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 began 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 of 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 at 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 for 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 becoming 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 to the 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 experienced 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 are 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 the 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 from 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 are 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.
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
If you haven’t scrolled upon Olivia McDowell's TikTok famous dinner parties, you may need to reconfigure your "For You Page."
What began as a passion for hosting aesthetically themed meals for her closest friends has quickly become a viral sensation. With an astonishing 12 million viewers, women describe Olivia’s picturesque dinner parties as the “dream girls' night,” complete with classy cocktails, beautiful table settings, elegant outfits, and, most importantly, food plated to perfection.
Seemingly reigniting the feminine urge to host fancy dinner parties, Olivia has perfected the finer details. Overlooking the skyline in her beautiful NYC apartment, she never fails to make her signature handmade pasta dishes while simultaneously looking effortlessly chic in the wardrobe of dreams while doing so.
Replying to @nara0630 what should the theme of my next dinner party be? #minivlog #nycliving #dinnerpartyideas #caviarinnewyork
What I love most about hosting intimate dinners for close friends are the connections and relationships that form over food. They don't require a caviar budget with a high-rise apartment, it just takes determination and a little creativity. Watching Olivia’s journey inspires viewers to be a part of a community of positive and uplifting women who share common interests and tastes in food, fashion, and decor. Simply stated, she’s raising the bar of friendship goals.
If you’re aspiring to host a holiday-themed dinner party this season, check out the four tips that will guide you along the way.
Choose Your Theme
Replying to @emz.life.tsv what was your fav part? 🤍 hope this gives you some inspiration to host a fancy friendsgiving too! #hostingtip #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Set the ambiance with a thoughtful theme, which will indeed be your guiding light for less stress during the planning process. Establishing a theme sets the tone for everything else to fall in place, such as menus, table design, and presentation. For example, a holiday-inspired dinner party is a perfect occasion for elegant all-white decor paired with draped table cloths, pillar candles lit atop luxe holders, floating floral arrangements, and, for a personal touch, handwritten place settings.
Utilizing free resources such as Canva for menu templates and creating a “Dinner Party” moodboard via Pinterest is perfect for gathering dinner inspiration for themes, decor, and recipes for the special occasion.
Simplify the Menu
How to host your own pasta making dinner party — part 1: pasta making from scratch 🤍 Hosting dinner parties has become my favorite thing to do this year. More goes into it than you expect, the prep, planning, guestlist, tablescape, etc. but it’s always worth it in the end. What do you guys want to see next? #hostingtips #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Don’t overcomplicate the menu. A simple dinner party formula to use as your guide to making sure your guests leave full of food and joy is appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages. As a starter, assemble an aesthetic spread that your guest can nibble on while awaiting the main course with starters such as bread, cheese, jam, nuts, and fruit. A simple salad will do, complete with a light dressing right before your entree. For a main dish, pasta recipes always go a long way and also allows your guests to interact with one another, which leads to McDowell's third dinner party hosting tip.
Include an Interactive Element
Replying to @itstai.tv 🖤 #girlhood
To break the ice and encourage guests to get to know one another, introduce interactive elements to the evening. Moments of interaction allow everyone to connect, like capturing content for social media or memorializing the essence of the night through fun Polaroids. Olivia also encourages her guests to participate in the pasta-making dinner process as a group, or if hosting a brunch, her friends indulge in building their own coffee bar as an opportunity for forming connections and conversation starters. Group board or card games are also great for laughs and healthy competition to help get the vibes flowing.
Don’t Forget the Dress code
Replying to @samantha_mendiz when all of your friends are the main character 🖤🥂 #dinnerparty #nycfashion
Tis’ the season for glamour and sparkles, so why not go all out with a super chic dress code? You can’t have a picture-perfect holiday dinner party without the coordinating attire to match. When planning, make sure to make the required attire specific yet broad enough for a range of personalities and preferences to comfortably partake while looking stunning doing so.
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Featured image by Justin Lambert/Getty Images