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Lisa Chiya - founder and President of The Genesis Group
In the Spotlight – Genesis Group

In the Spotlight – Genesis Group

“as a good citizen, we have a responsibility to contribute or make an impact, regardless of how small it may be.” – Lisa Chiya, Genesis Group

In a nutshell: Honesty and complete transparency; a diverse, talented group of people from various ethnic backgrounds, all with a deep-rooted passion for helping people; an agency that meticulously guides and tailors each experience to ensure intended parents have total peace of mind.

Founder and President: Lisa Chiya, a founding member of Genesis Group and a board member of nonprofit organization SEEDS (The Society for Ethics for Egg Donation and Surrogacy); a board member of nonprofit school-based entrepreneurial program for disadvantaged youths, Ambition; and a member of GenNext, an organization that believes confronting issues pertaining to economic opportunity, education, and international security will ensure the future generation's prosperity.

The story

I started working for an egg donor agency after college. Initially it started out just as an interim job, and I had no idea that this field existed. I then realized that helping people like intended parents in this intimate, personal way was extremely emotionally gratifying to me. 

I grew up without a mom. My mom passed away when I was two and I think that really changed the way I viewed what family meant. It wasn’t just blood that made people family, but rather the interpersonal connections and trust that you create with others. 

So my ‘aha’ moment was when I realized that I’ve come full circle; I grew up my whole life creating my own surrogate family through friends. Now I have the honor and privilege of helping intended parents build their own family via IVF egg donation and surrogacy. 

One of my key philosophies in life is simple; you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. I think as a good citizen, we have a responsibility to contribute or make an impact, regardless of how small it may be. 

It sounds cliche, but I do believe everyone can do their part to make the world a better place.  You just need to find what you’re passionate about and get involved. Ultimately, I know my kids are watching, and I want to make sure I am a good role model for them.

I think the important characteristics of people working in the assisted reproduction field is the desire to want to help people, honesty, and transparency. 

Honesty and transparency are so important because of how much an individual and agency puts into the fielding, vetting and the communication aspect of the entire process. 

Experience is also extremely important. Legal and insurance landscapes are constantly changing and evolving, so you need to know what you’re doing in order to avoid costly pitfalls or mistakes that can cost you time. Education in this field should never remain stagnant because there are always new experiences and opportunities for learning.

In our agency, Genesis Group, I  believe what sets us apart is our human capital. 

It’s the culmination of all the individuals on our team with their need to make a difference in the world and their years of experience that makes our agency truly special. We have the heart to help our egg donors, intended parents and surrogates overcome emotional hurdles, and the knowledge and experience to help them avoid potential stumbling blocks.

The costs

First of all it is important to note that our costs are designed to budget for worst-case scenarios if they do occur. We believe in hoping for the best, but also preparing for the worst.

The cost range for surrogacy is determined by two key factors, the surrogate’s compensation and whether or not she has health insurance that is surrogacy-friendly. 

Since each case is unique, we’ve seen the cost range anywhere from $110,000 to $175,000. This cost includes: the agency fee, surrogate compensation, screening fees, legal fees, loss wages, etc. 

Our estimated cost sheet is very thorough. We don’t want our intended parents to have any surprises, so we list the most common expenses in our cost sheet. We also require the intended parents to sign off on the surrogate’s benefit package. It is important to have transparency and a baseline understanding of the surrogate’s expectations prior to being matched with her. 

For egg donation, the cost is determined by two key factors as well, the egg donor’s compensation and her travel expenses. 

An egg donor’s compensation can range from $7,000 to $25,000. It is important to note that most egg donors set their own compensation. 

The average donor cycle will cost anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 and this includes the agency fee, egg donor compensation, psychological screening, genetic familiar report, legal fees, travel expenses, etc.

My Tips 

In my opinion, a good agency shows their worth through how they deal with adversities & challenges. 

All agencies are great when everything is going smoothly. You want to work with an agency that knows what they’re doing and stands behind the work they’re providing. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions and do your due diligence. Confirm your agency has professional liability insurance, look at their reviews online and reach out to your physicians/doctors and ask them about their experiences in working with them. 

I believe that we all cross paths for a reason. If you have any questions or would like some recommendations please don’t hesitate to reach out.

To intended parents considering an independent journey, I highly recommend finding a great team. If you can find a fertility coach that knows what they’re doing, preferably one with agency experience, that would be ideal.  

Also setting yourself with a solid team of seasoned professionals, e.g. doctor, clinic, attorney, mental health professional. Make sure you’re working with vetted professionals.

Finally, it’s important to understand that the road to parenthood is difficult and I think you need to have an open mind. 

It’s important to know that every journey is different. So, it’s best to not set out expectations of how it should or shouldn’t be. I believe life is not fair; IVF is not a specific science; surrogacy is not a perfect process. You have to be emotionally prepared for anything. Once you come to terms with that, the process becomes so much easier because you’re coming from a place of openness. 

I have personally worked with 4 gestational carriers. One surrogate miscarried at 9 weeks because she decided to switch medication without letting anyone know. Our second surrogate decided to terminate the pregnancy at 20 weeks because of a molar mass adjacent to a perfectly healthy little girl (the embryos were tested and were supposed to be “normal”). The last two surrogacy journeys blessed me with 2 beautiful children. 

I share this not to scare anyone, but rather give hope. If I had stopped after my second surrogate’s termination, my hopes of having my 2nd and 3rd child would never have come to fruition. 

Don’t give up! Trust your gut! And work with seasoned professionals. Let them be the light that guides your way.

Heartwarming Anecdotes

I will never forget the story of an intended father that changed my life. 

I worked with a couple that was really struggling with the stress and emotional struggles that often accompany infertility. I recall the intended mother saying infertility was akin to cancer. It stops your life dead in its tracks. Everything else in life just fades into the background. Infertility forces you to acknowledge the disease and you have no choice but to address it. 

The stress of everything  was wreaking havoc in their marriage. As a last ditch effort, they decided to try egg donation and it worked. The intended mother delivered a perfectly healthy baby. 

A few weeks after the baby was born, the intended father walked into our office. I recall a very tall man with a masculine physique holding a huge basket of goodies in one hand and a sleeping newborn baby in the other. He wanted to thank us for everything we had done for his family. He was raw with emotions. He wept as he expressed his gratitude. 

The juxtaposition of this behemoth of a man crying was just too much for me to witness. Hearing his words made me realize at that moment that I had found my calling in life. I wanted to help people build their family; help people heal from infertility trauma; and see more newborn babies. 

It is truly inspiring to see how impactful our work is, and incredible to think that this story is from almost 20 years ago. That baby we helped bring into the world is now an adult.  

Looking ahead

I would like to demystify the egg donation process and normalize conversations about both egg donation and surrogacy.  

In the last decade, more people have stepped forward and said ‘Yes, I used a surrogate and I’m proud’ or ‘Yes, I am a surrogate and I’m proud’. I think people are realizing the beauty and power of surrogacy when it is done well, but egg donation is still in the dark. 

There aren’t enough conversations and communication regarding egg donation, and such an important third-party component of all this, the egg donors, are not celebrated. The topic seems to be shrouded in secrecy and shame. 

We need to be lionizing the intended parents and egg donors for their courage and generosity. My hope is that by normalizing egg donation, we empower a generation of intended parents to be more forthcoming with their donor conceived children. 

Aside from that, one of my dreams is to make this process more financially accessible to everyone. I am beyond blessed. I have three beautiful children and it wouldn’t have been possible without IVF and my generous surrogates. I want everyone that is looking to build their family to be able to find the resources to make their dreams of parenthood a possibility.

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