“Mommy, that’s a mitzvah!”
That was my three-and-half-year-old daughter’s reaction when I told her I was becoming a surrogate.
“Am I going to get another baby brother?”
“No, honey. I am going to grow the baby for someone else.”
“You know that only women can grow babies, right” She nods. “Gil and Tomer are two daddies, two men, so neither of them can grow a baby—they need help. So I’m going to grow their baby for them.”
A few seconds of silence. Then Ramona’s face splits into an enormous grin, and she says, “Mommy, that’s a mitzvah!”
And it is. It is a mitzvah. I think. Actually, I have been struggling with this during the entire process. I’ve slowly been telling people about my upcoming journey—my family, my in-laws, my boss, the HR director at work, my close friends—and pretty much without fail, everyone’s response has been some version of, “Wow, that is so amazing of you! What a gift you are giving!” And I smile uncomfortably in return and promptly change the subject. Because while I understand that I am giving these beautiful people a gift—the chance to create their family on their own terms, something most heterosexual couples (not struggling with infertility) get to do without a second thought—I am not being completely altruistic.
I am getting paid. To grow a baby.
Sure, it’s technically a settlement for pain, suffering, and lost wages. And yes, I am putting my body (and my family) through another pregnancy. Yes, I am assuming all of the risks involved with IVF, which can lead to more complicated pregnancies, including multiples. Yes, I could hemorrhage or lose my uterus or develop high blood pressure or preeclampsia or HG or post partum depression. I will have more stretch marks, more baby weight to lose, more nausea, more heartburn and leg cramps and gas and ligament pain and fatigue and, oh yeah almost forgot, another round of labor and delivery.
All of this for someone else’s baby. So perhaps I deserve to get paid. But it still feels a little yucky.
Could I refuse the payment? Perhaps. Will I? Hell, no.
If I were a scholar, I could go on to discuss the ethics of surrogacy and in doing a good deed for money. Would the rabbis consider this a mitzvah? I have no idea. So I’ll leave the question to you, dear readers. Is it still a good deed if you’re getting paid?
Really, this is not a rhetorical question.