By Kelly Rummelhart
Are there stupid questions? You bet!
Since 2008, when I began my first journey as a gestational surrogate, I have been very open about the subject. Over the last three years I have received plenty of questions about various parts of the process. Some say there are no stupid questions, but I say, whoever “they” were never carried another couple’s baby. The following is a summary of several frequently asked questions about surrogacy. This week is focused on the time during pregnancy; next week will focus on the period after birth.
Q: What made you want to do this? Did you just decide one day to do it?
A: It may sound weird, but I think this is one of the reasons I was put on this Earth. I have known, since high school, that I would do this someday. I also knew from the get-go, that it would be for a gay couple. Having three easy pregnancies definitely helped out too! To anyone who really knows me, taking the step to become a gestational surrogate was not really a surprise at all.
Q: Wow. I couldn’t do that! (Now this is more of a statement, but whatever. I hear it a lot.)
A: Yes, I know there are NOT a lot of women who could (or should) carry a baby for someone else, whether it’s for family or someone you didn’t even know. But I’m not your average woman. And luckily for infertile couples out there, a few of us do exist.
When people say this, it’s either with amazement or dissatisfaction. It’s quite funny. I’m seen as a saint, a cold-hearted bitch, or somewhere in between. Sometimes I go a bit further and tell them that I have no issues being a surrogate and that I wish I would’ve been an egg donor when I was younger (before I had kids). The one thing I don’t think I could do is be a foster parent and I applaud those who are because I think I would get attached to that child and be sad to give them back. Dealing with a child who is outside of the womb, who can interact with you on a daily basis, and who you start to love is SO VERY different than carrying someone’s fetus. I don’t talk to them. I don’t rub my belly longingly and I don’t plan for them. I just go on about my business with some silent company.
Q: What if you end up having 5 or 6 babies?
A: This would not have happened to me because I wouldn’t have agreed to have that many embryos transferred. Both times I had minimal embryos transferred. My Intended Parents were hoping for one or two babies, not a litter.
Q: Aren’t you going to want to keep them?
A: No, why would I? They are not my babies. They were not my eggs, not my husband’s sperm…and we already have 3 of our own, thank you very much. I went into this knowing all the above. We’re done having (our own) children. I have had two amazing couples that needed my help. Why on earth would I try to keep THEIR children? I would not babysit a friend’s child for 9 months while they’re fighting in Iraq and then expect to keep it once they returned.
At the birth, I give the babies BACK to their parents, I do not give my babies to them. They were never mine to begin with. They gave me their embryos to protect and nourish . . . at the birth, my job is over. And both times, I succeeded.
Q: It’s not your egg but it’s your blood, so won’t they be partly yours?
A: No. An embryo has half its genetic material from the egg and half from the sperm . . . nothing from me. Well, they may be more likely to love music from Rent, Chicago, and Glee soundtracks, since that is primarily what they heard for several months.
Q: You’re having twins? Does that mean you get to keep one?
A: (Proof positive that there are indeed REALLY stupid questions out there.) No. I am not a kidnapper, so I will not be keeping any of their children. I am pretty sure they’re going to want both of THEIR children.
Q: What does your husband think? Mine would never let me do that.
A: Well, then I guess I’m lucky I didn’t marry YOUR husband. I, on the other hand, married a loving husband who supports me in everything I’ve wanted to do. He knows what things are important to me, he knew about the surrogacy idea even before we were married. He was excited by the idea (both times) because he knew those journeys were important to me, and to our family as a whole.
Rick has really enjoyed becoming friends with the Intended Parents. And seeing me do what I love makes him happy as well. He would even “let me” do a third journey as long as my OB said it was safe to do so.
Q: Do your kids understand?
A: With the first journey Ruby was 6, Preston was 4, and Sawyer was 19 months, so Ruby and Preston totally got it but Sawyer was oblivious. It wasn’t until the second journey when he was 3 that he understood what was really going on.
We began discussing surrogacy with them when we started the process and even bought a book for them called The Kangaroo Pouch. Having my children meet the Intended Parents and start a relationship with them made it sink in even more. My kids knew the babies I was carrying weren’t ours to keep. If you would ask them, they would tell you exactly whose babies they were.
My children were just one more reason that moved me towards acting on my desire to be a surrogate. It was a great learning experience for them. There are so many ways to make a family and I want them to CELEBRATE all families, no matter how they attain it or who’s in it. This experience helped them see, first hand, that everyone (regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, etc.) has the right to have a family and should be admired and celebrated for being who they are.
Q: My friend/family member can’t have babies. Would you be their surrogate?
A: First question- Are they gay? I’m only half kidding. I am not sure I would deny anyone because they were straight, it’s just not usually my first choice of whom to work with. When people ask me this, I let them know that I work through an agency and that I tend to get matched with people who are similar to me and have the same thoughts and ideas about the journey. If their friend/family member is with Growing Generations (my agency), and if they have similar values and views, then maybe I would come across their profile some day. But I don’t tend to “book” my journeys off of “word of mouth” and I don’t feel safe going independent. That’s just me.
Q: You get a lot of money for doing this, right? (Now I haven’t had many friends ask me this as it is a bit rude but my family and Rick get asked this a lot.)
A: I’m sure some people become a surrogate because of the money but I’m not one of them. I kind of think that the money is there to help partners think, okay there are other reasons to do this too. Not only that, but with the amount of time and energy you put in, it’s nice to get some compensation. However, “a lot of money”? No. I make about the same as I do teaching part time, a few hours a week (with little to no complications for my body) than I took home from my experience as a gestational surrogate. Most people see a number and think, wow . . . without thinking of a few things. Unlike other “jobs” you don’t usually have to work 24 hours a day, 40 weeks (longer if you count the weeks of injections before the transfer) a year . . .never off, limited to what you can eat, drink, physically do, etc. I think you catch my drift. Not to mention, that the women who apply to agencies who are in it strictly for the money tend to get “sifted out” during the psychological screening. There needs to be other reasons for doing it. You need to show that you’re a caring, empathetic person who would love to help someone else out — who also gets compensated for “pain and suffering”. A money-hungry woman isn’t a great candidate for surrogacy . . . hello, extortion! Not only that, but if you are in it just for the money, I doubt your journey will be as enjoyable as those of us who are here, above all else, to help create a family.
Kelly Rummelhart writes about her experiences as a two-time gestational surrogate for gay couples. She calls herself a “Uterine Activist” and will be the first to tell you that her uterus is an ally. Kelly also writes at Just The Stork