This Mother's Day, let's give a heartfelt shoutout to all of the surrogates who have stepped forward to give the gift of family.
The concept of incubating a human life in your body and then giving it away to someone else was difficult for me to grasp at first -- this idea of the severance of the primordial bond between mother and child. And that's one issue the people who protest surrogacy claim in their arguments.
I also didn't realize that a woman could have a baby who was not at all genetically related her. This is called gestational surrogacy, a common type of surrogacy that women enter.
Jenna Mancuso is a 30-year-old dental assistant from Pennsylvania who lives with her husband, Phil, and her three kids. She recently gave birth to twin babies for an intended father, Michael Oppedisano, who is a dentist living in Texas.
Jenna was a gestational surrogate, "Gestational surrogacy uses In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to create an embryo using the ova/eggs from the prospective mother or donor and sperm from the father or donor that is then implanted in a surrogate."
Jenna describes the feeling of disassociation, "It's a total disconnect, like the ultrasounds. I look at them and think 'aww they're cute' but not like how it is emotional when it's your own baby and it's so amazing and like 'oh my God it's my baby on the screen!'"
Jenna and her husband, Phil, decided to go into surrogacy after Jenna was "feeling the urge to be pregnant again." Jenna freely admits she enjoys the pregnancy and that the process comes easily for her. The sad reality is that many people struggle with infertility and this is a way surrogates can give back.
Circle Surrogacy was the agency that handled Jenna and Michael's agreement. The agency receives approximately 1,200 applicants per month from women who want to be carriers; however, the vetting process is extremely thorough as they only accept around 1.7 percent of them into the program.
Michael was actually the first intended parent that Jenna and Phil matched with. They began sussing each other out through Skype calls. It was extremely important for both parties to bond and to get to know each other's motives before signing a contract together. When you're dealing with an agreement that's based on the exchange of human lives, great care and attention is needed.
Michael is a gay, single man who has been trying to have kids for roughly the past five years. Much of the tone in Michael's main interview is very revealing of the long, difficult journey he has had in getting to this point. He initially looked into adoption and fostering children, but the prospect of having to give them back to the original parents deterred him from this route.
Another obstacle for Michael was that he encountered surrogate agencies who do not support gay families.
I think a lot of people will say that allowing singles or gay people to have children will cause a collapse in the family structure. The traditional family structure has been collapsing for 40 years. People aren't getting married; people are getting divorced. There's a lot of kids out there that don't have two parents.
The commodification of a woman's body and the idea that children are being "bought and sold" fuels more stigma around surrogacy. A surrogate typically gets a base rate of $25,000-$30,000 to carry a child on top of additional monthly stipends to cover things such as medical bills, travel, maternity clothing, etc. But you simply cannot put a price tag on the amount of sacrifice or emotions that a woman gives while carrying a child.
As Jenna's husband Phil says, "For people that can do this, and do it for the right reasons, it's a beautiful thing."
There is an odd feeling when you think about the fact that attorneys, contracts, screenings, egg donors and sperm donors are involved in having a family. However, when you realize so many people are coming together and truly have the best intentions to help one another, it is a fascinating miracle.
This documentary contains one example of a surrogacy story, and it happened to be a positive and endearing one. I can imagine that not all surrogacy stories have happy endings, but a lot can be learned from this example.
The Oppedisanos and the Mancusos plan on staying in touch, and even going on vacations together. They truly have re-defined traditional family dynamics.