While it was once kept quiet, surrogacy has moved to the forefront of discussion in recent years. From celebrities openly sharing that they built their family with the help of a gestational carrier to The Handmaid’s Tale (which some actually confuse with an accurate representation of surrogacy) to political and religious figures weighing in on their personal beliefs around the subject, it’s much more common to see surrogacy in everyday conversation.
When you decide to be a surrogate, you may unwittingly become a “surrogate spokesperson.” You could find yourself explaining how surrogacy works and your choice to pursue the process to family, friends, co-workers, people in the grocery checkout line and more. If someone sees you are pregnant and either congratulates you or asks personal questions, it may not only be uncomfortable; if you’re speaking to someone who has strong feelings on the subject and feels the need to share them, it may be challenging to respond.
I spoke with a gestational carrier named Korinn on the subject. Korinn has three children of her own and has been a surrogate four times. In total, she’s been pregnant seven times and has delivered eight beautiful babies (the first surrogacy was twins).
When speaking to her, I asked if she had any pushback or concerns from either her family or friends. “In terms of my family,” Korinn answered, “When I first spoke to husband about it, he was more confused on the surrogacy process in general. Once he and others understood how it worked, they luckily didn’t voice any opposition. Overall, they weren’t overly excited, nor were they against it.”
This is important. When someone decides to serve as a surrogate, it doesn’t just impact the woman carrying the child; it directly impacts her immediate family. Due to the emotional nature of the process, it’s crucial to have a surrogacy support system. As Korinn explained, “During my pregnancies, I had to miss several of my children’s events, either at school or something they wanted me to be there for, like a field trip. It isn’t just a physical strain. If I have a doctor’s appointment or even if I’ve been delivering one of the babies, I miss things at home.”
Now imagine being in that situation and having a family that isn’t supportive? Surrogacy can affect a woman’s job, home life and even her freedom. Ideally, if it’s a healthy pregnancy, it may only be minor inconveniences (going to appointments, needing help around the house, etc.) but if there are any complications, a gestational carrier may need to be on bed rest.
If anyone at home is not supportive, this can be a real problem. It’s not advisable for you to commit to surrogacy if you don’t have the help and care you need at home.
A family is one thing, but acquaintances, friends and colleagues are another. What should you say to those who express their own personal beliefs on surrogacy - and it’s not positive?
I spoke to Lisa Schuman, LCSW, from the Center for Family Building. She advised, “Based on the personality type or style of the gestational carrier, there are several responses they could give.” Below, Ms. Schuman provides several examples ranging from humorous to educational:
Some surrogates wear shirts with an arrow pointing to their belly that says, “Not mine.”
When the couple are at a party or out shopping and someone asks when they are due, the husband says, “I don’t know. It’s not my baby.”
The surrogate shares her desire to help someone build their family and talks about her own love of parenting and how she is excited to see the joy on the intended parents’ faces.
Some surrogates like to teach others about surrogacy. They share the fertility process, the legal process and how it all comes together. They teach people who may be “against it” because they are not informed.
Joy as a Family Team:
Sometimes surrogates get their children excited about the pregnancy and the opportunity to help others. These moms may come to their kids’ classrooms and explain that they are having a baby for someone else. They are not concerned by other reactions.
Many surrogates and their partners say that if people are “against it” they distance themselves from those people.
Korinn shared that it was rare she didn’t let anyone know who asked that she was carrying for another family. “I think, mentally, it is helpful to keep that mindset. It’s very different being pregnant with someone else’s kids. There were times, though, when I was out and about and simply not in the mood to answer a bunch of questions.”
Some oppose surrogacy because they have a misconception that it takes advantage of someone who does not want to be a surrogate. Korinn makes an important distinction. “Surrogates aren’t usually ‘approached’ to become a carrier (unless they are perhaps a close relative like a sister). They have actively sought out the information, done their research and considered being a gestational carrier carefully. No one is forced.”
Korinn also expressed that she finds countries where surrogacy is not allowed to be compensated more concerning. For example: In Canada, it's illegal to pay for the services of a surrogate mother.
“While there are good intentions behind altruistic surrogacy, I feel like there’s more of a risk of surrogates being taken advantage of if there is no compensation. When I was a surrogate I knew I was helping someone, which meant a lot. But it also helped my own family financially. Your family deals with a lot when you’re a surrogate (not just hormones). When you’re being paid for surrogacy, it keeps the line from being blurred.”
Korinn also recommended that lawmakers or those in a position of power who are against surrogacy take time to shadow a surrogate or intended parents, as they will gain more insight about the process. “It’s frustrating when people impose rules and laws without all of the information.”
Ultimately, like Ms. Schuman stated, it depends on who you are, how you feel about talking about it, and the approach you want to take. In the end, what matters most is how you and your family feel about giving this incredible gift.
To learn more about ConceiveAbilities and how we can offer guidance for your surrogacy journey, we welcome you to connect with our expert staff.
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.