Bellies

Want to hear something gross?

Becoming a birthmother flipped a switch in my head that is making my pregnancy more complicated. I read a lot of blogs by adoptive and prospective adoptive parents, and I feel really connected to some of these women and their stories. And when things go wrong for them, and the process seems broken, there’s this little voice in my head that says “Maybe I should have a baby for her.” That’s really not healthy, and it would screw me up in a big way to do something like that—but that impulse exists, the thought that maybe that’s what I’m supposed to do. I mean, I can have babies. It’s at times like this that I feel sort of worried and—what is the word—I feel like I’m in a small space. Not claustrophobic, exactly, but constrained in kind of a sad-but-not-undeserved way. I do feel lucky to have Mr. Book around to put the kibosh on any “Perhaps we should make babies for nice people who want them” plans.

I feel like this is an easy segue into surrogacy, but I’m somewhat wary of expressing my views here, because I don’t want to offend anyone. One of the things about me is that I often hold strong abstract opinions that I am really not using to think badly of other people—but it doesn’t come out sounding that way. My official position on surrogacy is the same as my position on sex work: I think that it should be legal, but I don’t want anyone to do it. That said, I recognize that I’m saying that as a person who has never found herself trying to decide between sex work to pay rent or being evicted—there’s a certain amount of idealism in my belief. Similarly, while I don’t know that I believe in birth parent privilege, I certainly understand that I have fertile person privilege; I read a lot of adoption blogs, and I tend to go back and read them from the beginning, which means reading a number of infertility blogs that turn into adoption blogs. That has certainly made me more self-conscious about what it means that I can apparently, at this point in my life, decide to get pregnant and then make that happen. I’ve read women talking about resenting every pregnant woman, sometimes to extent that I find a bit shocking, but again—that shock is coming from a person who will probably not end up going through any ART.

There was a period of time, while I was matched with Ruth and Nora and then again last year, where I thought about doing surrogacy. I apparently make healthy children without too much trouble, and while I don’t exactly enjoy pregnancy, my last was uncomplicated (physically, anyway) and there were things about it that I liked very much. And the money would be huge for us. But. . . . I read a surrogacy story in the New York Times Magazine some time ago (I want to say while I was pregnant with Cricket, but that might be my mind trying to make poetry), and it was a positive story, working-class mother of several serving as surrogate for older, wealthier couple. And everyone in the story was positive and friendly, and that’s cool, but on the other hand, the surrogate needed the money in order to feed her family, so she was renting out her body. I roll my eyes at anti-adoption blog posts claiming that the rich want to use the poor as broodmares, but surrogacy does make me flinch a bit—at least in part because it would be incredibly emotionally destructive for me. And yet, if Ruth and Nora asked, I would definitely need my husband to talk me down.

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11 thoughts on “Bellies

  1. Oh god this: “y. My official position on surrogacy is the same as my position on sex work: I think that it should be legal, but I don’t want anyone to do it.” YES. And more, I don’t want anyone to HAVE to do it. I’m not all about that “reasonable woman” standard where you say, “No reasonable woman would do xyz unless she had to so any woman who does it is de facto in an unreasonable situation” but I do think that if you eliminate all the HAVE to, a whole lot less people would be doing it. Like in that NYT story you mention. But I’m with you. That is totally my pro-choice feminist stance on it. That is also my stance on women placing their children for adoption — I support every woman’s right to make that decision but I wish the things that drive so many of those decisions were eliminated.

  2. Surrogacy for money makes me feel, well, icky. Especially when I hear about the “Baby Farms” in places like India and Poland.

    But surrogacy was something my husband and I considered. When we were traveling down the ultimately unsuccessful fertility treatment route, we had three people offer their surrogacy services (my sister and two of my friends). In all three cases, it would have been altruism with no motive other than to help us have a child and no money would have been exchanged other than insurance co-pays and other pregnancy-related expenses not covered by insurance. Even then, we said “no thank you” and went with adoption.

    However, and this situation made me very angry, when our children’s birthmother was going through the pregnancy for our second child (13 months after going through the pregnancy for our first child), I was with her for one of her last prenatal appointments when she asked the doctor if she could arrange for tubal ligation as this was her 7th pregnancy in 7 years. (Unfortunately, temporary birth control does not work for her. She has gotten pregnant while on birth control pills, IUD and Depo Provera.) The doctor looked at me and then said, “Shouldn’t you check with the mother of your children first? Perhaps she would like to have more.” We both stared at him in shock and then she said “It is not my job to provide her with children.” Amen to that!

    • That anecdote is so gruesome–I can’t even imagine. [shudders] I hadn’t thought about having a sister or friend be a surrogate when I was writing/brooding, and I think that is a different situation almost entirely.

  3. You said,”My official position on surrogacy is the same as my position on sex work: I think that it should be legal, but I don’t want anyone to do it.” And I had to laugh…because my position on surrogacy is the same as my position on sex work as well…my position is different than yours…but still…I think it should be legal and that parties planning to do those things should be carefully screened both medically and psychologically and informed of all the risks. Things can still go wrong…but the dangers can be mitigated somewhat in most cases.

    Being a surrogate (or attempting to be a surrogate) for expenses only and no actual comp doesn’t negate the emotional impact. My attempt at surrogacy for my youngest daughter’s parents was only expenses, no comp…and the whole thing ended up being a disaster that ruined our relationship. And we passed a psych eval together…but I think people with uneven relationships (like adoption) who are intending to enter into a surrogacy contract should have more support/supervision than people who don’t know each other.

    • I admit, I was thinking of you when writing this, although I didn’t want to mention you in case you were uncomfortable with that. But while my position on surrogacy existed before I read your story, your experience does inform in now. Thanks for weighing in.

  4. You are having a baby for a lovely couple that wants one, you and Mr. Book!

    But I spent part of the weekend seeing if we could buy/rent a bigger house where we’d have room for several kids despite having none and part of the weekend trying to figure out if we could try for a pregnancy soemehow even though I’m all conflicted about sperm donation and there are health reasons that make this a terrible idea anyway. The broken, hurtful things about adoption make things harder for all of us in unexpected ways, I think.

    • Reading your recent post did get me started writing this; a stray “Maybe I should have a baby for Thorn (not this baby, this baby is mine, but…)” thought. I wish I could make things easier for you right now. =/

    • I’ve kept thinking about your comment, and you know what my guilt about not doing surrogacy reminds me of? My mother has been talking to me recently about what she’ll do when and if my dad dies (for whatever reason, my family seems to take it for granted that she will survive him), and she told me what she’s said on and off for years–she wants to become a missionary. I think she has some guilt about not being a missionary, since she’s a health care provider, and many of the people she was friends with in college became missionaries. Personally, I think it wouldn’t be the best path for her; I think she’d be a lot happier if she moved in near us and saw me, the Mister, and the grandbaby a lot. But she feels like this is something she ought to do. Hopefully it won’t come up, if at all, for a long time.

      • I’m prone to that kind of guilt too (and adoption brings it up; it’s so much easier to be turned down for a child than to have to refuse a match, which makes me feel like a horrible person responsible for whatever then happens to that kid even though it’s a totally bogus response) and I guess I’m not surprised that like me you probably got it from your mother. I hope you’re feeling better and (re: your other post) I’m thrilled that you’re talking more honestly to Ruth and saying what you need to say!

  5. Interesting thing to point out – surrogacy in Canada is done free of charge. The surrogate mother can NOT receive $$ from the intended parents. Believe it or not, we DO have surrogates up here, although it happens a lot less than in the US or India. My SIL volunteered to do it for us but we never took her up on the offer (for a whole list of reasons). But I wont lie, the thought seriously crossed my mind.

  6. This is such complicated stuff. I almost want to say it’s like oil drilling: have to be sure you not only can do the thing but can repair damage if an accident of some sort occurs. Otherwise, I;m not against this–everyone has a right to reproductive choices, yes–& yet I’m far from for it, most of the time.

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