During this time of year my mind turns to the thought of gift giving. What do they mean to the giver and the receiver? Everyone’s perceptions are different and it truly takes a special talent to know exactly what someone wants and be able to give it to them. It also takes a gracious recipient to fully appreciate what has been given. This same principal works in surrogacy for both physical gifts, and gestures, but it’s not always perceived the same.
Recently I was chatting to a friend and she casually remarked that her friend had just received something she called a “pop-out gift”. She explained that it was something her husband had given her after she had delivered their baby. In her case, it was an iPad. Neither of us had ever heard of this term before so I went to the all-knowing internet and looked it up. Apparently it is a fairly common practice to give a gift to the woman who has just delivered your baby. Sometimes it’s called a Push or Labor gift. It can range from something as sweet and simple as flowers or to the more extravagant jewelry. It depends upon the means of the giver. I had received small tokens after the birth of my own children, and my surrogacies, but never knew it had a name or was in fact an actual tradition. So I asked around and yes, many of my friends and family were in the know and had received all kinds of variations of a Push gifts. Their opinions ranged widely on the topic as well. Some believed it was a throughly deserved right for the woman to receive the appreciation she so greatly deserved while others believed it was a vulgar expression done only by those who were “spoiled,” almost considering it a form of bribery. I can understand both sides.
There is something called The 5 Love Languages that my mother showed me a long time ago. It is a test you can take to determine how you, your partner, and even your children best express and receive love. The categories are as follows: Words Of Affirmation, Acts Of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Mine is, without a doubt, Receiving Gifts. I believe this is why I became a surrogate in the first place. The definition of this category is difficult to understand if it is not your personal language. Let me explain. To others it may seem frivolous or petty but what it really is is the tangible expression of love. It’s a physical expression that we can literally grasp and know that someone was thinking of us! It works both ways for me. I show my love by giving something (in surrogacy’s case: a baby) that I know is valued to the ones I care about, and I want to know I am loved by receiving something from them in return. There is no price tag involved, it’s not the dollar value of the gift itself, it’s the knowledge that someone went out of their way to think of me. This is huge to me and it’s what I strive to do everyday for others. Whether it’s buying my kids a Slurpee after school because I know they’ve been craving one; or making my husband booties because that’s what his grandmother used to do for him; or even giving a family a child of their own because that’s what’s been missing in their lives. I love to give, it’s how I show love. Now others love in different ways and knowing this is key also. I can’t be hurt when I don’t receive things the way that I give. I have to understand that kind words, selfless acts, time spent together and hugs maybe mean more to others then physical act of giving.
It all comes around to understanding again. What seems to be a constant theme in all of my blogs. They don’t call it a “labor of love” for nothing. The act of labor is all for love no matter if it’s your own or for someone else. If someone feels compelled to give you a gift because of it that’s amazing. However it should not be expected. Honestly the look on a new parent’s face or even just the knowledge of what you have done can be as rewarding as a little blue box from Tiffany’s.
Negativity exists in every form of work. Uniformed and overly (and overtly) opinionated people are everywhere. The subject matters they dwell upon range from politics to plumbing. Surrogacy is, by far, without exception to this rule. I recently read a blog calling surrogates “prostitutes;” those who work in IVF “pimps” and the intended parents “Johns.” I am not referencing or linking to this person’s blog because I don’t want to lend it any credibility. While I do understand some people’s aversion to the idea of surrogacy–due to religious or emotional ideas–I absolutely cannot condone those who judge without research or understanding. Especially when it is by someone who isn’t affected personally by another’s choice. This is my broad statement of belief, not just when it comes to someone’s fertility or lack thereof. I am a firm believer in live and let live.
Surrogacy fulfills a need, a yearning that is denied to a person by unlucky circumstance. It is born out of a desire so strong, I would put it akin the fulfillment of their life. I don’t believe it’s even really a want at this stage. It’s a need. A need for the love of their own child.
Some opt for adoption, which is just as long and as tedious a process as surrogacy. Surrogacy is a very, very personal choice, alongside a woman’s right to choose. It is an expensive one as well. I am not sugar coating it here: if you cannot afford it then it is not an option you can utilize. However, it is not a profit deal either. The doctors, nurses, lawyers, and agencies involved are not doing it for the money. They are just people who felt the need to help other people in their profession. There are swindlers out there, as in any profession, which is why it is important to do your research. The reason it costs so much is that there are separate steps with many specialized professionals. No one person is making a large lump sum.
The women who opt to become surrogates aren’t in it for just the money. Who, in their right mind, would want to go through at least a year of medication (needles mostly), dealing with lawyers, and then giving birth (!!!) just for money? The money involved helps support us as we go through this process, but we aren’t buying Lamborghini’s or paying cash for a mansion. We do it because we care. We are mothers, too. We’ve been blessed with easy pregnancies and healthy bodies and are able to give back to those who need us.
Also, there are moral laws in place that are strictly adhered to by these professionals. They aren’t making babies in the lab or selling babies to families. They are merely doing outside of the womb what would naturally occur (if it could) in the womb. It’s just putting all the pieces together with hopes for the best outcome. Trust me, if any of these people could have a baby the old-fashioned way, they would. It’s not about wanting to keep your nice body while someone else does the work or about picking out some sort of “super baby” with selected genes. It’s about having a healthy child to call your own. That’s it. There are no ulterior motives involved. At least, not from reputable sources.
I just felt the air around here needed some cleaning. I recently spent the weekend with a group of surrogates and the number one topic we spoke about was the things people say to them. The positive is what makes the experience worthwhile. We need the support of others just as anyone in a highly involved position would. However when strangers come up to and say “How could you sell your baby?” or “You must be numb not to feel connected to the child growing inside you?” or even “What you’re doing is wrong!” it hurts. These are not fictions; these are actual statements collected (and shared) by many surrogates. We try not to let it in, we try to rationalize and forget, but it still twists the knife and hurts every time.
When you are doing something you truly believe in and are told it’s wrong, your first instinct is to fight, to justify and to make them understand. I’m just trying to share the other side of the story. I can’t make those who don’t want to listen hear. But I can put this out into the world in hopes that it may make a change somehow, somewhere for someone. I want people to ask me questions. I want them to become more knowledgeable and informed, then I want them to go and make their own personal decisions.
And remember dear readers that old saying your mother probably taught you: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all (at least to people you don’t know 😉 )