What NOT to Say to a Woman Expecting a Child Through Surrogacy

There are a lot of misconceptions and outright falsehoods floating around about surrogacy, and non-traditional reproductive options in general. As a result, Donors, Surrogates and Intended Parents alike, move through a world that is shrouded in a certain amount of mystery to the outside world, and nothing reflects this quite like the inevitable resulting communication mishaps. Family planning, pregnancy and fertility are understandably incredibly sensitive, personal topics, especially to those who are at the point in their journey where they’re seeking a Surrogate – for any reason. It can be especially sensitive for women who are expecting children through surrogacy.

Here are some common questions one should absolutely not say to a woman expecting a child through surrogacy:

How much are you paying for this?

Let’s be honest: having children is expensive, no matter how you have them. And one could argue fairly that it’s only natural to be curious. Surrogacy is no different – but due to the inherently sensitive nature of fertility issues, it’s highly unlikely that asking this question will elicit a positive response from the Intended Parent, and could also damage the relationship between the asker and the Intended Parents. Think of it this way: would you appreciate the implications of that question, in their shoes?

Who is the “real” mother? Or Whose sperm are you using?

As any experienced Surrogate or Egg Donor can tell you, while biology and family can be one and the same, they are by no means required to be. To that point, this is a rather large misconception about how surrogacy works: the vast majority of modern surrogacies are gestational surrogacies, meaning the Surrogate is not genetically related to the child. Rather, the Surrogate is fostering the embryo in their uterus until the baby comes to term. Some Intended Parents use donated gametes to create this embryo, but in some cases, the gametes belong to the Mother. When this question is asked, it carries a lot of implications about family relationships being “real” based on genetics: in many cases, the child born via surrogacy is quite literally the genetic child of the Intended Mother. With that being said, the genetic makeup of the child does not denote who that child’s family truly is. Donating gametes or carrying a child to term, does not make someone a mother; raising a child does that.

In every case, including those where there is no genetic link between Mother and child due to Donor gametes, the question itself perpetuates the stigma attached to non-traditional family building. It’s only natural that the people seeking to expand their family through non-traditional means (as well as the Donors and Surrogates who help them to do so) would find such questions and the implications they carry to be not only offensive, but simply false. Just as with adoption, non-traditional families are “real” families.

Similarly, all of the above applies to queries to male gay couples pursuing surrogacy: asking who the “real” dad is, invalidates the reality that both partners are the Intended Parents of the child. Both are “real” family to the child.  

You’re so lucky! You don’t have to deal with all the hard parts about pregnancy, like morning sickness or gaining weight.

While not necessarily always true, for the vast majority of women expecting a child via surrogacy, the decision to seek one in the first place is at the end of a long and often painful road. These “silver lining” statements may be well intended, but the reality tends to be that Mothers expecting via surrogacy, would have done just about anything to be able to carry the child themselves – and thus, reminders that they will not have that particular experience only serves to make them feel alienated and once again reinforces the myth that they are somehow not “real” mothers.

Instead, focus on how exciting it must be for her to have parenthood on the horizon. That’s the true silver lining. 

Aren’t you jealous of the Surrogate, or worried that they’ll have a hard time giving the child up?

Reducing the complex feelings of Mothers expecting via surrogacy to a uniform, oft-considered petty emotion like “jealousy” is unfair. From a simple human level, it makes sense to assume the Mother will experience some jealousy, particularly regarding the experience of pregnancy itself. But asking this question can do nothing except for fan the proverbial flames of any existing fears on that front, which helps no one.

Furthermore, reputable agencies have countless screening processes, eligibility requirements and safeguards in place for the benefit of all parties, including the Intended Parents and the Surrogates themselves. It is also natural for a Surrogate to form bonds with the child – after all, the baby was with them for their first nine months. But one of the crucial elements of donation and surrogacy is intent: Surrogates go into this process knowing it is not their child. They’re more of a long term babysitter than they are a typical expecting mom. 

I thought surrogacy was just for privileged rich people who didn’t want to mess up their bodies. Why are you using one?

While those people no doubt exist, they are not by any means the norm or majority. Non-traditional families who seek surrogacy include all kinds of people: LGBTQ couples, straight couples, single fathers, older couples, couples with unexplained fertility problems. Some women cannot safely give birth, while others are survivors of certain cancers and can no longer bear children. What these people all have in common is simple: the desire to grow their family. There are many reasons to use surrogacy, and most of them are deeply personal – and none of them are really anyone’s business.

 Why don’t you just adopt?

Contrary to popular belief, adoption is neither simple nor easy. There are also some unknowns attached that do not exist with surrogacy (such as control over their baby’s development in utero, or existing difficulties with traditional adoption, facing many LGBTQ couples and individuals). Most importantly, however, what seems like a natural question for someone looking from the outside in, will simply sound judgmental. More often than not, couples seeking surrogacy have already explored all of their options and for any number of reasons, have decided that a Surrogate was the best option for their family.

At Simple Surrogacy, our goal is in the name: we are here to help create and grow families, and to make the process as simple as possible. Breaking down the communication barriers and misinformation between those seeking alternative family planning methods and their friends and loved ones, is part of that. If you have more questions regarding surrogacy, contact Simple Surrogacy today!

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