Motivations of Surrogate Mothers

Some believe public controversy over surrogate motherhood is accelerating. Sometimes women who choose to bear children voluntarily for someone else are seen as cold and mercenary, because they seem to so easily “give away their babies”. Some believe it’s reprehensible because it represents a “rejection” of the infant by its biological mother.

Although critics have been vocal, there is little actual data to substantiate these claims. The American Surrogacy Center (TASC) conducted a study to assess the reality of assumptions behind this stereotype.

TASC research found although money is an important motive to many surrogates, it is not their primary motive. Almost all surrogates report a variety of emotional reasons for undertaking surrogacy, and many of these can be grouped together under the heading of wishes to enable parenthood, to feel self-actualized, and to enhance their identity. It is, for these women, a particularly female experience, related to the experiences and meaning of biological functioning and motherhood. The love of their children, the gratification their children offer them, and the wish to share these experiences, were often mentioned by these women. These feelings, influenced a number of the motive categories, including empathy with the infertile wife and the drive to generate parenthood for others.

An indirect implications of all this is that these women are as “normal” as anyone else. Previous research assessing surrogates has also found them to be unremarkable and their personalities to be average. Although psychological needs may sometimes, or perhaps even often, be found underlying a number of the motives reported (e.g., guilt), we do not see that this, in an of itself, invalidates the surrogates’ choice. Such conflicts and needs, in part, fuel most “normal” choices and activities of human beings, such as marriage and career. What are “healthy” motives? We do not ban people from becoming CIA agents or test pilots because they are prompted by unresolved wishes.

This does not mean that there are no unhealthy motives for becoming a surrogate and that no discrimination is necessary. On the contrary, the fact that over 40% of our 200 applicants were rejected for emotionally-based reasons, having to do either with poor motives, general life situation, or general emotional makeup, suggests that great discrimination and caution are necessary in accepting individuals for this process. The reasons for rejection listed earlier, as well as the criteria for acceptance, can provide a useful start in the process of providing needed criteria for evaluating surrogate applicants effectively.

Additionally, differences in the composition of accepted and rejected groups reflect the importance of assessing motivation and character. Those individuals and parents who are less detached, more connected to the couple, the baby, and probably to their own children and partners, seem to be the ones favored by our selection criteria. The results may also suggest that, in general, parents are better suited to be surrogates than non-parents, in terms of significant traits, motivation, and more adaptive reactions to surrendering the child.

Being a surrogate is a life experience that allows some women real success in altering their emotional state in a direction they desire and fulfilling ideal images of themselves. A very significant aspect of that image is that of being a mother and, by extension, enabling others to enjoy the pleasures of parenthood that they themselves have had. Because surrogacy involves an act of giving that is personally meaningful to the surrogate, and because what is being given is of unique value, being a surrogate mother has the potential to be a “mutative” event, an experience capable of altering and transforming identity, self-image, and existing psychic structure.

It is exactly the fact that these otherwise individuals, through their biological ability to bear children, feel that they can achieve some measure of greatness that would otherwise be beyond them, that makes being a surrogate so psychologically extraordinary. They feel this moment of greatness as a permanent possession. The memory of this action is a permanent psychological reserve against negative emotional states and events. The motives for becoming a surrogate mother cannot be glibly dismissed as mere “acting out”.

In contrast to the stereotype of a heartless, misguided, impoverished woman primarily motivated by money, surrogates emerge here as average mothers, often trying to further the goals of their children and families.

Source: The American Surrogacy Center, Inc.

One thought on “Motivations of Surrogate Mothers

  • October 14, 2007 at 2:43 pm
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    I would just like to thank you for contributing this material. I was a gestational surrogate and my primary reason for being a carrier stemmed from the belief that women should help other women. I view the choice to become a mother as a type of “sisterhood” to which no woman desiring a child should be excluded. I think many women have a maternal nature, not just for children, but for other women specifically. It’s this that (I think) is a motivating factor for Surrogates. It was for me. It was not so much wanting to “give” as it was having a “respectful empathy” for the intended parent. A way to say “Hey, you’re not alone ‘sister’…there’s hope.”

    I have every intention on being a Surrogate again.

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