One of the most challenging parts of gestational carrier (GC) journeys, commonly known as surrogacy, is not knowing anyone else who’s had the same experience. In the UK, while births from GC services have increased, numbers are still small. National Surrogacy Week in the UK (August 2 - 8) seeks to raise awareness of these journeys and bring together information and resources for those considering GC services in the UK.
Carrot recently partnered with UK-based agency My Surrogacy Journey to support members in Europe pursuing gestational carrier (GC) journeys. Michael Johnson-Ellis, My Surrogacy Journey (MSJ) Co-Founder, and a couple on a GC journey through MSJ, Rob and Steve, shared advice with Carrot on how to find guidance and community during these complicated journeys.
Do your research and find a trusted partner
Most GC journeys in the UK and U.S. also include finding an egg donor, following legal steps, and matching with a GC. In the UK, laws related to GC services can create confusion and make the process more time consuming, Johnson-Ellis said. One common misconception about GC journeys in the UK is that they’re against the law. In fact, GC journeys are legal in the UK, as long as they are altruistic, meaning the GC does not receive payment beyond medical fees (Carrot will only support legal GC journeys in the UK). There are also typically more people seeking out GC services than there are GCs, leading to long wait times for domestic GCs. Overall, GC journeys in the UK can be complex, time consuming, and stressful. MSJ’s goal is to provide guidance and support throughout the process.
“Starting a surrogacy journey, whether at home or abroad, feels like falling down a rabbit hole of online information,” said Johnson-Ellis. “We know from experience, both bitter and sweet, that a successful surrogacy journey relies on everyone involved being emotionally, legally, and medically informed thus ensuring that every relationship is built on honesty and transparency.”
Rob and Steve described the initial research process as “daunting.” After researching their options, they heard about MSJ through a friend’s brother. MSJ helped them find a fertility clinic along with an egg donor agency, complete medical testing for themselves, and start the legal process. They also created a profile to be matched with a GC. They appreciated that MSJ provided a step-by-step guide for what steps to take next.
“I think we both like looking and seeing that we’ve checked every single box,” said Steve.
MSJ provides end-to-end guidance for intended parents, including how to plan for steps beyond being matched with a GC, too, such as birthing options.
“Quite often, intended parents are excluded from or don’t quite fit into the norm that is antenatal, or prenatal, classes,” said Johnson-Ellis. MSJ partnered with Born Human, an organization in the UK with experience working with parents in diverse settings, to support members with this part of the process. Talking with other intended parents can be another way to find inclusive classes open to all parents. When Steve and Rob talked to friends about their plans, most of them didn’t know much about the GC experience.
As part of their initial research, Rob and Steve joined a few communities on Facebook for intended parents. Connecting with others over social media helped, even though Rob and Steve aren’t typically big social media users. After taking that initial leap, Rob and Steve said they made several great connections online and over Zoom with couples going through similar experiences.
Celebrate small wins
From finding a donor egg to taking care of legal considerations and being matched with a GC, these journeys take time. Rob and Steve said they heard from other intended parents that celebrating small wins helps them manage the uncertainty.
“Celebrate when you finish a legal step or contact your clinic for the first time,” said Rob. “Be happy about those little steps because it is a long process.”
Johnson-Ellis agrees. “The biggest challenge of surrogacy in the UK is the timeframe and uncertainty around matching with or finding a surrogate,” he said.
Whether you’re at the beginning of the process or somewhere in the middle, Rob and Steve said that connecting with others going through the same thing helped them feel more optimistic about their next steps.
“When you talk to as many people as you can, you get to understand their experiences and what’s worked for them and where the pitfalls are,” said Steve. “You get a broader picture. It’s not going to be plain sailing, but the more people you talk to, the better sense you get of the experience, and you just know it’s going to happen one day for you.”
If you’re a Carrot member interested in GC services, log into your Carrot account to learn more about your options.
If you’re an adoption agency, fertility care, or other family-forming service provider interested in supporting Carrot members or would like to learn more about working with Carrot, please contact us at email@example.com.