The XX Factor

Surrogates Need More Than Compassion or Money to Be Successful

Kerry, you’re right that surrogates need not be motivated by compassion alone. That’s because being a surrogate is a tough job. Never mind the social stigma they face explaining to their families and neighbors why they’re carrying someone else’s kids.

Surrogates often have to deal with multiple births, Caesarian sections and mandatory bed rest. One Arizona surrogate even carried quintuplets for one couple .

Many standard contracts require that a surrogate undergo six inseminations or three rounds of in-vitro fertilization. And she may not receive full payment unless one of these efforts results in a pregnancy. Before she even gets the job, she may have to submit to extensive psychological, drug and medical screening-while being at the mercy of notoriously sketchy agencies or inexperienced couples who try to broker contracts on their own. Even though she can earn up to $20,000, the fee may not cover unexpected expenses, for everything from maternity clothes to time off work due to pregnancy complications.

And while many surrogates say they love being pregnant, they can’t escape the toll pregnancy takes on their bodies: stretch marks, heartburn, weight gain, insomnia and hemorrhoids. (Some surrogates even go out of their way to send their intendeds pictures of their growing bellies or offer to nurse the babies after they are born.) Many employers (called “intended parents”) are obviously grateful, giving the women titles such as “Our Angel” or “Special Auntie,” inviting them to visit-or, the biggest honor, asking them to carry a sibling.

But surrogates may be disappointed when their intendeds don’t appreciate the sacrifice, regard them as hired incubators, and want as little to do with them as possible-perhaps out of fear that the women will form an emotional attachment to the children they’re carrying. Surrogate message boards , such as those on the site Surromomsonline , are full of tales of alleged poor treatment by intended parents, who literally take the babies and run. One particular complaint: Not being allowed to hold the baby you carried and delivered. One surrogate wrote that the experience was so heartbreaking she’d never do it again. Then there are the frequent squabbles over medical coverage, lifestyle, or birthing protocol. Did the surrogate agree to a natural delivery? Go to pre-natal yoga? Eat enough organic produce?

A surrogate needs a lot more than compassion to be successful in this business. She needs resilience, dedication and, if she is financially compensated, the up-front understanding that she will earn every cent.