Outside Hollywood, being a surrogate mom is far more than cash and carry
By Jessica Wakeman, Daily News ,
April 17, 2008
Tina Fey (l.) has high expectations for Amy Poehler (r.)
in 'Baby Mama.'
If you think finding good day care is hard, consider the task of finding someone to carry your child in vitro. Enlisting a surrogate to have a baby is becoming increasingly popular among couples and singles alike. And it's the subject of "Baby Mama," a comedy premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival Wednesday, starring "Saturday Night Live" vets Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
In the film, Fey plays Kate, a Type-A businesswoman, who hires Poehler's Angie, a cash-strapped free spirit, to carry her baby.
But in real life, surrogacy is hardly a comedy, says Melissa Brisman, a New Jersey attorney who has helped more than a thousand couples through the process.
"Somebody who thinks it's a good way to make money would probably drop out when they see how much work is involved" says Brisman.
Before a woman is hired as a gestational carrier, she is subject to home visits to assess her suitability. After she is hired, she undergoes more than 90 injections to prime her uterus for in vitro fertilization.
Once she's pregnant, there's a good chance there will be multiple births.
Just ask Tamara and Joe Bove of New Jersey, whose surrogate ended up pregnant with their triplets.
They found their carrier, whom they liked very much, over four years ago, through Brisman's office. The couple pored over more than 10 questionnaires filled out by potential carriers, which included medical history, previous births and other pertinent information.
The Boves wanted a woman who was married and who lived close enough so that they could attend most of her doctor appointments. They also wanted a surrogate who was opposed to abortion. "We knew we didn't want an abortion for any reason," says Tamara, noting that concerns about potential birth defects sometimes prompt the termination of pregnancies.
Finally, they found their dream carrier: a married woman in Massachusetts who had given birth to five children. The Boves went to almost all the doctor appointments with their carrier after in vitro procedure successfully implanted two eggs.
They paid their surrogate in regular installments, which Brisman described as being similar to a trust fund account. Laws regarding payment of surrogates vary from state to state, said Brisman, who is licensed in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.
In New York, a carrier cannot be compensated and "you cannot get the genetic parents to be the legal parents after the baby is born," she said, which means the baby's birth certificate will originally have the surrogate's name on it and must later be amended. But in Connecticut, Brisman explained, the carrier can be compensated by the couple, and rights to the fetus can be handed over to the intended parents while it is in utero.
Debra and Chris Trifaro of Staten Island are proud parents of three bundles of joy, courtesy of in vitro and a gestational carrier. The Trifaros met with several potential carriers before deciding upon a woman from Pittsburgh who had two children of her own. They met her in Atlantic City and knew they wanted her to be their surrogate. "She was very positive and tough and wanted to make us happy," Debra said. And she did, bearing their fraternal triplets Lisa, Christina and Christopher, now 3 months old.
Surrogates are not a problem-free path to parenthood. They are expensive and can be a long process. Compensation for the surrogate ranges from a few thousand dollars to $30,000, Brisman said. The average payment is $18,000 and is paid over a period of time, while other expenses relating to the pregnancy are reimbursed.
Sometimes the surrogate must undergo multiple rounds of in vitro. The Trifaros tried in vitro fertilization unsuccessfully with their carrier twice, before their fertilization was a success.
Chris and Debra Trifaro with triplets (from l.) Christina, Lisa and Christopher.
"We have our homemade family," says Debra, who doesn't plan to have any more kids. As for the Boves, in vitro through a surrogate worked so well the couple is trying it again.