Surrogate motherhood refers to a situation whereby a third party female is commissioned to carry a pregnancy on behalf of another couple, delivers a baby and hands the child over to the commissioning parents at birth.
This practice, which serves as a life-saver and only hope to some infertile couples is an issue not really talked about in a religious and culturally conservative country like Nigeria.
In a society where pregnancy is celebrated and looked out for once a woman gets married, the pressure to get a child of her own becomes a ‘prayer point’.
Pregnant women move around the community with joy, displaying their fertility, while community members, friends and families, await the end of her gestation.
For communities, where surrogacy is not entrenched or accepted, it might be construed as an abomination to deliver a child and hand over to ‘strangers’ for money.
The surrogate mother may be culturally and socially stigmatized.
Some see it as a taboo, while others count it as a huge relief for couples finding it difficult to conceive their own child.
Unarguably, cultural analysts are of the view that for an African woman to secure her place in her matrimonial home, she must be able to procreate.
For the Yorubas, motherhood is considered a critical aspect of a family and survival of one’s lineage.
They believe that the link created during the gestation period and birth process is more weighty than the genetic link.
Mr. Simeon Korede, a native of Iree in Osun, said that the transfer of hormones through the placenta from the mother to the child, means a lot to the biological make up of the child.
According to him, that genetic bond created right from the womb up to when the child is brought into the world means a lot to both mother and child.
“I heard of this traditional surrogacy practice when we were young and our parents told us stories about couples that went into it due to difficulty in conceiving.
“Though, I do not know if it is still practiced till date but I must say that we cannot take the spiritual connection of motherhood away from a child.
“No matter how much a couple pays a surrogate mother for that child, that blood which the mother pours on the head of the child during the process of child birth signifies a lot to us in our culture.
“A mother can use that blood to pronounce blessings on her child, which a commissioned parent will not be able to do.
“In cases where the child is going through a spiritual problem and a traditional rite has to be performed, the mother who gave birth to the child would be called upon to carry out that rite.
“In a situation like that, who do we call, the surrogate mother or the other mother.
“Also the child would be denied of that special mother and child bond that comes with breastfeeding and we all know the importance of breastfeeding in a child’s life now,” he said.
Mrs Sarah Ajobiewe, a native of Odigbo in Ondo, said she once heard of a story of a young boy whose mother actually paid someone off to birth him.
“While we were growing in the village, I heard of a story of a boy in my community, whose mother paid someone off to give birth to him.
“In fact, I learnt that it got to the point where that child started withdrawing himself from his peers because he heard the person he called his mother was not his real mother.
“The issue of stigmatization of the entire process of surrogacy in our culture is making the process difficult.
“Even if the commissioned parents can keep it secret, how are we sure the surrogate mother can keep it secret.
“She can even come back to claim the child,” she said.
Some cultural analysts, however, are of the opinion that traditional surrogacy though, serves as a bridge in the socio-cultural definition of womanhood, it however, negates the cultural and religious procedure for reproduction.
Others are of the view that once there is a contract between the commissioned parents and surrogate mother and all parties fulfilled their part of the contract, the deal had been sealed and the child belongs to the commissioned parents.
According to them, having a child through a surrogate brings about fulfillment and redefines the essence of family institution and parenthood.
But then, in a society where having one’s own child is considered critical to family and lineage survival, who truly owns the child?
It is said that some communities in Igbo land practice traditional surrogacy, to ensure that infertile couples have children they could call theirs.
Chief Ike Emechete, Diokpa Designate of Ogbe Ubu village in Ogwashi- Uku, said surrogacy was practiced in the olden days in the community.
He said then, unfertile couples would be assisted by a maiden , who would sleep with the man, get pregnant and give the child to them.
“The child is not stigmatised in anyway, there is an unwritten law, if anyone tries it, that person will be sanctioned.
“In our community, the commissioning couple and their family own the baby, he is given all rights due to all children in the family.”
Diokpa, however, said that it was no longer being practiced, due to education and religion, (NAN)