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.
Featured image by Mustafa Omar on Unsplash