While catching up with my mom yesterday, she mentioned reading an article recently that pointed to the selfishness involved in surrogacy. I refuse to link to the article because it says numerous alarming and incorrect things about trans individuals that I don’t want perpetuated. In any case, the author opines that intended parents have a mentality that they have a “right to have a child” that inherently violates a child’s right to be known/loved/raised/etc by the child’s biological parents. Because of the intended parents’ choice to prioritize their right to a child, their act is seen as selfish and as causing the commodification of children born this way. This is all based on the idea that kids being raised by their biological parents is seen as the ideal baseline. The article seemed to rattle my mom a bit as she had never felt their decision was inherently selfish or in some way violating my rights. She joked at one point, “What are we supposed to do? Kill you? Hit the undo button?” We both laughed. In a serious moment though, she very much pondered if the decision they made in some way resulted in my life being trickier to navigate as a result. I couldn’t deny that and I firmly believe it’s why I still feel called to engage with the surrogacy community whereas my parents don’t.
Having thought about how I was born extensively and having studied the surrogacy field as best as I can, this line of thinking set me off on a passionate ramble that I wanted to take time to properly consolidate. On the surface and looking at surrogacy at large, I understand this line of thinking. Who is to say they have a right to have a child? What I am frustrated by in this line of thinking is the idea that biological parents are the right children have. I’d argue the right children have is to be taken care of (love, respected, kept safe, etc) by at least one caregiver whether related to the child or not. I’d argue too that it’s less about the immediate parents a child finds themselves in and more about the wider community effort involved in caring for them that makes the real difference.
I heard a speaker recently from the Long Now Foundation talk about what it’s like navigating the world with such a long term perspective. In answering a question I asked him, he stated that one should always aim to keep as many options open as possible for the future. I loved this line of thinking when making decisions as we often do the opposite and try to narrow our options rather than keep them expanded. In the case of the future, we want people to have options to make choices rather than leaving future generations with only a few. In tying this into surrogacy and the rights of children, I think kids born in unique ways should, as much as possible, be given options. In this case, the options could take the form of open adoptions, non-anonymous donors, intended parents who are comfortable with kids getting to know their genetic parents, etc. By doing this, I would like to think that parents can help rebalance the relationship and give power to the child in the situation to pick their own path forward.
Ultimately, I believe my parents and my birthmom approached surrogacy in the best way they could with the information they had at the time (which wasn’t a lot). For lack of a better analogy, they picked the fair trade, small batch, non GMO, organic option over the fast food one. They worked with her for 4 years through a miscarriage, my brother being born, and more. In my very individual set of circumstances, I don’t necessarily feel my rights were violated due to simply the context of surrogacy. My options were very much kept open thanks to an open adoption and my parents making the decision to always inform me of how I was born. I recognize this “fair trade” analogy leans into the commodification line of logic thrown at surrogacy that, in many situations including my own, is very valid. Zooming out big picture as my mom and I did yesterday, there are numerous issues in the wider surrogacy field that ultimately makes the “fast food option” easier in an intensely concerning way. My hope is that in talking to prospective parents, writing about my experiences, and connecting with other surrogate kids, the conversation and choices can be shifted to more ethically sound ones.
While I cannot fully ever understand or empathize, I am moved by your dedication to exploring surrogacy from your unique perspective. I think when we read “The Giver” in school we are, in a way, conditioned to think of surrogacy as a career path; a way to make a living, not considering a connection between the birthmom and the baby. As an adopted child, and now as a woman who has used ART to make children with my wife, thinking about the rights of my children is both interesting and terrifying. I had a wonderful experience meeting my birthfamily; the anonymous donor for my children had checked off “does not want to be contacted,” and I know one day they will have questions. I am glad that there are folks out there, such as yourself, who can bring forward their experiences to share with others. Thank you.
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Thank you for sharing these kind words! It means so much to know someone is able to see my intent in sharing my perspective. I only hope this can serve as a resource for those coming up behind me who might have benefited from feeling less alone. If you ever want to chat about this more, don’t be shy about reaching out: https://surrogacy-stories.com/contact/
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