No surrogacy playbook

When someone dies, we say “I’m sorry for your loss”. This formulaic call and response that we can all fall back on and nearly predict. Our cultural muscle memory can be shockingly easy to access, even if that access results in a somewhat shallow, almost lazy response. I long for that with surrogacy and I feel it as the years pile up, introducing more unknowable situations. There is no surrogacy playbook.

Sometimes this is a beautiful thing that’s borderline creative. It reminds me of being queer. If I’m already going to live against the grain, what else can I question and “queer”? How else can I live? What else can this life hold for me? Other times, it’s daunting, like falling off a cliff with nothing to grasp to slow the fall. I fall down deep into myself sometimes in pursuit of understanding, desperate for some collective wisdom or sayings to hold in my hands.

Stepparents, in-laws, adopted kids — we have movies and podcasts and articles and other people’s experiences to know what to do, what to say. I had none of that when I met my birthmom at 12. I had no clue how to even conceptualize her nor did she nor did my parents as I’m coming to realize. There was no conversation to prepare me. There was no discussion afterwards.

My first recognition of the lack of playbook and the borrowing of adoption’s occurred when I referred to my birthmom as exactly that while chatting with the president of the surrogacy agency my parents used. “You mean your surrogate”. I corrected her. She corrected me. I eventually dropped it, recognizing that this was a dead end conversation. She could never acknowledge that she was my birthmom and I would never call her my surrogate. Without a playbook, I had pulled from adoption’s and, to this day, I stand by it. Usually though, I try to just call my birthmom by her name.

The stories of surrogate kids and surrogacy “arrangements” remain to be told. The stories stop and start with a child entering the world. We don’t not remain as babies though. Our stories must grow as we do, especially as the ethical complexities continue to swirl around the world of surrogacy. Our stories must be told and intentionally so, in all of the messiness, so perhaps one day a future surrogate kid has a semblance of something to fall back on.

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