Sunday, May 5, 2013

The reality of what lies ahead...

   We have been anxiously awaiting our prenatal consult appointment. It's coming quickly, and as it approaches my nerves and excitement are building. I keep thinking about what they will tell us, what we will find out about our future. I put so much 'weight' on these appointments, I wonder if the Dr. has any clue what this one little meeting for her means for us. I am mentally equipped with a list of questions and can hardly believe I should have answers for most, if not all of them very soon.
   The more comfortable with this entire process, and the more accepting that this is my reality that I become, the easier it is for me to talk openly about it. I have discovered so much information and support that I would not otherwise have if I wasn't open to sharing my situation. I have recently discovered other people in my province that have gone down this same road. I haven't had the opportunity to meet or talk to any of them personally yet, but have been able to hear and read about their stories.
   Surrogacy is not very common or popular at this stage in the fertility game. The laws have not been made very thoughtfully, and at every turn there is a new roadblock for hopeful, loving, anxious couples. The other day the following Facebook Note came to my attention, and I am so grateful because it really shines a light on the entire issue with the laws. I will copy and paste it below so everyone can become aware of what some couples have to go through just to build their family.

Taken from a facebook shared note.....

Mike and Averill on CJOB Monday May 6

by Averill Stephenson (Notes) on Friday, May 3, 2013 at 2:45pm
Hello Friends and Family,
As you know I was recently a gestational surrogate for my sister Lisa and Brother-In-Law Mike. My twin nephews (Kai and Keenan) were born just in time for Christmas on December 24, 2012. Both boys are doing well and Mike and Lisa along with our entire extended family are thrilled to have them home, happy, healthy, and growing like crazy! The support we have received from family and friends throughout this journey has been incredible. On behalf of Lisa, Mike, Brennan, and our families I can’t thank you enough for your thoughts, prayers, and help as we waited for, prayed for, and welcomed these miracle Christmas babies to the world.
About 2 years ago, Brennan and I offered for me to be a gestational surrogate for Lisa and Mike who had tried various fertility treatments over a period of 7+ years. Brennan and I were thrilled to be able to give Lisa and Mike the gift of biological children. Anyone who knows Lisa and Mike will agree that there are not any more deserving or people better suited for parenthood then these two.
The surrogacy process is much more complicated than just a transfer of embryos. It was over 6 months of jumping through a variety of hoops – medical testing, psychological testing/counselling, legal agreements and administrative red tape as well as medication/hormone treatments. You would think the hard part was done when the babies were born, but it seems that was the simple part of this whole process. It should be pointed out that genetically these boys are Lisa and Mike’s, I was simply the incubator. We had a surrogacy agreement, written and signed by lawyers; this was drafted and signed prior to any procedures as a requirement of the fertility clinic. Apparently, this document serves no real purpose and was a waste of time and money as it has been useless to resolving the issue (that should be a non issue) of parenthood for Kai and Keenan. The craziness started in January of this year when I received a call from the Department of Vital Statistics indicating that they couldn't register the birth of the boys because according to the Vital Stats Act, my husband must be the father of any babies that come out of me. I explained that these babies are not genetically mine or my husbands and was told that in order for the birth to be registered I would have to sign a form that indicated that Brennan was the father and then we would have to petition the court for Lisa and Mike to change the birth certificates. This meant additional fees for the amendment to the documents as well as time off from work to make multiple trips to the Vital Stats Office because no one really seemed to know how to fill out the forms correctly.
We now have birth certificates with Brennan and I listed as the parents to Kai and Keenan. Lisa and Mike are in the process of working with a family lawyer to petition the courts to change the documents. This involves costs for lawyers’ fees as well as additional time off from work for both Brennan and I to sign forms, and attend court - all for an issue that shouldn’t be an issue.
In addition the boys are currently listed under Brennan for medical benefits through Manitoba Health. Lisa has been given the run around with Employment Insurance System as her situation doesn't fit the “normal” requirements of parental leave. She has been bounced from person to person with no one able to give her clear answers or with the authority to make any changes. She is entitled to this parental leave and it shouldn't be a bunch of red tape for her to receive what she is entitled to. The boys are now 4 months old and she is not receiving any income.
Last week I discovered that I had received a direct deposit for child tax benefit for my nephews. I called the tax centre to ask that the payments be stopped and transferred to Lisa. They were unable to do this. I was told to write a letter and explain the situation and someone would be in touch. I’m sure that once the smoke clears, I will be facing an over-payment penalty with interest for money that I didn't ask to receive and that belongs to Lisa and her family.
The latest “glitch” requires us to pay for a government issued marriage certificate to prove to the courts that Brennan and I are married. When we got married (15 years ago) the church issued certificate was sufficient for us to register the marriage and for me to change my name. Now the court system (at least in Manitoba) does not recognize us as married without this paper. Apparently if we are not married anyone could be the father of the boys and we can’t sign away someone’s parental rights. So the marriage certificate will prove that the babies are Brennan’s (even though they are not) so that we can sign parental rights over to Lisa and Mike for their biological children.
Are you confused yet?! We sure are and extremely frustrated with the system. It seems every time we turn around there is another issue that takes time and money to fix.
A side note and a bit of a rant! In Canada it is illegal to receive any money to be a surrogate. You can’t pay for sperm, eggs, or the use of a uterus. It is interesting however that it is okay for the doctors, lawyers, and the government to profit from individuals who desperately want a family. We knew going into this what the medical costs would be, and of the initial legal costs to have the surrogacy agreement drafted (which was really money thrown away as it has proven to be worthless). It seems ridiculous to me that Lisa and Mike have to continue to pay for something that isn’t even an issue. We all know that Lisa and Mike are the parents to Kai and Keenan, we just want them to be officially recognized and for them to receive the benefits (parental and child tax) that they are entitled to.
In all honesty, it might have been easier for me to “give up” the babies via private adoption and have Lisa and Mike adopt them but it is ludicrous that they would have to adopt their own genetic children.
Lisa and Mike just want to be able to enjoy the children that they have waited so long for. My family and I dedicated over a year to the testing and procedures, the gestation, the birth and the recovery process. While I don’t regret a minute of it, I am ready to be done with this and move on! Something needs to be done. We have been invited to share our story on CJOB with Richard Cloutier. He is hopeful that giving us a public voice will help resolve the issue of parenthood for Kai and Keenan and be the first steps in changing the legislation and systems so that they can catch up with the technology. Our hope is that by making our story public these obstacles will be removed for other families in similar situations. I invite you to tune into the show on Monday morning (May 6) on CJOB 680 (in Winnipeg) and show your support by sending an e-mail or letter to your MP and MLA encouraging them to look into the legislation around surrogacy, reproductive technology, and parental rights in this province and country.
Thank you for your continued support.