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Monday, August 4, 2014

Sickening

I am sure that many of you (certainly if you are in Australia) have heard what has happened to 'Gammy'.  For those that don't - Gammy was born to a Thai surrogate, using Australian eggs and sperm to create the embryo.  Four months into the pregnancy it was discovered that the boy twin had down's syndrome.  The Australian couple asked the surrogate to abort the child but she refused on religious grounds.  The Australian couple took the healthy girl but left the little down's syndrome boy, Gammy, with the Thai surrogate who is looking after him.  It hit the news media last week what had happened because Gammy is sick with a lung infection and is in desperate need of heart surgery.  In response, the Thai government has basically locked down all surrogacy for internationals - leaving in limbo many couples that have a surrogate baby in progress.  A charity campaign was also set up and at latest count, they have raised AU$210K for Gammy.

There is not much about this story that doesn't make me sick.  For one, I don't know how any parent could leave their own baby - full stop.  However, to leave their own critically ill child to a woman who is very poor and cannot afford to medically or financially support the child is beyond belief.  We have some of the best medical care in Australia and yet your leave your biological child in an extremely poor country with a woman who has no responsibility to care for your child (there are some that suggest that the surrogate assumed responsibility when she refused the abortion but at the end of the day, isn't this still your biological child?).

I have a hard time understanding how it is okay to leave a down's syndrome baby and take the healthy twin with you - how do you justify this in your mind?  Also, how short sighted is this?  Didn't they realise that it would mean that they are lying to their child for their whole life, that they will be afraid constantly of the child finding out, that they have deprived their daughter of a sibling, that they have deprived themselves of another child?  Many people have commented that this situation is just the same as the 95% (not verified) of down's syndrome babies that are aborted in Australia but I find both situations an anathema to me.  We did have the blood tests for down's syndrome for both babies (at the request of our OB and not us) but we had already agreed that we wouldn't abort the baby - they were our babies, full stop.

There is an element of selfishness here that is abhorrent.  Basically, they have put their own needs ahead of their daughters.  Anyone who has seen siblings together know how precious the bond is, I can't comment on twins because I don't have them but I imagine this bond is much, much greater.  Will this child grow up feeling like something is missing?  Will she find out and how will she feel towards her parents?  These questions are haunting to me.  I am haunted about the questions that my boys may have for us one day too.

Unfortunately, some of the comments that these articles have been getting have been disturbing to me and made me assess our own situation again.  There were the usual 'this just goes to show that if you can't have kids, it is meant to be' - discounting the many, many, many biological kids that are abused by their parents but whatever.  I also know that I was meant to be a mother - since having JBB, I have felt at peace with who I am and what I mean to them.  Many people have been very harsh on the Australian couple for taking advantage of the Thai surrogate and it has made me think - did we take advantage of a poorer woman for our own gain?  I hope not.  She had told us originally that the first cycle would paid for her university education and the second cycle helped her with a deposit for a house.  I hope that this is true but I cannot put a price on what she gave us - it is priceless.  I still remember her walking towards me in the clinic, I had wondered previously whether I remembered what she looked like but when I saw her, she looked like JBB and she walked into my arms and we both cried.  I cried with gratitude for the enormous gift that she had given us - I thank her in my mind every day.  

In a post I wrote a couple of months before we went to Thailand for the first cycle - I wrote:


"I didn’t bring up the donor eggs in Thailand proposition with JourneyMan until after our fifth failed IVF cycle because I didn’t think that he would be willing to consider this option. He totally surprised me and was supportive right from the word go. I found a ex-pat Aussie woman who had had the procedure done and went back and forth with her about all of my questions. I have asked myself many times why I would rather go to Thailand and pay for the donor cycle rather than advertise in Australia. I am strangely comforted by the fact that it is a business transaction (but also disturbed that this comforts me). When thinking of my sister-in-law being the donor, my thoughts went to a situation where one of her children needed a kidney transplant and because my child would be a match, they would have to do it because ‘they owed’ my sister-in-law’s child. Very complicated. I know that there are complications this way as the child will have little opportunity to find anything out about their biological mother, morally – I feel it is in a strange zone but if the Thai woman is willing to donate her eggs, then I am willing to give her money for it. I once asked JourneyMan what he thought about the moral issues of us paying to use someone else’s egg and he said ‘the child is going to be completely loved – isn’t that the most important thing?’ – I say YES!"

A pretty simplistic view in hindsight and I guess that you could say that we took advantage of the Thai donor.  I hope that we haven't.  I hope that she is living a wonderful life because we helped provide that opportunity for her.  I hope that she thinks well of us and does not resent us.  I take some comfort in the fact that she came back for a second cycle - she knew what she was getting herself into that time and she still came back, surely you wouldn't if you had a terrible experience.

The Australian government has some culpability here.  Why is there not commercial surrogacy in Australia?  Why is there not commerical donor egg agreements in this country?  Then there could be proper regulatory requirements to protect the donor, the surrogate, the parents and most especially, the children.

The piece of hope that I have gained from this story is that people have been so generous.  The target for Gammy was originally $50K but they have exceeded that 4 times over.  Gammy is now in a private clinic in Bangkok hopefully getting the best medical care possible.  I would adopt Gammy in a heartbeat, as so many others have stated but I know that even though Gammy's mum is not hers biologically, she loves her son with all her heart.  I know this, because I am in exactly the same situation. I couldn't love my boys any more, end of the story - they are my life, my light, my reason for every day.

2 comments:

  1. http://www.news.com.au/national/baby-gammys-australian-father-reportedly-jailed-for-indecent-dealing-with-child-under-13/story-fncynjr2-1227013516342 It gets worse!

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  2. You are compassionate or you would not be contemplating all of this. You probably did not take advantage of the woman who is the biological mother of your children, certainly not if she willingly signed the medical consent forms and contract. But look carefully at the contract she signed or look carefully at the terms and conditions of any sample contracts on the internet and it is abundantly clear that what they are agreeing to give up is not eggs but their children when and if they are born. Page after page of the contracts goes into painstakingly specific detail about her intent to relinquish/abandon/terminate her parental rights and obligations to her children. Once her children were actually born her actual biological children became the living objects of a contract for their own custody and control. Yes she signed the contract well in advance of their birth but what she promised to do in terms of relinquishing her rights and obligations to them was something she could not do until they were born. It's easy for egg donors to keep their promise and comply with the terms of their agreements because they don't know who gave birth to their kids, when or where. But their her offspring same as any she'll raise herself. Not being in love with their father has no impact on the fact that a woman is equally related to her own offspring and they are equally related to her relatives their maternal relatives. Children she has and raises herself may be their maternal siblings rather than full siblings its true, but they are her full children, her parents full grand children, siblings full nephews and her nieces and nephews full cousins.

    You seemed to have empathy for the child in the story having been separated from their sibling left behind. I did reunite a famous donor offspring woman with her brother also donor offspring who has down syndrome. Yes you are quite right there is a good chance this will upset them and a good chance they will spend time seeking out their missing relatives. Have you thought about the children you are raising have likely been separated from their siblings as well? The distinct possibility exists that she will have and raise children herself or that she has other children out there being raised by others in similar situations to you. It's all the same really whether they existed when the kids your raising were born or not - they may exist in the future and its terrible to think that these kids won't have any way of knowing or any option of being raised together as the family they are. What's sad about this is that when bio parents are not a couple but share custody their kids with others do grow up knowing one another if they are responsible people taking care of all the kids they put on earth. This woman was not acting responsibly toward her offspring and they'll pay the price cut off from her and her family.

    You asked your spouse if he thought the transaction for the eggs being a business deal was ethical. He said the kids will be loved won't they? So ask yourself if it is OK to request, pay for, heck contract for the things the Thai woman agreed to do in the contract after they were born. I mean forget the egg for a minute since you would not have accepted that egg had she not agreed to do certain things after the birth of her offspring - like allow someone else but her to raise them. Is it OK for people to have that sort of agreement with a bio mother just because the kids will be loved?

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