Melissa Teeter has given birth four times – three of which were for strangers. Teeter, 35, is a surrogate or more accurately a gestational carrier (GC).
“I loved doing it for the other people,” she said. “I liked to see how happy and excited they are when they get their baby. I don’t feel the attachment to the baby. I don’t feel sad or heartbroken.”
Teeter first heard about surrogacy when she was 22 years old, while watching a television program. She thought, “I could do that.”
She didn’t act on that thought for a few years. She gave birth to her daughters, twins, when she was 26 years old. When they were two years old, she began researching surrogacy. She filled out three or four online applications and by the end of the week, there were two women interested in her services.
How does it work?
Teeter’s first surrogacy was done independently, but for her two other pregnancies, she used an agency. The agency matches a GC with an intended parent (IP). They draw up the contract and do the background checks, psychological evaluations, manage medical records and administer payments.
A match between a GC and an IP must have a certain comfort level since the relationship will last a year. Details like ethnicity, age, marital status and sexuality are considered by the GC and IP – both parties need to accept the others’ qualities and personality for the relationship to continue.
Teeter’s first two IPs were in their fifties. Although she didn’t see a problem with it, she received some push back from friends. They thought the IPs were too old to raise children. Teeter didn’t and went ahead with the surrogacies.
Once the parties agree on the match, a detailed contract is written. Everything from how to communicate to what to eat and how much to exercise are all part of the contract.
Teeter’s first couple had preferences. “They are both vegan,” Teeter said. “I’m more like McDonald’s drive-thru.”
They compromised by asking Teeter to walk 30 minutes a day. They did bring her pineapple on the days after transferring the embryo, somewhat of an old wives’ tale to help with implantation. They also brought healthy foods to Teeter throughout the pregnancy.
Teeter, like other surrogates, are compensated for their services. Payments can range from $20,000 to $40,000 and are paid in increments throughout the pregnancy. Medical costs are also paid by the IP. Teeter’s health insurance includes a surrogacy clause, so IPs pay her copays and coinsurance.
About half-way through the pregnancy, the IP and GC go to court for a “pre-birth order,” which is a legal document explaining that the baby is the IPs and not the GC. The birth certificate will have the IPs name on it. The pre-birth order is only good in the state in which it’s written. In the contract, travel restrictions for the end of the pregnancy are added so that the baby isn’t born in a different state. If that happens, the baby must be legally adopted by the IP, which costs additional money.
How do you let them take your babies?
Teeter is 35 years old now, lives in Matthews and works as the office manager for a dentist. She’s unmarried but has a committed relationship. And she’s heard it all from people – that question of how she could possibly give up her babies. Most can’t seem to understand.
“I have zero attachment to these people’s babies,” she said. “I feel like that makes me come across as heartless because so many people’s reaction is that they could never do it. I just assumed anyone could do it.”
Teeter joked that she views the surrogacy experience as renting out her uterus and is more like a landlord. Because she is a GC, she is not using her eggs. If she did, then she’d feel entirely different. “I’d feel like I’m giving up my own baby,” she said.
Her daughters understand that the baby in mommy’s belly is not their sibling. One day when a stranger at the post office asked if the 3-year-old girls were excited about the new baby, they said, “Oh no, this is Cathy’s baby. Mommy’s going to go to the doctor and the doctor will take it out, but it goes home with Cathy.”
Teeter stays in touch with the IPs through Facebook. She may get an occasional text with a photo of the child, but there’s no real relationship with the families afterward.
If the right IP comes along, Teeter would be open to being a surrogate again. For now, she’s keeping busy as a mother of two.
Photo: Courtesy of Melissa Teeter