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By Angela Figueroa, Ed.D, President,
New England Surrogate Parenting Advisors, Inc. and Egg Donation


Often times, I am asked by many people why I began NESPA. The answer is a long story.

I got married at 25. We thought we would be responsible and wait five years to begin a family. We wanted to wait until our careers were established, we had a home and our marriage had a good solid foundation.

At 28, I had a miscarriage and was told not to worry. At 29, I had a molar pregnancy and was told to wait a year before trying to become pregnant again. Three more miscarriages followed. Being in a health maintenance organization in 1985, I had asked the doctors when they would begin testing. My doctor said he had to meet with the board to make that decision. The years when I should have been actively pursuing infertility treatments were slipping by.

In 1987, I read about infertile couples working with IVF using a host uterus (gestational surrogate). I wrote to every doctor in the Boston area asking if they would work with a surrogate and us. Some doctors asked to meet with me. Since I had gotten pregnant so many times, most of them were confident they would be the one who could get me pregnant. However, the doctors would not work with a surrogate. Therefore, my infertility treatments went on for many more years. There were the IUIs, the IVFs and the GIFTs.

In the meantime, after each negative pregnancy test, I explored my options. At the time, it seemed like most infertility literature stated our options were either adoption or child- free living. Neither option appealed to me.

Thinking that surrogacy was a far-fetched option, my husband and I began interviewing with almost every adoption agency in the Boston area. I was miserable and depressed. My heart was not in adopting. The lack of control regarding the process was unappealing to me. We then unsuccessfully tried to find our own birth mother. Meanwhile, my husband was becoming more and more anxious to become a father. He said that he did not care if the baby was green and came from "East Oshkosh" - he just wanted to be a Dad.

Fortunately, I then learned of OPTS through RESOLVE. I quickly became a member and got a list of all the programs that helped couples become parents with the help of a surrogate. I wrote to every program and received their literature. Shocked by the costs, I put all the literature aside and went back into infertility treatment.

After numerous failed pregnancy attempts, I still wanted to become a mother with the help of a gestational surrogate. In addition to the program costs being astronomical, costs for us and our surrogate to travel would be extremely high. We would have had to fly to where the program was located, get a hotel room and rent a car. We would also have had to do the same for our surrogate. It just did not seem feasible. Gestational surrogacy was uncommon. We did not know anyone who had attempted IVF using a host uterus. The costs were high for something that seemed unlikely to work. But, yet, it was an option out there that was so appealing. The carrot was dangling in front of us. We mailed in our check to one of the programs listed on the OPTS directory and made our plan reservation.

However, again, I just could not get past the costs of the whole process. I thought of the famous saying, "where there is a will, there is a way." I decided to attempt finding a gestational surrogate on my own.

According to the OPTS list, there was a doctor in Connecticut who would help couples become parents with the help of a gestational surrogate. However, when I called the first time, the secretary said the doctor would not work with one. Perhaps she was fearful that I was a member of media. But when I called again and was a little chattier, she admitted the doctor would work with a gestational surrogate. We met with this doctor and were thrilled when he said he would help us.

The next hurdle to overcome was finding a surrogate. The newspapers in the Hartford area would not allow me to place an ad in their papers. I had another idea. I called one of the newspapers and asked if they would like to do a story about a couple who needed another woman to help make their dream come true. A reporter from the LIFE section of the newspaper agreed to write our story. The story included a picture of my husband and I looking pathetic, asking if a woman would help us have a baby. Thankfully, we did not have business acquaintances in the Hartford area who would be likely to see the article.

As a result of the story, we got responses from women willing to help us. The woman we chose to be our surrogate today would not have been accepted into NESPA's program. She was grossly overweight and a smoker. We were so delighted that someone was willing to help us that we overlooked her weight and smoking.

Even though I had had six miscarriages, we were unsuccessful with our IVF/ET with a surrogate. Probably as a result of a poorly organized medical program and a surrogate who was not a suitable candidate for the procedure.

I then began to do extensive research on the criteria for an appropriate surrogate. However, I still could not find a doctor in the New England area who would work with one.

We decided it was time to get on with our lives. I was now seeking the help of a woman who was willing to be artificially inseminated - a conventional surrogate.

It was a difficult and uncomfortable process to find a suitable surrogate. After unsuccessfully starting the process with two surrogates, we finally met the surrogate who gave birth to our daughter in 1993. After 13 years of marriage, eight of which were dominated by infertility treatments, we finally had a baby in the crib in the assigned "baby's room." We were parents! We were thrilled that our beautiful daughter looked just like my husband!

The whole process to get to this point was a learning experience. A "path had been paved" in the New England area. Others could follow in my footsteps by having a baby with the help of a surrogate for about the same cost as adoption. The couple would have an opportunity to have a child related to one or both of them and be part of the pregnancy, too.

I wish someone had been available locally to help me through the process of becoming a parent with the help of a surrogate. It took a great deal of time and I made many mistakes in the process. I would have run to someone who could have smoothed out the road ahead, who I could have asked what the next step would be and who I could have called when I had a problem.

When I first began helping couples, I thought I would help one or two couples a year. Fortunately, word has spread and since NESPA began in 1992, 80 babies have been born. NESPA currently offers both gestational surrogacy and egg donation services. I have tried to recruit attorneys and mental health professionals who have personally experienced infertility. Unless one has walked in our shoes, I cannot imagine how anyone could possible understand how we feel.

On a personal level, because of NESPA, I have met many wonderful, interesting people. Our children now have the opportunity to grow up with one another and with the knowledge of how very much they were wanted, planned for and loved.

I will always be eternally grateful to the NESPA program surrogates and egg donors who have been so giving of themselves and to the couples who have given me the opportunity to help them with such an important life decision. The couples, surrogate and egg donors have helped turn my traumatic life experience into a rich, rewarding life experience.

New England Surrogate Parenting Advisors in Middleton, MA
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2007 OPTS - The Organization of Parents Through Surrogacy