For so many people longing to have a child, using a surrogate mother or gestational carrier is a miraculous answer to their problems. But though it’s become much more common recently, the practice is still quite fraught with legal and moral dilemmas, as one recent Reddit post from a surrogate has tragically illustrated.
The post is from BIrthParent_Pro, a woman who was a gestational surrogate for her friend six years ago. Already, we are in awe of a person being able and willing to do so much for her friend — because getting a stranger be a surrogate is expensive and complicated. Now, sadly, the friend has died, and adding distress to this sadness: The widowed father thinks she should now share the responsibility of caring for his child.
“My best friend couldn’t have children; the risk of her death was too high and she already was having fertility problems,” she wrote on the AITA subreddit. “So I became pregnant with their child and everything went smoothly. There was a contract in place that I wouldn’t be financially responsible for the kid and so on. It was a pretty standard contract.”
In a later comment, BIrthParent explained that she wasn’t a traditional surrogate (using her own egg) but a gestational carrier, meaning the girl is not genetically related to her. Still, after the friend’s death, her husband, whom BIrthParent never liked, wants more from her.
“Her husband has been calling me recently [saying] that I should step up as the kid’s mother because I did give birth to her,” she said. When she refused, the dad threatened to get lawyers involved.
Our presumption is that there’s no way he’ll be successful. They had a contract; she’s not the mother; the end, right? Well, it turns out that the laws surrounding surrogacy and gestational carriers are so confusing and varied from state to state and country to country, she might need to lawyer up, just in case.
The best-case scenario for BIrthParent is that she had a good lawyer six years ago, and she lives in a place where surrogacy is legal (it’s still technically against the law in some states). That would mean that her friend and her husband either made a “declaration of parentage” or legally adopted the child. Even if a child is biologically yours, when you give it up for adoption, you have no legal or financial obligations toward them.
But if they failed to do things by the book, BIrthParent might still find herself sued for child support, the way some sperm donors (who did things unofficially) and deadbeat dads get sued. No one can force anyone to be a parent, but they can make you pay up.
Redditors offered all sorts of legal advice on the matter (which, really, she needs her own local lawyer to tell her what’s up), but where they’re most valuable on this forum is in giving moral support.
“[H]e’s after a free babysitter, and faux step-mommy,” Idunnobutt wrote. “Unless you want to go after full custody, cut him off, and out of your life. I’m sorry you and the kids lost someone who was important to you.”
“First of all, I am sorry for your loss,” OliveAndPeaz said. “Losing your friend, especially with everything else that is going on, is very difficult. Secondly, [you’re not the asshole]. You did something amazingly kind for your friend and her husband and made it very well known that you did not want to be responsible for the kid, going so far as to draw up a contract. It is not your fault that he has not figured out how to parent by himself. Don’t let him bully you into doing something that you don’t want to.”
There was at least one person expressing sympathy for the dad here: “Dude just lost his wife and we are in the middle of a pandemic so who knows what his financial situation is,” dcostalis wrote. “For all we know he is panicking and doing whatever he thinks is necessary to care for his child because he doesn’t have other options.”
This is one more lesson for us all that no good deed goes unpunished — unless your lawyers are really excellent at their jobs.
These gorgeous photos show moms who love their postpartum bodies.