Surrogacy 101

Here's Why Nodal Doesn't Use the Term 'Surrogate Mother'

Written by Caroline Shannon

July 11, 2023

There's a big difference between surrogate and mother—here's why.

Type the word “surrogate” into a search bar, and you’ll find autocomplete almost always tries to suggest the phrase you’re searching is “surrogate mother.” But the term “surrogate mother” is entirely inaccurate when describing the surrogacy experience. 

Keep reading to discover why “surrogate mother” is not only incorrect regarding gestational surrogacy but can actually be harmful to intended parents working to build their families.

Why can’t I say surrogate mother?

It will come as no surprise to you that the term “mother” is reserved for the person who is either biologically related to their child—whether by carrying and birthing a child or with the help of a surrogate—or related to their child by adoption. (Stepmothers, of course, sometimes also fulfill a special mothering role.) 

So, with that in mind, deeming a surrogate a surrogate mother becomes problematic because they are not the mother of the child they are carrying, biologically or otherwise. Instead, a surrogate carries a baby for an intended parent or parents. While their role is certainly vital to the process and of great value to intended parents, a surrogate is not the mother of the baby they are carrying.

Related: Here Are the Surrogacy Myths Surrogates Could Do Without

“Yes, we are mothers to our own children, but we are not the mothers of that pregnancy,” says Sammi Itatani, a two-time surrogate and Nodal’s Surrogacy Intake Coordinator. “I believe the term can be hurtful for intended mothers, who are truly the ones becoming the mother at that moment.”

Three-time surrogate Ashley Greene—who is also Nodal’s Program Coordinator—added: “At no time does a surrogate view the baby as their own and therefore there is no one to mother, and no ‘motherly’ bond is formed between the surrogate and the baby. There is a bond, but it’s maybe more of a friend or special aunt feel.”

What should I say instead? 

It’s as simple as this: just say surrogates! Feel free to tag on any other positive adjectives you like—we’re thinking amazing, superhero, loving, fabulous, out-of-this-world, or anything of the like.

The gist? Surrogates work with intended parents to help them build a family. In other words, only intended parents are the parents of a baby born with the help of a surrogate.

Related: How Does a Surrogate Become Pregnant?

The bottom line

The term surrogate mother is not only inaccurate but “I think it takes away from the actual mother of the baby,” says Brianna Buck, a former surrogate and Nodal’s Head of Community. 

“Saying surrogate mother makes them feel like they have to share their motherhood just because they are working with a surrogate, and that’s simply not true,” Buck adds. “I was never a mother to the baby that I was carrying. That is a special relationship and one I feel only towards my own children.”

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