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Helping Couples Become Parents Is Reston Woman’s Mission

by Karen Goff — November 20, 2013 at 10:45 am 7 Comments

Susan Fuller of Reston has been a gestational surrogate seven times/Family photoReston’s Susan Fuller is days away from delivering a baby. Her pregnancy, like her previous ones, has been an easy ride. She will likely go to kickboxing class as usual this week, work on homeschooling her teenagers and get ready for the big day.

She will also say goodbye to the infant and hand him off to his parents.

Fuller, 45, is a gestational surrogate. The baby she is carrying is not her own. He belongs to a couple in Richmond who could not carry to term and who already had one child with a surrogate. Fuller, to whom they were introduced through a friend, was happy to help them out.

“I have felt from the very beginning, when I had my hands full with kids ages 5, 3 and 2, that I had no desire to bring a baby home,” Fuller said. “I do it for the parents.”

Fuller is part of a growing trend. Nationwide, the number of births by gestational surrogates rose by 122 percent  (from 530 to 1,179) between 2004 and 2011, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine

This is Fuller’s 10th pregnancy. First, she gave birth to her own three children (now 16, 14 and 13). She “enjoyed every minute” of being pregnant, so she heavily researched surrogacy and contacted an agency specializing in matching couples and surrogates.

Since 2002, Fuller has given birth to two sets of twins and four singletons. Neither a disappointing first experience nor a later stillbirth due to a chromosomal abnormality has turned her away from the experience.

The first birth — a difficult twin delivery at 39 weeks — was made tougher because, Fuller says, the couple was not clear about what kind of relationship they wanted with her.

“I knew this was a lifelong relationship,” she said. “They did not view it that way at all.”

Since then, Fuller has been very upfront about what she expects to get out of the arrangement.

“I want a connection with the parents, not with the baby,” she says.  All of the families were local at the time of the pregnancies.

“It is super fun to see them grow up, to see their pictures on Facebook,” she said.

Fuller, a former nonprofit executive and industrial designer who currently teaches water fitness at the YMCA Fairfax County Reston, is compensated but prefers not to talk about how much she is paid. Most surrogates are paid upwards of $25,000, plus medical expenses, surrogacy agencies report.

Fuller’s pregnancies have affected the whole family somewhat, says her husband, Doug. But he weighs that with what they have gotten in return. The money has helped them put aside college funds for their own kids. And along the way they have met some nice families, he said. Meanwhile, the Fuller children have grown up with their mom being a surrogate.

“For the most part, everyone has been great.” said Doug Fuller. “We did this as a family, and that is something that has made us unique.”

Fuller says her advice to someone thinking of becoming a surrogate: Think hard about what is right for you and what you want to get out of it.

“Keep in mind your needs and the parents’ needs,” she said. “You can be true to yourself but also create the best experience for these people.”

(Photo courtesy of Susan Fuller)

  • Agnes Nutter

    Are couples not already a family?

    • LesAnn620

      As a “family” choosing not to have kids, I like that you brought this up. I anticipate my husband and I, married just over a year, will be getting a lot of questions this holiday season. (“When are you two starting a family?” Uh. Getting married didn’t make us one? We have a dog and 18 nieces and nephews that we love.) And this is a great blog post on the topic of just that:
      http://offbeatfamilies.com/2013/01/family-of-two

      My comment is totally in response to Agnes, not to the article itself, which is great. Susan Fuller, you’re amazing and I have tons of respect for you.

      • Karen Goff

        Point taken. I changed it to “parents” not families in the head. Of course families are in all different forms.

        • LesAnn620

          That’s because you rock, Karen. 🙂 I think it’s such a culturally ingrained thing that it’s something we do that we don’t even realize.

    • Karen Goff

      Point taken. I changed it to “parents” instead of families.

  • Charlotte Geary

    Wow, fascinating! I applaud her for doing something so generous to help other families.

  • Heather

    I wish I knew about her when we decided to start a family. We adopted hmm am I too old to have an infant I am 44?

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