Tash was kind enough to send me the link to an article about surrogacy in the New York Times. Titled "Her Body, My Baby***," the article was written by journalist Alex Kuczynski about her personal surrogacy journey as an intended mother. Most articles about surrogacy are written from an impersonal, objective perspective by reporters who are merely writing for a.) shock value or b.) a lopsided, skewed attempt to "educate" the masses. I always begin reading articles about surrogacy with my hackles slightly raised in the defensive. Though in my opinion the article started off on the wrong foot (barefoot, in fact – I slay myself), I ultimately liked it.
I don't particularly like Mrs. Kuczynski. Before I'd even read the first sentence, my impression of her was tainted. The two accompanying photos are so loaded with implied insults and stereotypes that I almost didn't want to read the article.
Photo One: On her ramshackle front porch, here sits gestational surrogate Cathy, almost full-term with Alex's baby boy. Does anyone else notice the "barefoot and pregnant" statement present, as if to say that's all she's good for?
Photo Two: In front of her Tara-esque home, here stands journalist Kuczynski (in stylish designer sandals) with her baby boy Max. Her front porch is pristine and the grounds well-manicured. And Lawdy, me! She has a baby nurse who looks like she was plucked fresh off the cotton fields!
Excuse me for a moment while I go put my shoes on and sweep off my porch.
Given the fact that Kuczynski is a writer for the Times, I'm sure she had to have some creative control over the photos used and she surely had control over whether or not to include Mammy Dearest in her photo. For the record, thought it's not my particular parenting style, I don't have a problem with baby nurses or nannies. However, if one of the purposes of the article was to cast surrogacy in a better light, these were not the photos to do the job. Though neither women fit the stereotyped (and incorrect) profiles of surrogates and intended parents, the staging of these pictures seem to underline the negative impressions that much of the general public has of surrogacy.
Some of Kuczynski's comments about her surrogate I think were intended to be humorous, but instead bordered on condescension: "And her computer-generated essay indicated, among other things, a
certain level of competence. This gleaned morsel of information made me
glad: she must live in a house with a computer and know how to use it." Admittedly, if all other things were equal, I'd choose Profile A over Profile B if A was typed and B was handwritten. With this comment and a few others, it just seems that Kuczynski had an initial notion that women who present themselves as surrogates weren't as competent or intelligent as she expected them to be. Despite this, it seemed that Alex and Cathy (and their families) had a friendly relationship.
No – I would not be friends with, nor do I think I'd carry for a woman like Kuczynski. However, I appreciate her honesty and openness with recounting her infertility struggles. 11 IVFs, 4 miscarriages, and a diagnosis of unexplained infertility made surrogacy an appealing option for becoming a mother. Though not all intended mothers process their emotions about the journey differently, I noticed some typical feelings and concerns. She worried that she was missing out on some important bonding and mother-development because she was not the one experiencing the pregnancy. She experienced some envy of Cathy's pregnancy. She wondered if she could truly call herself a full mother. She fielded negative comments from friends:
I least expected jealousy. This from women who looked at me with tight
smiles and said, “Well, thank God you didn’t have to give birth to that
huge child!” Or, glumly: “You’re so lucky. Pregnancy is overrated.” One
announced to a table of people at a dinner party: “My God, Alex. You’ve
really gotten away with some stuff in your life. But this takes the
cake!” It was as if I had performed some slimy trick and was still able
to have my ticket stamped “Mother.”
I felt for Kuczynski. Her candor was refreshing; it's not often that you hear intended mothers openly discuss their insecurities. She is believable; even in the smoothest of situations, surrogacy (and infertility in general, for that matter) can be fraught with difficult internal and external struggles. I was pleased to see that she did not gloss over those issues, and even more pleased to know that surrogacy ended well for her.
***If you choose to click through and read the article, you will likely have to complete a quick and free registration to NYT Online. Also, as of the time that I published this entry, there were 370 comments on the article. As with any articles written about surrogacy and/or infertility, vast majority of the comments are nasty and full of typical shit like, "Why don't you just adopt". I haven't dared to read them all (and refuse to), but my blood pressure hit DEFCON level orange by the 5th comment. Consider yourself warned. If you read the article, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. Let's discuss it in my comments.