September 3rd, 2012


The child vessel

I recently learned about the deeply moving story of the mother of a 2-grade pupil at the school where I am deputy principal, who had recently become a surrogate mother. Maybe because I have an adopted child myself, a 5 year old boy from Haiti, it struck a chord. This woman is a poor white Afrikaner from the suburbs of the big city, someone who has lived alone for years and who is barely able to make ends meet in this new South Africa where people like her no longer have the privileges they used to have under apartheid. She is looking after her little daughter but is having very hard times.

So, when a German family decided to use the opportunity that the local legislation provides for surrogacy, she was there in the list. And she agreed to give birth to their child, actually two children - twins. They provided the genetic material, it was implanted in her, and earlier this year she gave birth to the babies. The South African legislation allows surrogacy, but there were some serious complications from the German side, because in Germany, surrogacy is considered "immoral and unethical", and the German family almost saw the whole process failing, but for the intervention of a skillful lawyer who was eventually able to find a stipulation in the EU legislation, allowing the father to claim parentage. The story has a happy ending for the twins and the family. The surrogate mother? It's more complicated.

Anyway... long story short, they managed to get the twins, and this poor woman remained here, probably a few thousand dollars more secure than before the whole affair. But what must have remained as well is an emptiness in her, after the children she had given birth to, were voluntarily taken away from her. And I can imagine their new/genetic parents must be having some difficulties back in Germany, coping with the social stigma that comes along with having surrogate children there. Because it is "immoral and unethical"...

I have been to that clinic that provides the surrogacy service a couple of times before. The people I have seen sitting in the waiting room are from all around the world. And they don't come to South Africa for the safari. They want to have children. People from Europe, Australia, Canada... the one thing that could be seen in their eyes, is hope. Hope for an ending of their desperation, as many of them are unable to have children for one reason or another. And, hope and desperation must have been what has moved all those women who have agreed to "lend" their bodies to carry the children for these people.

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