White Baby Lust and Surrogacy Gone Wrong: An Update

In February of 2016, I posted about a woman who was carrying triplets through a surrogacy program.  The man who had hired her to carry his children (conceived with white Ukrainian eggs) expressed alarm both at the expenses involved in a high risk pregnancy and those involved in raising three babies alone at once.  He asked her to selectively reduce the number of fetuses she was carrying, and she refused.  Upon getting to know this man a little better, she had serious misgivings about relinquishing any of the babies to him at all.  It was a huge legal mess, and you can read the original post here. 

So what happened to the babies, the woman who carried them and the man who desperately wanted children of his own (specifically male children who carried his DNA)?

The babies were born in Los Angeles in February of 2016 but were not released until April.  This is not surprising, given they were triplets and almost definitely preemies,  but I didn’t find any information saying they had any specific immediate health problems, so that’s the good news.

That’s the only good news, I’m afraid.  The hospital staff was so concerned that the father, who has now been identified as Chester Shannon Moore Jr., a deaf man in his 50’s who works the night shift at the post office, would be unable to care for the babies, that 3 nurses and a doctor flew home with him to Georgia to make sure the babies were ok according to this People magazine article.  This sounds both alarming and somewhat fishy to me.  But I’m afraid it does not get better from here.

The surrogate, Melissa Cook, tried to regain custody of the babies, who if you remember, are not biologically related to her.  In California, surrogates have no parental rights, and in January, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a state court’s decision denying her attempt to gain parental rights, stating that the federal court lacked jurisdiction.  This means that Moore’s fitness as a parent was not addressed.   The Supreme Court has refused to hear the case even though Moore’s sister, Melinda Burnett, filed a 12 page affidavit claiming he was an unfit parent.

Burnett claims the babies live in a basement full of second-hand smoke in a home Moore shares with his chain smoking elderly parents and a heroin-addict nephew.  He has been accused of making the kids eat off the floor and not changing their diapers frequently enough to the point that the rashes required medical attention.  This is the point where I take a moment to think that if I had to raise triplets in my parents’ basement alone, they might end up eating off the floor occasionally, too.  Diaper rash due to infrequent changing can be serious, but it’s pretty common, and it probably doesn’t in of itself fall under criminal negligence although I might reconsider that if I had more information.  I figure Moore is not the first single parent to struggle with a $100 plus per month per kid diaper bill.  I wouldn’t want any babies I carried to be raised that way to be sure, but I guess that’s what would make me a poor candidate for giving away children that grew in my body.   The court is pretty clear that I would get absolutely no say in the matter, and I just don’t think I could do it.

What actually disturbs me more is Burnett’s description of her brother as being socially awkward, paranoid, and prone to anger.  And the biggest reddest OMG flag of all is her reports of cruelty to animals both when he was a child and also more recently.  I realize not everyone shares my books-about-serial-killers hobby, but we all know that’s really really bad.

Moore’s lawyer claims the triplets are doing just fine and that the backlash against his client is good old-fashioned discrimination against the disabled.  Come on, now.  That’s insulting to all the great parents out there with disabilities who are raising great kids.  Nobody is claiming this man cannot raise children because he is deaf.   The greatest joy of  being a blogger rather than a journalist is I can share with you what I really think.  I think this guy is a first class creep who has no business raising children.  I think the surrogacy agency (who is now providing him with legal defense) was negligent in this arrangement, and I think it’s only a matter of time until these three babies end up in state custody.  Social services has already been contacted, so this story is ongoing.

Michelle Cook has been painted as a heroine of the anti-choice movement for refusing to abort and being willing to take in the three babies as her own.  I’m not sure she got a win for the movement, here, though.  I don’t see any winners at all, not even Moore who I suspect is fully aware he is in over his head and is simply doubling down, probably at the urging of the agency that brokered this arrangement since they still maintain they did nothing wrong.  It’s a cruel irony that the man who claimed he was unable to care for a third child is now responsible for that  child while demonstrating a profound lack of ability to manage even one.  Are we ready to unpack the moral implications of the technology that allows a 46 year old woman to carry triplets, the parents of whom she has never met –A Ukranian woman who can sell her white eggs at a premium and a disturbed man so desperate for his own family of male children who look like him that he bought them?   Are we ready to legislate it?  Are we ready to say that not everyone who wants their own biological child should be allowed to have one (or three)?  And what about all the children, many of them of color, who are already here needing families of their own?   What does this debacle say to them?

 

 

 

Advertisements

Time to Nurse the Baby

Breast feeding is the most natural thing in the world. Or so they will tell you when you are blissfully pregnant with your first.  For many of us, it’s not quite as easy as all that.  The last thing we need is public scorn for trying to feed our babies in places other than darkened nurseries.  I have no patience for people who are so scandalized by the possibility of an errant nipple that they insist we feed our children in bathroom stalls.  Get a grip, people. When I was nursing, I couldn’t find a nursing bra I liked, and I developed an entire uniform around a “sleep bra” and men’s undershirts with slits cut in them under huge camp shirts.  I still flashed people, I’m sure.  Because that’s what happens when your baby decides he’s done for the moment and spits out your boob in public.

And yes, I was asked to feed my children in the bathroom.  I am so sorry my breasts inconvenienced you.  By the time I was confident enough to actually leave my home with a nursing infant, I had already overcome the hurdle of bleeding nipples.  “If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong,” advised my la leche counselor.  “This is the only way he knows how to do it,” I replied.  Bleeding nipples are almost as painful as childbirth, and while it only lasts for a few days, it’s enough to make some women give up, and I don’t blame them.  I was educated and determined and I had the support of my family.  I still didn’t manage to nurse either of my children for the full year recommended by pediatricians.

In my state, only 10% of babies are still being breast fed at 12 months.   This is despite the many known benefits of breastfeeding including a decrease in obesity, diabetes, ear infections, allergies, and asthma. Higher IQ scores in children who were breastfed have also been reported as well as a 30% decrease in SIDS deaths.  The cost of formula (as much as $2000 for a year’s worth) is prohibitive and damn inconvenient.  As far as I’m concerned, the number one benefit to nursing your baby is you can do it while you are asleep.

We as a society need to commit to breastfeeding as the healthiest start to a baby’s future.  Pamphlets and free breast pads are not enough.  New moms need our support. Education is certainly a factor.  Some cultures, even in the United States, still see an ick factor to nursing that can only be overcome by patience and exposure.  It would help if women were seen nursing in public on a regular basis.

But let’s be realistic.  Lots of women stop nursing for a variety of reasons.  Lack of adequate milk production is one.   Pediatricians and lactation consultants will tell you this is a rare phenomenon. But a lot of women run into it, especially faced with THE PUMP.  Some women are pumping pros and do both breasts at once in their cars while they are driving while learning French. For the rest of us, we nurse our babies, put them down for a nap, pump so we can leave the house alone, manage to produce 1/2 ounce of milk, cry for 45 minutes, and eventually go buy formula.  But for working mothers who want to nurse, the pump is not a luxury item reserved for date night.  It’s a necessity.

The only reason I was able to breastfeed my children for seven months was because I was not working.  Women do not need better breast pumps.  We need time to nurse our babies.  If we are serious about the health of women and children, we must address the fact that we are one of the only countries in the world with no mandatory paid maternity leave.  Even the Family Medical Leave Act, which is guaranteed unpaid leave, only lasts for 12 weeks.  This is barely enough time to form an initial bond with a new baby.

In a depressed economy, taking time off for a new baby is a luxury few can afford.  A 2012 Department of Labor survey showed that nearly 25% of women took less than 2 weeks off after the birth of a baby, and about half of those took less than a week.   It is no wonder that women with longer maternity leave also report higher rates of breastfeeding.   A generous maternity leave is also associated with reduced rates of depression in women, even years after returning to the workforce.

Some economists contend that maternity leave also benefits businesses as it prevents high turnover rates and training costs.  Some companies are starting to realize this, and maternity leave is offered as part of a competitive benefits package.  For most women, however, this remains out of reach.

If we as a culture believe in the health and well-being of women and children, if we believe that the health of our infants should not be dictated by Nestle, if we believe in work life balance, we cannot accept current American leave policies.  And for those of you afraid of accidentally seeing a nipple while a baby is eating her dinner, go put a blanket over your head.

The Unbearable Loneliness of Being

I woke up feeling lonely.  I think it is because Spock Jr. just turned 18 and got a driver’s license and a car. He now visits me when he feels like it as opposed to living with me half time by court order.  He prefers his Dad’s house, he says.  I suspect it is because of the 4000 square feet of living space and meat-stocked refrigerator and faster internet, but he says it’s because in the apartment in which we share a wall, I snore.

Last night we had burgers and watched Labyrinth.  “That was cheesy,” he said.  He meant the movie, not the burger.  Somewhere, I have failed. He is a man now and unlikely to change his opinion of Labyrinth.

What do I do now?  Every moment of my life for the past 18 years has been intertwined with his very breath.  He is looking for a job and getting ready to go to college (where he’s received a full scholarship) like the independent autonomous person I always wanted him to be.  Trust me. There were days when he was little and kept getting lost on field trips that I was not so sure this was going to happen.

What is loneliness?   I think it’s fear.  It’s fear of the loss of a part of yourself.  The sense that something is missing and you’re not getting it back.  Letting go is not an active choice.  You can’t wake up in the morning and say I’m going to let go today.  It’s something that happens to you, a gradual process that lessens the pain just a little. I’m not sure there is a way to speed this up, but talking about it seems to help.

You’d think your subconscious mind would be onboard with the lessening of your suffering, but mine is a real bitch.  She often sends me dreams of people I have lost.  And I have to go through letting go all over again. The other night she sent me to a party where I ran into a former lover.

“I have birthday gifts for you,” he said.

He handed me a really ugly necklace, a book of maps (I am hopeless with maps), and a headband made of amethyst that must have weighed 12 pounds.

“How perfect,” I say.  “So thoughtful!”

“That problem we had,” he says, “the one that keeps us apart, we still—“

“No!  Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.  I just want to touch your face before you disappear.”

And then he did.

I woke up aching and afraid.  Aching with the knowledge that he is missing from my life and will not return.  Afraid because I don’t know if I will ever again feel how he made me feel.

I am one of the lucky ones.  My life is full, and this feeling will fade if not disappear completely.  I will learn a new normal with a half empty nest. And someday I will survive letting go of Nyx, too. There will be other lovers and other losses.  Such is the human condition.

But today my chest is tight, and it hurts.  I have nothing to do but let it wash over me.  Tomorrow may be a little better.  So I will fill today with a flurry of activity.  I will try to get some sunshine.  I will take my vitamins. And I will text my son and tell him I love him.  He will think I’m cheesy. A little bit of letting go will happen.