Two months into Lisa's pregnancy, Brent went on his first vanilla-ice-cream run for her. "The other night," he says, "she was eating a bowl of sugar and raisins that she had picked out of the Raisin Bran. When I walked in, she goes, 'Don't judge me.'" Other duties include making sure that her tea glass is always full and that the electric blanket has warmed her side of the bed. Six months later, when Lisa develops preclampsia, he steps up the pace. "She couldn't walk," he says. "From the knees down, her legs were bigger than mine." The household chores are now all his. "I come home from work, start the wash, take Liam to third-grade football practice, then cook dinner," he says. At day's end, he rubs Lisa's legs for an hour to help with the pain.
But guys like Brent also have obligations that extend way beyond What to Expect When You're Expecting. They're required to take STD tests. "I didn't like that I had to have something shoved where I didn't want it to be shoved," says 35-year-old Nick Bradburn of Columbus, Ohio, of his pre-surrogacy visit to the doctor. They undergo criminal and financial background checks. And to avoid inadvertently impregnating their wives, they have to forgo sex for three months. "It's in the freaking contract," Brent says. "You have to sign a celibacy agreement."
The fees received by surrogates usually range from $18,000 to $35,000, depending on factors like the number of embryos and the number of times a woman has delivered babies for other couples. The would-be parents also pay doctor and hospital costs, travel expenses, any lost wages, and a monthly stipend for things like prenatal vitamins.
Most wives are reluctant to admit that the money is appealing. They speak instead of the wonders of childbearing, the "gift" they are able to bestow on less fortunate couples. Their husbands are more pragmatic. "I'd be lying if I said the money didn't matter," Bradburn says. "It was hard for me to picture her pregnant by another guy, and I thought a lot about the risks. With everything combined, money was one of the decisive factors." After his wife had delivered the baby, he was able to give up his job as a long-distance truck driver to spend more time with his kids. He's now a full-time student in culinary school. "It totally changed the way I live," he says. "If my wife said, 'Let's do it again,' I'd say, 'When do we get started?'"
For the Bells, this is the third go-round—the second with the couple in Sweden whom Brent affectionately calls our "parents." Two years ago, Lisa gave birth to a daughter, also named Lisa, for the couple. Lisa senior agreed to breast-feed the baby, which is frowned upon in surrogate circles because it creates an emotional and potentially legal bond between the surrogate and the child. But the couple in Sweden had requested it. "To put it coldly," says Brent, "the job wasn't done." Every day for two weeks, he drove his wife to the couple's hotel, and while she fed the child, he and the new father toasted her birth with shots of rum. When Lisa was too tired to go, Brent made the trip by himself, with a cooler full of breast milk in the passenger seat of his truck.