Elizabeth Banks is reflecting on her journey with surrogacy 11 years after welcoming her first of two children into the world, sharing that there's 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 meeting at college. While Banks described her dreams of marriage and having a family as "traditional" at the time, she explained the process of letting go of what that had meant to her as she discovered the impossibility of getting pregnant.
"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 definitely was. But I have no idea. There’s a small percentage of women who basically have unexplained infertility and that is me, I’m in that category," Banks said. "I had always had plenty of eggs, I never had trouble making embryos, they did not implant. For whatever reason, my uterus is hostile, I don’t know what’s going on but they just will not stay in there. So I had a broken belly, is what I told my kids, mommy had a broken belly."
Banks has publicly shared her journey with infertility before and has spoken to the judgement that she faced as she and her husband made the decision to work with a surrogate in order to grow their family. "This is a long time ago before surrogacy was like a Kardashian thing. Nobody was doing it back then," she reminded Cooper. Banks also addressed the grief that she faced for the potential of carrying her own child before she was able to celebrate this alternate route to motherhood.
"Your fertility is such a part of your life, men and women. But for women especially in a society that’s like, this is 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 do that, you are less of a woman. That’s the messaging. And my fertility was something I had to mourn. I had to grieve for it. It was a loss. And I had to really work through that before I could invite someone else to help me make my family," she explained. "It was confusing too because it’s like my husband and I could make these beautiful baby cakes and I just didn’t have an oven to bake them in. And so it really was my fault, do 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 herself, Banks said she blamed her lifestyle when it hadn't worked and said she "did everything" to improve her chances.
"I stopped drinking, I stopped eating, then I started eating because someone was like, ‘You’re too thin, you’re too this. You use that cream and it’s got a chemical in it.’ Like, ok everything has a chemical in it," she recalled. "It’s like everything you’re doing is wrong."
Banks explained that it took gaining perspective to feel more confident about the decision to move forward with surrogacy. She credited a lot of that to a number of friends who offered her advice throughout the process.
"I had a great friend who was like, 'At the end of the day, there’s gonna be a baby and you’re gonna be a parent and nobody’s gonna care how it happened,'" she recalled. "The other great advice I got was like, 'Is your goal to be pregnant or to be a mom?' And I was like, 'Oh, s***. It’s just to be a mom. Right. I don’t need 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."
Ultimately, it was when Banks met a potential surrogate who she had "an incredible conversation" with that she felt at peace with the way she'd be growing her family. She explained that "still to this day" she maintains a relationship with that surrogate who brought 11-year-old Felix and 10-year-old Magnus into the world. "It’s my son’s 10th birthday today and I’m gonna send her a picture of him, cause she helped make our family with us. Her mom had been a surrogate, that’s how she got into it. She had three beautiful kids of her own with her awesome husband," Banks said. "It takes like the whole village to do this."
Now, 11 years after becoming a mother, Banks said that the moment she had her son in her arms the worry about how he was born washed away. "It made everything else so stupid. So silly. Everyone’s judgment, it's like, 'Oh, f*** off.’ Now they get to judge me for how I parent," she said. "It starts all over again, it’s a whole other side of the cycle."
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