Confessions Of A Talk Show Surrogate
Doing the Ricki Lake Show was definitely an experience! I basically wound up
with a free trip to New York...expenses paid...except for the phone bill! The
couple they wanted me to talk with got cold feet and didn't show. But my other
surrogate friend, Rosalind, and her husband opened the show with the couple that
did show up. That went very well but the rest of the guests....let's put it this
way....Rosalind said it best..."you know, we are the only normal people here."
Ricki was very supportive and she did come to me and apologize twice and tell me
we would definitely be invited back since she now knows more about surrogacy! We
were treated like the show's doctor and the professionals that appear instead of
like the standard guests. They picked me up at the airport in a stretch limo --
it was soo long that I had to squint to see the driver and it had an L shaped
couch-like seat in it. But it was actually scary in all its grandeur..being
there all alone - especially looking out the windows & seeing the street people
of the city. I had not visited New York for many years and had forgotten. It
prompted an immediate fear and desire just to go right back to Florida..
The hotel was a standard shoe-box...what you might pay $22-25 a night for in
Florida. There in N.Y. it was $170! It was the Carlton Hotel - not a shabby deal
but a historical building still -- with decorated cast radiator heat to prove
it! The show paid for our hotel and meals and provided for our flights and
transportation between airport, hotel and studio. There was not much time to see
the sights; the Statue of Liberty and ferry close at 3 pm, so that was out. The
Empire State Building was visible from the hotel and looked beautiful at night.
I stayed close to the hotel -- even with the arrival of Rosalind and her
husband, as well as my sister, who drove up with her husband to visit with me
after 4 years. We got to catch up on each others kids and lives and the family
stuff in the brief time she was there.
The discussion with Rosalind and the "normal" couple went very well and a lot of
good positive information on surrogacy was brought out. I was very proud of her
and the way she answered everything. The next guest was a gay man who had no
idea where to turn but wanted a child. They brought out a surprise guest that he
had e-mailed with...that went ok but in reality it was a real flubber. The next
guest was a surrogate to be from Kentucky who was not getting the support of her
husband and literally threatened to leave him if he didn't agree to support her
decision to be a surrogate! She obviously needed counseling and shouldn't break
up her own family to help someone else have a kid. She is not all there! We
talked with her and her husband after the show. The next guest was a lesbian
couple who wanted one partner's brother to donate sperm for them to have a
child. In that case, there were two surprise guests..the brother and the mother.
The brother was 18 but had the mentality of a 15 year old. The mother was just
in shock. The final guest was a stand-in for someone who didn't show up that
evening. Ricki did apologize for that one, too. He was a 25 year old gay man
that looked and acted like a woman, a woman who wanted a child without a
partner. His guest was a woman he had known only for 3 months, who had 6 kids of
her own. His idea of getting a child was to ask her to have sex with him and
then carry the child. That one was disgusting and revolted the panel and the
audience. It turns out the show will air sometime in late May, 1998. They don't
give out copies until after it airs. But, as I said, for our part, it worked out
well and was very positive.
It was worth the experience that it was, considering that there is a serious
side and an entertainment side to most of these type of shows. There are some
important points regarding contract signing prior to going on the show --and
other points that surrogates appearing on these shows should be aware of...and
now that we have been through it...certain things and ways of dealing with the
types of people that the show has on also. We now know we could have arranged
for certain guests not to be there...but the timing was sooo short in this case
that it was difficult. We know now that we could have been instrumental in
literally choosing the guests had our initial contact been earlier. We may, in
fact, have the same pull if invited back--now that our own fears and anxieties
have been experienced.
To those who think "how could you,?" I would like to say...please understand
that most active surrogates obviously do not go on national television. I
currently do not have intended parents and am not involved in a
contract--neither was Rosalind. We value the privacy of the issue for both sides
as well as the child to be! For us, we are trying to get positive information to
as many people as possible. The Ricki Lake Show is shown internationally and
though it caters to both the serious as well as the "entertaining" segments...in
the long run, the positives will be remembered by those it makes a difference
to. I was not featured on the show but sat in the audience--next to the sperm
donor. I have no idea if you will be able to see me. I will let you know when I
see it for myself. We were all given autographed pictures of Ricki and a T-
shirt, too. Guess we have to take the good with the bad, aye?
Here is additional advice regarding surrogates who have been asked to appear on
these talk shows...(I heard about a surrogate who was hounded to appear). That
is, that before these shows beg a surrogate to be on the show, they need to
consider if she is already has a contract or is in negotiations.Most contracts
include a clause prohibiting media exposure relating to the surrogacy. Being
under contract does not mean you can't participate on one of these shows. It
means that you can't refer to the individuals, agencies, clinics and doctors
involved--and obviously not the parents, not specifics about your situation. You
must respect their privacy, as in the contract and only discuss general
surrogacy issues. Clearly understand that you do not have to answer questions
asked of you if you do not like the tenor or can rephrase it. After all, you are
being asked because you have the expertise,not them. For instance, instead of
addressing what is wrong with a certain surrogacy situation, rephrase the
question like this: "The situation may have been able to be avoided if...."
Think hard about answers to questions regarding "baby-selling" and "fees"
received for services rendered. Avoid the short direct answer to those questions
and state the real reasons women decide to be surrogates and what they
involve....all the time incurred in pre-work for a gestational (IVF) pregnancy,
extra assistance required at home during last months for child care,
housekeeping, etc. This is not a business decision that is made. This wonderful
advice was provided by my attorney prior to my going to the show--and was very
inspirational and confidence-building for me during a very nervious time--and
shows I made every attempt to cover the legalities prior to opening my mouth.
Rosalind answered the financial questions extremely well. And I would like to
add also that I did consult the couples I was speaking to prior to the show--to
let them know my intentions and make sure they understood. I would not have
wanted a surprise like that if I were them!
Many people watching will take the positive out and all I can say is that we
tried. That is my story.