Surrogacy Simplified: Podcast Episode #244

Kristin Revere and Jessie Jaskulsky discuss the types of surrogacy and options for families in this informative Ask the Doulas episode.  Jessie also gives her top tips for families who are considering surrogacy.   Jessi owns Surrogacy Simplified.

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with Jessie Jaskulsky of Surrogacy Simplified today.  We are going to talk all things surrogacy.  I’d like to share a bit about her background.  After a devastating 22-week pregnancy loss that led to secondary infertility, Jessie spent years trying to complete her family and ultimately had both of her daughters through surrogacy.  Through Jessie’s journey to becoming a mom, she felt as if there was an obstacle at every turn.  Jessie founded Surrogacy Simplified, a boutique surrogacy consulting and white glove concierge that helps intended parents start or complete their family through the selfless gift of surrogacy.  Jessie takes care of all of the details, big and small, allowing her clients to truly enjoy this pathway to parenthood.

Welcome, Jessie!

Thanks for having me!

So happy to have you on!  I would love to begin with a bit about the definitions, the types of surrogacy, if you wouldn’t mind explaining that to our audience who may not be as familiar.

Absolutely.  It’s interesting because the way the terms are used has even changed from the birth of my oldest daughter to now.  I’ll get into that a little bit.  Gestational carrier is the most common surrogacy arrangement in the United States, and that is when the surrogate is using an embryo that does not have any biological connection to them.  So the egg would be from the intended mother or a donor egg, and the sperm from the intended father or donor sperm.  Traditional surrogacy is when the surrogate – it’s the surrogate’s biological egg and the intended father or donor’s sperm.  When I first was expecting my oldest through surrogacy, it was important for me that people used the term gestational carrier instead of surrogate because I wanted them to know that my daughter had the biological connection to me.  But now, over the past couple of years, surrogacy has become so much more talked about and widespread that people sort of use the terms gestational carrier and surrogate interchangeably, which is interesting.  It hasn’t been that much time, but it has been a shift over the past few years.

Yes, that is interesting, and I don’t think that it’s talked about enough.  I do feel like, whether it’s reality tv or the media, there is more information.  I mean, even thinking of some of the Kardashians and their journey and how they highlighted their own experiences and struggles with secondary infertility.

Right.  And interestingly, traditional surrogacy is not legal in a lot of states.  Gestational surrogacy is legal in 47 of the 50.

Interesting.  Yes, I know Michigan is working on legislation, but we’re not quite there yet.

Yes, I’m crossing my fingers that by the end of this year, we are having a different conversation.

Same!  As far as finding a surrogate, let’s talk about that process.  You know, sometimes it could be a family member or a friend who then carries.  I know a lot of doulas have a love for everything pregnancy, birth, and baby, and I have friends who have been surrogates, not for their own personal clients, but yes, have been matched with agencies and so on.

That’s so beautiful!  Yes, there’s different ways to find a surrogate.  One way would be asking a member of your community, whether that’s a family member or a friend or even going to social media.  Some people want to keep it more private, and then there are others who share their story.  I actually have a client right now where she’s shared a little bit of her story on her Facebook status, and a friend of a friend – people shared it, and then she was connected to somebody that way.  Believe it or not, that does happen.  That’s one way, and I would say the biggest pro of that would be saving the cost of using an agency to help you match.

If you do not have anybody that you think would come forward to carry for you, using an agency is a very common method, as well, and the agency would help recruit and find a surrogate that matches some of the things that you’re looking for.

More recently, there have been these sort of intermediaries that pop up.  One that comes to mind is Nodal.  You can think of it like a dating site, but it’s between gestational carriers and intended parents where they can kind of connect.  It’s not free, but compared to an agency fee, it’s less expensive.  So it’s a middle ground in terms of cost.

I love it.  That is an excellent idea!  So how did you get into this work?  Obviously, you have your personal experience, but to start a business and pivot in that way is a big move.  I’m interested to hear what led you to starting Surrogacy Simplified and how your business is unique and maybe even collaborates with agencies since you do so much of the concierge work for clients.

Yes.  I love that.  Thank you.  So really, when I went through the process twice, I felt like it was just very, very complicated.  And there should be lots of steps involved.  I mean, this is somebody else carrying your baby.  But with that being said, my first journey was with an agency, and my second one was totally independent, meaning I found somebody and I managed the process on my own.  Both times, I felt like the amount of hours my husband and I spent in the evenings kind of project managing the journey – we liked it, but I felt like for somebody else, I just wanted to make it less complicated for them.  I was previously a speech pathologist and just felt so driven to want to help other people that have gone through something similar to me.  Last year, I just did a complete career pivot and opened my doors and have never looked back.  It’s just been so incredibly fulfilling.

I love that!  As far as the process of working with you, what would that look like?

Yes, I have two buckets of independent parents that I support.  Those going on that independent journey that we discussed who might know somebody who’s willing to carry for them – I case manage the entire journey, meaning I connect them with their attorneys, their psychologists, the escrow, the health insurance, the fertility clinic.  In addition to all of those logistics, I also wanted to feel like this warm hug, a friend, somebody they can really trust who’s gone through it personally who they can text questions to who is really going to make the process smooth and enjoyable for them.

For those who need an agency, I’m going to work with them and find out their priorities, whether it’s cost, trying to match, all the different things, and help them find an agency that best suits their needs.  And then the agency is going to work on matching them and doing some of that case management I described, and I’m going to work on all of the little details to make sure that they have a really incredible journey and everything’s taken care of, big and small.

Excellent.  So Jessie, I’m sure that you’re much different than an agency with the concierge aspect if, say, the family is looking to have a birth doula supporting the labor journey for the surrogate or looking for day or overnight newborn care, for example.  You know the experts in each area and are able to match, correct?

Absolutely, yeah, and I love offering a doula to the carrier because it’s just another person for the delivery who’s really there to support them and make sure that the delivery is just exactly how they envisioned it.

And how do you work with budgets?  Are there any benefit packages that you’re able to draw from?

Yes, that’s one of the first questions that we’ll ask the families, and based on that, we will decide what’s the best path for them.  Sometimes it’s applying for grants or financing.  Insurance is getting a little bit better, but a lot of it doesn’t cover it, unfortunately.  But specific to using a doula, I do think that some of our surrogates might be eligible for that, as well, which is great.

Yes.  Again, depending on benefits or the state they’re in.  Medicaid covers doulas in many states.  Fascinating.  As far as your top tips for our listeners when they are looking into surrogacy as an option for their family, what are your favorites?

I have a few.  I would say being patient with the process.  I know it’s really hard.  I’m sure a lot of people listening might already have a child, but now they’re looking to complete their family.  I, too, struggled with secondary infertility.  And being patient is so hard when you just feel like your family’s not complete.  But I would say to anticipate the surrogacy process to be a little bit long.  That way, you know what you’re getting yourself into.  I’d say an average is probably 8 to 24 months, start to finish.  I also suggest thinking about the type of relationship you’d want to have with your surrogate, and the reason I think that’s important to consider in the beginning is that way when you go to match, you meet with someone who’s on the same page with you, and then you’re in alignment and you have this really incredible journey because you’ve clearly communicated what you were hoping to get out of it and you met somebody accordingly.

I can give an example.  For me, I had chosen surrogacy after a late pregnancy loss, and it was recommended – it caused me secondary infertility, and I had just been coming from this place of a little bit of trauma, and I knew I needed a surrogate that was wanting to have a friendship and open communication because I had gone through this loss, and I knew if I hadn’t talked to my surrogate for a week or two, it would just create anxiety.  So I shared that I was looking for a friendship, and both times – I think since I laid out my expectations so clearly in the beginning, my husband and I had these two really amazing relationships with the surrogate and her family.

I love that.   It definitely is such a unique situation.  I’m sure some of your families want no contact, and others, again, want that emotional connection that you would have with, say, a doula, for example.

Right.  Exactly.

So as far as understanding laws, how does one navigate it without an expert like yourself?  Each state is so different, and understanding how to follow guidelines is so important, I’m sure, in this process.

Absolutely.  I think it’s helpful to have a general understanding of the state you live in, but at the end of the day, you’re following the law where the baby is going to be born and where the surrogate lives.  So anyone listening that lives in Michigan, for example, where you’re based, even though it’s not currently surrogacy friendly, if you’re able to find a surrogate in a different state, it’s not like you’re not able to move forward with surrogacy.  And then you would speak to the attorneys to learn the details in whichever state that the surrogate’s living in.

Exactly.  So Jessie, what would you say the best explanation for – you know, I guess what I’m trying to get across is I feel like secondary infertility is not discussed enough, and it’s important to understand all of the family’s options.  So are you utilizing resources as you’re talking to families who are struggling?  Are there support groups?  How does one navigate this?

Absolutely.  I know for me with my secondary infertility, I was sort of in this gray area where the doctors were like, yeah, you can keep trying, or we can move to surrogacy.  And I had wanted that black and white answer and would have loved a support group to talk about this with.  There’s actually somebody that I’ve connected with that I would recommend people can check out.  Her Instagram handle is @holdingboth, and she does have support groups specific for secondary infertility.

And I would think families who’ve gone through a lengthy process of IVF, they’re exhausted physically, mentally, and they still want this baby, and so understanding that they have more options outside of, say, adoption is important.  Spreading the awareness is key.


As far as matching with a surrogate, there would obviously be some physical and mental aspects related to being a good candidate if someone’s interested in being a surrogate themselves.  How does that process work?

Yes.  So once you’ve identified a surrogate, the first step is that the surrogate collects her medical records, and if she’s working with someone like myself or an agency, they’re helped along the way with this part of the process.  The records are sent to the fertility clinic for an initial review of her prenatal and delivery records to make sure everything looks okay.  Beyond that, she’s also evaluated at the fertility clinic.  So there’s sort of this physical evaluation that takes place.  There is also a psychological component where, interestingly, the intended parents are evaluated.  The GC and her spouse are evaluated.  And then there’s, depending on the state, but I highly recommend, there is a group session that occurs where the psychologist leads a session where she talks about issues and how they would handle them to just put everything out there in the beginning and create this harmonious relationship.

And then there’s certainly a lot in the news about getting surrogates and families on the same page with, say, medical issues that may arise with the baby.  Can you speak a bit to that concern that families may have if the surrogate has different wishes than they do?

Yes.   There’s a few things that come to mind.  First is that in your legal contract, you would talk about some of these issues and how you handle them.  It would be written out in a legal contract.  Secondary to that, when you’re matching, I would encourage families to think about some of these topics and talk about them up front to make sure you match accordingly.  An example of that is vaccinations and worst case scenario is terminations if something were to be medically wrong or life altering for the baby.  Those are just two examples, but however you feel about whatever the topic is, you bring it up to your surrogate, even though it feels uncomfortable to have that discussion in the beginning.  I really recommend it because that way you don’t fall in love with somebody and have paid for their evaluation and their psychological evaluation, paid for the attorneys, and then found out you’re not going to agree because you won’t be able to get past the legal phase.

Yes.  And then of course every state has different laws on termination in pregnancy, so needing to follow those laws and make sure that you’ve had that open discussion.  As with anything related to pregnancy and early parenting, being on the same page, especially with surrogacy, I feel, is so important.

Absolutely.  I joke when I’m with my intended parents that anything you don’t want to talk about at Thanksgiving with your extended family, these are the topics to bring up when you’re matched because it’s going to come up on your legal contracts, so you have to just get it over with, and better to get it out in the beginning before any money’s been spent because I try to be really conscious of how expensive the process is and making sure you move forward with somebody that you’re really going to be on the same page with.

Exactly.  And then certainly if there are multiples, then there are totally different considerations with more than one baby.

Yes, absolutely.  Both singles and multiples would be great with a doula, but especially with twins, they would really benefit from using a doula.

Absolutely.  So Jessie, how long do you follow the families that hire you?  Are you working with them a couple of months after baby or babies are born?  Or when does that journey begin and end, essentially?

I like to call it end to end.  So in the beginning when they’re thinking about surrogacy all the way to when the baby is born.  My preference is to be with them through the fourth trimester, just so I can check in with them, if they need a doula, if they need a night nurse.  I can be coordinating that on their behalf because they’re going to be tired, and I want to take care of everything for them so they can just focus on baby.

And do families ever hire you in that fourth trimester, that postnatal recovery phase, in just wanting some extra support and knowing that you are the expert?  Or is it mainly in pregnancy?

I would say it’s typically in the way that my services work that they retain me for about 18 to 24 months, so best case scenario, the minute they decide they’re going to go through surrogacy, we can partner together.  I can also just educate them on all of the things to know and then stay with them through the fourth trimester because it’s such a special time, and I want to make sure they have everything that they need.

It is.  So you’re supporting the family after the surrogate delivers.  What kind of support do you offer with the family to potentially pay for add-ons to support the surrogate?

Yes, if there was anything that the surrogate needed, I would help them coordinate that, whether it’s food, whether they need doula care, anything that might make them recovery and help with their recovery, I’m happy to coordinate.  And I would just be setting it up on their behalf, and the intended parents would be paying for those expenses.

How fascinating.  So is there anything else that you would like to cover that we didn’t address, Jessie?

I think we covered so many important things.  I would let listeners know that I offer a complimentary consultation, whether they want to work with my directly or just learn about surrogacy.  I’m happy to help them out, and they can get to that directly on my website, which is

And you’re also active on Instagram?

Yes, @surrogacysimplified.  I try to post a combination of informative, lightheartedness, so people can learn a lot that way, as well.

Excellent.  Well, thank you so much for being on Ask the Doulas!  We’ll have to have you back on when Michigan makes some changes here, hopefully very soon!



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