Baby Mama Movie Review & Surrogacy In Real Life
There are so few movies about surrogacy out there! Although surrogacy has become much more common and mainstream, movies that correctly portray what a surrogacy journey truly is are few and far between. The vast majority of them show surrogacy in either a very funny, off-the-wall way, or as something dark, with ulterior motives. In reality, surrogacy is a well-regulated, safe, and beautiful gift.
I decided to watch “Baby Mama” – the gold standard of “funny” surrogacy movies – to see where it hit the mark on reality, and where it was far, far off. Let’s dive in!
The story begins with the audience meeting the Intended Mother, Kate. We learn a bit about her journey – she is a successful businesswoman who has not found a partner. She longs for motherhood and decides to try several different options to get pregnant. She goes through several failed IUIs and a few rounds of IVF before exploring her options. Although adoption is interesting to her, she learns that it can be expensive, a very long process, and not a guarantee that she will be able to parent a child in the end. She begins to learn about surrogacy.
This part was realistic. Most Intended Parents (IPs) have explored any and all routes to parenthood before they arrive at surrogacy. Many have suffered through years of infertility or great losses. They do not arrive at surrogacy as a first step. In reality, for most IPs, surrogacy is hope after a long journey.
In the movie, Kate meets with an agency owner to discuss the next steps. While the agency owner in the movie is a larger-than-life caricature, she does share some information that is accurate – prior to a surrogacy journey, applicants are all screened with extensive background checks – psychological assessments, criminal reports, medical history, among others. These are standard screenings that are done throughout the surrogacy world, to protect not only the Intended Parents, but the surrogates as well. An ethical agency would never want any of their surrogates to be less than prepared for the journey ahead of them, and having a solid background helps to ensure that they will be able to sail through the IVF process, pregnancy, and delivery with ease.
From here, the movie takes us to the initial “match meeting” between Kate and her prospective surrogate, Angie. This is where things start to veer wildly from a typical surrogacy journey. Kate and Angie (and her husband) meet in person at Kate’s home, with nobody from the agency to guide them. In a real surrogacy, the parties all “meet” together in a neutral environment. With West Coast Surrogacy, this is typically a Zoom meeting. This is a nice way to see one another’s faces and to allow surrogates and Intended Parents a chance to chat about many important topics.
At West Coast Surrogacy, you will always have a Case Manager facilitating this match meeting as well. We recognize that these initial meetings can be a bit nerve-wracking to everyone, so we are there to mediate and allow the conversation to flow. We have a list of questions that we MUST discuss, to make sure that everyone is on the same page with one another about the big topics that may come up during surrogacy. We take notes during the call and allow for natural conversation to flow as well. We allow all parties to think about the call for about a day or so before letting us know whether they would like to move forward – there is no awkward pressure placed on anyone during the call itself.
The movie glosses over some very important parts of a surrogacy journey here. It goes from the match meeting straight to embryo transfer, but things aren’t quite that quick in real life! After matching, the surrogate will meet with the Intended Parent’s Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE), who is their IVF physician. This meeting will involve an in-depth physical, ultrasounds, and bloodwork, to ensure that she is healthy and ready for a pregnancy.
Once the doctor issues medical clearance, then all parties will work with experienced reproductive law attorneys on legal contracts. It is so important to have a solid legal contract in place to protect all parties. This step should never be rushed or skipped. Finally, once contracts are completed and funds have been set aside in an escrow/trust fund account, the IVF clinic will create the embryo transfer calendar. The surrogate will be required to practice abstinence, take hormones for several weeks, have blood draws and ultrasounds in preparation, and then FINALLY it will be embryo transfer day! From the match meeting to this day is typically 2-3 months.
If you have seen the movie Baby Mama, then you know that from the embryo transfer, things get kind of...wild. The surrogate tells her Intended Mother that she is pregnant with only a home pregnancy test. In real life, there are 2-3 blood draws that check your pregnancy hormone levels to determine whether the embryo transfer has been a success. These labs are reviewed by the RE, who will relay the news about the pregnancy and continue to manage the medications for the surrogate. There are commonly also 2-3 ultrasounds in the very early weeks of pregnancy, which are performed at the RE’s office or a monitoring clinic. Often times the Intended Parent(s) can join in in-person or via video phone for these exciting appointments. In the movie – things are not this regimented. Angie shares her pregnancy via a phone call, shows up at Kate’s home, and hands her an ultrasound photo – there is no follow-up whatsoever with medical care.
Later in the film, Angie’s home life goes downhill and she shows up at Kate’s home to move in. Kate allows it because she wants her baby to be safe, but she is shocked. In a real surrogacy arrangement, this would never happen. It is so important for surrogates to be as stable as possible prior to beginning their journey. This is why the psychological assessments are completed, as well as home visits and background checks – so that everyone can be assured that, even in the unlikely event of a surrogate’s life turning upside down during the pregnancy, she would still have a strong support system and the ability to care for herself and her family.
The movie also shows the surrogate having very poor eating habits as well as a fight between her and her Intended Mother about dying her hair. These things are covered in the legal contract BEFORE the pregnancy occurs. The surrogate knows what behavior is expected and agrees to any specific requests during the matching process and the legal contract. This limits any potential for controversy between parties. In the movie, Angie and Kate go to group therapy. Although in reality they would not be in a large group, mental health providers do often play a role in a smooth pregnancy. They are available to speak with surrogates about any concerns they may be feeling, as well as to Intended Parents.
The rest of the movie becomes incredibly wild – it turns out that the surrogate never got pregnant via IVF and she wasn’t following abstinence protocols. She became pregnant by her husband and she decides to raise the baby herself. This is obviously VERY unlike real surrogacy – the abstinence protocols are in place at the beginning of the embryo transfer cycle, in addition to suppressing ovulation in many cycles, so that all parties can rest assured that the baby conceived is the Intended Parents and not the surrogates. Additionally, the surrogate is followed so closely by a physician with frequent ultrasounds and bloodwork, that it would be incredibly unlikely to not notice a pregnancy that was not a direct result of the IVF.
Because it’s a movie and happy endings are required, the Intended Mother, Kate, ends up getting pregnant herself. Everyone ends the movie with their own baby, happy and as friends.
It’s no surprise that Hollywood would look to surrogacy to find inspiration for their movies. Surrogacy is a beautiful thing and people are naturally curious about it. But don’t get all of your facts about surrogacy from the movies! Let the experts tell you what to expect – we would love to share our real-life experiences with you!