Dr. Kim Bergman shares everything she knows about the process from nearly three decades of experience
Many parents, including Andy Cohen and Kim Kardashian, have decided surrogacy was the right path for their families. But if you’re considering surrogacy, where do you start? We talked to Dr. Kim Bergman, who helped Cohen and producer Ryan Murphy make their dreams of a family come true, about what to expect and where to start.
“Surrogacy is a collaboration, a coming together of a group of fully informed consenting adults all with one common goal: helping you become a parent. And as with any collaboration, this passion project has some necessary ingredients that will lead to success and help your surrogacy journey be something you can treasure,” she tells PEOPLE.
Here’s what you need to know about the process.
You’ll have a team.
“Your team of experts will include a doctor, lawyer, psychologist, insurance expert, surrogate agency and the surrogate herself. And if necessary, an egg or sperm donor. Trust is essential to make this all work,” Bergman says. “As the parent you will have all the decision making power but there are things that you just can’t control and in all of your decisions you’ll be relying on your team. So it’s imperative that you put together a team that you can trust, so you can sleep at night and not spend months worrying about your baby. This trust is not blind trust — it encourages you to ask every question and be as involved as possible but ultimately trust the process.”
Surrogacy takes at least 18 months and can take years.
“This process will take time. And the timeline is not entirely predictable,” Bergman says. “Even though becoming a parent through surrogacy takes about 18 months (about 9 months of which are the actual pregnancy), from the time you decide you want to become a parent to the time you have your baby in your arms can be years.”
Yes, it is expensive.
“If you’re a heterosexual couple that is able to make embryos but can’t carry a baby, some are in the $120,000 range,” Bergman says. “If you need to make embryos as well with an egg donor it’s about $175,000.”
And the cost also depends on how quickly the surrogate gets pregnant — if it takes a couple tries, the additional embryos add up. But “the average is right around $175,000,” she says.
Trust your gut when it comes to picking a surrogate.
“We try and educate the parents in terms of what they should be looking for and hoping for, and really it’s about trust,” Bergman says. With Growing Generations, “we really trust our screening process,” she says, and parents-to-be almost always go with their first match, but generally it’s “kind of a gut feeling.”
Most parents say that any worries they had during the process disappear completely once their baby is born.
“However, whatever you are going through now is totally normal,” Bergman says. “So get whatever support you need from family, friends and professionals but also just be gentle with yourself wherever you are in the process.”
And often, the stresses are no different than they would be for parents carrying their child themselves.
“Nobody is ever ready when the baby comes,” she says with a laugh. “Nobody is ever ready for the shock of that, the good and the crazy shock of it.”
The success rates with surrogacy are high.
“Keep your eye on the outcome — holding your baby and gazing into your baby’s eyes — will keep you going when the journey is hard and long,” she says. “The success rates with surrogacy are so high that just about everyone who doesn’t quit has a baby. Hang in there.”
And when the baby arrives, don’t hide how they got here.
“My strong recommendation, and the research really bears this out, is that telling the truth early and often yields the best outcome for the child,” Bergman says. “If you tell them early and often the story of their conception and birth, and coming to being, and how a whole group of people came together, it’s beautiful. Kids are not born with a preconceived idea of how it should be. They don’t come on the planet thinking, ‘I’m supposed to have a mom and a dad who I’m biologically related to.’ They just want to be loved, and it doesn’t matter who is loving them.”