For women who are unable to carry a child gestational carriers are a blessing. As you know, when a couple uses a gestational carrier the embryo is theirs; the womb belongs to someone else.
A gestational carrier is not like an egg donor or what used to be called a surrogate. She does not contribute any DNA to the child.
It is not a new practice. It has been used successfully for many years now.
It is new, to me at least, when a woman who is capable of carrying a child chooses not to do so because pregnancy would interfere with her career.
Yesterday, a woman wrote to Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, to ask how she should behave at a baby shower for a woman whose child was being carried by what, in this case, is being called a surrogate carrier.
My sister-in-law is dedicated to her career and she is using a surrogate to have a baby. They are doing this because they want a biological child but my sister-in-law does not want to take time off work to have a normal childbirth. Last week I was invited to a baby shower via Evite where you can see the other guests. The surrogate will be attending this shower with my sister-in-law and assorted guests. I guess I am old fashioned, because this all seems very awkward to me. I completely respect and understand using a surrogate if there are fertility problems, but that is not the case here. I'm also not sure what to say or how to act to either the surrogate or my sister-in-law at the shower. I plan to attend this shower because my sister-in-law has always been supportive of me and my children, but I am not sure what to say or how to act in this unorthodox situation.
Yoffe responds sensibly that the woman should act graciously, as she would at any other baby shower.
Then she adds:
I will say that if not wanting to take time away from the office is truly the sole reason your sister-in-law hired someone to bear her child, I have doubts about her interest in actual motherhood. However that's not the issue here. The issue is behaving politely at a shower. Surely you don't need advice on doing that.
Yoffe is especially right to raise the more important issue here: not just that this woman is unlikely to allow motherhood to interfere with her ambition, but that other women will surely find her decision to be vaguely disquieting.
Yoffe also raises the possibility that the woman might have another reason for using a gestational carrier. For all we know she might be phobic about childbirth or might be afraid of what pregnancy will do to her girlish figure.
Since we all accept the use of gestational carriers when there is no other way to bear a child, we are apparently also supposed to nod our acceptance when a woman states openly that she wishes to have a child like a man does. Beyond contributing some genetic material, this woman is saying that she will deny herself the joy and the pain of gestation in order to do it as the guys do it. She has voluntarily unsexed herself.
In some ways this is simply the logical outcome of the feminist war against women.
When a woman who cannot carry to term chooses a gestational carrier she is showing a very strong motivation to be a mother. Yet, when a woman chooses a gestational carrier because she believes that pregnancy will interfere with her career, she is demonstrating the opposite attitude toward motherhood: it is an inconvenience she would rather avoid.
For her motherhood merely concerns transmitting genes; nothing more or less.
Also, her actions tell us that she belongs in the 1%. It takes a lot of disposable income to hire a gestational carrier. Hiring nannies and sitters to bring up your child, as she seems destined to do, is also a very expensive undertaking.
A woman who cannot have a child any other way would be understandably willing to incur the expense. She and her husband would see it as a worthwhile sacrifice.
Yet, when a woman who can have a child naturally calculates that the experience will put her at a competitive disadvantage on the job, then she has reduced childbearing to a pure calculation.
We do not yet know if it is a trend. We do not know whether we are seeing the emergence of a new class of unsexed careerist women who can rent other women’s wombs in order to spare themselves the inconvenience of pregnancy. For them, exactly what does it mean to be a woman?