The decision to become a mother, and the decision to become pregnant are two entirely separate life choices — and we need to start treating them as such.
For some women, getting pregnant themselves isn’t an option, and whether it’s because of their career, medical risks, or age, we’re here to remind everyone that’s OK. It’s 2022, and embracing the different route each woman takes to motherhood has never been more imperative.
As Candice Miller, entrepreneur and participant in the MUTHA™ BAD MUTHA campaign says, “As opposed to popular belief, mothers come in every shape or form and there is no mold that fits us all. But it is the unconditional love for our children that we will always share.”
Hope Smith, mother of four, has carried and birthed children, as well as used a pregnancy surrogate. She has also seen firsthand the tragic conditions children in certain areas of the world face, and how adoption can be an outlet for them. Her life experiences emphasize that all roads to motherhood are created equal.
Let’s explore the processes and benefits of both adoption and surrogacy, while sharing Hope’s experiences.
Surrogacy and the Two Biggest Reasons Hope Supports It
The first step to understanding surrogacy is defining the two different kinds of it, as explained by WebMD:
- Traditional surrogacy — The surrogate mother is artificially inseminated by the father’s sperm, carries the baby, and births it. The baby’s biological mother is the surrogate in this process.
- Gestational surrogacy — In this process, eggs are collected from the mother and sperm from the father in order to create an embryo that is placed into the surrogate mother. The baby birthed by the surrogate has no genetic ties to the surrogate, and is the biological child of the donating partners.
No matter the choice, surrogacy allows partners to raise a child from birth and create a family despite the potential obstacles that they faced before. Surrogacy can be especially beneficial for women wanting to become mothers, but who may be prevented from doing so by a medical reason, such as infertility or potential health risks.
Since the first successful gestational surrogate in 1985, surrogacy has become increasingly popular, more so than the traditional route — In 2013 more than 3,400 gestational surrogate mothers carried babies.
Hope’s Surrogacy Experience
While Hope was able to experience a traditional pregnancy with her two sons, she was diagnosed with a health condition that could potentially complicate a future pregnancy.
Wanting to still have children, Hope turned to a surrogate to avoid potential medical issues, and in return, she and husband Robert F. Smith were given the two biggest reasons to joyfully advocate for the option: their twin daughters.
Going through the surrogacy process, Hope was able to experience many memorable moments, including acting as her surrogate’s doula and being present at her twin daughters’ birth. The experience also opened her eyes to the mom shaming that too often comes with using a surrogate, and the need to destigmatize the practice.
Partly in response to the shame she received from using a surrogate, and additionally from just simply being a mom with a message to share, Hope’s skincare brand MUTHA™ launched its BAD MUTHA campaign. The campaign tells the real-life stories of moms, including how they care for their children and handle “mom shaming,” and highlights why motherhood is beautiful no matter how it came about.
Adoption: A Decision that Changes Lives
Of the 20,455 children that aged out of the U.S. foster care system in 2019, most went unadopted, and only 6% completed a two or four year college degree in the years that followed. These children, according to The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), benefit greatly from the emotional and financial support an adopting family can provide.
The CCAI also references data from UNICEF, stating that an estimated 13 million children globally have lost both their parents, and are orphaned. Despite that alarming statistic, intercountry adoption by U.S. families has been at a steady decline since 2004, and in 2018 had dropped by 82%.
Adopting a child, whether from the U.S. or another country, is a transformative process — giving a potential mother an opportunity to raise a child, and giving the child a chance to grow up in a loving family that can provide both emotional and financial support.
The process of adoption can vary depending on a potential parents’ criteria. Adopting a newborn can take anywhere from 2-7 years, while adopting a child from foster care can take 6-18 months. For adopting children outside of the U.S. the process and wait times will vary by country, but generally takes longer than a domestic adoption.
Potential adoptive parents should consider the following steps, as details by the Adoption Network:
- Find the type of adoption that fits you and your lifestyle — Domestic or International, Private or Foster Care, Infant or Older Child
- Understand the financial costs of adopting — Foster care adoption costs anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000, Private can be over $15,000, and International over $30,000
- Use expert organizations — Choose and work with an adoption professional
- Complete a home study — This is required for each adopting parent in the U.S.
Hope’s Philanthropic Interests Supporting Women and Children
A key point of emphasis in Hope’s philanthropic efforts is to aid mothers and children living in vulnerable or dangerous regions around the world.
Through her work with International Medical Corps (IMC), a non-profit organization who strives to empower underserved communities across the globe, Hope has seen firsthand and aided struggling children living in a refugee camp in Jordan.
She and her husband Robert are also actively involved in supporting Unlikely Heroes, a non-profit that specializes in recovering and providing rehabilitation services for children who have been involved in sex trafficing.
In addition to a donation in 2017 which saved the organization’s U.S.-based safe home, Hope and Robert invite children from Unlikely Heroes to their ranch every summer as a way to help them return to the type of life every child deserves.
Hope is also an Ambassador for the The Family Fellowship Program, which was launched by Together We Rise and Fund II Foundation in 2015. The program provides support resources to college-bound students who are aging out of foster care, including up to $18,000 per student per year. Hope and Robert also host many of the fellows at their cabin every year around the holidays, giving them an opportunity to participate in outdoor activities, try their hand at cooking dinner, and even open presents.
By seeing and understanding the plight of so many children in the U.S. and around the world, Hope understands that for some, adoption can be a way out. With more than 60 million children living on the street worldwide in 2019, while adoption may not solve the problem, it can be a way to help children without a safe family environment.
Normalizing the Nontraditional Motherhood Journey
As we finally see strides being made in acceptance of different lifestyles and cultures worldwide, it’s time to normalize that traditional pregnancy isn’t the “normal” or only way to have a child.
Whatever path a woman decides to take into motherhood should be celebrated, and accepted. After all, pregnancy, surrogacy, and adoption are all followed by the same amazing journey: raising a child.
“What makes you a [man or a woman] is not the ability to make a child,” says President Barack Obama. “It’s the courage to raise one.”