There is a growing public controversy over surrogate motherhood in California and elsewhere. Western culture, like so many other cultures, has cherished ideas about motherhood and womanhood and how women should interact with their infants. Women who choose to bear children for another person and give the child up are sometimes viewed with scorn and labeled as heartless. Because they are paid for their services, surrogate California mothers are often viewed as materialistic. Additionally, surrogate mothers are sometimes viewed as experiencing trauma as a result of “losing” their babies. There is very little data to substantiate any of these stereotypes. Therefore, Dr. Betsy P. Aigen conducted a study of interviews of 200 prospective surrogate mothers to explore these stereotypes.
Initially, Aigen found that although money is a motivating factor for surrogate California women, it is not by any means the distinguishing factor. All of the surrogate women interviewed reported that they felt a wide array of emotional reasons for choosing surrogacy. For the most part, the primary motivating factor for most surrogate California mothers is that they simply desired to help a couple or individual achieve parenthood. Part of this came from their own identity as mothers and parents and their wish to share the same experience with those who could not otherwise experience it.
Furthermore, the research showed that the surrogate mothers were completely normal and “average” human beings. The results did tend to show that, because motivation was so important in determining surrogacy eligibility, parents were much better candidates for surrogacy than non-parents. The reason for this is that in general, the empathy expressed towards individuals unable to reproduce was generally a sentiment that was displayed more strongly by women who were parents. The surrogate California mothers also saw their positions as surrogates as an expression of themselves; an ability to live out an idealized vision of motherhood and their emphasis on the importance of family and sharing that with those who truly wish for a family of their own.
Finally, Aigen found that surrogate mothers, because they have a biological ability to give birth to children, “… feel that they can achieve some measure of greatness that would otherwise be beyond them.” Becoming a surrogate is extraordinary in the nature of the act as well as the ability to incubate and introduce new life to the world for needy individuals. Therefore, the stereotype of surrogate California mothers as heartless, cold money-grubbers couldn’t be farther from the truth. Surrogates are mothers wishing to share the gift of parenthood with other people who could otherwise not experience it.