What You'll Learn
- What Circumstances Lead People to Seek a Surrogate
- The Gift of Surrogacy
- What to Know if You’re Interested in Becoming a Surrogate
- Common Misconceptions Surrounding Surrogacy
- How Families Find Surrogates
The topic of surrogacy can come with plenty of stigma and misconceptions. Some of us might only know what we’ve seen on The Kardashians or heard about in movies. But as science becomes more advanced, surrogacy has created a pathway to parenthood for many families.
Today, Ariel Taylor—experienced surrogate, fertility therapist, and founder of Carried With Love—joins me to demystify surrogacy and clear up some common questions and misconceptions surrounding it.
Surrogacy: Not Just for Celebrities
I have always been fascinated with family dynamics. As someone who grew up as a child of divorce, I saw firsthand that the nuclear family as we know it isn’t always the way a family is formed.
Now more than ever, people have choices about what their families look like. They also have many different pathways to get there.
Surrogacy is something I am intrigued by. I know families that have used surrogates, families that have struggled with infertility, and families that have had to seek nontraditional routes to parenthood.
I’ve followed Ariel’s journey online—watching her bring a voice to an underdiscussed topic. She has been a surrogate for four live births and is in the process of her fifth. She’s also experienced loss, struggle, and difficulty along the way.
Real families are finding success with surrogacy every day.
Sometimes we think of surrogacy as something that’s just for celebrities—a privileged decision. But real families are finding success with surrogacy every day.
I couldn’t wait to sit down with her on the podcast and discuss all the insider knowledge of surrogacy.
What Circumstances Lead People to Seek a Surrogate
People choose surrogacy for different reasons. For heterosexual couples, the choice is typically a last resort—the route that they choose due to medical issues, such as after struggling with infertility and unsuccessful IVF attempts, after suffering from miscarriages, overcoming cervical cancer, or needing a hysterectomy.
Those couples come into surrogacy with a lot of fear, trepidation, grief, and loss. Ariel shared that on the day of one of her surrogacy transfers, the mom told her that she had already gone through several attempts, and none of them had worked.
The transfer day wasn’t necessarily a happy occasion for her. It was a reminder of past loss, and it also marked the day she had to accept she would never carry her own child.
This isn’t the case for all families who choose surrogacy, however. For example, same sex couples who seek surrogacy as a path to parenthood might come into the process with excitement and joy.
Surrogacy gives a potential gift of parenthood.
Different reasons bring families to surrogacy as a choice. But for all of them, it gives a potential gift of parenthood.
The Gift of Surrogacy
Ariel opened up about her positive and negative experiences as a surrogate. She has gone through seven transfers and given birth to three boys. She’s faced chemical pregnancies and failed transfers along with her successful journeys.
Her experiences have allowed her to bring valuable insight to her clients who struggle with fertility.
She’s also very proud of the work she has been able to do. Ariel emphasized that a big part of the process is building a relationship with the family. She has become bonded to the families that she has helped. To her, the ultimate gift is being able to give birth to a baby and watch someone become a mother in front of her eyes.
She believes that everybody deserves to have the moment of becoming a parent if that’s what they want. Surrogates make that desire a reality for so many people.
What to Know if You’re Interested in Becoming a Surrogate
There is a massive need for surrogates. In fact, in Canada, there is only one surrogate for every 10 parents seeking one. But it’s not something to take lightly. It’s important to make an informed decision about becoming a surrogate—there are a lot of factors to consider.
In Canada, there is only one surrogate for every 10 parents seeking one.
Surrogacy is a big commitment. Surrogates become pregnant through IVF, which means they have to deal with injections of estrogen, progesterone, and potential other hormones and medications. Hormones and pregnancy take a toll on the body, and on our mental health.
Surrogates are required to have a good pregnancy history and health history to reduce risks in the pregnancy.
Most doctors also recommend that you wait to become a surrogate until you are done with growing your own family. IVF comes with slightly elevated risks of complications such as hemorrhages, bleeding, or placental abnormality. There is also a small chance that you wouldn’t be able to carry a baby afterward.
You should also make sure that if you have a partner they support your decision. You’ll still face the same postpartum recovery period and will need family support after you give birth.
Not everybody could or would want to become a surrogate. But if you have a history of healthy pregnancies, are finished having your own babies, have a supportive partner, and think that surrogacy is something that could feel right for you, there are plenty of resources online to learn more.
Ariel recommended that you spend time in Facebook groups and on Google learning more and forming a clear understanding of what the process looks like and whether or not it’s right for you.
Common Misconceptions Surrounding Surrogacy
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about surrogacy. Ariel pointed out that some of them are simply laughable—like the idea that surrogates have sex with the dad to become pregnant.
Other misconceptions are easy to believe. Some people believe that surrogates give up or sell their own babies. This is untrue—in most situations, the surrogate is a gestational surrogate, meaning they are not biologically related to the baby.
Even if they do give birth to their own biological baby, they go into it with the mindset that this is a gift they are giving someone else, helping them on their journey.
Another misconception is that surrogates get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars. In Canada, it’s illegal for surrogates to receive payment. They can, however, receive reimbursement for pregnancy-related expenses up to a certain amount (usually around $25,000-$30,000).
This is something that Ariel believes needs to be changed—surrogates sacrifice their own time and they should be valued for it. They should also be able to determine what they need for pregnancy on their own—without Parliament’s input.
In the United States, surrogates are paid—but the average payment is only $35,000-40,000—not the hundreds of thousands that we might think.
There is also a misconception that surrogacy costs half a million dollars. Typically, much of the cost of surrogacy is related to IVF—which many couples have already invested in. The other big costs include lawyers and medical bills.
How Families Find Surrogates
The most important part of finding a surrogate is making sure you match with somebody who wants the same things you do. Some surrogate families want the surrogate to be involved after the birth or are willing to send pictures and updates—others don’t want that. It’s important to find the right fit.
When a family decides that surrogacy is right for them, they have two choices—they can find a surrogate through an agency, or they can find an independent match.
Agencies will connect families to potential surrogates who might be the right fit for them. They also have peace of mind that the surrogate is who they say they are. Agency fees range from $10,000 to $40,000. Clinics also come with a lot of regulations, and sometimes very long wait times—even up to two years.
Finding an independent match can be a more affordable option without all the red tape—but it can require a good deal of legwork. Some people will match with a friend or family member. But others have to find someone on their own.
There are plenty of online groups where people can find a match. It’s important to realize that some people have been misled—so be careful and practice due diligence.
If you are interested in surrogacy and are looking for more information, Ariel offers intended parent consults to help answer questions and guide you through the process.
I think that the work that Ariel has done and the advocacy she continues to provide for the space is so valuable. I’m glad that she is breaking the stigma and bringing more awareness to the process of surrogacy.
It can be threatening to someone’s identity if they can’t get pregnant.
There is so much shame woven into the ability to conceive. For the 15% of couples who experience infertility, this can be a sensitive topic. It can be threatening to someone’s identity if they can’t get pregnant.
But infertility doesn’t mean you are failing. And it doesn’t mean you don’t have options. The more we have these types of conversations, the easier it will be for prospective parents to find the path that is right for them.
If you’re struggling with shame, guilt, or conflicting feelings around infertility or pregnancy, you’re not alone. Our team of mom therapists at the Wellness Center can help. Book a FREE 15 minute consultation to assess your needs today!