Breaking Down Hollywood’s Depiction of Surrogacy

July 19, 2017 by Frank Golden

pregnant woman holds her stomach next to spilled popcorn and caution tape on a lightning bolt background.

A young couple struggles to have a family. They undergo multiple treatments and procedures, all of which are unsuccessful. They eventually decide to pursue a Surrogate, and are matched with an ideal candidate; they quickly form a bond. Their Surrogate is smart, beautiful, funny, and lives close by. Her body is healthy and ideal for pregnancy. The young couple feels blessed. And then things change. Their Surrogate starts acting strange. She desires a closer relationship with the Intended Father and begins isolating the Intended Mother. She becomes delusional believing that she is the mother to the unborn child growing inside of her. She fantasizes about starting a life with the Intended Father and the baby. In a desperate attempt to fulfill her dream, she battles the Intended Mother, and fails. The Intended Parents are exhausted after their feat, but are finally blessed with the family they always wanted.

Don’t be alarmed. This is not a true story. Not by any means. This short story outlines the plot for When the Bough Breaks, a 2016 Lifetime original film. The Surrogacy Trap, The Surrogate, A Surrogate’s Nightmare, A Surrogate’s Terror, Baby Mama, and the recent big picture release, Inconceivable, are examples of some of the more ridiculous Surrogacy movies out there. Each one offers a slightly different, but equally crazy perspective on Surrogacy, Surrogates, and Intended Parents.

I understand why people watch these movies. Honestly, they’re entertaining. They discuss a relatively taboo and somewhat mysterious subject. What I don’t understand, is the apparent lack of research conducted prior to the creation of these films. These films exhibit fictitious portrayals of the Surrogacy process, and it’s absolutely infuriating.

movie poster for "Baby Mama".

One common misrepresentation is the mental state of Surrogate candidates. In these movies, Surrogates are depicted as being completely insane. And typically, they’re not just insane, they’re dangerous. Credible agencies and IVF clinics require Surrogate candidates to undergo a psychological assessment prior to officially beginning their journey. Any agency owner can tell you, if a woman is not mentally fit to be a Surrogate, she will not pass the psychological exam, and she will not be allowed to continue with a journey.

Many other fabrications exist. Often in these movies, the most basic of Surrogate requirements are disregarded. In actuality, most Surrogate characters would not pass the preliminary screening required by our agency and by IVF clinics. Most of these characters are not mothers, they are not in stable relationships, they don’t have support systems, they don’t live in Surrogate friendly states. Yes, many fabrications exist, but the most bothersome, the most troublesome, are the distorted intentions of Surrogate characters. These movies tend to portray Surrogates as having malevolent ulterior motives for undergoing the process. They either want to kill the Intended Mother or run away with the baby.

movie poster for "The Surrogate".

This is an extremely damaging perspective. These movies add additional stigmas to an already stigmatized industry. Essentially, these movies suggest that Surrogacy is so crazy, so “out there” that sane women wouldn’t even consider it. Any woman wanting to carry a Surrogate pregnancy must be crazy, desperate, or dangerous. This is just not the case. Surrogates genuinely want to help people create families. That’s their true motivation. Of course, the financial benefits serve as an additional source of motivation. That’s about it, though. There’s no secret desire to destroy a family. Rather, there’s the overt desire to help a family, as well as the desire to help their own.

As an agency owner, and as a previous Intended Parent, I am highly sensitive to these movies and the stigmas they perpetuate. At the beginning of my first journey, I was completely petrified. Starting a family is always scary, but my fears were more related to Surrogacy and everything that could go wrong. I had all the crazy thoughts: would my Surrogate grow too attached to our baby? Would she become too attached to us? Would she run away? Would she drink or smoke while carrying our child? I knew I wanted to have a child of my own, and that Surrogacy was the only way to do it, but that didn’t make the decision any easier. Irrational thoughts continued to cloud my mind until I met our Surrogate. She was kind, caring, warm, and thoughtful. She was a wonderful mother to her children. She lived in a stable environment. She wasn’t the crazy Surrogate portrayed in movies. She was, and still is, an amazing human being.

pregnant surrogate smiles on bed between two dads.

I truly hope that anyone watching these movies understands that they are based on fictional characters and fictional scenarios. If you are considering Surrogacy, either as an Intended Parent or a Surrogate, we always recommend going through an agency. We do everything we can to ensure a safe and joyful experience for everyone involved. We strictly follow The American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Surrogate requirements. We run background checks on all candidates and their significant others. We only recruit Surrogates from “Surrogate Friendly” states. We do a preliminary psychological screening and then follow up with another psychological screening at the IVF clinic. We maintain open lines of communication between Intended Parents and Surrogates.  We constantly track important dates/milestones to ensure that everyone is well-informed on the journey’s progress. If a “Lifetime Movie Character” applied to be a Surrogate with our agency, we’d be able to figure that out quickly. And just as quickly, we’d turn her away.

The good candidates, the women we welcome into our agency as Surrogates, are qualified. They are smart, they are strong, they are nurturing. They are eager to create a different kind of plotline. This plotline does not end with deception, angst, or murder. This plotline ends with family, love, and joy. It ends with your dreams coming true.