Surrogacy in Pop Culture
Surrogacy is making a dramatic entrance into the pop culture world with many celebrities and public figures coming forward about having children via surrogacy as well as many television shows now addressing the topic of surrogacy. Actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick welcomed twins in 2009 using a surrogate after struggling to conceive after the birth of their son. Actor Neil Patrick Harris and his husband, David Burtka, welcomed twins in 2010 via surrogacy. Comedienne and television host, Jimmy Fallon and his wife, Nancy Juvonen, used a surrogate for both of their children after struggling with infertility. Most recently, Kim Kardashian and husband Kanye West welcomed their third child via surrogacy after doctors told Kim it would not be safe for her or her child's health to carry a pregnancy due to her struggles with preeclampsia and placenta accrete. Whatever the reason, surrogacy is making its mark and redefining how we perceive a family.
Surrogacy on the Small Screen
Surrogacy is also becoming much more prevalent on the small screen with television shows such as the Rosanne revival, The Handmaid's Tale, and Gilmore Girls creating story arcs revolving around surrogacy. Unfortunately, in bringing to light the topic of surrogacy, these shows often miss the mark and actually do a disservice to the surrogacy community.
Surrogacy on the Small Screen - Getting it Wrong
One cannot argue the huge success the Rosanne revival has had. The fact that the show was going to have a story arc regarding surrogacy seemed too good to be true for those actively involved in the surrogacy community. However, that excitement quickly dissipated as that storyline unfolded. In the revival, Andrea, a middle-class married woman, hires Becky to serve as a surrogate. The show makes a point to show that Becky is a cash-strapped waitress who is utilizing surrogacy to gain financial independence. She is offering herself as a traditional surrogate and lying about her age and family history so Andrea will choose her as her surrogate. There are two main issues with this premise: First, while there is naturally a financial component to surrogacy, it is never allowed to be the primary motivator when normal screening is done and normal standards are applied. Most reputable psychologists and surrogacy agencies would disqualify a surrogate whose primary motivation was financial gain. Second, Becky lies about her age and her family history so the Andrea, intended mother, would not find out. At the very least this sheds light on the risks of doing surrogacy independently and not using the guidance of a reputable surrogacy agency. Again, any reputable surrogacy agency or fertility clinic is going to conduct a thorough screening of every surrogate candidate, including background checks, reviewing medical records, psychological evaluations, etc. It is unfortunate that this show had such a huge platform to really delve into surrogacy and show what it is truly about, rather than take the stereotypical Hollywood approach of portraying a cash-strapped woman needing to make some quick cash.
Surrogacy on the Small Screen - Getting it Right
Fashion designer and entertainment host Giuliana Rancic and her husband, Bill Rancic, opened their home to the world in 2009 with their show "Giuliana and Bill." The show detailed Giuliana and Bill's life between Los Angeles and Chicago. More importantly, what the show did was take an in-depth look into Giuliana and Bill's struggles with infertility and failed IVF attempts as well as Giuliana's treatment for breast cancer. All of this culminated into their decision to have a child via surrogacy. The entire journey played out for viewers on their show. Giuliana and Bill were matched with a surrogate through an agency in Colorado. Their surrogate had come to the United States from France in her 20s as an au pair, met and married an American man, moved to Colorado and had two kids of her own. According to Giuliana and Bill, their surrogate just wanted to help a couple have a child they couldn't have on their own. There was no financial motivation or desire to become famous by being a surrogate for a celebrity couple. In fact, the surrogate agreed with the Rancic's that it would be best if she remained anonymous and was blurred out of the television show at least until the child was born. What this show did was show the true heartbreaking facts that often lead a couple to surrogacy and how surrogacy can be and often is a beautiful gift that a woman can give to a struggling couple.
Take Hollywood's Portrayal of Surrogacy with a Grain of Salt
It is no surprise that the media rarely portrays surrogacy in a positive light as the reality of most surrogacies is not TV-drama worthy. In fact, most surrogacies involve educated and economically stable women who voluntarily choose to become surrogates because they feel passionately about giving the gift of a child to a deserving family.