Most women who choose to become surrogate mothers do so because they are heartbroken to hear stories of desperation from those wishing they could have children “of their own”. Christian, is one such woman, who was inspired to become a surrogate mother after feeling deep empathy for families who struggled with infertility. In giving the “gift of life”, she found herself emotionally battered and embroiled in a custody battle crossing international borders.  

In an exclusive interview with the Center for Bioethics and Culture, Christian walks us through the twists and turns of her surrogacy nightmare. A nightmare that not only affects her, her physical and mental health, or her family, but one that impacts a little boy from the beginning to end, for the rest of his life. 

Working with an agency out of California (why is it often California?), Christian was matched with an international couple residing on the east coast, supposedly wanting to grow their family: “They [the couple] had two children. And unfortunately, they were no longer able to have children on their own, so I was told…Here these people are; they want to grow their family. They can’t anymore, so my heart just was like, I really feel for these people. I love their story, the pictures, you know, all of that. So, my husband and I, we decided that we wanted to move forward with them and how this started.”

Christian traveled from the east coast all the way to California for the embryo transfer. The embryo transfer was a success and Christian carried a baby that she believed was created with the intended father’s sperm and a donor egg. Spoiler alert: it’s not at all what Christian thought. Double spoiler alert: Christian actually never met the intended mother because she too was pregnant throughout Christian’s entire surrogate pregnancy. Not only was Christian and the intended mother pregnant at the same time, the intended parents had also hired a second surrogate mother, known as a “surrogate sister” (meaning genetically related embryos are transferred into two, or more, women at a time).  As far as Christian knows, the “surrogate sister” never had a successful delivery.

It’s no surprise to us that Christian’s pregnancy had complications she’d never experienced while carrying her own biological children. Complications she wasn’t adequately informed about. Studies show that surrogate pregnancies are high risk pregnancies, laden with complications and negative health effects for both mother and child. Christian suffered from debilitating morning sickness, subchorionic hemorrhage/hematoma (bleeding that occurs if the placenta detaches from the uterus), and ultimately delivered the baby early via emergency c-section. After birth, Christian had crippling post traumatic stress disorder and of course, never received any care or funds for care from the fertility clinic or family that hired her. While she was left fighting for her mental health, her story took a dramatic turn. Months later, Christian is contacted by lawyers about an adoption case in England regarding her surrogacy arrangement. 

It turns out that the baby she birthed had no genetic relationship to the intended father, as she was led to believe. Not only that, but it was the intention all along for the child to be adopted by another couple residing in England! The intended parents were never intending to be the parents. The only upside, if there is one, is that the adoptive father in England was the actual sperm donor. However, England law states that whomever birthed the baby is the baby’s mother. That is, Christian would be the baby’s mother until the proper documentation was settled. However, she was never treated as the baby’s mother during the months that followed as traveled back and forth to England for court proceedings.

“I started seeing a doctor at that point. Because at that point it was scary to be in my head. Like, what the hell did you do? I was asking myself. What in the hell did you do? This is the question that’s going on and I’m asking myself every minute of every day for months. What in the hell did you do? You just gave this baby such a messy life.”

In his sweet, fragile, short life, the little boy that Christian birthed would be ripped from the only home and mother he’d ever known to be illegally shuttled through international borders with a stranger, live in foster care, and then reside with a family that considers his life a “project” and an “experiment”. What’s more, Christian shares with us how his biological half siblings casually joke about taking him back to where he was purchased from. Language that makes it seem like he’s a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit quite right, not a precious life. This is what surrogacy is. It isn’t beautiful and it isn’t a gift. It’s ugly, messy, and devastating. It’s the buying, selling, and trading of babies, precious babies. 

Christian’s story is heart-breaking and now she is living with regrets and heartache. Now divorced and living with her mother, Christian’s surrogate pregnancy ruined her marriage and her mental health. The surrogacy agency claims they knew nothing of the agreement between the “intended parents” and “adoptive parents” and left Christian high and dry, leaving Christian to pay for her own expenses to England and mental health care, only offering another “surrogacy journey” if she’d agree. In her own words, Christian states matter-of-factly, “If I could go back and redo this all, I never, ever would have done this. It’s ruined my life.” Christian hopes to prevent others now from doing the same. 

Christian’s life has been forever altered by the decision to become a surrogate mother. Some might hear her story and argue that she made this decision herself, as a willing adult. I’d like to remind our readers and listeners that the focal point should shift to the little one that didn’t have a choice. At the center of this story is a little boy lost in the shuffle and deception of big fertility on an international level. Who is his mother? Who is his father? What damage will be caused from the selfish desires of adults? Who will protect him? What have we done? We don’t have a “right to build a family” and we don’t have a right to leave children motherless, fatherless, and wondering where they came from. We have failed him and others like him by not putting a stop to this commodification of human life. Can we please stop surrogacy now