The surrogacy process is very often misunderstood. Not helping matters is frequently, when it’s depicted in a movie or television show (like Friends, NBC’s Superstore, The Connors, or My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), it’s not handled accurately. Often on these shows, the person playing the role of the surrogate would not meet the qualifications even to be a surrogate (example: Phoebe on Friends had never been pregnant or had children previously and in the real world, would not have qualified to be a carrier for her brother’s embryos).
It’s important to remember that when many people ask either the intended parents or surrogate a question, much of the insensitivity is simply ignorance about how this process works. Therefore, when you pursue building a family with a gestational carrier’s help or agree to be a surrogate, you’ll have to prepare for questions. Below we review some of the most commonly asked questions and ways to respond to them:
The Top Ten Questions You May Receive
“How did you get pregnant?”
Holy aggressive Batman! While this is a common question, it doesn’t make it less invasive. While you may be tempted to whip out pictures of IVF needles and tell them “where the eggs” were retrieved from, if we approach it from a place of, “They don’t know what they are asking.”, it’s an opportunity to educate the “fertile public at large.” There are often misconceptions about the logistics of how you became pregnant. And it’s personal on how you choose to handle it. Some take these situations and use it as an opportunity to educate, explaining that the genetic parents went through the invitro process, and the embryo was transferred to you. If not, feel free to ask THEM how THEY got pregnant to make things even.
“How could you give up a baby?”
Oy. This is a question surrogates get asked too often and another common misconception. The answer entails a quick lesson in genetics. Gently explain that while you are carrying the baby, you are not genetically related to your child. Someone handed you their most precious football in the world to score the final touchdown with, but once the baby is born, you’re giving it back to its rightful owners so they can spike the ball.
Are you the “real” parents?
Facepalm. Again, when it comes to genetics and who is the “mother” and “father,” there have even been stories of hospital staff not handling this delicately. Whether you’re the surrogate or intended parents, we must work together as a community and enlighten those who don’t understand that “Traditional Surrogacy” is not supported by the overwhelming number of clinics in the United States. State loud and proud who the real parents are and why so that this individual will (god willing) never ask anyone this again.
How much are you getting paid?
While some may ask this question simply because they are nosey, depending on who is asking, we could try to give the person the benefit of the doubt and imagine that perhaps they or someone they know is considering being a surrogate. If you want to provide them with exact figures, that’s your business. However, if you’re going to be more discreet, you can say a simple, “Enough to cover my expenses for being a gestational carrier.” You may also want to mention that compensation isn’t the main reason for becoming a surrogate for many surrogates. Instead, many are carriers because they genuinely care about helping others who cannot carry a pregnancy on their own.
Why didn’t you and/or the intended parents choose adoption?
This is a question both surrogates and intended parents may get. I, myself, went through IVF, and when anyone asked me why I didn’t adopt, my favorite way of responding was asking them why THEY didn’t adopt? Whether you’re fertile or not, able to carry a child or not, everyone has the right to build their family in a way they want or feel comfortable with. Some feel strongly about being genetically tied to their child, and others don’t. It’s a word called “options” people, which makes family building possible.
How does your husband/wife feel about this?
When you agree to serve as a surrogate, everyone must be on board as it may impact everyone. You may have to be on bed rest, you may need help around the house, or they may just want to feel part of the process of helping another family. You can answer with the ever famous, “It takes a village!” or assure them that you wouldn’t have pursued surrogacy without your partner’s support.
How did you explain it to your children?
To be a surrogate, as you know, you need to have had a child and/or children previously. Like the above, when someone signs on to be a gestational carrier, your children are part of the puzzle pieces that will come together to make a pregnancy. Luckily, there are several books, resources, and tools to explain this to your children. You can share that you’ve taken an age-appropriate approach to walking them through the process, you’ve shared the intended parent’s story with your children, and they understand why you are doing what you’re doing and who the baby belongs to.
Can you get the baby back if you change your mind?
SIGH. This is one surrogate get and is another misconception similar to some of the questions above. The short answer is, “No, because it’s not my baby.” However, if you’re interested in educating them on the beauty of surrogacy, clarify that you’re not genetically the parent and you fully understood what the process of surrogacy entails before you signed on. Feel free to throw in that you are enthusiastic about carrying this baby to hand them back to their parents, as that is the most rewarding part of this incredible journey.
Would you be a surrogate again?
This is something up to you if you’re a gestational carrier. Perhaps when they ask this question, you’ve already done it twice, and you’re done. On the other hand, maybe this is your first time, and you’ve enjoyed it. While this question can be a bit intrusive, we never know what is in someone’s mind when they ask this question. Maybe they need a surrogate? Perhaps they want to applaud you for what you’re doing? Maybe they want to learn more so they can ask fewer annoying questions. Should you do this again, and wouldn’t that be nice????
Have you tried x, y, and z?
This is more of a question for intended parents. When you’re trying to conceive, having fertility issues, or exploring the paths to parenthood you can explore, people tend to shower you with stories they’ve heard (i.e., “I had a second cousin on my father’s side who was going to do IVF but then she went to the Bahamas and got pregnant on her own! Have you tried going on vacation????) OR they give you what they believe is helpful advice. A concise statement, “We’ve looked at all of our options, and this is the one that best fits our situation. I hope you can support that.” should end the stream of suggestions. If not, I suggest putting your fingers in your ears and singing “La la la” until they stop.
There’s also something vital to remember: You don’t have to answer any of these questions. While I encourage educating those who are more ignorant than insensitive, it’s your business, and if you’d rather pass on being a “Surrogacy Spokesperson,” that’s your choice. But, again, you have a right to answer or not answer anything you want.
You could also make up little index cards with common questions and answers, and anytime someone starts to begin a line of questioning you’re not in the mood for, hand it to them and be off on your merry way.
Bottom line: These questions can be insensitive and wildly inappropriate. I still contend, however, that many people don’t mean to be rude as much as they aren’t aware of how it all works. Ultimately, whether you decide to provide explanations, details, or answers, what everyone should ask for is support in a way you feel will best help you along the way.