In a moment when the diatribe pro-life vs. pro-choice has monopolized the narrative, many motherhood and fertility stories are left aside. Even more, experiences like surrogacy, where the desire to be a mother and the privilege of being able to give life meet, are hardly ever spoken of.

That’s why stories like that of Zyul Cahalin and Stephanie Gutierrez are so important. Both Latinas shared their experiences as surrogates with FIERCE, hoping to “promote change and growth” in our community. 

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Furthermore, their journeys shed light on another layer of women’s reproductive rights that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.

Image used with permission from Stephanie Gutierrez.

A dramatic increase in surrogacy among Latinas and women of color

According to a recent SurrogateFirst research, surrogate ethnic diversity is “dramatically increasing.” Surrogacy rates among Black and Latina women increased by 400% in 2023. On the other hand, the percentage of surrogates is increasingly unmarried, going from 30% in 2020 to 44% in 2023. 

Similarly, surrogates continue to be increasingly open to carrying for all types of intended parents, especially for same-sex families, increasing from 32% in 2020 to 75% in 2023.

Considering new data from the Pew Research Center shows a steady decline in fertility in the U.S., surrogacy has become the number one option for many people.

What drives a Latina to become a surrogate?

For many Latinas like Zyul Cahalin, surrogacy has been on their mind for a long time. Having family members who cannot have children, Cahalin felt she could do something to help.

“I know having children in any and every form is a beautiful experience,” she told FIERCE. “It is a miracle, really, in my opinion. That is why I wanted to be involved in surrogacy.”

Similarly, Stephanie Gutierrez, who had completed her family without a struggle, having close friends and relatives who struggled to have their children inspired her to be a surrogate. The now two-time surrogate did a lot of research before starting the process and would do it again if she had the chance.

Image used with permission from Zyul Cahalin.

For both surrogates, the lack of information is the main obstacle

As is often the case in our community, both Cahalin and Gutierrez agree Latinos don’t have enough information about surrogacy or reproductive health in general.

“In our culture, surrogacy is unheard of. So, there were a lot of barriers I had to bring down. A lot of education,” Gutierrez said. “For this reason, I only shared my journey with my closest family members and friends. Once the baby was born, I was more open about it.”

Cahalin agrees: “In my family, a lot of people didn’t even know what the word surrogacy meant,” she said. “So it was a learning curve for me and a learning curve for my family so they could support me. I had to do a lot of research, and I am still learning more every day.”

Image used with permission from Stephanie Gutierrez.

The impact of Latinas in surrogacy

While mainstream media focuses on dissecting cultural and religious perspectives to advocate for or against issues like abortion, the Latino community’s reality is multilayered. 

Both Cahalin and Gutierrez come from Latino families, and the cultura was a big part of their surrogacy journey.

“My cultural background is very big on family and supporting that family in any way possible,” Cahalin said. “Respect is also a very big aspect in my community. I think that all of this allowed me to have the appropriate amount of understanding, kindness, and respect when it comes to supporting my intended parents.”

For her part, Gutierrez runs a Spanish support group with all the Spanish-speaking surrogates at SurrogateFirst. “It’s been so interesting to see how we all had the same barriers and challenges to get to this point,” she reflects. “I believe knowledge is key.”

To break educational barriers, Gutierrez and her team have a biweekly round table to discuss their experiences and educate other women of color on the process. “I believe my cultural background and experience allow me to connect to surrogates and intended parents on a deeper level.”

Image used with permission from Zyul Cahalin.

Misconceptions and stereotypes about surrogacy in the Latino community

While many would think surrogates often decide to take on the journey for economic reasons, both Cahalin and Gutierrez explained that retribution had nothing to do with money. In fact, the main reason women of color decide to be surrogates is to help others achieve their family goals and dreams.

Just like money and compensation, other misconceptions and prejudices are the bread and butter of these surrogates.

For Gutierrez, Latino traditions can sometimes be a barrier. “When I told my grandmother that I had given birth to a surrobaby, she was so concerned that I had given away my baby because he carried my blood,” Gutierrez remembered. “I had to explain to her that genetically, the baby was not mine. I don’t think it’s something she fully understood, but she’s accepted.”

For Cahalin, the experience with her family has been “alarmingly” positive, something she confesses she didn’t expect. “My family has consistently told me how proud they are of my decision,” she said.

However, both agree that more Latinas are aware now of surrogacy and “are not ashamed to say they are interested.”

For Latinas who are considering surrogacy, Gutierrez and Cahalin have a couple of recommendations

“Do your research,” Cahalin says. “Contemplate within if this is something that deep down you really want to be a part of because it is a life-changing but soul-fulfilling experience.”

“Reach out to other women in your community,” Gutierrez adds, “because odds are there are many considering or doing surrogacy but aren’t talking about it because of the stigmas in our culture.”

“I encourage you to look for Facebook groups,” she concludes. “Support is crucial during surrogacy, so make sure you have it.”