Womb For Rent: A Personal Tale On Surrogacy

Posted on August 22, 2011 by

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Guest Post by Andrea Chisholm

pregnant woman
Prime Location built in 1979. Vacant for three years. Monthly maintenance continued during vacancy. Two prior occupants each with nine month leases. Impeccable upkeep. Experienced and laid back landlord. Property amenities include daily afternoon naps, organic home cooked meals, evening yoga and classical music. Nine month lease only.

Available immediately.

I can’t say my property was quite that desirable, given that it was built in 1967, had laid vacant for ten years, had one prior tenant that was kicked out after only eight months, and a second that threatened to break the lease. Not to mention that the location was noisy and the landlord overworked and stressed. But rent it out, I did!

Well, I can’t really say I rented, after all who would be interested with all the other more desirable options available. Rather, I loaned it, I loaned my uterus to my girlfriend who had lost hers. Sure she had other options, younger, healthier ones, but choosing me and my uterus had its benefits. First, we were free. But more importantly, we had a sincere vested interest in the outcome of the pregnancy and she trusted our commitment.

We are now fortunate to be on the other side of a healthy pregnancy and uneventful labor and delivery. My girlfriend can hug her beautiful six month old daughter and we can reflectively joke that,” She’s a cute little matzoh made with the finest ingredients artisan baked to perfection.” Even though we know an artisan-baked matzoh is an oxymoron, the metaphor works for us. We both get credit, the baker and the oven.

It is a very precarious thing this having a baby for someone else. You may be intellectually prepared, but boy you better be skilled in the fine art of compartmentalization. I was lucky. I knew that I would always have the privilege of sharing in this baby’s life. Did that make me a more valuable surrogate? Did I make better choices? As I lay awake that first night gazing at the beautiful baby girl who didn’t belong to me, yet whom I safely transported into this world, I couldn’t imagine having to say goodbye. Would it have been easier if I knew goodbye was inevitable from the start? Would I have prepared for separation by not becoming emotionally attached? Is that even possible?

It is with this first hand experience and very personal perspective that I read the recent article from the BBC World Service, “Womb for Rent: A Tale Of Two Mothers.”  The article begins to explore the complex dynamic that develops between two woman sharing in the incredible process of pregnancy and childbirth. (I have to pause and chuckle for a moment when I think about the outrage this topic would have generated in my Women’s Studies class in college, but that’s a whole other discussion.) Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Sonal ( the surrogate) was upset and confused. “I’m sad because I feel the efforts I have gone to for the past nine months have been a waste,” she said.

“Carolina( the biological mother) says that I cannot help her look after the baby, she will keep a nanny instead. I am really hurt.”

When Carolina asked Sonal to send over breast milk for the baby, Sonal refused.

“I said if you can arrange someone to look after the child then you can arrange someone to feed the child as well. I asked her why should I send the milk from here. Why can’t I live with my baby?”

For Carolina, the decision was wholly justified.

“Maybe in her culture that was the normal thing to do, to come and feed the baby and help me and be the nanny,” she says. “But in my culture it would be different, I just felt that would be too close to home.

“I will always be eternally grateful to Sonal for what she has done, but I felt there has to be a cut off point.”

Women having other women’s children. It is a beautiful thing. Situations like mine aside, care needs to be taken not to exploit. Assuring adequate financial compensation goes a long way toward preventing that. However, attention needs to be given to the emotional vulnerability of both women. Boundaries need to be set and expectations need to be understood in advance. The birth mother needs to be validated as much as the biological mother needs to be reassured. All must remember that both the baker and the oven produce the perfect bun.

Andrea Chisholm is a physician and writer extraordinaire. This is her first published piece.  Andrea’s essay adds another layer to our ongoing conversation about family structure and definition. And just how do we create family? We at Femamom are privileged to be part of her debut.

(Image: tuscanss)

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Posted in: Baby, Pregnant, Women