Surrogacy Without Celebrity: What it’s Really Like

Surrogacy stories are storming the internet as Kim Kardashian and Kanye West prepare to welcome their fourth child by way of a surrogate. For most of us, the idea of allowing another person to carry our child is wildly foreign and something only available to celebrities. But the truth is surrogates are everyday women working with every day aspiring parents to create families of choice.

The Science
Gestational surrogacy is the process of creating an embryo outside of the body, and then placing it back inside of the surrogate’s uterus. Doctors can create these embryos using the genetic material (eggs and sperm) from the parents, donors, or any combination of the two. One important thing to note is that in gestational surrogacy, the surrogate’s genetic material is never used. In this form of surrogacy, the carrier will never bear any genetic relation to the child she carries.

The surrogate begins by taking hormone medications in order to create the perfect conditions for pregnancy. Once doctors determine the surrogate’s uterus to be ideal for receiving the embryo and the embryos look strong and ready for transfer, doctors transfer the tiny embryo through a small tube into the surrogate’s uterus. The whole procedure takes fewer than five minutes. But, those five minutes can absolutely change the lives of every person in the room!

The Parents
The parents are matched with their surrogate during a “double blind” selection process. First, both parties create profiles that discuss how they came to consider surrogacy, what their preferences are for the pregnancy and beyond, and where they stand on complicated issues like abortion. Profiles will be exchanged between the surrogate and the intended parent(s), and once everyone agrees to work together, the magic can really begin. Quite often, the result of this unique relationship is a deep bond that can last for years following the birth!

But, because IVF is not an exact science, there is still room for failure. Sometimes an embryo transfer may not take on the first try. This can make the journey longer than expected. It’s important to stay committed to the long-term goal.

Parents wait, often on pins and needles, as their surrogate goes through hormone therapy to prepare her body for the embryo transfer. If it takes, the team work together to have the best possible pregnancy. Then, if all goes according to plan, the team comes together nine months later to celebrate the birth!

The Surrogate
Surrogates are not adoptive mothers. We often hear surrogates tell us, “I didn’t give my baby away. It was never mine to keep. I simply gave the parents their baby back.” Many surrogates find the moment of birth to be life-affirming and empowering. It’s no surprise that so many surrogates wind up returning to have the experience more than once.

What’s important for potential surrogates to understand is that this process, no matter how empowering, isn’t for everyone. Growing Generations screens surrogates intensely, and as a result, only about 1% of applicants complete the journey from potential surrogate to a Growing Generations surrogate. Surrogacy can be a time imposition on families, and often means rearranging vacations, daily life, and other major life events. It’s important to be flexible.

Growing Generations has been building families of choice since 1996. With programs for a variety of intended parents, from single parents, to both heterosexual and homosexual couples, and yes, even celebrities. Growing Generations prides themselves on meeting the highest standards of ethical surrogacy. To date, just over 1,750 babies have been born through Growing Generations’ surrogacy program.

To learn more about surrogacy with Growing Generations, check out this infographic.

Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the upcoming book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. Her two daughters are in college.