Surrogacy and the Misbegotten Family

babyIn 1965, at the tail end of the baby boom, the maternity block at Crown Street Women’s Hospital was as busy as ever. It was twenty years since the war and the first of the Baby Boomers were now coming into labour. The echo of the baby boom had come, but neither the echo nor the hospital were to last. Within a few years the hospital was closed, the buildings were demolished, and out of mind went the memory of the place where so many families had been made.

What happened to the labour ward admissions register? It must be stored away somewhere in some government archive. Perhaps it could be retrieved, to be put on display in a new museum dedicated to the disappearing “traditional family”. The register was a massive tome and it needed its own solid timber reading stand. Located just inside the swinging doors of the delivery suite, it lay there, open and inviting, for the stream of new arrivals. They often came charging through the double doors at around three in the morning.

New arrivals were admitted one to a line down the left of the page. Along the line of each admission, handwritten progress notes in neat copperplate (before the age of computers) followed the labour across the page to the discharge instruction, which was boldly indicated by “HOME” or “BFA”. There were about forty names down each page. About half of those deliveries were destined to go home, the rest became BFAs.

Medical students crowded about the register by night and day. Confining themselves to the BFAs, they studied the “form” like punters at the races. Then, all together, they scrambled for this or that delivery room to watch the coming of a newborn.

Grasping a pink or blue (and hopefully never grey) baby by the neck, grappling with its soggy, slippery body and manipulating, manoeuvring and gently easing it into the world without squeezing or dropping it is all that it takes to deliver a baby. After all, childbirth is the most natural thing in the world. Actually, the BFAs were always complicated …

When a BFA labour was nearing delivery, when the baby’s head became visible at the birth canal and birth was imminent, it was then that the bedside nurses moved quickly to throw a large pillow across the patient’s abdomen to prevent her from seeing what was going on at her nether end. Then the overbearing nurse on the right with the one on the left of the bed would together lean forward and encircle the patient with open arms. Clasping her in a supporting embrace, they would hold her to steady and comfort her. They would wipe the beads of sweat from her brow and whisper frothy little nothings in her ears. They would goad her tenderly but firmly through the hardest stage of labour.

As the strain and pain reached crescendo, she was coaxed along with the refrain “Push, dear, into your bottom” and she needed this instruction because she was delivering blind. The emphasis on the “push” would occasionally bring in, as if on cue, the attending students in a light-hearted chorus of “Push, dear, into your bottom”, rendered at just the right tempo for the midwife to pull the baby clear and switch off the pain.

That sudden release left the drugged and incoherent patient staring open-mouthed at the ceiling, whereupon the nurses’ embrace became tighter, set for restraint in case she started thrashing around, or if she came back to her senses too quickly and attempted to reach out, to dislodge the pillow, to catch a glimpse, however fleeting, of the product of her ordeal, the limp and soggy mass that was hastened out of the room before it gasped for air.

The students crowding the exit doorway were focused on the midwife, who clamped and cut the cord and relayed away the baby faster than the poor mother could reset her mind. All the students straightened up and smartly stepped aside to make a passage for delivery by the wardsman of the bundle to a place outside where the newborn cry could rend the air without disturbing the equanimity of the confinement suite. Half the student body livened up enough to hurry out to watch the registrar induce the newborn’s cry …

Sometimes the delivery didn’t run smoothly and a shrill or moaning plaintive cry, “My baby!” chased the Baby For Adoption out the door and the patient had to be restrained and consoled. Most times, the BFA was transported “unannounced” out of the confinement room and the nurses smiled and nodded approvingly to the patient as they cautiously and warily relaxed their embrace with their customary: “Everything’s going to be all right now, dearie.”

The patient was already spaced out by the painkillers and the long labour. Now she was tired and light-headed as well after all that pushing, straining and hyperventilating. Still, she managed to return a nod or two in the direction of the nurses and sometimes even a vacant smile of achievement. The nurses would then nod and smile and caress her some more and while everybody was smiling and nodding, the midwife went about the undercover business of removing the afterbirth, dropping it into a bucket and taking that and a few of the remaining students quietly away. Those scholars were keen to perform the post-natal examination of the placenta.

After all the evidence of the patient’s travail had left the room, after the obstructing pillow had been removed and the birthing area tidied up, the patient was left to rest quietly in bed. That was an opportunity for the students who were still there to come around and polish up their bedside manner. They would approach the patient and introduce themselves. They would engage her with smiles and ask her how she felt. Professing interest in her case, they would praise her for her sterling effort and make small talk about anything except the baby that was not there.

In 1965 that sort of confinement was “not uncommon”. A patient was admitted into hospital to be relieved of a BFA. Crown Street was a major obstetrics teaching hospital and it delivered babies to and from everywhere. Young unmarried women were sent from country towns on an extended holiday to the big city once their heaviness could no longer be concealed under layers of clothing.

The young women were billeted near the hospital, and after confinement they were sent back home—sometimes back to school, and back behind their usual desks without fuss or disruption to the class. Occasionally, they were greeted by a testosterone-mediated guffaw from the back of the room.

As for all those babies stolen so easily from their mothers, they would become another generation for everybody to feel guilty about and for heartfelt apologies to be made and for prime ministerial tears to be shed forty-seven years later. But in 1965 that poor wardsman was only doing his job. He was helping to farm the babies out to good Christian couples who were unable to conceive, who were deemed by a strict selection panel to be fit, willing and capable of giving an adopted child the best possible chance in life in a stable and loving family environment. The babies spent no time at all in the nursery. Without fuss, they were bundled up and whisked away. Their adoption by deserving childless couples had already been arranged.

The babies had to be adopted out. The natural order demanded it. The natural order decreed that every baby that was born in the hospital had to go home to a natural family. A natural family began when a man married a woman. The couple then produced children in the normal way or, failing that, used adoption as a natural and time-honoured way of starting a family. There were all sorts of families in the world and it was acknowledged that unnatural families had their reasons for being. However, for the vital tasks of nurturing and raising children, only the natural family could raise children naturally.

All of this had to be impressed upon the pregnant country girls and it was good that the chemistry of gestation had sensitised them to the kind of chanting that the big city hospital was good at. Crown Street wasn’t just an obstetrics hospital. It made families. The pregnant “public” patients who were sent there couldn’t help but notice the hopeful childless couples outside the nursery window.

The patients also spent some weeks in the hostel before delivery, so there was plenty of time for them to be coaxed and nudged along Crown Street’s family circle of values. However, if the constant chanting of the staff didn’t convince a patient and she still quibbled about having a BFA, the hard word was put on her.

In 1965 it was considered to be a self-evident human right for a child to have a mother and a father. Crown Street asserted that right on behalf of its babies because the mothers could not or would not do it for them. Human-rights awareness was pretty raw in those days. But the hostel staff were very good at explaining the rights of the child to the mother who was about to lose her baby. “It is best for the child, my dear.”

And for the patient’s family. The family didn’t need another mouth to feed and the government didn’t pay pensions to unmarried mothers. Abortion on demand was illegal. So the babies had to be delivered instead.

In 1965 the family was thriving and Crown Street posted its proud spirited contribution to family health with a large canvas, “Our Family”, which hung like an advertisement outside the social worker’s office. Another nearby maternity hospital welcomed visitors with an icon of the Madonna and Child reverentially displayed on an easel near its front entrance. But at Crown Street it was The Family as it might have been painted by Norman Rockwell that was the object of devotion. The family was highly esteemed in those days. It had just brought forth the boomer generation and for that masterly achievement everybody was singing praises of the family.

A photographic exhibition, “The Family of Man”, which opened at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1955 and toured the world for some years, seized upon the popular enthusiasm for heaping praise upon the family. In that eye-catching panegyric, family portraits from all over the world were gathered together. The eye of the camera had “penetrated beyond man’s worldly accretions, his superficial mien and social consciousness” to expose the “universal elements and emotions in the everydayness of life”. Thus the family from Kansas and the family from the Kalahari in juxtaposition revealed “the essential oneness of the family throughout the world”. There was a nonchalant “salt of the earth” composure in the eyes of those families, no look of foreboding for the day (very near) when they would be “deconstructed” into anxious nuclear fragments.

The Crown Street family portrait could have been the template for that bygone exhibition. That family boasted four generations of proud, happy and healthy-looking folk of all ages with the latest addition to the extended family sitting in the lap of the elderly matriarch at the centre. There were her children and her children’s children, all with their spouses and their smiling children about them.

The happiest faces in the picture were of the little ones. Born of their mothers and beaming like their fathers, these confident-looking kids could be seen grinning impishly, and boasting without being heard: “I have a Mum and a Dad and they are right there behind me.”

The Crown Street family is tightly drawn and cohesive. Its pedigree is exclusive, its bloodlines streamlined. The family blueprint can be sketched quickly and deftly into shape. Little squares and little circles for males and females. Horizontal and vertical, marriage and begetting lines. A quick line drawing of the extended family reveals at a glance where and how everybody fits in.

Living families are never as neat as that. Families tend to be chaotic and the family diagram would declare as much were it to be drawn completely and accurately. There are many things to do with family that people will whisper about but prefer not to put on paper and certainly not in diagrammatic form. There are black sheep, bastards and village idiots everywhere, and there are the products of consanguinity and incest that nobody wants to talk about, let alone see presented diagrammatically.

The family tree diagram lives and changes with the family. In recent times, its branching and re-branching have become bewildering. Unconventional begettings are turning family diagrams into printed circuits and an orgy of surrogacy is melting down family diagrams into bowls of spaghetti and meatballs. Soon there will be no visible lines of descent to fret about and a man will not dither if he fancies fathering a child with his mother’s defrosted gametes.

Surrogacy is a great invention. It presents the gift of parenthood to the couple who did not dare to dream that one day they too would become parents and cradle in their arms a baby of their very own. But surrogacy also presents the gift of parenthood to any man who wants to have a child for just his own pleasure.

Men do want to be fathers. The desire for fatherhood is a normal human instinct. It is the driver for the survival of the species. But nature has made the struggle for survival vexatious for gay men by making all men dependent upon women.

In his pursuit of fatherhood the gay man has had to endure endless humiliations throughout history and in all cultures. He has had to live a life of pretence. While at times he has been successful in a Darwinian sense, he has always been left to nurse a discontented love for evermore.

And then came surrogacy.

The battle of the sexes has been raging since the day Man led his recalcitrant family out of the cave. But now the row has become nasty because the new feminist has hatched up some seriously progressive ideology with a dismal “Nature is bad, nurture is good” mantra which promises to undo, not just the natural family, but much more besides.

As soon as her boomer cohort was old enough to have a say she started desexing everything in sight, not missing even the lowly manhole cover. She stuck her nose behind the school toilets to catch the kids learning about themselves and she marched them off to sex education classes for instruction into the correct understanding of sexuality and gender. She insisted that all genders be equal and she has levelled the playing field to make it all so. She has mandated that there will be no boys-only games anymore and no boys-only clubs anymore.

She has decreed that boys don’t need to be prepared for manhood. Laudatory references to boyhood and manhood are discriminatory, unacceptable and must be expunged from the language. There is no such thing as “manly virtue”, and all mentoring of boys by men is pederasty at best.

If a deprecating opportunity presents itself, she will put the boot in. In sex education for example, the teacher will discuss paedophilia and she will note in passing that the Scientific American has reported that there is no such thing as a female paedophile. In school, boys are wearing the dunce’s hat and taking the Ritalin. At the end of the day, the kids go wandering home in unisex uniforms and gender confusion.

The father figure is out of date and the absent father is becoming the norm. Men make children without rite or ritual and then walk away. Children pass through childhood without a man having touched their lives. The family doctor dares not lay a fatherly hand on the shoulder of a troubled teenager lest he set off an explosion of bottled-up anger. The boy may have never known a father, but he’s got all the facts on paedophiles, they’ve taught him those at school.

Just as the Family of Man is becoming a failing enterprise, the gay couple, sensitised by a newfound family-making potency, emerges from the closet and clamour for the right to marry, to have and to raise children, to exemplify the two-father family to families that have known no father at all.

The lesbian lifestyle is stable in ways that the gay couple can never hope to mimic. Even so, having two mothers is worse than having no father at all when it comes to turning a boy into a man. Also, for building up a girl’s confidence, one father does it better than two mothers combined and he does it, seemingly, without even trying.

There are no homosexuals in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. There is, however, a nice new entity called “androphilia”.

An androphiliac couple can now go into any “ovarium” and purchase an egg. They may then affirm their love by ejaculating into test tube A of the IVF kit they bought from the chemist. They can then pop their chosen egg into the mix, courier the conceptus to IBF and after about nine months the firm will deliver a battery-farmed baby.

Making a baby for oneself is easy nowadays. Now that the industry has gone offshore to where womb hire is dirt cheap, surrogate farms are growing babies like cabbages, or in IBF’s case, like coconuts.

IBF is a surrogate reproduction servicing firm which recently listed in the health-care service sector of the All Ords. The customer does the “servicing” and IBF gestates and delivers the baby. IBF has established a reproduction facility on a nearby tropical island paradise. The facility has a motel-style hostel where the wombs (docile native girls) are billeted and a battery of delivery rooms hidden away at the rear of the premises. Thoughts of Crown Street may spring to mind with this arrangement but the comparison doesn’t really carry.

Like a forlorn hope, IBF Island is embraced by its barrier reef. It may wrap around itself a medico-legal firewall or even an iron curtain but it will be all to no avail. One day and in time, IBF’s sins will come of age and they will turn and ask questions. One woman is known to have sued the doctor who delivered her, years after the event, because he had given her “unlawful life”. Her gay parents had separated, leaving her at home alone, to ask the mirror on the wall, “Who am I?”

Doctors are hypersensitive to the risk of medico-legal complications in their work, and thoughts of being sued lurk at the back of every consultation. However, the risk isn’t random. It depends on the kind of doctoring one indulges in and it is well known that an elective procedure is always riskier then a life-saving intervention.

Obstetrics has an overall high medico-legal complication rate because people “elect” to have beautiful and healthy babies and furthermore, they “elect” to have them without any discomfort or inconvenience to themselves. This makes even an ordinary delivery a hand-sweating procedure and that’s why it comes with a fixed rating of 55 iu on the MLC scale, irrespective of the experience of the accoucheur.

The MLC index is a function derived from computer modelling analysis of the “electivity profiles” of various medical and surgical interventions. The index is charted on a scale from zero to 110. Low-risk procedures fall towards the bottom and the index maxes out at 110 iu for the most dangerous (for the doctor) interventions. The MLC index is a useful clinical tool for giving pause to doctors when they go chasing challenging procedures up the scale.

Actuarial tables based on the MLC index rank external cardiac massage at the bottom of the scale with an MLC of zero. That is because people actually smile about their broken ribs when they emerge alive from that procedure. By comparison, breast augmentation surgery has a calculated 85 iu. This might seem high for such a superficial operation but it’s not overvalued because, when you think about it, the surgeon is really operating on the client’s ego.

No procedure has greater electivity then the one that enables the gay man to make a baby for himself. It registers a red-hot 110 on the MLC scale. Saving a life is one thing but making a life is quite another. The MLC score decorating this gay conceit should be taken as a red flag by all family-making enterprises to (at least) pause and contemplate Crown Street.

IBF is serviced by an elite clientele from the most advanced Western nations. These people are in a league of their own with regard to the size of the ego. It takes an Olympian-sized ego to wilfully fabricate a new life, mould it into a child and all the while ignore the other half of that child’s nature. But there are plenty of men who have such towering egotism and they heed no red flag in their mixed-up pursuit of family bliss.

One egocentric musical celebrity bragged, to a mob of reporters, “I need someone to love in my old age,” when he was taking delivery of his newly minted son. In an interview for Fathers and Babies magazine he reminisced on the sudden and unexpected passing of his beloved mother and he became dewy-eyed and grieved openly for the harshness of the fates which afforded him just a frozen egg, delivered from some Third World ovarium, with which to sire his son. “I wanted to have my mother,” he lamented to the media.

At a recent promotional seminar, an IBF executive was asked how big was its potential market. The executive shrugged his shoulders and with a gesture of supplication that wiped the expert grin from his face replied, “I don’t know.” It appears that IBF’s clients are (nearly) all gay and you can’t count gays the way you count ordinary people. Today’s gay man may yesterday have had “wife, kids, the full catastrophe”.

When asked if IBF would be a good stock to hold in a “mum and dad” super fund portfolio, another executive was quick to impart his confidence for the future of the company: “Imagine the economic benefits to millions of ordinary women who won’t have to interrupt their careers to have babies in the old-fashioned way!” Hold IBF for the long term was his advice: “Because every hen wants to be a rooster.”

In the meantime, battery baby-farming stocks have a low yield since they are dependent on a gay market which aspires to no more then token fatherhood. Gays are not into increasing the population. You won’t see a gay couple with their three kids walking in the park.

Currently IBF has no choice but to promote itself to gay couples and singletons desiring a beloved for mentoring. Prospective couples are lured by the offer of a tropical island holiday at the company’s resort. Aspiring fathers can take a restful holiday in the last three weeks of their pregnancy while taking in the company’s “Parenting for Fathers” seminar. That five-day intensive program introduces and deals with the special issues and challenges of non-traditional parenthood. Early registration is advised for this essential educational experience. There is also available a post-natal hands-on workshop in “practical fathercraft”.

All of IBF’s enculturation programs are designed to the highest international standards by the company’s multi-disciplinary team of experts. IBF is internationally recognised as an ethical health-care provider and a centre of excellence for the delivery of the family of the future. It is currently developing an entry-level program for the man who is reorienting from ordinary family life to gay fatherhood and family.

“Making the Family of the Future” is the mission statement of IBF. On the day that a couple takes delivery of their newborn, they will receive their new baby’s birth certificate embossed with this affirmation and the names of the definitive parents of the child. On discharge from the facility the new family will receive a complimentary gift voucher for their infant’s first round of immunisation shots.

All of this family-making business is exciting and challenging for any nervous first-time parent but for the newly contrived “Family of Men” there is also apprehension. After all that the couple has gone through and all that they have had to endure to come with child and give birth, their little one will begin life with a disadvantage. It will be stigmatised as illegitimate and disparaged as a “battery farm baby” by a deeply conservative family culture which denies the fathers the human rite of marriage. Their child will join about 70,000 other little innocents belonging to monogendered nuclear families in California.

For the modern-day miracle baby, the happy homecoming is yet to be. But attitudes are changing. The World Court and the American College of Paediatrics, for example, have been quietly intimating: “It is no disadvantage for a little boy to have no father if he has two mothers and there is no deprivation when a little girl has no mother if she has two fathers. All’s well, so long as the putative parents of the children provide them with the appropriate measure of parenting.”

This intelligence is reassuring. It means that the gay community’s struggle for matrimonial rights and legitimacy for its children has strong support and will inevitably succeed. It is now time for the legislators to move into the twenty-first century and do the right thing by recognising the new facts of family life.

Actually, the new facts of life have already arrived in California, the ACT and various other Orwellian jurisdictions. In those semantic wonderlands the anti-axiomatic is the new normal and marriage lines gaily unite. The black sheep and his mate are all smiles in the family photo. From now and forever they are married parents and partners and the fruit of their union can be seen dangling legitimately in the family tree diagram.

The progressive Western world will discriminate no more! The family will become democratic, inclusive, and it will be seen to celebrate everybody’s right to family with issue, however engendered and irrespective of sexual preference, sexual orientation or gender identity and in any parental number or combination thereof.

All families are now equal and no families are less equal than others. All families will have the right to share in the sanctity and the blessings of marriage (whatever they may be) and marriage will be redefined. Marriage is, or may be: “The union of a man or a woman to a woman or a man or a …” The new non-discriminatory and open-ended definition, however worded, will accommodate unions long denied by thraldom to the ancient and exclusive family of man. Now and again people will be able to effect unions, have babies and make families as naturally as in the days before the family of man took its fateful leave of the stone age cave.

A herd of leather-jacketed dykes-on-bikes thunders down Sydney’s Oxford Street. They rev past, each with her partner clinging tightly around her waist, and in the sidecars they are carrying fewer than 2.2 kids each. These families of women are all flying the banner of the interlinked circles. And there are hundreds of them. The dykes are sputtering down the road to gay … oblivion.

Tonight is the night of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. The caravan shoved off from outside the Museum of Natural History, which houses a splendid “Hall of Primitive Cultures”, and it is now gallivanting its way towards the old showground a few kilometres away where it will peter out in and around the cavernous exhibition hall.

As the riders head for that cave screaming “Gay Marriage!” placards galore emerge from the dyke exhaust. In rainbow-coloured and meaningful ways, they leave no doubt as to what they want or when they desire it. But then what will they do with it?

My! How those little miracle babies are thriving in the care of their mentors. They have come a long way to attend this nuclear family friendly event and it is wonderful to see how many other friendly nuclear families are attending either as participants or as spectators.

The rich, the famous and all those beautiful people, marching in priapic solidarity, have given the big tick to the Sydney Mardi Gras, gaily marking it as the world leader in the genre. Turned-on people are now coming from far and wide.

“Oh, look! there goes that famous gay celebrity dad who sings in the Queen’s English and plays the piano and there’s his little son Titan. Isn’t Titan just a chip off the old block!?”

“But Titan’s smile seems distant and unfocused. Are all trophy babies like that?”

“His dad tells everybody that Titan smiles just like his grandmother, but I wouldn’t know about that.”

“Now who’s that other guy cuddling Titan in his arms?”

Here comes the giant wedding cake, tottering terribly. It’s all patched up and worn out. But anyway, it won’t be needed after this year. Remember the tuxedoed little gays who used to grace the top tier? They’re gone, replaced by a couple of gynaephilic natal males (drag queens) and they’re not just standing there holding hands. They are kicking up their heels and waving high the rainbow flag and the banner of the interlocked squares. They are making merry in gender dysphoria and sweeping the air in victory salute.

The crowds go wild as the cake cart goes passing by. People are pressing the barricades. They are stretching out and waving their chosen little flags like mad. Some of the celebrants are lesbian and others are completely gay. But they are the few; the many of the agitated are just ordinary people, the sons and daughters of lapsed and fractured families, remnants and radicals of unstable nuclear families and fugitives from the oppressive and politically uncool family of man. They are all together, loudly and gaily cheering for the disestablishment of marriage and the disappearance of the old-fashioned family for good.

By now the cake has all but rattled by and alas, contingents of the clever few are surging into view. They are the people who command the language, the ones who tell you what you think on the passing of the meaning of marriage. Marching like the silent remnants of an old battalion, the very clever people from “My friends call me Aunty” are sweeping benignly by. Don’t be fooled, there’s nothing avuncular about that lot. They are Godfathers, here to pay their respects at the fall of the Family of Man.

And here comes an afterthought. A contingent of High Court judges, looking like a muddle of gays in drag and moving like the shaking palsy. You wouldn’t think they could make up a full bench whatever their number. Yet they are preparing to pass judgment on the squaring of the circle. Be assured that however they frame their decision, they will only serve to dispel whatever mystery there is still left lingering in the meaning of marriage.

The frolicsome adoring crowds are now jumping the barricades. They are joining hands and becoming one with the merrymakers. One big extended family it is now, strolling and ambling gaily along to the brave new world of freedom from the oppression of the family of man.

In the distance, the caravan veers sharply and is lost to view behind a right turn. It is heading out of the light and back towards the cave wherein everyone will belong to everybody and everybody will love anybody and nobody will need to look up to the stars any more.

John James Prineas is a general medical practitioner who graduated from the University of Sydney and has a family practice in western Sydney.


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