The awesome women behind surrogacy

On Wednesday I attended the most astonishingly inspirational talk.

Caryn (*name has been changed) fell pregnant and had a baby at 27. 1 hour after her baby girl was born, the doctors told her she had a very rare condition - fatty liver disease of pregnancy. She was rushed to Groote Schuur Hospital where within the day she was told in order to try and survive she needed to be put to sleep (ventilated) to stabilize her in the face of multi-organ failure (she later learned that she was intubated and ventilated for 2 weeks). When she came out of hospital a month later, she didn't remember that past 7 months of her life. She had to learn to walk again. She blew up like the Oros man, and then she lost weight. As a life-saving measure, due to uncontrolled bleeding, the doctors did a hysterectomy. She lost her uterus, but not her ovaries.

As she began to bond with her little baby daughter she found herself overwhelmed by sadness that she could not have another child. She saw a doctor who explained her only chance was to find a surrogate.  In those days no-one knew how you find a surrogate. She advertised in the video shop. She tried to place an advert in the Argus. They refused. Die Burger agreed.

She ended up meeting a surrogate and Caryn's eggs and her husband’s sperm were placed in the surrogate and a baby was born.

The really interesting thing about surrogacy is most people think it’s a disaster of an idea because the surrogate won’t give up the child. But the truth is different. Israeli Anthropologist Elly Temen writes:                 

" The vast majority of surrogate mothers do not bond with  the babies that they relinquish to the infertile couples that hire them. In fact, in numbers now difficult to ignore, an estimated 25,000women [ in America] have given birth through surrogacy in its contemporary form as a legal, commercial process since the late 1970s. It is estimated that over 99% of these women willingly relinquished the child as they had contractually agreed to do. Less than one-tenth of 1% of surrogacy cases end up in court battles (Keen, 2007). Furthermore, the majority of surrogates have reported high satisfaction with the process and report no psychological problems as a result of relinquishment....Most surrogates report that relinquishment of the baby is a happy event and that they would do surrogacy again ....Longitudinal studies show that these attitudes remain stable over time....

These figures, however, are not common knowledge, since most people are not personally acquainted with surrogates or families created through surrogacy. Without other sources, the public turns to stereotypes that pervade television, film and popular journalism.2 The popular narrative of the surrogate who regrets her decision and tries to reclaim the child to fill this void has little foundation"  [Reference list available at ScienceDirect. Social Science & Medicine journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/socscimed].

Tertia Albertyn and Kim Lazarus then spoke about their company Nurture which assists infertiles, single and gay couples with egg and sperm donation and finding and managing surrogacy partnerships. http://www.nurture.co.za/.

Tertia went through assisted reproduction 9 times and Kim 17 times. I went through these with my husband. Cyclist Lance Armstrong watched his first wife go through it and sais he'd rather do the tour de France its so hard. ie Not for Sissies. But it can be done.

Fertility specialist Dr. Sascha Edelstein answered medical questions clarifying that women are born with a finite number of eggs that are constantly being depleted – but that the uterus can have a longer "life span". I suppose that he re-iterated what we all instinctively know, our biological clock is ticking…

Sometimes we don't like interventions like surrogacy or egg donation because they challenge our social constructions of what is "a mother" and "a family". We want babies to only come into the world one way because that is what we are used to. So many religious texts written so many years ago before we had these technologies are used (by people not skilled in interpretation) to justify not engaging in these medical miracles. And yet it is often the people who don't have a problem falling pregnant with their own child or have never struggled to have children who like to comment they would not engage in assisted reproduction. Lucky them – they didn't have to face that choice. Every woman going through the expensive invasive rollercoaster that is assisted reproduction would have chosen for things to work out in an easier way. But they didn't.

Tertia's website http://www.tertia.org/ and her book book, So Close, about her story to become pregnant through IVF should be mandatory reading for anyone who knows anyone going through infertility.

She knows I LOVE this quote:

“And lastly, the book is my final ‘fuck you’ to the shit I went through. Fuck you fate, I never accepted your initial plan for me.  You tried your best to beat me down, but you never did, you came close, but I stood up every time and carried on fighting.  It was so hard, there were so many times when I wanted to give up, there were so many people who said things like “maybe it is not meant to be’, ‘maybe God doesn’t want you to be a mother”. There were so many, many occasions of inordinate bad luck, of terrible misfortune. There were so many occasions where I came so close to rolling over and dying. But I didn’t. And this book is my release note, my parole letter, my graduation certificate. 
It was damn hard, it nearly killed me, but I made it. And I am so proud of myself for doing so".

Read more: http://www.tertia.org/so_close/2006/07/the_book.html#more#ixzz0zjeTBf8P
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution


  1. I really enjoy reading your blog!
    You are an amazing writer!
    check out my blog!

  2. Thanks so much annierama

  3. Enjoyed reading this post. It's very informative and answered some questions I was wondering about.