Personal Story

10 Things You Need To Know About Surrogates

Ever wondered who the hell signs up to be a surrogate? Maybe you thought “either people who are on drugs, need money, or need money to buy drugs.” If those people exist, they almost never make it through the vetting process. So who are we and how should this inform your process to work with a surrogate (of become one)? Here’s 10 assertions about surrogates that I’ve heard thrown out there, and where the truth lies (or where I think it does).

1. We Do This For The Money


False. You’d be surprised how many of us don’t need the cash and actually have pretty good jobs. I earn a six-figure salary as an accounting executive. In some ways, I think dealing with annual corporate audits has prepared me especially well for the unspeakable pain of childbirth. Guess how many weeks I took off after my last delivery? A week. As in one. Why? Because I have a team of employees that seems to require my constant supervision (some days I think maybe a newborn would be easier!).

2. Our Lives Go On Hold


True! I’m a single woman and think it’s hard to meet men these days? Imagine telling them over sodawaters at TGI Fridays that you’re carrying someone else’s child. Right. This. Very. second. The only thing that gets a bigger reaction is when I also mentioned I play competitive tackle football (also true). As you can image both activities (dating and football) pretty much take a very back-burner (as in off the stove entirely) when you become a surrogate.

3. We Super Rely On Our Support Network


Truth! I‘m a single mother and when I was a surrogate, it was my teenage son’s job to help care for me. That meant tending to me when I was in pain. Flying cross country with me for an emergency transfer. We became a team and without his support, I would've been lost. The demands of surrogacy are meted out to everyone we are close with. My sister flew in to hold my hand for all three of my deliveries. If it were'nt for the strength and love of my son and sister, I would've folded early on in this process. The network is crucial.

4. Communication Between Parents and The Surrogate Is Always Good


Sadly, no. In one case, the couple wore their Nikes to the delivery room and practically ran with the baby as soon as I delivered. I admit, I was offended I couldn’t even see the child. Later, we realized they thought they were looking out for my best interest and thought that if I saw the baby, I would be heartbroken. Yes, there was a language barrier (they were French, but that doesn’t make them rude! - kidding) but I think we both could done a better job here. When you get into this process, overcommunicate. Even on the little things. That is the only way to make sure they stay relegated to being “little things.”

5. Very Crazy Things Happen – Get Yourself Ready and Be Cool


Indeed! I’ll never forget the day I, and the parents, were standing in front of a judge and she declared, “you delivered, so I think this is your baby. In the eyes of the law, you’re the mother.” The parents, and I, were mortified. You may think this is a linear, predictable process, but it’s not. Ultimately, the parents and I worked with our attorneys, found a new judge and the issue was resolved. But those were scary moments. Crazy things can happen and you may need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Try and remain calm and remember you and the parents, along with your agency and attorneys, will get things done if you work as a team.

6. We Shield You From Our Issues


So true! My responsibility as a surrogate is to alleviate your burden, not add to it. That means protecting you from the unpleasantness. From staying on track with all the pills, shots and different inserts for success, we do it and we try our best not to complain to you. My particular agency has a surrogate support group so we vent to eachother and shield you from our pain. We don’t want to become a nuisance. If you don’t hear a peep from us, it doesn’t mean this is a walk in the park. There may be nothing you can do, or that we want you to do, but just know we may have our heads, and our hands, full with the task at hand.

7. Giving Birth Is Harder Than Pumping


I'm gonna go with "false!" Atleast for me. One of my families decided last second they wanted my breastmilk, I was ready to oblige, and soon I realized how insanely hard this became. It’s not just getting up every two hours (which, according to the U.N. is designated as "torture") but also pumping in the parking lot at your son’s track meet (those events are over fast! Even at the high school level!). I didn’t sign on to pump for the dough, but because the parents felt this would be healthiest for the baby. And that’s all I needed to hear. But everyone needs to recognize what this entails and if it means putting the milk on ice and shipping it, be ready for a second full time job.

8. We’re Devastated When Things Don’t Work Out


Totally. Have I had worse days than those when a transfer fails? Yes. But not many. The reality is I’m mortified when things don’t work. I’m devastated for the people who hired me. Who counted on me. A good surrogate gets emotionally invested in pleasing the parents. When things go awry, we feel like failures. Those are dark days and they happen more often than you would think or may have been led to believe. It’s a crisis and like you, we don’t recover fast.

9. It’s The Big, Bold Statements of Appreciation That We Value


Ain’t so! Some agencies tell parents they should be ready to shell out for flowers and other niceties to keep us happy. Honestly, the occasional, random text from a client makes my day. I still cherish one from a couple that wrote me on Christmas day, “today means so much more to us, thanks to you.” I have a son; I love him more than anything in this world. I do this to help other people experience the love and wonder that I have been blessed with. If I wanted more flowers thrown at me, I’d take up figure skating - but I looked into it and it conflicts with my football season!

10. We Do This For One Reason: The Look On Your Face


I’m from the Midwest, so I don’t complain. Almost ever. Unless its about hockey. But there are times when I wonder if the pain of surrogacy is worth it. But those moments are fleeting. They’re vanquished by the memory of the look on a parent’s face when that baby gets placed into their arms. It’s a look of wonder, curiosity, tenderness and, yes, relief. It’s worn by those who’ve been subjected to unspeakable torture and who feared nobody would ever come to their rescue. As surrogates, we hear the whimper of desperation our hopeful parents muster, and we make up our minds to come to the rescue.

Expert's Perspective
Assisted Reproductive Technologies For HIV-Positive Men

In 1989, Italian HIV-positive men began fathering children through fertility treatment. The field has developed immeasurably since then and here Dr. Dan Bowers characterizes what we've learned and where things stand today.

Expert's Perspective
Why Birth Certificates Don't Establish Parentage

Birth certificates can be irrelevent in establishing, or denying, parentage. This is especially relevent for families being built with the help of donor eggs, donor sperm or surrogacy.

Expert's Perspective
Is it safe to ship cryopreserved eggs (and embryos)?

Patients are increasingly eager to ship their eggs and embryos to clinics out of town, out of state and out of the country. Vitrification has made that a far more delicate process. Peter Nagy, Ph.D helps explain the outcomes, steps and costs associated with shipping gametes from one clinic to another.

Expert's Perspective
Family-Building Options for Transgender People

The process of building a family is complex and not made any easier for transmen and transwomen. In coordination with UCSF's Center for Transgender Health, and Paula Amato, we help walk you through some of the nuances of family building for members of the trans community.

+ Show More Articles