Heidi Worthington, of Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, is a pharmacist and a mother of two boys, but she has spent a lot of time pregnant. “He knows, when mommy’s tummy gets big, that those aren’t my babies. Those aren’t our babies,” she said.
Since 2016, Worthington has carried three babies as a surrogate mother for two couples, including one set of twins. “You have friends that struggle with infertility. You hear stories, and it is kind of heartbreaking. So, I had a desire to help and do something,” she said. She found the Center for Surrogate Parenting in California online.
CSP owner, Karen Synesiou says many couples who come to the organization have fertility issues. “Surrogate moms are doing this because they want to help someone else enjoy what they enjoy, which is parenting,” Synesiou said. Surrogates with CSP have given birth to 2,600 babies. “This is a couple that’s gone through hell and back just to have children,” Synesiou said. There is an intense screening process to ensure the surrogate is healthy. “We’re looking at her medical history, how good were her prior pregnancies. (She) can’t be a smoker,” Synesiou said. Once the process begins, the surrogates have regular contact with their couples during the pregnancy.”It’s nice to form that relationship with them too. To get to know them, who they are as a family,” Worthington said.
Anu Pardeshi and Natalie Curcio have had two daughters with two separate surrogates through CSP. “It’s a very intense matching process, and you don’t choose the surrogate. The surrogate actually chooses you,” Curcio said. Curcio couldn’t carry a child due to medication she was taking for severe migraines. “I think for me, the most scary part initially is other people’s perception of your decision,” Curcio said. “We wanted to have kids of our own, so this was the best option for us,” Pardeshi said.
Surrogates, like Worthington, are paid anywhere from $45,000 to $60,000 for their service. All of their expenses surrounding the pregnancy, including medical expenses, are also covered. But Worthington said it’s not about the money. “The instant you see that baby with that family, it’s just pure joy. You think, ‘Look what I did. Look what I helped to do.’ It’s just amazing,” she said. Curcio agrees. “It’s really hard to believe it’s yours since you didn’t carry her, and then you look at her, and it’s like any birth – love at first sight,” Curcio said. “There isn’t more human kindness that exists than in that moment,” Synesiou said.
The relationship between surrogates and the families they help often continues long after the baby is born. “These women are a part of our family, and I think they will be a part of our family for the rest of our lives and hopefully for the rest of their lives,” Pardeshi said. It is the ultimate pay it forward. “(I’m) not a saint. I’m a giver by nature, so if I can do something, I’m going to try to do it,” Worthington said. But the families of children born through surrogacy beg to differ. “Talk about an amazing gift. It’s probably the ultimate gift,” Pardeshi said. “I’ve always been in awe of their dedication of wanting to help others and serve others and give people a gift,” Curcio said.