The number one question that every surrogate is asked is “how much do you get paid?” And whilst we expect the question, and can even understand why someone may ask, the question itself can hurt, and undermine the altruism of what we are doing. Surrogates are not paid in Australia, and the suggestion that we are being paid is insulting. The follow-up question, from the less aware, is “but if you’re not being paid, why would you do it?” The cynicism in the question can be frustrating and upsetting. If you are looking for information about how much surrogacy costs in Australia, go here.
Let me be really clear: surrogates are not paid in Australia.
Oh yeah, I hear you say, “but they’re probably being paid under the table.” For a long time I would simply shrug my shoulders if someone said that to me. I wasn’t paid, and wondered if I was being naive to think that my surrogate sisters were also not receiving any money. But I’ve spent time with over a hundred surrogates and many of them are my friends. They’re genuine, courageous and generous women. They’re also educated, have their own careers, and their own families, interests and priorities. In short: they don’t need to be paid to carry a baby for someone else.
You don’t have to believe me. And that’s ok – your cynicism is not a reflection on whether I was paid to carry a baby. The fact is, that altruistic surrogacy is all about the relationship. Surrogates don’t want to be paid, precisely because we are doing it for the experience, the relationship with our intended parents, and the joy we will feel when we hand over a baby to the new parents. Nothing can describe that feeling, and there is nothing else like it. I wouldn’t trade that for a million dollars. The best gifts we receive are often the handwritten cards and homemade gifts, and certainly don’t have any monetary value.
The truth is that most surrogates in Australia are lucky to break-even at the end of their surrogacy journey. Most surrogates end up out-of-pocket. There’s a few reasons for this – one is that the Australian laws are pretty strict on what can and cannot be reimbursed for the surrogate’s expenses. In Victoria, for example, a surrogate cannot be reimbursed for lost income. I’ve heard some lawyers demanding to see copies of the surrogate’s bank account statements to ensure she isn’t making money out of surrogacy.
Another reason why surrogates are out of pocket is because we are, generally speaking, very proud. We don’t like asking for help, and we certainly don’t like asking for money. Have you ever had to ask another couple to help pay your bills? Money conversations are difficult in many households, let alone with other people. Many surrogates report being out of pocket because they didn’t like asking their intended parents to cover small costs like hospital parking, petrol, pregnancy vitamins, maternity wear, and even days off work. Surrogates don’t want to add any extra burden to their intended parents, who are often already spending so much money on IVF costs, counsellors and lawyers. So, we just bear the cost ourselves. And you know what? Often, it’s easier to bear the cost and forget about it, than it is to raise it with our intended parents and ask for money.
Now, none of that is the fault of the intended parents. It is, however, their responsibility to work through this with their surrogate and her partner, recognise her pride and not wanting to make her uncomfortable, and find ways to make sure she is not out of pocket. Be proactive and find ways to make sure you cover the expenses.
Of course, there are occasions where intended parents avoid or neglect paying for things that they should be covering. I’ve heard surrogates complain that their intended parents asked them to avoid taking more time off work because they couldn’t afford to pay her lost income. I’ve heard of a surrogate being told to “wait until payday” for her intended parents to reimburse her for a medical bill. Another surrogates was told to catch public transport rather than spend money on hospital parking. None of these scenarios is acceptable, and intended parents need to make sure they are prepared for surrogacy before embarking on it. A woman carrying a baby for someone should never be out of pocket or have to wait to be reimbursed. It is not a surrogate’s job to bear the financial burden of her carrying your baby.
If you are an intended parent and you believe that there’s some sort of ‘catch’ to altruistic surrogacy whereby the surrogates are all receiving under-the-table payments, you may like to read more about the motivations of surrogates, and the relationships we have with our intended parents. There are numerous episodes of the Podcast that tell these stories. And remember, if you don’t trust a woman to carry your baby without asking for money, then perhaps you shouldn’t trust her to carry your baby at all.