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?