What do Giuliana Rancic and Jimmy Fallon have in common other than mega-stardom? Surrogacy. They’ve helped introduce us the world of surrogacy through the eyes of prospective parents. And now, Kim and Kanye are doing the same, as the dynamic duo is expecting their third child through surrogacy.
But what is it like actually being a surrogate?
We decided to dig a little deeper to understand what motivates a surrogate to carry for another family. We reached out to Tiffany Jordan, a mother who’s already completed two surrogacies (one boy and another set of twins) in the past three years for her perspective.
Read on to see why she considers surrogacy “extreme babysitting,” plus the ins and outs of the process as a whole.
What piqued your interest in surrogacy?
I had some friends that were looking into donating eggs in college, and I was curious. But about three years ago, there were a couple of women very close to me who were really struggling to get pregnant. One of my best friends and her husband had been trying for years to get pregnant and they weren’t able to. Then my aunt was also trying to get pregnant and she was having a lot of difficulty. My sister and I told my aunt that we’d carry it for her. She ended up getting pregnant on her own, but I feel like a lot of people start out having done it for family members or are prepping to do it for a family member and then the issue resolves itself. Then you’re left like, “Well, I want to help someone have a baby, so what’s next?” It opened my eyes to the fertility issues that women, same sex couples, everyone goes through sometimes to have a child.
Let’s backtrack a little bit. Where are you from and what is your family like?
I’m from Savannah, Georgia, and I actually grew up living with my Southern Baptist grandparents for the longest time. And when I started the first surrogacy, I was 23. I think I was one of the youngest surrogates in our group. So entering surrogacy was actually really taboo for my family. I had some of my family members scare me halfway through my first pregnancy telling me that it was going be hard for me. I started wondering, “Man, is this really going to affect me that much?” And it doesn’t. Your mindset doesn’t change. At no point do you decide, “Okay, I’m going to keep this baby.” It just doesn’t work like that. Most surrogacies are not genetically your child at all, it’s an egg donor’s egg, not yours. But by the second time, it was much more accepted by my family. They were supportive the whole time and got just as excited about it as I did.
You have a long-time boyfriend who’s also the father of your son. What did he say when you first wanted to do this?
I’m really strong-willed, so I knew that was it. I was going to do it. And when I told him, I think he was like, “Oh, okay, Tiffany,” and didn’t expect me to follow through, so in the next conversation we had about it, I was like, “Okay, they’re booking our tickets to go to medical screenings,” and it took him aback at first. Our pregnancy with my son was just very stressful. So he got nervous not even about having a baby for another family, but about the actual pregnancy. Then once I was actually in the hospital after delivering that first surrogacy baby I told him, “I’m going to do this again.” And he was like, “That sounds great. Let’s do it again.”
Has surrogacy become—for lack of a better phrase—your day job?
This is something that I did in addition to working. My first surrogacy, I was working in membership at a private golfing community and the second time, I was still with that company, but I ended up moving with my family to South Carolina after that time, so I did not work for the last few months of it.
How did you start this process?
I Googled surrogacy and found tons of agencies. Then I really got into what their success rates were, their ratings, and stuff like that. There were a couple major ones: Circle Surrogacy, Simple Surrogacy, and a some in California—I applied to all of them at first with a basic application. They’ get your height, your weight, your age, a little bit of information about your previous pregnancies (you have to have been a mother first before becoming a surrogate so you know psychologically how you’re going to deal with it and how your body is going to respond to being pregnant), a little bit about your lifestyle, and then they narrow it down from there.
What are next steps like?
There’s a much lengthier application with 20-something pages on your family history, your education, and your interests. From there, you talk with the agency and then they’ll request your medical records and either approve you or deny you based on those. Once you’re approved, you’re in it. You’re a surrogate with their agency. For me, it was really quick. I started looking into it maybe at the end of March three years ago and I applied at the first of April. By the end of April, I was signed on with Simple Surrogacy and matched with a couple.
Do you get to choose whom you’re a surrogate for?
You do. After you’re approved and you’re put into their database, there’s a couple of major things that you have to match with families, like your willingness to terminate a pregnancy for severe disabilities or if you get pregnant with quadruplets, your willingness to reduce— obviously, if a family would want you to and you wouldn’t, you don’t match. Once they filter those, they’ll give you anywhere from three to 15 profiles—all the forms that you filled out, the potential families filled out too. So they’ll get your profile and you’ll get theirs and if you like each other, you can set up a couple Skype dates with them to know each other.
What was your first family-matching experience like?
My first Skype date lasted almost four hours. You can totally hit it off or you could realize, “This isn’t for me.” You’re going be involved with these people very closely for a really long time. You want to make sure it’s the best match that it could be.
Can you decide that you don’t want to do it anymore at any point?
I could definitely tell the agency, “Hey, put me on hold” or “I change my mind.” But I haven’t met a surrogate that has decided against her family after they’ve completed contracts, which happens after you’ve gone through more in-depth medical and psychological screenings—that’s like four months into being matched with people. But it has happened. Generally though, as long as you’re not pregnant yet, you can pull out at any time. Sometimes there’s some consequences ’cause it’s not fair to the family if they’ve paid for all of the screenings for you, all of this travel for you, and then you decide, “Oh, never mind.”
So once you are pregnant with someone else’s child, does it ever feel like you have no agency over your body anymore?
You’re still in charge of your body. You’re still the one going to these appointments. The agencies do a really great job of letting you take the lead on what procedures you want to have done—all of that’s pre-decided in the contract. But on the other side, you are talking to this family or this person almost every day about their child. You’re like, “Guess what happened at the ultrasound?” or you’re FaceTiming them in the ultrasound, or you’re calling them as soon as the appointment’s over. They’re still very involved.
What are the risks? Do they increase because of the IVF?
No, it’s really just a risk of giving birth. As far as we know right now, IVF doesn’t appear to come with any increased risks, other than you’re just crazy hormonal. But I have C-sections, so with each C-section you have, it’s increased risk of hemorrhaging or losing reproductive organs. You just have to make the decision that you’re going to take each risk for someone else.
Have you ever regretted it?
No, never. For me, with the C-sections, I could do only one more. I want to do it again, but the twin pregnancy was really difficult. There were some health problems, so my boyfriend is not really on board right now for doing another. But luckily, I’m only 26, which is young enough where I can still decide in the next 10 years if I want to do another.
You just have your one son now. Would you ever have children of your own again?
I don’t think so. I used to want more, but he is so self-sufficient now, that it’s hard to go backwards.