While the stakes are often higher in assisted reproduction, learning to trust and accept the collaborative nature of surrogacy makes for a more joyous process. That often starts with understanding the motivation of surrogates—which Bergman says is a healthy mix of altruism and narcissism. There is a also a point where intended parents should stop questioning their readiness and “just jump in and do it.”
Clinical psychologist Kim Bergman, co-owner of the surrogacy agency, Growing Generations, has specialized in third-party assisted reproduction since the early 1990s. She also co-authored the article, “Gay Men Who Become Parents via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood,” and is a national emerita board member of the Family Equality Council.
Surrogacy is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a long process. You’ve got to keep our eye on the prize, which is, you know, for the parents holding their baby; for the surrogate, seeing the parents holding their baby. Some miles of that marathon are going to be tedious, and awful, and you’re going to want to quit. And some of them are going to be boring. And some of them are going to be euphoric.
Surrogates often want to help gay men. Well, a couple reasons. Number one, they understand that it’s harder for men, for gay men to have a baby, even than a heterosexual couple. And they like the idea of helping the hardest population. Secondly, heterosexual couples who come to surrogacy have a lot of loss in their court. They don’t want to have their baby through a surrogate. It’s a last resort, not a first resort. They would much rather have a baby themselves, and they’re turning to surrogacy—and they’re grateful for it—but they’re turning to it because they couldn’t do it the way they wanted to. Gay men have a completely different stand. They are thrilled because they have to have a surrogate to carry their baby. They love it. It’s a first choice for gay men.
You know, the main thing that they are concerned about, has to do with, why would a surrogate carry our baby, why would a woman do this for us. Surrogates want to be—women want to be surrogates—a healthy mix of altruism and narcissism. So you know, the altruism is, it’s a very giving act—doesn’t matter that they’re being compensated, it’s a very giving act. And they have to be motivated by that kind of generosity, because it’s way too long, and way too much a process for the money to be worth it, by any means. Narcissism, healthy narcissism, you know. “Not everyone can do this. I can. I’m that kind of person. I’m strong enough, I’m brave enough. I’m secure enough in myself. I know what I’m getting into. I’m all that. I can do it.”
You know, surrogacy is a partnership. It’s a collaboration between a whole bunch of people—parents, surrogate, her husband, her family, the parent, the intended parents’ family, the doctors, lawyers, psychologists, agency, taxi driver—everybody. It’s literally the definition of it taking a village to have somebody become a parent. So you know, you have to be a good collaborator. Surrogacy is not womb for hire. It’s not, you know, somebody working for you and doing your bidding. It’s not. So you have to be able to collaborate and partner with a surrogate, and trust them to do their part. And I believe that the people who are able to trust—I mean, it’s not I believe, it’s sort of, if you look at the psychology of humans, you know, people who are resilient, who can trust—not passively, and I’m by no means a passive person—but trust actively, go after what they want, and trust the universe—they’re happier, they get what they want, but more. And when they don’t get what they want, they’re okay, they’re more okay about it. Surrogacy is just like that. So is parenthood.
If you think you want to be a parent, you probably do. And the luxury—the curse and the luxury that we as gay parents have –of thinking it through, and planning, and intention, and analyzing it, and Googling it, and reading about it, and learning about it, and therapizing about it –it’s a double-edged sword. We become super well informed. We’re really introspective. We’re really, you know, we’re examining every aspect of it. Are we really ready? Are we really sure? But the downside to that is, you know, we think we have to be perfectly ready, have all our ducks aligned, da, da, da. And nobody ever is ready for parenthood, ever—ever. And if we didn’t have to go through all those steps to do it, we would know that, because we would just get pregnant, and do it, and have a baby.
I really think that it’s do it, trust it, be an active participant. Enjoy it. It’s a lovely process. It’s a wonderful, joyous process. Surrogacy, as I said, it’s a collaboration, it’s a partnership, it’s fun—it really is a loving, mutually respectful experience.