Melanie Thernstrom writes about her experiences with using egg donors and surrogates to produce her kids. If she had written a "just the facts" sort of story, I would have read the first paragraph or two and then moved on. Instead, she wrote a long rationalization for her method of producing kids and completely ignored the risk and the economics of child-birth, which caused me to read the whole thing and run to the computer on this Saturday — a non-blogging day.
In early her 40s, Thernstrom was unable to make a baby on her own, and adoption wasn't an option. She said that it's harder to adopt children today, because of abortion and international restrictions. Actually, she could have adopted a kid with special needs pretty easily, but she failed to mention that. Friends of ours recently adopted a little girl from China who had a cleft palate, so it can be done.
She received eggs from a donor and used two surrogates to produce two babies. My usual reaction to surrogacy is that these are consenting adults, who should be allowed to do whatever stupid-assed thing that they want to do, as long as we don't pretend that they are making good decisions.
In 1986, Mary Beth Whitehead, a surrogate mother, gave birth to Baby M and then refused to hand it over to the Sterns, a couple from my home town. Whitehead agreed to have the baby for the Sterns, because she needed the money. However, she bonded with the child during the nine months pregnancy and couldn't give her up. After a long legal battle, Baby M went to the Sterns, and New Jersey no longer allows surrogates to accept cash.
Thernstrom says that her children were born out of the generosity of other people. No, they were born out of economic inequality. Thernstrom had the money to pay for their services, and these people needed the money.
Harvesting eggs is a lot harder than getting a sperm donation. There is much more involved that an old issue of Penthouse and a plastic cup. Egg donors have to take fertility pills for a while, so they produce more eggs. Eggs are removed during an operation. There are risks that accompany this procedure, including infertility. Nobody in their right mind would go through the hassle of egg donations for free. That's why women are paid about $4,000 for this service.
Egg donation is a breeze compared with pregnancy and birth. While some women truly love the experience of pregnancy, it does horrific stuff to your body. Death is always a possibility during birth. Giving up a child that you carried for nine months is a traumatic experience.
The only reason that a woman would deal with the enormous physical pain of pregnancy and birth and then the emotional pain of handing over a child, while she's lactating, is money.
Thernstrom mentions that one of the surrogates provided her with breast milk in a cooler every week. The surrogate's milk would drop when she heard the baby cry. Thernstrom then rambles on about that she generously let the surrogate breast feed the baby, but was unable to understand the physical pain of having engorged breasts with no relief of a baby.
Thernstrom fails to give us the dollar amount for her children. In a long story that provides us with every other minor detail (a doula is dismissed for being insensitive), she leaves out the dollar amount for her kids. I don't need a degree in psychology to recognize repression and denial when I see it. I feel like I should I sit down next to her, hold her hand and tell her the truth.
Listen, honey, I know that you must have been in a lot of pain when you realized that you couldn't have children on your own. Some people really, really need to have children, and it's earth-shattering when you are denied something that you wanted a lot. However, you have to recognize that the egg donors and the surrogates provided a service for you, because of CASH. They needed it and you had a whole lot of it. If they had enough money, they would have never gone through with the physical and emotional hardships and the social stigma of egg harvesting and pregnancy. They might have had a baby on their own and kept it. Please be honest about the cash relationship between you and the donors.
As I said in the beginning, I think child surrogacy should be legal (though heavily regulated), but I'm really uncomfortable with these white-washing stories that fail to recognize the hardships and economics of childbirth.