When Laci married her Air Force service member, she was informed her family building journey would be difficult and conceiving a child naturally wasn't likely.
Laci's story, though heartbreaking, is a common one. Research indicates that the natural fertility rate is only 20%, and 1 in 8 couples will have difficulty getting pregnant. For military families, constant separations and time away only add to that challenge.
Faced with this information, Laci and her husband began searching for alternatives. "We're newly married and having these conversations and really struggling through what that felt like," Laci shares. "I couldn't let go of those feelings that I felt like, 'What if I can't and what are my options and how do I figure this out?' It was so stressful and scary."
Today, there are many options for those experiencing family building challenges - from medical procedures and fertility drugs to surrogacy, adoption, or ultimately living child-free.
Fortunately, despite the odds, Laci and her husband were able to conceive naturally. "Come to find out, I was pregnant that entire time, which was amazing and wonderful, and we were so excited [because] it was so unexpected," she recalls. "Then we easily got pregnant with our second."
What Laci couldn't shake, however, was the fear she initially felt in the early stages of attempting to conceive. "As soon as I had two healthy babies, it just felt like I now had this responsibility to share because I knew what that felt like," she shares. "I had experienced those feelings, and I knew how painful they were. So the fact that I was able to get pregnant so easily, and sustain them and have healthy babies, I wanted to be able to share that with somebody who couldn't."
As a spouse and now a mother of two, Laci chose to do what a growing number of other military spouses are doing: she became a surrogate. In fact, she is currently on her second surrogacy journey for the same family.
Surrogacy is defined as a type of pregnancy in which a woman carries and delivers a baby for another person who is unable to get pregnant, an option more families, such as same-sex couples, are turning to. In fact, the Family Equality Council finds that 63% of LGBTQ individuals planning families expect to use assisted reproductive technologies (ex. surrogacy), foster care, or adoption to become parents.
Since COVID-19, however, concerns are surging over the number of surrogates. News agencies like Times and Fortune have reported on the dwindling availability and rising need for this family building option, making the efforts by military spouses like Laci all the more important.
Yet surrogacy isn't without its challenges. A major unknown for intended surrogates is cost. As a military spouse considering becoming a surrogate, knowing what's covered and the applicable restrictions is essential. "There are a lot of misconceptions and myths that come along with it," Laci shares. "It's important to understand what those are. So you don't maybe fall into traps that stop you from applying."
TRICARE coverage for surrogates is limited, paying second for services and supplies related to maternity, antepartum, postpartum care, or complications. According to ConceiveAbilities, the intended parents are ultimately responsible for costs associated with the pregnancy. Everything from prenatal to postpartum care is covered during the contracting process.
Likewise, some companies offer compensation for surrogate mothers. "The side of surrogacy that I don't think everybody wants to talk about, or they feel like they shouldn't talk about, is compensation, which it's not taboo," Laci assures. "It's a great part of the process. It's a big commitment. You are being compensated for your time, which only gives you so many more resources as a stay-at-home mom."
Still, some restrictions affect military spouses considering the surrogacy journey. Several states deem surrogacy contracts illegal. No matter where you are or where you're moving to, you can find surrogacy laws by state to ensure you're armed with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision. Likewise, companies like ConceiveAbilities do not allow surrogates to move mid-journey. For military families that move frequently, planning is essential.
"It's really important to educate yourself," Laci explains. "If you do have a spouse, or you have children, older children, talk with them, make sure that they are wanting to go through this with you. That they're onboard with the process. But I really can't give any greater advice than to apply and speak with somebody because you just don't know what you don't know."
Here at Blue Star Families, we continue to study family building challenges for the military community. Our research and national media efforts are helping companies like ConceiveAbilities to provide resources for those looking for solutions and government leaders to propose military family medical reform. That's why your voice is important!
Want to learn more about the challenges of family building among military families? Download the latest research.
Discover more about becoming a surrogate with ConceiveAbilities here.