Fictional Surrogate Moms (Glee), Custody Fights, and "Surrogate" Sluts. What a Week!

**Warning: Spoilers Ahead (though, I don’t know why it’s called “spoilers” when the episode has already aired, but whatever)

I don’t know what’s been going on lately, but it seems like surrogate mother stories are everywhere. First of the surrogate mother stories was the one I’d heard on the radio where the surrogate mom sued for custody. The second of the surrogate mother stories was the storyline on Glee where Rachel is on her surrogate mother search (Best. Show. On. Television). And the third of the surrogate mother stories was a doozy of a story my friend told me about a “non-surgical”surrogate.Actually, there were even more surrogate mother stories than those three if you count the various callers to the Derek and Romaine Show this past week who wanted advice regarding surrogacy or to share surrogate mother stories. Of course, out of all the surrogate mother stories I’ve experienced lately, the Glee story is my favorite.
So for those of you who aren’t Gleeks and are wondering who this “Rachel” person is, Rachel Berry is one of the main characters on Glee. She was conceived via surrogate, and has never met her surrogate (biological) mom. Although the surrogate was also her egg donor, this is not a closed adoption scenario, because her dads actually had a surrogate mom contract, and they each donated sperm. The joke in the pilot episode was that Rachel thought it was sweet that no one knows which one is her biological father. If you don’t get why that joke is funny, it’s because her father are different races. Unless her surrogate mother’s genes are very strong [which, maybe i don’t want to paint myself into this corner given my daughter’s coloring and that of other biracial children I’ve seen…], you can generally guess which one of Rachel’s fathers is in fact the biological father.

So during an episode entitled “Dreams” (with NPH!!!), the glee club members are asked to write down their deepest, wildest dreams. Although Rachel writes down something fairly obvious (to be a star) she later reveals that what she really wants more than anything is to meet her mother. Some shenanigans ensue, and Rachel “finds” a recording of her mother singing. This leads to some fabulousness wherein Idina Menzel (playing Rachel’s mother – love her!!) and Lea Michelle (the actress who plays Rachel) have a duet that left me weeping. I probably could have died a happy woman at that moment. If they had sung something from Wicked and been joined by NPH and Kristen Chenoweth, I very well may have.

Anyway, Idina Menzel is an obvious choice for the surrogate mother story line here. She and Lea Michelle could easily be sisters in real life. There was a really sad moment where Idina Menzel explains to another character why she has to make Rachel contact her rather than the other way around. She explains how she signed a surrogate mother contract saying she would not contact her daughter, and how she only saw her for a minute after she gave birth, when one of the nurses was cleaning Rachel off.

This whole scenario got me thinking – what makes someone a mother? I mean, we all know that there’s more than biology that makes a family. And we all know that submitting 50% of someone’s genetic material doesn’t make you a parent. But what happens when contract law gets in the way of emotion? Apparently, Ryan Murphy (the creator/writer/producer of Glee) and I were on the same page, because he actually tackled that issue in the next episode.

So, at the end of “Dreams,” Rachel has heard a recording of her surrogate mother [a duet, which brought me to tears], her surrogate/biological mother is waiting for contact, and I’m spending the next week wondering about the legal, emotional, and ethical implications of surrogacy and what makes someone a mother, especially when the surrogate mother is also the egg donor. Luckily, some of my wondering was out loud to other people, so I ended up hearing a pretty hilarious court case relating to the use of a non-surgical surrogate (think about it). More on that later…

Rachel didn’t know who her surrogate mother was, even though she’d heard her voice on tape. Rachel and some of her cast mates go to spy on their rival team, Vocal Adrenaline (seriously), and it is at this moment that Rachel realizes the voice on the tape, her biological mother, is Vocal Adrenaline’s coach Miss Cochran (played by the fabulous, incomparable Broadway diva, Taye Diggs wifey, and Lea Michelle doppelganger, Idina Menzel). Rachel confronts Miss Cochran, and they have a very awkward exchange. Rachel points out how similar she and her mother are because they’re sitting, not looking at each other, in a completely overly dramatic fashion, and yet they are both very comfortable that way. When asked about how she feels about the situation, Rachel says that she’s “thirsty,” and then she explains that when she was little, her dads would give her a glass of water when she was sad, so eventually it got to the point where she couldn’t tell if she was sad or thirsty. It is at this point her surrogate mother announces, “I can’t do this,” and leaves. My husband and I were mortified. Imagine the emotional implications of finding a 16-year old girl who’s never met her mother, giving her the hopes of a mother-daughter relationship, and then just bailing on her!

We find out later that the water story is what made Miss Cochran realize that she is just a surrogate mother and not a real mother. Rachel’s dads had raised her. Miss Cochran could not have any other children, so in forging a relationship with Rachel, she was trying to get her baby back. Instead she realized that Rachel isn’t a baby anymore, she’s never going to get her baby back, and Rachel doesn’t need her.

I have to disagree with the idea that Rachel doesn’t need her [as evidenced by the Lady Gaga outfit she needed her mother to make her because her “dads don’t sew,” and their attempt at it was disastrous]. Personally, I think children always need their mothers. I’m thirty-mumble-mumble years old, and even though my mom wasn’t there for me a lot of the time when I was younger, there are many times now when I need her. Yes, I’m grown and have my own family; but just like I often need the love and support of my dad, I still need my mom, too. I think children always need their mothers.

But I also think Miss Cochran was right in a sense. Yes, she’s Rachel’s biological mother, but (as she said) being a mother doesn’t make you a mom. Rachel has parents, and Miss Cochran is not one of them. I’m glad the episode wrapped up the issue of surrogate mother v. biological mom that was running through my head all week, but I was still saddened by the whole issue. And I really hope it doesn’t mean that Idina Menzel won’t make any more guest appearances – particularly if they could arrange for her and Kristen Chenoweth to appear on the same episode again (but maybe sing together? Something from Wicked, perhaps?).

The Cases

The first of the surrogate mother cases I’d heard involved a surrogate mother who sued the parents for custody of the child. You’re probably thinking the mother just wanted to get her biological child back. Au contraire mon frere. What makes this different from other surrogate mother cases you may have heard is that the surrogate contributed no genetic material to the making of the baby. Both egg and sperm were supplied by the parents; the surrogate mother was simply a carrier. So what happened – was this just an issue of a woman who bonded with her baby during the nine months of carrying her? Sort of.

What happened was, the mother (the biological/contractual mother) has a host of mental conditions she had not revealed to the surrogate. I am not sure if this disclosure was actually a part of the surrogate mother contract, but whatever these mental problems were, the surrogate considered this nondisclosure a deal breaker. Actually, I guess it wasn’t the actual nondisclosure that was the problem, the problem was that the mother was in fact crazy. Very much so. The surrogate feared for the child’s health and safety, so she sued for custody. And in an odd twist on surrogate mother cases, she won. Turns out that the parents had resorted to surrogacy because they had been rejected by several adoption agencies, including some abroad. Yes, she is that crazy. This raises the issue of whether some people just don’t have a right to be parents? I can’t say the answer would be the same in all surrogate mother cases, but in this one, the court decided NO.

The second of the surrogate mother cases I’d heard about when I mentioned to my best friend how the surrogate mother story line on Glee got me thinking about the question of what really makes someone a mom. She told me a story she’d heard from someone who’s spouse is a family law attorney. Apparently, the attorney has a divorce case where the couple is splitting up because of the emotional fallout of using a non-surgical surrogate. Never heard of a non-surgical surrogate you say? Oh, that’s just a fancy way of saying that the surrogate didn’t want to go through surgery to be implanted, so the husband and wife agreed that the husband would just have sex with the surrogate as many times as it took for her to get pregnant!! What the…?

I’m sorry, but that is the craziest of the surrogate mother cases I have heard. Why on earth would anyone agree to that?? And worse still, they actually signed a surrogate mother contract to that effect!! I am not surprised they’re getting divorced.

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