Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Surrogacy in Mexico closed to foreigners and gays.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Surrogacy in Cambodia: Who really takes the risks? Who really pays the price?

As expected, the government of Cambodia is already moving to stop commercial surrogacy in their country:

"Meanwhile, the Cambodian government is scrambling to create new laws to stop the fast-growing surrogacy industry before it expands. Touch Channy, spokesman for the Ministry of Social Affairs, said that government ministries will discuss how to manage the growing numbers of surrogacy clinics. “The ministries need to work together to ensure that this case doesn’t happen in Cambodia,”

It is absolutely devastating to know that the many of the same people who ignored issues in India , then watched the fear and pain of their clients in Thailand as that country closed its doors to international surrogacy, jumped into Mexico within weeks, then began promoting surrogacy in Nepal- where they watched intended parents and their babies get stranded there simply start over in yet another country.   

I wish I could believe that these companies truly cared about surrogates, babies and intended parents. However, what Sam Everingham from  Families Through Surrogacy says "“Many of the clinics have a business model where they take advantage of being able to take clients to a country with a legal loophole,” he said, “until it’s no longer there, and then they have to move somewhere else.”   about clinics is equally applicable to international surrogacy facilitators, agencies and agents.   If your business model boils down to "get as many clients as you can in as fast as you can" before you get kicked out..... that does not inspire confidence in a company or an individual.  

I know the desperation that is driving couples to listen when their new "BFF" agent tells them that there are some risks, but not to worry you can trust your "Auntie" and they are professionals who are experts in all areas of this yada yada yada.   If any of you are reading this, please ask yourself this:

1.  How can a person who does not speak the local language, is not a legal or medical professional and who has spent only a  handful of days in a given location be an "expert" on something as medically, ethically and legally complicated as surrogacy?   

2.  Ask your facilitator what responsibility they will bear if you are directly harmed by taking their advice.  If they make a grave error about the quality of medical providers they have chosen for you,  who will be accountable for the results of that error?  Your facilitator?  No.  It will be you and your very fragile and much loved baby.  If you and your babies end up stranded in a country where surrogacy wasn't legal in the first place and whatever "loophole" the agency  was counting on is now closed.... will they help you pay your bills while you're in country?  Pay for your legal counsel?   Help you keep your job while your stuck thousands of miles away from home?   Do they have the concrete ability to do ANYTHING to help your family when things go pear shaped?  See how far that accountability and their commitment to you the client goes when you try to get that in writing.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Flavor of the Month - Written by Drew

The last eighteen months have been tough for international surrogacy facilitators and agents.  In the wake of several high profile cases, India has continued to tighten its restrictions on surrogacy.   Thailand closed its doors in 2014 although the case of Baby Carmen continues to highlight the danger of surrogacy in a place where the legal framework is evolving.  An earthquake in Nepal didn't slow them down, but the Supreme Court in Nepal has put a moratorium on surrogacy.  The news from Mexico has not been encouraging

Of all the possible locations on the planet to descend upon for surrogacy, where are the international facilitators and agencies going now?


 As a wise man once said, I'm not making this up.

Let's see what the US State Department (link) has to say about traveling to Cambodia.

On Crime:
"Cambodia has a high crime rate, including street crime. Military weapons and explosives are readily available to criminals despite authorities’ efforts to collect and destroy such weapons. Armed robberies occur frequently, and foreign residents and visitors, including U.S. citizens, are among the victims. The Embassy has also received reports that hotel rooms of U.S. citizen visitors in Phnom Penh were burglarized while the occupants were asleep."
"Local police rarely investigate reports of crime against tourists, and travelers should not expect to recover stolen items. It has also been reported that some police stations charge foreigners between $20 and $100 to file a police report."

The concept of someone breaking into my hotel room while I'm sleeping is creepy to say the least, the idea of this happening in a room where my newborn infant is sleeping is horrifying.  That's saying nothing about the military-grade weapons that are easily accessible.

On LGBT Rights:
"While there are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBT events in Cambodia, public attitudes remain negative towards LBGT individuals, and same sex marriage is generally not permitted. There have been no reports of arrests or violence related to LBGT travelers."

The fact that there have not been reports of arrests or violence related to LGBT travelers may seem encouraging, however the cultural climate of negativity towards the LGBT community is  concerning.  What is more concerning is that despite several cases of LGBT parents experiencing legal issues in non tolerant countries, that facilitators and agencies continue to bring their clients to places where their rights are not recognized and protected. 

Most importantly, this is what the US State Department says on on Health:

"Medical facilities and services in Cambodia do not meet international standards. Both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have a limited number of internationally-run clinics and hospitals that can provide basic medical care and stabilization. Medical care outside of these two cities is almost non-existent. Local pharmacies provide a limited supply of prescription and over-the-counter medications, but because the quality of locally obtained medications can vary greatly, make sure to bring a supply of your medications that is adequate for the duration of your stay in Cambodia. You should be wary of purchasing local medication. Counterfeit medication is readily available, often indiscernible from authentic medication, and potentially lethal."

Even if we were to ignore everything else, what about the above paragraph indicates that Cambodia is a safe and appropriate place to conduct a surrogacy?   By definition, surrogate pregnancies are considered high risk.  The increased risk of multiple pregnancy and prematurity make access to high quality health care critical for the safety and wellbeing of babies.

Likely, if you point this out to one of the facilitators or agents currently touting Cambodia as the next great option  for international surrogacy they will  tell you that "their" doctors and clinics are state of the art.  Given that they make thousands of dollars from IPs with absolutely zero accountability for outcomes, I suppose it's not surprising that they would minimize the risk.   Disappointing, but not surprising.  I mean really.... who cares what the State Department has to say as long as the facilitators "feel" good about it. 

Families through Surrogacy's website has the following to say about surrogacy in Cambodia:

Note:  The Cambodian surrogate retains parental rights under the law.   While facilitators may feel comfortable minimizing the risk that this poses to intended parents, one only has to look at the current Baby Carmen case to see just how dangerous ignoring the legal rights of the surrogate is.  

As always, we urge all hopeful IPs to consider the risks to everyone involved when it comes to weighing your options, no matter how desperate you may feel.  As has been said here before, where your baby will be born is the first decision you will make that could have serious and/or long-lasting repercussions on your baby's health.  As the first anniversary of my twins' birth and my son's death quickly approaches, I remember how we were reassured repeatedly that our surrogate was receiving the absolute best care possible, and that my twins would have access to the same level of healthcare as they would in a regional medical center in the United States.  My wife and I believed what we had been told repeatedly by our facilitator, and it wasn't until we received conflicting information in the wake of the premature birth that our facilitator admitted that she wasn't a medical professional.

As a matter of fact, none of them are.

None of them are legal experts in any of the numerous countries they have churned through over the last almost two years, either.   There is no possible way any of them could become legal experts on surrogacy in country after country after country.  

None of them are fluent in the local language, and I find it implausible that any of them could have become experts in the local customs and cultural practices in the very limited amount of time that they spend there before declaring a program "open for business." 

Yet they routinely present themselves to desperate intended parents as being experts who are able to determine whether a hospital, clinic, or even an entire country is an appropriate and safe place to bring a newborn into the world.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Perhaps my previous post was not clear.

I will not be posting comments from surrogacy professionals who abuse intended parents.   Period.      

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Commenting on this blog is not a right.

This is my blog.

I am not obligated to post abusive, inappropriate ugly comments.

I am not obliged to justify what I do and do not post here.

I am not obliged to give anyone a platform to attack and shame intended parents for speaking out about their experiences.

I am not obliged to promote anyone's business.

It is not my responsibility to promote international surrogacy.

If as an industry professional you feel that I am a big meanie head for demanding that people who charge thousands of dollars for their services be accountable?

Monday, September 14, 2015

When you don't know what to say to someone who has lost their child......

1.   Don't be an ass, don't insert a but after your condolences.   Try this:  "I am so incredibly sorry that this happened.   I just don't know what to say."  

2.  Do not ever say or imply that my son's  death was "for the best".   Period.   Ever.   If Johnny had lived he likely would have been neurologically devastated.   Guess what?  I love my children regardless of their abilities.   We would have loved and treasured him regardless of his potential for accomplishment.   Say this instead, "You must be devastated.   Would you like to talk about it?"

3.  Do not tell us that "god needed another angel".   Even if the person you are speaking to is religious, telling someone who has just lost their child that somehow it's because "god" needed them more than their parents did is naive at best, and insulting at worst.  Try this instead, "I'm going to be thinking about you.  I wish there were more I could do."

4.  Don't tell us when we should be done grieving.   You don't get to tell me when I "should" do anything related to Johnny's death.   Instead, say this "I know that this pain will never go away.  Anytime you would like to talk about Johnny, I would love to listen." 

5.  Don't tell us that if you lost a child that you wouldn't be able to go on.   What choice do you think I had?  Mere hours after my son died, I had to get on a take care of my daughter.   When I came home, did I want to crawl into bed and die myself?  Yes.   Was it an option?  No.  Because someone had to be there, not only for my living children, but for my husband.   Say this instead, "I can't imagine how you must be feeling.  I am so very very sorry."

6.  Don't compare grief.   Losing your parent, your friend, your sister, your grandmother or your beloved beagle is not the same as losing a child.   (Yes, these are all examples of grief comparison that I have heard.  Just say this, "There is nothing as painful as losing someone you love.   I am so sorry that this happened to you."  

7.  Don't try to make my grief about you.   You do not need to tell me how hard it is for YOU that I'm grieving.  You do not need to tell me that my son's death was hard for your kids or your husband or your best friend.   While you may be trying to show me that you're empathize with my feelings, all it does is put me in the position of having to comfort you.  I don't have the energy for that.   Try this instead, "My entire family has been thinking about you and how difficult this must be.   Please know that we care about you and want to help if we can."

8.  Don't be afraid to say my son's name.   There isn't a moment that goes by that I am not thinking about him.  Knowing that other people still think about him is a good thing.  If you are thinking of Johnny say, "I was thinking about your little guy the other day, if you ever want to talk about him, I would love to listen."

9.  Do not say "At least you have Maizy."   Please go look at your children.  Report back to me which one of them is disposable.   Of course, I am grateful that I have my daughter.   I am beyond grateful that I have all of my children.   That does not for one second take away from my pain at losing Johnny.   Say this instead, "How are the kids?  Do you think they might like to go to the park?  Would you like me to come by and hang out with them for a little while so that you could take a nap?"

10.  Don't try to imply that I, or any other parent who has lost a child is responsible for the death of their child.   Every single one of us lives with guilt and shame every day even if it is totally undeserved.  We don't need any help with that.  This is not the time to say,  "This is why I <insert did surrogacy domestically, don't vaccinate, used xyz product, etc>  If you need to congratulate yourself on what an amazing parent you are and reassure yourself that what happened to me will never happen to you-  Do it on your own time.  Say this instead:   "I am so incredibly sorry."  

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Surrogacy Beyond Borders Review and Complaint

Instead of addressing the very grave concerns raised by recent reports in the Mexican media about their practices, Surrogacy Beyond Borders has unfortunately chosen to attack and defame anyone brave enough to talk about this openly.   In my opinion, responsible, ethical providers have the ability to confront criticism honestly, are transparent about what mistakes were made and are committed to making concrete changes to improve.

More response from Lily Frost- Markowitz and Surrogacy Beyond Borders

Thursday, September 10, 2015

International Surrogacy Risks/ Danger of International Surrogacy: Eleven months.

Eleven months ago tomorrow our long awaited, much loved twins arrived.

Eleven months ago our hearts filled with joy and then shattered with sorrow.

People who we thought were our friends turned on us when  they realized  we were unwilling to allow them to treat the death of our son as an inconvenience to their business.

People who we mistakenly assumed would blame us for our son's death have surrounded us with love and support.

A lot has changed in the last eleven months.

Our beautiful, vivacious daughter has blossomed as the health issues related to the medical neglect of her surrogate and the consequences of her premature birth have slowly begun to resolve.    She starts every morning with a smile.   Her first word was "Yay!"   She now says, momma, daddy-ji and didi (sister).   She loves music, adores jewelry and waves to everyone we meet.  

Mr. Q has flourished in his role as big brother.   Having a little sister has helped him in ways that we never envisioned.   

I no longer feel as alone as I did in the first few months after losing Johnny.   Some incredibly wise, strong and beautiful women (I'm looking at you, JT and CR) have allowed me to rage when I needed to, cry when I needed to and have never told me to "get over" it.  

Some things remain the same:

We are just as devastated by Johnny's death as we were  the day  he died.   Perhaps even more so as the truth about his life and death has become more clear.  To anyone thinking of commenting   that it's time for us to "get over it",   I truly hope you never have are in the position to know just how wrong you are to say this to parents who have lost a child. 

We are still being threatened, harassed and defamed by people within the international surrogacy community for speaking out about the dangers that this unregulated multi-million dollar industry presents to babies, to surrogates and to intended parents.

The organization which purports itself as advocating for best practices in international surrogacy still promotes agents/agencies, facilitators and clinics with well documented and known problems.  

Despite story after story of devastated intended parents, suffering surrogates and babies put in harm's way, agents and facilitators continue to promote themselves as experts in the legal and medical  systems of countries they have only visited briefly.  

How many babies will have to die?  How many families will be left bankrupted and devastated, their dreams of a family shattered?  How many surrogates will have to  suffer immeasurably?  When will these   "surrogacy cowboys" recognize that while they may not be legally accountable for the suffering they profit from,  the reality is that they are morally and ethically complicit in it continuing.   

Lauren Hill said it best, "Never underestimate those who you scar, cause karma, karma comes back to you hard."

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Intimidation, Harassment, and threats

International surrogacy is generally presented a cost effective and safe alternative to domestic surrogacy.

One of the reasons that intended parents often buy into this myth is that when they go out to "research" it, they generally find blogs from parents who have had good experiences.   Pictures of healthy babies and beaming parents are extremely reassuring to people who are about to send thousands of dollars to a clinic thousands of miles away.

What these parents do not know is that parents whose experiences did not turn out positively are routinely harassed, intimidated and threatened for sharing their stories and opinions.   In the past year, I have been:

•Threatened with a lawsuit by a well known surrogacy facilitator for even implying that her behavior was less than professional.   This despite the fact that my assertion was clearly labeled as my opinion and that it linked to a press release that SHE published.  (She has also repeatedly tried to tell people that this press release went out on the AP wire, which would imply some sort of vetting. This is not accurate.  The press release is clearly on a public relations website.

•Threatened with lawsuits for sharing the reality of our experience in India and my opinion about it.

•Had my family's private medical information (and not all of the information shared was accurate) in an attempt to discredit my concerns about the care my son received in India.

•I've been called horrible names, been told that I deserved to lose a child, had my mental health questioned, been attacked in both public and private forums more times than I can even count.

•Despite me publishing my daughter's medical records substantiating the fact that the very serious health issues she faced after coming home to the US were caused by chlamydia and serious nutritional deficiencies in her surrogate, I have been called a liar.

Standing up to this kind of harassment while attempting to grieve for my son and care for my surviving children has been draining and extremely painful.   I understand why so many people take down their blogs and walk away from this community.

Talking about how John Patrick Hayden died will not bring him back.  However, while I could not prevent my son from being disposed of like garbage, I will not allow him to be forgotten.  If sharing his story means even one family is prevented from suffering the horror that we have, then I feel like we've made the right decision.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Surrogacy in Mexico Resource

One of the few unbiased sources on the state of surrogacy in Mexico can be found on Facebook.  This page is managed by the only person I know of who talks about surrogacy in Mexico, but who does not make money off of doing so.   A few of her recent blog posts include discussions on:

The articles include information on how Mexican law has been violated (commercial surrogacy in Mexico is NOT legal no matter how many times people try to play semantic games like "recatagorizing income"), allegations of surrogate mistreatment and bribery.

This page has extensive information for intended parents regarding the evolving situation in Mexico.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Nepal calls a halt

Nepal calls a halt to commercial surrogacy....

This is why it is so critical to make sure that the country you are doing surrogacy in has an actual law which allows commercial surrogacy.   Doing surrogacy in a country where it is "alegal" or depending on "loopholes" and playing semantics with the law is incredibly dangerous for intended parents and their children.    The middlemen who continually encourage IPs to take these incredible risks do so for one reason and one reason only-   profit.  

Friday, May 8, 2015

100th Post

When this blog was started, I was full of hope.   I was totally confident that I had found not just a good facilitator,  but a friend, in Kim Waters Hendrix of Complete Surrogacy Solutions.   I believed that International Fertility Centre was a clinic that I could trust not only with the lives of my children, but with the life of my surrogate.   I imagined a 100th blog entry which showed our joyful family,  complete at last.  

Mother's Day is approaching quickly and I wish I could say that I was excited.   I am happy to celebrate the relationship I have with my beautiful children.  At the same time,  I can't forget the fact that Johnny never got to feel his mother's arms around him.  He never got to hear me say, "I love you."   I never got to tell him how very much he was wanted and loved.  

While I know that Mother's Day will always be a painful and complicated day for me, I am profoundly grateful to the many people who have helped me get through the last six months.  I can honestly say I don't know how I would have managed without you.  

•Zachary, Alexander, Clarity, Quinn and Maizy, you have made me the person I am and give me a thousand reasons to get out of bed each day. 

•The US surrogacy community on Facebook has been an incredible source of support and strength.   Initially, I was very afraid of speaking out about our experience.   I was terrified that people would say that we deserved what happened to Johnny because we chose an international journey.  Instead, our family has been embraced with open arms and surrounded with support and love.    I cannot describe how grateful I am for that compassion and understanding.   

•Stephanie and Jennifer, you have listened to me rage and comforted me when I was almost incapacitated with grief.   I wish that the thing that brought us together had never happened to any of us.   However, I could not ask for stronger or more compassionate women to walk this difficult path with me.

•To Mrs. S., wherever you are, I am celebrating with my daughter this year because of you.  

•To all the IPs who could have stayed silent and allowed our family to be attacked and slandered, thank you for your courage, your integrity and your compassion.   It has meant the world.   

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Surrogacy in Nepal: International Surrogacy Disaster

One of the families currently stranded in Nepal with their newborns

Today our thoughts and prayers are with the surrogates, babies and intended parents who have been impacted by the terrible earthquake in Nepal.   There are reports of several Israeli families with premature babies who are trying to get out of the country.   I can only imagine how scared and worried they are as they try to keep their fragile babies safe.

One of the primary reservations I had when people first began touting Nepal as the next location for international surrogacy was the fragility of  infrastructure in the country.  For years experts have been warning about the danger to the area from earthquake,   especially given that in recent years construction has been largely unregulated.   Even prior to the quake, Nepal's medical infrastructure was fragile, not a single hospital in the country was accredited by the International Joint Commission on patient safety.   Now those facilities are overcrowded and running short on emergency supplies, and morgues are running out of space. BIR hospital is reported to be treating people in the streets.

Hours after the quake, the death toll is already above 1500.   However, surviving the initial quake and its  aftershocks is only the first hurdle that must be overcome.   The country is highly dependent on hydroelectric power plants, it's not yet clear what damage they have sustained.  Interruptions to the power grid are not unusual in Katmandu,  so many people and businesses have generators, however, given the significant damage to roads moving fuel to where it is needed is going to be very difficult.

I doubt that fertility clinics are going to be given first priority for allocation of what is likely going to be a scarce commodity.  This could have grave consequences not only for surrogates in housing, but for the thousands of embryos imported there in recent months.  

Cholera is a regular problem in Nepal, one which could easily become epidemic given the difficulty in maintaining clean water and adequate sanitation after a disaster of this magnitude.

When people advertise they are experts at surrogacy in a third world country the implication they are giving to intended parents is that they are prepared for the worst.   Unfortunately, as has been seen repeatedly, many of the so called "experts" are little more than expensive glorified travel agents with little to know understanding of the challenges that may be faced even under the best of conditions.  I have zero faith have the ability to truly help intended parents under conditions like these.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dr. Rita Bakshi/ Complete Surrogacy Solutions: Ashes to Ashes

GUEST POST by Jennifer Matusiak

I wish I could say I'm happy that Drew and Rhy asked me to write this post. I'm happy that there's some small part of this tragedy that I can take on for them but I don't think anyone could be anything but horrified at the subject.

It's recently come to light that the ashes Bakshi presented to Rhy as belonging to Johnny, ashes for which Bakshi demanded additional payment, may not have been Johnny's at all. In fact, they are, in all likelihood, wood ashes.

I realize this is a bold, and terrifying, statement. The idea that someone could be so heartless as to lie to a grieving mother about the ashes of her child is beyond the comprehension of most of us. So far beyond that I bet some of you reading this will not only question my sanity, but the science.

A lot of things can be debated, but scientific facts aren't one of them.

Fact: After cremation (open-air or electric) the ashes and pieces of bone are pulverized to a fine powder. This occurs both in the United States and in India.

I'm not sure why the authenticity of Johnny's ashes came into question and, ultimately, it doesn't really matter. Upon inspection of the ashes there are, quite obviously, small bits of wood mixed in with the ash.

Fact: In order for wood to be completely turned to ash, it needs to be held at temperatures between 1100-1500 degrees Fahrenheit for 2-4 seconds.

Fact: In order to be reduced to "ash" (with some bits of bone) a human body must be held at temperatures between 1400-1800 degrees Fahrenheit for 2-3 hours. These temps and times are standard for electric cremation chambers.

Knowing these facts, how could Johnny's ashes contain bits of wood (large enough to see with the naked eye) if he was, in fact, cremated in an electric crematory as Bakshi claims?

Answer: They can't.

Aside from the fact that wood isn't used in an electric crematory (so how could it be in Johnny's ashes?) it only takes 2-4 seconds to reduce wood to ash. It would have taken far longer to cremate Johnny's body, as tiny as it was, even accounting for the small overlap in necessary temperatures. So, had there for SOME reason been wood in the chamber, it would have been ashed.

There is no possible way for there to be identifiable pieces of wood in human ashes.

The unfortunate and horrible conclusion I was forced to make and present to Rhy was that the ashes she paid for could not possibly have been Johnny's. They can't be human, even.

THIS is what cremains should look like.

A fine sandy texture as opposed to a powder. This is because cremains aren't ashes, as such. The ashes presented as Johnny's are, quite obviously, just that. Wood ash.

Given the circumstances surrounding the entire issue (which Rhy has discussed previously) my conclusion is that Bakshi disposed of Johnny's body (either in the river, in the trash or “donated” to medical students for dissection) as she saw fit, without asking his parents what they preferred. Then, when they requested some small token of remembrance from their son (a lock of hair, a footprint) she realized her stupidity. After expressing their desire to have their son cremated she likely seized that opportunity to hide her idiocy, presenting ashes from a wood fire to Rhy and claiming they belonged to her son.

Unethical. Deceitful. Reprehensible.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Kim Waters Hendrix and the truth?

No posts yet, but we'll see how this next layer of harassment and abuse unfolds.

For the record, I have zero issue with someone who has a different experience with Kim sharing that.  They have just as much right to be heard as I do.    However, I think it's shady as hell to use a blog name designed to promote confusion and giving the impression that they know the truth about our situation?   Not okay.  Using a fake google profile to conceal your identity?  Not real professional.

Given the amount of our private and personal information, Kim has already shared about us I'm not sure what "truth" she'd like to reveal.   Perhaps she'd like to share the real reason that she and Dr. Bakshi did not use the mortuary that the American Consulate recommended?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Families Through Surrogacy: Consumer Advocacy Group or Trade Show?

I was very excited when I first joined the FTS conference committee .  I felt honored to be part of a group that promoted transparency, ethics and best practices in international surrogacy.  It wasn't very long though before  I began questioning how the conference's policy on sponsorship could be reconciled with its mission statement.   

While I understand the financial reality of doing conferences around the world, I am disheartened by the way the financial need for sponsorship appears to be overshadowing FTS's stated mission.   When I was on the committee one of the very difficult conversations we had regarded a set of sponsors who had ties to a medical tourism company currently under FBI investigation.   When I expressed concern about promoting players with a history that was at the  least problematic,  Sam responded with something along the lines of "Well they are being investigated, but they aren't indicted yet."

Surely there is a better measure of best practices than "Not yet indicted." Allowing people with long histories of questionable behavior the opportunity to promote themselves at Families through Surrogacy conferences not only makes vulnerable IPs a captive audience to providers with known issues, it undermines the credibility that the conference has with the wider surrogacy community.  Whether the committee realizes it or not, allowing someone to present at the conference is an endorsement of their services.

Unfortunately, the conference has been used by more than one provider in this manner.   Speaking at the conference legitimizes providers, allowing them to present themselves as recognized "authorities" when that is often not be the reality.  It grants them a veneer of respectability and allows them them not only a captive audience, but they can later refer to their "speaking engagement" as a way to recruit new clients.  

The year  I spoke at the West Coast Families through Surrogacy conference Kim Waters Hendrix of Complete Surrogacy Solutions also spoke.    It was very clear the conference was used as a platform  to promote her business.   This pattern was repeated later that same year in Australia, where many people complained of Kim's "grandstanding."  Kim  used the forum not only to promote her own services, but also to denigrate her competitors.

Last year, Megan Sainsbury was "banned" from the Families through Surrogacy conference in Australia.   This year, Kim Hendrix is banned while Megan is attending under the umbrella of the clinic she promotes in Mexico.  What changed during this time?  To my knowledge,  no one from Families Through Surrogacy has explained why Kim went from being actively promoted to being banned and what Meg did that resolved the issues that caused her to not be allowed at the conference one year and then allowed to return the next.

At the very least, if a concern is brought to a provider, and it's serious enough to warrant not allowing them to attend the conference,  and then they take the time and energy to resolve those issues so that you feel comfortable bringing them back, it seems like it would be in everyone's best interest to give them credit for making those changes.

If the conference wants to grant sponsorships to anyone willing to pay the fee,  in much the same way that vendors at a trade show are selected, that is clearly their prerogative.   However, it's my opinion that if you want to maintain credibility as a non profit IP focused advocacy group, "not yet indicted" and "not popular at this time" is an incredibly low standard for professional participants.

When Families through Surrogacy allows agents to abuse intended parents publicly and says nothing?  They are giving their tacit approval of the behavior.  They are in fact contributing to the climate of fear and intimidation that permeates the international surrogacy community.   When Families through Surrogacy is not transparent about how they choose sponsors, they are not modeling the transparency that intended parents should expect from ALL parties who work in this field.  

I know that I am not the first person, nor am I likely to be the last,  to bring these issues to their attention.

Consumer driven advocacy groups have a responsibility to advocate.   If they do not want to take on that responsibility then truth in advertising demands that they notify attendees that they are a trade group for agents and clinics.   This would all them to continue to provide information to consumers, but would give those intended parents the proper context for that information.

If you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem.  

Monday, March 30, 2015

Is this professional behavior? - by Drew

While we have always named specific people who have exhibited behavior with which we have grave concerns, it could still be possible that someone could read our blog and believe that we are against international surrogacy, and that it should be shut down.  This is not true.   Despite Johnny's death and what has transpired subsequently, without international surrogacy we would not have the delight that is our daughter.  However, we are disappointed by the sheer number of people in the international surrogacy community who seem committed to behaving in  unprofessional and/or questionable ways.

The most recent example of this:

Last night, I received this Facebook message from Catherine Moscarello, of IP Conceptions.

To put it (very) briefly, Ms Moscarello started out as a Planet Hospital employee.  Catherine and her husband seem to be the only ones to who materially benefited from its implosion.    While the rest of us lost thousands of dollars, Catherine Moscarello awalked away with a set of embryos and the entire Planet Hospital client file.  Catherine then launched IP Conceptions,  her own surrogacy facilitation business in Mexico.  In the beginning,  Catherine  consulted frequently with us as to our opinions on best practices, transparency, etc.   We wanted to believe that she had good intentions.  However,  when she began make decisions that appeared to put her interests above those of IPs  who had lost tens of thousands of dollars to Planet Hospital,  we spoke up.    On good days, she ignored the concerns we and others shared with her.  On other days, we and several other former Planet Hospital clients were viciously attacked.

Ultimately, we decided  there was no point continuing to engage with her, so we severed contact with her and considered the matter closed.

Putting aside the hubris that makes her think that we are required to publish any comment she were to write, let me point out that we have not "attacked" Megan Sainsbury.  While we have expressed disappointment at Meg's behavior towards friends of ours, we haven't made any posts that address her or her business.   I have no idea what comment Catherine is going on about.  Please keep this in mind as you read the conversation between Catherine and I.

The following is the screencap she linked me to:

And now these are my screencaps of the rest of our conversation:

Ms. Moscarello is correct that we have put things out there publicly.  If she would like to refute those things or address them, it's my understanding she has her own social media accounts that she can use to do so.  My wife has blocked Catherine on her telephone, on email,  on Facebook, has put her on ignore on BabyCenter and has repeatedly asked her to not contact us.   Despite that,  Ms. Moscarello  appears to believe she has the right to continue a barrage of unwanted and harassing contact. This does not seem like professional behavior.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Written by Drew - You know what they say about birds of a feather...

Sharing confidential information with other people is unethical and unprofessional. We will not address the many false statements in these emails because there are just too many to count. However, this sharing of information and bullying is not appropriate. We have redacted the client names to protect their confidentiality.
Upon seeing these messages, we decided to reach out to Carrie and respectfully request that she not engage in discussing our case anymore.  Enough people had already been made privy to our private information.
This was the answer we received.
Our response to her threatening us:
Her final message to us.
It would have been perfectly acceptable for Kim to ask the people who have had positive experiences with her to share them. She did NOT need to discuss all.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Kim Waters Hendrix & Complete Surrogacy Solutions Review and Complaint: Client Confidentiality

As I’ve written before, client confidentiality is a fundamental part of any professional surrogacy agency, facilitator, etc…     Surrogacy facilitators have access to financial information, medical information and are frequently given significant amounts of personal information by their clients.   

There were many times during my relationship with Kim where she shared information with me, that in retrospect was inappropriate.  I should not know about the couple who had to terminate their much wanted pregnancy at 13 weeks due to fetal abnormality, nor should I know anything about the sperm quality of several of my Facebook friends.  

That’s why when I found out that Kim was sharing my information with other people I wasn’t surprised.  Hurt, yes.  Surprised?  No.  One of the first people to let me know that this was going on was Paul McDavy.  Frankly, if he had been the only one and it had been an isolated issue, I probably would not be writing this post today. 

Posting information (and inaccurate information at that) about our struggle to get records  on my Facebook wall?  Not appropriate.  Sharing even more information with a prospective client?  Not professional.  

I confronted her about this in January:

One would have thought that this would have ended the matter.  However, it's very clear now that this pattern-  which was going on throughout our pregnancy and after our son died has continued.
She admits that she knew John wasn't well, although she and Bakshi repeatedly assured Drew and I that no oxygen deprivation had taken place.   Additionally, she fails to share that while she offered to go to Delhi it was with the understanding that Drew and I were footing the bill. 
Sharing details of our financial situation is not appropriate.   Additionally, we were being told that Adiva was a good hospital, there was no oxygen deprivation and no reason to move him unless we wanted to do so for the sake of doing it.  Given the information we had at time we made the decision to leave John where he was until I got there.  Had we been told that Adiva was not qualified to care for him, we would have moved him, regardless of cost.

Kim had absolutely no right to share the ongoing issues we were having in terms of getting the records or my other concerns. 
John died of HIE and Klebsiella pneumonia.  HIE is not genetic, nor is pneumonia.  HIE is caused by oxygen deprivation at birth.  Secondly, the genetic issue that our six year old has is not carried on the Y chromosome, it's maternally inherited...which is why we used an egg donor.  Lastly,  it is absolutely unfathomable that any person calling themselves a professional would feel this kind of disclosure is appropriate. 

I am also aware that Kim has also emailed clients, sharing her version of our tragedy and requesting that those clients give her positive reviews.   The fact that she has recruited other "professionals" not involved with our case to help her do this is even more disturbing.  While it's certainly her right to ask people for testimonials, the fact that she is continuing to share our personal, private information, despite our repeated requests that she not do so is disgusting.   

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Complete Surrogacy Solutions: You had ONE JOB - by Drew

I’ve been an IT professional for almost 10 years now.  I’ve been in my current job for a little over a year, and its been a new experience for me, as I’ve moved into a sysadmin role.  I very much enjoy my job, and I’d like to think I’m doing well in it.  If someone comes to me with a problem, I am straightforward about my ability to fix it, as well as how much time I think it’ll take.  If I misrepresent either, I’m not only making myself look bad, but my whole team’s appearance suffers.  In a similar vein, when dealing with vendor support teams, I need to be honest about my knowledge and experience in order for them to best know how to assist me.  If I were to claim I knew more than I did, I’d actually impede the process of resolving my problem.

When the disasters with our travel visas and our twins’ birth happened, I don’t doubt that on some level, Kim believes she did everything she could to help us.  The ultimate reality is she accomplished nothing that helped us.  One reason for this is that I believe that Kim, for all of her projected confidence, amiability, bluster, and bravado, doesn’t have any influence on the actual surrogacy process.  At the very least, she doesn’t have as much as she thinks she does.  Here is how I came to this conclusion.

Point 1 - Kim did not seem to have any substantial relationships with the professionals in India, and didn’t appear to have invested in the ones she may have had.

  Until she went there after we’d returned home, Kim hadn’t traveled to India since the birth of her ‘nephews’ back in May of 2013.  We know this, because said so on her Facebook page.   At the very least, despite promising us that she would, she never visited India while our surrogate was pregnant.  As a result, she never saw the conditions at Adiva Hospital.  If she had, one would think that different decisions about Adiva’s/Bakshi’s viability as a partner would have been made well before we became her actual clients.

  In all fairness, Kim did communicate with Bakshi’s office via Skype.  I know this happened at least once, as she was on a Skype call with them at the same time that I was at Bakshi’s clinic filling out our initial paperwork in November of 2014, and I saw her myself.  Even if that happened on a regular basis, if she never traveled there herself, she missed out on a tremendous opportunity to cultivate personal and professional relationships.

  There are loads of articles out there that talk about the commuting vs. telecommuting debate that many businesses contend with on a regular basis.  As an IT professional, I get asked about it, and contend with it, frequently.  I have a very pleasant working relationship with my colleague in Delhi, but I had only ever talked to him over Skype.  While I was in Delhi in October, though, I managed to meet him for the first time, took a tour of the Delhi office, and met a few of the other people who work there.  I thoroughly enjoyed doing so.  No longer was “the Delhi office” just a conceptual place to me, I could picture it.  I felt much more connected to my colleague, and he and I were able to talk about things that didn’t have anything to do with the work that we did together.  That deepened and broadened our relationship.

  Seeing the responses and reactions that Kim’s emails to Bakshi and her staff received as compared to ours, I didn’t see any real difference.  As far as we could tell, Kim seemed to be just another American emailing them with questions.  Skype is a great tool to promote connectivity with business entities in remote locations, but without that personal touch - meeting them in person, shaking their hand, exchanging pleasantries, etc. - a relationship can only be built so far.  Only so much a rapport can really be established.  Even though she was a facilitator, Kim didn’t seem to have any more of a relationship with Dr. Bakshi and her staff than we did in the beginning.

Point 2 - Kim never took an active role in our surrogacy journey

  Once we’d signed on with her, Kim sent us several documents about packages, pricing, etc.  One of them was a pre-natal schedule, which supposedly outlined when our surrogate would have checkups, ultrasounds, and the like.  Once we were pregnant, it seemed our entire lives revolved around how far along we were, and how long that meant we had to wait until we got the next ultrasound pictures.

  Almost right off the bat, we had to ask Kim when the next scheduled scan was going to take place and why there were delays.  It didn’t take us long to stop going through Kim entirely and ask Dr. Bakshi directly about the scans.  As a facilitator, Kim’s job was supposed to be preventing us from having to do that.

  We were entirely focused on the ultrasounds, as they were the only link we had to our developing twins.  As the IPs, this should be entirely unsurprising.  In retrospect, however, this was a mistake on our part.  We should have realized that if we had to chase after the clinic to perform ultrasounds on schedule, then who knows what was going on with our surrogate’s checkups?  We eventually did get the medical records for our surrogate, but by then all the damage was done.  Had we asked for these records during the pregnancy, we could have voiced our concerns about Mrs. S’s rising blood pressure and anemia.   Rhy did voice some concerns about Mrs. S’s risk of developing gestational diabetes, but was shamed into silence.  This happened more than once.  While it would have been good for Kim and Dr. Bakshi to at least hear out her concerns, it would have been ideal for them to have been proactively addressed.

  But again, this was supposed to be Kim’s job as our facilitator to ask for and obtain those records.  By being the one who was supposed to monitor the surrogate’s health status, she was supposed to be allowing us to focus on those precious ultrasound pictures.  Instead, all we got were assurances that we were having the ‘picture perfect’ twin pregnancy.  Basic monitoring of our surrogate’s health should have made it quite clear that this was not the case.

  Another set of promises that Kim made to us was that she could help us get what we needed during our stay in Delhi.  She had supposedly negotiated a special rate for her clients at the Hilton Garden Inn.  She had a deal with a local driver and his fleet.  Her package and pricing material even claimed that she would get us an Indian cellphone.  While we remarked to her at the time that an Indian cellphone would be considered quite valuable when we traveled there, we never heard any offer or mention of it again.

  We did not initially stay at the Hilton when we arrived in Delhi.  My colleague at work recommended one that my fellow Seattle-based employees stay at when they travel to Delhi.  While it was very close to Adiva Hospital, it wasn’t as good a hotel as the Hilton was supposed to be.  So we asked Kim to help us make arrangements for her reduced rate at the Hilton for the remainder of our stay.  It was then that we learned that her ‘contact,’ with whom she’d supposedly negotiated the reduced rate for her clients, had left the Hilton for another job, and had left some number of months prior to our arrival.  This is something that, if she were actively managing her relationships in India, she would have known well in advance of our arrival.  So in the end, we had to pay full price.

  Before we even left for Delhi, Kim asked Rhy to check in on another couple’s surrogate for her.  Personally, the fact that she had the gall to ask that of us infuriated me.  Our son, after all, had just died.  Rhy, however, was smart - Given that we were already upset with the level of effort Kim had put out on our behalf, if she checked on this surrogate, then that couple could be assured of a thorough, honest evaluation of the surrogate’s condition.  In exchange for Rhy essentially doing Kim’s job for her, Kim offered to pay for one of our nights at the Hilton.  Even then, she’d only made those arrangements after I reminded her to do so twice.

  She also gave us no assistance with obtaining our exit visas, despite that being one of the most important parts of her self-written job description.  The documents we’d need, the steps we’d have to take once we’d arrived at the FRRO, even the appointment itself were all arranged by Poonam Jain, a consultant in Delhi who has helped many intended parents leave India with their babies, and someone who had worked in the US consulate for many years.  Thanks to her, we were able to get in and out of the FRRO with our exit visas in about 2 hours.  All we had heard from Kim on this subject were horror stories she’d read about online, which involved couples forced to make multiple trips to the FRRO over several days, and in some cases weeks.  “Try to stay calm and give them whatever they ask for,” comprises the sum of her ‘advice’ to us.

  While we were at the FRRO, we learned that the rules had changed regarding medical visas for surrogacy that required us to register with the FRRO upon our arrival.  We didn’t know this, and because the rule change came so close to our arrival, the FRRO agents allowed us to leave despite this oversight.  I understand that rules can change often, but rules such as these are ones that Kim should have been keeping extremely close track of.  Despite us informing her of these changes, she did not pass this information on to another pair of intended parents, and as a result, they had multiple issues obtaining their exit visas, one of which was caused by this rule change.

Conclusion: Kim would seem to have very little to no influence in India.

  When Johnny died the day before Rhy’s flight to Delhi was set to depart, we sent multiple emails to Kim, the US Consulate, and Dr. Bakshi’s team, pleading with them to save a lock of his hair, or take a handprint or footprint for us, as they would serve to be the only physical link we’d have to his 10 days of life.  We have since learned that the way Indian culture handles the death of a child/infant is much different than the way it is handled here in the US, both from a medical and cultural standpoint.  To judge another culture through the lens of one’s own is the height of ignorance, so I want to make clear that this is NOT what we are doing.  Given that, though, I would presume that one would be hard pressed to find someone, regardless of cultural background, that would find our request unreasonable.  Yet when Kim made our request to Dr. Bakshi and her staff on our behalf, the answer we received is that it simply could not be done.  While we were never told why this was the case, here is what I see this is a symptom of, and the point that I have been building towards for the last 3 pages.

  Kim was a facilitator who was sending intended parents to Dr. Bakshi’s clinic.  In short, Kim was supposedly helping Dr. Bakshi make quite a bit of money.  Kim appeared to only maintain digital lines of communication with her, and did not participate actively in the surrogacies that she was responsible for.  As a result, despite the basis of their relationship, it would seem that Dr. Bakshi did not see her relationship with Kim to be important enough to warrant a departure from the standard procedure, even in the event of a premature infant’s death.

I understand and am fully aware that India is a very different country than the United States, and has a very different way of doing things.  At the same time, advertising yourself as a surrogacy facilitator in a country in which you have no ability to take or influence real actionis, at best, foolhardy.  At worst, it is reckless and dangerous.  Kim boasted to us early on in the process that if we were disappointed in Bakshi in any way, Kim would call her up and ‘read her the Riot Act.’  She claimed that she did this several times over the course of our pregnancy, yet we didn’t see Dr. Bakshi’s or her staff’s behavior change at all over time.  Had Kim actually had any of the influence she claimed to have, she could have prevented the death of our son and the infection of our daughter with an STD.  At the absolute minimum, she could have avoided having a set of grieving parents end up with no physical remembrance of their son, which is one of the worst things for the grieving parents of an infant to have inflicted upon them.  We continue to hope that no set of parents ever experiences anything like this as a result of trusting someone they shouldn’t have.