There are two ways both intended parents and gestational carriers can proceed with a surrogacy journey. The first is what is called independent, or "indy" for short, which is without the help of an agency. The second is through an agency to walk both the carrier and IPs through the process. I wouldn't say there is necessarily a "right" way. I personally considered both and saw benefits to either direction I could have taken. We want you to make an educated choice and in order to do that, you need to know what the benefits are to each method.
In an independent journey, the process will look exactly the same. There are no shortcuts. There are no professionals (outside of the agency) being cut out. This isn't a way to skip rules or get around pertinent steps. The intended parents will still use a Reproductive Endocrinologist who still needs to approve the potential carrier based on the same ASRM guidelines an agency uses. There will still be legal representation for both parties familiar with ART and surrogacy laws. Parentage proceedings will still need to be done as well as all pertinent appointments to get and stay pregnant. The one piece of the puzzle that is removed is the use of an agency as a third party to assist in these arrangements and help with communication along the way.
As an intended parent and gestational carrier, you will both need to be well-versed in this process, know your state laws (where the carrier lives and will give birth), understand the medications and appointments, arrange screenings, and arrange legal counsel. You also need to be VERY comfortable talking money, important and touchy topics such as termination and reduction, and understand that communication is key.
The biggest benefit to going independent is the ability to save the intended parents the agency fee. While we have tried to keep this fee on the lower end, we understand that it isn't a small amount of money. There is a lot of work that goes into this and if you feel comfortable doing the work yourself, this comes as a big benefit. Some gestational carriers also prefer this way to be able to take the wheel, per se, and get things done on her own. It also allows her to look for matches not specifically tied to an agency.
But like anything in life, there are also negatives to consider. Each and every step in this process is extremely important. One step needs to be completed in order to move onto the next, and then the next. Missing one thing or doing something incorrectly could cause some big hiccups along the way. Additionally, you probably don't have the contacts and access to professionals in the industry to be able to smoothly coordinate and it could take a bit longer. Often times, agencies have worked with the same professionals before, know who to contact, and keep the process moving along quickly. It doesn't make anything impossible, but it can add an extra level of frustration.
The biggest part that could get muddled is communication. Even with the best intentions, there can be roadblocks and things can go wrong. Feelings can get hurt and people can be misunderstood. In an independent journey, there is no middle-man to try and mediate communication between the parties. You will have to deal with the issue head-on and do whatever is necessary to protect the relationship and get communication back on track. This can prove to be difficult for some especially in such an emotionally charged situation such as surrogacy.
Now, we want both intended parents and gestational carriers to decide which path works best for them. But we also want you to know, if you choose to utilize us,
that this is still YOUR journey. If you are the type that wants to be in the driver's seat a bit more and take charge, we will absolutely support you in that. If you would rather sit back and let someone else take care of the arrangements, we would absolutely love to help you too. In the end, we want you to look back, feel fulfilled, and know you made the right choice.