It used to be that couples who had fertility issues had few options and could find themselves waiting years to adopt a child. They were often heartbroken and resigned to not having children.
Now, there are more options available — including surrogacy.
Cindy Lopez, a 32-year-old Granada Hills resident, is a surrogate mother. She’s currently seven months pregnant, carrying the baby boy of a gay Chinese citizen. Three years ago she gave birth to a pair of twin girls for a gay couple from Spain.
Lopez said she first heard about surrogacy in high school when one of her teachers had trouble getting pregnant.
After giving birth to her now 10-year-old daughter, she decided to give it a try.
“I love kids,” says Lopez, who is studying child development and plans to one day open a daycare. “I always found it a miracle.”
“I love being pregnant. The only thing I don’t enjoy is being nauseous. I like seeing my belly. I like feeling it kick,” she said.
One of the requirements of being a surrogate mother is to have already delivered a healthy baby. Another requirement is passing a psychological evaluation that the surrogate can carry the fetus to term and won’t have an issue about giving up the baby once it’s born.
For Lopez, that has never been an issue. She said she doesn’t feel like a mother to those children who don’t have any genetic connection to her apart from being carried inside her uterus.
“As weird as it might sound, I have no connection with the child whatsoever,” said Lopez, who is part of the Center for Surrogate Parenting (CSP) in Encino. “It’s not that I’m cold. I see it as a babysitting job. Yes, I’m carrying your child. I care for your child. I want to eat well and be healthy. But when they’re born, at that point, they’re all yours. I don’t have that connection.
“When I touch him and he’s moving, it’s a nice sensation. I get excited and touch him and talk to him. But I don’t have that feeling of saying ‘I wish it was mine,’” she adds.
Thanks to celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West who’ve already had a child via surrogacy and are expecting another in the same fashion, this fertility option has gone from being a taboo topic to an open form of procreation.
Between 2004 and 2008, an estimated 5,000 children were born through a surrogacy agreement. It is believed that 35,000 children in total have been born to a surrogate mother in the past 40 years.
The process is fairly straightforward. An embryo is created via in vitro fertilization, using the eggs and sperm of the intended parents or donors, and is then transferred to the surrogate.
The fetus grows inside of her and the moment she gives birth, the parents take over. All legalities regarding the surrogacy are agreed upon and signed off before the child is born. The name of the surrogate doesn’t appear on the birth certificate.
Lopez said that her fiancé initially wasn’t too keen on the idea of her being a surrogate.
“He didn’t understand the physiology. In his mind, they’re going to put sperm in you. But I explained all the physiology and how much I love being pregnant, and he said ‘ok, let’s do it,’” she said.
Her mother and brothers also support her, but Lopez admits some of her relatives still frown upon her decision.
But she is happy to help those who have been unable to conceive on their own.
“There’s a joy that comes from giving someone life. There are so many women out there that wish they had [given birth] and can’t,” Lopez said.
Besides the emotional rewards that come from helping someone procreate, there are also financial ones. All of Lopez’ medical bills are paid by the parent and there’s also a life insurance policy in case something goes wrong during delivery.
Lopez receives $40,000 for sacrificing her body, something that has allowed her to support her daughter in ways she couldn’t otherwise.
“You’re helping someone and you’re also helping your family and yourself. We’ve gone to Disney World twice, and Paris (France) once,” she says.
“I definitely do enjoy the fact that a reward comes with it and I’m able to provide for my daughter and I’m able to show her the world.”