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A local woman with a remarkable journey is hoping to influence the community of mothers at Fort Meade with her passion for surrogacy.
Kathy Powers breaks into smiles as she shows a photo journal of her second surrogate pregnancy.
Ryan was the second surrogate child she carried, and the first child she carried for Virginia based couple Katya and Mark Herndon. Ryan celebrated his third birthday recently. Powers also gave birth to his brother, Ethan last year.
Powers, 47, is a busy Odenton mom. She's in the Waugh Chapel Elementary PTA and chair of the playground project committee. She has two kids and volunteers in various community projects.
By age 40, Powers had a perfect family. Her two children, a girl and a boy, were four years apart. But as they were growing older, Powers felt as if she wanted more children.
Her husband, however, felt that the family they had was perfect. He was happier without having to worry about extra bedrooms or additional college funds.
"As I thought about it, I realized that I really liked being pregnant," says Powers with a laugh.
Powers said she is especially interested in reaching out to women at Fort Meade who may be interested in being a surrogate.
From Infertility to Surrogacy, A Full Circle
Powers was also reminded of the struggles she had had getting pregnant with her first child. She knew she wanted to help people in similar situations.
Powers had struggled with infertility before she became pregnant with her daughter. Her daughter was conceived naturally, though Powers had undergone a couple of rounds of infertility treatments. Around the time, two close friends also had some positive experiences with having children through surrogacy. All this awareness led her to consider becoming a surrogate herself.
Powers first consulted with her husband and children about it.
"I could not have done it without their help," says Powers, adding, "They were loaning me out for all that time. They were sharing me emotionally with another couple."
Her obstetrician also gave her a clean bill of health. According to her doctor, Powers had problems with ovulating, but judging by her two biological pregnancies, she would have no problems carrying the children to term.
A Lot Like Dating
Powers put out an ad on several surrogacy websites, offering to become a surrogate parent. Soon after the ad was posted, she was flooded with responses.
"I got 25 responses that first day," says Powers.
There were clearly a lot of people who needed Powers' help. She went through each of the responses and shortlisted a few to correspond with further.
"It's a lot like online dating. Sometimes, as soon as you read an email, you know it's not going to work out," says Powers.
She talked to two or three couples on the phone. She hit it off with one particular couple. She went on to carry their first child.
The Surrogacy Process
Surrogacy can come in two forms, says Powers. In the first, traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother donates her egg, which is fused with donor sperm and implanted into the surrogate. The other is called a gestational surrogacy. In the second type of surrogacy, an egg and sperm are fertilized and the embryo is implanted into the surrogate. The surrogate has no genetic link to the child she is carrying.
Powers underwent gestational surrogacies each time she carried a surrogate child. Once the embryo was implanted and the pregnancy became viable, it felt just like the pregnancies of her own children, she says.
Many of the stories in the media about surrogate mothers and recipient parents fighting it over the surrogate child are cases where the surrogate mother is also the egg donor. When the surrogate mother donates her egg, she provides her genetic imprint to the child, which might make it difficult for some surrogates to let go of the babies once they arrive, says Powers.
She had morning sickness and weight gains similar to her biological pregnancies but the surrogate pregnancies were also slightly different, in that she never felt possessive about the child she was carrying.
"I was happy to go through the pregnancy and hand the child over to his parents once he was out," says Powers.
Powers says she experienced all the post-partum blues associated with the births of her own children.
"I was like a water tap," she recalls. Ads, songs, cards, anything could make her cry. The only difference was that she didn't miss the children she had given birth to.
The Financial and Legal Angle
Surrogacy doesn't pay much, says Powers. She doesn't reveal how much, but states she was paid a compensatory fee.
"If you work out the hourly rate, it's pennies per hour," she says. "Money is just the icing on the cake."
While she understands that individual circumstances vary, in her own case, she became a surrogate to help parents who struggled with fertility.
She also opted for a friendly surrogacy experience. She became friends with both sets of parents she carried the children for. She still stays in touch with the Herndons. The Herndon children have bonded with Powers' kids as well.
"They're almost like cousins," says Powers.
However, there are business-like surrogate arrangements also, in which the intended parents and the surrogate maintain a business relationship. The surrogate is looked after, is paid for her role, gives birth and the connection ends at that point. Neither the surrogate nor the intended parents stay in touch afterwards.
"It's important to decide ahead of time what kind of experience works better for you," says Powers.
According to information from The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, Maryland is among the states most friendly to surrogacy pregnancy. Intended parents can easily get a pre-birth order. Such an order allows names of the intended parents to be put on the child's birth certificate, and terminates any rights of the gestational carrier. Other states, such as neighboring Virginia, require extensive home study of the intended parents, before the issue of a pre-birth order. Washington, D.C. outright debars any kind of surrogacy arrangement. As a result, many couples who want to explore surrogacy flock to Maryland for surrogate pregnancies. But even in Maryland, it is gestational surrogacy that is more common. Traditional surrogacy, in which the surrogate mother has a genetic link to the child she carries, is interpreted as selling one's own child and violates Maryland's anti-baby selling law.
Powers now works as a coordinator with Surrogacy Options, a Middletown, MD based organization that facilitates surrogacy.
Powers encourages women who are interested in exploring surrogacy to check out the company website. She says there are several checks that are done on prospective surrogate mothers. There are the regular background checks involving criminal history, drug use, medical and financial history.
A prospective surrogate who relies on surrogacy income is probably not a good fit, says Powers.
Once a woman is considered eligible to be a surrogate mother, she is matched up with intended parents based on similarities in their profiles.
Powers is eager to connect intended parents and surrogates. Her own experience has been so positive, she feels as if she was meant to do this, she says.
Mommy to Damon TS to Kyle 10/07 GS for E and R--WE ARE PREGNANT!!
Try 1--Sept 2010 negative Try 2--Jan 2011 negative
Try 3--May 2011-miscarried at 5 weeks
Transfer 4---PREGNANT!!! BFP @ 5.5dp3dt Beta at 11dp3dt was 164.6
Ultrasound showed TWO BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!