You probably know that American Adoptions loves families of all kinds, no matter how they come together. Did you also know that we have a sister agency — American Surrogacy?

We help hopeful parents add to their families through adoption and surrogacy! There’s no wrong way to become a family. But which one is right for you?

Please note that here, we’re specifically comparing domestic infant adoption and gestational surrogacy. Other types of adoption and surrogacy will have their own variables to consider, so keep that in mind.

If you’re unsure of whether you should choose adoption or surrogacy, ask yourself these 5 questions:

1. Do you want your baby to look like you?

For many, the dream of a child that resembles and acts like you and/or your spouse is difficult to shake. It’s hard enough to accept that you’re unable to carry your child. Accepting that your child isn’t biologically related to you may not be another thing you’re willing to let go of. 

For others, genetic connections don’t matter too much. Besides, maybe you have a not-so-spotless health history that you can avoid passing on to your child. Countless families have been created through gamete donors, adoption and other non-biological means — you’ve likely seen firsthand that “not matching” doesn’t affect the love felt within those families.

Here are the differences:

Surrogacy: It depends on your situation, but for some, gestational surrogacy offers the chance for both intended parents to be the biological parents of the child. For others (same-sex couples, single parents, couples where one parent does not have viable gametes), one parent may still be able to be genetically related, along with a gamete donor.

Adoption: Just like when you were born, it’ll be luck of the draw! Your child will share traits with his or her birth family. But again, this won’t affect the bond you share.

A related point that should be addressed: There’s a common fear in the back of adoptive parents’ minds that often worries, “Will I be able to love a child that isn’t biologically related to me? Will I be able to bond with him or her like I would with my ‘own’ child?” This, however, isn’t something you need to worry about. Regardless of the path to parenthood you ultimately choose, you’ll find that you’ll love your children the same, no matter how they came into your family.

So your main consideration should be whether or not you can fully accept a child who is biologically connected to someone else.

2. What’s your budget like?

It’s a common myth that one option is wildly more expensive than the other, but the answer you get always seems to depend on who you’re talking to! The reality is that both options require an investment. It’s not easy, but you could make either work with some help and know-how.

Here’s how the costs typically break down:

Surrogacy: When it’s all said and done, surrogacy is still going to be costlier than private domestic adoption, averaging around $75,000–$125,000 or more. A lot of that cost will be from the medical procedures of surrogacy, like fertility medication, embryo transfers and the costs of the surrogate’s pregnancy. How much you spend on the medical aspects will depend on how long it takes for your surrogate to become pregnant and other variables. In addition to covering the costs of pregnancy-related expenses, your total cost will include your surrogate’s base compensation.

Adoption: While it’s more affordable than surrogacy, private domestic adoption can still be costly, averaging at $40,000–$50,000. Like surrogacy, you’d still be responsible for the pregnancy-related costs. The primary variables that affect the total cost of adoption are the financial needs and situation of the expectant mother, which vary with each woman — does she just need help with medical expenses, or does she also maybe need help affording her rent and transportation to and from appointments throughout the pregnancy?

With both adoption and surrogacy, there are financing options available. However, there are additional grants and tax credits available for adoption.

3. How long are you comfortable waiting?

Babies are rarely instantaneous! Even for families who have children biologically with no complications, there will be about a nine-month wait, right? Unfortunately, with both surrogacy and adoption, you’ll usually wait longer. But there’s no way to tell exactly how long in either option.

Surrogacy: With American Surrogacy, the entire process takes about one to two years. Somewhat similar to adoption, there’s a “matching” process, which can take a couple months or more. But, since intended parents play a more active role in this mutual matching process, and since there are usually several pre-screened surrogates available to work with at any given time, this process does not usually take as long as it would if you were waiting for a prospective birth mother to choose you. Once you and a surrogate have been matched together, it can sometimes take several rounds of embryo transfers for her to become pregnant, so it may be several months before a viable pregnancy occurs.

Adoption: With American Adoptions, the average wait is about the same — approximately one year. But with adoption, there are additional unknowns involved, which mean each family’s wait can be entirely different. Some families will be chosen by a potential birth mother within days of beginning their wait. Others will wait months for the right birth mother to choose them. Some families will have long matches with a prospective birth mother who chose adoption early in her pregnancy, while others may be chosen by a potential birth mother who has already given birth. Some will experience disrupted adoptions, which can add more months to their wait.

There are things you can do to decrease your likelihood of waiting in adoption. Opening up your APQ and being receptive to a broader range of potential birth mothers is the best way to do this.

4. What kind of relationship do you want to have with the woman who helps you become a parent?

With both surrogacy and adoption, you’ll have some form of interaction and relationship with the woman who carries your child, and potentially others. The relationship that you share, like any relationship, will depend on the people involved more than anything else. The relationship that you have with this woman will be unique — no two situations are alike.

So while there are some similarities, there are also a few differences between relationships in surrogacy and adoption:

Surrogacy: Although surrogates are compensated for the considerable time and effort they put into this approximately year-long journey, your relationship is far from transactional. Surrogate-intended parent relationships are often very close. Many become close friends, similar to extended family. However, others don’t feel as strong a need to maintain a close relationship after surrogacy. That’s because your gestational surrogate would not be biologically related to your baby. She’s a mom herself, and she feels moved to help others have the families they’ve been waiting for; she won’t have the same deep, emotional connection to your baby that a birth mother has in adoption. The amount of contact and involvement that you choose to have with one another before, during and after the process is entirely up to you and your surrogate.

Adoption: Like surrogacy, the amount of contact and involvement that you would share with your child’s birth family can vary, but in adoption it’s primarily up to the birth mother to decide what she’s comfortable with. The biological connection that your child shares with his or her birth family is, of course, for life. It’s not only common, but strongly encouraged for birth and adoptive families to stay in touch after the adoption. Birth and adoptive families also often become close friends, but in many ways, they are connected like family through their child.

Whether you choose surrogacy or adoption, you’ll need to embrace other people in this journey. The type of relationship you’re willing to have is something you’ll need to decide for yourself, however. All relationships in life require mutual effort, but the relationship that you share with the people who help create your family will be worth it.

5. What unknowns can you handle?

This may be the most important question you ask yourself when deciding between adoption and surrogacy. In either option, there are a lot of unknowns that you’ll be faced with. You’ll never be fully in control with either path, and this can be difficult to accept for many hopeful families.

But between adoption and surrogacy, there are different unknowns and variables to consider, which can influence your decision:

Surrogacy: In surrogacy, you’ll be more in control of the process. You’ll be able to mutually choose your surrogate and your gamete donors (if applicable). Surrogates and donors have all been meticulously screened, so you know they have good health histories and that your surrogate will be receiving prenatal care. You can check in with your surrogate, attend appointments and be present for the birth.

Like in any pregnancy, unforeseen circumstances can arise. Variables including how the surrogate’s body responds to fertility medications, the viability of your embryos and other factors will all still be out of your hands. Ultimately, there will be some unknowns when it comes to your wait time, total cost and, depending on your situation, the potential for having a genetic relationship.

Adoption: In adoption, prospective birth mothers are the ones who are primarily in control of the process. This pregnancy is unplanned, prospective birth mothers can change their minds, and a woman may not have received prenatal care before connecting with an adoption professional.

There are some additional unknowns you would have to be willing to accept in adoption, which can include when you would be chosen by a birth mother, if she’ll ultimately decide to place her baby for adoption and more. Up until consent is final, most decisions will be made by the birth parents.

Remember: Even families who have children biologically face unknowns. Any parent of any kind will tell you that there are no guarantees.

It’s up to you to decide how much control you’re willing to let go of. No matter what you choose, your surrogacy or adoption professional will be there to help you through it. If you’re still not sure which route you want to choose, feel free to contact us at 1-800-ADOPTION (236-7846). If you are considering surrogacy, you can also contact our surrogacy specialists for more information.