What Surprised Me About Being a Surrogate Mother

This month on Man Repeller we’re delving into the inner-workings of all types of families, from actual blood relatives to those of the chosen variety. Leia Swanberg, the Founder and CEO of Canadian Fertility Consulting, is someone whose work and personal life touches multiple iterations of what a modern family looks like. I spoke with her about her experience with surrogacy (wherein a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy for another person or couple), both as a surrogate mother herself and as a business owner who helps connect surrogates with couples who want to be parents. Below, her story. 

On her family life and personal experience with surrogacy

I live with a blended family of six. My husband had one son from a previous relationship, and I have five daughters, one of whom I gave up for adoption as a teenager, but she made her way back into my life.

I’ve been a surrogate twice. The first time was 14 years ago, and the second about a year after that, which was a twin pregnancy. Giving up a child for adoption at the age of 16 definitely played a role in this decision. I remember being pregnant my sophomore year of high school and seeing one of those signs in the counselor’s office that said, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” It still makes me emotional to think about: being 16 and pregnant and having no idea how that would impact my future career and journey.

I gave birth to my daughter Alana, and her adoptive parents were there with me in the delivery room. I think a part of me knew subconsciously at the time that giving parents a child they weren’t able to have on their own would was something I was meant to do again.

Fifteen years later, I became a surrogate to the most amazing couple. The mother was a kindergarten teacher, and together we decided to keep journals and record our experiences throughout the pregnancy and exchange them when the baby was born. When I finally opened hers, it was filled with poems written in beautiful kindergarten teacher writing. Every line was an outpouring of gratitude. Meanwhile mine were covered in coffee stains and sticky handprints from little kids and filled with a lot of, “I fucking hate my life,” “I’m so sick today,” “This is horrible,” “I hope I’m doing a good job because this baby is killing me.” Just real pregnancy stuff. Real.

I finished reading the intended mother’s journal, and I called her and said, ‘Is this really how you felt?’ Because I thought this was just a put-on, and she said, ‘Every single day, this is how I felt.’

In the hospital, after the couple’s son was born, the father came into my room and said, “Thank you. The night after my son was born was the first time I’ve truly slept in nine years.” In that moment I was like, Holy fuck, what is this and how do I do this every day? Of course, I couldn’t be a surrogate again immediately because I had just had a baby, so I became an egg donor in the meantime.

On starting her own fertility agency…and getting arrested

After my second successful surrogacy experience, I decided I wanted to start my own full-service fertility and egg donation agency. I founded Canadian Fertility Consulting with a $500 loan from my now ex-husband. At the time, he told me I had 30 days to pay him back or else it was a hobby, not a business. That didn’t end up being a problem. I had a steady intake of one or two clients a month, and before I knew it, I had hit the five-year mark.

Then one day, there was a knock at the door. I thought it was my landlord playing a joke. The voice at the door said, “Police!” and the knocks kept getting louder and louder.

I went to open the door and found myself face to face with a cop holding a gun and pointing it at my head. Within 30 seconds, our entire office was full of cops. Finally one of them spoke: “You are the first Canadian agency to be investigated for paying surrogates and egg donors under Canada’s 2004 Assisted Human Reproduction Act.” (Under the law, reimbursement of expenses is the only money allowed to change hands between parents and surrogates — but no one had been prosecuted for it before.)

They seized all of our computers, client files and records. I was charged with paying money to egg donors for their eggs, paying money to surrogates for contract pregnancies and taking finder’s fees from an American lawyer who, unbeknownst to me, was running an elaborate baby-selling ring.

I pled guilty and paid $60,000 in fines, in addition to several hundred thousand dollars in lawyer fees. I was terrified but grateful that I had an amazing lawyer, and that my case was going to provide much-needed clarity about a law in Canada that made little sense. There’s a quote in the court transcript from the judge who ruled on the case where he essentially said, “The work she does is so important. Let her pay the $60,000 fine and continue to work.”

So I did. I sought input from another lawyer who specialized in Canadian health legislation. He advised me on how to adapt my business to function within legal parameters and I was finally able to get things up and running again. I was worried I would never get another client after going through all of that, but as it turned out, the opposite was true. Because I was under a microscope, and the government was watching me, people felt safe. The agency grew from a staff of four to 20 in that first year, and continued to grow afterward.

My case gave me a lot of great publicity, too. Couples struggling to conceive read about it in the news and all they saw was: they have surrogates, they have egg donors. The wait time in Canada for getting matched with a surrogate is typically a year and a half, but the wait time at Canadian Fertility Consulting has always been three months.

On vetting potential surrogates

Intaking a new surrogate is all about figuring her out. A lot of women who sign up for surrogacy are “yes” people. They just want to help everybody. And it’s like, Okay, well, let’s think about this critically and map out what that looks like for you: Who exactly do you want to help, and how do you want to help them?

In answering that question, some surrogates come to us and say, “I’m here because my sister has cancer and isn’t able to have a child. They’ve decided to be childless but I’d like to help another cancer survivor.” And we’ll say, great, we have a couple in mind.

Others say, “My brother is gay, and he’s 20, so he’s not ready to have a child yet, but I’d love to help a gay couple become a family.”

Or sometimes,”I am a single mom of four by choice and used a sperm donor to help me have my kids, so I’d like to help a single mom.”

Some women want a really close relationship with the child and family after the birth; others don’t want any contact.

After the intake process, potential surrogates are required to provide medical records with proof they already have children of their own, an indication that they can carry a healthy baby to term. Agencies will also ask for a criminal record check to ensure that applicants don’t have any criminal history or pending charges that would cause them to be incarcerated during the pregnancy.

If they pass those initial checks, they would then go on to meet with a fertility specialist and have an ultrasound, some blood tests, hormone level tests and tests for infectious diseases. If the surrogate has a partner he or she must also be free from any infectious diseases that could be transmitted during the pregnancy. Everyone within the surrogate’s social structure has to be healthy, because that’s her support system.

Once medical clearance is provided, the intended parents will meet with a lawyer to begin putting together a contract that reflects the views of everyone involved: How does the surrogate feel about selective reduction if the embryo splits? How does she feel about termination? Would she terminate if the fetus had Down syndrome or chromosomal abnormalities? Ensuring a common value fit between surrogate and parents is crucial.

We make sure the surrogate understands from a legal perspective what she’s committing to, ensuring that she knows what informed consent is, what informed medical consent is and that she really is an active participant in this legal process.

After the contract is signed, the surrogate will go to a fertility clinic and start hormone treatment to prepare her body for implantation. The treatment takes about six weeks and usually involves an intramuscular injection each day or patches or pills. Then the embryo (provided by either an egg donor or the intended mother) is implanted.

On common misconceptions

I think the most common misunderstanding about surrogacy is that it’s easy, and that it’s the first choice couples are making. Working with a surrogate is not like waking up and deciding to buy a purse. Most people don’t want to have a surrogate. People are put in a position that requires it, whether you’re born into a body that doesn’t allow pregnancy, or if you’re a man and it’s biologically not possible for you, or if you’re in a same sex relationship, or if you are a trans person, or if you have cancer, or can’t go off a certain medication.

The other misconception is that it is the surrogacy process involves wealthy people exploiting poor women. Most of the surrogates I work with have other full-time jobs. They are nurses and teachers and dental hygienists, and many of them make an equivalent wage to the intended parent they are helping. The ideas that these women are uneducated and uninformed and helpless is simply false.

On seeing the babies she carried grow up

The baby boy I gave birth to — I got an invitation last month to his Bar Mitzvah last spring, and I was like, Holy shit. He’s not a baby anymore. He’s a boy who’s literally becoming a man, and I got to watch it happen with 150 other people. Knowing the role I played in his story still makes me teary.

He knows who I am and I know who he is. We don’t see each other in person often, but we exchange pictures and talk all the time. Giving a gift means you give it without expectation, and yes, you cross your fingers and hope for a whole bunch of stuff, but I honor whatever choices his family makes along the way.

When people talk about surrogacy, they often question how women can possibly make this choice — the choice to sacrifice themselves physically and emotionally for nine months to give another couple a baby. To that I always say, yes, pregnancy can be difficult: morning sickness, back pain, sometimes miscarriages or terminations. But the feeling of helping two people complete the family they were always meant to have eclipses all of that one hundred times over.

Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi; Creative Direction by Emily Zirimis.

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  • Wow, what a moving piece.

  • Mademoiselle Catastrophe

    “We make sure the surrogate understands from a legal perspective what she’s committing to, ensuring that she knows what informed consent is, what informed medical consent is and that she really is an active participant in this legal process.”

    So a 19th century definition of contract to please everyone with the idea of a market for babies.

    No worries anyone. There was freedom of contract and consentment. Said the invisible hand of the market…

    Otherwise. I loved to read her opinion, but I must confess I don’t feel entirely comfortable with the whole idea.

    • Sooji

      Mademoiselle Catastrophe, could you explain further about why you are not comfortable with the idea of surrogacy? I am just curious!

      • Mademoiselle Catastrophe

        I guess there is no denying it is a complex topic, and don't get me wrong, I am happy that we can openly discuss it here. I think it's clear there is no easy answer and that, like it is often the case with so many of the issues raised in a global regulatory environment, there are lights and shadows. I was curious to read the experience of this article because it gives a voice to the legitimate wishes of those couples that cannot conceive, as well as to those women that selflessly offer their help, which are too often forgotten in this conversation.
        But let us not turn a blind eye on the other legitimate arguments against surrogacy: the rights of the women involved, the  difficulties of the legal concept of contractual consent, the extent to which it is ok to mercantilise maternity and reduce pregnancy, an intimate aspect of womanhood, to something to be controlled by religious authorities or by market forces, the risks pose by surrogacy in a cross-border context and the danger of so called regulatory races-to-the-bottom, as regulators struggle to stop the outsourcing of  gestation from the white, rich and privileged Western parents-to-be to women, sometimes girls, of developing countries, and which at its worst, links with the disturbing existence of baby farms. So yes, how do we regulate all the interests at stake: the woman, the parents, the babies, in a global context where the power of nation states is limited? I think there is enough to make anyone uncomfortable with a one-size-fits-all answer.

      • Mademoiselle Catastrophe

        Well… The effects on the health of the surrogate mother, the respect to her rights during and after the pregnancy, the outsourcing of gestation to women in developing countries, the existence of baby farms in some parts of the world, which we permit because a short sighted notion of choice and consent, the commodification of maternity and its subordination, if not to religious beliefs, to mercantilistic values, the gate of the children that do not meet the specifications stipulated on a contract…
        I guess these are just some examples.

    • Pterodactyl111

      In a medical context, “informed consent” has a very specific legal meaning. It’s a rigorous process with a lot of oversight.

      • Mademoiselle Catastrophe

        Consent is a fundamental concept of contract law ans ut has a very long story. Generally speaking, it is seen as expression of autonomy and freedom of contract, and as such it is essential in our legal systems and market economies. But consent as a neutral and formal concept is also questioned by our own economic and social reality. The validity of consent is relative in the presence of unequal bargaining powers or exploitation of information asymmetries or behavioral biases. In the medical context, this means that patients have very few options out of a given treatment, are not familiar with the meaning of medical terms affecting their health and are also subject to different emotional biases. For example, the way in which information is presented to patients has a big effect on their decision: it is not the same to hear that there are 90% chances of success than to hear there are 10% chances of failure, even if the information in both cases is the same.
        In short, I am just saying that legal consent is a very tricky and decimononical concept to justify surrogacy contracts, if only because it turns a blind eye on the asymmetries and imbalances that are also probably present between the parties.
        Now, I swear. No more legal talk.

    • Frenchmochi

      I enjoyed reading about her experience/having her POV although I really disagree with the idea of surrogacy. Her experience is an exception. Legalizing surrogacy would lay the ground for exploitation of women, especially those who are vulnerable/from Third-World countries. Not to mention the depression many of those surrogate mothers experience when the child they bore is withdrawn from them. Her altruism is really touching, but the hard reality of this market for babies is very different.

      • Mademoiselle Catastrophe

        Yes! Shortly after the earthquake in Nepal, I remember reading this touching piece in a newspaper about how the government of Israel had proved to be so open-minded and sensitive to the difficulties of surrogate parenthood when it sent a plane to rescue an Israel couple and their baby, born to a surrogate mother, after they got trapped because of the earthquake. In this article there was no mention to the mother who delivered the child, to her health and hew own difficulties in a hospital in the middle of a destroyed city. This is the hypocrisy of surrogacy.

  • maisonsheik.com

    Really loved this. She is doing a service to so many men and women and the fact that she has been in a surrogate’s shoes lends a lot of credibility to her organization. Really good read.

  • starryhye

    Really interesting piece, Harling! After having 2 kids of my own, just the thought of being pregnant again literally gives me anxiety. I am in awe of the selfless women who step up to be surrogates.

    • Kristin

      Agree! Unimaginable. What a gift

    • Emma

      I agree too! What an incredible sacrifice!

  • Selena Delgado

    The rules can be made up as life goes on. It sheds light on how little people actually are made aware of the culture behind surrogacy. Reading this has heightened my awareness of how delicate the subject is. We need to keep conversations like this going. Loved this article.

  • Emma

    Commercial surrogacy is unethical and exploitative.

    • Ciccollina

      I feel like you’re not allowed to followed this detailed argument with a one-line statement! Leia even addresses this in the article. What are you basing your statement on?

      • Emma

        The surrogacy industry is highly predatory, it thrives on exploiting less privileged women. Just for perspective, the practice is illegal in most European countries, with places like Canada, the UK, and Australia only allowing it in the altruistic form.
        Privileged men and women don’t have the right to exploit less privileged women because they want to have a biological child. Women choosing to risk their lives and giving up their bodily autonomy to carry another persons child for payment is entirely unethical. It’s the exchange of money, wealthy women outsourcing gestation to poor and often vulnerable women, that is immoral. When a woman chooses to become a surrogate how much of a choice does she really have? What economic circumstances have lead her to that decision? A woman making that choice doesn’t negate how unfair and unethical the surrogacy industry is and absolving perpetrators of their responsibility by throwing around the word choice is disingenuous at best and dangerous at worst. I’m not blaming those who choose to be surrogates due to financial hardship, my issue is with the industry and those who buy into it.
        I empathize with people who want children and cannot have them, but that doesn’t give them the right to commodify women and their bodies. Women’s bodies should not be for sale, not for pregnancy, not for sex, not for any of it.

        • Ciccollina

          I am in two minds about this. If a woman can make money safely when she really needs to, then shouldn’t she be allowed to? And why shouldn’t women’s bodies be for sale? Men donate sperm all the time, and I realise that is less invasive, but it’s the same sentiment. The other side of me says that as a society, we need to learn to not always get what we want. If you can’t have kids, then why not adopt? There are so many children out there in need of a loving home that I find it pretty selfish that people go to such great lengths to have “their own” child. But the reality is, I don’t know what it’s like to be unable to have a child. Neither of us know what that feels like (I assume – correct me if I’m wrong). And when you say “When a woman chooses to become a surrogate how much of a choice does she really have?” I think that you are underestimating a lot of women, and in some cases, disregarding their need for money as means for survival. While I love to judge, I sometimes think that when it comes to matter of the heart it’s best to keep my thoughts to myself and let people do what feels right at the time. That’s all we can ever hope for, right?

          • Selina

            Super interesting discussion. From the perspective of a woman with infertility, it’s jarring to hear the urge to have biological children described as ‘selfish’. The desire to see yourself and the love of your life in a child is not trivial. For what it’s worth, my SIL has offered to be a surrogate and we would accept it if it comes to that. We will not consider commercial surrogacy or adoption. That’s not to say that I have any opinions at all about couples who do. The stakes in infertility, pregnancy, and parenthood are much more complex than a single person’s (or even single culture’s) imagination allows. I share your humble view here, Ciccollina. I don’t think it’s appropriate to take a rigid moral view on surrogacy without understanding the issue from every possible angle.

          • Ciccollina

            I’m certainly not saying that it’s trivial Selina. Selfishness is different to triviality. What I’m saying is, if you want to be a parent, then why isn’t adoption an option? Why must you raise a child that is “yours”? Those kids are children too, and you would be doing the (exceptionally overpopulated) world a huge favour by helping a child in need, rather than going to great lengths (and in some cases, dangers) of surrogacy. I can’t see this perspective as anything else but an uncomfortable truth. I think it’s so important for people of privilege to look outside our own wants and desires and think about the greater impact of our decisions.

          • Selina

            Ciccollina, I think I understand why you feel the way you do but have to respectfully disagree. Triviality matters. Wanting biological children is like wanting to experience happiness, spend your life with people who love you, have a health body, etc. These are all selfish. They’re also central to the human experience (as opposed to, say, buying new clothes every season). Our responsibility as citizens of the world needs to be reconciled with our individual needs as humans. It’s sad to me that anti-surrogacy women here are assuming pro-surrogacy women don’t care about global implications or have self awareness about privilege. Of course we do. My own parents are immigrants from the developing world. My grandparents grew up in rural poverty.

            Maybe this will help illustrate things… I really like what doublecurl said about fertility support women falling into two categories, those who feel attachment to their biological material and those who feel attachment to the act of gestation. There’s no reason to defend one view as more “correct” than the other – each is an intuition that we may never understand but have a responsibility to respect. This is also how I approach the way couples handle their infertility. The calculated+intuited differences between adoption, IVF, surrogacy, and donor egg/sperm are not the same for any two people who are trying to become parents. For example, US domestic adoption is extremely competitive and international adoption has its own injustice-related issues. Is it less selfish to adopt a child or to live childless while financially supporting a child raised by a family in the culture of his/her birth? Are gay couples under the same obligation to “selflessly” adopt rather than have biological children? There is no single right answer.

          • Danielle Cardona Graff

            I’m somewhere in the middle as you are. I don’t think I could’ve said it better. <3

          • Emma

            No person is entitled to another person’s body, no matter the circumstances. Honestly, if you don’t understand why women’s bodies being for sale or having surrogacy being their most viable means for financial survival is wrong then I don’t know what to tell you.
            But to your last point about keeping to yourself and letting people do what they feel is right for them, that is actually incredibly dangerous. People take advantage of and exploit the vulnerable, and as a society we need to protect them.
            We need to be criticizing and examining the current structures and systems under which we exist, it is integral to progress. None of these decisions are made in a vacuum. Choice feminism is not feminism.

          • Frenchmochi

            « No person is entitled to another person’s body »: true

          • Ciccollina

            I’m afraid I can just never agree with your brand of moral absolutism! I think that there is never a never (or an always) and that empathy and empowerment should come before these blanket judgements and assumptions. I think what we need to be outraged about is the idea that surrogacy is anyone’s “only means of survival”, the same way we are outraged about women having to become prostitutes. What are the social factors that play into this end result? In other words, let’s help these women into gainful employment rather than criticising surrogacy as some kind of evil.

  • NikNak

    I can’t help but wonder what it’s like to tell people at work or acquaintances that you are pregnant but you are a surrogate. I’m curious if it’s awkward when people ask you questions about what most would assume is your baby.

    • Danielle Cardona Graff

      I guess that’s all part of what they sign up for, and depends on the circumstances of which the surrogate chose to play that role. I wonder as well though.

  • Wren

    I used to read Man Repeller for the wit and welcomed respite from stress-inducing news about global issues, but I will not be reading it anymore.

    Surrogacy is exploitation. Women’s wombs should not be farmed. Although I believe everyone has a right to family, it is not a right that erases the inherent dangers of pregnancy:

    Organ donation saves lives (but the trade is illegal, for obvious reasons), but people do not have the right to “rent” the organ of another person so that they can have the perfect infant with elements of their own genetic material. Adoption is a better and more ethical option.

    And the fact that the author went into this industry ignorant of the laws and regulations or without any awareness of the global surrogacy industry and its impact on women is actually quite terrifying. How could anyone start such a business that deals with matters of life and health without this kind of research?? It hardly denotes sincere altruism in any way, and makes me dubious regarding the authors depth of intelligence.

    Sorry Man Repeller, I will not be returning to read anything in the near future. Thanks for the memories.

    • eizhowa

      So if I decided to lend my sister my womb for 9 months so that I could end her and her partners emotional pain, I would be exploited? What an incredibly pessimistic view of the matter.

      I don’t believe for a second you have actually read the full article either.

      • Tatiana

        Surrogacy is not a technological advance. Even IVF is from the 80s.

        The article was not in fact clear about the law. Especially given the fact that apparently her first lawyer was skilled in evading laws surrounding surrogacy. It seems the law was not the issue, but rather the flawed interpretation of it that got the interviewee in trouble.

        While in general I agree with you, @eizhowa, I think @Wren brings up a valid point. Maybe there are people who do this altruistically, like in your sibling example. However, the second that a person is your profit margin, I think your ethical reasoning should be super critical. You must be aware of all the bad that can happen in order to truly justify the good.

    • LaurenG

      I understand your point of view and that surrogacy is a very polarizing topic. But I do not understand why going to such extent of stopping to read man repeller. From what I read there is no specific point of view expressed by the authors from man repeller, they just present a women’s point of view and experience on the topic. These topics are worth discussing and personally as someone not really aware about surrogacy and the issues surrounding it, I was very interested to read this article but also mainly to read the comments and discussions around it.

      Why declaring you will not read a website/blog that you seem to enjoy because you disagree with just one article? This sounds a bit extreme…

      • Ciccollina

        I agree, and strongly believe that educated, well-rounded people are a result of being (almost constantly!) confronted with ideas that they don’t agree with. As Aristotle said: “it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”.

        Let’s try to avoid a culture of running from things that we disagree with or scare us, because that gives those scary things more power than they are due.

        • Danielle Cardona Graff

          well said!

          • Ciccollina

            Thank you!

      • Danielle Cardona Graff


    • Danielle Cardona Graff

      If we quit every source of media that sheds light on topics we don’t support, we’d be all out of reading material! And if we completely censor ourselves of views outside of our own belief systems then how do we ever learn anything new-or at the very least, get along with others? I myself have very mixed feelings about the topic, but this article wasn’t written to promote it, or necessarily change anyone’s thinking. This article simply shares one woman’s experience, and that of some other women who have been through this same process.

      • Ciccollina

        Precisely. It was sharing a point of view, not endorsing a mass-surrogacy scheme!

  • Alison

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s great to hear her experience and it’s given me a new perspective on the issue. There’s a lot to think about.

  • Stephanie

    Wow I had no idea surrogacy was such a polarizing subject, but I see from the comments people have some really strong feelings about it. Regardless I appreciate the article and a view into a world I don’t know all that much about.

  • nevvvvave

    commercial surrogacy exists almost exclusively due to an overwhelming market demand from the global 1%, and most definitely not because there exists a natural and equal supply of women who would love to be used as vessels for other people. It’s not a “misconception” that surrogacy exploits the poorest and most vulnerable women globally. It is a fact. This whole choice rhetoric is in the same family as the arguments used to defend prostitution by re-branding it as “sex work”. Women’s bodies should not be for sale (or rent) in any capacity, ever. But here’s another question- what happens when the child is born and neither the paying party nor the surrogate want it?

    • doublecurl

      I am genuinely curious when you think this situation would arise, I can’t imagine a situation in which intended parents via surrogacy would not want the child

  • Renee

    For me, this is where being pro-choice comes into play. I will always believe that women have the right to do whatever they please with their bodies, whether it be abortion, sex work, or surrogacy.

    I understand that with surrogacy there are women that can be taken advantage of (and it is deeply troubling) but who am I to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body? It’s not my place, if this is what she has (or wants) to do to provide for her family or to pay for schooling, then I will not judge. The same goes for sex work, if that is what a woman has to (or some cases wants to) do, I understand. I wish there were better and less exploitive options for women, but the world is a shitty place with limited options.

    I can see that many women are trying to protect women by advocating to ban this practice, but the idea that women will be better off without this option also comes from a place of privilege. We don’t always know what’s best for other people.

    Instead of pushing for outright bans, which we all know doesn’t actually ban anything, I would rather push to make this industries as safe as possible to ensure these women are treated properly, given quality care, and receive their compensation. Perhaps constraining surrogacy within your own country, mandatory education so people are informed about all the risks, and implementing programs that promote adoption are places to start.

    • kristien

      This is probably the most thoughtful comment here. Well said.

    • Ciccollina

      Amen. It’s never going to stop! There is a black market for EVERYTHING so we may as well open it up to regulation and open conversation.

    • Mademoiselle Catastrophe

      It makes me sad to think that, as polarizing as the issue may be, we dismiss the arguments we do not agree with as full of vitriol and hatred. I do see people that care for women on both sides, and I refuse to paint things black and white. I do have a strong opinion on this, but I am happy when others defend their own strong opinions too.

      I do have a problem with the idea that ‘choice’ is enough to legitimize surrogacy (if only because personal preferences, as determining peoples’ choices, are endogenous, which means they depend on the context in which they are expressed and are embedded in a specific social system, which in turn makes of choice a damn complicated question), or with the argument that, if surrogacy is going to happen anyway, then we need to regulate it. Banning is regulation, and facilitative regulation is also regulation, but in any case, a global problem hardly ever goes away with mere national regulation. So, recognizing the need to regulate does not take away the questions of who should regulate it, or at what level, and how will this be enforced. These are not easy questions and there is no magic formula.

      I think that listening to all the voices involved is a necessary step to reach the best possible solution in an imperfect world, and this starts by recognizing that both sides of the discussion do have legitimate arguments. So yes, thanks MR community for giving us this space to discuss and listen! :)))

  • Audrey Niksic

    Very surprised to see so many strong and hateful comments on this post. Although I cannot speak much on it and I am sure that there are lots of instances of mistreatment of the surrogate mothers, overall I think the idea should be empowering from a feminist standpoint. Women choosing what to do with their bodies for the sake of helping other oppressed groups who want to have children in my perspective, cannot be considered exploitative. The oppressed cannot exploit the oppressed. Would love to have a discussion with someone who has actually experienced surrogacy or if anyone could link me articles to further discuss the topic!

  • ladybirda

    I have multiple friends who have had children thanks to surrogacy and they are wonderful parents. However, as someone who almost died giving birth to my first child, it is not a risk I could ever ask another woman to take for myself, whether she was offering to do so altruistically or for profit. I think commercial surrogacy exploits poor women who often have few other options, and the physical and mental burden of gestating a child that you then give up, even if it isn’t technically “yours” by DNA, is too easily dismissed by people desperate to have a bio child by any means necessary.

  • Emma

    We are living in a choice feminist hell.

  • doublecurl

    I have donated eggs, and I feel quite familiar with the (US) fertility industry. I am shocked at the vitriol in these comments. I understand the exploitation that occurs in developing countries and feel similarly appalled by “baby farms” taking advantage of women in poverty and abusing these women. However, the existence of exploitation in those contexts should not and does not extend to fertility policy and practice in developed countries. To say that surrogacy cannot be ethically practiced because it is (in some contexts) unethically practiced is a false and flimsy argument.

    I donated eggs because I felt 1. no attachment to my biological material and 2. a deep, unwavering desire to help a family have a child. The people who are seeking these fertility methods want to have a child SO BADLY and these are some of the most wanted, loved, appreciated children in the world. So many people and so much love went into creating the children I helped bring to life! Also, adoption is not at all easy. So many people end up seeking surrogates/donors after years of failed adoption attempts, even if adoption is their preferred choice. I received standard financial compensation but I in no way “sold” my eggs. This shit is not easy and I felt I was fairly compensated for the incredible investment of time and energy I put into the endeavor. I had to go through many rounds of psychologist/social worker/case worker evaluations to ensure I was not experiencing financial hardship and was not in a position to be exploited.

    The thing I find fascinating about this article is that this woman has been BOTH an egg donor and a surrogate. While donating eggs was an easy choice for me I could absolutely never be a surrogate. I feel very innately that anything I gestate and give birth to belongs to me forever. Fertility counselors who I’ve worked with explained that women generally fall into two camps: those who feel extremely attached to their biological material but are totally fine with lending their womb for 10 months, and those who do not feel an attachment to their biological material but couldn’t fathom carrying a child and giving it away.

  • Style Revival

    As an adoptee I have a very big issue with the idea that everyone has a “right” to a child. The unmeasurable amount of pain through separation from a birth mother following bonding in utero for 9 months and the baby being born to the only person they have ever known and being connected genetically to the mother, then experiences a total annihilation of self, fear grief and loss of the birth parent often creates a lifelong legacy of false sense of self, identity issues and feeling unworthy. I appreciate it is extraordinarily painful to not be able to have a child but taking someone else’s is not the answer- the child is NOT given a choice and she pays the price for that for the rest of her life.