The Emotional Roller Coaster that is the Legal Agreement
I knew nothing about the intricacies of surrogacy, other than if everything went well, I would be carrying the baby of my friends. Admittedly naive, I jumped at the opportunity to offer up my body to science in the hopes that the end result would fulfill my friends’ 9-year-long dream of becoming parents.
I passed the medical and psychological evaluations with flying colours! I was proud of my body for being capable of carrying out this task after one miscarriage and two (successful) C-sections of my own.
The words “lawyers” and “agreement” had been thrown around in conversation, but for whatever reason—again, mostly my naivety toward the entire process—I had always pictured a one-page document that would essentially outline the fact that “this baby does not belong to you and when it comes out, you will hand it over to the people who will love and raise it. You will then get to drink wine again!”
When all the testing was complete and I got my ERA results—giving the fertility centre the exact time and date of the transfer—my husband and I were informed that the legal documents needed to be completed before the transfer could take place. We had two weeks to get the agreement in order and have it signed off by my and my friends’ respective lawyers.
No problem, I thought. Where do we sign?!
Talk about a rude awakening when we received the first draft of the agreement to review from my friends’ lawyer (as an aside: calling my friends IPs has always felt strange because my husband and I just see them as friends and soon-to-be parents).
Much to my complete shock, the first draft of the agreement was 65 pages long. Sixty-five!
There were countless factors that I hadn’t considered, specifically the areas that discussed my own mortality in a way that I hadn’t been forced to think about before that point. The agreement was also written in legalese, which is a language that I am far from fluent in. My husband and I diligently read through the contract and thought,
This seems intense, but the surrogacy lawyers know what they are doing and have done this many times before, so let’s go ahead and meet with the lawyer to get it signed!
Enter our lawyer.
She was a lovely lady who had been practicing in surrogacy law since it was introduced in Canada. We told her we’d reviewed the document and didn’t have any questions, and she smiled politely at us and said,
“I have three pages worth of red flags for you to consider.”
*Cue the blank stares at the Zoom call screen*
We listened for hours as she outlined all the risks associated with certain aspects of the contract, presented in its current state, and how we could end up in financial ruin if the contract was signed as is.
I realize lawyers typically get a bad rap, but I truly believe our lawyer had our best interests in mind and I am very grateful for all her guidance through the entire legal process.
Once we had heard all her feedback, my husband and I were able to decode the legal-speak and understand what areas needed to be discussed, altered, or removed altogether. This involved many—many, I tell you—back and forth Zoom calls with our friends to try and sort out a contract that worked for both sides.
All the while, the clock was ticking and I was on the required medication leading up to a transfer, which can make a surrogate feel like an emotional and hormonal time bomb. The back and forth between the two lawyers had us feeling divided from our friends, like children of divorced parents who were trying to settle an ugly custody agreement.
At one point, the words “maybe this is a deal breaker” were uttered, and it struck me to my core.
I cried more than I care to admit, thinking about my own mortality and the financial risks involved. I only ever wanted to help my friends have a baby, and this process was making me feel like roadblocks were piling up specifically to prevent that from happening.
On the final call with our friends, I let my emotions out. I told them all I wanted was to give them their baby, and that I wanted this part of the process to be over. We both then spoke to our respective lawyers and came to a final, 45-page agreement. The fertility clinic received the signed forms one day prior to the transfer. Phew!
I am happy to report that since that day, I have not thought of, or looked at, the contract once. The pregnancy is almost 28 weeks along and all is well with all parties involved. We remained friends with the parents, which is great news considering I have their son inside of me, and I cannot wait to hand him over to his parents.
I’d do it all over again to get to the place we are now, but would strongly recommend to other surrogates to have their contract in place well before the transfer date. It will save their hormonal-self some emotional turmoil, and they will enter into the agreement prepared and stress-free.