A childless friend of mine compared surrogacy to prostitution, saying that she personally would prefer to be a prostitute. “They can’t want to do it — they must be desperate for money,” she insisted. Faced with the fact that both carriers were well-paid professionals, she concluded they must be masochistic. I tried to explain that the gestational carriers we interviewed were the kind of women who said they cried when they gave birth to their last baby, knowing they would never be pregnant again.
“Ten percent of women love being pregnant, 10 percent of women loathe it; most women are in between,” my gynecologist commented. “Surrogacy selects from the extreme end.”
Many people talked as if the mere fact of being compensated negated the generosity of the gestational carriers and the egg donor and asked if they were doing it “for the money,” as if they couldn’t want to help and want to be paid. Would you be less grateful to a beloved teacher, nanny or fertility doctor because they were paid? We wanted to pay, because it made the relationship feel more reciprocal. There was one woman who responded to my surrogacy listing who said she didn’t want any financial compensation. Although it sounded as if she really didn’t need money — she was an affluent divorcée in Sonoma County — I felt that we would need to pay her. “That’s our contribution,” I said, flummoxed — “one of the things we can give back.” Turning the lengthy labor of surrogacy into volunteer work felt as if it put tremendous pressure on the experience to be fulfilling at every moment. I worried she would back out or resent or regret it. What if she was masochistic? Surrogacy is prohibited or restricted in much of Europe, and as a result they have very few surrogates, and infertile couples come here.