Give us our son. Of course, we want him back
August 30, 2018 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Allen would be a gestational surrogate, carrying a baby made from the egg and sperm of a couple from China, the intended parents....DNA tests soon showed that one of the babies was not in fact related to the Chinese parents at all.
posted by If only I had a penguin... (86 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
this is wild on so many levels but oh my god idk if i can think of something more legitimately terrifying (to me personally) than the fact that being pregnant apparently doesn't necessarily stop you from GETTING MORE PREGNANT

this is horror movie material
posted by poffin boffin at 1:12 PM on August 30, 2018 [54 favorites]


Oof, what troubling circumstances. Personally I find it kind of icky they're claiming one of the children as "their son" and the other not.

"This is a type of pain that you're never going to get over because they stole something from me that I can never get back."

This seems like an extremely unfair way to frame things, this couple agreed to give up their children ahead of time. Changing your mind later doesn't mean they stole anything from you. The distinction between one of the kids being theirs and the other not is making my very uneasy.

I hate to ever side with a business in any matter, but I'm kind of with the company on this one. If this couple had a change of heart and wants one of the kids given to them (just fuck that other kid, though, right?), then seems fair to expect compensation back.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:15 PM on August 30, 2018 [5 favorites]


this is wild on so many levels but oh my god idk if i can think of something more legitimately terrifying (to me personally) than the fact that being pregnant apparently doesn't necessarily stop you from GETTING MORE PREGNANT

this is horror movie material


WORD
posted by supermedusa at 1:22 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


Indeed a bad situation all around. But I don't understand why it is icky to want your own biological child back but not the the other people's biological child that you were never going to keep. I mean, they are materially different things.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 1:26 PM on August 30, 2018 [68 favorites]


This seems like an extremely unfair way to frame things, this couple agreed to give up their children ahead of time.

But they didn't. They agreed to give up the other couple's genetic child[ren]. The agreement was that they would carry the embryo/fetus created using the other couple's egg and sperm. There was never any agreement that if they should get pregnant with a genetic child of their own they would give it up (obviously because it was completely unforeseen). I get the way it feels wierd that both couples only want their own genetic babies despite the kind of connection they each have to the other baby, too, but I don't think there's an issue about the agreement here.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:28 PM on August 30, 2018 [51 favorites]


It's just as icky to me as thinking of my own brothers and sisters anything less than my brothers and sisters simply because of whose sex slop was involved in their origin. The parts of me that do care about DNA tell me it's wildly advantageous to have your DNA cared for by another. I also do not believe sharing DNA with parents gives them natural authority or rights over a person. Having a child, raising a child, calling someone your son, or mother/father is way more than a matter of DNA to me.

Also, the situation they seek is one that separates the brothers from one another, which is own massive set of problems and ones I personally hold above that of the parents. And hell, not even just brothers, they're twins.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:29 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


One of the children was from the couple paying for the surrogacy and the other was their own kid. They agreed to give them both up when they were told the embryo split and they were both the other couple's kids. Once they found out otherwise of course they wanted their kid back. They definitely need to return the extra money they were paid from the couple ASAP though.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:30 PM on August 30, 2018 [10 favorites]


The distinction between one of the kids being theirs and the other not is making my very uneasy. If this couple had a change of heart and wants one of the kids given to them (just fuck that other kid, though, right?), then seems fair to expect compensation back.

Perhaps there's a misunderstanding - because one of them IS her child, and the other isn't. That is fact. They agreed to be a surrogate to a child that is biologically the couple's from China. She then got pregnant with her OWN biological child. She agreed to carry and hand over the child/children that is biologically related to the Chinese couple, per their agreement. However, HER biological child was not part of that agreement.

She didn't "change her mind" about giving up "her children." She never agreed to adopt out her own biological child.

This is a fascinating biological instance. I hope that the media around it means some lawyers may be willing to represent them pro bono to help get their child a proper birth certificate and legality. Because, currently they don't fully exist in the US system, right? Wow. What a turn of events.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:31 PM on August 30, 2018 [48 favorites]


(just fuck that other kid, though, right?)

I mean... no. The other kid is with the family who wanted them badly enough to pay for a surrogacy. That family relinquished custody to the surrogacy agency when they realized he wasn’t biologically theirs. The agency did not want to give custody back to the baby’s bio parents because they wanted to recoup the money lost in the double pregnancy by selling the baby off in a private adoption. The Chinese family were in communication with Malachi’s bio family and were the ones to let the sureogate mom know about her genetic child, so presumably they didn’t know the agency would try to keep him. The agency seems to be the only party here with a “fuck that other kid” attitude.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:31 PM on August 30, 2018 [67 favorites]


yeah, their own human flesh and blood baby that they themselves conceived (through biologically confusing and scary means) was given to the other couple along with that couple's bio child BY ACCIDENT when it was wrongly assumed that it was the twin. it's like, and i can't believe i am making this example but it's 2018 baby and everything's a trip, if you get a meal in a restaurant that is half what you ordered and half someone else's dinner, you only send one meal back.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:33 PM on August 30, 2018 [9 favorites]


"They agreed to give them both up when they were told the embryo split and they were both the other couple's kids. Once they found out otherwise of course they wanted their kid back."

Why is this "of course." From the outset, it seems like they didn't even want a child for themselves. I do not see that massive change of heart as anything explainable by "of course."

"if you get a meal in a restaurant that is half what you ordered and half someone else's dinner, you only send one meal back."

No, I eat what is set before me.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:33 PM on August 30, 2018


No, I eat what is set before me

Remind me to never leave any babies near you...
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:38 PM on August 30, 2018 [52 favorites]


Why is this "of course." From the outset, it seems like they didn't even want a child for themselves. I do not see that massive change of heart as anything explainable by "of course."

Because one of them is their child. This was unexpected, but that does not change the fact that this is their child.
posted by blurker at 1:41 PM on August 30, 2018 [15 favorites]


I think that is what I take issue with. I do not see it as inherently "theirs" any more or less than it's brother.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:45 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


I am flabbergasted to see complaints here about the biological parents (including the mother who carried him) choosing to raise their own son. The Chinese family had already sent him back to the surrogacy agency—are you suggesting the parents reject him and let the agency figure out what to do with him?
posted by The Tensor at 1:46 PM on August 30, 2018 [40 favorites]


From some of the comments it seems like not everyone commenting read the article completely. Which is unusual for MetaFilter.
posted by Gwynarra at 1:47 PM on August 30, 2018 [35 favorites]


I can't imagine deciding, "oh, whoopsie, this newborn I've been parenting for a month doesn't look enough like us, better notify the agency and surrogate and arrange for his adoption." whaaat.

good grief surrogacy is scary.
posted by bagel at 1:47 PM on August 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


I figured it was more along the lines of "this newborn isn't the 'correct' race"
posted by poffin boffin at 1:55 PM on August 30, 2018 [14 favorites]


I’m reminded that you can buy one tree that bears 4 different fruits. This doesn’t mean plums are suddenly apricots or vice versa.

Similarly, these boys aren’t biological brothers. Doesn’t mean they couldn’t be brothers in the right context. This was not that context.

People aren’t always logical/rational. That doesn’t make their choices automatically wrong. It means technology has advanced beyond our previous societal expectations and we need to think about the best way to handle these sorts of circumstances going forward.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:55 PM on August 30, 2018 [13 favorites]


I’m really glad they got the baby back. Holy shit.
posted by sio42 at 1:55 PM on August 30, 2018 [8 favorites]


It looks like the arrangement with the surrogate was to pay more for twins. The surrogacy couple got paid their extra money, which they presumably spent, since the article says they didn’t have the money later.

The adoptive couple found out that one of the babies wasn’t their biological baby and the surrogate couple wanted that baby back. The adoptive couple then said “if you’re taking that baby back, we want our money back that we gave you for the extra baby, and also payment for the two months we spent raising this child”, probably to the company, which is not unreasonable. The company then asked for the money back from the surrogate couple.
posted by corb at 1:58 PM on August 30, 2018 [6 favorites]


"People aren’t always logical/rational. That doesn’t make their choices automatically wrong. It means technology has advanced beyond our previous societal expectations and we need to think about the best way to handle these sorts of circumstances going forward."

My own mind remains unchanged here, but it is an unusual circumstance. Fortunately it just occurred to me we actually have a really great way to sort this out that was established thousands of years ago. Xi Xinping must invoke the Judgement of Solomon.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:59 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don't know if the disagreement here is based on a misunderstanding of the facts in the article or if we are having a disagreement over what the relationship of a surrogate mother and any other children of her own she may have is with the surrogate child she delivers.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:04 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


This is a mess. We need a total moratorium on human reproduction until we can ensure that situations like this never happen again.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:07 PM on August 30, 2018 [20 favorites]


The adoptive couple found out that one of the babies wasn’t their biological baby and the surrogate couple wanted that baby back.

The article doesn't make it 100% clear, but it sounds like the adopting family had already sent the baby back to the surrogacy agency for unknown (<cough> racism </cough>) reasons:
The case worker from the surrogacy agency encouraged Allen to get a DNA test herself. Sure enough, the baby not related to the intended parents was her son.

...

Custody battle

By now, the baby was in the custody of the surrogacy agency.
The agency then demanded they be paid back the extra "carried twins" money before returning the child to his parents. The parents got a lawyer and straightened out that obvious bullshit, but they may still be on the hook for the money.
posted by The Tensor at 2:08 PM on August 30, 2018 [6 favorites]


I have to wonder what the two boys are going to do when they find out about this, that they're functionally fraternal twins with two sets of biological parents. How are they going to feel about being separated from each other?

This is going to be a wild Parent Trap remake.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:10 PM on August 30, 2018 [6 favorites]


This really, really seems like something for which the agency should have insurance - leaving issues of child custody aside, it was not unreasonable for the surrogates to spend the money based on the information they had, and it's not unreasonable for the adoptive parents to want it back. To me, this ought to be a cost of doing business for the agency. Indeed, if I ran an agency and there were some kind of weird mediagenic case like this, I sure would not want the narrative to be about how the surrogate parents are being hassled to pay money they can't afford.
posted by Frowner at 2:21 PM on August 30, 2018 [44 favorites]


that they're functionally fraternal twins with two sets of biological parents

they are and they're not and it's breaking my brain thinking about it. i mean, outside of this particular bizarre situation, do we, mefites, society in general, science at large, consider the biological children a surrogate couple may already previously have to be the siblings of the child born from the implanted fetus they've carried for another couple? just because they occupied the same womb? it would not have occurred to me in the past to say yes.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:23 PM on August 30, 2018 [19 favorites]


" just because they occupied the same womb? it would not have occurred to me in the past to say yes."

I understand the womb a baby is grown in impacts the baby's genome. That's part of why I am really hating this "her baby/their baby" dichotomy. The prenatal environment has an impact of the ultimate outcome of that child once it is out. The child born from the adoptive genetic material also gets genetic influence from the womb-mother, in some ways that means the child is born with 2 biological mothers. If the adoptive parents had conceived themselves using the exact same sperm and egg that ended up being used by the surrogate mother, the hypothetical baby would not be completely identical to the one that was born.

https://genome.cshlp.org/content/24/7/1064

https://www.asianscientist.com/2014/04/in-the-lab/mothers-womb-influence-babys-genome-2014/
posted by GoblinHoney at 2:33 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


GoblinHoney, have you read the article? The baby whose custody in question is the biological child of the mother who carried him and her partner, not of the couple who provided the sperm and egg for the other (surrogate) child. In no way does the former child have "2 biological mothers".
posted by The Tensor at 2:36 PM on August 30, 2018 [13 favorites]


goblinhoney, wut

if someone rents a storage space, gets their stuff out later and realizes they accidentally took some of the landlord's stuff, they do not suddenly have a right to their landlord's stuff

it doesn't matter if everyone's stuff was affected by the same humidity / water damage / whatever

your stuff is your stuff and the landlord's stuff is their stuff
posted by whimsicalnymph at 2:42 PM on August 30, 2018 [6 favorites]


GoblinHoney, I feel like you are still missing the point.

Embryo A (Created from Chinese Parents) is implanted into the womb of the Surrogate Mother.

Surrogate Mother was already pregnant with Embryo B (created from Surrogate mother and her partner) at the time or became pregnant later.

Scans show two babies and all involved assume it's the result of Embryo A splitting into two, thus "identical" twins.

Baby A and Baby B are born. They go home with Chinese parents. After a month, Chinese parents realize that Baby A and Baby B don't look alike at all. DNA test is done. Baby B is definitively not a biological child of Chinese Parents. Surrogate mother takes DNA test and Baby B is her biological child.

Chinese parents send Baby B to the states, where he in the custody of the surrogacy agency. Eventually, surrogacy agency gives Baby B to Surrogate mom and her partner.

Baby A and Baby B just shared a house for 9 months. They are not brothers. Chinese family has their son, American surrogate family has their son. No one was giving up a child.
posted by teleri025 at 2:43 PM on August 30, 2018 [29 favorites]


This is reason #3752 why we need artificial wombs.

If we can have artificial heart valves, why not wombs? (Maybe there are reasons - but get working on the research already! And test psychological/teratogenic effects on mice, monkeys, etc.)
posted by jb at 2:46 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


i feel like we could maybe move on from one person's AU headcanons about human reproduction
posted by poffin boffin at 2:47 PM on August 30, 2018 [27 favorites]


"GoblinHoney, have you read the article? The baby whose custody in question is the biological child of the mother who carried him and her partner, not of the couple who provided the sperm and egg for the other (surrogate) child. In no way does the former child have "2 biological mothers".

I was talking about the child made with the surrogate sperm and egg, the "Chinese" kid has 2 women who have had a genetic impact on his existence.

"if someone rents a storage space, gets their stuff out later and realizes they accidentally took some of the landlord's stuff, they do not suddenly have a right to their landlord's stuff"

In this case, they discovered they had too much stuff and accepted payment for the extra stuff, but the stuff-buyers realized later it wasn't stuff they wanted.

I super hate this analogy because the stuff we are talking about are people, or eventually will be, and as such don't belong to anyone.

"They are not brothers."

They are brothers, they partially share a mother. They also spent 9 months together.
posted by GoblinHoney at 2:48 PM on August 30, 2018


From your use of the term "sex slop" (and your other comments), GoblinHoney, it sounds like you don't put much value on the genetic origins of a person and place way more value on whoever ends up rearing that person. That is a valid personal POV to have. That does not, however, make it somehow wrong or immoral for the surrogate to want custody of her unexpected biological child or for the Chinese parents to not want a child that is not theirs from a biological perspective. Both of these children have homes where they are wanted and loved. There is no problem.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:48 PM on August 30, 2018 [29 favorites]


"That does not, however, make it somehow wrong or immoral for the surrogate to want custody of her unexpected biological child or for the Chinese parents to not want a child that is not theirs from a biological perspective. Both of these children have homes where they are wanted and loved. There is no problem."

I agree there isn't really a problem here besides unsettled debts, which is just a capitalism problem, therefore capitalism is the problem.

I think in the long run it will be *something* to these brothers, as it is for any siblings who are separated at some point, not necessarily a problem per se, just something they'll have to think about.

I probably could have saved a lot of typing by simply stating "I think it is shitty of all of the adults involved to invoke ownership of a baby based on their racial appearance."
posted by GoblinHoney at 2:56 PM on August 30, 2018


I don’t see any way to fault either set of parents. If a couple pays for someone to be a surrogate for one child that is genetically theirs, I can’t imagine faulting them for not taking a second child they have no relationship to at all. (And I don’t understand blithely declaring them racists!) And who wouldn’t clamor to regain custody of a biological baby that you learned was yours, even if it’s a surprise? There’s no fault on either side here.

Honestly, I think the surrogacy agency should refund the extra money themselves and just eat the loss. It’s ultimately on them that no one checked to see whether the babies were truly twins.

Any problem GoblinHoney has with this situation is a problem that applies to all surrogates, and there’s nothing more to discuss there.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:56 PM on August 30, 2018 [25 favorites]


If you're not familiar with assisted reproduction and surrogacy, please don't spew your uninformed hot takes in this thread.
posted by medusa at 3:00 PM on August 30, 2018 [15 favorites]


the "Chinese" kid has 2 women who have had a genetic impact on his existence.

I’ll lead by saying I know next to nothing in the topic but I assume you’re referring to the epigenetic impact, no? As I understand it, epigenetics is how environment affects genetic expression but it doesn’t actually change the kid’s DNA. Which is to say the environment of the womb most certainly affects fetal development but as to how much it affects overall development is likely much smaller and diminishes as the child ages. I don’t know how much that makes the two boys “brothers” vs. “womb mates”.

These are mind-bending times, indeed.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 3:14 PM on August 30, 2018 [7 favorites]


(And I don’t understand blithely declaring them racists!)

Seconded!
posted by Big Al 8000 at 3:18 PM on August 30, 2018 [12 favorites]


Surrogacy selects for people who are invested in having kids who are genetically related to them. All four parents share this value, made an ethical choice that works for all of them (including the kids having loving homes), and are in touch with one another should the kids want contact later. This is the best possible way this could have worked out.

Epigenetics changes how genes are expressed via molecule groups on the DNA backbone. Environments outside the womb can also do this, and maternal influences aren't very well understood - there's not like, maternity books about creating optimal conditions for your baby's epigenetic markers.
posted by momus_window at 3:23 PM on August 30, 2018 [10 favorites]


If we can have artificial heart valves, why not wombs? (Maybe there are reasons

I really hope science doesn't have them until women have full reproductive control around the world, because otherwise say goodbye to abortion rights when you can pop the fetus into an artificial womb and make the woman "take responsibility."
posted by agregoli at 3:23 PM on August 30, 2018 [11 favorites]


it sounds like the adopting family had already sent the baby back to the surrogacy agency for unknown ( racism ) reasons

This is such a bad-faith reading of the situation. If you brought a baby home from the hospital, and it became increasingly obvious that it was impossible for the baby to be your bio kid, wouldn't you want to reach out to the bio parents? And if they said that they wanted the baby back, then keeping the baby would be stealing the kid, no?

We aren't privy to all the conversations that happened, but from the article:

About a month later, the mom started texting Allen pictures of the babies, questioning whether the babies looked the same to her.

Allen agreed the babies did not look identical in any of the photos.


The two sets of parents had been talking before Malachi was sent back to the US. It's highly likely that at some point in these conversations, Allen and Jasper told the other parents that if the kid was genetically theirs, they'd like him back.
posted by airmail at 3:26 PM on August 30, 2018 [25 favorites]


I'm not sure how it's racist to return a baby that is obviously of a different race than its supposed biological parents. Something was obviously up, that was someone else's kid. The Chinese parents did the right thing.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:27 PM on August 30, 2018 [28 favorites]


I probably could have saved a lot of typing by simply stating "I think it is shitty of all of the adults involved to invoke ownership of a baby based on their racial appearance."

I think that's muddied the waters even more.

This was not about appearances.
posted by Revvy at 3:29 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


Although for what it's worth, I can see your side too GoblinHoney. It both is and isn't their kid, depending on how you define parentage. There's more to that than genetics, as any adopted child can tell you. It really depends on how you choose to look at it. The whole situation is a mess. I'm just glad that both babies are with the parents who want them.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:30 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


I have more to learn and think about on this issue, and have more things to consider now than when I started opening my mouth, and have been misinformed or mistaken on accounts-- but yes, I am glad aside from the abstract issues this raises, both children are going to loving homes and the respective parents are demonstrably capable of contacting one another, so I have hopes the brothers* can have some measure of relationship despite the situation if they want to, when they're capable.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:44 PM on August 30, 2018 [5 favorites]


I suggested racism as a motive because, in the article's (somewhat fuzzy) recounting of the events, it sounded like the adopting couple sent the kid back to the agency before there was any sort of resolution about whose kid it was and where he should go. If it's true that their reaction was, "Nope, not our baby, return to sender!" and washed their hands of it, that strikes me as a cavalier and cruel thing to do.
posted by The Tensor at 4:09 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


Well those kids will have the most extreme "brother from another mother" story when they are older. I am glad that both babies are in loving homes.

Totally agree with Frowner that the agency should reimburse the extra cost to the Chinese parents, and also that it should help the Canadian parents with the necessary paperwork for their baby.
posted by stowaway at 4:14 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


One thing that kind of shocks me is that at no point, as reported, did anyone ask “what’s best for the kids?” I mean, maybe there is a bond that forms in the womb, I don’t know, but shuffling a kid around to a surrogacy agency and then to another set of parents doesn’t seem great.

Also, I’m wondering what would have happened if one of the twins absorbed the other into a chimera.
posted by adamrice at 4:17 PM on August 30, 2018


"If we can have artificial heart valves, why not wombs? (Maybe there are reasons - but get working on the research already! And test psychological/teratogenic effects on mice, monkeys, etc.)"

They're working on it. It's enormously complicated, because it's not just "a womb" but the entire dance of maternal hormones that directs fetal development. When it comes to humans, the first step will be helping very premature infants, where the gross structures are already present and at least some of the problems (premature lungs) are well understood and can sometimes be helped before premature birth or after it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:23 PM on August 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


Man, that is a weird situation. I just want to throw in that some mothers are microchimeras... fetal cells can migrate into the mother during pregnancy. They may have these cells for the rest of their lives. I agree with the more gut instinct notion that she was a surrogate to one child, and the biological mother of the other, but man biology is messy.
posted by Mister Cheese at 4:35 PM on August 30, 2018


I guess from this point on, surrogacy contracts will restrict the surrogate mother from sex for 3 months from the time of implantation. In Australia, commercial surrogacy is illegal, it must always be performed altruistically. That prevents the issues around who owes who what now, but I think it misses the point of labour (yeah, I know) involved, and reduces the likelihood of it occurring.
I don't have the same sense of sadness that others here do, that two boys who shared a womb and potentially some of the carrying mother's genes. Knowing that my mother aborted a child when I was seven (was told in my teens) was momentarily distressing (I could have had a sister, one that I could boss around like my 4 older brothers did me) but no great melancholy. Knowing that my father was rumoured to have fathered children to his mistress(es) in my home town never left me with an urge to seek them out when I was older. I am not in contact with 2 of my 4 brothers and haven't been for a good 20 years. My paternal grandmother travelled the length of the country to visit my father when he was dying but didn't go another 50km to meet her other granddaughter (me). Family is not just genetics, it's love and time and shared memories. These little guys will be okay.

About the racism issue, when one of my white Australian friends adopted from Korea, she said that the agency would have the new parents stay in the country for a month with the new baby, because some people, with all the best will in the world, could not always bond with a child who looked different to what they were used to. That's heartbreaking.
It's tricky, isn't it? The babies' wellbeing is key, and I don't understand why a birth certificate can't be facilitated. That's just mad.
posted by b33j at 5:16 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


OH FOR FUCK'S SAKE STOP BUYING BABIES
posted by mwhybark at 5:19 PM on August 30, 2018 [6 favorites]


IT IS NOT FASCINATING. IT IS BULLSHIT THAT STEMS FROM ESTABLISHING (enabling/extending/regulating) A MARKET FOR BABIES.
posted by mwhybark at 5:22 PM on August 30, 2018 [5 favorites]


It's fucking evil that a goddamn infant was held hostage because a private company didn't want to eat the cost of making things right for its customers. No company I've ever worked for (and I've worked for some stinkers) would have made that call that way. Everyone who was in the room when that decision was made should be up against the wall when the revolution comes.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:32 PM on August 30, 2018 [10 favorites]


Also? “Debts to be settled?” The actual fuck? She still carried twins for 9 months. She didn’t sneak her own child in there on purpose as some sort of free ride baby bonus combo move. She still had to make two humans in 9 months.

She doesn’t owe anyone SHIT, and I hope she can sue the shit out of the private company that wanted to sell or ransom her living, genetic child who was suffering attachment trauma the entire time these assholes were being assholes. What the fuuuuuck.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:50 PM on August 30, 2018 [26 favorites]


Surrogacy became more complicated for me with the understanding that every cell of a fetus, whatever DNA it has, is created from molecules supplied by the birthmother. It's not like a storage unit, at all. The woman's body builds the fetus, her literal blood and bones provide nutrients. Her health is made more endangered during and after pregnancy. Reproduction does not fit easily into simplistic capitalist ideas of ownership.
posted by emjaybee at 6:06 PM on August 30, 2018 [19 favorites]


OH FOR FUCK'S SAKE STOP BUYING BABIES

I’m interested that you see surrogacy as “buying babies.” When people have babies, they often go to a hospital and end up paying tens of thousands of dollars to go home with a healthy child. Is that “buying a baby?” Surrogacy seems like a similar transaction, except you need to pay for more services than most do.
posted by greermahoney at 6:06 PM on August 30, 2018 [7 favorites]


When people have babies, they often go to a hospital and end up paying tens of thousands of dollars to go home with a healthy child.

To be fair, that's pretty fucked up.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:12 PM on August 30, 2018 [24 favorites]


Hey did anyone listen to the audio documentary? I didn't before posting, but I'm listening now. The DNA test was done by the requirement of the Chinese embassy in order to get the babies Chinese passports. So the DNA testing was being done no matter what. It had nothing to do with the twins looking different. They started to noticed the babies looked different while the results were pending. The intended mother held off on contacting the surrogate until she recovered from the caesarean.

The cost the intended family wanted for the month of taking care of the baby for one month was $7000.

There's also an interesting discussion of the legalities of how this works in California.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:18 PM on August 30, 2018 [9 favorites]


To be fair, that's pretty fucked up.

True. But even if it were a reasonable amount, my point is the same. Doctors and nurses need to make a living. Medicine costs. Someone, somewhere, is paying those things, even if your country has great healthcare. But does paying someone to deliver your baby constitute “buying it?” And if not, why would paying someone else to gestate it be?
posted by greermahoney at 6:18 PM on August 30, 2018


I think that is what I take issue with. I do not see it as inherently "theirs" any more or less than it's brother.

It's not like a stork accidentally brought two

They're not actually brothers

More like roommates
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:25 PM on August 30, 2018 [13 favorites]


Allen had been paid extra for carrying twins. The case worker insisted some of that money needed to be paid back to the intended parents. She was also asking for money to pay for the care of the baby while he was in their care.

I really hope they get a good lawyer. I would think that the company is just out the money. They should do their due-diligence of DNA testing the babies before paying the twins fee. Oh, it's so rare that they didn't know they had to do this? That's on them. It's their responsibility.
posted by bleep at 7:23 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


I mean, before paying any expense, it's typical that a company has to verify that this expense actually happened, the goods were received, etc. If suddenly twins happen, it's up to the company to verify that suddenly twins happened before paying out and not something else. That's just accounting 101.
posted by bleep at 7:25 PM on August 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


that they're functionally fraternal twins with two sets of biological parents

It's so weird. They grew in the same small space but they aren't biologically related. But it feels like they are because it was before they were born. If two people lived in a closet together for years it wouldn't make them siblings. They wouldn't necessarily want to see each other again either!
posted by kitten magic at 8:47 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


But these two boys. Eek. It sounds like the two mothers get on well, maybe they can stay in touch and facilitate some kind of relationship in the future. Even if it's just 'cool story - you two once shared a womb!'

It sure gives them something for those 'tell us something surprising about you' icebreaker questions.
posted by kitten magic at 8:52 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


We now have the potential for a child to have up to 4 biological parents + 2 (or more, depending on jurisdiction) legal/nurturing parents:

Egg nucleus, sperm, mitochondrial egg material, gestational host/mother... and whoever has legal custody and the right to call themselves "parent."
Not related to this case: Throw in a divorce and remarriage, and you could have 4 custodial parents to deal with. (Technically, stepparents may not have legal parenting rights. In practice, schools and hospitals do not question anyone who shows up in a "parent" role unless they have a court order saying there's a problem.)

Our legal system needs to do some reorganization of birth certificate data and legal rights documentation.

And the surrogacy company needs to tap into their insurance fund and eat the cost on this one - yes, totally an unforseeable mistake; you're dealing with money for babies--one very slight step away from buying and selling people--so you can damn well budget for some "nobody knew that was even possible" events in order to make things as smooth and comfortable as possible. There is no way to pass the cost along to either family without both a PR disaster and opening bizarre legal cans of tentacle monsters.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:56 PM on August 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


I’m interested that you see surrogacy as “buying babies.”

I am an adoptee. I know it when I see it.

grar
posted by mwhybark at 9:11 PM on August 30, 2018 [6 favorites]


If you're not familiar with assisted reproduction and surrogacy, please don't spew your uninformed hot takes in this thread. -- posted by medusa at 3:00 PM on August 30

Just wanna put this back down here since we've suddenly got a buying babies tailspin beginning
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:53 PM on August 30, 2018 [5 favorites]


since we've suddenly got a buying babies tailspin beginning

That isn't necessarily a "you have no idea about this subject" take, though. Lots of countries outlaw commercial surrogacy (while often allowing altruistic surrogacy) specifically because of this. It seems a bit extreme to say that nobody can reasonably hold these views and anyone who claims to should shut up.
posted by Catseye at 12:01 AM on August 31, 2018 [11 favorites]


Quite a few European countries outlaw surrogacy, yes. Specifically stated inclusion of "commercial aspects" is there, as are "altruistic" surrogacies which are the only kind allowed in many places.

Of course, in France and much of Europe, having a baby itself is also essentially "free" in that it's covered by national healthcare that's funded by taxes. Have said it before, will say it again: privatizing healthcare isn't just about cost; it also opens a massive can of human rights worms.
posted by fraula at 1:35 AM on August 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


I was born through surrogacy 33 years ago. I did feel bought, for a while, and it is fraught, though I understand that my mom wanted me very very much in an era of very few fertility options. Now it turns out that the woman who gestated me also probably contributed the egg, which is something my parents had adamantly denied when I was little, and since they are both dead I have no one to ask and a nice fat ? in my and my children’s medical history. I mean, I could ask her, but if I am her biological child she really DID sell me and what do you say to that?

In conclusion: surrogacy is only as good as the people involved and by god do not lie to your children about their origins.
posted by lydhre at 4:09 AM on August 31, 2018 [11 favorites]


I do think it’s really telling that even in this thread people approach this situation with a horror at the idea of “selling babies” — which has not happened, as the child in question has clear rights and clear parentage, even if the surrogacy company wanted to (and should be shot directly into the sun for said attempt) — but with complete acceptance of the assumption that the woman who bore these children is nothing more than a brood mare. Or a storage unit. Or an incubation chamber.

All actual language from this thread.

Jesus fucking Christ.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:43 AM on August 31, 2018 [6 favorites]


well, one can be horrified at selling babies and horrified at treating women as mobile rentable baby storage units both, as part of an overarching horror at the whole idea of this being a commercial service?

Or in other words - and with the caveat that I have no idea of the specific legal system at play here so I don’t know if they were breaking the law or not - no agency anywhere should ever, ever be able to say “we will return $PRODUCT once you refund payment for $SERVICE” where ‘service’ is gestation and birth and ‘product’ is a baby.
posted by Catseye at 7:13 AM on August 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yes, it seems unlikely that there’s a non-horrifying way to run a for-profit surrogacy agency, particularly in a society that’s defined by extremely unequal distribution of wealth.

But you’re still very much misrepresenting the tenor of this thread. Like half of it is debate that assumes the commodification of a woman as, you know, fine.

She’s not chattel. She’s a person.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:24 AM on August 31, 2018


But you’re still very much misrepresenting the tenor of this thread.

No I’m not, honestly! I speak only for myself (as one of the people presumably horrified by selling babies that you referred to); I entirely agree that many of the posts on this thread portray a pretty appalling commodified take on gestation.
posted by Catseye at 7:27 AM on August 31, 2018


If a woman wants to gestate an embryo on behalf of another couple, that is her choice. Her choice. If you think that is a choice she shouldn't be able to make, you are advocating for control of women's bodies. Full stop.

Don't. Do. That.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:35 AM on August 31, 2018 [5 favorites]


half of it is debate that assumes the commodification of a woman as, you know, fine.

I struggle with the concept of surrogacy a lot. Like: women are frequently used for their uterus by men all over the world, and they don't get a dime for it: so is using your uterus for other women and getting paid for it kind of revolutionary? It feels like it! But then also, so often the women who are acting as surrogates are, by the nature of economics, less well-off and more dependent on the money they receive from the biological parents, which complicates the matter.
posted by corb at 9:48 AM on August 31, 2018 [6 favorites]


If a woman wants to gestate an embryo on behalf of another couple, that is her choice. Her choice. If you think that is a choice she shouldn't be able to make, you are advocating for control of women's bodies. Full stop.

So there is a distinction here made in the legal system of a number of countries/administrations between commercial surrogacy and altruistic surrogacy. Speaking as a woman, I am entirely fine with a legal system where I can gestate a baby for someone else if I want to, but they can't buy it from me as a purchasable commodity; just as I can donate a kidney to someone else if I want to, but they can't buy it from me as a purchasable commodity.

Anyway. It's good that Malachi is now back with Allen and her husband and the agency is no longer holding him in some kind of hellish escrow, and I hope he isn't too traumatised by this massive disruption in his life, although yeeesh that's a lot to go through in your first year.
posted by Catseye at 10:28 AM on August 31, 2018 [4 favorites]


I am entirely fine with a legal system where I can gestate a baby for someone else if I want to, but they can't buy it from me as a purchasable commodity; just as I can donate a kidney to someone else if I want to, but they can't buy it from me as a purchasable commodity.

OTOH, growing a kidney or liver or blood with the intent of donating it to someone else, doesn't put you through the physical strain that pregnancy does, and donating body parts you've already grown does not make you unable to work a standard job for weeks or months at a time. There's a reasonable argument for "pay equal to at least medical expenses + time from work lost," and while gestation fees are often a solid windfall for a poor family, they're about equal to a year's income for an upper-middle-class person. Since some of the after-effects of pregnancy can last for the rest of the mother's life, it doesn't seem unreasonable for "covering expenses" to include more than the handful of months that someone would be unable to work some kinds of jobs.

But yeah. The whole thing is fraught with openings for coercion and abuse, and there is no way for the legal system to come up with standardized answers that don't result in a lot of misery when they don't fit the people involved.

As weird surrogacy cases go, this one seems simple: both families want their bio-children; neither is outraged with the other; agency is just stuck with unexpected costs. Agency needs to cope with the fact that pregnancy and birth are not lab procedures and you can't always predict the outcomes - and if you only pay for outcomes you've predicted, the result is going to be distrust and people backing out of agreements.

Agency should pay up with a smile, and release press announcements about "Miracle Pregnancy: Babies for Two Happy Families!"
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:09 PM on August 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yeah they REALLY screwed this up PR-wise. Why would anyone do business with them after this?
posted by bleep at 3:31 PM on August 31, 2018


so I wanted to try to expand on my adoptee take without getting all angry and so forth. My perspective has a reasoned basis which is not purely grounded on an anti-capitalist perspective.

adoptees of my generation were often raised in closed adoptions; this is still disproportionately true for adoptees of color and overseas adoptees. I am neither. the reasons that closed adoption became predominant in the US after WW2 are complex but can be summarized as a combination of attempts by agencies to meet demand for children while professionalizing and regulating adoption as a social practice. Unfortunately, this led to the integration of certain American attitudes about race and class into the professional practices of the agencies, and one of the mid-century leaders in developing the practice of closed adoption is a person who repeatedly actually stole children and sold them. She appears to have advocated for closed adoption in part to enable her practice of child theft.

I was raised to understand that nurture predominates over nature and that infants adapt to new situations rapidly and without trauma. This appears to have been inaccurate, based on my current understanding. Available research to my knowledge supports the view that I today regard skeptically. The primary driver in what appears to me to be lifelong trauma symptoms, within the adoptee community that is currently examing this, is infant maternal separation at birth.
posted by mwhybark at 5:22 PM on September 1, 2018


This would appear to apply directly to surrogacy reproduction, with the caveat being of course that a surrogate infant has no DNA relationship to the birth mother. My understanding of my adult-adoptee community view on this point is unclear, as some authors and people seem to view DNA relationships per se as determinative in a non-behaviorist way, that is, that the experience of nurture by a non-DNA parent will always be traumatic, and others do not. There is little clear scientific data, as far as I can tell, in part because of ethical concerns raised by the faltering and misguided efforts that we know of (cf. the current doc "Three Identical Strangers").
posted by mwhybark at 5:27 PM on September 1, 2018


Therefore, according to my current understanding, the root of adoptee trauma would appear to apply equally to surrogacy-born persons, as a surrogacy-born person will also in most cases experience immediate birth-mother separation.

I want to note here as well that adoptees do also experience emotional challenges due to lack of access to or knowledge about fathers, and that donor-conceived people do also find that not knowing who their father was can be a life-long loss.

Surrogacy-born persons will presumably be able to access this information, but as noted upthread, it may be a struggle.

I apologize for my outbursts upthread.
posted by mwhybark at 5:36 PM on September 1, 2018


« Older Food fight: don't cook at home, or make your own...   |   "How would an alien see us?" Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments