Surrogacy in Fact and Fiction

While I’m playing catch-up, here are a couple of recent surrogacy related items–one fact and one fiction.

There’s this story from The Today Show.    Robyn and Jason Wright used their own gametes and a surrogate in India.   It’s sort of a standard globalized surrogacy story with a small but notable couple of twists.   First, the surrogate actually has a name–Usha.   And consistent with that, the Wrights recognize her as an important player in their child’s life.   Indeed, there’s this striking quote:

“She’s ultimately his mother too. I truly feel that way: that he has two moms,” says Robyn. “My goal is to get him to understand that she cares for him as much as we do.”

I think that is a relatively unusual attitude for heterosexual couples using surrogacy and I find it quite encouraging.   Apparently it is at least the Wright’s plan to stay in some sort of contact with Usha.   (They plan to bring Jake back to India when he is older.)   The distance (both physical and cultural) between the two families doubtless makes this more difficult, but I truly hope it comes to pass.

The rest of the story is about the topic of surrogacy in India more generally.   Some if it is a little chilling.  There’s something about the quote “So many American citizens growing here” that makes it sound a little too much like baby-farming for my tastes.   And there’s reference to pending legislation, but as far as I can tell, there have been similar references to possible regulation of surrogacy in India for as long as I’ve been paying attention.  This is one of those “I’ll believe it when I see it” things.

Then there is surrogacy in fiction.   NBC plans a new sit-com about a gay male couple and their surrogate.   It’s called “The New Normal” and the tag line is “A post-modern family.”

As the title itself suggests, the appearance of surrogacy as a setting for a prime-time sitcom does say something about normalization.   I think when new social practices appear they’re more likely to hit TV as the stuff of dramatizations–because that’s where we expect to see issues that are ripped from the headlines, as it were.    When you hit sitcoms, it’s normal.   Thus, the arrival of Will and Grace signified something about the normalization of gay people in a way that the inclusion of the occasional gay character in Law and Order didn’t.

It’s interesting to me that the setting is a gay couple with a surrogate rather than a straight couple.   More potential for comedy?   Less underlying tensions to manage?   Or is gay just in these days?   Hard to say, but it probably is (for me, at least) TV worth watching, even if only once just to see what they are up to.



6 responses to “Surrogacy in Fact and Fiction

  1. Julie – exactly how is the citizenship accomplished for a baby born to a surrogate in India accomplished by the parents who have used their own gametes? Foreign birth abroad process – does it allow this? Via adoption immigration process is unlikely as the child must be deemed by the state department as an orphan which clearly is not the case. Unless there is a clear and automatic citizenship at the beginning, in the next twenty years there will be deportations (happening now for adoptees adopted internationally whose parents did not complete the process).

    I haven’t read the story yet – just wanted to know how protected the child would be.

  2. I had my son via domestic gestational surrogacy, and I am dreading the new surrogacy sitcom. I think that using a gay couple and a surrogate will play the situation for laughs instead of highlighting the complex relationships and decisions that go into a surrogacy arrangement with an infertile couple and a gestational surrogate.

    Also, I don’t think of my son’s surrogate as his other mother. We do keep in touch with her, and I know she cares about him. She comes to his birthday party every year, and we consider her a part of our family but not as another mother.

  3. I can understand your concerns. On the one hand, sitcoms can be used to raise serious issues–certainly they have in the past. But the particular setting they’ve chosen (rich gay male couple, single mother in trouble surrogate) isn’t exactly typical. I worry, for example, that it will make surrogacy seem like an easy thing you can just decide to do with someone you run into at a coffee shop.

    I do not mean to pry (by which I mean you should feel free to ignore this) but what does your son call the surrogate? I imagine you have had to help him find the right term to use and I wonder if it has changed over time.

    I wonder too, and I don’t know that you’d know this, how common the continuing contact between child and surrogate is. I cannot help but think that this kind of contact is good for all involved. One of the things that troubles me about globalized surrogacy is that it seems to make it so much more difficult to accomplish this.

    • Being someone who reunites families separated for all kinds of reasons and seeing lots of gamete donors looking for their kids and vice versa, I have not encountered anyone looking for their GS yet. They are not related to her and therefore there is no reason to feel that the surrogate gave up a member of the larger maternal family there is no permanent connection there other than she helped develop the fetus into a baby. Which is huge don’t get me wrong and I could see where keeping up with her might be nice but she is not medically relevant to the child biologically. Problems in her body may have influenced fetal development and that might be important but as far as family medical history its going to be the mother who remains relevant always, relevant relative related etc

      Maybe one day I’ll encounter a surrogate looking for the child she delivered for the mother or maybe someday I’ll encounter a child looking for the woman who gave birth to them but given the difference in permanent relatedness I’d be surprised. One has all that relevant maternal family history and half the kid’s relatives to make her important and the other has the act of gestation and child birth – important but the scales are not tipped in the surrogates favor unless she was also the child’s mother and is maternally related

    • I forgot to come back and reply! Well, my son just turned 3, so he doesn’t really call her anything yet. He is getting to the age, though, in which we need to start telling him about how he came to be. We do not intend on keeping it a secret from him, but it’s hard to figure out how much he needs to know at what age.

      From message boards and blogs, I think it is fairly common for the surrogate to have some contact with the families they’ve helped build whether its letters/emails or actual visits. We are Facebook friends with our surrogate and her mother, so they are able to see pictures and interact that way. We keep meaning to get together for dinner but everyone has been busy.

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