The Debate Around Chrissy Teigen's Surrogacy Is Just Another (Bad) Excuse To Mom Shame

On June 28th, Chrissy Teigen took to Instagram to share what most folks would view as wonderful news: She and her famous hubby, John Legend, welcomed a baby boy into the family. As is true with much of what Teigen posts on the internet, however, this post left many members of the public up in arms. So, what is bothering folks about the birth of Teigen and Legend's baby? It has a lot to do with their use of a surrogate. Following the announcement, Twitter users slammed the star for treating motherhood like a "business transaction" – mostly because she didn't have to uh, be pregnant. Others also accused her of being greedy. This is in part due to the fact that Teigen recently welcomed a child last year. In no time, discussions about the ethics of wealthy people being able to become mothers via surrogate started pouring in, with many vocalizing their disapproval.

Of course, it is worth saying that overwhelmingly, surrogacy is often only available to people of a certain class, with the average cost hovering around $110,000 dollars. The same goes for IVF and even adoption. But this doesn't mean the rich are the only people using surrogates. Per World Center of Baby, between 1999 and 2013, upwards 30,000 babies were born via surrogate.

There is a discussion needed around access to surrogacy and reproductive health care. However, to invalidate Teigen's choice to opt for surrogacy isn't just unfair; it actually keeps other people from having the safe space to share their experiences that they deserve. Moreover, it's fueling the fire for people to mom shame others who cannot get pregnant in traditional ways.

All forms of motherhood are valid

Much of the criticism hurled at Teigen and other celebrities who use surrogacy often comes down to this idea that they're not doing 'the work' of pregnancy, and can avoid the pains of birth because they can afford it. But for many women, the decision to use a surrogate not an easy one. Surrogacy is often the safest option for people who are struggling with infertility issues or other conditions that could lead to a high risk pregnancy. Teigen and Legend have struggled with infertility in the past –– having their first two children via IVF and suffering a tragic miscarriage in 2020. Her choice to opt for a surrogate was likely inspired by this, even though she successfully carried a pregnancy to term last year. The tweets attacking Teigen appear angry about her ability to avoid this risk, which implies an even more disturbing fact – a belief that suffering should be an inevitable part of motherhood.

And while discussing the privilege of the process is important, to reduce surrogacy to buying babies – as some Twitter users are insisting – invalidates any form of motherhood doesn't happen biologically. The fact is many people who aren't celebrities, including LGBTQ+ couples and people who cannot conceive naturally, turn to surrogacy when they want children. Are their children any less their own? We think not. By accusing people of "buying babies," one is insisting that only heterosexual, fertile women should have biological children under specific and strict parameters. This fact is bad enough on its own, but it's made even worse because patriarchal ideas about family have perpetuated the belief that women exist to bear children. The reality is all forms of motherhood deserve to be treated with respect..

Surrogacy is a personal choice

A longstanding criticism against surrogacy is that it is an exploitive practice that preys on low-income women. However, it's important to remember surrogacy is a personal choice — for both the parents and the carrier, one that requires total consent of all parties. A person can never know all the reasons why a person chooses to be a surrogate; some do it for free. But if a person becomes a surrogate for the pay, that is also their choice.

Plus, using a surrogate ethically involves maintaining a relationship with and providing compensation for the person who carries the baby. It also means ensuring the surrogate feels that they can make this choice and have ownership over their own body. Laws like The Child-Parent Security Act help safeguard this and are an important part of ensuring the ethics of the practice. Chrissy Teigen made sure to highlight her appreciation for her surrogate in her Instagram post.

But ultimately, what critics are missing is that everyone has a right to their own body and their own family expansion, surrogates and celebrities included. The argument in favor of surrogacy goes hand in hand with the same ones calling for access an abortion – both are about the right to grow a family on your own terms. And, it's important that we stop criticizing folks with the biggest platforms for speaking out about it. Instead, should be celebrating them. Kourtney Kardashian's openness about her experience with IVF was refreshing and rare. These stories are important for us to hear from folks with big platforms, because they help to erase the stigma for those of us who may not know anyone who's gone through the same struggles that we are.