Your Donor (or Surrogate) is Not Your Baby Mama

Egg Donors, sperm donors and surrogates play an important role in third party fertility but not the role of parent. The donors are genetic relatives not parents. The surrogate is a gestational carrier not parent. Being a parent requires more than DNA.

We are in the business of helping to create families in a non-traditional way when the traditional way is not an option. Families are made up of people wanting to share love. It could be a mom and dad, a mom and mom, a dad and dad, or a single parent of a dad, or a mom.

Sometimes intended parents refer to their donor as the biological mother and the surrogate as the birth mother. This can create confusion for the children we are creating. It’s very important that we don’t get stuck in an outdated lexicon that does not reflect your family.

Kim Bergman, Ph.D. a psychologist with 23 years experience in third party fertility says how we identify the egg donor and surrogates are important both inside your home and out in the world. “It is important that we not refer to the donor as the mother as it is confusing to the child and sets up a false expectation since “mother” has a meaning that is not at all matched by who the donor is for the child. Gay dads need to know that their child doesn’t have a mom and that’s perfectly okay. That there are many different families, some with two dads, some with two moms, some with one or one of each and all are wonderful and special and whole and complete.”

Your egg donor and surrogate have not signed up to extend their family but to help you to grow your own family. In Sex Cells, author Rene Almelinga says, “Egg donors are adamant that they are not mothers. Egg Donors define their contribution as “just an egg,” … the connection they feel is with the recipients, whom they identify as the parent.”

You are part of the new “normal.” Referring to your egg donor as the bio mom or the surrogate as the birth mom may suggest to your children that they are missing something. In truth you have your own family equation and it’s complete. I talked with three notable gay dads who are all very active in the third party fertility field. Each of them has formed their families via surrogate and egg donor. They are two-dad families and proud of it!

Richard Westoby, author of Our Journey: One Couple’s Guide to U.S. Surrogacy and a consultant at San Diego Fertility Center, states "in our family, we refer to our egg donor by her first name or by the term egg donor. Our children are not really old enough to understand the difference between the egg donor and our surrogate but when they do we will keep it that way."

Similarly Craig Reisser, a consultant with Oregon Reproductive Medicine says, “We refer to our donor by her first name, (similarly, we refer to our surrogate by her first name) when we talk to the boys about them. We have a book about donor egg surrogacy that we've read to our oldest. We would never refer to either of them to anyone as a mother, genetic mother, biological mother, surrogate mother, etc... or even any similar combination of parent. Neither of them would consider themselves to be a mother / parent - and in fact we (like others) have gone to great legal expense to ensure that legally they are not. A parent (be that person be a mother or father) is the person who raises a child, has responsibility for a child - changes the nappies, is up in the middle of the night, is wiping up the sick, worrying about childcare, school, etc.... We refer to our donor and surrogate as being part of our extended family - sort of like cousins.”

Richard Vaughn, is a highly respected attorney in third party fertility and he and his husband Tommy have two sons. Rich tells me that language is very important. They refer to their donor and surrogate by their first names, never using a term that might suggest motherhood. When drawing up contracts they are written to reflect the fact that the egg donor and the surrogate have no rights, privileges or responsibilities as parents. Only the intended parents are seen as the legal parents.

To identify the donor or gestational carrier as the ‘mother’ is to suggest to one’s child that something is missing. It is time for us to let go of traditional titles and old ideals of what makes a family. Love makes a family and each is whole and complete just as they are.

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