Just six weeks after our initial phone consultation with the agency, we got an email that two profiles were ready for us to view. This was quick. We'd bunkered down for a four, five, or six-month wait - but 6 weeks!
The profiles were extensive 15-page affairs detailing to a minute level the surrogates' health and life histories. They made for interesting reading. On reviewing the first profile, though, we became convinced that it had been planted by the agency to find out just how desperate we were to have a kid. STD-carrying former drug users weren't high on our "wish list", so we decided to take a pass on that one. But the other profile was great; she was healthy and active, and came across as a genuinely happy person. We decided to overlook the fact that she was from Connecticut, which, as a Rhode Islander living in New York City, I've come to refer to as "the state in the way". Everyone has their faults, so we proceeded with a phone call.
I should've been more freaked out. It's not every day you phone up the woman who may carry your baby. And let's face it, it's really an interview as much as its an introduction, for all of us. But call we did, and talk we did, and do you know what? Pretty nice, pretty easy conversation. I mean, it's not as if the discussion topic was a surprise to her. Sure, it's weird to bandy about terms like "selective reduction" over speakerphone at 10am on a Tuesday, but all in all it went well, and we decided to have lunch the following week.
On the ride up, Lin and I dipped back into a conversation begun weeks before about the kind of person we hoped to find as our surrogate. All those Mary Poppins requirements, of course, but in reality, we weren't planning on being too picky. We liked the idea of someone who'd gone through the process before, but it wasn't a must. A bright-line notion for us, however, was that it shouldn't be someone in dire need of cash. If that were the case, it might feel like decision was coerced on her part, due to circumstances. And we didn't want that. Really, we were searching for someone we liked. That, and an easy rapport with a mutual sense of trust, would go a long way.
Lin and I also talked also about why a woman would choose to do this. I think there exists the rare surrogate who does this entirely out of an altruistic fount of goodness, inspired only by the desire to help a childless couple have a kid. But it must be very rare, indeed. In reality, the agency told us, money is almost always a factor, though it is never the only one. And anyway, the pragmatist in me respected the woman who is brave and giving, and also wants to make a chunk of change. That money, after all, would likely go to helping out their own families, and what's more honorable than that? Lastly, surrogates also were universally described to us as women who enjoy being pregnant, and who possess what was described as a "specialness". You'd have to be a special person to even consider this, we thought.
We met Amy (not her real name) in Cheshire, Connecticut, near where she lives, and had lunch. The email accompanying the profiles described her thusly:
She is a first time carrier with experience, that lives in Connecticut, she is lovely and warm, easy to speak with and has many interests. She is a single mother with 1 child. The base fee she is asking for is $20,000 plus health insurance. She works as a PCA, and has her license as a massage therapist.
"With experience" means that she had worked with another couple before us. In this case, the couple moved on after a failed first attempt, and she did not give birth to a child for them. The experience had been okay, she said, but odd in ways. They were a gay couple in London who were not huge on communication, but apparently were huge on contractually detailing precisely how she would live her life while pregnant. In my view, things like cigarettes and alcohol are of course off-limits, but when someone is doing you this kind of favor, maybe it's best not to micromanage them with too great a fervor?
During lunch, when it came up in conversation that she co-owned the house she lived in with her parents, any liberal guilt we may have had about this surrogacy arrangement dissipated greatly. Not only was she not in dire need of money, she owned a house! As we couldn't forsee a time when we'd be able to own a place of our own, we felt somehow better about accepting her kindness, if it came to that.
So the lunch went very well. And apart from the expected initial nervousness, conversation flowed. She seemed like a good mother, a good daughter, and a pretty serious person in general. She was industrious, too; in school full-time and with a forty-hour-a-week job. I think we became actually sold on her, though, when she un-selfconsciously mentioned how much she liked taking her 6-year old daughter to monster truck rallies, because it was fun to "see things destroyed". Surely someone so into destruction must also appreciate the act of creation! We liked her, and upon driving away we felt like we'd lucked out, and ahead of schedule at that.
Over the next week we mutually decided to move forward together. My sister Sara, wouldn't be available to start the egg-donor cycle until she was back in Boston in September, and that timing seemed to work well for Amy too.
Or did it?