By: Kelly Rummelhart
In the last seven months, several celebrities have welcomed babies into their families via Surrogacy.
In October it was Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka.
In March it was Vern Yip and Craig Koch.
Just last week the news broke that Elizabeth Banks and her husband had a baby via a Gestational Surrogate too.
In all the above situations, when speaking of the women who helped them birth their children, they have used the terms “gestational surrogate”, “gestational carrier”, and the like. I noticed in the comments sections on internet stories and on Twitter that people were saying that the use of such terms was negative, bordering on inhumane. Why do people think it is a poor way to mention a surrogate?
First of all, I have been a gestational surrogate twice. I do not think the term is negative. It is in fact, the truth. I carried a baby that wasn’t mine. For those unaware, there are two types of surrogates: “gestational” surrogates carry babies that are not biologically theirs and “traditional” surrogates use their own eggs. So, by stating that a celebrity had a child via a gestational surrogate is basically clueing us in on the fact that it was not the surrogate’s baby. That it was either the mom’s eggs that were used, or an egg donor’s, but NOT the surrogate’s. And what’s wrong with that?
Another complaint I read (and have heard) was that statements and TV interviews, the celebrities use the term “carrier” or “surrogate” instead of the surrogate’s actual name. A lot of people think that this is disrespectful to the surrogate. Like they are snubbing her or not really thanking her for her service. However, I think this is just ignorance of people not used to having their lives splashed all over the internet. If the other couples are anything like my IPs, they didn’t “out” their surrogate in order to protect her and her family from getting manhandled by the paparazzi. Could you imagine, as a non-celebrity, trying to leave the hospital, take your kids to school, or going grocery shopping days after the birth, only to be swarmed by idiots with cameras? No thank you. I was followed a few times while I was pregnant and it was no fun.
Sometimes surrogates who carry for celebrities get discovered before or after the birth. I lucked out and the article about me wasn’t negative at all. Other times, the media will tear the surrogate apart, like Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick’s surrogate . . . even a year later they go after her again. Ridiculous! So, I can totally understand why they ALL chose not to thank their surrogates by name.
One term I’m not a fan of is “carrier”, as it sounds like the woman in question is carrying a disease. I also find the term kind of cold and impersonal, as do several surrogates I know. I decided to ask some of those surrogates what their thoughts were about all the terms that are used to describe a woman carrying a baby, that isn’t hers, for someone else. They were pretty much all over the board. Several didn’t like anything with mother/mom in the title –birth mother, surrogate mom, etc. They felt that they were not the mom, so why put it in the name? Most all of them hated the term carrier for the same reasons I do.
For myself, I’d prefer to be called a surrogate or gestational surrogate. Historically, I’ve been okay with the term “surrogate mom” because it was a term that was used frequently, and I was used to it. But after really thinking about it for this blog post and listening to other surrogates’ views, I have decided that “surrogate mother” simply isn’t accurate. Yes, we are caring women, we are maternal and we take the best care of our IPs’ soon-to-be baby/babies, but we aren’t the mothers. If “surrogate mom” is out, what are the alternatives? Surrogate womb? Fetus carrier? Fetus hotel? Fetus-sitter? Bump manager? Which brings us back to gestational surrogate.
Gestational surrogate: A woman who becomes pregnant via an embryo transfer and carries the pregnancy to term for a family who usually has been experiencing fertility difficulties.
So to those of you out there commenting and tweeting about how calling us gestational surrogates is just awful… don’t feel like you have to fight for our honor because “gestational surrogate” is not a bad word.
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