The release of Tina Fey’s comedy ‘Baby Mama’ has increased the media’s interest in surrogacy. One of the world’s leading surrogacy agencies – Circle Surrogacy – balances the whimsy of the movie’s plot by answering the questions: Does the movie portray surrogates, intended parents and agencies accurately? And is it good for “the cause” of surrogacy?“
John Weltman, president of Circle Surrogacy says, “Baby Mama, as being the first blockbuster movie focusing on surrogacy, may be an indicator that the world is ready to deal with surrogacy and to laugh about it. If people are informed about surrogacy, then they know that the movie was just a farcical look at an absurd situation. But for those uninformed individuals, who might believe the situation to be realistic, then the story is not so helpful to the cause of surrogacy.”
Circle Surrogacy points out the movie’s extreme stereotype in a blog post: “Anyone who worked with a reputable agency,” says Ron Poole-Dayan, a father of twins through Circle Surrogacy, “can attest to huge plot holes in ‘Baby Mama’. In reality, the most crucial elements of the story could simply not happen if you follow certain basic rules.”
Here are some of these basic rules and conventions that render ‘Baby Mama’ highly unlikely to occur:
- Unlike the care-free surrogate in the movie, surrogates screened by reputable agencies are always women who previously had successful and complication-free pregnancies, and therefore are already mothers. Furthermore they are very heavily screened, far beyond the “background check” hinted at the movie. “At Circle,” says Mr. Weltman, “psychological tests and personal circumstances are scrutinized to make sure that candidates are trustworthy, fully supported by their families, living in a stable and health environment, and are not solely financially motivated or unprepared for the journey.”
- Unlike the movie, surrogates through Circle do not interview a series of potential intended parents. Carriers are matched with IPs based on an extensive set of criteria, they read each others detailed profiles, and then meet after careful preparation. At that point, experience shows, the vast majority will confirm the match and move on with the process. “Our experience is that almost always a ‘love fest’ starts at this meeting,” says John. “Surrogacy is not just the IPs life-long dream – it is also that of the carrier.”
- Unlike the movie, surrogates do not move in with their intended parents. Indeed, how likely is the typical real-world surrogate to leave her 2-3 kids and move in to a condo in the big city? “Not only has this never happened during Circle Surrogacy’s 12 years of existence,” says John, “it would be strongly discouraged by the extended support network of social workers, case managers and psychologists who accompany the carrier and IPs during the process. None of these professionals are mentioned in the movie.”
- Unlike the movie, there is absolutely no chance that a Circle surrogate could forge her pregnancy test and collect fees without being pregnant. “In the first place,” reports John,” surrogates are not considered pregnant until we get the results from an independent clinic of several blood tests first, and then an ultrasound confirmation of a heartbeat. Furthermore, both our surrogates and their partners are so well screened, that it is unlikely that they would even contemplate faking a pregnancy.”
Additional protocols are in place at Circle that would have prevented several more comic episodes in the movie. Money is never directly exchanged or even discussed between the IPs and carriers, as it is handled by the law firm, which maintains a separately held escrow account. IPs are encouraged to visit the carrier’s home well before the surrogacy process begins. Experienced social workers (and/or former clients) coach IPs about how to avoid being perceived as over controlling, while dealing with their unavoidable anxieties during the process. Indeed, many surrogates live some distances from their IPs, and so most of the communication is done over emails and phone calls.
“So while Baby Mama is a funny comedy of mistakes, miscommunications and personality clashes, luckily, well planned surrogacies are nothing like the one in the film” concluded Weltman.