All the surro families I have had the pleasure to meet through this research have amazingly calm and content babies. I think it is because these beautiful babies were so wanted for so, so long. Research in the UK from a psychological perspective of parents who have babies through a surrogacy found:
“greater psychological well-being and adaptation to parenthood by mothers and fathers of children born through surrogacy arrangements than by the comparison group of natural-conception parents, with the exception of emotional over involvement, which is discussed below. Both mothers and fathers in surrogacy families reported lower levels of stress associated with parenting than did their counterparts with naturally conceived children, and the mothers also showed lower levels of depression. With respect to parent–child relationships, the findings were again more positive for the surrogacy parents than the natural-conception parents. Mothers and fathers in surrogacy families showed greater warmth and attachment-related behavior toward their infants, and greater enjoyment of parenthood, than did natural-conception parents. The surrogacy fathers were also more satisfied with the parental role” (Golombok et. al. 2004; 408)
My research differs from Golombok et. al. in that I am looking at surrogacy from an anthropological perspective, with different methodologies, and I have been looking specifically at commercial surrogacy arrangements. However, as I stated at the beginning of this post I have found that all the surro babies I know are fantastically content and happy children, so it looks like the findings correlate despite the different paths.
Australia is unquestionably behind when it comes to infrastructure supporting families. Where European countries such as the Netherlands offer paid parental leave that is on par with the salary earned prior to taking parental leave for up to 12 months, the Australian government offers “taxable payments of $543.78 per week for 18 weeks, a total of $9788.” When the average weekly income in both public and private sectors in Australia is $1376.30 the federal government is clearly falling short. Families are left to either rely on; their employers offering fair paid parental leave; having to save and wait to have to have a baby; having to put young babies in child care to return to work or; suffering financially to be the main carer of their young children. I find myself wanting to say “at least there is some parental pay now” where previously new parents in Australia were only entitled to a one of baby bonus off around $5000. However, these payments are less than the minimum wage, $589.30 – it is difficult to grapple with the logic here. Employers are free to offer their own parental leave packages for employees and these tend to be more generous and realistic, after all, the companies pay off is a happy employee bringing their specific skill set and experience back to the company.
The SMH reported today that a mother who had her child through gestational surrogacy is being denied paid parental leave by her employer, the State government:
The Crown Employees (Public Service Conditions of Employment) Award 2009 has provisions for maternal and adoption leave only and the Premier’s personnel handbook stipulates these do not apply to ”foster or surrogacy situations”.
It is shocking to see that the State government is discriminating against this parent and child in this way. The SMH quotes the mother saying:
”I’ve got a baby, the woman who adopts has got a baby, the woman who, fortunately for her, has had a baby; we’re all in the same boat,” she said. ”We all, thank god, go home with a baby but those two get paid parenting leave and I don’t.”
From what I understand Linda Burney‘s case against commercial surrogacy was all about the welfare of the child – how will this form of discrimination against children born through surrogacy and their parents protect the best interests of the child?