TMI on the Orwigs of Saline

Blog Innovation: Responses to ACTUAL Questions!

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.

3 Comments

  1. Anonymous Anonymous
    April 25, 2008    

    Scott,

    Wow, you answered every one of her questions, thank you! I wonder if she will send more…

    Before I ask this question, I am SO thankful for Grace, Shep and Kennedy and grateful to the surrogates who carried them – so this has nothing to do with them (of course) so keep that in mind when you read the following question as you know where I work and my position on issues of insurance.

    Try not to make this a political discussion. The newsweek article talked about Tricare surrogates being favorable candidates because of comprehensive insurance coverage and surrogates with this insurance getting essentially a $5,000 (signing bonus, unless I misunderstood) because the insurance is so good. Taking all of your beautiful children out of the mix, what do you think about that?
    I work with cancer patients with Medicaid, Tricare and private insurance, they struggle to get chemo agents covered, procedures, pain meds and the like…I talk with men from the Detroit VA who can’t get appts with their drs, wait on procedures to the extent that they come to us to get their tx and end up paying much higher costs. I have a problem with the government paying for (so essentially joe public & me) the cost of what is entirely elective. I have the SAME problem if it were private insurance. If someone is using their BCBS to pay for getting a kidney removed and then selling their kidney for money. If I have BCBS, my insurance premiums escalate if these kinds of things are allowed to happen. The hospital has to cover their costs fo the entire pregnancy once that pregnancy happens. Additionally, I am imagining that if their are multiples there is a higher risk of the babies needing alot of care after their born – who pays for that?

    I am not talking about surrogacy in general here- only the payment arrangement side of it. Everything here boils down to money, is it ok to use your insurance coverage to make money? And please don’t be mad at me for asking this question.

    Love you,
    Amy

  2. Scott Orwig Scott Orwig
    April 25, 2008    

    Amy – I’m not mad at you for asking the question, although the timing is a bit jarring. I understand you’re coming to this from a debate you’ve been having “off line”. This is just the way it worked out. And I don’t think either one of us can take these kids out of the mix.

    I think you’re right that the question boils down to “is it OK to use your insurance coverage to make money?” Let me clarify again that once the kids are born they are covered by our insurance just like if Sarah had carried them. And let me also clarify that even with our surrogate’s generous insurance coverage, we took a significant hit in paying for treatment for the preterm labor, the whole IVF process, ultrasounds, and on and on.

    So when a woman becomes pregnant, should she be asked if this is a surrogacy and cut loose if it is? I do expect that will happen, it will be that much more expensive for people like us, and more people will be priced out. And I don’t believe the savings to insurance companies (public or private) will make even a dent in the care of anyone else.

    What if it’s not a money making arrangement? If a woman is carrying a child to help out a friend or relative, should that be covered? I’m guessing that someday it won’t. In fact, what about a traditional pregnancy that was started via IVF or other very elective means? Pregnancy itself is quite elective, in fact. Should cancer patients go without treatment because the woman next door forgot to take her pill? Should the aging baby boomers go without arthritis meds because of an irresponsible 20-something? At what point is a pregnancy legitimate enough to justify the cost?

    My own experience with getting treatment paid for by my insurance company has been eye opening. I highly doubt that surrogacy is much of a drain on my insurance company, but my treatment is clearly being rationed. Treatment is a scarce resource. I have trouble getting appointments when I need them and my doctor and I have had to compromise on my care because of insurance rules. Again, it’s extremely unlikely that all this is happening because of greedy surrogates. If you’re trying to get more chemo, procedures, and pain meds for cancer patients, surrogacy is a red herring. Relatively speaking, we’re not talking about very much money.

    So I expect that surrogacy will someday not be covered at all and only the very rich will have the option. I also suspect that the “controversy” about it has more to do with reservations about surrogacy itself that it has to do with money.

  3. Anonymous Anonymous
    April 25, 2008    

    Scott,

    Ok. No, I don’t have any personal problems with surrogacy, and couldnt be happier that the twins are here. Questions arent coming from anyone else, just me. I have always wanted to ask those questions but wanted the twins to be out and well before I did, didnt think it was appropriate to ask before now. Maybe it was not appropriate to ask at all, but come on brother, when you put your blog out there – people are going to ask questions!

    Hey, when are you going to call me to set up a time to see my new niece and nephew?

    Love, Amy

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