The strange world of surrogacy

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Surrogacy may be undertaken for a wide variety of reasons, but it holds out a hope for women who couldn’t otherwise become mothers.

I was fascinated by the Cutting Edge documentary on surrogacy this week.

What struck me as most interesting was how different the surrogate mothers were. One waif-lile single mother was clearly lonely, and having a pregnancy, and therefore a relationship with the parents-to-be, gave her a focus in her life. She found parting with her new baby quite traumatic, but as soon as she’d done it, she was looking for a new couple wanting a child, so that it wouldn’t just be her on her own with her kids again. But another was a well-tatooed, happily married American mother, who’d had two of her own and seven for other people and was clearly happy to just have them, give them away and never see them again.

The most interesting woman was perhaps the one who was 44, clearly extremely single, and who had had seven children over the years, using her own eggs and donor sperm. She had a houseful of cats and said she’d never wanted kids of her own (though she stayed in touch with all the children), nor had she had a sexual relationship since she was 20. Her friend Kim Cotton (Britain’s first paid-for surrogate) advised that what she really needed was a relationship with a man rather than to have yet another baby, but having spent the past 18 years of her life either pregnant or trying to get pregnant, pregnancy was her life and she was afraid that she wouldn’t know what to do with herself without it.

It would seem that for some women, the physical process of pregnancy is curiously addictive – the feeling of another being growing inside you, the intensely intimate communication. The woman above also had hearing aids in both ears, so I would guess that her communications with the outside world might also be problematic – perhaps another reason for the continuous pregnancies.

Overall, it was a very heartening programme to see because, for whatever reasons it’s undertaken, surrogacy gives a lifeline to women who can’t become parents any other way (like my friend N, who had cervical cancer at 17 and whose sister instantly volunteered to have her children for her). The adoptive mothers had suffered terrible traumas – miscarriages, chemotherapy, hysterectomies and many other things that had destroyed their hopes of motherhood – it makes the £10,000 or £20,000 given to a surrogate seem a small price to pay for a stake in the future.  

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