Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tiny People ... and I Don't Mean Babies

Although there are possibly more than three, I have three distinct memories of times and places when I encountered the word “surrogate”. I’m not even sure when in my adult life these things happened, I just remember them happening, and clearly remember my knee-jerk reactions.

The first time was an episode of Oprah …. Although I think I was probably married by then, I don’t think Blaine and I had started trying to have kids. On her show, Oprah had two women as guests …. I think they might have been sisters, or best friends, or something. There was definitely a connection between the two. One of them either couldn’t get pregnant, or couldn’t maintain a pregnancy, so the other (I really think it was her sister) was serving as her gestational surrogate.

Ok, so here’s a little bit of a crash course in surrogate terminology: Being a “gestational” surrogate means a woman carries a child that is not biologically her own. She undergoes in vitro fertilization, and the embryo(s) that are transferred into her uterus are made from the egg and sperm of two other people. Typically, it is the egg and sperm of the couple she is carrying for … the Intended Parents, or IP’s. Occasionally, there might be an egg donor, or even more rare, a sperm donor, but for the most part, it is usually the biological child of the IPs.

Now, that’s not to be confused with a “traditional” surrogate ... a traditional surrogate is a woman who carries to term a child that is biologically her own, usually fertilized with the sperm of the Intended Father (IF) and then allows another person(s), again, called the Intended Parents, to adopt that child. And before anyone might jump to any inappropriate conclusions about surrogates having sex with men who aren’t their husbands (Why yes, it appears the "comedies" coming out of Hollywood about surrogates are not only inaccurate, they are not even funny, unless you enjoy the stereotyping ...) let me be quick to reassure you, that is NOT how it works. These women monitor their ovulation, and then are inseminated (I know, it sounds so cattle-ish, but that’s the correct term and I’m nothing if not technical) with the sperm, either in doctor’s offices, or at home with special insemination kits. These women are not “baby factories” or anything disgusting like that. They are simply agreeing, out of the kindness and caring and compassion of their huge, huge hearts, to provide children for couples, who for some reason, cannot make their own embryos. In the world of surrogacy, at least the world that I have encountered, the majority of surrogacies are gestational, yet for some reason people’s minds normally assume traditional. I’m not sure why, but that’s the experience I have had, at least.

So, back to Oprah. The sister (yes, I’m positive it was her sister) was a gestational surrogate, carrying her own biological niece or nephew, for her sister who couldn’t carry for herself. I remember watching the show and thinking, “Yep, seems pretty straight-forward to me.” But I also remember the reactions, quite a few of them negative, of the audience members. Now, I understand that drama and conflict make for better television, so chances are the vast majority of the audience felt as I did, that it was a generous, kind, empathetic thing for one person to do for another ---- but of course the only women who got microphone time were the ones who didn’t agree.

“That’s un-natural and immoral.”

“How can you just GIVE UP your baby like that?”

“If God wanted them to have children, he would have made it so she could get pregnant. You’re messing with the natural order of things.”

The surrogate/aunt was calm and rational, and tried explaining to these people that she wasn’t GIVING UP anything. First of all, the baby wasn’t hers to give up. She went on to say she considered herself like an early babysitter … .just taking care of her niece or nephew until it was born, at which point his mother and father would care for the baby, just like normal. And as far as the GOD argument against surrogacy goes … well …. To really simplify things, what exactly would you call the story of Mary? Or any of the other surrogate births in the Old Testament? But I'm not going off on a theological tangent, so we'll end it there ...

No matter how logical and sound and rational *I* found her arguments, the audience members (or again, at least the ones getting camera time) did not. And I remember being so annoyed with those small-minded people, who couldn’t see a true miracle when it was staring them right in the face.

Geez, some people are really tiny inside, know what I mean?


Sandy P said...

I think I saw that same Oprah, and I remember it being a sister as well. Thanks for sharing the story.

Alice said...

I'm so glad you are sharing your surrogacy story. I've been looking forward to reading it for a long time. I think it will open a lot of eyes (and hopefully hearts). Just as your story about how you got all of children did.

Trish in Leesburg, VA said...

UGGHHHH! Why oh why do people feel the need to judge other people on "moral" grounds? Honestly, that is one of my biggest pet peeves!

Anonymous said...

I think it's a wonderful loving thing to do for someone you love, not to mention to do for someone you barely know. I've often thought of looking into it myself...but I am getting on in age and would be considered "Advanced Maternal Age" and more recently the name has changed to "Elderly Pregnant"!!! OMG!!!!

Meg from Ga

Marsha said...

I'm glad for the intellect we were given... for all the trouble it's caused us over the history of mankind, I also like to think that our ingenuity has pleased our Maker on occasion.

This would be one of them in my opinion!

Anonymous said...

I always wanted to be a surrogate, but it was not meant to be. I was very fertile in my early 20s...not so much later on. We do foster care, though, and I always get some of the same can you give them up, I could never do it. Seriously, it's all in how you approach it, and quite honestly, I have not loved all of the kids we have had placed with us. I cared about them but was also happy when they went to their forever home.
I agree with Marsh, I think God made us smart enough to figure out how to do things such as surrogacy. That's why he makes some people unable to do things, to cause others to use the smarts he gave them & figure out how to make it happen.
Stacie from MN

Anonymous said...

Beautifully put. I've often wondered about the people on those shows can they really be that stupid

Tammy said...

You know that from the first time i met you and you explained to us all about what you did, that you have been such an inspiration to me and i put you on a pedestal. You are such an awesome giving person.
You rock, dont listen to other people, they have never stepped in your shoes.

Pam Doughty said...

(I am imagining Kristie shuddering at the thought of someone else's feet stepping into her shoes....) But I do agree in the belief that God would be pleased. I think about the parable of the talents, and how they shouldn't be wasted. When intellectual and scientific talents are used for the benefit of others, I think God smiles. To say that it's wrong to figure out how to do surrogacy because God planned for that person to not have kids is really the same as saying that it's wrong to fight cancer because God intended that person to make it or not without human intervention. We either use our talents for good or we bury them(or use them for evil, which is a whole other post). I vote for good!

Anonymous said...

I am adopted. My daughter is adopted. I have fostered 116 newborn babies, half of whom have been adopted. Women who are mature and selfless and compassionate enough to know they are not the best mother for their baby at that point in their lives or who know how much being a mother means to someone who cannot do it by herself are the heroes in this world!

I have heard every single stupid comment possible and have to simply shake my head and roll my eyes at the uninformed, judgmental folks who share the earth with the rest of us. (Maybe that was a bit harsh, but you get my point!)

Dixie in CA

cakeburnette said...

I think I saw that show, too, and remembered it being a sister. And as usual, we had the same reaction, although I didn't remember the sister explaining it like very early baby-sitting! I LOVE it

Anonymous said...

I don't often comment........but here goes. I agree with Pam and several of the others that it was God who made all this possible in the first place and that he would approve. If you are able to use part of your own body to help another person live the life they were meant to live, how can it be immoral? Does that mean that those same people wouldn't donate their own blood to help a sick family memeber or a friend who has been in a severe accident and needs blood. Or would it be immoral to donate a kidney to your own ailing child? I'm a devoted follower of Jesus Christ (also considered a "Born Again" Christian, but I know that term makes some people shudder!!!) who thanks God often for the incredible way He created man so that we could help one another sustain life in thousands of different ways. Kristie, your life story is awesome and you are a gifted writer. Please keep sharing!!!! Carol in Greenacres, Florida

WendyK said...

I am so glad you are sharing your story! There have been references before, and I hoped one day we could hear more about it.

Though I did not see that show, I think it follows the same lines as modern medicine. There are those who are against modern medicine, but when they need a liver transplant they are the first in line. If those women had faced the reality that they could not have a child of their own, then they would probably be more open.

All three of my kids are biological children, but we looked into surrogacy and adoption when it seem like #2 was not meant to be.

God would not allow a child to be born if he did not have a plan for them. Sometime He uses others to help, because he is trying to teach us something, love, caring, compassion, or whatever.

Just my 2 cents to say I agree. I look forward to the rest of the story when you get more free moments.