Exploitation

I’m reading this morning about the surrogacy baby factories in India in the current issue of Time magazine. I personally know of more than one family who has acquired their child using surrogacy. I’m not a fan. Learning about the in utero mother baby bond has done it for me. Separating the baby from its gestational mother creates trauma in the child.

Both India and Africa are hot beds in the trade of women’s bodies to create babies for their intended families. There is also surrogacy in the United States. Always it is a matter of poverty and money.

One poor woman writes – she went to the clinic to live out her pregnancy because she was worried that being pregnant while divorced would subject her to malicious rumors. “If I tell anyone, they think that I am going to give away my own child. They don’t understand that I am simply giving my womb on rent.” Still, as far as that baby in her womb is concerned – it IS her own child.

I do have sympathy and compassion for the poor women who turn to surrogacy as their only method of creating revenue. This is a difficult situation. Without a doubt, commercial surrogacy takes advantage of low income women. I do not believe that making only Altruistic Surrogacy legal is the answer as it does not address the poverty that drives woman to provide their wombs in service to prospective parents. It will likely only drive the practice underground. A 9 month long commitment is a huge demand on any woman’s life.

Legal protection is needed – for both the surrogates and the intended parents. There needs to be medical insurance for the surrogates and a minimum amount of compensation for the time they are devoting. Don’t get me wrong – I still do not favor surrogacy. However, I am being realistic about the financial circumstances that drive a woman to agree to this. Banning the procedure will not work any better than it has worked for banning alcohol or illicit drugs. One needs to look at the source of what is motivating the behavior – poverty and desperation.

Sital Kalantry is a clinical professor at Cornell Law School and has written extensively about surrogacy. She worries about the lack of informed consent and notes that many of the women are unable to read the contracts, which are written in English, and they sign them using a thumbprint. The clinic highlighted in the Time magazine article has a C-Section rate of 70%. It probably is safer for the fetus than a vaginal birth but it is definitely more convenient for the doctor (your blog author raises her hand that she has had 2 C-Sections – these were said to avoid transmission of the hepC virus she co-exists with). And it is more convenient for the intended parents because they know when to pick up their baby.

A ban on commercial surrogacy in India will only send the practice underground. The conditions for the surrogates will be worse and it will still be in effect unregulated. Underground the surrogates will have no protections whatsoever. An example is China – despite commercial surrogacy being banned there – it is estimated that more than 10,000 children a year are still being born through that process.

You can read the entire Time magazine article here – India’s Ban on Commercial Surrogacy.

Surrogacy

I first became of gestational surrogacy while going through reproductive assistance. One of the women in my mom’s group had cancer and so her twins were birthed through a surrogate. I remember her stressing about what medical staff would think of her because she wanted to be in the delivery room and would have to wear a head covering at the hospital because her hair had all fallen out from treatment. She died when the twins were only 2 years old.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law had tried for years to conceive and due to the serious pharmaceutical medications my sister-in-law was on for the treatment of manic-depression symptoms, it wasn’t safe for her to go off of those prescriptions. For some time, they tried using assisted reproduction with her eggs and it always failed. They were eventually successful and they did use a surrogate. As our two families became estranged after the deaths of my in-laws, I don’t know if the baby has her genes or not.

Both of these occurred before I started learning so much about adoption. My husband and I have two sons with the same genetic background but none of my own genes. They do have my husband’s DNA and they had the same egg donor. What I have learned is that the baby becomes bonded with the mother the fetus is developing within. I remember how my OB always reassured me that I was playing an important role in my developing children’s lives – the foods I ate primed their taste buds, my emotions affected them in the womb. I was every bit as ecstatic when they were born, every bit as much in love with them as my infant, as I was with my daughter who does carry my genes.

From what I have learned, I do have grave concerns about the effect on infants of gestational surrogacy. I was directed today to explore Severance magazine’s website by my adoption community. I pass that on to my readers here. Their byline is “Severance on the aftermath of separation” and they seem to speak to all related issues. The reality is that in this age of widespread availability of DNA testing, many argue that anonymity is no longer sustainable and that a child can never possibly consent to donor anonymity or waive their right to know where they came from.

We had a private agreement with our donor and have maintained an open relationship with her. Our sons have met her on several occasions. Not long ago, she informed me that she had done a 23 and Me test. Therefore, I gifted my husband with a 23 and Me first, then the oldest son and then his brother. This reality gave us an opportunity to fully discuss their conception, even though we had always been open about it, it had never dominated our family’s life. The donor is open to contact from the boys should they ever want that. She has always been very rational about the whole situation and she does have 3 children of her own that she gave birth to. Our sons know that there are at least those children who are genetically half-siblings. It is also possible another one they won’t know about in advance may turn up someday. They would not exist but for. It is their own unique, individual reality and existence.

Severance Magazine Website

The Saddest Moment

 

One of the saddest things was a video of a brand new baby being presented to a woman, everyone in tears of happiness, excitedly saying, “the mother just signed away all rights!” I mean this is a video of the saddest moment of that baby’s life, and they truly don’t seem to have any awareness of that.

There sometimes seems to be a real disconnect.  Adoptive parents in their ecstatic joy totally clueless about what is being done to the mother who just gave birth and what will be a lifelong sorrow not only for her but for that child as well.

It has become well-known that a fetus bonds with the woman carrying it in her womb during the 9 months of gestation.  When it leaves the womb, this baby still knows its mother.  A newborn infant is not a blank slate with no awareness or memories.  That is what people thought for a long time and the well-meaning lie that was fed to prospective adoptive parents.

Georgia Tann who was involved in my own mother’s adoption in 1937 believed this and told her clients this was the reality but we now know that the baby knows differently.  In desperation as she tried to work through the difficulties of obtaining financial resources as an abandoned mother (she was married, but her husband had left her, and her father refused to help her and my mom), my grandmother turned to the Porter-Leath Orphanage for TEMPORARY care of my mom.  In doing this, she was being a responsible mother.

In doing this, she fell into a trap whereby she lost custody of my mother.  After being pressured, exploited and coerced to give up her very valuable little white blond baby girl to the Tennessee Children’s Home, my grandmother was allowed one last visit with my mom who had not seen her own mother for some days/weeks.

The joy expressed in my little mother’s body at seeing her mother is something real to behold as she was only about 8 months old at that time.  Throughout her life, my mom never stopped longing for the woman who gave birth to her.  When she tried to make contact, she was told her mother had died some years before.  My mom was devastated and heart-broken.

Just A Fact

Adoption is taking a mother’s child from her. You cannot argue this fact. You may seek to be an exception but you are not. You are really just the same as every other person who has ever adopted a baby.

How do you go to the hospital and walk out with someone else’s baby ? Their BABY ! Someone’s baby she spent 9 months with.

Why is the suicide rate so high for adoptees and also for natural mothers and never discussed ?

It is true that sometimes caring for a child outside her primary family is necessary.  It should be rare.

Some answers to the above from a “woke” adoptive mother –

You basically delude yourself into believing the lie that this is a “good” thing.

It starts with the narrative from adoption agencies. They parade “first moms” into the orientation meetings to tell you how choosing adoption for their babies was the best decision they ever made. They believe the lie, too.

You listen to your friends and family members who have adopted children. You see the beautiful families they built. They all seem so happy. You want that for yourself.

You are chosen by an expectant mom. She tells you how grateful she is to have found you. You tell her how brave she is. You really feel like you’re a team doing this together.

Here comes the hard part. The birth. I have never felt more uncomfortable as when I was in the labor room with my son’s mother. She was alone and asked me to be with her during her planned c section. If not for her being alone, I wouldn’t have gone in with her. I felt like a total intruder.

Our minds are powerful. We can convince ourselves of just about anything. Even justifying taking someone else’s baby. That’s my cross to bear. Now that I’ve acknowledged the cold hard truth of it, I can do my best to help our kids understand it.

Surrogacy Is A Separation

I have known of two cases of surrogacy directly.  Both utilized donor eggs.  One was a mother who was being treated for cancer.  She did die when the twins were about 2 years old and the father, who was directly their genetic father, remarried.  The other one is a family member.  The wife takes a lot of drugs to manage her mental health issues.  They had a lot of failures but did eventually succeed and the little boy is now 5 year old and I am happy for my brother in law that he could be a father.

I didn’t question the practice at all until I began to discover my own genetic roots (both of my parents were adopted).  As part of that journey, I began to learn a lot of things about infant development. No matter how you spin it, babies are being separated from the woman they’ve shared a home with for 9 months. The woman whose body nurtured and cradled them. They know her scent, her heartbeat. That’s who they know. And they are born and handed to someone who smells different, some stranger they don’t know.

There have also been cases where a surrogate mother became so bonded with the infant in her womb that it took a court case to separate them and contracts between a couple and a surrogate are much more explicit now about what is being done and for whom.

It hasn’t been all that long since The Handmaid’s Tale was making current news and the forcing of women to complete a pregnancy they don’t want for the purpose of handing their baby over to a prospective adoptive couple, often with undertones of evangelical Christianity seeking to convert the world to their philosophies, is very real even now.

One woman commenting on this situation admitted, “I seriously considered being a gestational carrier (their baby in my body, not my biological child) and when I learned about adoption trauma I knew I could never do it. How awful to take a baby from their only life connection. It’s cruel. It only serves to gratify the adults’ needs.”

Infertility Grief

Regarding choosing adoption after giving up on conceiving a child, it appears that all the screening in the world isn’t going to heal infertility grief. It isn’t going to magically turn a stranger’s child into the one you couldn’t have. It can’t predict how well you can actually love an adopted kid, even though you *really, really* think you can. It’s not going to account for a genetic mismatch between adoptee and adopter. Most importantly it doesn’t turn the adoptee into a robot, capable of bonding to any old genetic stranger at will. That’s the one thing I find never, ever gets talked about.

My husband and I tried and failed and did consider whether adoption was the way to go.  At that time I knew nothing about the wounds associated with adoption.  Yet, we felt we would rather begin from scratch than take on the unknowns of a pre-exiting child.  So we turned to assisted reproduction.

I will always believe that this was a better choice than adoption.  I already had a child that was genetically related to me and grandchildren too.  My husband wanted that for his own self and I was sympathetic and understanding to his own need to become a father – even if he really waited way too long.

The advent of inexpensive DNA testing has brought it’s own unique reality to deal with but I am okay with it.  My sons seem to be okay with it.  They simply would not exist otherwise.  Any other children that my husband might have conceived would not be these children.  I believe in dealing with realities.

Turning to assisted reproduction meant these children were implanted and grew within my womb.  The bonding of mother and child begins in the womb.  These children nursed at my own breast for just over a year each.  No one can be more their mother than I am.

I do see our donor and her own genetic children mirrored in my sons and we do not withhold access to that family though our sons seem disinterested in pursuing it at this time.  Since we are older parents, someday they may reach out to establish a new genetic connection, just as I have in discovering my own.

I remember encountering my own infertility grief when I fully realized the natural method simply was not going to happen for us.  I regretted my husband had married such an old woman.  Even so, we have a good marriage and it would not have made good sense to simply throw that away to allow him to become a father.  He is a good one because he waited until he was actually ready to commit himself to parenting.