This is a guest post from Jen Rachman, LCSW, ovarian cancer survivor and Outreach Coordinator with Circle Surrogacy, Ltd. After choosing surrogacy to grow her family, Rachman wanted to clear up common misconceptions about the surrogacy process.
When I was 5 years cancer-free, I felt secure enough to start considering what family-building options I had. As I began exploring surrogacy as an option to have a family, I quickly realized how much information there was to learn about the process and how to make a successful journey work. After we had done our research, educated ourselves and signed on with Circle Surrogacy, we felt comfortable sharing our plans with our support network. I was taken aback by the responses I heard and immediately came to realize how many misconceptions there are about surrogacy. These myths are the result of a lack of information, coupled with a few over sensationalized cases in the media. After having been through my own amazing journey to parenthood, I thought it would be nice to clear up these common misconceptions.
Surrogates are only in it for the money. Though it is true that surrogates are compensated for their efforts during the process, there are a variety of reasons women want to be a gestational carrier. After all, shouldn't they be compensated for helping bring a life into this world? A surrogate is generally paid $25,000 for at least a year of time and dedication. Let's be honest; this amount of money won't make her rich or drastically change her lifestyle for long. Some reasons that women want to become surrogates are things like, "my sister struggled to get pregnant and I want to help someone avoid such struggles," or "I have had easy pregnancies and it isn't a stressor for me. I would love to help someone else who can't have a baby." Most reasons are altruistic, with an honest desire to help others become parents.
The baby will be biologically related to the surrogate. In traditional surrogacy, the child is biologically related to the carrier; however, this isn't the case in gestational surrogacy. In a gestational surrogacy arrangement, embryos are made using eggs from the intended mother (or eggs donor) and sperm from the intended father (or sperm donor). The embryos are implanted into the surrogate who will carry the pregnancy to term, and there is no genetic connection between her and the baby. Today, traditional surrogacy is rare due to the complexity that could be created by a genetic bond. Therefore gestational surrogacy is more common. My surrogate described it best when she said, "It's your bun, I am just the oven."
A surrogate mother won't care for my child as well as she does her own. Surrogates are chosen for this role because they understand what a tremendous commitment it is to help someone build their family. What benefit would it be to a surrogate to not care for that pregnancy as best as she can? Someone once told me that a surrogate is "a really expensive babysitter" for the nine months of pregnancy. I know when I am responsible for others' children, I am more watchful over them than I would be my own. How terrible would I feel if something happened to that child while I was sitting for them? It is the same for a surrogate. How would she feel if the child she delivered was somehow negatively affected by her actions? Surrogates want to be responsible and share the joy of bringing a healthy child into the world.
Surrogacy is only for the rich and famous. Yes, the wealthy might have more disposable income, making a surrogacy journey easier to afford. However, that doesn't mean the average can't! The cost of a surrogacy journey is tremendously variable and can be affected by things such as whether an egg donor is needed, the amount of IVF cycles needed to achieve pregnancy, whether the carrier has insurance that covers surrogacy, etc. That being said, that doesn't mean it can't be done by those with less income. Some people borrow money from family, some take out a loan, some borrow against their retirement fund, some put it on their credit card, some finance. There is no one way, but there are many options. If the average person can own a home or a car, why can't we consider it feasible to afford surrogacy as a means to have a family?
The surrogate will want to keep my baby. This concept is something that is often perpetuated and overdramatized by the media. When a surrogate is screened, she goes through mental health assessments that explore her ability to know and understand her role as the surrogate. Surrogates often have children themselves, and know how to distinguish between their own family and the one they are helping to create. In gestational surrogacy, since the carrier isn't genetically connected to the child, she isn't biologically connected, which can make for an easier emotional separation. For those who are still concerned about this myth, it is for this reason that surrogacy is advised to be pursued only in states where a surrogacy contract is legally enforceable.
To this day when I tell people that my son was born through surrogacy, I am often met with one of these aforementioned ignorant statements. Now that I have been through the journey and am a proud mother, I can say that they were the furthest things from what I experienced. I would encourage those who are exploring surrogacy as a family-building option and might have some of these fears or concerns to speak to a professional in the field.
If you would like to speak with someone who has been through a surrogacy journey after cancer, and now works in the field, feel free to email me at email@example.com