My classes ended today and I’m hoping to turn over a new leaf. That would mean (among other things) getting more posts up and keeping up with comments. There’s so much piled up on my desk, though, it’s hard to know where to start. On the theory that it is more important to just start, though, I choose this article, which someone sent to me last week.
This was published in The Guardian. It is just what the title suggests–a diary (brief) of a woman who served as a surrogate. She was what I would call an altruistic surrogate. What I mean by that is that money played no part in her decision. She offered herself as a surrogate because her brother and sister-in-law were desperate to have a child and had spent a great deal of time, toil and treasure trying to do so.
It’s quite the account. You get a really clear sense of the roller-coaster ride she experienced and, even though it turned out fine in the end (spoiler alert?)–healthy twins now being raised by her brother and his wife–you can see how hard and how complicated it is.
I won’t try to generalize from a single surrogacy story, but there’s plenty to wonder about. For instance, did the fact that she had existing relationships with the people who commissioned the child make it easier or harder? Surely it complicated the existing relationships but at least there was something to build on.
And what difference did it make that the eggs used were not from her sister-in-law but were from a third-party provider. This means that when the author tells her own 10 year old son about the surrogacy project he asks:
“So who’s the mum?” … It’s a fair point. These babies actually have three mothers: egg mummy (the donor), tummy mummy (me) and proper mummy (Jane).
(It’s interesting terminology she arrived it.) I think (as I think the surrogate thinks) that having neither the genetic link nor the pregnancy link makes it harder for the sister-in-law and her response to getting information from the donor that can be made available to the children is clear and negative. (At least this is the case during the pregnancy.)
In the end I cannot help but wonder about who the surrogate will be to the children as they grow older. She’ll be an aunt, obviously, and as such she’ll always play a role in their lives. But surely at some times she’ll be far more than that. When the kids go through the “tell me when I was in mommy’s tummy” phase (if that’s actually a phase) it will be her tummy they talk about.
It struck me the other day that while we now talk about the donor conceived (children conceived using gametes from third parties) and indeed, the donor-conceived speak for themselves, there is no term for those born to surrogates. (The surrogate born?) And there isn’t too much concern about whether those children need to know their origin stories and have contact with their surrogates. Now often in fact children do know their origin stories and sometimes do have contact with their surrogates.
At least the knowing origins part is generally true for children of gay men who have used surrogates. After all, there is no obvious tummy to point to.
I don’t know whether heterosexual couples–like the brother and sister-in-law here–are tempted to gloss over the fact of surrogacy. Someone in my class pointed out that it’s a harder thing to gloss over since pretty much everyone in your extended family knows you weren’t pregnant where people don’t really need to know if you used your own egg or someone else’s.
But you may recall that I’m pretty big on honest generally and, as a matter of honesty, it seems to me parents ought to tell their children if they child was gestated by and born to a surrogate. And I can imagine that lots of children would want to know something about the surrogate–see a picture, maybe meet her sometime. Now in a case like the one written about here, that’s easy–because she is always already there. I hope it goes well.