ny times

Telling Him How He Came to Be

I’m not shy when it comes to talking about surrogacy and our experience, the ins and outs, etc. as two of my coworkers could attest after a recent trip.  It’s not like I have “We used a surrogate” tattooed across my forehead or anything, but I don’t see any reason not to talk about it if asked or it comes up.  It’s a part of my family’s history.

We’ve been asked a few times if we will tell Daniel and what we will tell him about how he came to be.  Earlier this week, Amy Blumenfeld wrote about this very thing in the New York Times’ Motherlode blog: Whose Belly Did I Come From.

I really liked her analogy of baking and faulty ovens.  I haven’t given much thought to what we will tell Daniel when he’s old enough, but we will tell him.  He doesn’t know yet, and at 2, I don’t think he’s ready to know.  We don’t show him pictures of F and tell him who she is and that he didn’t grow in my tummy.  But at what age should we tell him?  I don’t want it to be some After School Special or Very Special Episode experience.  I want our explanation of it to be natural and not a big deal.

But maybe we should be talking about it now so that it is something he has always known before he even realizes what it means. How old is too old to prevent shock and possibly fear on his part? 5?

While I would never keep this information from him, I don’t have the option of not telling him.  There are no pictures of me pregnant.  I didn’t fake pregnancy.  Too many people know we used surrogacy for it not to be a risk that he would hear it from someone else.

For those of you who used fertility drugs, IUI or IVF to have children, will you tell your children how they came to be?  We talk a lot in the IF community about speaking up; does that include our children?

Meet the “Twiblings”

I don’t know how many of you are readers of the New York Times Magazine, but there was a really nice article on gestational surrogacy in the most recent edition: “Meet the Twiblings“. The article chronicles writer Melanie Thernstrom’s journey to her son and daughter–not quite twins but yet more than simply siblings since they were born 5 days apart–via egg donor and two gestational surrogates.

All of us with any experience with surrogacy always hold our breaths when we hear about surrogacy in the media because it is usually handled poorly. This article is really good, and it is probably one of the best ones I have read about a couple’s experience with gestational surrogacy and all the emotions, decisions and overall roller coaster ride. And I’m a little surprised that it is the New York Times that provided the story since their last piece on surrogacy, “Her Body, My Baby,” was very controversial and reinforced a lot of stereotypes.

I was less thrilled with the comments on Thernstrom’s piece. Commenter after commenter declared the lengths they went to have a family disturbing, usually taking them to task for not adopting one of the millions of babies all over the world who need loving homes and contributing to overpopulation. Yes, that’s right: we infertiles were created expressly to solve that problem! What a neat solution! Never mind that we might have a desire to have our own biological children just as those who are fertile have and do. But I digress. I supposed that I expected the comments to be a tad more enlightened since they were reading an article in the New York Times. But then again, maybe I shouldn’t have expected it.

I thought Thernstrom’s piece did a wonderful job of explaining their motivations and how they came to surrogacy, making surrogacy and egg donation seem not as unusual as they might. Unlike the previous article on surrogacy, it was clear that Thernstrom and her husband truly valued and appreciated their gestational carriers and egg donors, preventing any accusations of exploitation that the other article generated. Thernstrom’s article was carefully crafted and thoughtful. How could it have engendered the mostly negative criticism it received?

It made me wonder about the reception we received when we told everyone we were pursuing surrogacy. No one reacted with horror or disgust. No one preached at us about it being an abomination. We did get asked questions, some more clumsily posed than others, but we answered them. I certainly didn’t and don’t expect anyone who hasn’t gone through infertility and surrogacy to be knowledgeable. The typical reaction was elation.

But now I wonder. Did anyone think like the commenters on Thernstrom’s article? Did they go home and wonder why we didn’t accept that clearly we weren’t meant to reproduce and just adopt or live childless? Do they look at Daniel and study him for any sign of deformity or mark? Do they pity him for such an unusual origin? Do they wonder if F will come back to get him?

In reality, whether anyone in my life thinks those types of thoughts doesn’t matter. Daniel is here, and we would do it all over again and hope to do so. I think it just bothers me that any reader of Thernstrom’s article can be confronted with a parents’ desire to have a child and the extraordinary lengths they are willing to go through to have one and call that ugly.

I call it beautiful.