If there’s one word that makes me uncomfortable as it relates to my surrogacy, it’s ‘selfless.’

I know, I know. I must seem like sour grapes, but there’s just something about it that rubs me the wrong way.

Selfless. Without self. Could that really be?

True, much about this process is not about me. I’m doing it for the sake of helping another couple become the parents they’ve wanted to be for so many years. It doesn’t matter what I might think about issues related to termination, how the baby is cared for immediately after birth, whether she is fed breast milk or formula. It’s simply not my baby.

But really, there’s a whole lot about all of this that is about me. I made the decision to take on this project because it makes me feel good. So many of my efforts in life, whether at work or at home, are intangible. I face the same insecurities so many others face, especially women. (Do we really experience them more than men? Maybe we’re just more transparent about it all?)

I wonder: Am I really making a difference in the world? Am I raising independent, determined, ambitious children… or will I become extremely well-known to their therapists later in life?

How much am I moving my organization forward? Is it enough? Is it fast enough? Am I actually having the impact I hope to achieve?

But surrogacy… it’s about as concrete as it gets. If this didn’t work out, Vivianne once told me, they’d decided they just wouldn’t be parents. Carrying their child means that I can draw a straight line between my efforts and the fruits of my labor, as it were. It’s direct proof, in a way, that I’ve accomplished something in the world.

Much more selfish than selfless, if you ask me. What a way to have an early mid-life crisis.

And then there’s the fact that there’s compensation involved. I suspect some people take that as a given, and for others this may come across as news. First, there’s reimbursement for the many expenses associated with carrying someone else’s baby: everything from lost wages for time away from work, to covering extra gas to get to and from doctor’s appointments, to co-pays, parking garage fees, and prenatal vitamins.

But there’s compensation on top of that, too. When I first looked into surrogacy I hadn’t realized this was a part of the deal and I remember thinking to myself, “Wait – they’ll pay me for doing this?” I almost expected I’d have to pay to do it. It crossed my mind at first that maybe I didn’t feel right taking money to do it. I wondered whether maybe I should forego the payments coming to me.

In the end, the compensation gave me peace of mind if, God forbid, I ended up stuck with some unforeseen medical bills as a result. I thought about the increased philanthropic donations I could make this year due to the added flexibility. I realized that maybe we could actually start a college savings fund.

And in retrospect, surrogacy is a lot of work. Even beyond the obvious of just being pregnant and delivering a human, I’ve spent a whole lot of time and emotional energy on doctors’ appointments, communicating with lawyers, the agency, the couple, the hospital, and on devoting more than a solid year of my life to making sure I’m acting according to plan. Knowing that I’m being compensated means that I’m not resentful about it. That piece alone seems priceless.

So this is all to say that there is, in fact, a whole lot here that is absolutely for my benefit. And isn’t everything we do in life for our own benefit, at least in some part? As much as we may be focused on helping other people, I suspect that more of these efforts than we’d readily admit actually fill some unmet need of our own.

So, boom. Mine is about birthing other people’s kids. It could be worse, I suppose.

3 thoughts on “Selfless

  1. In a book I wrote (about volunteering / working in the Middle East), I talked about this same feeling — that I should be the one paying for the privilege of learning about a new part of the world, meeting and working with amazing people, and learning life lessons one simply can’t learn any other way. It’s truly priceless.

    The conclusion I came to: When you’re doing life right, the distinction between “selfish” and “selfless” collapses and becomes meaningless. You’re just doing what comes naturally to you. And if it benefits the world, too — what a wonderful bonus.


  2. Always enjoy reading your blog. ( :

    I don’t remember where I read:

    “The things we do for ourselves are gone, once we are gone.

    The things we do for others, are eternal.”


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