Surrogate Stories: Toni

surrogate on beach

I am a three time surrogate. I’ve brought 4 little lives into this world and, as beautiful as my first two journeys were, I want to talk about my last one; my swan song.

I was having a bit of a challenging time finding a new family to help, after working with the same family for my previous 2 experiences. Then I met a new Growing Generations’ case specialist who said she had someone perfect for me. There was a catch though; they lived in China and spoke very broken English.

When my husband and I met the intended mother at the match meeting, the language barrier was a little awkward for everyone. Even so, I could tell that she was a lovely person. Everyone is a little nervous at match meeting, and you want to make the best impression. This woman was animated and kind during the conversation, and I didn’t need to speak the language to know that.  

After the meeting we began exchanging e-mails. The language issues, they were a little daunting. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing and offend the parents, because I fully recognized the cultural differences. It’s difficult to watch out for something if you don’t know what that something is. I just did my upmost to be respectful and considerate in the emails, while only giving pertinent information. I didn’t want to overload them or make them frustrated with my communications.

Pictures are great! The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is so very true here. I took pictures throughout the pregnancy so they could see not only my growing belly, but also the ultrasounds. I also sent photos of my family and our life. Pictures can certainly help when words are difficult. A word to the wise though, make sure you figure out shipping regulations in their country before you start mailing. There can be restrictions and they can make things very frustrating.

Food is usually a good way to help barriers, too. All cultures have to eat. One of my favorite memories is of a discussion with the parents about Americanized Chinese food, versus authentic Chinese food. I also enjoyed when they took me to an authentic restaurant, to give me an idea about what Chinese food is really like!

Keep the language barrier in mind when it comes to how the parents communicate. I recommend finding out if the parents communicate better through text-based communication, or verbal and then using their preferred method. I feel as though some people may hear them speak and might think they are unintelligent, for lack of a better word, because their English isn’t the best. That isn’t the case. You just have to keep things in perspective, make your communications concise, but not like you’re speaking to a child.

 

Can a beautiful relationship can form even across many miles, a language barrier, and potentially contrasting cultures? Of course it can! You just need to be the type of person to reconcile the differences in culture. There are some things that they’ll do that you may not agree with, and some things you do they may not agree with. A little understanding can go a long way.

In the end though, the reason for the effort is a simple one. We’re all human. Cultures notwithstanding, everyone just wants the best for everyone else in the situation. If you remain considerate of their wishes, and them of yours, the situation will turn out amazing most of the time.

With much patience, my journey across the miles and the language barriers turned into a beautiful thing. The first time I got to see each parent hold the girls is my stand out memory. It was amazing to see them finally realize their dream of being parents. By the end of the journey, we all consider each other family, and they even call me “Toni Mommy” to the girls.

To other surrogates I would say don’t be afraid to try new things! What an amazing opportunity to interact so intimately with people of another culture in ways you generally won’t in your day-to-day life.

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.