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Why I Decided To Become A Surrogate Mother

Her Voice

If you ask me why I decided to become a gestational carrier, you might be a bit surprised by my answer.


No, it's not the money, or the time off that comes with delivering a baby.

For me, it's the process of being pregnant that thrills me.

The feeling that comes with doing something completely selfless for a family unable to deliver their own children is one I can only describe as a cleansing. I suppose this story really bagan back in college. I was already a single mother when I found out that I was pregnant. I felt like I had no choice at the time, I simply couldn't handle taking on a new baby.

So I had an abortion - twice. I carried the heaviness of shame for years, feeling like I had taken something away from the world that wasn't mine to take. That feeling remained on my chest, even after college, starting my career as a teacher and having more children.

One day, I went to my doctor to discuss tying my tubes. I was asked if I was sure I didn't want to perhaps offer my womb to a friend that needed help instead, and my wheels began to spin. That was four years ago, and since then, I have signed up with a surrogacy agency and started the process full speed ahead.

The idea that I can carry someone's child for them when they cannot is my own way of making amends for the choices I had to make in college.

I also have been fortunate enough to see some of the various ways families are formed. When my sister was 15, she got pregnant. As her guardian at the time, I supported her decision to release her baby for adoption. The experience was positive and, to this day, we're still in contact with the adopting family and the child. We get Christmas cards and pictures of new haircuts and he refers to my sister as his guardian angel.

This was my first taste of what giving a child to a family feels like.

I realize that surrogacy is in the news more than it used to be. Hollywood is beginning to normalize the idea, but when I started this process, I had really no idea what to expect. I imagine there are some women out there reading this who feel the same. What is surrogacy? Is it scary? I hope my story opens up the conversation more because there are so many families in the world who need help to make their dreams of having children a reality.

I live in Beaufort, South Carolina where surrogacy agencies are actually in dire need for gestational carriers.

The agency's application process is certainly not simple. It involves a home visit from a social worker, a 7-page survey, bloodwork, an STD screening and a complete deep dive into your medical history to determine how safe pregnancy will be for you. I remember when the social worker showed up to my house to conduct the inspection and survey with me. Here I am, fresh from work, three kids running around and my house a mess! Fortunately, she also saw that my home is full of love and that was the most important element she took back with her that day.

After the review process is done, the next step is to match me with a family. I explain this step to my friends and family as "Match.com but for carrying a baby." The agency's job is to make sure that my needs and preferences are aligned with the needs and preferences of the intended family. For example, if a family prefers a carrier that is vegan or of a certain age or if a carrier has a preference for a particular type of family. For me, my preference was to families who face discrimination. Same-sex couples were at the top of my list, along with families who had no children and this was their last option.

It was important to me that my body was serving a truly deserving family who may not otherwise have a chance.

The waiting list for families is incredibly long, which tells you just how much this service is truly needed. The families on the list come in all shapes and sizes. Many of the women I see on the list are survivors of cervical cancer or some other form of illness that rid them of their ability to safely carry babies. A lot of the other families are same-sex couples and singles who are choosing to have kids on their own. It didn't surprise me that all of the families that have been presented to me as possible options have been white.

Surrogacy isn't exactly common in the black community - and if it is, it certainly isn't talked about enough. The news that I was looking into become a gestational carrier seemed to sit better with my white friends than with my black friends. I assume this is because we have a fear of the unknown.

What might have surprised me the most is the reaction my news received from my family. They didn't tell me I was out of my mind, instead they supported my decision entirely. My boyfriend had a bit more to consider. Both of us have children, but we have none together. For him, the idea that the first pregnancy he experiences with me will be for another family was a lot to digest. Men are emotionally involved with pregnancy too - running to the store to get us the snacks we're craving, rubbing our swollen feet at the end of the day and the "payoff" is that at the end of the experience they have a baby in their arms to fall in love with.

After some thought, he gave me his full support. "This is our surrogacy," he said, "I never thought this would be something I'd be dealing with, but I'm cool with it, if it'll make you happy."

The questions I get asked the most by those curious is typically about the money and the transfer. These are the seemingly less appealing parts of surrogacy that people seem to feel the most uneasy about. There's a lot of debate about whether surrogates being paid as much as they are, is taking some of the sanctity away from the process. It's true most surrogates take home a pretty penny. The fee can range from $25K to $50K, and even more for multiple births. The more experience with surrogacy, the higher the pay, similar to experience in any field of service.

Do I feel bad for being paid to carry someone's baby? Nope. I'm a teacher, so I get paid to be with other people's children all day. Why should that be any different for a child occupying my actual body? A gestational carrier is making a huge commitment for the better part of a year and monetary compensation for that commitment in my opinion is absolutely necessary.

The transfer is what we call the birth. When you have the baby, the intended parent is typically the one to help in the delivery room and the one to cut the cord.

I don't have anything but joy and anticipation for that moment.

Being able to see someone who has wished for that day for so long finally meet their little one, finally feel fulfilled and complete - that feeling overrides any attachment I may develop for the baby while in utero. I think sometimes people forget that there is more satisfaction in giving, than there is in receiving. Being a surrogate is certainly not exempt of that rule.

Now that all my screening is done, my next step is to wait. After being presented with a bunch of potential families that I felt - for one reason or another - weren't quite right for me, I may have finally found one that fits. A single gay man who is ready to be a father. I can't imagine what joy he must feel knowing that his dream may finally come to fruition. I can only feel the joy in my own heart from the knowledge that I may be the person to help him along that journey.

For any women reading this who are considering surrogacy - either to be one, or to use one. I hope you take with you this very important last message. Don't give a damn what anyone says about it. Do your research, and make an informed choice. But once you make that choice, stick by it unapologetically.

The way we have our babies, the way we make our babies, and what we do with our ability to make babies is our own. Make your choice, stand by your choice, and enjoy your choice.

- As Told To Ashley Simpo

For information about surrogacy laws and regulations in your state, click here or contact the local agencies in your area.

Featured image by Mustafa Omar on Unsplash

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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