“I did everything I was supposed to do. I didn’t cry in meetings. I didn’t wear short skirts. I put up with weird upper management guys that kiss you on the mouth at Christmas. Is it fair that to be the youngest VP in my company. I will be the oldest mom at preschool? Not really, but that’s part of the deal. I made a choice.”
Tina Fey’s character in the film Baby Mama opens the plot with these lines. She plays an executive at a Whole Foods-type chain who finds herself single in her late 30′s and desperate for a baby. Now, in the film she does try to use In Vitro Fertilization first but is told she has a very small chance of successfully being impregnated by her physician. She then decides on surrogacy. The film which came out in 2008 is an accurate reflection of real life, as the number of surrogate births in the United States has increased steadily over the past two decades. Numbers from the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology place the number of surrogate births at about 260 in 2006, while industry experts estimate there to have been about 1,000 in 2009.
Unlike traditional surrogacy, in which the surrogate uses her own eggs, gestational surrogacy gives a woman the ability to carry a child to whom she has no genetic relationship. Using IVF, an embryo can be created in a lab either from the egg of the woman who wants to raise the child or from an egg provided by yet another woman; the embryo is then transferred to the uterus of the gestational surrogate. Gestational surrogacy can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000.
But the angle of Fey’s character being a woman who has chosen to focus on her career during her prime child-bearing years is an interesting question. Career is one, not the only, reason why some women put off having children. A recent cover story for New York Magazine focused on women who waited til they were at least 40 to have children. The main subject of the article cited a career switch later in life as a big reason for the delay.
A female CEO, who chose to remain anonymous, said on the subject of surrogacy:
“People, not just women, in senior level roles, are living their lives at very high paces. They work more hours, lack sleep, travel a lot and struggle to keep a routine. You would find ways to manage this, but the added impact of pregnancy would change their lives. There are ways to slow down but for some women, and it’s not because they aren’t maternal, but I think is is that they don’t desire the whole pregnancy thing. I see it as slowing me down. It is not that they are choosing to put career first, but putting the focus first. And when you are presented with an option like surrogacy, it seems viable. It kind of makes sense.”
The CEO added that for a woman past the age of 35, this may be even more of an option as well. “Being pregnant at 40 is not the same as being pregnant at 25.” Women are most fertile between the ages of 20 to 28 with their fertility decreasing in half by the time they reach 35 years of age. By age 45, only a 1% chance remains each month of conceiving naturally. In the last ten years surrogacy has become a more popular topic of conversation as it has become more of a cultural norm. “We outsource cleaning, errands, decorating, shopping, etc., This is just an extension of that.”
This week there is speculation that singer and actress Beyonce has been wearing a fake baby bump (due to an incriminating video) to cover up for the fact that she may be using a surrogate. Beyonce has not commented on the rumors and her PR rep has denied the allegations. But Beyonce, whether she is 37 (her rumored age) or 30, may have considered using a surrogate because of the impact a pregnancy could make on her career. Why she may feel the need to cover it up even though other celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicole Kidman have come forward about using surrogates is interesting. Surrogacy though becoming more prevalent, is still considered controversial and has a stigma attached to it. Mommyish, our sister site, writer Koa Beck said:
“Women who decide on surrogacy are often depicted as either hopelessly barren who will stop at nothing to hold a baby of their biological making or narcissistic gym bunnies who won’t even entertain the thought of carrying a baby out of vanity. These polarizing stereotypes seek to define motherhood within very narrow margins, alienating the experiences of many and the choices that women are entitled to make about their own bodies and lives.”
There are a whole slew of factors contributing to why a woman would use a surrogate including inability to conceive, women who may be terrified of pregnancy and/or childbirth, not having a mate, etc., It does also tend to be people who a pregnancy could have a negative impact on their careers, like successful businesswomen, actresses and athletes, but what is wrong with that? Pregnancy, not actual motherhood, makes a huge impact on your life for at least a year, physically, mentally and financially. The CEO said, “Society has shifted and new roles and technology allow for women to have this choice. Does that make it wrong? Because you can, should you? Why not?” And that is true. Women have the choice to do this, so if they can and it makes sense for their lives, then why not?