' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Making babies, just to make ends meet

Monday, November 5, 2012

Making babies, just to make ends meet

By Sarah Williamson for the New York Times
Making Babies, Just to Make Ends Meet is a sickening commentary on the American way of the future of birth, as well as the title of an essay in the New York Times Sunday Review section. The writer, Susan Straight, writes about her neighbor, a woman of 39, who had been pumping breast milk for the baby she carried and delivered for a wealthy couple in their late 50s who, with four teenage sons, wanted a girl. "They bought the milk too," is what she says about the blonde and older couple for whom she worked for as a baby carrier. 

What is this if not the strange world of the future that Jane talked about in a recent blog after re-reading Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale? Women in lesser circumstances, women without resources--women in Romney's 47 percent--women in this brave new economy having babies for the wealthy? Because she needs the money to hang unto her life, the woman in the Times' piece has carried other people's babies twice before, always with another woman's eggs; it's not stated whose egg was used for this child, but certainly not those of the woman who is in her 50s.

Why didn't the wealthy wannabe mother find a volunteer job where she could satisfy her need to "mother"?  Why not be a "Big Sister" to a young girl who needs a little help and encouragement, and probably a new wardrobe to boot? Why not adopt an older girl who needs a home? But who wants another's rejects, I suppose the thinking went, when we can buy an egg, rent a womb, buy the pain and suffering and danger of labor?

Why not do anything other than order up a baby to go? To make sure that one child is delivered, three embryos were implanted into the woman's womb; all took but fortunately two of them shriveled up by themselves during the pregnancy.

I felt physically ill when I read the piece out loud to my husband this morning as we drove to Starbucks. Three embryos--three?  If nature had not intervened, would the woman have been asked to undergo another procedure to abort one or two of them? But it was perhaps the breast milk that got to me. The woman made a 45-mile trip to deliver fresh breast milk every day to the hospital, and then 45 miles back. I wondered if she charged for mileage. How is this different than the black mammies who "wet nursed" white women's babies during slavery?

We can be outraged and disgusted, but certainly the Romney folks are not, as three of those numerous grandchildren (now holding at 18) that Romney is so proud of were born via surrogacy. His oldest son, Tagg, and his wife, Jennifer, had three children (a girl and two boys) before they got someone else to do the dirty work of actually carrying the children to term and enduring labor. Before the last twins, Will and David, were born to a surrogate mother, she also supplied a son, Jon. So now they have six little spirit carriers doing God's work. While the Romney baby carrier has been called the "gestational surrogate," which usually means that the egg was not Jennifer's, it's not certain if the eggs of these last three babies that Tagg and Jennifer Romney have, er, created are biologically related to them. But if they are, why the need to devalue the dignity of another person--a woman in need--by renting her womb? Why not see it as "God's plan" to only have three children, since the Romney clan is so very much about God.

Because of little regulation in the U.S., commercial surrogacy is legal and couples like the Romneys don’t have to outsource their pregnancies to India, which has a booming industry in surrogacy. Our Canadian neighbors got it right when the Supreme Court of Canada wrote, “allowing the purchase of human gametes and surrogacy services devalues human life and degrades those who choose to participate in such a commercial transaction.”

We read the the Mormon faith is against surrogacy, but apparently the Romneys are slip sliden' around that, as they slip and slide around everything that seems uncomfortable. The Romney-Ryan duo (and their Senate candidates) are adamantly opposed to abortion--which gives a woman the right to control her body and reproductive life--but they are in support of devaluing another person's life in the pursuit of their one-percent happiness.

The illustration in the Times piece (above) is quite telling: The couple and their decked-out nursery with murals and toys and a rocking horse, and the couple themselves, are in vivid colors; the pregnant woman, looking down and sad, holding her distended belly, is in black and white. The difference between the two classes represented there is stark.

Eggs for Purchase. Wombs for rent. Outsourcing pregnancy. It is always the rich who use the bodies of the poor. Call me disgusted.--lorraine
Sources: Opinion: Making Babies, Just to Make Ends Meet

The Commercialization of Reproduction and and Donor Anonymity in Canada

Creating children, no matter how, in the quest to have a family
So What Do You Think of Surrogate Mothers?
Letters...Her Body, My Baby
Baby Farming Hits a Bump in the Road

Further Reading: Surrogate Motherhood and the Politics of Reproduction Susan Markens takes on one of the hottest issues on the fertility front--surrogate motherhood--in a book that illuminates the culture wars that have erupted over new reproductive technologies in the United States. In an innovative analysis of legislative responses to surrogacy in the bellwether states of New York and California, Markens explores how discourses about gender, family, race, genetics, rights, and choice have shaped policies aimed at this issue....a fascinating picture of how reproductive politics shape social policy. (Amazon)

The Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception Among the troubling aspects of new reproductive technologies is the takeover of reproduction by the marketplace. This probing study accepts the free market process while casting a discerning and skeptical eye at its pitfalls. Harvard business prof Spar explores many aspects of the high-tech commodification of procreation: the fabulous revenues commercial fertility clinics earn from couples' desperate desire for children and the ensuing conflicts between medical ethics and the profit motive; the premiums paid for sperm and eggs from genetically desirable donors; the possible exploitation of poor, nonwhite and Third World surrogate mothers paid to gestate the spawn of wealthy Westerners; the fine line between modern adoption practices and outright baby selling; and the new entrepreneurial paradigm of maternity, in which the official "mother" simply finances the assemblage of sperm, purchased egg and hired womb and lays contractual claim to the finished infant. --Publisher's Weekly


  1. I am not even surprised.... after all, one thing mormon women are supposed to do - supply sons and daughters. I know - I grew up in the church. I have more cousins than most people have community populations. My mother came from a family of 14 - I have 10 sibs - 8 living - my older sisters are gone.

    Can I be sick now, or do I have to wait until we slide into hell?

  2. I believe the situations described in this piece equal a modern-day indentured servitude. I have to wonder if these women had viable choices for alternative employment would they make the choice to carry a child for a stranger?

    For some reason I find people turning to 3rd world countries to rent a womb even more reprehensible than those looking for a domestic product and manufacturer. It’s ironic that westerners are turning to poor women from a country like India with appallingly high maternal mortality rates. Paid surrogates there are required to have had at least one of their own pregnancies prior to hiring out her body; you can guarantee that few of them had any real medical attention or care during their own pregnancies and deliveries. Once they pass screening criteria and are hired they are often required to leave their own families behind and live in a hostel setting with a “den mother” for the entire treatment and pregnancy to ensure they get proper health care. One has to wonder if they would be allowed to leave if they had an emergency at home...or if they are prisoners.

    Exploitation is alive and well.

  3. Since this is a business, surrogacy as self-employment, how does the income get reported for tax purposes? Does she get a 1099 from the baby-buying customers? Does this income accrue towards her future Social Security and Medicare benefits?

    How about sales taxes? Is it collected on the sale of breast milk, heck, even the sale of the baby...?

    We live in one bizarro world.

  4. This all(surrogacy, coercion in adoption)smacks of slavery to me. Our President must have slaves in his ancestry. How can we connect the dots to get him to do something about reproduction enslavement? Any ideas out there?

  5. She is being grossly underpaid if one calculates what she would earn under California minimum wage and overtime rules.

    Since she is effectively working 24 hours a day to produce a full-term/40-week baby, her total pay should amount to $87,040.

  6. When I read the title, I thought this was going to be about a different topic. Mainly women getting pregnant and making an adoption plan so that their expenses are paid during pregnancy. I don't mean fraud. They place these children. I mean poor women who don't have as many options for supporting themselves and don't make a living wage.

    I was hoping that you were going to talk about them. We need to make poverty not a reason for adoption.


  7. I am in Calif. my found son's daughter was telling me
    about her mom's friend that was doing this she was NOT
    poor she lives in Orange County. It's a business a way
    to make money. I never asked if it was her egg. I didn't want to get into that with my granddaughter. Made me sick
    I seriously doubt if was her egg.


  8. Yo Gale, make me gag too. Why? I guess because it is possible. And it is a big hunk of money all at once, but ye gads!



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