Four years ago during my pregnancy with B, I expected to be asked this question from friends, family, and acquaintances far more often than it was actually asked. Why choose to be a surrogate? Why dedicate over 9 months of your time and put your body through the stress of months of hormone injections and a full term pregnancy just to help another couple start a family?
In fact, the question I DID get asked the most often, “was it hard for you to give up the baby?” (perhaps another blog topic for another time) came as a bigger surprise than the W-H-Y? I suppose primarily because this was never anything I questioned myself. Little B was never mine to give up in anyway so much as I was handing him back after a season of safekeeping. And I have the same attitude now carrying his sibling.
I wonder sometimes if my emotional attachment functioning works differently from other women. While I enjoyed the times I was pregnant with my own kids, I quite honestly prefer the bonding with them when they’ve been outside my womb over the time spent in. Fetal development is just one part of our lives none of us remember. I eagerly counted the days until my due dates, imagining what they would look like, the sound of their cries, if they would be good sleepers…the exact same things my intended parents are imagining. Sure, pregnancy can be viewed as this ~sacred~ rite of femininity, a tribute to fertility and goddesses of bounty. For me, it always been more of a means to an end.
I often come across in articles on surrogacy, which for the most part I’ve quit reading because they try too hard to be scandalous or sensational, that women who become surrogates say they do so because they have easy pregnancies. I can completely relate to this. We don’t say this as a point of bragging or smuggitude – believe me, I get how shitty pregnancy can be and why some people swear it off “never again!” after having a baby, especially when there are complications. For me, and for these other women who say pregnancy comes easy for them, it’s just the way it is. All 4 of my pregnancies have been downright boring (but in a good way!!). I never experienced morning sickness. No bleeding. I’ve never had any gestational diabetes nor preeclampsia. My babies were all born full-term at 39+6, 41, 39+1, and 40+3. Really the most unusual thing to happen was that my oldest was delivered C-Section because she was complete breech – the others have been subsequent VBACs. Knowing her personality now, the breech thing makes a lot of sense. Headstrong, that one….likes doing things her own way (kind of like her mom). I am 4 for 4 in basically floating through easy pregnancies like a rare breed of sparkly unicorn butterfly woman – and that’s okay. I like the way my body feels pregnant. My attitude and emotional state feels more balanced in this time. So in a way, sharing this sparkly uterine gift I have to help another woman unable to carry a pregnancy of her own feels very fulfilling.
I dont believe families suffering infertility should be denied the chance to become parents, especially when they desire so deeply and have the means to provide a child with a loving home, simply because some part(s) doesn’t work right. Being a good parent has nothing to do with whether or not you’re “meant” to have children because of your biology. For every one sensational surrogacy story that makes it to the media slog cycle, there are hundreds more abused and neglected children whose irresponsible, fertile, parents brought them into this world only to endure a brief existence of suffering. How is that fair? Adoption can be a wonderful calling. I have adopted family members and friends who have led amazing and loving lives thanks to adoption. I believe it is just ONE option, however, in the great process of family building and that people who call on those who seek assisted reproductive technologies to “just adopt” maybe take a look at adopting or fostering a child or two themselves. People experiencing infertility shouldn’t feel as if they have to default to adoption if that isn’t the path they choose to follow.
Oh boy, this is turning into a long thing…
Another reason why I quit reading surrogate stories in the news is because there is always a question raised on whether surrogates are being exploited due to the potential socioeconomic and wealth difference between the surrogate and the intended parents. As a real-life, genuine surrogate person receiving a contracted amount of compensation let me tell you in no way am I exploited. My compensation is distributed monthly throughout the duration of the pregnancy as opposed to one lump sum at the end, so in absolutely no terms is anyone buying or paying for a baby so much as I’m paid for a service provided. Does the comp money help my family? Absolutely. I feel we are being helped just as I am helping my intended parents grow their family. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship and this is not something I signed up for “just for the money”. My husband is a public school teacher and I am a returning graduate student stay at home mom of 3. You can deduce our financial situation from those facts – perhaps this speaks more on how poorly we pay educators in this country and what esteem we hold them in compared to most other first world nations where teaching is a revered and respected profession, but that’s a whole nother topic for a whole nother day… The financial component is not and should not be the sole motivating factor of why a woman chooses surrogacy. It isn’t for me and it isn’t for most women. The problems of exploitation lie in the unregulated, legally ambiguous zones of controversy in countries like India, Thailand, and parts of Eastern Europe where women can and have been taken advantage of. I am thankful that California, the state I live in, has legal protections in place to prevent against such things and that every step along the way of my surrogate experience has involved FULL and INFORMED legal consent. I support stronger and safer regulation in this industry so there IS a standard to how surrogacy arrangements should be entered with consent of all parties and the best interests of the child always of the utmost importance. When people feign concern that wholy informed and consenting women such as me are being taken advantage of, I want to shout, “do you not trust us with decisions over our own bodies?!” but then we have that problem of choice in this country, now don’t we?
To wrap this up, I made the choice to be a surrogate because I saw firsthand how it helped a friend of mine complete her family when she had her twin daughters via a surrogate. It was something I firmly believed I was capable of helping out another family with, thanks to my talented baby-growin’ ute, in a sense of paying it forward and doing my part to help make the world a little more fair. To know that the child I carried for 9 months would thrive with a set of amazing parents who tell him how very loved and wanted he is every day. I chose to make this journey again because I developed a relationship with a family so kind and open and loving as my own that helping them grow by another one is my honor and privilege. So if you ever ask “why?” well now you know.