You Asked: Why Do You Work in Surrogacy?

Written by Caroline Shannon and Sammi Itatani

January 17, 2024

Former surrogate, Sammi Itatani, shares her perspective on surrogacy.

Sammi Itatani is a mom, two-time surrogate, and works as the intake and community manager educating potential future surrogates at Nodal.

I was just six months postpartum—and the world was smack dab in the middle of a pandemic—when I decided to become a surrogate for the second time. I thought, “You know what? I think I want to do this again." I laugh now because this isn’t exactly a natural inclination after giving birth to your own child, let alone someone else’s. But for me, helping someone build a family again seemed like the next natural step. 

But because my first surrogacy journey had resulted in identical twins who were born via C-section, my OB-GYN recommended waiting 18 months before beginning another surrogacy journey. (Editor’s note: Your C-section history may prevent you from becoming a surrogate, so it’s crucial to consult your physician to see if any complications could arise during a future pregnancy.) 

Nearly two years later, I was successfully pregnant with a baby for another couple, this time a family one of my good friends had carried for previously. I delivered their little one in October, and I like to say that I am now 100 percent retired from the physical side of surrogacy. But as for doing the work to raise surrogacy awareness? I’m in for good, mainly because I can’t imagine not helping people better understand what’s involved in the process—and what’s not.

A big part of my role as intake and community manager at Nodal—a surrogacy matching platform—is working to dispel some of the myths surrounding the surrogacy journey to make for a better matching experience. I’ve found that when the involved parties are informed, it allows for a more manageable process across the board, including the moments when people will inevitably say things to surrogates like, “I can't believe you would give away your baby,” or “you must be making so much money.”

In the case of the former, this type of comment is insulting for so many reasons, mainly because, as a surrogate, you aren’t giving away a baby. I don't know how many times I've had to say, "Well, first off, I'm not giving a baby away. I'm giving the baby back to the family who it belongs to." 

And when it comes to compensation, the idea that a surrogate would sign up to carry for someone solely for a check is ridiculous. In fact, if someone is in surrogacy for money, they're in the wrong business. They need to go find something else to do. I’m not saying that compensation is not a necessary part of the process. But I am saying no amount of money is comparable to the amount of physical and logistical work that goes into surrogacy. 

But having this personal experience is crucial to my current role, where I speak to potential surrogates daily and have the ability to answer their questions, which, in addition to compensation, include those related to the embryo transfer process and even their relationship with intended parents during and after pregnancy. 

Questions like, “Do you get to see the baby afterward? Or, “Do you get to talk to the parents afterward?" are often top of mind, and it’s my job to remind them that an important part of matching is deciding the type of relationship that works for all parties involved. In my personal experience, I chose IPs who wanted to maintain a relationship during and after the journey. I tell inquiring surrogates that I still text my IPs often. I have even traveled multiple times to see them and vice versa. Surrogates need to hear these anecdotes because many people think surrogacy is very transactional for everybody. While that certainly is sometimes the case, it doesn’t have to be that way if surrogates and IPs choose otherwise. Many potential surrogates come into surrogacy with an “it is what it is” way of thinking, but there’s power in the surrogacy journey, and it’s my job to help them find it. I know with certainty that my experience as a two-time surrogate allows them to see this journey's many different iterations.

I recently saw the Barbie movie, and so much of the “it’s supposed to be this way” rhetoric reminded me of my conversations about surrogacy. Surrogacy isn’t one-size-fits-all—and that goes for surrogates and intended parents. No one wants to feel limited by significant life decisions, and building a family—or helping to build one—certainly falls into that category.

Ultimately, surrogacy should be considered just one way to bring a baby into this world. Setting it apart from the other ways people build families allows surrogacy to be seen as disparate or different in a way that implies something negative. 

That’s not to say the surrogacy journey isn’t extraordinary. I have brought four baby girls into this world—my own daughter is one of them—and sometimes I forget how magical that is. Often, I shrug off that I’ve been a surrogate twice. Like, “Oh, yeah, I've done this a couple of times. No big deal." But then I think about it and remind myself, "Wait, no, that is a huge deal." I'm humble, so it’s not necessarily natural for me to think, “I did that. I helped create that life." 

So, when I’m having initial conversations with people interested in surrogacy, I first ask, “What got you interested in surrogacy?" Many simply say, "I want to help create a family for those who can't do it on their own and they need help." 

It’s those moments I remember why we’re all doing this—both surrogates and people who work in third-party reproduction as a whole. It's to help those who can't create a family without the help of a surrogate or reproductive technology. It’s not about how to get it “right” or what people think of the process. 

And I think it’s really as simple—and beautiful—as that.

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