Like many aspects of our lives, surrogacy arrangements have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions that are in place. Intended parents awaiting the birth of their baby overseas might have received the most media attention. But domestic arrangements, particularly those with interstate teams, have also suffered a lot of stress. And teams in waiting have had treatment delayed either because of restrictions on IVF treatment or because of border closures.
If you are new to surrogacy, you can read about how to find a surrogate, or how to become a surrogate yourself. You can also download the free Surrogacy Handbook which explains the processes and options.
Several teams I have been working with over the last few months have struggled with issues including:
- The intended parents being denied permission to cross borders to be at their surrogate’s side when she gives birth to their baby.
- Intended parents unable to travel to support their surrogate during pregnancy.
- Intended parents having to endure 14 days of quarantine or self isolation to be at the birth of their baby, and again when they return home.
- Hospital restrictions resulting in intended parents not being allowed to be present at the birth. Several teams have had to negotiate for the intended parents to even visit hospital after the birth and care for their baby.
- Intended parents not being allowed to attend ultrasounds and pregnancy appointments with their surrogate.
- Surrogate and intended parents not being allowed to visit each other after the birth due to restrictions and border closures.
Negotiating birth plans and hospital arrangements for surrogacy can be challenging at the best of times. Restrictions imposed as a a result of the pandemic have made this even more challenging and stressful, for the intended parents and the surrogate.
Teams who are in the planning stages have had their appointments, counselling and IVF treatment delayed. For teams who are in different states, they may have been able to complete all the necessary pre-surrogacy appointments, but cannot progress to embryo transfers because of travel restrictions. There are many teams, particularly from Victoria, who are enquiring about transporting their embryos from Victoria to the state where their surrogate lives, to avoid having to wait for travel restrictions to be lifted. However, while IVF specialists might think this is a fine idea, it is in fact not allowed for Victorian surrogacy teams. This is because the Parentage Order can only be granted if the treatment procedure (ie. the IVF treatment) occurred within Victoria. This same criteria is applied in the ACT and Western Australia.
For intended parents and surrogates at the beginning of their journey, the pandemic has meant face-to-face meet-ups and events have been cancelled or postponed. It will be many months, in Victoria at least, before we can hang out in person. Other states seem to be enjoying each other’s company while us in dirty, cold Melbourne suffer behind our computer screens. The Australian Surrogacy Community has Zoom meet-ups to offer an opportunity for intended parents and surrogates to hang out and get to know each other. And if you are in the ‘dating’ phase of a surrogacy arrangement, you can use this opportunity to get to know each other better, discuss your expectations for the surrogacy, and have those appointments that you can have, such as the surrogacy counselling. And listen to the Podcast to hear about other surrogacy experiences!
For teams who have welcomed the baby and are preparing for the Parentage Order, you may find the court processes have changed due to COVID restrictions. In Victoria, for example, there are no in-person Parentage Order hearings, and instead the order is made in the Judge’s chambers and posted in the mail. Make sure to celebrate with your team to mark the occasion, even if you can’t be in the same place.
I can appreciate how frustrating and upsetting it can be to get so far toward growing your family and then a pandemic pulls the rug from under you. I remember being so excited to get started with surrogacy, nothing was going to stand in my way! But the pandemic has thrown us all a few curve balls, and unfortunately there are some things that need to take a backseat. I would be cautious, trying to push through if it means a surrogate is pregnant in the middle of a pandemic, and the intended parents cannot travel to be with her or get into the hospital. In the circumstances, it would be better to wait.
I have published a book, More Than Just a Baby: A Guide to Surrogacy for Intended Parents and Surrogates, the only guide to surrogacy in Australia.