Before becoming a surrogate, you have to fit a somewhat specific criteria. Most agencies won't work with you if you don't meet the specifications, but some IPs will work with you if some of the minor ones aren't met if you go independently. The short list includes:
*Having given birth prior and within the previous 5 years-This one's non-negotiable regardless of whether you're with an agency or independent. The reasons include having proven fertility and lesser risks during pregnancy/delivery, knowing the emotional aspect ahead of time and the risks that come with surrogacy.
*Age-Most prefer you to be at least 21 but no more than 39. With traditional surrogacy (using your eggs, not the IM or donors), the age limits are a bit more strict.
*BMI-A BMI between 18 and 24 is ideal. There isn't much wiggle room here.
*Prior pregnancies should have no complications or preterm delivery (before 36 weeks unless with multiples)-Most REs will request medical records that include your most recent pap smear, STD panel and then all of your prenatal and delivery records.
*Smoke, drug and alcohol free-You cannot be a smoker (must have been smoke-free for at least 6 months) or be exposed to a significant amount of secondhand smoke either at home or work. No drugs at all (even prescription) and no alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
*Custody/Background Check-You MUST have custody of your children and be able to pass a background check. If anything in your living situation is questionable, you will most likely be passed up. You must have a stable home situation.
*Finances-No government assistance of any kind. Some independent IPs are willing to overlook things like WIC, but it's not a guarantee. You're better off not having it.
*Testing-Both you and your partner will have to submit recent (within 12 months) STD panels as well as undergo psych evaluation. The surrogate will likely have an MMPI test as well.
Keep in mind, this list is not all-inclusive. Surrogates that have insurance plans that don't have a surrogacy exclusion will almost always be preferred and surrogates in certain states are chosen over others.
So what's your first step? Research. Find out as much as you can about the process, the things to think about, the average compensation and then start thinking everything through. Once you research everything, start gathering your medical records. Do as much leg work as possible beforehand. Educate yourself so that your potential IPs know you're serious and committed to the process. Then buckle up and enjoy the ride! :)