Many things are said about surrogates, and surrogacy in general, that are completely untrue. These are often assumptions of people who do not understand surrogacy, or why women become surrogates. Chances are you’ve heard people suggest that surrogacy is unethical, or that women acting as surrogates are selling their bodies and/or just doing it for the money. Here we’ll address some of the more common myths surrounding surrogacy.
Myth: It’s difficult to ‘give the baby up’.
Truth: This is probably the most common question surrogates are asked; “Isn’t it hard to give up the baby after carrying it for so long?” No, it’s not difficult. The baby, or babies, resulting from the surrogacy arrangement were never the surrogate’s baby/babies to begin with, and she went into it knowing that. A person wouldn’t offer to babysit a niece or nephew then suddenly decide they won’t give the child back; they know that child is not theirs, just as a surrogate knows the baby/babies she carries aren’t hers, either. For the sake of everyone, surrogates are psychologically screened beforehand to make sure this issue does not occur, as it would be unhealthy for all involved. The goal in mind, from beginning to end, is to carry a child for her intended parent(s). We do not give babies up; we give them back to their parents!
Myth: Surrogates are doing it for the money–and they make lots of it.
Truth: While some women may first come to surrogacy with the monetary goal in mind, they still have what every other surrogate has: compassion. Surrogacy is not about the money. Surrogacy is the look on the parents’ faces when they see their baby/babies for the first time on the ultrasound screen. The smiles on their faces when they can place their hands on your belly and feel their child(ren) kick. It’s the heart flutters you feel when you watch them hold their baby/babies for the first time, as tears of supreme gratitude fall from their eyes. It’s in knowing you helped another person or couple become parents–fulfilling their dreams of becoming a family. These are priceless moments, and no monetary amount can come close to having those experiences. As for how much a surrogate makes, it can range, but it is certainly not as much as most people believe; a woman could not make a ‘living’ as a surrogate.
Myth: Surrogacy is unethical.
Truth: Surrogacy is not unethical. This is not “wombs for rent”, nor is it “baby selling”. There is no exploitation of women happening in legal surrogacy agreements within the United States. To become a surrogate a woman must first pass a set standard list of requirements, which includes financial stability, and then pass medical and psychological screenings. Surrogacy agreements are nothing like what you see on television.
Myth: Surrogacy contracts are meaningless. The surrogate can get ‘saddled’ with the baby if the parent or parents don’t want it, or she can keep the baby and there is nothing the parent(s) can do.
Truth: Surrogacy contracts are as legally binding as a legal document can possibly be, and will be upheld in a court of law in states where surrogacy is legally recognized. There are some states in which surrogacy, a certain type of surrogacy, or even carrying for certain Intended Parents, is illegal. If going through an agency, they will be able to let a woman know if it is possible for her to be a surrogate, and if going the Independent or Indy route, a woman should look into the laws governing her state to ensure nothing untoward happens. The contract phase is a critical part of the timeline of surrogacy, and no procedures that could make a surrogate pregnant will occur until contracts have been drafted by lawyers, reviewed by all parties, revised if need be, and signed. In the incredibly rare occurrence the parent, or parents, do not want the child, there are guardians written into the contracts. As for the surrogate trying to keep the baby, (also uncommon), the courts will uphold the parents’ end of the contract and/or pre-birth orders.
Myth: Surrogacy is selfish when there are so many kids to foster/adopt.
Truth: Surrogacy is not a selfish endeavor, and fostering and adopting is not always a viable option for every Intended Parent or Parents. Most people have a desire to have a genetic connection with their child, and surrogacy is a selfless way to help people achieve that. Would the average person or couple who experiences no fertility issues be asked why they decided to have biological children instead of adopt or foster? For the most part, no, and they shouldn’t be expected to; just as an IP or IPs shouldn’t be expected to, either, just because they need a little extra help creating their family. It takes some amazing people to open their hearts and homes to kids in need of adoption and in the foster system. Just as not every woman would be capable of carrying a child or children for another person or couple, not everyone is able to foster or adopt to expand their families. How a person or couple decides to create their family is their decision, a very personal one at that, and the only true selfishness here are the people who feel they can dictate how another family is made.
Myth: Surrogates have to sleep with the Intended Father.
Truth: Absolutely not! For Gestational Surrogacy situations the surrogate undergoes standard in-vitro fertilization, or IVF procedures. This occurs by eggs being retrieved from an Intended Mother, Mothers in some cases, or Egg Donor, while sperm is retrieved from the Intended Father or Fathers, and the eggs are fertilized in a laboratory–completely outside of a human body. The transfer is where the embryo(s) are then placed inside the surrogate. In Traditional Surrogacy situations usually the surrogate will have an intrauterine insemination, also known as IUI. There are some scenarios where the surrogate has an egg retrieval performed, and then undergoes IVF for traditional surrogacy.
Myth: Surrogacy is just like adoption.
Truth: Surrogacy is not adoption. In surrogacy agreements, the woman acting as the surrogate is going into the agreement solely with the intent to carry a child for a person or couple who cannot on their own. She is not pregnant of her own accord and adopting out her child.
Myth: Surrogacy is about designer babies, and if they don’t get what they want, e.g. a girl, they’ll ask the surrogate to terminate.
Truth: Surrogacy is about creating a family–not a certain look or gender for a child. Would some families like to have a boy instead of a girl, or vice versa? Yes, but so do most families who have no fertility issues. If a specific gender is wanted by a parent, or parents, there are tests they can, and likely will, take in order to determine the gender of the embryos prior to the surrogate’s transfer. However, this is not incredibly common, and finding out the gender of the embryos is often a by-product of the genetic testing an Intended Parent, or Parents, undergo to ensure their embryos are viable and healthy. Also, asking a surrogate to terminate for non-medical reasons is nearly unheard of, and will likely not even be placed in the contracts. Above all else, the IP(s) want a family.
Myth: The IP(s) will request unreasonable diets and make absurd demands on a surrogate’s day-to-day living.
Truth: This one is a little bit of a mixed bag. An Intended Parent, or Parents, can certainly request a surrogate eat certain things, or refrain from certain activities, such as; eating more fresh fruit and drinking plenty of milk, or not trying out for a female Strongman competition while pregnant. The requests made are generally mild, and go right along with things an OB or Midwife would recommend, too. If the request is something near and dear to their belief system, or if they feel very strongly about it, they might even write it into the contracts.
However, the key word here is: request. Most of the time the parents will ask a surrogate to do these things, but they won’t be posting cameras around a surrogate’s home to make sure she does them. It is also generally discussed at match meetings on whether the surrogate would be comfortable with honoring the requests/putting them into the contracts. If the answer is no, then everyone moves on to the next IP(s)/surrogate, and no one is ever forced to do anything they wouldn’t be comfortable with.
Myth: The parents can force you to terminate/go through a fetal reduction, and a surrogate has no say.
Truth: Whether a woman is comfortable with termination and fetal reduction, (reducing the number fetuses being carried), as a surrogate, is something she needs decide prior to submitting her application and profile to become a surrogate. Matching with a Parent or Parents whose beliefs and feelings on the matter align with the potential surrogate’s is incredibly important, and those decisions will be reflected in the contracts. Some surrogates and IPs decide they will not terminate or reduce, no matter what, while some say they will opt for an termination for medical reasons, such as if the fetus has severe genetic abnormalities/deformities. Also, potential surrogates will be asked if they would be willing to reduce from four fetuses to three, or three down to two, as examples. It is a very personal decision on the part of the surrogate and the IP(s), and generally no one will proceed if they do not agree on what they will or will not terminate/reduce for. So, truly, the surrogate does have a say in the matter before the issue could ever arise.
Myth: A surrogate has to let the IP(s) into the room when giving birth.
Truth: Whether it is a vaginal birth or c-section, the presence of the IP(s) is something that is also generally matched up prior to meeting for the first time at the match meeting. It depends on the comfort level of the surrogate and the IP(s), and though it is usually brought up before meeting in person, it is something that needs to be discussed and reiterated at that time. Some surrogates have no problem with her family and the IP(s) being in the room, watching anything and everything that goes on, while other surrogates are only comfortable with having their spouse/partner there for the birth. There is no wrong answer here, and it is a completely personal decision for all those involved. This is why it is discussed before a match proceeds, so when the time comes everyone is comfortable and happy with the birth experience, instead of worrying about stepping on someone’s toes.
While there are likely more out there we haven’t heard yet, (and you think kids say the darnedest things!), these seem to be the ones that come up the most often. Hopefully this will help to dispel some of the more common misconceptions, and provide a little understanding into the beautiful and amazing process that is surrogacy!