Giving the Gift of Family with Surrogacy Center of Philadelphia
“There are so many people who worked hard to make you come true.”
It takes a very special kind of person to become a surrogate. To help someone realize their dream of having a family when they’re incapable of doing so themselves is perhaps the most precious, selfless gift you can give.
It is a powerful experience that requires the utmost care, both for the gestational surrogate and the intended parents. 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.” She prides herself on creating these meaningful matches, and has been doing so for over a decade. “Each program has a different culture. We facilitate these journeys in a very personal way. If people are looking for a more impersonal, transactional process, I tell them they’re not a good fit and refer them to a different agency.”
The matchmaking process is very thorough, and McAfee tells us it’s not simply based on who’s been on the waitlist the longest—everyone really has to click in terms of personality, beliefs, goals, and more. It may take one meeting, or it may take four—what is important is that both sides feel informed, safe, and excited to embark on this journey. “People usually come out of our matchmaking meetings giddy, like in another world they would have been besties.”
Unlike larger surrogacy agencies, the Surrogacy Center of Philadelphia keeps things local and intimate. Both the intended parents and the surrogate live in the Philadelphia area, so the families can retain that involvement and open relationship for as long as they wish. “We attend appointments, and we know how to refer people to local resources for additional services. If people are scattered all over, an agency can’t provide that care.”
Some surrogates continue to pump breastmilk for the newborn and check in. Some remain very close to the parents and child their whole lives, as a kind of honorary family member, acknowledging that “There are so many people who worked hard to make you come true.”
So, what does it take to be a surrogate? For starters, a surrogate must be in good physical and mental health, age 21 – 38 years old, and must have carried and actively parented at least one child. Adhering to the strictest clinic standards assures that a surrogate can safely proceed through the process and can do 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 who’s got some fire in you, and will persevere and want to help others.”
She also noted that the women who become surrogates are the kind of people who love to be pregnant—and while they may not wish to add to their own families, they want to carry that dream for someone else. “Some surrogates are very passionate about it, and do repeat journeys.”
It was very important to McAfee that the surrogate is taken care of in every way throughout the process. In addition to compensation, the very detailed contract spells out everything the surrogate can expect—including covering of all medical costs, legal representation (with a separate attorney), psychological care, and follow-up. They are clear that surrogates should never have to pay out-of-pocket for medical expenses, and cover insurance premiums, medical copayments, and even childcare costs so surrogates can attend doctor visits.
“I want women to know they have choices and they should be treated with respect, treated well during this process, and spoken to honestly.”
With that goal in mind, the Surrogacy Center of Philadelphia has developed exceptional resources to help along the way. While it is important for all parties that surrogates are screened for physical and mental health, this includes an extensive one-on-one session with a therapist familiar with surrogacy and all the unique stressors that go with it.
An independent attorney reviews the contract with the surrogate, and since that cost is covered by the agency 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.
And while compensation is certainly only part of surrogacy, McAfee wanted to make sure the process would not only create a family for the intended parents, but also help surrogates and their families achieve their own goals. So, every surrogate in the program has a 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 college. Compensation is held in an account with a professional escrow firm that releases monthly payments.
In describing the extraordinary decision to become a surrogate, McAfee explains that when intended parents opt for this route, they have already tried everything else and experienced so much heartache—from unsuccessful fertility treatments to miscarriages, but:
“You’re it—you’re the one who’s going to give them that chance to have the family they’ve wanted to have for so long. When you give someone the gift they’ve been hoping for forever, you’re making someone’s dream come true. I really want other women to experience that.”