Surrogacy Creates "Miracles" For Childless Couples

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Surrogacy gives infertile couples a second chance at having biological children, and one Midwestern woman has helped make dreams come true for three families. Photo courtesy of sxc.hu.

Sensational cases of surrogacy are a far cry from the reality -- just ask one Midwestern mother who helped three couples make their dreams come true.

Kate knows what it feels like to struggle with infertility. She and her husband tried for six years to conceive a child, before finally deciding to adopt; then, in a classic ironic twist, Kate found herself pregnant just four months after welcoming their eldest child into their home.

Kate was thrilled to be pregnant, and even happier when she had a healthy delivery. However, the feeling of trying so hard to conceive and the extreme frustration of infertility lingered. That's when Kate decided that she wanted to help others create a family, by acting as as gestational surrogate.

"After we had our first biological child, we decided we were done," says Kate, who asked that her real name be withheld. "I talked to my husband about [surrogacy], and I toyed with the idea for a long time. If our eldest daughter's birth mother could give us a gift like that, why couldn't we give that gift to someone else?"

Surrogacy is usually in the news when things go awry, or when celebrities opt to have another woman carry their child. But Kate says the sensational cases like that of Mary Beth Whitehead or Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick are a far cry from what most gestational surrogates experience.

"People do not turn to surrogacy out of convenience," says Kate. "They do it because it is a last resort, and when they finally get to that point and then they get to see their child for the first time, they forget all the bad stuff. And for me, that is when I think, 'This is why I do this.' I remember how they feel; I remember being so sad, and feeling like [infertility] was the worst thing that ever happened to me."

But making someone else a parent, she adds, is a gift to others and a blessing for herself.

While Kate's first goal in becoming a gestational surrogate is to help couples create families, the second is to avoid "being on Jerry Springer." To sidestep any potential pitfalls -- legal or emotional -- Kate engaged the help of an agency for her first surrogate experience, where she had access to a facilitator, counselor and legal advice.

"You do have to be very cautious," Kate advises. "I went through an agency so that the couples were thoroughly screened, and even the surrogates have an FBI check. I wanted that, and I wanted everyone in the process to be legally represented."

Advise and legal representation are especially helpful -- at least the first time -- because surrogacy is also a transaction; parents pay a fee to gestational surrogates. Kate says she does accept a fee and estimates that she earns about $20,000 for each pregnancy.

"I do accept a fee," she says, "and I am not embarrassed that I am paid to do it. On average, it is a two-year process, and if it takes you two years, you are really earning less than minimum wage. Anyone who thinks a surrogate is in it for the money should realize that I could make more money working at McDonald's."

There are, she adds, "a lot easier ways to make money."

However, Kate does admit that she tolerates pregnancy better than many women. She never even experienced a single day of morning sickness, and even after three surrogate births, six pregnancies and one set of twins, she says she would do it "100 times" if she could. "I would love to do it again," she adds. "The problem is that I'm 42."

Two miscarriages last year did give her pause, after watching the intended parents deal with the loss. She, of course, suffered the physical effects, but the emotional impact was no less profound. "I was so sad that I was the vehicle of that loss," Kate recalls. "I know it was through no fault of anyone, but if I do it again, I would probably put more pressure on myself."

Happily, the majority of Kate's surrogate experiences have been nothing but positive, including the way her own children reacted. In fact, she says that helping other men and women become parents has helped her children come to terms with the way their own family was formed.

"It was a great way to come to terms with having adopted and biological kids," she says. "It doesn't matter where you come from. It's who loves you, and who takes care of you."

Spoken like a true mother. After two pregnancies of my own and many, many days of morning sickness and other discomforts, I can't imagine a more loving, gracious and generous act. But Kate is modest about her surrogacy, and says that she is lucky, indeed, to be able to help make dreams come true.

"It is the closest you will get to being part of what is, essentially, a miracle," she says.

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