Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Meet the parents: Shannon and Tom Rayner's journey to parenthood via surrogacy

The Kirkland couple's experience is featured in a new PBS documentary about how Boise has become an epicenter of the surrogacy movement.


Four years ago, Kirkland mom and makeup artist Shannon Rayner decided to find a gestational surrogate after she and her husband, Tom, were unable to conceive. At the time, Washington law prohibited commercial surrogacy, so the couple found their surrogate, Nicole, in Boise, Idaho. 

The Rayners' journey into parenthood was documented in "Made in Boise," a new documentary film airing on PBS at 10 p.m. Oct. 28 as part of the "Independent Lens" series.

Boise has become an epicenter of the surrogacy movement, with no legal restrictions, a large population of healthy women of reproductive age and a significant number of Mormon and Catholic communities who value large families. 

Nicole and her husband have two children and run Idaho’s largest surrogacy agency, which works with the other surrogates in the film. Nicole “loves being pregnant” and is in the midst of her fourth surrogate pregnancy when the film opens.

 We caught up with Shannon on how finding the right surrogate changed her life. 


Where might parents run into you and your family in Seattle?

Local parks, hiking in the mountains, camping on the weekends during the summer, wine tasting in Woodinville in the fall.

What was the most meaningful part of the surrogacy process?

Besides the obvious of our baby girl, Graysen Nicole, I would say the relationship with Nicole and her family as they are a part of ours now. We have a very close relationship as a family, do vacations together and visit often.

What was the hardest part?

Being patient. The process is very long and very detailed and reliant on decisions many times that are out of your control. Finding the right surrogate was very difficult for us as we only had one embryo and couldn't leave anything to chance.

What do you want other parents who struggle with infertility to know? 

You NEED a good support system. There are so many days that are difficult and some times you will need someone to just be there for you. Don't give up!!!  Our chances were so slim it was ridiculous. Honestly, there will be more bad days than good ones filled with needles, disappointment and heartbreak … but let me tell you, when you see your baby FINALLY, you forget all the bad days and just remember the day you met your baby. That's a good day!

Is there anything you are working on and could use help with from our parent community?

It's so important to get this film out there to bring awareness to surrogacy for so many reasons. Families are created now in so many ways and this film shows many beautiful stories on relationships that are built.


Learn more about surrogacy and Shannon's journey to motherhood in the documentary, "Made in Boise" airing at 10 pm, October 28th on PBS as part of the INDEPENDENT LENS series. If you miss it, the film will be streaming here through November 11.


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