The Romance of Surrogacy


  • I am very grateful to Elly Teman, Chris Colwell, Ivan Berend, and Kati Radics for their ongoing support, encouragement, and thoughtful comments on several versions of this article. I am thankful to the anonymous reviewers for their very useful comments and suggestions. I also thank the surrogates who responded to my questions and offered their stories.


This article seeks to demonstrate and analyze the cultural and emotional work surrogate mothers collectively engage in on the largest surrogacy support website, . Surrogate mothers’ online stories and discussions frame contract surrogacy as a “labor of love.” Women often describe their surrogacy as a “journey” of shared love; they hope for a lasting relationship with the couple they carry for. This article explores how the language of love, learned and internalized through online communication with other surrogates, creates both a cultural conceptualization of surrogacy and a ground for action. Love and altruistic giving are consistent with close interpersonal rather than market relationships; surrogates hope for a long-term friendship with their couple. Surrogacy journeys, however, not infrequently end in disappointment; surrogates feel betrayed when couples cut ties. As a result of collective learning, surrogates’ discussions increasingly articulate the position that love, even when unreciprocated, can lead to repeated giving; love is noble and ennobling. Surrogates find appreciation and support in their online surrogacy community where they agree that giving life is a moral good. This stance has contributed to a renewed enthusiasm to bear children for others.