[Update 15 11 2023]
Very little research has been done on the effects of surrogacy on the children born from it. That’s why we explored the websites and blogs that tell the stories of children born through surrogacy. An analysis of these testimonies led us to identify several common themes.
A sense of rejection
To begin with, a prevalent theme that emerges from the testimonies of children born through sperm donation, oocyte, or surrogacy is a deep sense of rejection. This is particularly evident in cases where the donors unequivocally express their desire to maintain no connection with the children. Consequently, these children grapple with profound feelings of abandonment and rejection, primarily directed toward their biological father or mother, who is distinct from their current familial environment. This sense of rejection is further compounded when the available records fail to provide avenues for identifying or contacting the donors.
When children embark on the journey to explore their origins, their primary motivation is a desire to comprehend their genealogy, often with the hope of encountering individuals who share a resemblance with them. The unavailability of such connections can result in a profound loss of hope, potentially leading to the onset of depressive tendencies.
Throughout their quest to discover their genetic heritage, these children often articulate a pervasive sense of incompleteness.
Moreover, there are documented cases in which children undertake genealogical inquiries as a precautionary step to confirm the absence of any genetic connections with their potential future partners.
Complex Social Situations
Many individuals fear that by seeking information about their origins from donors, they may inadvertently hurt the feelings of their adoptive parents, often expressing this concern with the phrase, “I don’t want my parents to think they’re not enough”. Consequently, the search for this information is typically carried out with the utmost secrecy. In cases where biological parents are located, there is a hesitancy to express the desire to not be part of their lives, for fear of causing alarm and potentially losing contact once again.
Hidden commercial practices
When surrogacy is kept secret from adoptive parents, it can lead to uncomfortable situations, sometimes even causing family conflicts. Children, as revealed in their testimonies, are aware of the circumstances surrounding their conception and frequently express feelings of anger and sadness. They also understand the commercial aspect of this practice, where a child is essentially treated as a product in the market. Interestingly, they often express a preference for adopting a child who already exists, questioning, “How would you feel if you were intentionally brought into existence just to be given away?”.
Sicker children 
In the medical context, there appears to be a connection between surrogacy and childhood disorders. Surrogate infants are reported to experience more health problems compared to their peers, primarily due to the emotional separation from their birth mothers. Because infants cannot express this absence verbally, they often cry and may receive diagnoses of conditions like colic. It’s important to note that the immune system’s functioning is directly influenced by stress, making stressed infants more susceptible to illnesses. A similar emotional impact is observed in adopted children (please refer to Catherine Lynch). Additionally, emotional difficulties often persist into adolescence among older children.”
In 2023, a young woman born through surrogate motherhood testified about her situation and her fight to abolish the use of surrogate motherhood.
Her testimony perfectly illustrates the harmful consequences of this practice for the children born of it: the trauma of abandonment, the effects on health and the conflict of loyalty towards the parents who commissioned the procedure. (see https://youtu.be/JUobcr4yERw)
Testimony of Olivia Maurel:
Olivia Maurel confesses that she was a very possessive and distrustful child, afraid of being abandoned. She admits that she was a tormented teenager, which led her to drugs and a suicide attempt. Olivia Maurel didn’t understand why she was this way until she discovered her reality: she was born through surrogacy. Since then, she has become an internationally known activist against surrogacy; she has even given a speech in the Parliament of the Czech Republic. In this exclusive interview with Crónica Libre, she speaks starkly about what she calls “an abominable practice.” “Nothing justifies breaking the bond of a mother with her child because that rupture causes a lot of damage.” Her statements, based on her own experience, leave no room for discussion: “There is nothing great about renting women to separate them from their children. It’s modern slavery; it’s human trafficking, and no one should do that because they are infertile.”
“I grew up with all the comforts you can imagine; I was a privileged child, but I have always felt a sense of abandonment that tormented me and affected me psychologically in a very deep way. I didn’t know why, but since I was a child, I had a hard time trusting people, so much so that I became a very possessive person, always afraid of being abandoned by the people around me. If for any reason I was rejected, I felt crushed; I blamed myself for everything. I started drinking and smoking marijuana; I had depression and suicide attempts; I was a rape victim, and I was diagnosed with bipolar syndrome.”
This is how Olivia Maurel narrates her childhood and adolescence: a life full of ghosts that tormented her and that she could not silence because she did not know the reasons. Until one day, at the age of 18, everything changed: she found the key that would explain all the torments she had gone through because of that immense feeling of uprootedness, which even led her to consider taking her own life.
“When I was 18, I heard about surrogate mothers. I started researching my birth city and discovered that it was a significant enclave in surrogacy when I was born, and that’s how I understood what had happened to me. I look for the mother in all relationships, whether they are friendships or professional relationships, and I know I am complicated to deal with. When I talk to other people who have been abandoned, I see the same thing happening to them as it did to me. My husband taught me what unconditional love is; I have my three children, and I hope to be cured with the help of my psychiatrist and psychologist, but I know that I still have time to do it.”
It was two years ago that Olivia Maurel became certain of what she had long suspected: she was born through surrogacy. It was in Louisville, Kentucky, as her birth certificate attests. Olivia is 32 years old, lives in France, is the mother of three children, and is married. She started making videos on TikTok against surrogacy and is now internationally known.
“I believe that my experience and my opinion are important. There are very few testimonies of people born through surrogacy, and those that exist tend to repeat the message that adults have instilled in them. But people have to know that nothing justifies breaking the bond of a mother with her child and that this rupture causes a lot of damage. I use very stark words to talk about this business; I do not wrap it in expressions such as ‘gift’ or ‘altruism’ that sweeten this cruel act because even in the so-called ‘altruistic’ models, such as Canada’s, everyone profits and gets rich from this lucrative market,” Olivia Maurel assures exclusively to Crónica Libre.
Olivia’s testimony is fundamental to understanding the reality of the surrogacy business from the other point of view, the one we are not used to hearing. And therein lies the importance of the testimony of this fighter for human rights, who began making videos on TikTok against surrogacy and today gives lectures in many countries and is known internationally. Her statements, based on her own experience, her opinions supported by what she has lived and felt, shed light on so many shadows that surround the surrogacy business, which she defines with a single phrase as heartbreaking as true: “That girls and boys are born from this practice does not justify it either; they are also born from rape, and that does not justify rape.” OLIVIA MAUREL
How did you come to realize what you already sensed?
“My mother-in-law saw how I suffered and how I was mentally tortured. One day, by chance, her hairdresser told her that she had taken a DNA test to know her origins, so my mother-in-law thought of me and bought one to bring up the conversation with me and see how I reacted because she realized that I was very anxious about my own origins, and even more so since I became a mother. She gave it to me for my 30th birthday, and that was how I was able to verify what I already knew and felt because no matter how much I asked my father, he never wanted to answer me, until finally, given the evidence, he had to admit that yes, I had been born through surrogacy.”
So how is the relationship with your legal parents?
“Since I started my activism against surrogacy, they have had a very bad relationship. The relationship was never good, but now it is worse, and they have decided that it is better to break ties with me. I always sensed that my legal mother was not my mother, especially because of the age difference, and we always had a very distant relationship. When I was born, she was 49 years old, and they never told me the truth. But I don’t blame them; I blame the system and the states that allow separating a child from its mother to supply the narcissistic desires of adults.”
Have you met your biological mother?
“She contacted me through Facebook, and we were talking via Messenger. We talked about her pregnancy, about my birth, our lives, our hobbies… She answered all the questions I had in my head and that I consider essential, but the conversation ended, and we didn’t talk again. She lived through the tragic death of my fifth brother as a child and then had me on behalf of my legal parents. But the clinic, if they knew that background, passed them by; they were only interested in having a woman willing to rent her womb and provide them with profit. I am aware that my mother traded me for a check but, as they tell all surrogate mothers, she would also be told that the child she was bringing into the world was not her child, and she had to give me up before I was born.”
How did it feel to discover that you have family in the United States?
“I have a stepbrother and three stepsisters that I would love to meet personally! It was really a stroke of luck to have found that part of my family because it turns out that the American company that compares the matches of your test with those of other people in their database had among them a cousin of ours who is passionate about genealogy and who had taken a DNA test giving permission to provide her data. That is how I was able to get in touch with her, my uncle, and my stepbrothers. My stepbrother also took the test, and the relationship to me was confirmed. I now know the entire family tree of my ancestors on my mother’s side, and I know that they came from Lithuania and emigrated to the United States in the 19th century.”
Since you discovered your reality, you have become a very active and popular woman against the surrogacy business. So much so that you were recently invited to speak before the Parliament of the Czech Republic?
“Yes, it was last December, on the occasion of an international conference on surrogacy. There I had the opportunity to express how I feel the wound of abandonment that has been with me since I was a child. And it doesn’t matter whether the mother is genetically linked to the child or not because that woman is the only person the baby knows, and the separation leaves an unfathomable void that no one can fill. You wrote to the Prime Minister of France; you wrote to the Pope… What is your impression of these initiatives? I wrote to Elisabeth Borne to thank her for her position against surrogacy and to tell her that, as a daughter of this practice and as a feminist, I shared the same opinion as her and that surrogacy can never be ethical, whether it is paid or not. I also wrote to Pope Francis to tell him about my experience, and while admitting that I am an atheist, I would like to think that he has taken my letter into account since, a few weeks later, the Pope called on the international community to ban worldwide this practice – which he described as deplorable – that violates the rights of girls and boys and takes advantage of vulnerable women in a state of need.”
What’s next, and what are your plans for the future?
“As far as surrogacy is concerned, I will continue to fight. I will go wherever I am called, and although I do not belong to any association, I plan to collaborate with all the abolitionist initiatives against this infamous practice, such as the Casablanca Declaration, for which I am a spokesperson, or the International Coalition for the Abolition of Surrogate Motherhood (CIAMS), because it is a cross-cutting problem that affects the whole of society, and we must go for an international abolitionist convention that will stop this market and protect women and children. I am also writing a book that will come out next year, and I plan to create an association of surrogate mothers and surrogates, a safe space where they can talk and share their experiences because now they are afraid to do so.”
Common emotions experienced in the context of surrogacy range from happiness when meeting the surrogate mother to, conversely, feelings of anger in cases where surrogacy is concealed. There is also a sense of resentment towards surrogates who are perceived as “accepting money to leave them” . Emotions further include uncertainty and inquiry about not having information concerning the biological mother or father. This inquiry encompasses aspects such as their physical appearance, social and professional status, preferences, genealogy, and potential hereditary conditions.
When children embark on the journey to uncover information about their donors, their primary concerns typically revolve around physical attributes, family ties (including siblings), ancestral lineage, shared behaviors, professions, and the potential for a genetic connection with another individual.
In many instances, those most profoundly impacted are individuals whose conception through assisted reproductive techniques (ART) or surrogacy has been hidden from them to an extent that it cannot be undone. This secrecy often results in significant disturbances within the family dynamics.
In contrast, Susan Golombok conducted a study on “Families Created by Surrogate Motherhood: Mother-Child Relationships and Children’s Psychological Adjustment at 7 Years of Age”. She examined the effects of surrogacy by assessing maternal positivity, maternal negativity, mother-child interaction, and child adjustment. The author concludes that there is no difference in maternal negativity, maternal positivity, or child adjustment, but notes that families who have used surrogacy have less positive mother-child interaction than in the case of natural conception.
What criticisms can be made of this study? First, the study focuses exclusively on the figure of the “adoptive” commissioning mother and not on the surrogate mother or the commissioning father, who are an integral part of the child’s parental context. Therefore, we omit relationships between fathers and children, as well as relationships between extended relatives and children. Furthermore, the author selected only cases of families that remained stable after resorting to surrogacy and did not include cases of children abandoned at birth or given up for adoption after being taken in by commissioning parents, which would have a direct impact on the result.
There has been no analysis of the long-term effects and repercussions of this practice on the surrogate mother’s own children. One of the selection criteria for surrogate mothers is that they have already had one or more children. However, these children may also experience traumas, such as believing that they can be sold or growing up with the belief that they can purchase the baby born through surrogacy from their mothers.
 Sons of surrogate
 “Aussi avec les enfants que j’ai interviewés, j’ai constaté qu’ils étaient soit malades – plus malades que leurs pairs – en tant que bébés ou souffrant de coliques. Le système immunitaire a beaucoup à voir avec le stress et les bébés stressés tombent malades. Seulement 2 sur 10 semblaient n’avoir eu aucun problème lorsqu’ils étaient bébés mais avaient beaucoup de problèmes une fois qu’ils avaient atteint 12 ou 13 ans. Des problèmes émotionnels.
 “Ce que l’adoption peut nous apprendre” Par Catherine Lynch (Australie) in “Ventres à louer, une critique féministe de la GPA; Paris L’Echapée 2022
Réflexion éthique sur la GPA du point de vue de l’enfant, ignoré parce qu’il n’a pas de « voix », créé pour être retiré à sa mère et donné aux parents commanditaires. Les études montrent que cette séparation à la naissance est néfaste pour la santé de l’enfant. Outre son impact neurologique, elle influe sur le comportement et la santé des individus à long terme.