Surrogacy in the Media vs. Real Life

Surrogacy is still pretty taboo in most parts of society, but we’ve been seeing it leak into the mainstream media more often over the past few years. Think Kim Kardashian– her choice to conceive both her third and fourth children via surrogate was a hot topic across magazines and talk shows for months, and more recently Hilaria and Alec Baldwin hit the spotlight for their sixth child born via a surrogate that they kept hidden from public knowledge until birth.

The popular TV series Friends made waves in mainstream media when it aired an entire plotline around surrogacy in the 90’s, and another current popular series on Netflix, Who Killed Sara? depicts an entire surrogacy plot. While representation in popular culture is great for both raising awareness and promoting more acceptance of a controversial topic, it’s important to realize that these depictions may be unrealistic for average Intended Parents and Surrogates, and may even be inaccurate in general.

Celebrity Surrogacies

Celebrities choosing to have a child via surrogacy isn’t actually uncommon, but with social media consuming a large portion of our lives and being one of the main methods in which we digest news, high-profile celebrities choosing the surrogacy route tends to make a big splash. Bigger names such as Nicole Kidman, Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz, Anderson Cooper, and Tyra Banks (to name just a few) have all welcomed at least one child via Surrogate. Some of these names drew more media attention than others, in part based on how their recent social media presence made them more readily accessible, but all have helped bring more awareness to surrogacy.

So why would celebrities, with all their wealth and fame, choose surrogacy to grow their families? Despite the myriad of other issues they’re able to either quickly resolve or avoid entirely with their wealth, infertility doesn’t discriminate, and money can’t always solve infertility issues or other health problems that could cause complications in traditional routes to parenthood. Of course for gay couples or individuals in particular, there are fewer routes to parenthood and gestational surrogacy is an appealing option for a multitude of reasons.

While money can’t always ensure the success of a traditional pregnancy, it can certainly make a celebrity Intended Parent’s surrogacy path a bit smoother– or at least make it seem that way in the media. It’s no secret that having a child via Surrogate is expensive, but for celebrities living in multi-million dollar homes the expense is hardly a deciding factor.

While the Surrogate is growing their baby, tabloids love to show celebrity Intended Parents continuing to go on expensive vacations, attending lavish functions, and even just going about their daily lives as normal. While we’re not saying it’s impossible to do these things, or that you shouldn’t (self-care is important and living your life as close to normal during the process is also important!), you might not find it as easy as the media makes it out to be. With a PR rep there to help control the flow of what makes it into the media, celebrity Intended Parents simply have the ability to make the process look effortless.

In addition to controlling how the public sees them portrayed, celebrities can throw out larger amounts of money to hire any number of professionals to take care of any and all concerns that may come up during the surrogacy process. While an agency has a full network of professionals to assist clients and help with concerns, celebrities have more freedom to be as hands-on or hands-off as they would like.

The tabloids love painting celebrities as over the top and difficult, with headlines about ridiculous demands by the celebrity Intended Parents upon their Surrogates, from what they eat and drink to other substances they put into their bodies, to the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, their daily activities, and so on. Basically, they’re portrayed as unreasonable helicopter parents-to-be.

The truth is, requests by Intended Parent(s) for the Surrogate’s pregnancy are discussed before embryo transfer so that both parties are aware of what is expected, what the boundaries are, and therefore if the arrangement is acceptable on both ends. A surrogacy agency like Simple Surrogacy plays a role in this by helping communicate and negotiate these terms, and facilitating any legal agreements if necessary.

The good news about your surrogacy vs a celebrity’s? Chances are that you won’t be dealing with the media blitz and scrutiny that most high-profile Intended Parent(s) are subjected to.

Surrogacy on TV

Even though celebrity surrogacies oftentimes aren’t realistic for the average person, largely in the area of wealth, child-rearing, and attention, they are at least still REAL; television and the big screen have the creative liberty to embellish the surrogacy journey and toss in false or misguided information for the sake of drama and a thrill.

One of the most common TV surrogacy tropes is the Intended Parent(s) asking someone close to them to be their surrogate. While many Intended Parents attempt to go this route, in real life it’s not as simple as the screenwriters make it out to be. Becoming a Surrogate is no easy task–it is physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. While the reward of giving a couple or individual a child is certainly worth the journey to get there, both the Surrogate and Intended Parent(s) need to be aware of the potential strain such a journey could put on a relationship.

In these friend/family to Surrogate storylines, really the only time we see a surrogacy agency involved is when it comes to the egg fertilization and implantation; after that, the Intended Parent(s) and Surrogate are left to navigate the journey to delivery on their own. Ideally, it is best to have an agency involved every step of the way, to protect the rights of the Intended Parent(s), Surrogate, and child. An agency provides the necessary network of doctors, counselors, nutritionists, and lawyers to keep the Surrogate and baby healthy and to answer any questions along the way. A reputable agency would also be involved in facilitating certain requests by the Intended Parent(s) or Surrogate and any negotiations involved in those requests to keep both parties happy.

Another thing TV shows and movies get wrong? The timeline for Intended Parents. It makes sense that on the big screen the process would be sped up to accommodate other occurrences and time constraints within a series or movie, but that can set false expectations for couples or individuals looking to grow their family through surrogacy.

Surrogacy is a lengthy process, and we’re not just talking about the nine month gestation period. Before a viable embryo is even transferred to the Surrogate, there are necessary evaluations, screenings, and tests to be completed, egg and sperm donation/retrieval, matching with a Surrogate, and of course the successful fertilization of the egg for a viable embryo. We further outline the surrogacy process through Simple Surrogacy here. So while on screen the characters go from deciding to grow their family through surrogacy one day to having a surrogate and beginning the process within a matter of days or weeks, reality looks quite a bit different. 

Surrogacy for non-celebrities?

Despite the average surrogacy representation in popular culture not being the average experience for Intended Parents and Surrogates in the “real world,” its exposure is still beneficial for the surrogacy field as a whole. As a wider audience becomes more accustomed to surrogacy, the topic will lose its taboo status.

So, does the mainstream media accurately portray any aspects of surrogacy? Of course they do! More than anything else, the part that they get right is the joy that the Intended Parent(s) feel when they hold their baby, and the fulfillment a Surrogate or Egg Donor feels in helping a couple or individual grow their family.

The team at Simple Surrogacy is here to help you begin your journey into Surrogacy, whether that journey is as an Intended Parent, Surrogate, or Egg Donor. Contact us today to learn more.

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