Suggestions on how to interact with the people in your life who don’t agree with your decision to become a surrogate.
Imagine you’re attending a party, either at work, your home, or at a relative’s house, and you’re having a wonderful time. Then, you make eye contact with a particular person from across the room, and your stomach drops. The conversations you have with them never fail to leave you feeling sad, hurt, and/or angry; all due to the fact they don’t agree with your decision to be a surrogate. You’ve tried, time and again, to explain your stance on the subject, but nothing seems to get through. Almost always by the end of your ‘discussion’, you believe you’re going to go crazy if you have to speak with them again.
One of the things we first need to establish, is if this person is merely curious, and doesn’t realize their questions or statements are, in fact, rather rude, or if the person is truly telling you you’re a horrible person for being a surrogate.
The former, while questions of their nature can be repetitious or far more invasive than they realize, is usually easier to handle. Even during normal pregnancies these people pop up, and considering surrogacy is not something a person runs into every day, their prying can be understood—if not forgiven.
As for the latter, we must come to a point where we realize no amount of anything will change this person’s mind, and that such a fact is okay. We live in an age where differing opinions are something we’ll experience every day, through various mediums, and coming through the other side of a conversation, emotionally, physically, and mentally intact, is possible.
While the above image is a tempting reaction, it certainly is not advisable, and it isn’t likely to garner a better response than the one you’re currently receiving. So here are some suggestions on how to interact with the people who don’t agree with you being a surrogate:
1. Minimize time with them:
Sometimes it’s just easier to avoid conflict, and the person, altogether, as well as trying to reduce the amount of time you’re in contact with them. Remain in the conversation long enough to keep it polite with the, ‘how-do-you-dos,’ but if the conversation starts turning toward surrogacy, say something along the lines of; “It’s been wonderful talking, but I see Jan over there, and we have to go over the reports for Monday / I haven’t seen her in forever! Maybe we can catch up later?”
Sure, they might know you’re avoiding them, but unless they’re willing to make a scene they’ll usually let you leave without further commentary. Plus, this could also be a cue for them about future conversations.
2. Keep it logical:
This is generally my tactic when facing the curious crowd and their questions; I keep it as logical and clinical as possible. This can also work with the other crowd, especially when you get statements such as; “I can’t believe you’re giving your baby away!” The best response to that type of statement is usually; “Well, [it/she/he/they] technically [isn’t/aren’t] mine at all! The [embryo/embryos, baby/babies] are not genetically related to me in any way. Isn’t modern technology amazing?”
Some people will be interested and ask further questions into the technical side of it, while others may become uncomfortable at this point. If you can keep it on the logical side, the interest will generally stay in the scientific realm, and not so much their opinions on the ethics of the process.
3. Avoid functions where they, and/or you, may be consuming alcohol:
Alcohol rarely adds anything helpful to a topic that can be as incredibly divided as surrogacy. While this can, technically, fall under the first category of avoiding the person, avoiding the function altogether is also an option. We’re not saying become a recluse while you’re in the process of surrogacy, but alcohol tends to bring out the impassioned side of people, which can quickly turn ugly. If there is someone at the party you really wanted to hang out with, set up some plans with them over the weekend, or later in the week if possible.
4. Focus on them in conversation:
It goes without saying that people tend to like talking about themselves. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as you are the person you spend the most time with, and in general we like to share what’s going on in our lives. Well, the person you would rather avoid is most likely the same way. So after you say your hellos, or if it seems like the conversation is moving toward surrogacy, divert the attention to something in their life; “How is your wife/husband/child? Did Alice make the basketball team like she was hoping? I heard your cat was sick, is he doing better now?” The possibilities are endless.
5. Avoid the topic altogether:
This is essentially going on in almost all the suggestions, but it never hurts to stop the questioning/comments right away with; “I appreciate your concern/questions, but let’s talk about something else, please.” If they insist, or get offended, just insist you’d rather not talk about it. Some might take this as a silent agreement with their way of thinking, and it’s okay to let them think that. Chances are you’re not going to change their mind, and it hurts nothing to let them believe as they do.
6. Divert their attention, or create a distraction:
Kara from simplekids.net likes to call this; “The Bean Dip”. As an example; “Yes, Mr. Coworker, we’re still doing the surrogacy. Can you please pass the bean dip?” Kara says; “The “Bean Dip” (or pizza, or cupcakes, or whatever) response is something I first read about on a parenting message board years ago. It has become an inside joke between my husband and I when dealing with critical people – “Could you believe [the neighbor] today? I had to ‘bean dip’ her twice before she got the hint and dropped the subject.”
7. Don’t mistake curiosity for criticism:
This suggestions goes along with the first portion of this article, in that you should identify if someone is truly being critical of your choice, or if they are simply curious. The tactics here work for either one, but it can change how you feel coming out of a conversation if you know someone is merely inquiring about the process from an interested point of view, as opposed to an adversarial one.
8. Agree to disagree:
This one is pretty self-explanatory, and a simple; “I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on the matter,” should end the discussion there, or the person risks looking foolish in front of others for pursuing the subject.
9. Set limits, and draw a clear line:
There may come a point where no amount of hinting, distracting, agreeing to disagree is working, and you need to set a firmer line on what you are willing, and unwilling to discuss with this person. “I’m sorry, Aunt Clara, but if you insist on bringing the subject up every time we’re in the same room, then I think we should abstain from seeing each other until my surrogacy journey is finished.”
10. Be polite:
I’ve had this discussion with others before when a couple of parents became very heated over a PTA matter, in that we don’t have to agree with one another to be polite and respectful. Just because they don’t agree with you, or you don’t agree with them, does not mean shouting, name-calling, and so on is necessary. Tapping into the wonderful world of Disney here, I’m quoting Thumper with; “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” It truly is possible to discuss something from different points of view without belittling one another. And, if the conversation cannot remain polite and courteous with someone, walk away. Yes, that in itself might seem rude, but it’s better to leave off before someone does something they may regret.
11. Be positive, rather than defensive:
Being defensive is the first step to someone getting under your skin, and letting that person have control over you, your emotions, and reactions. So while your first instinct might be to come back with a scathing comment, try instead to be positive; “Just think of how happy those parents will be when they get to hold their little bundle(s) of joy for the first time! It just makes my heart melt to think of their smiles.”
12. Respond with a light-hearted comment:
Responding in a light-hearted manner, while not turning the subject into a joke, will depend on you and your audience. One of the more common ones I’ve used, and encountered is; “I’m just babysitting for nine months!”
13. Don’t try to sway they to your point of view:
Because we’re doing something amazing and wonderful beyond comprehension, it can be a little sad—not to mention maddening—when someone blatantly tells us we’re wrong for doing it. No matter their reason: money, ethics, religion, and so on, we have to realize that not everyone is going to agree with us on the matter. Chances are you’re not going to be able to change their mind, especially if you’ve had this discussion before, and the faster you can realize this, the healthier it will be for everyone.
It’s our sincere hope that some of these suggestions will be helpful in the future, especially for those times when you come across that person, or people, who can’t see eye-to-eye with you. Just take a deep breath, and keep in mind that, despite what they may think, say, or do, this is your choice, your life, and you truly are doing something incredibly awesome!