Things Not to Say to a Surrogate

As surrogacy becomes less and less taboo, your chances of encountering and speaking with a surrogate in your everyday life continues to increase. With more than 1,400 babies born through Growing Generations’ surrogates alone (as of 2016), surrogates are no longer the rarity they once were. These women are real, and they’re likely a part of your life.

Many of these women understand that they are pioneering the future of family building, and are quite used to being asked awkward questions. They often wear a smile and are more than happy to speak with you about their experiences. Even so, there are a few topics or statements that you may want to avoid, should you find yourself talking with a woman who would so generously help create a family for others who cannot do it on their own.

  1. That’s Not Natural. Many surrogates have watched loved ones struggle with infertility. It’s a common motive that drives these women to want to help others. Surrogates are incredibly compassionate and have given much thought to the hardships faced by their intended parents. Insisting that these people wouldn’t need a surrogate’s help if they were meant to have children is incredibly offensive. It can lead to making the surrogate feel defensive of not only her choice, but also of the couple she is helping. It is very likely that a deep bond has been formed between the surrogate and her intended parents, and she’s not likely to react well if she feels as though they’re being attacked.
  1. How Much Do You Get Paid? Looking at this very common question with a touch of empathy will allow you to understand why asking it may not be a good idea. How would you respond if asked how much you are compensated for your job? It’s an uncomfortable question for anyone. In the situation of surrogacy, most women choose to do this independent of their compensation packages. The desire to become a surrogate is born out of altruism and often empathy for others. Assuming they’re only in it for the compensation is perhaps the most offensive misconception you can make. It’s also quite likely the quickest way to start a fight and end the conversation with a surrogate. Instead, try approaching the topic like this, “Surrogacy must be so rewarding. What motivated you to do it?” This line of conversation opens the door to allow the surrogate to tell you her true motives, most of which are likely not monetary. You may be surprised to learn that for many of these women, the real “payment” is nothing more than the look of gratitude in the eyes of a pair of new parents.
  1. How can you give your children away? In the case of gestational surrogacy, the children being carried by the surrogate are of no biological relation to the surrogate. Additionally, they are in no way hers legally, as those rights are signed away in her binding legal agreement long before she ever becomes pregnant. Most surrogates will understand that you may not understand the nuances of surrogacy, but may still feel offended if you ask about her keeping the surrogate children she is carrying. Growing Generations’ surrogates understand that these children are not their kin, nor their right, and often feel fiercely protective of this fact. They understand that many may not be able to comprehend that they will not form a maternal bond with these children, but insisting that you can comprehend her emotions better than she can is deeply offensive.
  1. That’s so dangerous. Haven’t you researched it? In a word, yes. The surrogate has done her research. The decision to become a surrogate is not often made in haste. More commonly it is a choice that was made years prior to any pregnancy actually occurring. Once a woman decides to become a surrogate and applies with Growing Generations she will go through many weeks, sometimes months, of medical and psychological screening before she is approved to move forward. During this time, any and all potential risks are clearly explained in detail. Research has shown that surrogacy is no more dangerous than any standard risks associated with pregnancy or IVF. While your real intention is likely to express concern for your loved one, coming at it from a place of assumed knowledge can seem presumptuous and insulting to the months, even years, of research the surrogate has previously put into her journey.

 

Most surrogates understand that many of these questions and comments are made from a place of honest ignorance. Surrogates tend to give the benefit of the doubt that you did not mean to insult or offend, but perhaps are simply under informed. These women are passionate about what they do and, given the opportunity, would be happy to help you understand exactly what makes surrogacy so incredibly special.

Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 22 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for the last 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 of Reproductive Medicine, the American Fertility Association, 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 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 created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 28 years and their two teenage daughters.