Did anyone else see this article about DE/gestational surrogacy in the New York Times Magazine today?
I thought it was for the most part well done, but what keeps coming out for me are the class issues. As the author says herself, not everyone has the options she has:
Even if everything went perfectly, it was hugely expensive. Of course, the cost of surrogacy is dwarfed by the cost of actually raising a child, to say nothing, for example, of a college education, but considering what baby-making usually costs — nothing — it took our breath away. We were able to afford it because of a financial deus ex machina. Just when the I.V.F. bills were mounting, the software company that Michael co-founded was acquired by a large company. But there was still something disquieting about choosing to spend so much — and having an option that many infertile people did not have.
And then, later, as the parents are starting to consider gestational surrogacy, they hear this, reminding them that they are not the same as the women who may carry their children:
“You won’t have anything in common with the carriers,” a director of a Los Angeles agency (which we decided not to work with) insisted dismissively. The gestational carriers at their agency were mainly white, working-class women, often evangelical Christians — “the kind of girls you went to high school with,” he said, managing to give “high school” an ominous intonation.
It’s similar to the class issues I’ve seen as I start looking into the adoption literature. Birth mothers (and, apparently, surrogates) are One Kind of People. Adoptive parents (and, apparently, parents who use surrogates) are Another Kind of People. To her credit, the author of the NYT article seems to see these issues and recounts several instances of choosing not to work with someone who displays what she considers to be offensive attitudes towards egg donors and/or surrogates. Throughout the process she works on erasing class boundaries.
But the fact remains that the NYT feature is yet another article on infertility featuring a wealthy, white, attractive, woman facing an attempt to become pregnant after 40. I’ve read this story before. Peggy Orenstein wrote a version of it, in fact. Tina Fey starred in a movie version of it. New York Magazine recently did a story that equated infertility with ambition, coming right out and saying that the pill is bad for women because it makes us forget about our biological clocks.
White, over 40, heterosexual, pursuing ART with seemingly unlimited financial resources. It’s becoming the dominant cultural narrative of infertility, and it erases the rest of us.
What do you think? Is it good to have one coherent cultural narrative around infertility? Does it help for there to be an easily identifiable face on it? Or does it hurt more than it helps, by erasing all of the diversity in the ALI community?
Or, as is more than likely, am I mountain-from-molehilling again and making it all up? (If I am, I would love love love some links to mainstream press or fiction about infertility that doesn’t fit the narrative. I’m sort of hoping I’m wrong about this.)