Will Children Born via Surrogacy Grow up Confused?

Dawn Davenport


Although we think of surrogacy as a very modern form of family creation, it actually dates back to biblical How are kids of surrogacy doing?times. Remember Sarah and Abraham and Sarah’s maid Hagar?

Regardless of its history, surrogacy is the most controversial form of assisted reproduction. People question how this new-fangled way of creating a family will affect the parents attachment to their child, and they are especially concerned with how it will affect the children.

How the Kids Born to a Surrogate are Doing?

Dr. Susan Golombok, Professor and Director of the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge, and the leading researcher worldwide in alternative family forms, has published a new book, Modern Families, about families formed through various forms of assisted reproduction to different family structures. I’m thrilled to say that she will be our guest on next week’s Creating a Family radio show.

In Modern Families, Dr. Golombok reports that children of surrogacy are doing just fine according to the research. She acknowledges that the sample size of some of the studies was not large, and even the longitudinal studies had not followed these children in adulthood, but in brief summary, surrogacy kids compared favorably to children conceived naturally or those conceived via egg or sperm donation.

We will go into more depth on the May 13 Creating a Family Radio show about how families of all types of assisted reproduction, as well as same single moms, lesbian moms, gay dads, and same sex families.

Children of Surrogates Speak Out

Enough about research—let’s hear from the teens and young adults themselves. There is no way for us to know if these young people represent the whole of children conceived by surrogacy, but their experience mirrors the research and their voices are worth hearing.

Three young women, aged 26, 17, and 14, were asked a variety of questions about their feeling about surrogacy. I strongly encourage you to read the full article, but here is a short summary of their thoughts on being born through surrogacy.

  • Morgan Rennie, age 17, born via traditional surrogacy (father’s sperm, surrogates egg)

On being born through commercial surrogacy: “I never felt bought. I’ve never even thought about it. I know how much effort my parents put into getting me. I know how much love they have for me … It’s not like I’m an accessory or anything.”

  • Alice Clark, age 26, born via altruistic surrogacy (Mother’s egg, donated sperm, carried by maternal aunt)

On why telling the child the truth is key: “As long as you tell early, and tell often and have already constructed the narrative in a way that makes sense and makes everyone feel loved and included, then the kid is going to be fine.”

  • Philippa Rushford, age 14, born via altruistic surrogacy (Father’s sperm, mother’s egg, carried by maternal aunt)

On being a much longed-for baby: “I just feel really thankful that they kept on trying. They could have given up at any time. But they never did. I’m really grateful.”

Thoughts? Does this surprise you or support what you already thought?

Image credit: http://www.abc.net.au/

07/05/2015 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 6 Comments

6 Responses to Will Children Born via Surrogacy Grow up Confused?

  1. Avatar marilynn Huff says:

    People can thrive and do fantastically under adverse circumstances but ethically that does not justify the deliberate causation of adverse circumstances for other people.

    They are very focused on wanting to know how the person feels about what they have versus how they feel about what is lost. This is part of positive thinking of course to focus on the positive rather than the negative, especially when the negative is present despite everyone’s best efforts to achieve more positive circumstances like when someone’s parents are not well off financially but work very hard to provide the basic necessities. But here two of the young women experienced rejection by one of their bio parents and isolation from that absent parent’s other offspring and relatives and everyone involved wanted it that way. Focusing only on what they have is going to give insight on how they feel about what they have but not what they lost. Focusing on what they have is not going to tell the interviewer how they feel about the motivations of those who desired that they experience that loss. It’s a shallow study designed to avoid discussion about what they’ve lost and so there is nothing much to learn from it. It would be more interesting had they asked about their losses and received responses that implied they felt no sense of rejection or unfairness in the fact that they were not the responsibility of their bio parents the way everyone else is. Instead they avoided the topic of loss altogether as almost all the studies do.

    It’s interesting that one of the young women said she never felt bought or like she was an accessory. If a woman says she does not feel 65 the listener knows that in fact she is 65 but simply does not feel her age. If someone says they never think of their child as adopted they just think of them as their child, the listener knows that in fact the subject child is adopted but is loved the same as if they were the biological child of the person making the statement. So the girl saying she never felt bought or like an accessory is telling the audience she was bought to serve an accessory purpose but she was treated well so it never felt that way to her growing up. So the moral of the story there is to make a person as comfortable as possible so that the loss is more tolerable to them.

    The other young woman who said that when telling the truth it’s important to craft a narrative story that will make everyone feel good is saying that the truth is unpleasant on its own and has to have good political spin to be swallowed successfully – the truth on its own is not good so tell it in a way that sounds positive.

  2. Avatar Nicole Burton says:

    Good topic. I wish we wouldn’t truncate the term “surrogate mother” to “surrogate.” I suspect it’s a form of denial in the service of diminishing the importance of this mother in the person’s life, common practice in adoption and assisted fertility techniques. I wasn’t born to a surrogate mother. I expect that I would be fine as long as I always knew the age-appropriate version of the truth and that the tent of my family was broad and roomy. For example, I would want to meet and know my surrogate mother, perhaps have an ongoing relationship with her. After all, new research shows we would share DNA, whether another woman’s egg was used or hers. And I lived inside her body for almost a year! Hello, we’re related! Honest, and broad-and-roomy are the keys to success, in my humble opinion.(I am the author of Swimming Up the Sun: A Memoir of Adoption.)

  3. Avatar TAO says:

    Hi Dawn,

    Seeing as there seems to be a scarcity of voices of adults from surrogacy, others might appreciate reading it. The link is Part One of a two-part interview.


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