The Colorless Womb and Surrogacy
A question of ethics: Should race make a difference when deciding on using a Surrogate?
The stories of couples who decide to use a surrogate to start their families is filled with heartbreaking stories of tugs-of-war over children.
Natural parents sue for custody, adoptive parents sue to keep the children they have grown to love, divorced couples fight desperately for possession of the children, surrogate mothers have a change of heart and want to keep the child they carried for 9 months; and the public takes sides in these wrenching melodramas, but really there can be no winners, only survivors.
Kim Gowdy is one of those survivors. Married to a doctor and living in a affluent neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia, as a successful business woman in the pharmaceutical industry, Kim and her husband had tried for several years to start a family, but could not like so many who try. So, they decided on surrogacy.
The use of a surrogate typically is the artificial insemination, and a traditional surrogate is a woman who is artificially inseminated with the father's sperm. She then carries the baby and delivers it for the parents to raise. A traditional surrogate is typically the baby's biological mother. But a "gestational" surrogate, has no biological connection to the child, as in this case of Kim and her husband Dr. David Gowdy.
There were a number of reservations about using a surrogate, this definitely isn't something that anyone enters into without giving it a huge amount of consideration, the feeling of inadequacy and perceived failure and wondering what others would think about the decision, is what plagues you, but after the pain of being childless, not by choice, overtake you, all those concerns go out the window. In my case, my husband and I knew that due to my age (39 at the time) and my previous medical history that if we were going to consider having a child, we would more than likely have to seek In-Vitro, which we did. I'd previously suffered late stage (5 & 6 month) miscarriages so we knew that the chances of me carrying a child to term was almost impossible, but we'd prayed for a miracle.
The good news is that going through in-vitro allowed us to create frozen embryos. We did move forward with transferring a few of the frozen embryos on the off chance that a full term pregnancy would result, that we would receive that miracle, but each time resulted in disappointment, several years into this we decided we wanted to give up and sought adoption, as the main desire was to pour love into a child regardless of biology, this led us to an Attorney, who changed our lives.
Kim and David decided to use a surrogate and have the family they wanted. It never occurred to them that choosing a surrogate mother of a different race would cause such controversy in their lives.
The idea of surrogacy, once accepted by the general public, allows a couple to have the family they were being denied. But the ethical questions and extreme reactions that took place for Kim and David when they decided on a Caucasian surrogate became at times, scary, troublesome, and created doubt as to whether they should even proceed with the procedure.
But should race make any difference when deciding to use surrogacy as a way to have the family you want? After all, this was going to be a gestational surrogacy, where the surrogate truly is just the host carrying the baby.
Well, race certainly did make a difference for Kim and David! Family members questioned why they would use a "White" person, and what effects having a white surrogate would have on the baby. And, colleagues would ask a lot of the same questions, even to the point of becoming intrusive in a personal matter between a husband and wife.
"My husband's and my experience with bringing our beautiful son into this world through surrogacy showed us that racial divisions have gotten wider in this country. We are all more the same than we are different. That our embryo has the ability to grow just as easily, just as vibrant, and just as human as it would have if I carried it is what those who are against a surrogate of different race need to understand. We may look very different on the outside, but on the inside where it counts, we are all the same", says Kim.
When President Obama became President of the United States, many people believed that this was a signal for all of us Americans to come closer together in our quest for the American Dream as citizens of a great nation.
It seems the last 8 years has raised more questions about race relations in this country. Certainly, if we ask the question of whether race should play a factor in gestational surrogacy, and we can come to know better, we will do better. That is certainly what Kim and Dr. David Gowdy have done as they raise their son surrogacy allowed them to have.
"We are all more the same than we are different. That our embryo has the ability to grow just as easily, just as vibrant, and just as human as it would have if I carried it is what those who are against a surrogate of different race need to understand. We may look very different on the outside, but on the inside where it counts, we are all the same" ~ Kim Gowdy
Q&A with Kim Gowdy
RW) Kim you are a mom to a son where after years of trying to have a child, you and your husband decided to go with a surrogate. Of course there has been a lot of controversy and misunderstandings about surrogacy over the years. Was there any reservations on your part, or with your husband, about using this method, and what was the determining factor to go this route for you two?
KG) There were a number of reservations about using a surrogate, this definitely isn't something that anyone enters into without giving it a huge amount of consideration, the feeling of inadequacy and perceived failure and wondering what others would think about the decision, is what plagues you, but after the pain of being childless, not by choice, overtake you, all those concerns go out the window. In my case, my husband and I knew that due to my age (39 at the time) and my previous medical history that if we were going to consider having a child, we would more than likely have to seek In-Vitro, which we did. I'd previously suffered late stage (5 & 6 month) miscarriages so we knew that the chances of me carrying a child to term was almost impossible, but we'd prayed for a miracle. The good news is that going through in-vitro allowed us to create frozen embryos. We did move forward with transferring a few of the frozen embryos on the off chance that a full term pregnancy would result, that we would receive that miracle, but each time resulted in disappointment, several years into this we decided we wanted to give up and sought adoption, as the main desire was to pour love into a child regardless of biology, this led us to an Attorney, who changed our lives.
RW) What is the procedure on using a surrogate, is there a center to match you with a surrogate mother, or do you just find your own candidate?
KG) In our case, we met with an attorney to discuss adoption, she is a full service attorney who handles adoption as well as surrogacy. She asked if we'd considered surrogacy, primarily because, we disclosed that we'd still had frozen embryos. She outlined that "gestational surrogacy" meant that the surrogate would use our embryos, therefore, would have no biological connection to our child. This had never crossed our minds, but the possibility that we could have a biological child after all that we'd endured seemed promising. We decided to delay adoption and look into this process. Since the attorney didn't have anyone "available" at the time, I went online and discovered that there are a number of young women, who are willing to endure 10 months of pregnancy to bring joy to some one else. We actually move forward with a couple of women we connected with online, but the health of the surrogate is extremely important both physically and mentally. A psychological test must be passed, once passed a complete physical work up is done. The surrogate also has to have children of her own, mainly to confirm that she is capable of carrying a child to term. Neither of these situation panned out and again we found ourselves considering adoption. We ultimately received a call from our attorney about an "experienced" surrogate and wanted to set up a meeting, we jumped on the opportunity
RW) How did you decide on the surrogate mother you chose, and what, if any, were the apprehensions on her part about doing this for you?
KG) We met our surrogate through our attorney, she contacted us to alert us that she'd found someone who would be a perfect candidate and the good news was that she'd done this previously, so she knew the ins and outs and the dos and don'ts of surrogacy. As anyone can expect, the meeting was initially awkward, but not for reasons one would expect. Our initial apprehension was the fact that my husband and I are African American, the two previous surrogacy candidates were both African American so we just assumed the surrogate would be...well, African American. We remembered the attorney telling us she was an experienced surrogate, but what we didn't remember the attorney telling us was that the surrogate was white, although we hadn't found the previous candidates through our attorney, we just assumed the surrogate would be black since we were black. There's the getting to know you, getting to know me stage that you have to get through, but deeper than that was my ignorance of not realizing that race had no bearing on this woman ability to carry my child. Before long the conversation seemed to flow, our husbands both had the same names and the fact that we were all Christians, gave us some kind of assurance that we were all "good" people. At the end of the meeting, which had now turned into a trip to a local Mexican Restaurant, I told our surrogate "I would love to go through this journey with you, I hope that you will consider us". She told me she wanted to speak with her children, the next day she called me and told me she'd be honored to carry our child.
RW) Do you have a sort of family spirit between the two of you as mothers and as a family?
KG) We correspond often, we will always have a connection with her, its one that's unexplainable. She delivered to us one of the greatest gifts a person could ever receive, our beautiful son D. The journey was incredible and life changing.
RW) Of course, your story, with all of the perceived complications of surrogacy, has the added issue of race where you and the surrogate, who is a Caucasian woman, and you an African American, that brought up some conflicts that deal with race, and is the main reason for this article.
What was your experience, and how has that impacted your lives, both your family and the surrogate's family?
KG) We really want people to understand exactly what is means to be a gestational surrogate. During the process, we were asked a million questions because of her race. "Will the child look like her", "will our child have her blood", will the baby be healthy, not just because of surrogacy, but also because of the embryos having been frozen. We have a beautiful healthy son, who looks just like us, I would do this all over again.
RW) You have a healthy 2 and 1/2 year old son now. What would you say to any women out there who have struggled with having a child and are considering using a surrogate to deliver their baby?
KG) There are a number of "mature" woman who are longing to become moms, but due to reproductive concerns, that may not be possible by traditional means, we wanted to educate people that there may be other avenues of becoming parents, the financial commitment of surrogacy does suggest that it is not for everyone, but at the same time its not just for celebrities. After all is said and done, this journey taught me that in the age of so much racial tension and unrest, we are more the same than was are different. The gift that my husband and I received was absolutely beautiful and it didn't come from anyone who looked like us.
The Colorless Womb ~ Prologue
"I'm barren," there I said it. For years, I could not, would not dare, openly admit to such a defect, brokenness, a sense of failure. I kept these feelings tucked away. After getting married, when asked about my desire to have children, I deflected, my go-to line, "I'm just not ready." Sure, I read about Sarah, Hannah, and Rachel, but to say that I was a part of such a sorority was unthinkable. A positive EPT followed by no heartbeat; that was often my narrative. It was easy to keep those losses a secret, with a little lipstick, Visine and a fake smile, you can hide anything. But now my nonchalant attitude towards starting a family becomes more difficult to suppress, I'm showing, in fact, I'm halfway down the field, I'm carrying the ball towards the end zone, the crowd is cheering me on, but, an unforeseen problem knocks me down, and I lose the ball. The loss was nothing like I'd ever imagined, the pain was deep, prayer was imperative, but I got back up, only to fumble the ball again. My secret was out; it's not that I didn't want, it's that I couldn't have……A BABY. It's now time to be cut from the team, in this case, my marriage. What else could I do at this point except, learn to be content with my current state? I could learn to accept that the one thing that I wanted more than anything was not within my reach. But didn't I read that God would give me the desires of my heart, well this was a desire? I desired to fill these empty arms.
I wasn't' ready to give up!!! At this stage in my life, I realized I was much stronger than I'd given myself credit. But what to do? And then out of nowhere, the answer was upon me. The answer was there, but it was up to me to be open to the unconventional. Did my desire for a child outweigh my pride? Surrogacy? In my mind, this was only for the rich and famous, of which I was neither. Sarah tried this with Hagar, and we know how that turned out. How badly did I desire a child? I guess bad enough to sign on the dotted line and trust my precious embryos to take hold within the womb of someone who wasn't me?
Yes, I started the journey. I needed to find a strong woman who could bare my infirmity. On our first attempt at surrogacy, I wasn't prepared to hear those familiar words, "I'm so sorry." The second attempt and the second surrogate we thought would be the ticket, but in the end, the pain was even more intense, as we had invested so much more time and energy. We moved on to who we believed would be our best and final surrogate. Strike Three!
We are all taught the five stages of grief. I had now moved into acceptance. Accepting that although I had stepped out on faith, I was coming to the realization that my desire for a child would not come to fruition, that my desire to fill the emptiness of my arms, was not to be, that somehow I'd missed the mark and that God had something else for me. Previously, I looked only to people who looked like me to fulfill my journey, although they would share no biology with my child, I believed that I could see myself vicariously through her. Thinking that our "sistah" bond would bring a sense of familiarity to our journey. At the end of the day, when I'd decided that my desire to be a mom would be a hope deferred, and when I'd all but given up on my quest to become a mom, something unexpected happened. A phone call that would change my life, an offer from someone who I would never have sought out, or looked to as the vessel to complete my journey, but she'd stepped up to the plate. I ultimately joined forces with a woman who would carry my child; where I was broken, she was not, where I delivered loss, she joyfully delivered the fruit of the womb
Blessings can come in unexpected forms; I believe It's God's way of showing us He's in charge. While the world is reeling in the great divide, a broken political system that further divides, and race relations at an all-time low, I knew it was time to share my story. You see, the last woman standing in my quest to become a mom, doesn't think like me, doesn't live like me and certainly doesn't look like me, her name is Heidi, a name that is about as white as the name Shaquitta is black. But with all of our differences, she would be the woman who would join hands with me on this beautiful surrogacy journey, I'm black, she's white, but we're women. WE GOT THIS
The purpose of this book is not only to speak to women who are battling infertility, but also anyone who needs reminding that our bodies are merely shells, who we are and what we are, run much more profound than skin color. After reading our journey, I want to you walk away with a smile, a newfound joy, and a deeper awareness that we are more alike than we are different.
What is Gestational Surrogacy?
Gestational surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman carries and delivers a baby for someone else. The woman who carries the baby is the gestational surrogate or gestational carrier. The parents-to-be are known as the "intended parents" and are involved in the pregnancy, are present at the birth, and become the child's parents after the baby is born.
In gestational surrogacy, the baby isn't genetically related to the gestational surrogate – the egg usually comes from the intended mother and the sperm comes from the intended father (though donor eggs, donor embryos, or donor sperm are sometimes used).
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a necessary part of this arrangement because eggs from one woman are used to create an embryo implanted in another. In IVF, fertilization occurs after eggs and sperm are combined in a laboratory. The resulting embryo or embryos are then transferred to the gestational surrogate's uterus.
What are the challenges of gestational surrogacy?
Whether you set up the arrangement through an agency or negotiate it privately, using a gestational surrogate is a legally complex and emotionally intense process. If you decide to go this route, be prepared to commit a lot of time, money, and patience to succeed.
Currently, a handful of states allow gestational surrogacy contracts, but they aren't always enforceable depending on what's legal. Some states require couples to be married, and some don't allow gestational surrogates to be compensated. Also, there may be requirements about sexual orientation.
Most states don't have specific laws covering gestational surrogacy, so it's important to work with a licensed attorney in your state who has expertise in third party reproduction. An attorney can advise you on your options and draft a legally binding contract.
"The [Church] is against surrogate mothers. Good thing they didn't have that rule when Jesus was born".— Comedian, Elayne Boosler
The Ethics and Legal Issues
Modern Family Surrogacy Center
- Modern Family Surrogacy Center, San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, California, International
At Modern Family Surrogacy, we know and understand today’s difficulties in starting a family. Let us guide you along your journey to parenthood, through surrogacy.
From a Surrogate's Perspective
- I'm a white woman but I've become a surrogate mother for an Asian couple | Daily Mail Online
On November 9 last year, 38-year-old Karen Streeter gave birth at University College Hospital in London to a healthy baby boy following a troublefree, three-hour labour. It was the sixth baby she's given birth to and his safe arrival was greeted with