GESTATIONAL SURROGACY: Separating Fact from Fiction
There are lots of misconceptions about gestational surrogacy. Here, we try to correct
a few of the most pervasive fictions.
SURROGACY FICTION #1:
Gestational surrogacy is only for the rich and famous.
SURROGACY FACT: Because of a recent series of celebrities, such as Jimmy Fallon, Sarah Jessica Parker, Elton John, Neil Patrick Harris, and Ellen Pompeo, who have availed themselves of gestational surrogacy as a way of building their families, some have come to think of surrogacy as a celebrity-only option — an exotic, ultra-expensive choice unavailable to them. In reality, the vast majority of individuals and couples who elect gestational surrogacy aren’t celebrities or the super-rich. While gestational surrogacy is by no means inexpensive, it may be more within your reach than you think.
When working with prospective parents who have financial constraints, we are careful to make decisions along the way that can help keep costs down — including everything from matching intended parents with surrogates who live nearby and who have adequate health insurance, so as to keep travel and medical expenses to a minimum . . . to recommending fertility clinics that have financial assistance options to choose from. Concern about expenses is always a wise and legitimate issue on the part of intended parents — but feeling that gestational surrogacy is simply outside your reach may be unwarranted.
SURROGACY FICTION #2:
The surrogate mother might want to keep the baby.
SURROGACY FACT: This is a common and needless worry among intended parents unfamiliar with the gestational surrogacy process: “What if the surrogate decides she doesn’t want to give up the baby?” The reality is that any surrogacy arrangement that complies with the requisite and recommended screening by the relevant professionals — whose job it is to ensure that you are making the right choices — will be one built on trust, without such a concern.
Importantly, a central element of the gestational surrogacy process is the legal contract we draw up between the intended parents and the surrogate which guards against this occurring, and clearly and specifically addresses the legal rights of the intended parents concerning their child. More to the point, in gestational surrogacy (as opposed to “traditional” surrogacy) the baby that the surrogate is carrying is in no way genetically related to her — she is carrying a baby for another family using the egg (ovum) of the intended mother or an egg donor. Perhaps most critical is the psychological screening process for selecting our surrogates, which ensures that the women we work with fully understand the nature of gestational surrogacy, and exactly where their responsibilities begin and end.
Every intended parent should know and understand when moving forward with a gestational surrogate that she is not looking to have a child of her own; what is foremost on her mind and heart is helping others build a family of their own.
SURROGACY FICTION #3:
Virtually any woman can be a surrogate — there are no safeguards.
SURROGACY FACT: Actually, the qualifications for a woman to become a surrogate are substantial, and exclude many who apply. Gestational surrogacy candidates must meet requirements involving age; financial stability; availability of family support; body mass index (BMI); personal background; willingness to travel if necessary; and medical, prenatal, and delivery history (just to name a few). Prospective surrogates must already have had at least one healthy pregnancy and have raised a child themselves, be non-smokers and non-users of illegal substances, and be prepared to undergo both medical and psychological evaluations.
SURROGACY FICTION #4:
Unmarried gay couples are at a legal disadvantage.
SURROGACY FACT: Any unmarried couple, whether gay or heterosexual, runs the risk of one parent having his or her rightful, legal parentage questioned. In some states, the way to avoid this is the legal mechanism of step-parent or second-parent adoption — which is the adoption of a child by a second parent who may not otherwise be considered a legal parent. In fact, we may recommend that same-sex couples avail themselves of second-parent adoption too, as an added legal safeguard. With this important legal tool, LGBT couples need never be at a legal disadvantage in building their families. More details on second-parent adoption — and to see if it is, in fact, available for you.
SURROGACY FICTION #5:
Surrogacy is illegal in my state — that means we can’t use surrogacy to build our family.
SURROGACY FACT: Wrong. Yes, surrogacy laws vary widely from state to state in the U.S. and overseas, and some intended parents reside in states that look less favorably upon surrogacy than other states do. However, we work with intended parents from any state and from many countries, educate them about which states are surrogacy-friendly, and then arrange a match with a gestational surrogate from a state where surrogacy is legal. When it comes to surrogacy, you are not confined with respect to surrogacy to the state in which you reside. Find out more by contacting us.
SURROGACY FICTION #6:
Surrogates’ families would never accept their wanting to be a surrogate.
SURROGACY FACT: Our surrogates’ families and extended families —husbands, partners, kids, siblings, parents — understand the sincere desire of a woman to want to help another family have children, and they ordinarily participate in and support it. In fact, one of the requirements for becoming a surrogate is having the approval and support of one’s family — without it, the surrogacy process would be too stressful to be successful. One of our responsibilities during the surrogacy process is helping women who are serving as gestational surrogates to help their families adjust to the decision. A recent blog post of ours discussed in some detail the important ways a surrogate’s family can be made comfortable with the process.
SURROGACY FICTION #7:
Surrogates are just “baby machines.”
SURROGACY FACT: This is a cliché that is both inaccurate and demeaning. Women who elect to serve as surrogates are engaged in perhaps the noblest of endeavors —helping others to build strong, loving families. The typical surrogate is a thoughtful, educated woman who appreciates the fact that, for her, pregnancy and childbirth are priceless gifts that can contribute to the happiness and fulfillment of others. No woman should become a surrogate simply for economic reasons — on the contrary, financial stability is a requirement for candidates for surrogacy. The idea that women are “forced” into having a baby for money has no basis in reality. They become surrogates to help build a family for someone else.
SURROGACY FICTION #8:
Surrogacy is a strange, detached, clinical process.
SURROGACY FACT: Quite the opposite. Many of the intended parents we work with are astonished at the warm, close relationships they develop with the surrogates with whom they are matched. And no wonder — the intended family and the surrogate are partners in a venture with common goals: a successful, healthy pregnancy and birth, a healthy baby, and a fulfilled family. Many intended parents and their surrogates — if they so choose — maintain close ties during, and even after, the birth. Most intended parents are present at the birth of their child. Read “One Surrogate’s Story,” a first-person account of such a strong, mutually satisfying relationship between a surrogate and the couple whose child she carried.
These are just a few of the falsehoods and misconceptions that have arisen around the subject of surrogacy — because it is relatively new as a social phenomenon, because it is complex, and because of the inevitable apprehensions and emotions involved. We urge you to contact us to learn more — so that we may address any of your questions or misapprehensions about surrogacy, and so that we may focus on the facts, not the fictions!