How to Explain to Others That You’re Working With a Surrogate to Have a Family

Jennifer "Jay" Palumbo

IVF mom of two and infertility advocate

Even though many celebrities have built their families with the help of a gestational carrier (Andy Cohen, Kim Kardashian, Nicole Kidman, and Sarah Jessica Parker, to name just a few), the public continues to have misconceptions around surrogacy. Not helping matters is when it’s depicted on television, there are often basic inaccuracies on the process. Take, for example, one of the most famous shows ever, Friends. Phoebe was a gestational carrier but never had any children previously, which in the real world, would have ruled her out to be a surrogate to her brother’s children.

It’s essential to keep this in mind as you start down your path to parenthood. When you start talking to your friends and family about working with a gestational carrier, you are most likely going to receive many unintentionally ignorant and incorrect questions and comments.

Below, we’re going to offer some suggestions to help you explain the process and prepare yourself for the potentially tricky conversations that lie ahead!

The Basics

When it comes to this topic, there are “most frequently asked questions” that usually consist of who the “real” mother is or “real parent.” When speaking to others, educating them on the correct terms (intended parent, gestational carrier, NOT saying ‘surrogate mother,’ etc.) can help. To lighten the conversation a little and make it easier for them to understand, you can use the ever famous, “It’s my bun in someone’s oven.” The point is you should be ready to explain in a way you feel comfortable that you are very much the “real parent” whether you’re genetically tied to the child or not.

Some other frequently asked questions on surrogacy are:

  • How much does surrogacy cost, and/or how much are you paying the surrogate?
  • Are you worried she’ll want to keep the baby?
  • Is surrogacy legal?
  • Have you thought about adopting instead?
  • Have you tried x, y, or z?

Let’s go through these one by one (oy):

How much are you paying the surrogate? This is really your choice. If you want to give a dollar amount, that’s up to you. Some other options are, “Enough to compensate her for this incredible gift.” or “Prices can vary depending on the needs of our gestational carrier and what the pregnancy entails.” There is always the option of, “I’d prefer not to get into the finances of it but bottom line: It’s so worth it!”

Are you worried she’ll keep the baby? Short answer: “No, because it’s not her baby. She’s carrying it for me/us but it’s our child.” If you want though, you can expand on how closely surrogates are screened, that those amazing women who opt to serve as a gestational carrier have typically done this before in some cases and are prepared, willing and more often than not, thrilled to help out another couple (not to mention they have their own children at home!)

Is surrogacy legal? Of course, this depends on the state you and/or your gestational carrier reside in. No matter where you live though, you can explain that legal contracts have been put in place with the help of a lawyer who specializes in surrogacy to protect you, the child and the safety and well-being of the surrogate you’re working with.

Have you thought about adopting? While this answer can be different for everyone, some do want to be genetically tied to their child (just like any “fertile” person typically does). If you have other reasons, you’re open to share that and if you prefer not to answer, a quick, “I have thought about it but this is the best option for me, thanks!” should end the topic quickly. 

And the whole, “Have you tried x, y, z?” is one question many who are trying to conceive deal with often. You honestly could spend a lifetime trying eating pineapple core, acupuncture, standing on your head, and a million other anecdotal stories that happened to your aunt’s neighbor’s sister but much like the above, a simple, “I’ve explored all my options and this one fits best for our situation.” Boom. End of story.

Again, for the most part, these questions aren’t intended to be hurtful, but they can be. While you may not always be in the mood to put your teacher hat on to help guide your friends and family through the process, in the long run, it will help inform them on your journey and how they best can support you.

To get ready for these informal little press conferences, you may want to rehearse and even have a previously well thought out email to send to those closest to you.

Other Factors To Consider

Decide who you want to share your decision with

At some point, everyone WILL know you had a child. However, that doesn’t mean you have to tell the world everything and immediately. Think about who you feel either should know or who you feel will be the most supportive to you.

Use Visual Aids

Whether it’s a PDF you have on the process, a website that has been a valuable resource to you, an infographic or hell, even puppets if need be; if you have any tools to provide those most important to you so they can best join your cheering section, do it!

You Have The Right to Remain Silent

Shocking, right? The truth is if there are any questions or areas you don’t feel comfortable addressing or speaking about, you can say precisely that.

It’s A Way to Practice Telling Your Child

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) encourages parents to disclose their child’s conception story. Having any secrecy around your child’s origin can potentially make the process seem negative. Also, you create a risk of someone else telling them. Ultimately, there have been numerous studies that support being open with your child on how they were conceived with the help of a gestational carrier and/or egg donor. So, while the words will be different, speaking openly about how you have expanded your family is a beautiful way to practice for the conversation with your future child when you let them know just how very much they were wanted!

For additional resources and information on either donor eggs or working with a gestational carrier, please feel free to search the GoStork site!

GoStork can help you out as you get started with your search for a gestational carrier. Find, compare, and connect with top agencies across the US, already researched and vetted for you with profiles including all of the important criteria (years in business, number of babies born, costs, ratings and reviews, team profiles, and much more) you need to make an informed decision. Find your ideal surrogacy agency, here.