Jill Hawkins is a true "baby vending machine." Drop in 12,000 pounds and your husband's sperm, and nine months later, you get a baby to take home with you. Jill is a "traditional" surrogate - one who uses her own eggs and carries the baby to term, only to give it away to someone else once it is born. (see photo here)
The poor woman has been single all her life. She has no children at home -only cats. She has struggled with chronic deep depression, even attempting suicide. She has struggled with her weight. She has struggled with feelings of loneliness and neediness.
And at 27, she found the magic answer to her troubles: she would find meaning and love in life by giving away her own children to grateful infertile couples. She got a high from the feeling of pregnancy, which made her feel important and validated her weight. She fed off the pampering and attention she received from the infertile couple who were waiting for her to deliver. Even afterwards they owe her a debt of gratitude - though of course, she is no longer really welcome and sees her children once a year (read an interview with the social parents of Jill Hawkins' 6th baby here).
Oh, and the financial reward was quite an incentive for Jill too: "There's the emotional turmoil to think of as well as the health risks. But the money's lovely and it allows me to have good holidays and do the things I want with my life."
So that is what she did - seven times. She always claimed she didn't want children of her own - but now she finally admits that she would indeed like to have children. Except, at 42, it's very unlikely she'll have any children of her own.
Of course, she already does have children: two girls (14 and 3), four boys (12, 8, 5, 4), and a newborn baby. Only, she's given all of these children away to strangers for 12,000 pounds each.
Jill says of these children: "I think of them as my friends' children. Their real mothers are the women who are bringing them up, loving them, nurturing them and shaping their lives and personalities."
She may say this and really believe it, in which case she is deluding herself. I wonder if her children will be similarly deluded.
One thing is sure: neither she nor the "social" parents can speak for the children and guarantee that they will be fine with this arrangement. All pretending and role-playing aside, the fact is that Jill is the real, biological mom of these children. Her parents are their real grandparents. Her siblings are their real aunts and uncles, and their children are the real cousins. The children will someday grow up and fully realize this fact. Everyone will tell try to convince them otherwise. But in another article, even Jill admits the truth: "It is still half my child."
How can one not feel extremely sorry for Jill? Her story is truly heartbreaking. She even admits that giving her own children away was very difficult for her:
"initially you do feel very empty and upset. Your body has spent nine months nurturing this baby and suddenly it's not there anymore, so emotionally it can be quite traumatic. The first time, with Lucy, was the worst because I'd never had a child before. I experienced feelings I'd never had before, overwhelming emotions of wanting to protect this little baby. I didn't know if I would want to change my mind or how I might feel once Lucy was born, whether I would bond with her. I never thought of her as my own and I never wanted to keep her, but it was very hard to deal with once she was gone. I went to my parents, who've always been very supportive, and just cried for days."
She also found it hard to give up her second baby: "I needed the money and was honest about it with the couple. But I regretted doing it for financial reasons. It made me feel depressed afterwards....I couldn't detach myself like I thought I could. I couldn't think of it as a business deal. It upset me."
The subsequent babies were also hard to give up: "I cry my eyes out every time. But afterwards I sit and think about the last few hours we had together and look at photographs....Eventually it settles down but it's hard for me. Most surrogates go home to their families but I come home to nothing....I'm all on my own and feel very vulnerable."
But as sad as one feels for Jill Hawkins, who has farmed herself out for love and money and sold her own children through neediness and greed, one feels even more sad for the children. They are the pawns that everyone is playing with here. They pay for it all by seeing their real mom once a year, by dealing with a deep sense of rejection and grief, by never knowing half of their family, and by having a harder time figuring out their own identity.
Why do we let desparate infertile couples, who in their child-fever are not able to think rationally, take advantage of women like Jill Hawkins?
Frankly, it's clear that we can't rely either on Jill or the infertile couple to make the right decision here. Only the state can be disinterested and rational enough to protect the interests of the child. Surrogacy should be against the law, because no one has the right to buy or sell a child. Parents should not even have the right to give their own child away unless they are truly unable to care for it. This is because it's not just about the adults - children have fundamental rights too, and even natural parents don't have the authority to violate them.