I spent another day, recently, at our state capitol advocating for families.
I attended a press conference that announced a new Gestational Carrier Act which seeks to reasonably regulate surrogacy in Minnesota, keeping it as a safe and beautiful option for families struggling with the disease of infertility or involuntary childlessness.
Click here to view the Press Release.
I also met with each of my legislators, discussing infertility in Minnesota, surrogacy, and the new Gestational Carrier Act. One of my legislators was incredibly supportive of the new Act. He kept asking me what he was missing because he couldn’t fathom why someone would be opposed to such an incredibly pro-family act. He admitted that he had very little knowledge on surrogacy. I was thrilled to be able to educate him on the topic! And what better avenue for him to receive the information than from one of his own constituents that’s intimately involved in the process.
I was nervous to meet with my other legislator, she seemed unsupportive of surrogacy in our past meetings. Surprisingly, she seemed more open to hearing what I had to say this time. Her concerns about surrogacy had to do with the surrogate potentially changing her mind and wanting to keep the baby. I explained to her that women choosing to be surrogates do so when their own families are complete; they are done having children of their own. Surrogates tend to be very fertile women who had easy, uneventful pregnancies and births – if they wanted to have another child they would just have one themselves! In addition, in surrogacy you set out with the sole purpose of helping this other couple have their child. All the injections, and appointments, and preparations are all for the intended parents, it’s all for them from the very beginning. A surrogate suddenly wanting to keep a child that isn’t hers is no different than a nanny suddenly wanting to keep the child she is caring for. It doesn’t happen! Finally, I talked about how the new Gestational Carrier Act would require medical and mental health evaluations of the surrogate to ensure that she truly understands what surrogacy is and is capable of such a generous act.
The legislator’s other concern about surrogacy had to do with compensation. She worries that compensated surrogacy will lead to desperate women turning to surrogacy as a way to make money, which could lead to potential exploitation of these women. I explained that the Gestational Carrier Act would help protect women by ensuring that they have proper mental health screenings to be sure they are doing it for the right reasons; women receiving government assistance would not qualify to be surrogates while receiving assistance; and the Act states that all parties need to have separate legal representation to protect everyone involved. I also talked with my legislator about how even though my choice to be a surrogate comes from the heart and my intentions are altruistic, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t also be reasonably compensated for my time, commitment, and potential risk. Pregnancy is magical and beautiful but it’s also hard work. Even in an easy pregnancy, there is still some pain and suffering. Nausea, fatigue, heartburn, headaches, constipation, hemorrhoids, childbirth, vaginal tears, episiotomies, engorgement, etc. Those are all normal parts of pregnancy and childbirth.
I talked with my legislator about how I had originally planned that once I had kids, I’d stop teaching and be a stay at home mom. I didn’t realize how much I’d love teaching. I LOVE connecting with my students! I love sharing my passion for my subject with my students. I took a year off from teaching after my third child was born and I missed teaching, I missed my students that year. I couldn’t wait to go back. I am not a teacher for the salary. I teach because I truly care about students and because I love sharing my passion for the content, but no one would expect me to do it without pay! I asked my legislator if she thought I should not be paid as a teacher, since my motive to teach is altruistic. Of course, she said yes I should still be paid.
Overall, I felt like my meetings went well and it felt really good to stand up for families! I am proud that I am able to dispel some of the stereotypes and misconceptions that surround surrogacy and help others see what surrogacy is. Surrogacy is all about family and is based on kindness, empathy, and love. Those are things the world can always use more of.
I gave the following letter to each of my legislators as I left our meetings:
I am a 38-year-old mother, wife, and teacher. I am also a gestational surrogate. I am currently carrying for an incredibly genuine and kind-hearted couple. I am thrilled to be a part of helping them complete their family.
I grew up in SW Minneapolis and attended the University of Minnesota where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Family Social Science and a Master’s degree in Family Education. I have been teaching part-time at Edina High School for the past 15 years, I teach our Child Psychology and Elementary Education classes. My husband and I live in Eden Prairie with our four young children. My husband is an investment consultant. We are an upper class family. I am not poor. I am not uneducated.
I heard about surrogacy when I was a teenager and knew that someday, when my own family was complete, I would be a surrogate. I always wanted to be a mom and I would have been completely heartbroken if I would not have been able to have children. I would have hoped that someone would have been willing and able to help me. The days that my children were born were the best days of my life. My dreams came true, I got my happily ever after, and now I am helping another family get their happily ever after. When I think back to the moments when I held my babies for the very first time, the complete and utter happiness that I was feeling, the feeling of my heart exploding with love; and I think about being able to help someone else have those feelings and experience that life changing moment; that’s why I want to be a surrogate, that’s why I am doing it.
Some might wonder how I could give up a baby that I’ve carried for 9 months? Won’t I feel like it’s my baby? Gestational surrogates are not genetically related to the baby. The embryos are created by the parents and/or donors and then transferred to the surrogate via IVF. So, no, I won’t feel like it’s my baby because it’s not my baby. I won’t be giving the baby up; I’ll be giving the baby back. Will I love the baby? Yes! The same way that I love my friends’ babies and my nieces and nephews. I love them, I love hearing how they are doing, I love visiting them – but I certainly don’t want to keep them!
I am not motivated, nor do I need the money paid for my services as a surrogate. I am performing a service from the heart and my motivation is altruistic in nature. I will be paid a reasonable amount for my time, obligations, expenses, and services during the process of becoming pregnant and carrying the intended parents’ pregnancy for them. Just as you are performing a civic duty by serving in the legislature, you are still paid for your time and service despite your altruistic motivation.
I am not being repressed or taken advantage of. My intended parents could not have a child without my help and I sincerely want to help them, just as I would have wanted someone to help me if I hadn’t been able to have children. I am an intelligent, independent woman who is perfectly capable of assessing the risks of a surrogate pregnancy and making my own decision of whether it is appropriate for me to take those risks. I do not need the government to intrude on my personal right to make decisions for myself based on the mistaken perception that I am especially vulnerable simply because I am a woman.
When I began my surrogacy journey, I did an enormous amount of research, I discussed it with my OB, and I met with multiple surrogacy agencies and reproductive endocrinologists. I completed a psychological and medical evaluation. Based on my research and results, I chose to move forward. I feel very competent in my ability to make this choice. I do not need the government to “protect me from myself”. I take great offense to the thinking that I am not capable of educating myself and making my own choices and decisions.
I view surrogacy as one of many family building options for the millions of men and women who want to have children but can’t. Having children is a fundamental life function and anyone struggling with the disease of infertility or childlessness should have options as to how they build their family. Families choosing surrogacy have often gone to incredible lengths and many have endured so much heartache on their path to parenthood. All to have a family; to love their child. Infertility is not going away; surrogacy is not going away. Therefore, it is important to have legislation in place that protects those involved. As a legislator, I know that you work to protect your constituents. Reasonable regulations surrounding surrogacy is the best way to protect intended parents, surrogates, as well as the children involved. I strongly believe that gestational surrogacy should be a protected and reasonably regulated process in MN.
Surrogacy is based on kindness, empathy, and love. The love the intended parents have for their unborn child – they love them so much they’re willing to move mountains to bring their child safely home. The love a surrogate has for being a mother – her heart breaks for anyone that wants to be a parent but can’t. She loves being a mother so much, she wants to help others become parents. I hope that you can see what an amazingly beautiful thing surrogacy is. And I hope that, as my legislator, you will support this important family issue.
If you have any questions or would like to speak with me further, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
There’s me at the press conference. 😄
Me and another surrogate standing up for families!