This week I am privileged to share a guest post from family lawyer and friend, Hayley Atkinson, on Surrogacy. It is a topic gaining so much attention here in Australia and perhaps as a result the positive side of this miracle gift is being overlooked.
The last few weeks there has been so much controversy surrounding surrogacy and I have been paying particular attention to what is being said. A lot of these comments are negative and it makes me wonder why? This week I was fortunate to hear one woman’s story of how she came to offer herself as a surrogate mother for another couple. Seeing the genuine desire in this woman to help another couple have their own family left a very positive feeling with me. As a Family Lawyer working in an area of law that is so often about families falling apart it was nice, for a change, to see two separate families actually coming together.
It really got me thinking. For most of us, it is hard to imagine life without our parents. They play such an important and hands on role in shaping us into who we are today. I know that I could not have accomplished many of my goals without my parents’ love and support.
Put simply, the role of a parent cannot be replaced. By growing up with these incredible super humans in our lives, who have often sacrificed so much for us, we come to learn our values, our morals and our beliefs. We learn right from wrong. We learn what it feels like to be loved unconditionally. We develop into our own individual person and then some stage down the track, we learn that we too would like to experience all that parenthood entails and become a parent some day.
For many of us, the dream of being a parent is considered to be ‘a given’. We fall in love, decide to have children and so that’s that! The mentality is engrained in us – we want a child, so we will have a child and we will be a parent. Right?
But perhaps, what we did not learn from our parents is that sometimes life has other plans and becoming a parent is not just a given. Whether it is for medical reasons or because you are in a same sex relationship or sometimes no relationship at all, there are a number of people who cannot become a parent despite their wishes or best attempts.
To these people, who desperately want to be parents, the answer has often been to turn to adoption (both domestically and internationally). However, the process associated with adoption can make it incredibly hard for “wannabe” parents (for want of better word) and, at the end of the day, the child does not share your biological makeup.
Cue, surrogacy arrangements. We are very fortunate to live in a world where we have the medical ability to even entertain this sort of arrangement, let alone actually implement it. I am not saying it is for all of us, because obviously it is not. But if it is done correctly and in an altruistic manner, it has the potential to literally create little miracles for families.
Sure, from a legal perspective it is an incredibly risky process. As lawyers, we are trained to see the worst in every possible scenario and do everything in our power to minimise the risks for our clients. I can see why some lawyers get their knickers in a knot – there’s no legal enforceability to hand that child over to the ‘wannabe’ parents, to make those parents actually take the child at the end of the day. There are potential risks with any pregnancy and obviously all the emotions and hormones that flow with that. No one can predict how this is going to play out. No amount of counselling or legal advice can prepare any party to a surrogacy arrangement for exactly what they will experience because it is all so personal.
But, for me (and yes I am a lawyer), the fact that it is so personal is what makes it so amazing and inspiring. This is an act of generosity and kindness in its purest form. It is not self serving. There is no monetary reward for this lady and her husband. If anything, the “reward” is the satisfaction and general “feel good” vibe of giving such an incredible gift to another worthy couple.
Let’s assume this all goes according to plan and there will be a little miracle baby, adored by his or her parents. Maybe they will pass on and instil the same sorts of values of generosity and kindness? And on that note, maybe this is something we could all take a little inspiration from and actively use in our everyday lives.
Author, Hayley Atkinson
Collaborative Family Lawyer & ‘wannabe’ parent (one day far in the future…)