Everything in Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's world is supersized. The Instagram followings, the stadium tours, the bum implants, the megamansions. So when it came to the prospect of hiring a surrogate to carry and give birth to their third child, the numbers involved were always going to be eye watering.
According to various sources in the US, the couple have made a deal, to the tune of $113,000 (€101,000), to hire a surrogate after Kardashian was diagnosed with placenta accreta, a condition that would make a pregnancy life threatening. It’s thought that of this sum, $45,000 will go to the surrogate, while $68,000 (€60,900) will go to the agency. Kim has never been backward in coming forward with details of her life, and she has already shared the difficulties she faced during her first two labours.
It prompts a few questions to my mind: will Kris Jenner spin this into an intriguing reality TV storyline? Will any surrogate in question appear on-screen in a ground-breaking first? And – a big one, this – what might it be like for a woman to carry a child that will, for certain, end up becoming one of the most photographed and discussed offspring in the world?
Proving that Kimye have thought of everything, the reported deal contains a few interesting sub-clauses: a surrogate would receive an extra $5000 (€4478) per child is the pregnancy is a multiple one. Should the surrogate lose reproductive organs during pregnancy/labour, she will receive an additional $4000 (€3583). According to the agreement, the surrogate is banned from hot tubs or saunas, can’t go near cat litter, won’t be allowed to apply hair dye, can only have one caffeinated beverage per day and can’t consume raw fish.
Kimye are the latest in a long line of celebrities who have used surrogate to carry and birth their children, for any number of reasons. Among the others are Robert de Niro and his wife Grace Hightower, Elton John and David Furnish, Tyra, Banks, and Nicole Kidman.
Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick welcomed twins via a surrogate in 2009, and the actress was open about her struggles to conceive.
“We’ve been trying to expand our family for a number of years and we actually have explored a variety of ways of doing so,” she said. “It would be odd to have made this choice if I was able to, you know, have successful pregnancies since my son’s birth.”
Footballer Christiano Ronaldo, too, has allegedly hired a surrogate and will, if rumours are to be believed, will take possession of twin babies: siblings for his son Christiano Jr, also born via surrogate. What his 23-year-old girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez thinks of the decision – one that may well affect her own life in the future - is anyone's guess.
There’s no doubting that surrogacy has brought untold joy to many couples, famous or otherwise, who have struggled to complete their family in more conventional ways. What happens easily for one couple might be impossible for another to achieve and really, isn’t it wonderful that scientific advances can make this so? But the celebrity surrogacy story carries with it an extra dimension or two.
Behind these heartwarming celebrity surrogacy stories – the smiles, the cooing, the jubilation of new parenthood – there is the nameless, faceless woman who carried the baby, who pushed the baby out of her, who handed the baby over and resumed her normal life. Do these women pick up Hello! magazine and see these children - designer-clad, photographed, hailed as style icons - and think back to the time that the child kicked her gently from within? Do they look at these pictures from a psychological, or geographical remove? Or do they look at those pictures, as we all do, and simply see a devoted celebrity parent and their offspring?
In 2015, a Los Angeles-based fertility doctor, Vicken Sahakian of the Pacific Fertility Center, caused controversy with a bizarre claim: that an increasingly number of the rich and famous had requested surrogates in a bid to preserve their figures, and protect their careers.
"Typically these are women who prefer not to get pregnant and not to go though the process of pregnancy for many different reasons. For instance if you are a model or an actress and your income is based on performing and how you look and pregnancy will ruin that for year, if not more," Dr Sahakian is quoted as saying in the documentary Making Babies. "We are talking about well-known women. It would be taboo for them to admit they used a social surrogate. I have had a couple of patients who pretended they were pregnant, yes. Where celebrities blaze a trail, the rest of us often follow, so it will be interesting to see if social surrogacy, as it's called, will grow in popularity beyond the A-list. But we're only now beginning to understand the intricacies of surrogacy, and it is a complex scenario.
To many, surrogacy is a business transaction, with each party entering into the process with clear eyes and open hearts. Yet even with every eventuality covered with paperwork, as appears to be the case with Kimye’s lengthy contract, there’s probably a human cost to consider. Through an anonymous app called Whisper, surrogate mothers recently expressed their complex feelings about the process. Among the many entries, one surrogate tellingly wrote, “I’m a few days away from giving birth to this baby. I love her way more than I planned.”