I want to carry a child for my sister

My husband is dead set against it, but I feel compelled to be a surrogate mother.


Cary Tennis
November 8, 2006 4:44PM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

I am 40, with three children and no plans to increase my family's size any further. My sister (who is two years younger than I) and her husband have been trying for years to have a baby. She has been through several rounds of very expensive procedures, has been pregnant several times, but has lost all of the embryos. At this point, she and her husband have neither the resources nor the emotional reserves to go through yet another attempt to have a baby themselves.

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With three healthy kids resulting from three healthy pregnancies, I am more than willing to carry a child for my sister and brother-in-law. My husband, however, is absolutely opposed to the idea, and all of the discussion in the world is not changing his mind. He worries about my health and emotional well-being, and believes a pregnancy could prove very bad for both. For a whole host of reasons too numerous and complex to outline in a letter, I feel a very deep and compelling need to help my sister in this way. (I would also get a niece or nephew out of the deal.)

However, I really can't imaging being sick and otherwise miserable during a pregnancy and going through the process of having a baby with a spouse who detests the idea and will, in all likelihood, remain upset with me for nine months. No good solutions exist, but any counsel you might provide would be appreciated.

Want to Help

Dear Want to Help,

I respect this deep and compelling need to help your sister. Your husband may be right that it isn't the smartest thing to do. But there are some things we just have to do. Sometimes the things we have to do are not the smartest things; they're just the necessary things. If your husband does not support it, you cannot make him. You will have to live through that somehow.

If it were a small thing it would be different. You could easily give it up. But these things we feel compelled to do are mostly big, important things -- things that will change people's lives, things that will make a fundamental and enduring difference. So one bears the inconvenience and difficulty -- not easily, perhaps, or well, but one bears them.

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The difference between a child and no child is big. So I suspect that for reasons both stated and unstated, you will do this despite what your husband says -- and, for that matter, despite what anyone says.

And if you do it, then I predict the two of you will endure a period of strange, muted warfare where your belly grows bigger and bigger with a child not his own and he looks on you with a mixture of love and anger. In the beginning it may be one part anger and eight parts love, and in the middle four parts love and five parts anger, and near the end -- when your belly is huge with a baby not his own, which he will not raise and had no part in creating -- it will become nine parts sheer simmering anger and resentment and incomprehension and zero parts love, as he is thinking, "How could this wife of mine who has given me three children already and is now 40 years old get it into her head to bear a fourth that she will not even raise herself, but simply deliver in a plain brown wrapper to her sister to raise and name and coddle and call her own? And where am I in this, a husband who, it turns out, has no say over what his wife does with her womb but instead stands by like a statue in mute, staggering rage as sperm not my own and egg not her own are combined and set to growing in her belly and she endures the risk and the discomfort and the mood changes and all the rest of it that we have been through already three times before? And what do we do if as the months wear on we come to love this being in her womb as we loved the three previous beings who came through her into our house? What do we do then?"

Or perhaps your husband will be lying next to you, thinking, "And the thing that irks me the most -- the picture I am not liking one bit, is my wife's sister's husband sticking his head up there and watching as my wife delivers him a baby as a favor to her sister."

You meanwhile are lying awake night after night in the discomfort of your fourth pregnancy wondering why you've done it, wishing at times that you could back out of it but knowing you can't, and knowing you probably wouldn't even if you could, and thinking, at times, that to his credit, perhaps your husband was right. But of course it is too late. You are going through with it. There may be nights spent in hotels; there may be threats and ultimatums; there may be crying and slamming of doors and sleeplessness and strange, tense, silent encounters.

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For as your husband points out, this is not without its perils. You are taking a risk and making a sacrifice -- not simply enduring an inconvenience.

OK. You know that. You are doing this. And it is, it seems to me, given all that, a heroic thing to do.

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