I was elated to get an email forwarded to me about the recent New York Times Magazine article "Her Body, My Baby" by Alex Kuczynski. As I read through her very honest account of infertility and surrogacy, it was in many ways like reading my own story. A rush of satisfaction came over me as I thought about the power of the New York Times to inform and educate those who don't know the struggles of infertility and what it means to be an intended parent working with a gestational carrier.
Unfortunately, I read this article in an email with no photos and no comments. I made the mistake of clicking on the link later on to see the photos of both the author and her surrogate and the 404 mostly nasty comments. Boy, I wish I had stuck to just the text. What was most striking to me was how different the article came across just as text. When I read it I only focused on the voice of this writer, her very familiar struggles with IVF failures, and her choice to move to surrogacy. Granted she was preaching to the choir when it comes to my views, but I felt it finally put that story out there for people to understand surrogacy as a real and wonderful option. But when I looked at the photos and the slew of violent reactions against this story, it made me remember- "Oh yeah, I live in this world, not the infertility world in my brain." I mean who am I kidding, even without the photos what was I expecting?
Countless times I read the words "disgusting," "spoiled," "consumer," "self-obsessed," "shallowness," "disturbing," among many others in the comment section. I didn't see the hard copy version of the magazine, but the two photos posted online are clearly the main culprit. Why choose photos juxtaposing a surrogate who is barefoot and pregnant and an intended mother posed in front of a beautiful home with a black nurse in uniform standing there waiting for orders? Was this some sort of bait to rile up nasty comments - a trap to bring out the worst in people? Or was this a very very ignorant editor who decided on these shots? Was this something the author overlooked or failed to keep watch of? I don't know, but I do know that as an intended parent it's frustrating to see a very honest article paired with photos that reek of classist and racial stereotypes. This was a chance to really give a more human perspective on the subject of surrogacy and perhaps break the countless assumptions people have about infertility and surrogacy, but instead the message got lost. It got lost in the images, lost in the money, lost in what people already want to believe.
So I am terribly disappointed. I had hoped that having a New York Times reporter bring her experience, my experience, and many other people's experiences to such a huge audience might broaden the world's perspective. Perhaps it did on some fronts, but it is still unbelievable the judgements and hatred that this subject brews up in people. I would have thought the author already knew this. I would have thought she'd take great pains to not give off the same old impression that women seeking fertility treatments (or worse choose surrogacy or egg donor) are selfish, rich, obsessed women that have no perspective on the world's struggles. I'd like to believe that she somehow didn't have a say on the photos, but she posed for them so how could she not know? How could she not see what was being created? It's pretty predictable at this point that the general public is happy to jump all over this issue. The fertiles just get self-righteous waving the flag of disgust over this unnecessary "consumption" or the "why not adopt" cries. People roll their eyes at a woman who feels "entitled" to a child. Even parents who adopt commented on the article taking offense to the idea that she wanted a genetic child of her own and therefore she's somehow looking down on adoption. You can't win.
It's strange to me. It will always be strange to me why people think that other people's reproductive decisions are fair game for everyone to judge. I'm not sure what kind of article will erase that ridiculous tendency. But I certainly don't give a shit what position people have sex to conceive. I don't give a shit if you decide to just have one or hundred children. I don't give a shit if you choose to give birth underwater or in the most prestigious hospital you can find. I don't give a shit if you are having kids with your first husband or your fortieth. I don't give a shit if you choose to have a child when you are 18 or 50. I don't give a shit what your church says. I don't give a shit.