Womb for Rent
Why more and more infertile women are turning to others to bear their babies
Some women see surrogacy as a way to do something important in life, says Shirley Zager, director of the Organization of Parents Through Surrogacy (OPTS). Zager used a surrogate 14 years ago to have her daughter, Amy, and when she asked the woman why she was doing it, she replied, "I can't cure cancer or end world hunger. But I can make a very dramatic difference in the world."
Susan Jones, owner of Surrogate Parenting Consultants, the California agency that Russell and Ilene Glickman used, has had women call her agency to be surrogates without even knowing they'll get paid. Others have asked for less than the usual fee ($15,000 to $25,000) because they think it's too high.
In fact, the compensation is low considering what it takes to carry someone else's child. If you calculate the trips to doctors and clinics, the daily shots, the time away from your family, the screenings, the medical procedures, and the labor and delivery, she says, "the salary's probably about two dollars an hour."
Surrogates often view their earnings as a nest egg for their kids' college education or as a way to make money while caring for their own families. A combination of altruism and financial pull is what psychologists want to see when they screen potential surrogates because a woman whose motives are balanced and healthy will be better able to deal with the emotional aspects of carrying, delivering, and then parting with someone else's child.
Regardless, it appears that most surrogate moms wind up having mixed emotions about their experience, even years afterward, says Nancy Reame, Ph.D., a researcher in the University of Michigan's department of reproductive sciences who has studied traditional surrogates. Many report feelings of sadness, disappointment, and abandonment by the couples they'd helped and "are surprised at the depth of loss and grief they feel for the baby they'd carried," says Reame. Because gestational surrogacy is relatively new, there's been little study of its effect on women; it's hard to say how its emotional repercussions will compare with those of traditional surrogacy.
Couples who turn to surrogacy face their own set of fears, frustrations, and challenges. The cost alone can be a major obstacle, as agency fees range from $6,000 to $18,000. Then there are psychological screenings, medical screenings and procedures, legal fees, insurance fees, maternity clothes, obstetrical costs, and lost wages for the surrogate if she must leave work. The total can add up to as much as $75,000.
And, says David Smotrich, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist in La Jolla, CA, there's the physical stress a woman undergoing the first phase of IVF endures: weeks on medications to stimulate her ovaries to produce large quantities of eggs; the retrieval of those eggs, which usually involves general anesthesia; and the constant monitoring.