Hazel McHaffie

Surrogacy

It’s now sixteen years since my novel about surrogate pregnancy, Double Trouble, was published. Sixteen years!! But the issues are still swirling around.

Surrogacy is banned in most countries in Europe, but it’s perfectly legal and permissible in the UK, provided the surrogate gives the service free of charge. She may ask for expenses, but not money for carrying the child. Seems there are an astonishing number of Apps and agencies linking surrogates with intended parents, underlining the frequency with which these arrangements are made. Who knew?

So hats off to the BBC who’ve produced a three episode series, The Surrogates, following five surrogacy arrangements in this country. Infertile, homosexual and single people, desperate to be parents, take this route to fulfil their dearest dreams, some using their own genetic material, some employing donor gametes. Young fertile mothers put themselves forward to carry babies for them, and they are the ones in the driving seat when it comes to choosing the intending parents with whom to form a working team. Social events, as well as online links, enable both parties to introduce themselves to each other, and establish rapport and relationships.

We were given the merest glimpse into the complex array of questions about the process and potential issues, however. Things like,
How many times are you prepared to try with this person?
What would you do if the child has disabilities?
Do you, the surrogate, want to have a continuing relationship with the child?
How do you feel about giving up the baby to a relative stranger?
What would happen if you, the surrogate, change your mind about handing the baby over?
How does your (the surrogate’s) partner/spouse feel about everything?
How intimately is the intended father to be involved in the actual processes of fertilisation, pregnancy and birth?
And so much more.

Some dilemmas were evident, though not spelled out. Seeing a young man climb into a water-bath with a completely naked woman not his partner while she delivers a baby, in itself raises all sorts of questions. Watching the play of emotions on the face of a husband as his wife embraces another man at intimate moments of reproduction, brings so many doubts to the fore. Hearing of a partner walking away because he can’t cope with the fallout of what he once saw as an heroic gesture, is traumatic. Being ‘rejected’ for the key role can resurrect deep-seated problems with self esteem. Exactly what does this level of sharing of an intensely intimate and private series of acts, do to relationships and bonds and families?

It’s only retrospectively one can say if such a transaction has been a wise decision. But it’s something every person contemplating being involved in a surrogate pregnancy must delve into deeply and honestly, and this series is a very useful launching pad. Happily, of course, not all such processes must take place under the glare of spotlights and cameras. These were very courageous souls.

 

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