In December, there are many traditions that we as a country indulge in. Holiday shopping, decorating our homes and sending each other cards. When we think “tradition” or “traditional”, for the most part, it’s a positive connotation.
When it comes to surrogacy however, the word “traditional” can become way more complicated.
First, the basics in case you don’t know:
Traditional surrogacy is when the surrogate not only carries the child, but also uses her eggs. This means she is the biological mother who carries the child with the intention of giving it to the intended parent(s) upon birth.
Gestational surrogacy is when the woman carrying the child is not biologically related to the child. The egg is retrieved either from the intended mother (the woman who will raise the child) or a carefully screened egg donor. The egg is fertilized and the embryo is transferred to the gestational surrogate.
Speaking of traditional, if you know the bible, there is a surrogacy story involving Hagar, the servant to Sarah, who had fertility issues. Sarah struggled for years and never had any children. After so many years, she had an idea. That Abraham, her husband, should basically hook up with Hagar. As Sarah put it, “It may be that I may obtain children by her.” The “traditional surrogacy” approach in this case conceived a son named Ishmael. However, this arrangement ended up becoming a total emotional and psychological disaster. Sarah felt she wasn’t respected anymore by either her husband or handmaid and it became messy at best.
On the surface, I get it. Traditional surrogacy may seem appealing. It’s less expensive (since you don’t have to pay for an egg donor or go the route of the intended mother going through the process to harvest her eggs) and it can be “quicker” (although I do hate to use that word as this is creating a life and not a drive through at a fast food chain). And you may be thinking, “Well the Sarah/Hagar story happened in Egypt in the bible! That would never happen to me!” But that’s exactly what happened in 1985 in New Jersey.
I’m talking, of course, about the famous Mary Beth Whitehead Case. William Stern and his wife, Elizabeth (who had M.S.) hired Mary Beth Whitehead to be inseminated by Mr. Stern, thus using both her eggs and uterus. This meant that the baby that would be conceived would be genetically tied to Ms. Whitehead and carried by her. In this case, once the little girl was born, Ms. Whitehead changed her mind and wanted to keep the baby. This went on to be became the first American court ruling on the validity of surrogacy (this is a good time to mention that saving money on the conception ended up costing them a lot in legal fees) and remarkably, the Sterns were awarded custody, but Ms. Whitehead has visitation rights. Messy, right?
So, yes. You can save money going through traditional surrogacy, but what you may spend in heartache is beyond any price you can even imagine.
I don’t care if it’s your cousin, your sister, or your best friend. If you go the traditional surrogacy path; you can’t get around facts: This woman is the genetic mother and the surrogate carrying your child and if a surrogate is the genetic mother, she has a greater advantage in court should she ever change her mind about keeping the child. in the event of a dispute.
Because of all of the possible concerns (genetic issues, the dangers that comes along with home insemination in some cases, etc.), the majority of health professionals, surrogacy lawyers, judges and clinics in general are shying away from it. Some States don’t even allow it at all.
In my many years of experience, trust me when I say that while it may cost more to have a gestational surrogate, it’s worth every single cent. IT’s much cleaner when you have someone separate donate their eggs and someone else carry the baby.
So this holiday season, feel free to embrace any family traditions you may have but when it comes to building your family, definitely go the way of the gestational route!