Today one of our gorgeous Nesters discusses the complex topic of surrogacy, secondary infertility and the damage that can be done when asking women questions about their family plans.. A few months ago, some friends and I had a conversation about having children, and situations in which women have babies by themselves. We discussed circumstances where the right man has not arrived on the scene, but that primal urge to raise a child had become an uncontrollable force. When you couple that with the booming beat of the biological clock and the heady cocktail of hormones reminding you monthly that it’s your ‘birth right’ and you can see the writing on the wall. Having been blessed with a wonderful husband and children myself, my naive curiosity about how women go about this has become quite an interest area for me. When I started looking into it deeper I became aware of entire sperm donor communities that are much like dating sites! Basically, they allow you to connect with willing parties for donation, from a variety of situations (including childless couples), in a safe transparent way. During this conversation with my friends the discussion moved to surrogacy and in what circumstances we might consider ourselves able to do that. For me, I just can’t imagine giving up that little bundle – no matter how much I’ve watched friends suffer. Not long after this conversation Lauren Sams ‘She’s having her baby’ flashed up in my iBook store – the purchase was made instantly. It’s written with a strong voice and a quirky sense of humour, but with utter respect for the struggles faced. Without ruining the narrative, a woman (Georgie) agrees to be a surrogate for her childhood friend and her husband who have tried for many years to have a child without success and experience a number of miscarriages along the way. The reason Georgie agrees to be a surrogate is that she is strong in her affirmations of not wanting her own children. So ensues a story that I thoroughly enjoyed for its truth and emotion. The problem I have since reading this book is that now I have been left with a restless mind and far more questions. For instance, the main character Georgie raises the idea about why it is that women ‘of a certain age’ (ie in their 30s) are constantly questioned about their marital status (or lack of), and their position on having children. And further to that – why their statement of “I never want to have children” is constantly met with laughter and the placating “you’ll change your mind once you meet the right person”. I’d have to call myself guilty on all counts, my only defence being I’m caught up in my own happy bubble and just want everyone in it. But in all honesty, why do I consider women living differently to me are naturally unhappy? The flip side of that coin is, as a married woman with children, I’m constantly asked about when I am having my next child. People don’t realise that this simple statement can bring a whole new world of pain. As a part of the narrative in Sams’ novel, she touches on the idea of secondary infertility – that is, a woman has been successfully able to bear her own children, but for unexplainable reasons is unable to sustain subsequent pregnancies. While I feel grateful this wasn’t our situation, we do have very close friends that have endured losses in this way. The amazing thing about it is that the primal urge to have children has not diminished in any way for them and they continue to be the strongest most inspiring people we are lucky to have in our lives. But I wonder too, how many of us have innocently questioned women in these situations (without knowing it) about the status of their next child? Is that something YOU are guilty of as well?
In my opinion the questions or feelings that go along with surrogacy, secondary infertility and child rearing in general are complex and overwhelming. I don’t think the answers are simple, nor that they are necessarily possible. So, in the end I can only offer the following advice. Be kind to your fellow woman – just stop putting the pressure on ourselves and each other. A child, no matter how they are in your life, is precious. They are all little miracles! ABOUT THE WRITER: