Once our match was official, NYSC sent me a list of attorneys that they suggest working with (though I did have the right to choose anyone I wanted, as did the dads), as well as the Escrow Agreement, which outlined the management of compensation and reimbursement going forward. It was a huge relief to have these third parties in place for the “business” side of things, so that I could focus on forming a relationship with my IFs. I let the agency know which attorney I wanted to work with and she emailed me the very next day! We set up a phone call for after the NYE holiday.
On our first call, she went over what the legal process generally looks like, and explained that it would officially start once psychological and medical clearances were complete. She also told us that she has kids born via surrogacy and we really loved that! Once we solidified our choice to move forward with her, we signed a retainer agreement and then just waited to hear back from her later on in the process (this is what a lot of surrogates refer to as the “hurry up and wait” aspect of the journey). As you know, we got psychological clearance in February and medical clearance in March, so when Joe checked in on me in early April I let him know that I hadn’t received anything from the lawyer(s) yet. He assured me that the IFs’ lawyer would be drafting the agreement and then sending it to my lawyer for review. Queue: more waiting.
I was pretty antsy by this point because a lot of fellow surrogates had relayed to me that their legal process from start to finish had only taken 3-6 weeks. So antsy, in fact, that after 5 years of being engaged, Jon and I decided to pick a date for our wedding and distracted ourselves with wedding planning! We picked our 10 year anniversary, which happened to fall on a Saturday in the fall of 2023–so plenty of time to recover from birth!
Matt and Kyle finally received the draft of our GSA (Gestational Surrogacy Agreement) and were able to review it with their attorney a month later. I got my copy of the draft the next week and scheduled a call with my lawyer to go over our initial thoughts. It was 58 pages! Out came those highlighters again! The GSA covers pretty much anything you can think of; it basically serves as a handbook for the IVF process, pregnancy, and beyond, including demographics, explanation of parentage, plans for # of embryos to transfer, residence/travel restrictions, surrogate’s health/welfare decision-making, fertility clinic, office for prenatal care, birthing facility, prohibited activities, invasive procedures, compensation structure, expense reimbursement, escrow, doula services, labor/delivery, and providing breast milk. When we talked on the phone a second time, I discovered she had a lot more edits than I did–but mostly about fancy law jargon. I had some quick things to adjust regarding travel restrictions past a certain gestation as I knew I had an out-of-state wedding to attend (that the IFs knew about), as well as verbiage around the case of cesarean birth.
While waiting to hear back, my lawyer and I completed my Health Care Proxy and Living Will. These were pretty standard documents that outlined my wishes in extreme scenarios. I had to designate people to make legal/medical decisions for me should I not have the capacity to. We also covered my preferred circumstances of life support while pregnant with the baby.
Another few weeks later, after a decent amount of radio silence, Matt and Kyle finally heard from their lawyer (who was apparently out of the country without telling them or even putting up an out of office email auto-reply). I think this month was the single most frustrating time of the whole process thus far!
We got our finalized PDFs via email at end of day on a Tuesday and made it a point to get to the notary during our lunch breaks on Wednesday! We sent all our documents via a prepaid FedEx envelope and just waited for our official letter of legal clearance to trigger my cycle. Getting so close!! Anyway–
December 19th – Initial Contact w/ Attorney
January 10th – Phone Overview of Process w/ Attorney
January 12th – Signed Retainer
May 6th – IFs Reviewed GSA w/ Attorney
May 11th – Received First Draft of GSA
May 13th – Casual GSA Review (Just Me)
May 20th – Formal GSA Review (Me and Jon)
June 3rd – Health Care Proxy and Living Will Review
June 27th – Received Final Copies of All Documents
June 28th – Signed, Notarized, and Mailed GSA, Health Care Proxy, and Living Will
July 11th – Official Legal Clearance
Stay tuned for my blog entry on the IVF process and transfer day! :)