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THE VALUE OF LIFE

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I WAS listening to Kaya FM this week and heard a rather disturbing story about a Soweto woman who was duped into a surrogacy contract.

A Doctor Griffiths allegedly promised to pay her R40 000 to carry a child for a desperate couple. Now there are two kinds of surrogate mothers.

The first one is a gestational surrogate who merely hosts an egg and sperm that have been fertilised outside her body through invitro.

The second instance is the traditional surrogacy whereby a woman uses her own eggs to create a child through artificial insemination.

When it comes to surrogacy, the first option is preferred because the surrogate has no biological relation to the child nor legal claim.

I will state for the record that in South Africa it is illegal to pay someone to give you a baby, so parents opting to go through this route will pay for invitro fertilisation fees which range anything from R35 000 to R40 000.

Additionally, a couple would agree to pay for the surrogate mother’s medical bills, clothing, food and transport and other ancilliary costs related to the pregnancy, including loss of earnings if the surrogate is a working mother.

Normally these will be articulated in a legal contract that is signed by both parties.

Clearly, our Soweto mother-to-be was unaware of the legal implications of the situation she was entering into.

Now she finds herself with a baby she did not want and none of the promised payment. Fortunately, if she’s unemployed she will qualify to get a child grant which at least will enable her to take care of the little one.

Now I am not writing this article to argue about the pros and cons of surrogacy. Rather, it serves to interrogate the reason why a woman would clearly choose to carry a child with the motivation of banking R40 000 after nine months.

I cannot fathom a better reason than to attribute this to sheer desperation and poverty.

Without having interviewed her, I can only surmise she might be unemployed and was looking to make some cash.

Clearly it can’t be quick cash because after nine months it is a long-term investment.

However, the risk return profile of this investment would not make sense to even the most naïve of investors.

This is like pocketing R4 400 for every month you are pregnant. I would never advise anyone to get pregnant for R40 000! Or for any amount of money for that matter because, trust me, there can never be adequate compensation for bringing a child into this world.

Ask any woman who has ever carried a child for nine months or less. Pregnancy itself is a physically taxing journey.

For the first three months you might be plagued with nausea. Sometimes it’s not just morning sickness, it could be night sickness.

Once you’ve gotten over this phase, you now look forward to an expanding waistline and swollen feet. Then you have the endless trips to the toilet which increase with frequency with each passing month that you are pregnant.

Not withstanding all this you are on an emotional roller coaster. If you are one of the lucky ones, you might glow with radiance during pregnancy.

If not, then you might turn 50 shades of grey. When you have finally made peace with being two sizes larger and being as shapeless as the back of a bus, you have to look forward to the actual birth.

Delivering a baby is no walk in the park. I used to think going to the dentist was painful until I went into labour.

In stark contrast, a trip to the dentist is child’s play. Whether your delivery is Caeserian section or vaginal; both outcomes involve pain.

However, for most mothers this painful experience is negated once they finally hold the baby in their arms.

It’s the ultimate reward for carrying that child for the duration. Even those stretch marks are like a badge of honour for the scars of motherhood and you wear them with pride.

Which is why some women will do it over and over again because the joy of motherhood is unrivalled by anything else.

However, as a surrogate mum you don’t even have that joy of holding the baby. If anything, you will hand over that child and remain with the scars.

To me this does not make sense at all.

I did the math and like the accountants would say, it just did not balance.

The problem is that we don’t value life at all. This is why people will kill for R1 000.

This is why people sell their daughters to prostitution. Human life is priceless. I can’t even begin to put a price tag to it.

Sue Nyathi is the author of the novel The Polygamist. You can follow her on Twitter
@SueNyathi.

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