Thoughts on Surrogacy

When I mentioned to my husband about the “serial surrogates” on 20/20’s “Extreme Motherhood” show, and the fact that they were paid about $25,000-30,000, he jokingly asked me if I’d be a surrogate. Not that we couldn’t stand to have that much extra money, but I don’t think I could, for several reasons.

First, while I understand the desire of couples to have children from their own genes — my husband and I enjoy looking at our children and seeing features from each other or our other family members in their faces, for example — I don’t think that genetics is the primary “thing” in having children or raising children. I know numerous adoptive couples — most who could not have children for one reason or another, but a few that adopted children in addition to their biological children — and I would never say that they loved their biological children more than their adopted children. So, I would encourage couples considering surrogacy to instead adopt a child. Many of the adoptive parents I know have adopted across racial or ethnic lines, some chose foreign instead of domestic adoptions, and some have adopted older children.  While white newborns may be “hard to come by”, they are not the only adoptable children! One exception to this would be “snowflake adoptions” or embryo adoptions — adopting leftover embryos from couples who have undergone in vitro fertilization and have decided they don’t want any more children. If these embryos are not adopted, they will be destroyed.

Also, when adopting a child, you know you’ll be getting a living child; when pursuing having a child through surrogacy, the possibility of losing that baby at any time from implantation through birth is there. [Interesting side note just popped into my mind — when infertile women use IVF to get pregnant, they have, or seem to have, a higher rate of miscarriages and other fetal loss; I wonder if there is the same rate of pregnancy loss when fertile women use IVF to get pregnant with other people’s babies.] I’ve read enough infertility blogs to know that requiring multiple attempt at IVF to produce a living child is not uncommon.

I assume that the couple who chooses surrogacy to have a child has to pay, in addition to the surrogate mother fee of perhaps $30,000, all expenses related to the pregnancy and birth (which may include numerous IVF attempts, as well as all prenatal visits and the thousands of dollars surrounding the birth itself — although I suppose it’s possible that she could have her insurance be billed for most of it, and the other couple would just pick up her out-of-pocket expenses; plus any postnatal expenses for, as an example, longterm NICU care for premature triplets). This can add up to quite a lot! From various adoption stories I’ve heard, I assume most adoptions to cost in the neighborhood of $20,000-30,000 total, for all lawyer fees, plane tickets to China, paperwork filing, etc. However, I did read a disturbing article which pointed out some abuses in the field of adoption, with some white newborns being sold to the highest bidder for even $250,000. Quite revolting, and I assume and strongly hope, representative of only a tiny minority or adoptive couples or sleazy adoption lawyers and/or agents.

But enough of general reasons — onto specifics.

I’d be concerned that I would become too attached to the baby. Maybe I could keep myself emotionally distant enough to realize that it’s not “my” baby, I’m just gestating him or her, so that there wouldn’t be any qualms when the baby was born and taken to its parents; maybe not. I also have enough of a knowledge and/or belief about the in utero life of the baby to feel somewhat guilty about growing him in my womb, and have my smell and heartbeat and voice be most familiar to him, and then to be given to people who are strangers to him, even though they are his genetic parents or (in the case of “snowflake adoptions”) his adoptive parents. Yes, the same thing holds true about adoptions; but many of the couples who done international adoptions have taken their children out of orphanages which house and attempt to care for numerous children at once, and cannot possibly give care to them individually. I think it is better for them to come to a completely new place where they will be loved as a son or daughter than to be kept in an institution, no matter how familiar.

I’m not sure I’m done with my own child-bearing, and I wouldn’t want to put my own future fertility in jeopardy so that someone else could have a child. Perhaps that’s selfish, but that is a consideration to me. This consideration has several branches to it.

Unlike one of the “serial surrogates,” I simply could not use my own eggs and adopt out my own babies, so I would have to undergo implantation of embryos from in vitro fertilization. Since they often implant two or even three embryos in the hope that at least one will take, it is not unlikely I would become pregnant with multiple children. I wouldn’t want to have twins or triplets, but would refuse “selective reduction,” since it is a form of abortion. Yet, twins and triplets are frequently born by Cesarean — many times necessarily, many times unnecessarily — and I don’t want to set myself up for that possibility.  It would be one thing to do it for my own child, but another to do it for someone else. I’d do it; but sitting here not pregnant, I wouldn’t want to do it, so wouldn’t want to set myself up for that much higher possibility or probability when I don’t have to.

The more children a woman has, the higher the risk of certain complications, including neonatal mortality. While first-born children have higher perinatal mortality than subsequent children, I think once women have 5-6 children, the risk increases yet again. Also, there are maternal risks associated with grand multiparity — particularly with repeat C-sections, and with the VBAC situation as it is in many areas of the country (including mine!) of no VBACs allowed, or being very difficult to attempt, I wouldn’t want to end up with a necessary C-section for a surrogate baby, and then forced “elective” repeat C-sections for any future children I might have — surrogate or my own.

I daresay that the average surrogate-adoptive family would not like the idea of their baby being born at home, and I would really not like the idea of giving birth in the hospital without a good reason. Call me stubborn. Would it not be hypocritical of me to refuse an epidural with my own kids (because of potential negative side effects I’d rather avoid), but have an epidural with somebody else’s? Yet I do believe that I’d probably have an epidural if I were to give birth in a hospital, and am only surprised when people have a hospital birth without an epidural. There would likely be other factors in this “baby’s parents telling surrogate mom what to do” area that would also make me less likely to become a surrogate mother.

In years past, back when my sister was having her miscarriages, and didn’t know if she’d ever be able to carry a baby to term, I thought about (in a kind of fantasy soap-opera world) being a surrogate mother for her. Or maybe other women I knew who could not have their own children. While part of that appeals to me — it would be a great gift to a loving mother — the only reason I’d become a surrogate mother, in light of all that I’ve said above, would be for the money. And I don’t think that’s the right reason; nor do I think it’s enough money to overcome all the personal objections. You remember that movie — I think it had Demi Moore, Robert Redford, and Woody Harrelson in it, although I never watched it — in which R.R. played a very wealthy man who offered to give D.M. and W.H. (who were married) a million dollars if she would just spend the night with him. A million dollars is a lot of money; but is any amount of money enough justification for adultery, and cheating on your loving husband? It’s so mercenary and base. That’s the kind of reaction I have to my own cogitations about becoming a surrogate mother for the money — it’s just crass. Nor is money a good enough reason to overcome the objections I have.

Breastfeeding an Adopted Baby

I’ve heard about that — I think Dr. Sears has it in his The Baby Book — but as far as I know, none of the adoptive parents I know have breastfed their children (although many of them adopted older children). Anyway, it was discussed a few weeks ago on the Permission to Mother blog, and out of curiosity I asked what the protocol was to induce milk production in a woman who had not been pregnant — perhaps ever — so that she could nurse the baby. Here is the link that was provided. It has a lot of information and insights into it, so I thought I’d pass it along in case anyone else was curious or needed the information for themselves or someone they know.