Sunday, December 13, 2009

in the kitchen

i heart chocol8
You’ve probably already seen the recent New York Times article about surrogacy.

Like most such articles, it doesn’t focus on the usual happy ending, where a surrogate and intended parents work together to bring a much-wanted child into the world. Instead, it’s mostly about the outliers, the rare cases where surrogacy goes spectacularly wrong, resulting, to take one sad example, in a legal battle over twins who are genetically unrelated to either the surrogate or the intended parents, in a state where surrogacy is prohibited by law. Unsurprisingly, the overall tone is pretty negative and the comments are mostly variations on the theme of "just adopt."

It’s hard for me to get especially upset about it, though, because what really stood out was this: according to the article, there are about 750 babies born each year in the United States through gestational surrogacy. Now, I’m not sure where they came up with that number since whether or not a given birth is a surrogacy isn’t something that’s generally evident from public records. But, assuming that the calculation is more or less accurate, that’s a really, really tiny fraction of the over 4 million babies born each year in the US.

Which, I think explains a lot. Given my perspective, I tend to forget that surrogacy, and even things like donor eggs or IVF, are so far outside most people’s experience, that they must seem entirely theoretical, unreal, like fiction or, I suppose, science fiction. And I suppose I have to admit that this isn’t someplace I ever thought I’d be. But I also have to admit that, when I consider the alternatives, I’m awfully glad I’m here.


Jackie said...

I wonder how the article would be, as well as the comments, if instead of fighting over one or two surrogates, they showed the stats on how many babies born are born immediatly into a custody battle between paretents or grandparents?

You are very right though, for most people, surrogacy is something that most people will only read about, and they never realize how lucky they are to be in that position.

Tash said...

I did see the article, and haven't had time to read it, but expected that it would focus on the incredible train-wrecks. No surprise the comments are atrocious, either. Par for the course in the NYT online these days on these matters.

Funny, I even view what's happening inside me lately as science fiction or fantasy. Wonder what that says about me. I imagine comments to myself might also be a bit nasty.

Tash said...

P.S. Chocolate waffles? We can haz recipe?

niobe said...

@Tash. Actually, they're supposedly chocolate waffle *cookies*

Recipe can be found here

Trish said...

I did not read the article, and probably won't because, really, why read something that I know will upset me and probably just make me want to write an angry letter.
I'm glad you're here too!

painted maypole said...

you're on my Christmas Gift shopping list on my blog today. ;)

Allie said...

*sigh*... if there was only such a thing as "just adopt."

You know that it's negativity that sells, so good luck on that. That's why blogland is so invaluable, because readers can read the GOOD as well as the bad, and usually in an unskewed way - just honest writing.

Virginia said...

I read that and thought of you immediately. I wish they had included some positive examples as well - and I'm fairly disturbed by the actions of the surrogate, though I know they were made with good intentions.

Bluebird said...

I suppose it's good to be reminded that what is part of our everyday "conversations" is rather bizare or, sometimes, completely undheard of to those around us.

Surrogacy is an incredible thing. Something of which, on my very most honest of days, I'm actually a little jealous. We were very interested in pursuing it, but were just at a loss as to how to find that special someone. . . so glad this path is proving to be so good for you.

leanne said...

And I'm glad you are on your way to a happy ending.

I read the beginning of the article, but haven't gotten back to it (we get the Sunday NY Times at home -- I rarely read it online). Like others, I thought of you while I was reading and wondered if you had seen it, but also grateful that your experiences have been so much better.

Also, I think I really need a waffle iron now. I could make waffles AND cookies with it.

Magpie said...

We had dinner with friends last night - and talked about that article. And I know you, and they know someone else going through surrogacy, and you're not the first person that I've known - and it's stunning if that 750 is a legit number.

Like the IVF/IUI articles that the Times ran earlier in the year, they really did manage to find some crazy outliers.

Sarah said...

i bet 750 would seem like a HUGE number to many regular folk out there. you may as well tell them there are 750 UFOs headed from Mars. wait... are we like the crazy people who believe they were abducted by aliens? is that why i get those crazy looks when i discuss IVF in public?

jenna said...

"And while I'm venting, howsabout we treat sex as a reverential act of love and outlaw porn and strip clubs and prosecute people who patronize prostitutes? I think people should only have sex because they are drawn to express deep love for their partner and if babies result, fantastic. And if everyone lived this way, all babies would be created in love and welcomed into the world and the ugly challenge of abortion would disappear."

you *did* warn us about the comments, but i didn't listen. this one really makes me want to pull my hair out. wouldn't it be nice if all the ugly challenges in the world just disappeared?

Sue said...

I'm glad I didn't see the article. I, too, forget how outside the "typical" experience all this is -- even just infertility. One of my professors this semester interrupted me as I was talking about infertility and treatment and said "I don't know what I V F means." P H D apparently, even in education and social justice, does not mean worldliness.

I am sure, though, he is not the only one around here who considers this a whole different world.

SO glad I didn't see the article, and was therefore not tempted to read the comments. Thanks for sharing this though. So glad it's been such a wonderful thing for you!

three minute palaver said...

From first hand experience I have watched my cousin go through surrogacy to create her much wanted family. Her arrangement included egg donation from one woman, another was the gestational surrogate and she is the mother. It worked out spectacularly well. Their daughter is a very happy, healthy much loved 3 year old. I don't personally know of any surrogacy train wreaks.

Articles like that are all about pushing an agenda and they are biased in nature.

Anonymous said...

I'm quite fond of you Niobe, in an online DBM way, but I'm opposed to surrogacy and some applications of ART for many rational reasons which I'm sure you are familiar with. I don't think it's fair to dismiss the opposition as slack jawed, mouth breathers who think IVF is a creation of P.K.Dick. The argument regarding exploitation isn't a new one. When he went about ordering the universe Linnaeus chose the word mammal because he thought wealthy 18th century women were exploiting working class girls by employing them as wet nurses. Thank g_d for formula. The problem is we don't have a formula equivalent for faulty uteri. *sigh*

I would be thrilled to read a substantive post by you addressing the issues involved. Regardless, you have my emotional support.


(1)Schiebinger, Linda. The American Historical Review, Vol. 98, No. 2 (Apr., 1993), pp. 382-411

niobe said...

@shamela: I certainly didn't mean to suggest that it's irrational to be opposed to surrogacy or ART. There are plenty of arguments on both sides and my feeling is that it's one of those things about which reasonable people can disagree.

On the other hand, I really do believe that many people (though certainly not all) are uncomfortable with the concept of surrogacy mostly because they've never really given it much thought and, if presented with a sympathetic enough story, would decide that, under some circumstances, it was a good choice for everyone involved.

Thanks for the emotional support -- especially given your views, it means a lot to me.

moplans said...

One day I mentioned Julia's NICU stay to a mom at the playground and she asked me 'what's NICU?.
that, according to my Ob is 'normal'
so yes, IVF, donor eggs and surrogacy are well beyond the experience of most people. I do agree with you though that knowing someone's story generally will sway people to understand why they might choose to go this route.

You made a martha stewart recipe and it turned out? Niobe you are amazing.

areyoukiddingme said...

750 out of 4 million births seems unusual enough to focus on the "average" surrogacy experience. Why go for the extreme outliers? I can't be bothered to read NYT articles anymore, due to their obvious attempts at stirring up emotions under the guise of educating the public.

k@lakly said...

Surrogacy always made perfect sense to me. I even thought about being one back when I was a babe myself @ 18 (and that was light years ago). It astounds me, that even now, literally decades later, it is still considered by so many as 'weird'. Even more astounding are the numbers, although, as you point out, since accurate record keeping/reporting, isn't a part of the process, one can hope that the number is much higher.
I hope the perception and reporting of the process change. It's about time.
And I am so, so happy that your experience has yielded such beautiful proof of what it is all about.

Aurelia said...

Yeah, the comments on every story about reproduction are always trainwrecks. I was talking to a reporter last week and she said her paper is thinking about just closing them period on any story involving it, mostly because no one seems to read the story, just go nuts on their little issue.

As for the story? I did think that they had some good points, that got lost. Like the fact that banning something doesn't prevent it, and that regulation and standard procedures might be a much better idea.

Like adoption, these regulations have been left to the states and so there is a patchwork of laws and huge variations and that really doesn't help anyone concerned.

I do find it odd that the IF community always assumes they are more closely scrutinized than fertiles when it comes to whether or not they are competent as parents. Whether they know it or not, pregnant women and their partners are watched like hawks by everyone from public health nurses to OBs and midwives and pediatricians and L&D nurses and everyone else. CAS is called in at the drop of a hat.

Regardless of how those people reproduced, they would have huge problems keeping their kids. In Ontario, a paranoid schizophrenic with a long criminal record would not have ever been allowed to even apply to adopt, period, and certainly not after lying. And if she gave birth, she'd be under mandatory court supervision for years. (I personally know someone who was in that exact situation. Even stable on meds CAS was on her constantly, and forced her to put the kid in daycare so she would never be alone with the baby.)

So yes, it sucks that they showed this story for surrogacy, and I wish they'd show good stories, but I can't help but wonder if some real regulations were in place---would the media have had a happy story instead? Maybe none of this would ever have happened.

Anonymous said...

me too... never thought I'd be here, but do find that I feel rather at home in this strange world of science fiction alternatives and options and kind of wish there were more options...

Eva said...

God, what is WRONG with the NY Times? How idiotically one-sided!

Surrogacy said...

Thanks for sharing this article.
It was very nice.

Anonymous said...

I'm a two time surrogate and I was also stunned by the "750". Really? Is that all? Half my friends (online friends that is) are surrogates so it feels strange to me that so few of us are out there. Surrogacy is my chance to give back, to say thank you to the universe for my five wonderful children, to pass on a measure of my joy to others. I wish I was younger and could be a surrogate forever, but sadly, time does not stand still. I wish there was a positive article on surrogacy out there. I have done three interviews myself and they never get the facts right (though one done in the Swedish press was the closest to being accurate).