The world of surrogacy is changing rapidly. Yet, not all the words and terms are keeping pace. ConceiveAbilities is committed to refining our process to not only keep up with, but continuing to lead the surrogacy world. And what we hear A LOT from surrogates and intended mothers and families alike, is a simple truth. They do not like to be called a surrogate mother.
The term surrogate mother is outdated, even when well-intentioned…and most importantly, not a true representation of modern surrogacy. The surrogate, or gestational carrier, is not the mother. Period. She shares no DNA or genetic relation to the child she is carrying. She will have undergone IVF treatment to receive the embryo of the intended parents; that embryo will have been created with the intended parents’ and/or donor egg and sperm. As one surrogate shared, she is the babysitter, not the mother.
We surveyed our experienced surrogates about the term surrogate mother. 80% said they feel the term mother should be dropped completely. Here is what they say you need to know:
The surrogate is not the mother.
The surrogate is in no way genetically related to the child she is carrying. She does not share any DNA with the child she is carrying. The child a surrogate carries is the intended parent(s)’ child. “I am not the mother of the baby at all,” says surrogate Teale Kelley. Elizabeth Foley says dropping the term “mother” removes the parental feel, saying “I’m just the babysitter until the baby can go home to his parents.”
Mother should be saved for the mom.
Women become a surrogate to help another person experience the joys of parenthood. They know this is not their baby and they want to ensure that the mother of the child receives the proper title. Samantha Smith feels the word “mother” takes away from the intended mom because “she is still the mother even if she is not carrying the child and should be recognized as so.“ Another surrogate shares, “The mother may already feel that she is losing a lot by needing to use a surrogate and calling someone a surrogate mother can affect the actual mother’s feelings.”
It feeds into surrogate myths.
Many surrogates think the word mother confuses people and further feeds surrogacy myths and misconceptions. Two-time surrogate Melissa Enke says using the term “mother” makes people think the baby was partially hers. Another surrogate says it leads to the question “how do you not feel horrible giving up a baby?” adding, “I’m not giving up the child, because I’m never the parent.” Elizabeth Foley also feels that the term “mother” leads to questions about her keeping the baby, “Other than the fact that it is actually the largest contract violation, this concept of wanting to keep the baby is inaccurate. Continuing to use the term surrogate mother will cause these misperceptions to carry on and prevent the public from being properly educated on the truly complex process that is gestational surrogacy.”
It can be damaging.
Oftentimes, intended parents have had an extremely challenging infertility journey and referring to the surrogate as a mother can be hurtful. Through surrogacy, they are able to build their family with a trusted partner. One surrogate shared, “It's important to me that I am not viewed as the mother. The term mother should be reserved for the actual mother.” Molly Corcoran says she is already planning ahead for her next delivery saying, “I had a delivery at the hospital where I was being called mom by the clinical staff and I had to correct them multiple times. My next journey I put in the birth plan that was given to the hospital to refer to me by my first name.”
The surrogate is just the babysitter. She is not the mother.
As the number one surrogacy myth, It’s worth repeating. To put a complex matter in a cute way: it is the surrogate’s oven, but not their bun. That said, surrogates are caring and nurturing women. Deanna Mitchell says, “As a surrogate, you care for the baby you are carrying as if it were your own, to substitute as best as possible for how the intended mother would love and care for her baby if she were able to carry it on her own.”
100% of the women we surveyed said they prefer to be called a surrogate, gestational surrogate or gestational carrier (“GC”) without the word mother. So why do we still use the term “Surrogate Mother” on our website? Because we want to share surrogacy with as many people as we possibly can to help grow families.
Hear us out. Our research indicates that over 1.3 million women in the United States would be both willing and qualified to be surrogates - if they were educated and knowledgeable about the topic. For those women that are at the earliest stages of learning about surrogacy, they frequently use the term “Surrogate Mother” to search for information about surrogacy. In fact, “Surrogate Mother” is the third highest used search term people use while learning about surrogacy. Following closely behind are these phrases: “What is A Surrogate Mother,” “Surrogate Mother Meaning” and “Surrogate Mother Definition.”
Surrogacy can be complex when someone is first introduced to it. Because our goal is to be a leading resource for people who want to learn more about surrogacy, we do use the term “Surrogate Mother” with the intention of helping them get the best information so they can make an informed decision. And, once we have their attention, we help them learn why this particular term is one to be left in the rearview mirror.