Most people who have experienced fertility challenges have probably heard someone say “Well, you should just use a surrogate!” as though surrogacy is a simple, straightforward process that works and is accessible for every intended parent (spoiler alert: It’s not). 

Aside from the complex legal, medical, financial, and interpersonal facets of pursuing parenthood via surrogacy, there’s also the emotional toll it can take. When intended mothers picture their path to parenthood, that image often involves carrying a pregnancy…and letting go of that image can be painful. Sometimes, it continues to be painful even after your baby is in your arms.

woman with her surrogate taking selfies

In a recent interview, Adrienne Bailon reflected on the process of welcoming her first child, Ever James Houghton, via surrogate. She opened up about the complexities that came both before and after his birth.

"I didn't expect it would be so hard for me to have a child. I don't think women really talk about fertility issues,” Bailon, who added that it took six years to have her son, said during an appearance on The Jennifer Hudson Show. 

After eight rounds of IVF, Bailon was left with just one viable embryo, and she had a choice to make when her medical team brought up the idea of pursuing surrogacy.

“Finally I had my last embryo left and they were like ‘you can either put it in your body’ — which, I had done that before and I had miscarried multiple times,” Bailon shared. “And they finally were like ‘would you consider surrogacy?’”

surrogate holding a pregnancy test

Initially, Bailon wasn’t quite convinced. “I’m not going to lie, initially I was like…it just wasn’t what I imagined would be my journey,” she said. Eventually, she did pursue surrogacy, and now she says she wouldn’t change a thing about her son’s birth — but that doesn’t mean there aren’t complicated feelings.

“I still do have a dream of maternity photos and what that feels like. I want to experience that. I haven’t given up hope,” she shared.

Bailon also shed some light on a mother’s role in the delivery process when welcoming a child via surrogate. “I pulled him out myself,” she said “I pulled him out, I put him right on me, we do skin-to-skin…I’m the first touch he ever experienced.”

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This isn’t the first time Bailon, who kept news of her surrogate’s pregnancy quiet until her son’s birth, has been candid about the emotions of surrogacy. 

"I got to be honest, even the process of surrogacy can be quite nerve-wracking," she told People shortly after her son’s birth. "Somebody else has your child with them. We call it extreme babysitting for nine months. It can cause you to be really anxious. You're just thinking, 'Oh, is everything going okay? What's happening?'”

gay couple holding their new baby

Bailon’s admissions are so important. For so many families, surrogacy is the right choice, but that doesn’t mean it’s “the easy way out” for “privileged people who don’t want to experience the physical changes of pregnancy”, as some people claim it is (let’s cut this narrative, please?). It’s a complicated process that can carry a very real emotional toll. And it’s time people who have experienced it — like Bailon — normalize ideas about what it’s really like.

Zara Hanawalt is a freelance journalist and mom of twins. She's written for outlets like Parents, MarieClaire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Motherly, and many others. In her (admittedly limited!) free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, trying new restaurants, and traveling with her family.