I went out to dinner with a friend last night who is a wonderful mother of two gorgeous kids, and we got talking about all the ins and outs of surrogacy.
As we talked, I confided in her that I’m carrying some guilt over the reality that this child is going to go through some kind of bullying at school because they don’t have a mother. Of course we’ll put our child in a school with a high ratio of same-sex parents, and we’ll teach our child how to deal with these situations, but the reality is, it’s going to happen to some extent. So, I told my friend, knowing that this is going to happen but still going through with it makes me … and I hesitated, then answered with the only word that fit … selfish.
My friend thought about it for a while and said, with all the wisdom that only a mother of two can, that all parenting is innately a selfish act. The overwhelming reason anyone wants to have children is so that we can fulfill some desire for a mini version of ourselves to continue our legacy. It’s not because the child asked to be born or because we know the child will live a blessed life free of any suffering or sadness. Perhaps the sightly uncomfortable truth is that people have children for our own selfish desire, and perhaps that’s completely ok.
All this talk of parenting motives got me thinking. What about families in third world countries where couples have many more children then they can sustain? My dad often said that it would happen in Italy when he was young, and I know it happens today all over the world. Poor families need children to do the work so that the older parents have someone to take care of them when they’re younger. Sure, some of the kids may die along the way, but the alternative of not having anyone to take care of you when you’re old is just not an option.
I then thought about what kids get teased about at school now. When I was at school it was the Vietnamese and the Lebanese who were teased. Did the parents of those children think to themselves “I feel so guilty because I’m having children who may get teased at school because of their ethnic background?” Probably not and rightly so.
I once worked with a girl who confided in me one day that she and her husband had a certain makeup of chromosomes or something that meant there was a high probability that if they had children, it would suffer from some terrible disease (I can’t remember what it was, but it may have been spina bifida). Her torment was that she wanted a child, but wasn’t sure if she could accept the risk. In the end, they did risk it; she decided that they would have a child and would deal with the consequences no matter what. When we talked about it in the pursuing months, everyone agreed that it was ok for them to take that risk, but now I think about it, why was that acceptable? Why does society tell us that in that situation, it’s ok to take the risk? Because as humans, our desire to have children of our own is so overwhelmingly persuasive.
So where does that leave me? Well, I’ve accepted that our child will go through some difficulties going through life, but we will raise it with all the courage they need to stand tall in the knowledge that they belong to a family that is worthy and legitimate and as loving and accepting as anyone else’s. And I’ve been oddly reassured tonight in the knowledge that our motives are no more or less selfish than any other prospective parent.
It sounds kind of depressing but I don’t think it is; it’s just part of the human condition and thats ok. If it wasn’t part of who we are, then the human race would never have made it past the monkey phase and all of this pondering would be completely academic.
Wow, who would have thought surrogacy would bring out my hidden philosopher and over-analyser