Elizabeth Banks reflects on her journey with surrogacy 11 years after welcoming her first of two children into the world, sharing that there is still “so much shame” attached to her infertility.
The 48-year-old actor joined podcaster Alex Cooper on an episode of Call her daddy where Banks discussed her life with husband Max Handelman, beginning with their college meeting. While Banks described her dreams of marriage and starting a family as “traditional” at the time, she explained how she let go of what that had meant to her when she discovered that getting pregnant was impossible.
“I’ve never been pregnant and when I was young I thought it was because I was really good at taking the pill, which I certainly was. But I have no idea. There’s a small percentage of women who actually have unexplained infertility and that’s me, I’m in that category,” said Banks. “I always had enough eggs, I never had any problems making embryos, they didn’t implant. For whatever reason, my uterus is hostile, I don’t know what’s going on, but they just won’t stay in it. So I had a broken belly, I told my kids, Mommy had a broken belly.”
Banks has previously publicly shared her journey with infertility and has spoken about the judgment she faced when she and her husband made the decision to work with a surrogate to grow their family. “This was a long time ago before surrogacy was a Kardashian thing. Nobody was doing it back then,” she reminded Cooper. Banks also touched on the grief she faced over the potential of carrying her own child before celebrating this alternate path to motherhood.
“Your fertility is such a part of your life, men and women. But for women, especially in a society that’s like that, that’s why we value you, we don’t value you because you could be a CEO, we value you because you can procreate and keep the race going. So if you can’t, you’re less of a woman. That’s the message. And my fertility was something I had to grieve for. I had to grieve for it. It was a loss. And I really had to work through that before I could invite someone else to help me start my family,” she explained. “It was also confusing because it’s like my husband and I could make these beautiful baby cakes and I just didn’t have an oven to fry them. And so it was really my fault, you know what I mean? It was on me. And I felt that deeply, like I’m the problem.’
While still trying to carry a baby on her own, Banks said she blamed her lifestyle when it didn’t work out and said she was “doing everything” to improve her chances.
“I stopped drinking, I stopped eating and then I started eating because someone said, ‘You’re too thin, you’re too this. You’re using that cream and it has a chemical in it.’ Like, okay, everything has a chemical in it,” she recalled. “It’s like everything you’re doing is wrong.”
Banks explained that perspective was needed to gain more confidence in the decision to move forward with surrogacy. She credited much of that to some friends who gave her advice throughout the process.
“I had a good friend who was like, ‘At the end of the day, there’s going to be a baby and you’re going to be a parent and nobody cares how it happened,'” she recalls. “The other good advice I got was like, ‘Is your goal to be pregnant or to become a mother?’ And I was like, “Oh, s***. It’s just being a mom. Right. I don’t have to be pregnant, f***, I just want the baby.” So it was like what’s the best way to get to the baby? What are you doing? Who cares about the pregnancy? Get the baby.”
When Banks eventually met a potential surrogate with whom she had “an incredible conversation,” she was at peace with the way she would grow her family. She explained that “to this day” she maintains a relationship with that surrogate who gave birth to 11-year-old Felix and 10-year-old Magnus. “It’s my son’s 10th birthday today and I’m going to send her a picture of him because she helped us start our family. Her mother had been a surrogate, that’s how she got into it. She had three beautiful children of her own with her wonderful husband,” said Banks. “It takes the whole town to do this.”
Now, 11 years after becoming a mother, Banks said the moment she held her son in her arms, worries about how he was born washed away. “It made everything else so stupid. So stupid. Everybody’s verdict, it’s like, ‘Oh, fuck off.’ Now they get to judge me on how I parent,” she said. “It starts all over again. It’s a whole different side of the cycle.”
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