Sarah is a beautiful woman, with long blondish hair, natural slightly athletic complexion, and a slim figure. She is very stylish (which is not uncommon in Spain).
Although I’ve never met her husband, Sarah has been married for 6 years. She has no children. All of which is why it was surprising that she offered to deliver a child for us.
She had heard of our interest in having children. And she offered her services.
Her explanation for the offer was this: neither she nor her husband saw themselves as “parents”. They did not want children, or the change in lifestyle that would come with a family. But Sarah had a biological urge to undergo the process of pregnancy.
At the risk of sounding anti-feminist, I suppose many women (but not a lot of men) reach an age when they feel the need to procreate. After all, a large part of their bodies were specifically designed for this purpose, and those muscles eventually want to be flexed. Sarah’s machinery had been in place for 30-some years, gathering dust, sitting ready for its big moment that had never come — now she was feeling the need to throw the switch, crank the gears, and see what the machinery could do.
For Sarah, my predicament seemed a perfect opportunity. She had a chance to exercise her full god-given capabilities, but not be bogged down afterward with 18 years of diapers, skinned knees, and staying home on a Saturday nights.
So having heard of my desire to start a family, Sarah came to me one morning at work, after the first cup of coffee but before the first conference call, and made a suggestion. She would donate her body for 9 months (plus one of the many unused eggs) to Jose and me, for only the cost of medical expenses, with no strings attached. She would carry the baby, and after the delivery would hand it over to us to become the legal fathers.
Sarah had not thought through the details on HOW she would conceive. But knowing my situation and that she’s happily married, I assumed it would have something to do with a turkey baster and a bottle of expensive tequila.
As a man, I cannot relate to Sarah’s need to be pregnant (it really seems like nine months of torture to me, ending with an excruciating body-wrenching ordeal. They say that 20% of women undergo ‘vaginal tearing’… Yeaow!!). However, I understand her need on an intellectual level, so I took Sarah’s offer at face value and considered the possibility.
What Sarah proposed was a classic case of “Altruistic Surrogacy”.
I did not know what that was at the time, but Altruistic Surrogacy is the legal option in many countries that otherwise prohibit surrogacy contracts. In short, Altruistic Surrogacy is when the surrogate mother agrees to undergo the procedure without compensation. It’s the only legal recourse in the UK for example, and in Canada and most of Australia.
Altruistic Surrogacy is still illegal in Spain, however. But we didn’t know that either.
For me, Sarah’s offer opened the door on a new possibility. We began thinking of other possible friends & family members who could donate or volunteer. If we wanted the child to be a real mix of my and Jose’s genetics, why not ask my sister to donate an egg? I have a sister-in-law that seems to love getting pregnant – maybe we should ask her? Could we advertise? Were their online forums for such things? Eventually the answer to all these questions was ‘no’.
Sarah seems to have great genes. Like I said, she’s a beautiful woman. She’s healthy. She doesn’t smoke. She drinks and parties no more than I do (or more than I did). She’s smart and funny. She would be a great mother – which is why eventually we told her NO.
There were three reasons we eventually decided to refuse Sarah’s offer (and Altruistic Surrogacy option in general).
First: Sarah would be the mother of my child. Even if she gave the child to us after the delivery, it would inescapably be part hers. And I see Sarah every day. Can I reasonably expect that she will not want to have a heavy hand in the baby’s upbringing?
I saw years of her stopping by my office each morning, coffee in hand, asking for pictures of the baby’s latest milestone. Bringing gifts of baby shoes. Dropping off shampoo that she’d read was superior to what we had been using. Insisting to come to birthdays, communions, holiday dinners, etc. In short, Sarah and her husband would become a member of our family, and (despite that she was a fun and generous person) our family was going to be pretty full already.
I wanted a child that would be my partner’s and mine. In the worst-case scenario, this child would be Sarah’s and Jose’s. All this seemed unavoidable, assuming we stayed in Barcelona.
Second: In Spain the mother has no legal option for renouncing her parental rights. Such a thing is tantamount to abandonment here. As a matter of law, Sarah’s name would remain on the birth certificate. The child could never be added to Jose’s and my “Libro de Familia”. By default, her name would transfer to all official documents. She would be called to school functions, doctor visits, traffic court.
As long as Sarah is alive and nearby, she would legally be the mother. Case closed.
Am I selfish? Maybe. But I foresaw a family situation with my partner as father, Sarah as mother, and me as…. Step dad? Guardian? Papa Redux?
Third: Jose and I both liked and respected Sarah. But did we really, truly believe that she would give up the child after the delivery? After nine months of morning sickness, baby kicking, compressed a bladder, sleeping on your back, and serious weight gain – would she then give up the prize at the end of the course?
Sarah was insisting that she wouldn’t want the child, but who can be sure of how she will feel later? Hormones gushing. Biologically connected. Having spent months considering baby names and worrying late at night about the number of fingers and toes. I’m not sure I could give up a child after all that.
And again, Spanish law would provide no recourse for us. If Sarah decided to keep the child – done. It’s hers. No questions asked. She could probably even insist on child support from us, and the Spanish courts would agree.
Despite my affection for our friend, that was a risk I would never be willing to take.
But during the week while we considered the proposal, the surrogacy option had become more and more real. Our friends had gone this route with some success. And medically it apparently was safe and effective. Now the only question was where and how to start. Again, I went online….
To be continued….