By Sharanya Nair
Motherhood is always associated with compassion and an epitome of love. It is believed that a mother is bestowed with altering powers to embody the pain of her child, and give in return, the nurture and care much needed in her child’s life. And this understanding historically implied that infertility ought to be seen as an impediment to the development of the human race or community, to be specific. Before IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) and other technological advancements were invented, surrogacy was something that had been locally popular between families. Infertile women used to adopt the children of their siblings or their friends, whoever was willing to give up their child for the happiness of their loved one. Many feminists claim that these were among the ideas that helped create sisterhood and aided in the emancipation of women from oppressive patriarchal societies.
With technological advancements, the world’s second and India’s first IVF baby, Kanupriya alias Durga was born in Kolkata on Oct. 3, 1978. Since then, the field of assisted reproductive technology has developed rapidly. But the laws related to surrogacy are still developing, and the codified law is yet to be enforced. With the recent growth in parents opting for surrogacy, India has become the much sought-after surrogacy destination. The acceptance of same-sex marriages/union and the recognition of the basic human right to have family and children has given rise to surrogacy manifold. However, at the same time, nations all across the globe are condemning commercial surrogacy as it results in the commercialization of the human reproductive system and commodification of children. For its various socio-ethical reasons, surrogacy has become a topic of deep interest amongst governments of various nations, medico-legal luminaries as well as the public at large. At the same time, what is not questioned here is the idea of motherhood.
While surrogacy sounds like a modern concept, it has interestingly been mentioned in many mythological texts in India. In the Mahabharata, Gandhari, wife of Dhritarashtra, conceived but the pregnancy went on for nearly two years; after which she delivered a mass (mole). Bhagwan Vyasa found that 101 cells were normal in the mass. These cells were put in a nutrient medium and were grown in vitro until full term. Of these, 100 developed into male children (Duryodhana, Duhshasana and other Kauravas) and one as a female child called Duhsheela. Another interesting Indian mythological instance is something that has been presented in lord Vishnu’s Krishna avatar that talks about Krishna being born to Devaki but being brought up by Yashoda and how the one who nurtures the child becomes more poignant as a character than the one who gave birth to the child. The Bible had a counter-argument of Surrogacy to present. An interesting depiction in the Bible is that of Sarah, the wife of Abraham. Sarah could not have children in the beginning; she gave her handmaiden, Hagar, to her husband Abraham to produce a child for them. The method used was copulation. The outcome turned out to be a productive one. In this scenario, Sarah became jealous as the surrogate, Hagar, became proud and refused to give up the identity of the child and consequently; as a result of which Sarah ousted both Hagar and her child. Thus, it would then be wrong to understand mother and motherhood as synonyms, especially acknowledging the complexities of human nature.
But at the same time, I believe that the idea of giving birth to a child or becoming a mother is romanticized, which levies a lot of pressure on a female. Indeed, being a mother is immensely celebrated in every country and religion. I believe the best thing to do is to accept every woman as she is. It is their decision to become a mother or not; irrespective of their decision they’re to be respected.
Motherhood is understood through a set of discourses that can be found in daily conversation, news, law, and policy. The prevailing discourse on motherhood has remained consistent over many centuries; motherhood is regarded as the most illustrious of states and the main objective in the life of any woman. Let us conceptualize a mother without any assumptions of being pious and nurturant but as a human who learns to be compassionate over time. At the same time, it is essential to understand that motherhood is a choice and not a necessity!
Edited by B.S Ashish