Well, before I make the pumpkin custard pie I'm making this afternoon (company tonight), I couldn't help but check out the letters in the Sunday New York Times Magazine regarding the cover story, Her Body, My Baby, (Nov. 30, 2008) that we wrote about recently. We apparently were not the only ones offended by Alex Kuczynski's rich-girl-rents-a-womb tale with photos of the perfectly groomed and elegant (up do, cocktail dress) uterus-renter next to a casually dressed (khakis and a sweater) body-for-hire. I didn't even notice that in the picture of the very pregnant surrogate, sitting on her porch that needed painting, she was barefoot! It seems the photographer, dear reader, was as offended by the whole detailed saga of how-it-feels-to-be-rich-and-rent-a-womb as we were.
I urge you to read the letters (link here) but here's a savory taste: "If prostitution is unethical, immoral, and illegal, why is it O.K. for one woman to pay for the use of another woman's body? If it's unethical, immoral and illegal to buy and sell body parts for transplantation, why is it O.K. to rent a uterus? Our morality seems so malleable in the hinds of those who feel entitled."--Lisa Wilson, Yarmouth, Me.
Lynda Swanson of Daly City, California, however...calls the baby the surrogate's: "...another woman, living in less far less well off circumstances, can go through the physical ordeal and emotional pain of having and giving up her baby. Yes, it's her baby, not Alex Kuczynski's." Try to tell that to the courts. However, in some countries, the sperm-and-egg donor parents (who use somebody else's womb) do have to adopt the baby in question. Tricky business, this baby-making industry.
Janet Benton of Wyncote, Pennsylvania understands that having a baby in your body is a transforming experience: "As infertility and intervention increasingly muddy the meaning of the word 'mother,' we must traverse that terrain and not take shortcuts. A woman's body and the growing being inside her participate in an astounding symphony for about 40 weeks to build from egg and sperm a human that can survive outside the woman's body. The woman's feelings, thoughts, meals and actions influence that symphony, helping create what the growing being experiences at every moment. Yet Kuczynski literally reduces the Cathy's [the surrogate] whole self to her uterus. This is a disturbing denigration of a beautiful, astoundingly complex phenomenon that builds life and that bonds most living beings and their offspring for life."
Isabelle Rostain of Philadelphia is disturbed that the surrogate mother's daughter (baby making a family business, apparently) had been an egg donor to help pay for her college education. I just about threw up when I read that in the story--this is in America, supposedly the richest nation on earth (no longer) and the girl is selling body parts to get an education? Isabelle herself is a recent Ivy Grad--the kind most courted by those looking to buy eggs--but she and her friends were horrified that "many young women in this country have apparently had no choice but to turn to the invasive and emotionally complicated procedure of harvesting their eggs to pay for the exorbitant costs of higher education."
Judith Newman of New York City is sympathetic towards Ms. Kuczynski (and is critical of those who would criticize, aka US) but lambastes the editors for using the photos selected, finding them "shocking" and "inexcusable." This from a woman without the big bucks of Ms.Kuczynski but also struggling with infertility. Oh, I thought,what is your age, Ms. Newman? No, the Times did not use our letter--see our previous post on this--or make any mention of the infertility statistics that I found so wanting and incomplete. Infertility is not a disease past 30; it is normal for a great many women.
Then of course there were a few letters from adoptive parents who empathized with the writer who was able to ski down a mountain and go to yoga twice a day while her servant was gestating the child. (Yes, someone who rents out her womb is a servant.) Tracy Glaser of Cortlandt Manor, New York, was reminded of "the many benefits of being 'pregnantless.'" One of which was being able to fit into her jeans when her son was a month old. Yes, the lucky Ms. Glaser adopted a child. She writes: "As we all know what Kuczynski stated, that it's not the nine months of pregnancy that make you a mother but everything after that."
Well, yes, and no. If I'm not a mother--is there a word for a mother whose child has died?--then why did I feel the loss of of my daughter so severely? It was because she was my daughter. She was a troubled soul, her adoptive parents ended up not really liking her, she exhibited many of the difficult traits of adopted people who do not take to that status lightly, but Jane was my daughter and I loved her in a way that only a mother can.
It was a year yesterday that she committed suicide. I didn't mark the day in any way special, the year has been difficult enough without more reminders or a special ceremony. I did not email my granddaughter and remind her, I just asked her what she wanted for Christmas. I did light a candle for Jane last night, but I do that quite often. Yet everywhere reminders hit me like fresh wind.
This morning at Starbucks a song of the Beach Boys came on...we had gone to a concert of the Beach Boys together once. On our last wedding anniversary (our 27th), we went to a foodie's paradise on the North Fork of Long Island for a sumptuous lunch. Among the dessert cheeses was one from Uplands Farm in Wisconsin; ah yes, I thought...Uplands cheese. Jane had sent Tony and I a quarter of a wheel of their excellent cheddar for Christmas last year. It arrived before she died. I keep the note that come with it in my jewelry box. It reads: Merry Christmas, Love, Your daughter.
Yes, I did not know her for fifteen years. Yes, she was someone else's daughter too. But she was once in my body, she was a part of me, she was my daughter. And I was her mother. --lorraine