It almost sounds a little silly as I type out those words, and I’m the one writing them. What gives? Who doesn’t meet their gestational carrier, you might wonder.
Believe it or not, it happens.
In my early days of surrogacy, I belonged to several online support groups with surrogates and intended mothers from across the country. Although the majority of the experiences the women brought to the group were positive, there were a few hair-raising ones as well.
One particularly unfortunate story involved an experienced surrogate carrying for a couple that maintained homes in the United States and Europe. They had an independent agreement (meaning they didn’t use an agency to find one another or negotiate their contract) and they used a US fertility center. They used donor eggs and the intended father’s sperm, and the surrogate was pregnant with their baby girl.
Throughout the contract agreement phase and the entire pregnancy, the surrogate spoke only with the intended father by phone. He told her that his wife spoke little English and they were overseas, so she had no contact with her intended mother.
When she delivered the baby, the intended father didn’t come to the birth. Within a day or so of giving birth, he revealed to her that his wife was never aware of the pregnancy and did not want the child, and therefore he didn’t want the baby either.
All’s well that ends well (in theory, at least) – the surrogate was able to get temporary guardianship of the baby and placed her with adoptive parents, who no doubt were elated. But the guy who orchestrated the pregnancy and his unsuspecting wife? Clearly all sorts of crazy.
It turns out that the surrogate never met either of the parents (and this was long before the days of Facetime or video conference calls). She’d only spoken with the intended father on the phone, and nothing more. Granted, in no way, shape or form did she deserve this to happen to her, but I have to wonder if the situation could have been avoided had she insisted on meeting both parents prior to agreeing to carry for them.
And if you follow the news, you probably already know about an unfortunate surrogacy case currently happening in California, where a gestational carrier is pregnant with triplets for a single father. He wanted to reduce the pregnancy, which she refused to do, and now it’s in question whether he wants any of the babies at all (though they’re all his).
As it turns out, she agreed to carry for him and became pregnant with his children without ever meeting him, or ever speaking with him for that matter (he is deaf, but still, there are mechanisms for people who are hearing impaired to communicate by phone, and of course there’s email).
Now there’s no way to know for certain that these, or any other grave problems with surrogacy could have been avoided if the matching process required at least one face-to-face meeting. But it sure seems like it would help.
Critics of surrogacy say that the process is demeaning to women and reduces them to their most basic evolutionary function – breeding. Advocates of surrogacy (like me) maintain that when thoughtfully and carefully executed with free will and full information, surrogacy is a beautiful act of love that benefits all parties involved.
What’s questionable, then, is whether anyone can consider themselves “fully informed” if they haven’t actually met their surrogate mother or their intended parents in person. Sure, phone calls and Skype can get the ball rolling when initially getting to know each other and are especially helpful when each party is a great distance apart – I’m not advocating that couples spend excessive amounts of money when initially screening potential gestational carriers.
I, am, however, suggesting that a face-to-face meeting is a required component of the matching process. We are, after all, human beings with emotions and body language and senses and intuition – all of which are enhanced when we share physical space with one another.
The vast majority of potential surrogate mothers and intended parents all have the best intentions – to embark on life-changing journey together. And what’s more profound than creating a new life together? Isn’t that experience worth the bit of extra time and expense to feel in the flesh, deep in your heart, that you’re the perfect team to pursue the goal of parenthood together?
It may seem like a lot of money to spend initially, but the outlay for travel prior to finalizing any surrogacy arrangement is priceless in the grand scheme of things. And while it might not eliminate all potential pitfalls, it’s a very significant start and can help to minimize heartbreak down the road
Your peace of mind as an intended parent or a surrogate mother is worth it!