True Stories About Real Women Who Carried Someone Else’s Baby
A generation ago, the few surrogacy stories you heard about were hush-hush because the process was not well defined legally. Nowadays, having a baby for someone else is becoming more common. In most states, it’s fully legal for a woman to serve as a gestational carrier, and give birth to a child with whom she has no genetic connection.
Four factors have worked together to transform the idea of carrying someone else’s baby from a rarity into a commonplace occurrence.
First, the legal changes in the definition of marriage now mean that two men, two women, and single people can form families with donor sperm and/or eggs.
Second, international adoption, which was a popular option for US couples, is becoming much more restricted.
Third, the science of transferring healthy embryos into a gestational carrier is highly safe and effective.
Finally, almost every U.S. state now allows compensated surrogacy.
So, what about women who become surrogates? It’s true that most surrogate contracts provide for financial compensation, but that factor is usually far down the list of reasons that women become surrogates.
We chatted with four women who several years ago decided that having a baby for someone else was the right thing to do. Their names have been changed to protect anonymity.
Note that carrying a baby for another person is not only a personal, emotional relationship, but also a legal one in which both parties sign confidentiality agreements. That’s why many of the stories you read about women having a baby for someone else use pseudonyms and don’t mention the specific geographic locations of the surrogates’ or intended parents’ residences.
Here are the four surrogacy stories, in question-and-answer format, just as we conducted the original interviews:
One: Nancy D., surrogate for a single mother.
Question: So, what was your initial impulse to do this? What made you say to yourself, “I want to be a surrogate“?
Nancy: It wasn’t an overnight decision for me because I had been thinking about it for a few years, ever since I had my own three children. All those births were super-easy and uncomplicated. My husband and I just thought, “You know what, now that our family is complete, why don’t we help someone else who wants children but can’t have them for whatever reason?”
Question: Did you know how to get started with the process, know how to contact an agency?
Nancy: Are you kidding? This was several years ago, when surrogacy wasn’t as well known as it is today. The few surrogate situations I had heard about were private contracts between couples and a surrogate.
So, based on the fact that I basically knew nothing about the process, believe it or not I went online and looked at sites that listed work from home jobs for moms. Do you believe it! I was actually trolling personal ad sections, but came up empty-handed.
Question: So, what did you do after checking out personal sites?
Nancy: Fortunately, I had an old friend from school who was a pediatric nurse and she told me about how the entire system was so organized, safe, and streamlined today. So I was glad to get connected with a surrogacy agency that had experience and solid credentials. They helped me find a single mother who really needed my help, who had zero chance of having children without a surrogate.
Question: What happened next?
Nancy: Well, after looking at the bios of about a dozen couples and single people who were looking for a surrogate, my husband and I chose a woman whose story really resonated with us. She is a very serious-minded woman who was a consultant and wanted to be a mom more than anything else.
She made the decision, after two gone-bad relationships, that raising a child by herself was the way to go. So, she found a sperm donor, used her own eggs, and, as she says, was “two-thirds of the way through the process” of having her own child. The missing link was me, a willing, healthy surrogate.
Question: So you weren’t carrying a baby for another couple but for a single person. Did that make a difference in your mind, and emotionally, about the choice to carry a child to term for another person?
Nancy: Not really. I saw it as a chance to help someone who wanted to start a family. My husband and I could easily have chosen someone else, a couple, or whoever. But he and I were deciding together, and when we got to her bio, her story just instantly clicked for both of us. We looked at each other and said, “This is the one.”
Question: Do you think that having a baby for someone else is a universal emotion for most women?
Nancy: Not really. I think it’s a lot like the decision to get married or choose a particular career. Some people feel strongly about being a surrogate, but for others, there’s no impulse to do it.
Question: What advice would you give other women who have the thought, “I want to be a surrogate”?
Nancy: Do your homework. Let the idea sink in. Don’t make any impulsive decisions. Even though it’s safe and can change your life for the better, carrying someone else’s baby is a major decision. If you have a partner, be sure they’re okay with the idea because you’re going to need that support through the pregnancy.
And after a lot of soul-searching and consideration, if you feel like getting more information and moving forward, speak with a counselor at a surrogacy agency. They’ll help you come to the right decision and they shouldn’t pressure you to choose for or against becoming a surrogate.
Two: Myrnah L., surrogate for a young couple.
Question: So, you told us already that this is your third time to be a surrogate. How did you first get interested in the idea?
Myrnah: My situation was that I had completed my own family and just loved the idea of giving birth. So, my husband and I decided that surrogacy would be a wise option.
Question: What about the pregnancy itself? Any complications or second thoughts on your first surrogacy?
Myrnah: No. I viewed the whole thing as an adventure. Yeah, I had up and down days during the pregnancy, but knew what to expect. What I didn’t expect was to give birth to twins. When I learned it was going to be a twin birth, I was thrilled to phone the intended parents and tell them. In their eyes, this was like hitting the jackpot, to put it bluntly.
Surrogacy is still pretty new, and most people don’t know much about it, except for a random article they’ve read online or a movie-of-the-week on cable, or seeing a documentary. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, let me tell you.
Question: Like what?
Myrnah: Don’t get me started! (laughing) I’ve heard it all, all the crazy, uninformed questions. But I’m glad to answer them and dispel the myths and misinformation. I think the more real data and facts people get about surrogacy, the better. So I always bite my lip and answer any questions people ask me.
By far, the most common one is, “Aren’t you sad when you have to ‘give up’ the baby after giving birth?” To that, I just say a flat, “No, I’m not. The emotional bond I feel most is with the intended parents. If you go into the situation with your head on right, you don’t have a deep emotional bond with the baby. Mostly, that’s because you have zero genetic connection with the child. It belongs to someone else.” That’s how I answer that question, and, for sure, it’s the one I hear the most.
Question: What’s the other thing people ask you that makes you kind of wince when you hear it?
Myrnah: Probably this one, which I hear from young people. “Is surrogacy when you get paid for a baby?” That one really gets me going because I’ve known a lot of surrogates from chat rooms and my community, and not one of them looked at the financial compensation as a motivation to get involved with surrogacy.
You know what? All surrogates undergo a thorough financial check, and if they’re not stable in that regard, then they are not considered suitable for the process. And that’s a good thing, because you don’t want people who are money-motivated to become surrogates.
Three: Katherine A., surrogate for a couple.
Question: What was the most difficult part of the surrogacy for you? This was your first time, right?
Katherine: Yes, this past journey was my first, but it won’t be my last because it was such a positive experience. You asked what? “The most difficult part?” Well, even though I’m totally healthy and generally love being pregnant, I’m not a big fan of morning sickness, but that’s just part of the journey. You know, life’s ups and downs and all that stuff.
Question: Do you have a relationship with the couple now?
Katherine: Yes, we’ve stayed pretty close on social media and we get together a couple times per month for lunch. They happen to live nearby. I know some surrogates who never socialize with the intended parents, which is okay. Everybody has their own way of doing things, their own way of being comfortable with surrogacy. I and the parents happen to enjoy each other’s company and share a deep bond that we both appreciate.
Question: When was the first time you ever heard about surrogate mothers?
Katherine: See, I was a child of the 1980s, so I remember all those TV specials and documentaries about “surrogate motherhood,” which was a new thing then and considered very mysterious. But, to tell the truth, when I was in college I saw an internet ad that said, “Work from home jobs for moms,” and wondered what it was all about.
Question: When you look back on that ad, does it seem strange?
Katherine: Oh, wow! Strange is not the word. Crazy is more like it. First off, being a surrogate is not a job, work from home or otherwise. It’s a life choice, and a serious one at that. A work from home job is something like making crafts or preparing tax returns.
Surrogacy is a deeply rewarding, personal experience that brings the gift of life to people who otherwise would not be able to have families. Calling it a job is sort of a joke. Fortunately, there aren’t many of those ads today because we have reputable surrogacy agencies to match women up with people who want to start their own families.
Four: Loretto K., surrogate for a single man.
Question: You chose to help a single man become a father and start his own family. How did you make that choice?
Loretto: Well, the agency showed me several profiles of people they thought I would be interested in helping, based on what I had filled out on my own written interview form. This man had been married for two years, but his wife passed away as a result of breast cancer. He had waited a few years and decided the time was right to have a child, but he decided that marriage wasn’t for him. He wanted to raise a child by himself, at least for now.
Question: So, it was his personal story that compelled you to help carry the child?
Loretto: Yes. He used eggs from a family friend and the resulting embryo was implanted in me. I had a relatively uneventful pregnancy, and now he’s the very proud, happy father of a baby girl, whom he named after his deceased wife.
Question: Do you think you’ll be a surrogate again?
Loretto: I’m not sure. For me, it’s all about timing, feeling like I want to carry a child, and finding just the right situation where I think I can truly help someone who wants a family. Maybe in a year or two I’ll give it another go. The agency I work with is really great. Whenever I contact them and say, “What have you got?” they show me a few profiles and I think about it. But so far, for the past year, I haven’t even looked at any intended parent profiles because I just feel like taking a pause for a year or so.
Question: What would you say to women, single or married, who are considering carrying a baby for someone else?
Loretto: First things first. Get informed. Find out how the process works. Speak with someone at an agency and learn about the mechanics of the process. That sort of makes it real for you, and you start to absorb the idea that, yes, there are lots of people out there who can’t start their own families and are willing to hire someone to carry a baby for them. It’s actually quite a beautiful, wonderful thing that there are agencies who can match those folks up with women who are willing to carry someone else’s baby.
Question: Any warnings?
Loretto: If you decide to move forward, get expert help through a licensed organization, a respected agency that has experience doing matches and following through with the intended parents and the surrogates. The key thing to look at is whether the agency you work with takes good care of you while you’re pregnant and is available 24/7 with answers, medical support connections, and whatever you need.
Carrying someone else’s baby is a big responsibility, but it’s also a life-changing process. At least it was for me. I have a whole new respect for parents and families now, even more than I did before I helped a widower have the family he always dreamed of having.