In an era where women are more proactive about freezing their eggs, it’s become apparent that, more than ever, people are exploring different avenues to grow their families. Whether you’ve decided you want to have kids later in life, adopt, or pursue IVF, you’ll find all kinds of influencers documenting their process and giving hope to many parents-to-be.
The most taboo on the list is surrogacy. Since the price tag ($100k to $200k, on average!) is certainly the reason you might not see these journeys on your social feeds, it means that our only real exposure to it is from people who can afford it: celebrities.
Case in point? Khloé Kardashian shared her decision to use a surrogate in 2022 for the birth of her son, Tatum. While she was very optimistic about the experience and felt she had a lot of support from her sister Kim Kardashian, who used a surrogate for her children Chicago and Psalm West, she recently shared more honest truths about it.
“I definitely was in a state of shock from my entire experience in general,” Khloé shared in an episode of The Kardashians. “I felt really guilty that this woman just had my baby, and then I take the baby and I go to another room, and you’re just sort of separated. I felt it’s such a transactional experience… I wish someone was honest about surrogacy and the difference of it. But it doesn’t mean it’s bad or good. It’s just different.”
While, of course, all surrogacy experiences are unique, it’s also valuable for others to hear that it’s not always how we think it’ll be.
“She is considered a ‘high profile’ case, and often in those types of journeys, the parents never really get to know their surrogate,” Gennifer Rose, surrogate and founder of Surrogacy Mama, shares with Scary Mommy. “Because of extreme sensitivity to privacy, almost everything is a secret, and there’s limited contact and communication between the surrogate herself and the high-profile parents. Almost everything is done through intermediary parties, known as ‘surrogacy concierge agencies’ who frequently are involved with high-profile surrogacy journeys.”
Rose explains that in typical instances, a couple has the opportunity to create strong bonds with their surrogate. “A great surrogate will keep the parents in the loop of all the activity in the pregnancy, allowing them to participate and bond with the experience. This way, they can be emotionally prepared for the arrival of the baby. There are no boundaries to communication; they can speak freely to each other without a third party.”
“In the case of Khloé, she said that it was difficult to bond with her baby when he was born. I would attribute this to being disconnected from her surrogate and the pregnancy while it was happening. Everyone has to let down their boundaries in order to make these kinds of connections, and for many high-profile people, this is not an option,” Rose adds.
So, what are some of the harder truths for couples not having a high-profile surrogacy?
Rose says that it’s often a lengthy IVF process that can be draining for families. “I have definitely seen intended parents get very frustrated or upset when the embryo transfer fails for the first or second time. Although both the parents and surrogate are fully counseled on the success rates of IVF before the process begins, sometimes their expectations are too high, and they’re not being fully realistic. It can be really difficult to be paying such large sums of money for fertility treatments and still not see the desired results,” she explains.
“Based on my experience, I can say that many couples choose to pursue surrogacy again after their first attempt,” pediatrician and medical consultant Leah Alexander, M.D. FAAP, shares. “Approximately 40-50% of intended parents will go through another cycle of surrogacy if their first attempt is unsuccessful. For those with successful outcomes, about 15-25% will pursue a second surrogacy journey.”
Unrealistic expectations seem to be the common thread here. As a surrogate herself, Rose believes that simply talking to people who have already lived it could be a game-changer.
“The experiences of others are worth their weight in gold, and they can really set realistic expectations. Not all surrogacy agencies and fertility clinics are going to be 100% upfront about the realities because they are a business, after all, and want to sell you services. Finding camaraderie and community in this world is really important, especially when it comes to tough moments. There are many surrogacy Facebook groups where people connect and learn from each other.”