Since the earliest days of civilized man, couples have engaged the services of 3rd parties to assist them in nurturing and creating families. Royalty and wealthy couples have employed wet nurses for thousands of years. This was usually due to difficulties experienced by the new mother in producing or lactating sufficient breast milk for their newborn; but sometimes it was to help the royal mother from encountering the “deflationary effect” and inconvenience of nursing.
More to the point, though, is the use of mistresses or other stand-ins when either the royal/wealthy mother or the father could not re-produce. These were essential steps to providing the political and financial stability of an heir for a kingdom or commercially powerful family. While not true surrogates in the current nomenclature, these fertile women and men helped keep many a monarchy or fiefdom stable when the lack of an heir might produce civil war or destructive legal battles.
For the last 30 years, infertile couples have employed surrogates to help them create the children for their family. Usually, as the result of problems with the wife’s uterus, fallopian tubes, or other parts of their reproductive system, the couple enter into a contract with a fertile woman (proved by her demonstrated ability to bear healthy children with relative ease), who is inseminated by the couples’ OB/GYN with the sperm of the husband. The couple pay all the expenses for the pre- and post-insemination medical and psychological needs of the surrogate, and provide her with a reasonable monetary stipend for her time, discomfort, and risk.
In the last 2 decades, the efficacy and availability of in-vitro fertilization, using the sperm of a donor male, a viable donated egg, or the donated egg and sperm of unrelated 3rd parties, either in the expected mother or in a woman hired just to carry the fertilized embryo, has expanded the incidence of couples, heterosexual, gay, and lesbian, employing alternative reproductive technology and procedures to assist them in forming their families. This is not to minimize the importance of adoption in this history and our current affairs, about which another whole story can be told!