Surrogacy - The Gift of Life
I was a guest on the Today Show this morning to talk about surrogacy -- in response to the news that Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband Matthew Broderick were expecting twin girls with the help of a surrogate.
I remember very well when surrogacy burst into the media spotlight, back in 1970s, with the heart wrenching story of Mary Beth Whitehead who became embroiled in a sticky legal and emotional battle when the surrogate decided to keep the baby.
But we've come a long way since that famous case. Today there are reportedly 6-7,000 births a year via surrogates (no one know for sure since many aren't reported) and it can now be a safe and viable alternative for couples if they follow some basic guidelines and get proper legal counsel.
My husband and I used the CSP (Center for Surrogate Parenting) in Southern CA --considered the masters at matching couples to surrogates and then taking care of every detail from medical and psychological screening of the surrogate, to legal contracts, to embryo transfers, to overseeing your relationship with your surrogate throughout the pregnancy, and even hospital details for the delivery. Of course this kind of careful orchestration isn't cheap but it certainly makes for a wonderful happy journey and a blessed outcome.
When hiring a surrogate, everything is decided upfront; how much contact will the surrogate have with the family during pregnancy and after the birth. If multiple embryo's are implanted then you must decide if you will do selective reduction as well as how many babies will your surrogate agrees to carry. All parties must agree in writing to all kinds of these details.
Jeff and I traveled to Ohio where our surrogate Deborah Bolig lived for the ultra sounds and then for the birth. However we spoke with Deborah and her husband Pete (my husband calls him the unsung hero-for putting up with a pregnant wife) weekly. She was wonderful in sharing meaningful details-baby hiccups and kicking. Having read about how babies hear in utero and recognize their mommy's voice when born, I made an audio tape of my voice "hi my babies, it's mommy and I can't wait to meet you-I love you....." which Deborah played to her growing belly at night. And when the babies were handed to me in the delivery room (another detail worked out ahead of time, some surrogates like the baby to be handed to them so they have the opportunity to hand them to the awaiting parents) I feel they did know my voice--they stopped fussing and began cooing.
It was the most amazing experience in the hospital--a real family affair--Deborah's 3 teenage daughters and my 3 teen daughter's oohing and aahing over the babies, and dressing and feeding them. It was way better than I ever could have dreamed.
We are only required by contract to send photos of the kids each year on their B-days. But the relationship between our two families has forever been intertwined, and we make sure to get together once a year because we want our twins to know the family who made it possible. You can be sure that this Mother's Day Deborah Bolig will receive flowers and a call from all four cuties, as she does every year.
I really hope that the media (and the rest of us) will let Sarah Jessica and Matthew enjoy this happy time in their lives and stop asking inappropriate personal questions about every detail of how they created their child. If we are raised properly, we know that it wouldn't be right to ask such questions of a neighbor or an acquaintance, but for some reason the public has come to think it's OK to demand that celebs reveal every personal detail of their lives.
Come on, let's all be a little classier than that. I know it makes for a fun salacious story-but that doesn't mean its right.
There are thousands of couples struggling in this country, trying to have babies. Surrogacy can now be a safe and viable option for them, and I want women to feel as though they can choose this option without any stigma and without thinking that they too will be expected to answer inappropriate questions about delicate family matters. We are fortunate that we have medical technology and altruistic self less compassionate surrogates willing to give the Gift of Life.