Last month, I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the first ever WordPress-sponsored Press Publish conference in Portland, Oregon. While I was there, I met tons of awesome people, but the one who probably sticks out the most to me was a young woman named Anne who spoke to me after my presentation. She wanted me to know that she was born through surrogacy herself. She was curious to meet my kids, because she’d never met anyone else who was born through surrogacy.
She was a wonderful person — smart, polite, down-to-Earth, and we had a very nice chat. I promised to put her in touch with some people who might be able to help her find other people her age born through surrogacy, and she gave me her card.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about her, because I often wonder how my kids will feel about their birth story as they get older. Will they be confused? Alienated? Bored to tears? Anne was so cool about where she came from, so I emailed and asked if I could interview her for this site.
Now, in honor of Surrogate and Egg Donor Day (a/k/a Other’s Day), which my family celebrates every year on the day before Mother’s Day, here are her thoughtful, honest, eye-opening responses.
Before I start, I want to say that Anne gave me permission to be totally blunt and intrusive and ask the kind of questions that would normally earn me a slap in the face. In return, I gave her permission to respond “You horrible bastard!” to any question that was particularly rude, and then just move on. I would not normally be this direct when talking to someone with a nontraditional birth story, nor would I recommend you be. But if you want to know how they might answer if you ever were so bold, here you go.
In order to avoid any confusion, I also want to point out that when I refer to Anne’s “mom” or “mother” in these questions, I mean the woman who raised her. If I’m talking about her surrogate, I’ll use the term “surrogate”.
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Hi Anne! First of all, can you tell me about your family and about how you were conceived? It was through traditional surrogacy, right, meaning the surrogate used her own egg, along with your father’s sperm?
Yes, I am a result of a traditional surrogacy! My mom dealt with fertility issues, which led them to consider surrogacy. Through the Center for Surrogate Parenting, they met my birth mom. The first attempt ended in a miscarriage, and after that, it took them almost 4 years to have me.
Before my second question, I want to apologize for my first question, because no one should ever have to hear, say or think about a phrase like “your father’s sperm”. Most of us have the luxury of never having to ponder the specifics of how our parents created us — whether it was on their honeymoon, there was a broken condom or they were crazy drunk and our dad actually thought he was hooking up with our mom’s identical twin sister or something. I don’t know those things about myself, and I don’t want to. Do you ever get annoyed that people are so curious about the specifics of your birth story, or that you have to talk about it more than most people do?
Hahah oh my gosh. In some ways, I’m lucky my birth was SO planned. They REALLY wanted me, so much so that they went through this intense process to have me. Honestly, I get more annoyed with people who try to pretend like I didn’t just say anything about surrogacy when I mention it than those who see me as an interesting biology and social experiment. “That’s nice – what are you doing this weekend” feels a lot worse than “Wait – how long have you known?!”.
If I don’t want to talk about it I don’t have to. Either way, most of the time when I do bring it up or when family is brought up an interesting conversation results, which is always fun.
What kind of communication do you have with your surrogate, and what do you call her? Is she your “surrogate mother”, or do you avoid the “m” word, like we do in our family?
I call her by her first name actually. I had to take a second to think about that. If I’m describing her to other people, I’ll say birth mom like I am now. Otherwise though, I had major speech problems until I was about 9 and surrogate mother would have come out like “I haff a shuwoogathe mothwa” which sounds like it could be a disease.
I didn’t have much communication with her growing up. Looking back, that’s something I wish I had more of but she was living her life, most likely trying to give my parents distance to raise me. I remember getting cards on Christmas and for my birthday every once in a while.
When I was 12, I met her for the first time. Apparently, organizations associated with surrogacy think 12 is a good age. Real quick: think back to when you were 12 and imagine meeting your parent for the first time?! It threw me for a loop for sure. I think 12 was just too awkward and emotional of an age for that to happen. We only went out to dinner and my parents were there the entire time. I don’t remember saying much because what do you have to say when you’re 12?
After that, I remember reaching a point in my freshman or sophomore year where I hacked into my dad’s email looking for her email address. This was the beginning of social media and all that jazz so I was determined to see if I could find her. I found her email address, then found her on Facebook. Long story short, we became Facebook friends my junior year and basically liked each other’s posts for a while.
Midway through college, I realized I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened to my birth mom and I hadn’t met her as an adult. I decided to make the trip my junior year to visit her. I dragged one of my close friends along for the road trip and am so happy I did, as I definitely would’ve been too nervous to drive to dinner by myself. We met up with her and her husband and had dinner. Since then we’ve mostly kept up very randomly via texting but I’m planning on going to see her sometime in the next year again. My relationship with her is definitely something I want to develop as I do think I’m lucky to have such an open relationship with her.
When did your parents first tell you that you were conceived through surrogacy, and what was your initial reaction? Did you feel like a weirdo, some kind of superkid or somewhere in between?
This is a hard question to answer, because I can’t think of a time when I didn’t know. My family always talked about it, never in a way of “You’re different” but more of a “We’re so lucky to have you!”
In terms of how I felt, there were definitely times I felt a bit different. It was more centered on me not knowing my biological mom. I think it made me wonder if I was missing anything. I know that I felt a bit out of place within my family at times. I do remember daydreaming about meeting my birth mom and what I would say to her or what would happen if we didn’t get along. I think more than anything I just wondered if she was like me. I wrote about it a bit on an old private blog. Here are some excerpts:
“my half sister messaged me a bit ago about wanting to get together and go on vacation or at least meet up. isnt that strange? isnt that lovely? i love it. every bit of it. it’s weird that there is someone genetically related to me living their own life doing their own thing and i am only following from a distance on facebook. same with [my birth mom]. will i ever know her? know what her face looks like when shes mad or happy? know what her favorite song is. favorite candy. favorite meal. what time she goes to bed. how she cuts a steak. what her laugh sounds like. the little things.” – December 31, 2012
“i saw my birth mom almost two weeks ago. i am at work and can’t write too much about it but let’s just say that the connection was made. the synapse was complete. i can now think about my birth mom and there is a mental endpoint. there are less questions. there is more peace. it was amazing to see myself in her. to sit across from her and feel so calm. i wasnt worried about what i was saying or doing. i just was being. it was a lot less scary than i thought it would be and a lot more natural.” -November 5, 2013
Based on these two you can see a glimpse of how I felt before and how I feel now. When I think about her now there isn’t this nagging feeling that I need to see her. There’s a much broader sense of calm and peace about it.
Growing up, how many of your friends knew about your unique birth story? (Just to make you feel more like a superhero, we’ll call it your “origin story”.) Did other kids ever tease you about your family?
I don’t ever recall being teased but I do remember outing myself, so to speak, about being a surrogate baby when a friend of mine who was adopted was being picked on. I think the other kids were so shocked by what I said they just didn’t pick on her again! I have some memories in 1st – 5th grade of telling people, but it was always just passed over. My mom told me recently that she had some parents come up to her asking for the story so they could explain it a bit better to their kids. After 6th or 7th grade, I remember telling my close friends more often. It was one of those “secrets” that came out after a certain period of time. In college, I would say it casually if there were moments it came up in conversation about family life, etc. I mentioned it to a Lyft driver the other day after making a comment about being born where he was from but only living there for a week. If the opportunity comes up, I’ll say something but it’s definitely not a natural thing you throw into conversation.
Did you feel different from your friends with more traditional families, and did you ever wish you could just have a “normal” family like everyone else?
I do have some really funny memories from a doctor’s visit when I was probably 6 where I said some really insane stuff about not letting my mom’s blood go inside my body because we aren’t related. I definitely had moments where I felt like my brother was closer to my mom. My dad and I like the same candy, wake up early in the morning, have similar mannerisms, etc. I felt like I could feel the biological connection more than I could with my mom. How can you prove that? If I didn’t know I was a surrogate baby, would I even notice anything? I firmly believe I wouldn’t.
At some point when I was growing up, though, I realized that having blurred lines about what exactly family is allowed me to develop closer relationships with people. To explain a bit further, by expanding my definition of family, I was able to let more people in. I think this way of viewing things helped me not worry as much about what a “normal” family is. Plus, the second you really talk to anyone about family, you realize there is no normal 🙂
Tell me a bit about your brother. While your parents were struggling to conceive with the surrogate, they actually conceived naturally, and your brother was born. Is that right?
That’s correct! My brother was basically a miracle baby. My mom had stopped fertility treatments when she found out she was pregnant with him!
So if your parents’ goal was to have a baby, why did they continue to pursue surrogacy after they had a biological child of their own? I think that’s something that might confuse some people.
Simply put, they wanted two kids 🙂 I think just having one kid would have been a miracle enough, but the chance to have two… they couldn’t pass it up. I think at that point they were already heavily invested in the idea of surrogacy and decided to go for it.
Did you ever feel different from your brother, like he had some connection to your mom that you lacked? Did you ever feel like your parents treated you differently? And be honest, because every kid in history who has siblings has at one point or another said, “You like him better than me!”
I am about as different from my brother as I can be. We butt heads, as I seem to have taken all the emotions between the two of us. I would say despite my parents’ best efforts, we were treated differently. I think having different genetics meant I needed to be treated differently. I’m much more emotional than my brother and needed different responses in certain situations. I spoke to my parents about this a couple of years ago and they said they just never thought of it that way but can see how they could have done things differently.
When you think about everything your parents went through to have you, do you ever wonder, “Why didn’t they just adopt?” Is that something other people have asked? (My husband and I get that sometimes when we mention we had a surrogate.)
For some reason, I think my parents would have had a harder time adopting than having a surrogate. I’m 22 and my mom just turned 70 about a week ago. My dad is 60.
I just called my mom and asked. Here’s a summary of her response:
“We tried everything. We started with adoption and it’s not that easy when you’re our age. Because at this day and age, birthmothers have a big say and I was probably older than most of their moms. The short answer is we tried, and when we had the funds to go for surrogacy we jumped for it. Having the possibility of surrogacy was a more attractive option because you would have more of a likelihood that you would have a baby and there would be a genetic connection. It was an evolution – it wasn’t an either/or.”
As a backstory, The generation gap is something that did cause issues but, now that I’m older and wiser myself, I’m SO happy to have had older parents as there was a maturity that I think made this entire process easier. In terms of other people asking about adoption, I’ve actually never been asked that!
Coming up in part two, I’ll ask Anne about how she deals with being a child of surrogacy now that she’s grown up. Does it still come up? Would she consider being a surrogate herself? What would she say to kids like mine who were also born through surrogacy, and to people who don’t think surrogacy should be legal?
Check back for the second part of my interview or subscribe to my blog to get it emailed to you as soon as it becomes available. And Happy Surrogate and Egg Donor Day!
How fascinating, thanks to Anne for sharing and to you for thinking to ask her. Surrogacy is something I find very interesting, very complex and as yet haven’t come across in “real life” (I’m training as a midwife) but because it’s certainly something I will encounter, it’s great to know as much as possible about it.
Thank you Jerry and Anne. Jerry, I think the fact that you conducted this interview shows that most parents of kids through surrogacy are sensitive to the feelings of their children in this unusual situation. Anne, you bring a much needed mature experienced voice to the public debate about surrogacy that has erupted recently after those fashion designers said the stuff they did. I anxiously await for part 2…
Thank you both for this. I’m reading as I nurse my son who was conceived with my wife’s egg and our friend’s sperm. So I was the ‘surrogate.’ In different iterations, a lot of these questions and answers are relevant to us; it’s really helpful to hear people talk about non traditional family structures so openly. Thank you, thank you. Anne gives me hope that my son can appreciate the nuance and novelty of his family without it being an overwhelming burden. You’re both such lovely people–thank you for sharing your time and your experiences.
Thanks. I’m glad you liked it and found something you could relate to in it. For our kids, this will always be “their” normal, so it’s good to know someone like Anne, who’s exactly as bright, upbeat and well-adjusted as I hope my kids will be.
You are the best! What a wonderful interview. Thanks to both you and Anne for helping the world to understand.
This is wonderful, Jerry. Really great that you made this connection with Anne. I appreciate your candid questions, and the snippets from Anne’s journals are great, too — I can understand that sense of calm when she writes about meeting her birth mom and saying, “there is now a mental endpoint.” Good stuff here — looking forward to part two.
Great stuff, I wish you had an article a day for us to eagerly look for.
Absolutely fascinating–eagerly awaiting part 2!!
Nice interview, Annie was a good sport answering those normally awkward questions.
Reblogged this on gingalibadeidara.
Such a courageous girl… I bow with respect.
Great share! I never thought it would be a big deal, apparently it is for some.
this was so long and I never read anything long all the way through but…I read this !! and I loved it, very interesting. I was never curious because I always thought as a mom, if I ever were to be a surrogate mom for a couple I wouldn’t need to know the child and they shouldn’t feel the need to know me especially if I wasn’t biologically related, however after reading this, my mind has changed. people take for granted the three year old asking where they came from and easy response from mom is my belly…but not the case here…and now I have more questions…for the parents and the birth mom…hmmmmmm….you definitely got my gears turning, again great read, keep up the great work, and thanks to Anne for sharing.
Yes, it was long. Now you know why I broke it into 2 parts! 🙂
Glad you enjoyed it.
Reblogged this on Lori A. Walsh Imdad and commented:
A super interesting read! Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Surrogate and Egg Donor Day!
This really is a big slap in the face to those who think surrogacy is wrong. In the end, it will all depend on how you’re going to raise your child.
Touchy but informative. Surrogates are really lucky. They’ve two moms!
Reblogged this on Life and Learning.
Beautiful! Thanks for sharing Anne’s story. Hope to one day bless a couple with their own child. One day.
I like this post. Exactly wat im working towards
that’s the link to my first post. turning in the sheets with my woes.. 😀 – http://wp.me/p5UoRp-6
I like Anne. Her candor is very refreshing. Thank you for doing this interview…
Reblogged this on latestupdates4every1.
Lovely interesting interview with clear candid discussion
Reblogged this on Mama Librarian.
Great interview! Have had several friends struggle w/ fertility issues over the years. This is an insightful story from a perspective often dismissed.
This is fascinating! Thanks for demystifying the world of surrogacy.
What a great interview. I have an adopted son and my daughter is in the process of adopting, so this is a different way of looking at things. Anne is so open with her answers. Some of what she said, I could hear my son say about being adopted. But others are different.
I listened to you speak at the conference also and thought you were great. Now I will be looking forward to Part 2 of Anne’s story.
Thanks! Glad someone else from the conference found this post and gets to hear Anne’s story. 🙂
How old is Anne? I’m 29 (30 in July!) and I’m a surrogate baby if she still wants to get in touch with people who were born through surrogacy!
She’s 22! I’ll send her your email address! Thanks.
Awesome, thank you. I’ve never, ever talked to anyone or heard of anyone approaching my age who’s a surrogate child too! Not sure how I found your post but I’m really grateful! Thanks!
That makes me so happy. Anne has also never met anyone else born through surrogacy. You guys should start a Facebook group. I’m sure you have lots to talk about.
If any other adults/young adults who were born through surrogacy happen to read this, let me know. I’d be happy to put you all in touch.
I’ve often thought about starting something like that up. I know (at least in the uk) I’m one of the first really (the first case bought to the news was 7 months before I was born) so the first generation of surrogate kids being adults are just appearing now. Maybe I’ll talk to Anne about that! I think it would have helped me growing up being able to talk to other kids going through the same thing.
I deleted your other comment for your privacy. I already had your email address from when you left your first comment. You must’ve given WordPress permission to share it when you leave comments. 🙂
Reblogged this on Unedited Good News.
Reblogged this on thefitzroyflasher.
Oh, of beautiful complexities! Don’t I just deeply LOVE this?!
This is great! Thank you for sharing this with us!
Nice interview. Really liked it.
Fabulous, in depth and real look at surrogacy. Great read.
Reblogged this on Varchaswa (Authorce).
What a heart warming interview I hope all the best for Anne. thank you for posting this
Pingback: My Interview With Anne, a Child of Surrogacy (Part 2) | Mommy Man
Reblogged this on Let Me Carry That For You and commented:
This is the interview I referred to in my previous post for anyone who is interested. Part 2 is the next post if you want to read both. Grateful to have read this intimate and unique perspective!
I can’t wait to read part two. What a fascinating story. I’m currently 30 weeks as a gestational surrogate for amazing intended fathers. I sometimes wonder what the son Im carrying for them will think about his birth story one day.
Reblogged this on Not My Bun in the Oven and commented:
Have you ever wondered what a child born from surrogacy thinks about his or her origin? I know I’ve recently been thinking about it as I near delivery of my intended fathers’ baby boy. This is a two-part interview between a father through surrogacy and a young woman born via traditional surrogacy in the early 90s. It was a really interesting blog post!
Reblogged this on Curly Bookworm and commented:
I really don’t know what to say…kinda speechless.
Will get back once I gather my thoughts. 😀
I really appreciate this post as it is a relevant question and I know a friend who struggles with similar questions herself and I was never sure how to respond.
This helps me see into what she might be going through a little better! 🙂
Thank you Anne for sharing your thoughts and story with us and thank you Jerry for posting 🙂
Reblogged this on MY VIETNAM.
What a wonderful piece. Thank you for your post, and thank you to Anne for her honesty. I’m linking this to a 3 Day Quote Challenge, if you feel like doing it — no pressure!! http://riddlefromthemiddle.com
Pingback: 3 Day Quote Challenge: Day 3 | Riddle from the Middle
Reblogged this on **Little Saints** Academy, LLC.
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