’ services means, as it is not defined under the act,” says fertility lawyer Sherry Levitan. “Most of the agencies interpret it as matching surrogates with intended parents, but that isn’t my view.”

At the same time, Canada is becoming an increasingly attractive place for foreign couples seeking a surrogate.

Around the world, doors are closing on couples seeking third-party reproduction, including in Thailand, Vietnam, India and Mexico, Levitan says.

In India, for example, surrogates protested after the government announced it would ban foreign couples from hiring Indian surrogates. The Indian government had argued that hiring out wombs for rent was exploiting poor women. Last year, India drafted a law that would permit only infertile couples who have been married for at least five years to seek a surrogate, who must be a close relative.

For couples around the world, the U.S. and Canada are still options. In fact, Canada is a destination for would-be foreign parents. Overseas agencies point out to clients that the costs of prenatal care and the birth are covered under Canada’s health-care system. The exchange rate makes it even more attractive to couples in western Europe, Asia and the U.S., Levitan says.

It is widely expected that Health Canada will soon change the regulations in the Assisted Human Reproduction Act that deal with paying egg donors and surrogates. But as it stands, for most intended parents, the first step is usually word-of-mouth. “You never know whose neighbour’s cousin might want to be a surrogate,” Levitan says.

She believes that agencies are necessary to protect all of the parties. “A new intended parent working independently without an agency is vulnerable to experienced surrogates who may be trying to avoid some of the regulations and safeguards put into place by agencies,” she says.

“There is so much information and support that is required, and it is perfectly legal to charge for — and advertise — those services.”

Ellwood and Casselman say what they’re offering isn’t matching-for-money, but rather help in navigating a complicated system to find a donor or a surrogate who best meets the needs of every intended family. The agency screens both would-be parents and would-be donors and surrogates rigorously, Ellwood says.

“We want people to feel valued. We don’t want them to feel alone.”

Carolynn Dubé, executive director of Fertility Matters Canada, which promotes awareness and equal access to fertility treatments, says about one in six couples experience infertility. In about 30 per cent of the cases, it is attributed to the man, in 40 per cent of the cases it’s the woman, and 20 per cent it is a mixture of both. The reason is unclear in 10 per cent of cases.

“Some people will get IVF and move on and live happily every after. Some people will have uterine cancer at 20 and never be able to carry a baby,” Dubé says. “There are people who are interested in donating because they have a gift they can give someone else. It’s an incredible gift.”

The total cost of having a baby through surrogacy is between $60,000 and $100,000, depending on whether there is a need for an egg donation and fertility clinic costs, Ellwood says. Couples suffering from infertility are often mourning their own inability to have a child. Often, fertility treatments have failed. Would-be parents want to have complete trust in the person who will carry their child.

And there are a lot of ways for trust to fail, before and during the pregnancy and after the birth. In one case reported in 2013, a Spanish couple took their premature twins home, leaving the surrogate to pay a $58,000 hospital bill.

When Ellwood first started looking for an egg donor, she went to a U.S. agency. The first potential donor got pregnant with her own child, there were problems with the second donor’s hormone levels and there were questions about the blood tests of the third donor. Ellwood started looking in Canada. The first potential egg donor simply disappeared. She was successful with the fifth donor.

“People wouldn’t call us. You never knew what was happening. No matter what you did, it was out of your hands. It was awful,” she says. “We really lucked out with our surrogate. She really hung in there for us.”

Casselman had her own woes as a surrogate. She says she had to go to court to recover some of her expenses from one set of intended parents. She and Ellwood say now they thought there had to be a better way to do it, to make sure both sides of the agreement know exactly what they’re in for.

“We said, ‘We should start an agency [Fertility Match Canada] to help both parties have a better experience,’” said Ellwood. “It’s a bit like a courtship. It’s an important decision.”

There are a number of issues that both sides have to agree on, Casselman says: how many embryos will be transferred; whether or not there will be a “selective reduction” if the surrogate is carrying multiple embryos. They have to agree on whether amniocentesis (prenatal testing that can determine abnormalities as well as sex of the fetus) will be done, and whether they agree to terminate the pregnancy if the results indicate a chromosome abnormality such as Down syndrome.

The parties also have to agree on what kind of relationship the donor and surrogate will have with the family after the birth — whether to stay in contact, have no contact, or allow contact if there are crucial questions about the baby’s medical profile.

Casselman has wanted to be a surrogate since she was eight and her aunt’s premature baby died. The idea was reinforced when she was a teenager and learned about surrogacy. It’s best for a woman considering surrogacy to complete her own family first, she says. Her entire family gathered around the table before she made the final decision to be a surrgoate. Her children always knew that the baby would not be coming to their house to stay.

“I just wanted a great story to tell. We want every couple, every surrogate, to say this was a great experience. It’s very important to do this the right way, and do it with love and caring.”

Levitan likes what she has heard from Ellwood and Casselman so far. “They are aiming at the highest standard,”she says. “Not every agency is that accessible and transparent. If they keep to those ideals, I will be delighted.”

Fertility Match will be holding a webinar on egg donation on June 6 and one on surrogacy on June 7. For more information, visit fertilitymatch.ca/webinars.

 

Glossary of terms

Third-party reproduction: Donor-assisted reproduction in which DNA or surrogacy is provided by someone who is not an the intended parent

Intended parents: People who become the legal parents of a child born through surrogacy

Surrogate: A woman who carries a baby with the intention of surrendering the child to someone else after birth

Gestational surrogate: A woman who carries a child to whom she is not genetically related

Traditional surrogate: A woman who is the genetic mother of the baby she carries, but who intends to relinquish custody to the baby’s intended parents at birth

Interspousal donations: One partner in a lesbian relationship who carries a baby that is genetically linked to the other partner. IVF is a necessary part of this process

In Vitro Fertilization or IVF: The process of fertilization by extracting eggs, retrieving a sperm sample, and manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish. The resulting embryo or embryos are then transferred to the uterus

Pre-implantation genetic screening or PGS: Identifying embryos containing chromosomal abnormalities that result in IVF failure, miscarriage or babies born with conditions such as Down Syndrome

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or PGD: Evaluating embryos gathered through the IVF process for genetic disorders before they are implanted. In most cases, one or both partners have been genetically screened and identified to be carriers of disorders such as cystic fibrosis an hemophilia

Selective reduction: Abortion of one or more, but not all, of the embryos in a pregnancy with multiple embryos

Oocoyte banking: Egg freezing for women who have to delay childbearing for medical or social reasons

 

National Post: Joy to be mom after cancer battle

National Post: Joy to be mom after cancer battle

This is an article published by the National Post about Fertility Match Canada Co-Founder, Liz Ellwood, and her courageous story of battling Cancer at the age of 24 and fighting to realize her dream of becoming a mom.

INFERTILITY AWARENESS, A joint venture with the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada · May 20, 2008 | Last Updated: May 21, 2008 2:00 PM ET

Late in 2006, Ottawa resident Liz Ellwood, then 24, received a devastating blow: A regular pap smear showed she had cervical cancer. First, she faced a life-and-death battle with a devastating illness; second, she knew that even if the cancer was completely cured, the treatment would likely make her infertile.

But Liz Ellwood is a fighter. Her spirit saw her through two surgeries and six weeks of combined chemotherapy and radiation last summer. She showed just as much determination when it came to ensuring that some day, she would be a mother. New procedures at the McGill Reproductive Centre in Montreal allowed her to freeze 19 of her eggs before she started treatment.

Granted, the radiation and chemo affected her uterus; she will not be able to carry a child herself. But Ms. Ellwood has explored having a surrogate

mother. When she is ready, doctors at McGill will transfer the embryos (fertilized with her partner’s sperm) to the surrogate mother’s uterus. “I will miss being pregnant,” she says. “I always wanted to carry my own children, but at least I will know the joys of being a mom; 10 years ago,it would have been impossible.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the entire procedure has cost Liz Ellwood just $700 to date. The centre’s Little Miracles Fund paid for her treatment, while Ms. Ellwood paid only for the cost of anaesthetics and drugs.

Little Miracles is a fitting name for what McGill does, says its medical director, Dr. Seang Lin Tan. The survival rate for the human ova it freezes is 82%, he says, and they can be preserved well beyond the lifetime of the donor.

At some point, Ms. Ellwood will return to the clinic with her partner and her surrogate mother, and Dr. Tan’s team will perform the rest of the procedure.

For Ms. Ellwood, the fight to eventually become a mom started with a regular check-up with her gynaecologist. A pap smear just seven months earlier showed no trace of cancer. This time, however, her doctor called her back to say cancer cells were indeed showing up. To make matters worse, further tests showed that this cancer was a rare form, growing inside the cervix and not on its surface.

Luckily, the Ottawa General Hospital had one of two surgeons in Eastern Canada skilled in performing the necessary surgery. Unfortunately, the operation was not completely successful.

“I needed another surgery; this time in Quebec City,” Ms. Ellwood says.

“That was a success but to ensure that not a trace of cancer remained, I had to start six weeks of daily chemo and radiation at Ottawa General early last summer.

“As soon as I was diagnosed I talked with my cancer specialist about preserving my eggs ‹ freezing them for the future,” she says. “At that time, he didn’t know anything about the procedure. His concern was saving my life; mine was for my future.”

Liz Ellwood went to her gynaecologist, who arranged an appointment with the Ottawa Fertility Centre, which referred her to Dr. Tan’s team at McGill.

“I started treatment just before Christmas and two weeks later, the eggs were successfully frozen,” she explains.

“Once that was over, I was ready to face anything they could throw at me — the operations, the chemo, the radiation. I knew I had secured my future.”

That future is looking brighter all the time. Ms. Ellwood and her partner are looking forward to raising a family. “I knew him before being diagnosed; we started dating while I was undergoing treatment and we just became closer and closer,” she says.

She has already looked into arranging a surrogate mother. Although she will not be paying the surrogate, the treatment itself will cost about $25,000.

“I have started saving all my income tax refunds,” she says. “The most recent CT scan showed I was clear of the cancer. We are waiting now for anMRI just to be sure.

“What I do know is that, despite everything, I can and will be a mother.”

Fertility Match: Setting a New Standard for Fertility Consulting in Canada

Fertility Match: Setting a New Standard for Fertility Consulting in Canada

Fertility Match: Setting a New Standard for Fertility Consulting in Canada

We are thrilled to announce the launch of Fertility Match Canada, a lifelong dream brought to reality by the agency’s Co-Founders, Lisa Casselman and Liz Ellwood. Fertility Match is the first Fertility Consulting company of its kind in Canada, aiming to change the atmosphere of the third-party reproduction market for the better; this agency is grounded in the belief that Intended Parents, Surrogates and Egg Donors need to be optimally supported in their journeys to make families a reality, equally but in different ways.

The Co-Founders met in 2009 when Lisa was on her first journey as a Surrogate Mother (She has since delivered twins for two families) and Liz was looking for a surrogate. Although they never worked together, they became good friends and supported each other throughout the process. “We could be honest and supportive with each other about things that came up. If an issue arose, I could discuss it with Liz before bringing it up with the Intended Parents I was carrying for. And she could do the same with me to better understand her Surrogate’s perspective. We have been formulating how to use that dynamic to build the right Fertility Consulting structure in the Canadian market ever since” says Lisa.

While neither is a novice in fertility and third party reproduction field, Liz has spent her entire career working in the area since being diagnosed with cancer at age 24. In 2007, she founded Fertile Future, a national charity that has funded the fertility preservation of over 420 Canadian cancer patients to date, and provided information, Fertility Consulting and education to countless more. Multiples surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation left Ellwood unable to conceive or carry a pregnancy. And despite freezing her eggs, they did not thaw well. She would also need an egg donor. “It was a devastating blow, I grieved it and moved forward, like so many other to-be-parents we work with do every day when it comes to fertility. I now have a 5-year-old daughter via Surrogacy and Egg Donation. And she is the most beautiful thing in the world!” Liz plans on using this life experience to bring a more compassionate approach to Fertility Consulting in Canada.

The goal of Fertility Match is to provide parents-to-be with a holistic approach to Fertility Consulting to find their best matches: the right Surrogate, their ideal Egg Donor and the best fertility professionals to meet their unique needs; and then to assist all parties in navigating their journey from there. “We have seen firsthand the need for changes in the third party reproduction agency model in Canada. We are ready to facilitate that change.”  For more information about Fertility Match and their Fertility Consulting services we offer visit fertilitymatch.ca.

Supporting Your Partner as a Surrogate Mother

Supporting Your Partner as a Surrogate Mother

My wife Lisa (Fertility Match Co-Founder) has given birth to two sets of twins as a gestational surrogate mother. These have been wonderful journeys for our family as well as for us as a couple. She has asked me to share my advice on this experience…so here goes:

As a Couple

Partners need to have a strong relationship to go through an experience like this. When my wife explained to me her desire to help others who were unable to have children become parents, I thought that was a wonderful thing she wanted to do. I supported her 100% through both of her surrogacies. There will be ups and downs, just like in other areas of life; But if you love and support each other and have a strong relationship this can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have.

Surrogacy is a Commitment for Both of You

It is a good idea to be prepared for the many appointments with doctors, lawyers as well as meeting with the intended parents. Sometimes these appointments and meetings are out of town. Your wife’s body will need to be prepared prior to having the embryo(s) transferred by taking medications to thicken her uterus lining for transfer. In our case, she needed to have progesterone injections every day for 3 months starting before the transfer and continuing for three months in to it. It was difficult for her to administer the injections herself, so I did it every day. This was honestly one of the hardest things to do since it was sometimes an unpleasant experience for her.

Why it’s all Worth it

You form new and special relationships as you take the journey together with the intended parents. It’s a relationship unlike any other. There is no better feeling than seeing the joy in the faces of the parents as they have experiences along the journey: seeing their babies through ultrasound, feeling the babies move for the first time, hearing their heartbeats. The most rewarding moment for me was watching our intended parents welcome their children into the world. We got to see them hold their babies for the first time after wondering if that dream would ever come true. Helping to grow a family through surrogacy is one of the most rewarding experiences you could ever have.

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