Sunday January 23, 2011
Mother, you never had me
Another celebrity couple have announced the birth of their child by a surrogate mum. Is pregnancy going out of fashion with the rich and famous?
THERE used to be things that you had to do yourself, no matter how rich you were. Things like having a baby. But all that is changing. The latest rich and famous couple to have an offspring by surrogacy are Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban.
They issued a statement last Tuesday to announce the birth of their second daughter on Dec 28. They popped Kidman’s egg fertilised by Urban’s sperm into a human oven and waited for their freshly baked little bundle of joy to be delivered to them.
The couple made it a point to express their “incredible gratitude” to their “gestation carrier”.
So now there is a new career for women: gestational carrier. It’s probably safe to say that you will get a lot of “jobs” if you are young, “strong, bright, independent, thoughtful, caring, gracious and generous” – attributes that Sarah Jessica Parker gushed over when talking about her gestational carrier, who gave birth to her twin daughters in 2009. And the pay isn’t bad at all, even though you might end up with terrible stretch marks and plenty of cellulite.
According to reports, surrogate mums get paid between US$10,000 and US$25,000 (RM30,500 to RM76,300), but if they are carrying for a celebrity couple, the fee could go up into the millions, especially if they are expecting twins!
It used to be that if you couldn’t conceive, no matter how famous or rich, you grinned and bore it. Or, you took the only available route to parenthood: adoption. And a whole host of stars did that, some with disastrous results: Joan Crawford’s daughter wrote a really nasty exposure called Mommy Dearest; Mia Farrow’s Korean daughter Soon-Yi Previn ran off with her husband, Woody Allen.
Despite the possible pitfalls, today’s stars continue to adopt: Farrow, the original serial adoptive mother, has a successor in Angelina Jolie. Others who adopted include Madonna, Katherine Heigl, Sandra Bullock and Hugh Jackman.
But for those who want their own flesh and blood, wombs are now available for rent. The celebrity clientele ranges from stars who genuinely cannot conceive or carry a pregnancy to full term (Parker apparently tried to conceive for years after the birth of her son in 2003) to those who don’t want their looks or bodies to be marred; who can’t be out of action for nine months or more; or – we can’t help suspecting – who don’t want to deal with the mess and the bother.
No reason was given as to why Kidman did not bear Faith Margaret herself. There was that story that she would never have a child again after she broke a taboo by playing a didgeridoo, an aboriginal musical instrument forbidden to women. Or it could be that at 44, she suffered from secondary infertility, like Parker.
Then there are the gay celebrities like Ricky Martin and Elton John who wanted fatherhood but not a wife or mother for their bambinos.
Speaking of wifeless men who want babies, the first in the pack was actually the late, great Michael Jackson. He went through so much subterfuge to become a dad that questions remain as to who really are the biological parents of his three kids.
To be fair, not all celebrities choose surrogacy. Victoria Beckham, despite being so underweight, clearly has no problems conceiving and is now expecting her fourth child. After three boys, she must surely be hoping for a little Vicky.
Desperate Housewives star Marcia Cross got married at 44 and gave birth to twins at 45. Kelly Preston, John Travolta’s wife, gave birth at 48 to a son last year, which was truly a blessing after the sudden death of their 16-year-old son in January 2009.
Still, one wonders if any of today’s stars will endure what legendary Italian actress Sophia Loren went through to become a mother: After two miscarriages, she was confined to complete bed rest for the entire duration of both her pregnancies!
On the other hand, would she have opted for a gestational carrier if she had had that option back then?
While it is easy to view the surrogacy phenomenon among the rich and famous with a jaundiced eye, perhaps we should look at it in a historical context.
In the past, wealthy parents employed wet nurses and nannies to suckle and raise their children. They seldom “dirtied” their hands in directly caring for their offspring – it simply wasn’t the done thing. Plenty of today’s parents – rich and not-so-rich – while nursing illusions of being hands-on, are quite content to rely on others to do the bulk of the work in raising their children.
So if in the 21st century the uncomfortable and messy tasks of pregnancy and birthing can also be done by hired hands (wombs), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those who can afford it, are happy to pay for such a “service”.
The Star’s managing editor June H.L. Wong thinks the joys of pregnancy are overrated but she loved breastfeeding her children. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t have been able to do the latter without the former!