The XX Factor

I Don’t Support Carolyn Savage Carrying the Wrong Baby to Term

Call me egotistical, but I’m not lining up behind the well-wishers cheering on Carolyn Savage , the Ohio woman who, in the process of undergoing IVF, was mistakenly implanted with another couple’s embryo. She decided to carry the baby to term and just passed the 35-week mark.

Her predicament is clearly wrenching from a zillion standpoints, not to mention fraught with thorny ethical dilemmas. But I’m interested in why she decided to continue the pregnancy once she learned very early on-in the same conversation, no less-that yes, she was pregnant, but no, the baby was not hers.

Various articles about Savage and her husband, Sean, have cited their religious beliefs . Can’t argue with that. But I can wonder at what point self-interest should trump altruism. Sure, some women claim to sail through pregnancy, but I think (hope?) they’re lying. It’s hard work growing a baby, and it can tear up a woman’s body. My sister-in-law had surgery last month to restore bladder control after the births of her two girls. I’ve racked up thousands of dollars in medical charges trying to treat a painful varicose vein caused by the weight of my growing uterus, times three pregnancies. Savage herself delivered her second child 10 weeks premature after being diagnosed with HELLP, a life-threatening pregnancy complication related to preeclampsia. It took her 10 years to get pregnant with her third, who also arrived early when HELLP resurfaced.

Her current pregnancy has got to be her last, her doctor has counseled her, out of concern for her health. So Savage, an unwitting surrogate, has now signed a contract with a surrogate of her own-someone who will do exactly what she is doing, albeit wittingly.

It’s fraught enough to sign up to be a surrogate with your eyes wide open ( as XX ers discussed at length this summer ). But being forced into it? I can’t imagine the rawness of birthing a baby, then giving it away, all the while mourning what should have been.

There’s not much data out there about surrogates’ experiences, but a study of 34 surrogates published in 2003 in the journal Human Reproduction revealed that 32 percent reported some difficulties after they relinquished the babies they’d carried. A few months later, 15 percent still were having trouble coping. And these are women who made an intentional decision to pursue surrogacy.

In my eyes, Carolyn Savage wasted her last chance at pregnancy carrying a baby that wasn’t hers. She suffered all the pain for none of the gains. What she did get is a lot of heartbreak. Sometimes, I guess, that’s what parenthood is all about.