My Independent vs. Agency-Managed Surrogacy Journeys
Q&A with Katie Mascis 4 Time Surrogate (3x Independent 1x Agency Managed)
Independent vs Agency-Managed Surrogacy
This was in 2012, so surrogacy seemed pretty new. I saw that there were classified pages online, so I put an add out about myself and got a handful of responses. After talking to one IM for some time, it seemed we might move forward, so I messaged everyone else and told them I had found someone. But then she ghosted me! She never responded again, but the very next message I got was from the woman I went on to carry two babies for. We were doing an independent journey so we had to navigate it together. We talked on the phone a lot, met in person, went to counseling sessions together, etc. Everything felt “right” from the very beginning.
2. What kind of counseling sessions did you do with your first IPs? Sounds interesting. Was it helpful?
Our clinic required we do counseling, which was great because we went to a counselor that specifically handles topics like adoption, surrogacy, infertility, etc. The experience was very helpful. We saw Kathy Fountain in Tampa, FL, who was wonderful! She asked all the “normal” questions (about reduction, termination, etc.), but she also asked questions I didn’t even think of. The IPs and I lived in the same city, and they were initially very concerned about privacy; Kathy brought that up and asked how we would feel running into each other in public. It was just nice to talk about all these things that might come up during our journey together.
As far as the timeline of the sessions went, my spouse at the time saw Kathy first, followed by the IPs. After, the four of us spoke with Kathy together. After my delivery, when I hemorrhaged and had some pretty bad complications, I had a hard time dealing emotionally. My IM encouraged me to go back to see Kathy to do some additional counseling, which I’m so glad I did.
3. How did you know that it would be a good match?
My IM was immediately very protective and caring, and I felt very safe with her. I think her near-maternal attitude toward me is how I knew it would be a great match. I just never felt like I was being taken advantage of.
4. What were some things you looked out for?
In the beginning I’m sure I was much naiver about the surrogacy journey, and, honestly, I got very lucky. I didn’t look for much specifically. I just told the parents I was happy with whatever they wanted as far as pregnancy decisions went (reduction, termination, contact after, etc.). Luckily, all our views were very much aligned and we stayed close for years after. But I learned from what I wanted and didn’t want. I realized having a connection and relationship with the parents after the baby was born was very important to me, so I made sure to be honest and up front about wanting that.
5. What made your third journey a disaster? Any advice to others to avoid the same thing?
Oh my goodness, that journey was doomed from the start, I guess. It was an independent one, and the IPs were nice people to start, but I had no voice and was too afraid to really speak for myself or ask for anything I needed or wanted. I should have been more assertive.
The IF was an attorney and handled our contract (red flag number 1), which was sadly not in my best interest. For example, they wanted me to eat 100% organic, but in the contract, the IF added this requirement under the $200 monthly spending section meant for gas, phone calls, etc. The IPs requested receipts to see what I was eating and didn’t reimburse me over that $200/month—definitely not enough money to sustain a fully organic diet when combined with everything else under that spending section.
I had also made it extremely clear I would only transfer one embryo at a time. I had a postpartum hemorrhage with my first surrobabe after a miscarried twin from that pregnancy. I nearly died and my OB supported me doing surrogacy again only if I transferred one embryo. On the day of the transfer, the IM and her doctor sat me in a room and started pressuring me to transfer two embryos. They offered me 10K more to do it and I repeatedly refused. Finally, the counselor for their office came in and stopped them! I should’ve backed out then, but I didn’t.
I didn’t get pregnant and I told the IPs I wouldn’t move forward with a second transfer. The IF called my local clinic and told them I had breached our contract, and they returned his money and came after me for all he had spent for my monitoring. It was a nightmare and I went agency after that to avoid being in that position again. I found out I was their 5th surrogate to back out. There’s a lot more than that but it’s a long, wild story.
At the end of the day, I was afraid to speak up over and over again. The moral of the story is if you want to go independent with people you don’t know and don’t have a trusting relationship with, it’s so important to be able to communicate what’s important to you and when things are bothering you.
6. Did you ever feel during your first independent journey that you were missing a support person? Like something was missing?
I never felt like I was missing a support person. I didn’t know any other way of doing surrogacy, it just felt right for me at that time. The IM was very involved, and never missed a single appointment; we spent a lot of time together. It was awkward, though, not having anyone in the middle to discuss finances with. I had to get out of my comfort zone a few times and deal with sending the IPs bills to pay or reminding them if I needed a check (only once did they forget to send a check, but those used to be harder conversations for me to have!). One aspect I enjoyed from being at an agency was being able to go to it for anything like that (sending IPs bills, requesting reimbursement for missed work, etc.) I never felt like I had a support person even when I did use an agency, but that could have been specific to the agency I used and to the agency person who was supposed support me. She was very unavailable and rarely responded in a timely manner.