I got some actual questions from real people on the blog today so I'm going to answer them.
So what happens when the surrogate doesn't give the kids up?
Fortunately this almost never happens now. Surrogates are screened very carefully. Also, almost all organized surrogacies now are "gestational" rather than "traditional". In a traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is also the biological mother. The infamous "Baby M" case, which is responsible for much of the anxiety about this, was a traditional surrogacy.
Nowadays even if the intended parents use an egg donor, agencies will not allow the surrogate to be that egg donor. It's much easier if the surrogate is not the mother of the baby.
If the surrogate should try to keep the baby, in an organized surrogacy there is a binding contract and records that show the surrogate is not the mother. So the intended parents are in a strong legal position.
What happens when the adoptive parents don't take the kids?
That would suck. I have heard of it happening, but there is so much work in getting a surrogate pregnancy started there would be plenty of time to chicken out before the point of no return. If the parents did try to walk away (say after a death of one of them, or a divorce) the same legal documents that protects the bio parents would, I suppose, make them responsible as parents. I expect it would be much like a pregnant mother deciding she didn't want her baby, or a father trying to walk away.
What happens when something goes wrong with the kids - who pays for all of this? In general, the surrogate's insurance pays for prenatal care, and the parents (or parents' insurance) is responsible the moment the baby is born. Geri has excellent health insurance, but it did not pay 100% of the treatment for pre-term labor so we had some out-of-pocket costs.
In some cases a surrogacy agreement includes the parents paying for a special policy for the surrogate. Most insurance is not at all friendly to reproductive health.
Make no mistake: Having a baby with a surrogate is very expensive. You have the costs of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), plus all the (often high-risk) prenatal care, plus travel, before you even get to the fees for the surrogate.
How do you truly know the kids are yours? Are they genetically tested at some point?
Some people have them tested. In some cases a judge will require testing before signing an order for the birth certificate. In most cases, though, the very careful "chain of custody" of the egg, sperm, and resulting embryos is enough. None of those things change hands without signatures and identification. The IVF doctor provides an affidavit to that effect.
In our case there is no doubt the kids are ours. Shepard came out looking exactly like Harrison and Grace when they were born. Kennedy has the Orwig nose (ask an Orwig to show you theirs), and the rest of her looks like Sarah's father.
Why do you think Michigan doesn't make this legal?
Surrogacy is actually legal in Michigan. Paying a surrogate is not, but I know people do it and the intended parents just make "gifts" or pay very high "daily living expenses." We aren't people to push the envelope like that, so we did ours in more surrogacy-friendly states (which is just about anywhere).
We were told there was a Michigan doctor (or was it lawyer?) who served as one of the first surrogacy intermediaries. This was in the days of traditional surrogacy, which led to the charge of "selling babies." Michigan reacted by outlawing paid surrogacy.
Are you allowed to have surrogates from other countries and do they have to pay taxes?
I hear people are actually starting to out-source to Indian surrogates. Seriously. I can't imagine the legal hurdles involved.
I don't know about the taxes. Domestic surrogates would have to report the income like anything else.
How do you take care of 4 children and blog?
I pick one child to neglect each day. That frees up enough time for blogging.
How will you take care of 4 kids and critique shower products?
I think I'm done with reviewing shower products and ready to move on to automated litter boxes. Less danger of eye injury (I hope).
Now that you have 4 will you plan for another pregnancy?
No. And trust me, these things don't happen without planning. It's not like we're going to get drunk one night and accidental choose a surrogate, sign the paperwork, start a month-long regimen of shots, and fly to California. That would require being drunk much more than one night.
This Orwig family is definitely in a "No Vacancy" situation.
What last name do the kids have?
Mine. Poor kids. Do you know how many ways people misspell "Orwig"?
The birth certificate doesn't have a line for "surrogate" so Geri doesn't appear at all. Sarah and I are listed as parents. That's exactly the way Geri and her husband want it.
When are you planning to tell the kids they came from another woman?
We've already started telling Grace. She knows these babies grew in Geri's belly and she grew in someone else's belly. Nothing about that strikes her as unusual. Less shocking than being dropped by a stork, I suppose. The whole thing would be very difficult to keep secret from HJ and Grace, and once they know, a few years from now we'd be only one petty argument away from the cat being let out of the bag.
And just as a matter of semantics, I would say that these kids "came from" Sarah and I, but they grew inside Geri until they were ready to be born.
How are you going to tell the kids about the surrogacy?
So far we've stuck to the terminology we got from Ann Nelson: Babies grow from seeds. Harrison grew inside of Mommy like most babies, but now Mommy's belly is broken. A baby seed can't grow in there. So Julie (our first surrogate) and Geri grew the seeds for us.
The explanation of how the "seed" came to be is something I'm not looking forward to. For Sarah it's a surgical description. For me . . . "When a Daddy and a plastic cup love each other very much . . .".
Will you go on a talk show?
That is the accepted way to reveal deep family secrets, but I don't know if we're unique enough for a talk show.
Someday maybe Amy and Jo Anne will use a surrogate. That might be more interesting.
Have you seen the new surrogate movie?
It actually comes out today. With four kids, we have no expectation of seeing a movie in the theatre for the next decade or so. We're looking forward to the DVD.