In a previous blogpost I talked about Francis and Melany’s story; two “sisters” who were waiting for the embryo transfer in Francis’ uterus. During the emotive interview, we discussed about the surrogacy journey and in particular about the medication that both the women had to take. Melany, the intended mother (IM), was under medication for the egg retrieval (link to Leslie), while Francis (the gestational surrogate – GS) was under medication for receiving the embryo. Melany took shots for 10 days while Francis took shots for 3 weeks, in order to prepare her uterus for the embryo transfer. Both the women, and especially Francis, who was the one who took the injections for most time, described the medication as “quite easy and funny”.
Francis: “Actually, it is a very funny experience, thanks to my sister. Have you ever seen the Pulp Fiction scene? It reminds me of that! My sister and my brother searched for the ‘perfect spot’ for the injection, and it reminds me of that scene every time. It is hilarious!”
During the interview, Francis never mentioned the pain caused from the needles or for the medicine itself. She discussed more about the sacrifice she was doing for a family member, to bring happiness to her sister’s life.
Not all the surrogates I interviewed have described their medication as a “funny experience”. Every woman defines it in a very different way. Some of the women I interviewed have defined the medication as the hardest part of the whole surrogacy journey. Like Mila, 36 years old, 20 weeks pregnant for a Chinese couple who said: “You know, it is hard to inject yourself every day. It is hard remembering to do it for a month, and it is hard mostly because it is an injection, you know! (Laughing). Especially, when you are at the end and you don’t have any spots available left, to inject the needle in. It is totally the worse part ever. The last week was very painful for me, because I perforated all my back and the medication is oil. Burn and sore, this is how I would describe the medication”.
Nevertheless, as Mila told me, if the medication was a very hard part, it cannot be compared with the pain that infertile people could experience for years. In other words, Mila nuanced the pain she was feeling during the medication with the pain that the people that can’t have children generally go through. In her opinion, her pain was small in comparison to the one experienced from the intended parents. “The medication I have to take was nothing, it is not a big deal in comparison with the pain that infertile people live with. My couple was trying to conceive for more than 4 years. It is sad, so sad. When I heard their story, I wanted to help them. I cannot imagine my life without my kids.”
Francis and Mila are both surrogates, but they are living a different bodily sensation. Francis and Mila’s experiences, reminded me the study of Almeling and Willey (2017) “Same Medicine, Different Reasons: Comparing Women’s Bodily Experiences of Producing Eggs for Pregnancy or for Profit”. In their study, Almeling and Willey have analyzed the experience of infertile women using IVF to conceive a child and the experience of egg providers. The infertile describe the medication as painful and emotionally draining, while the egg providers, who have undergone the same medical treatments describe it as painless and quick. As the two sociologists pointed out, different individual’s bodily experience of medical intervention varies based on their reason for doing it. In these two stories we saw a completely different depiction of the medication. Francis, who was taking the shots in order to receive the embryos of her sister, described the medication like an “easy and funny” part; on the contrary Mila, who was taking the drugs for receiving the embryos of a Chinese couple, designed it as “sore and painful”. The reasons why these women started a journey as surrogates are different: Francis became a surrogate to help her sister, while Mila to help a family of strangers. Nevertheless, in both of these stories I captured a rhetoric of love and sacrifice to help someone’s having a child.
In conclusion, every woman defines the pain of the medication in a very different way, in relation of the reason why doing it.
Almeling R. and Willey 2017, “Same Medicine, Different Reasons: Comparing Women’s Bodily Experiences of Producing Eggs for Pregnancy or for Profit.” Social Science and Medicine.