So you’re ready to be a mama. (Hooray, you’re gonna be great!)
Surrogacy might be your chosen path to parenthood due to having a chronic illness, persistent infertility issues, or some other reason that you can’t get pregnant yourself. If this is the case, one of the first questions you’ll probably have is how to find a surrogate mother.
In this article, we’ll explore your different options and methods for finding a surrogate in Australia, and offer some tips on choosing one that you’ll thoroughly enjoy making a little life with.
How to find a surrogate mother: Starting the journey
The best place to start when looking into surrogacy is your doctor. (Oh, no I don’t mean ask your doctor if she’ll carry your child for you – that’s weird.)
Thing is: in Australia, you can’t go down the path of surrogacy just for the hell of it. If you have a uterus, a medical professional needs to assess you and properly advise that surrogacy is a good option. You may even need this medical advice as evidence when working through the surrogacy process.
To be real with you, surrogacy can be a tricky, long-winded process. You can learn all about how it works over on our guide to surrogacy in Australia. But if this is what you’re committed to pursuing to have a child, take heart mama – plenty of babies are born through surrogacy every year.
Once you’ve confirmed that you’re eligible to apply for surrogacy, you can start to search for your surrogate mother.
Where to find a surrogate mother?
People you know
Acclaimed Melbourne-based Family Creation Lawyer Sarah Jefford says that about 65% of the parents she works with find a surrogate mother through their existing networks. Think: sisters, cousins, besties, friends-of-friends, particularly generous work colleagues.
The conversation is generally started when you open up to people about your desire to become a parent. You might have a close relative or friend offer to help you, or it could even be a more distant connection that steps up to the task. Some people just froth being pregnant!
Support groups and social media
If there’s no one in your network who can help you out, online surrogacy support groups can be a great place to find a surrogate mother. Two examples are Egg Donation Australia and Australian Surrogacy Community.
Just note: It’s illegal to publicly advertise for a surrogate mother in Australia. You can’t slap an ad up on Gumtree or anything.
So how can joining a support group help with finding a surrogate?
Both intended parents and surrogate parents frequent these groups to share stories and make connections. You may be able to strike up a friendship with someone looking to be a surrogate mother. If you do, you’ll need to “surro-date” them for at least 6 months before you can enter a surrogacy agreement with them.
Overseas surrogacy agencies
There are some international surrogacy agencies, most notably in the US and Canada, that can help Australian parents find a surrogate mother.
Be mega-careful if you do go down this track, and get yourself some good legal advice first. It can be complicated transferring parental rights, and organising the respective visas to bring a newborn back to Australia.
Who can be a surrogate?
When looking around for the right woman to birth your child, it’s worth noting that this person needs to meet certain requirements. For example, your next door neighbour’s 17-year-old niece can’t step in, even if she’s keen.
So what are the requirements for surrogacy?
The specifics differ from state to state in Australia, and there are some subtle differences around age, relationship status etc.
In general your surrogate mother must tick the following boxes:
- Is over 25 years old.
- Has given birth to a live baby before, and does not have a history of pregnancy complications.
- Has finished having their own children.
- Has undergone a psychological assessment.
- Is an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
Some other things worth noting
You can’t pay someone to be a surrogate mother
No matter where you find a surrogate, the surrogacy arrangement must be ‘altruistic’ in nature. Paying someone would put you in a strange position of exploiting women’s bodies and effectively ‘buying a baby’ – which may not be your intention at all, but is still iffy according to law. That said, you are able to (and somewhat expected to) cover the costs of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care.
Gestational surrogacy is often the only option
In Australia, traditional surrogacy is uncommon, and very hard to push through.
I’ll explain –
What is gestational surrogacy? – When IVF is used to implant your eggs (typically frozen in advance) into the surrogate mother’s uterus. Hey presto – this baby has your DNA!
What is traditional surrogacy? – When the surrogate mother’s own eggs are used in the pregnancy, effectively meaning they’re genetically related to the baby, and you’re not. (See why that’s complicated?)
Can you use donated eggs if yours are no good? – Yes! If you don’t ovulate or your own eggs can’t be used for whatever reason, it is possible to use donated eggs for surrogacy. This is often the preferred option over using the surrogate mother’s eggs, because it just makes things legally complicated if she’s the biological mother of your child.
What to look for in a surrogate
So, now you know about where to find a surrogate mother and who’s actually eligible to be one. But what sort of attributes should you look for in a surrogate mother?
Here are a few qualities that will generally make someone a good fit for you and your family, so this surrogacy can be next-level amazing.
This is important, because you’re going to spend a lot of time with this person, and you don’t want to hate their guts.
Remember, they’re going to be pregnant too. And being pregnant (with all the hormones and sh*t that it brings) can sometimes bring out the ragey side of people. Just saying.
This person is going to carry your child – a huge task, and one you need to trust them with. It’s a pregnant woman’s duty to ensure she nourishes her body, goes to her prenatal appointments, and takes care of herself. In turn, taking care of your growing baby.
You can’t micromanage the pregnancy for her (as much as you may wish to), so you need to find a surrogate mother that you really trust to do the right things.
Honesty and openness
When finding a surrogate mother, select someone that you can have frank discussions with. Nothing should be off the cards!
You both need to be able to set clear boundaries and expectations around the pregnancy, how the birth will go down (i.e. will you be there in the room?), and the child’s life.
Before you enter into a surrogacy agreement, ensure you clearly outline how involved the surrogate mother will be after the birth. Make sure you’re both comfortable with the arrangement, and that they’re not expecting anything in return – except, of course, the amazing feeling of helping you become a parent.
You might think the hard part is over after finding a surrogate. In Australia though, the surrogacy process is a complicated one. It involves a lot of legality, bureaucracy, and strict oversight. And as frustrating as that is, it’s actually a good thing. Australia’s strict surrogacy regulations ensure that the wellbeing of surrogate mothers and children is protected.
A surrogate mother’s involvement goes beyond carrying and birthing the child. She needs to be fully willing to attend all the legal appointments, sign documents, and follow it through to the end. Commitment is such an important factor when choosing a surrogate, because:
A surrogacy agreement is not binding in Australia.
RIGHT?! Crazy. So your chosen surrogate mother could, in theory, change her mind and decide to keep the baby. If that terrifies you, it may be reassuring to know that this doesn’t happen frequently, and it’s actually more common for the intended parents to back out. Anyway, it’s why it’s so important to have good legal advice while you find your surrogate mother and for the entire surrogacy process.
We hope this article has helped you understand how to find a surrogate mother that’s right for you! And we wish you all the best in your journey to become a mum.