Olivia Auriol was born via traditional surrogacy in Louisville, Kentucky, and grew up between France and the United States. She recently shared her story in a Webinar with Abolition GPA about her experiences growing up as a child of surrogacy.
While Olivia’s parents never told her that she was born through surrogacy, she always knew something was “off” regarding her origins. Her real birth certificate was sealed at her birth, the one containing her biological mother’s name, and her “intended mother’s” name was written on it instead. There is no indication on her birth certificate that she was born a surrogate mother. “A lot of children born from surrogacy will never know. They’ll just have that instinct, or they’ll be a little bit…screwed up. They’ll grow up with mental problems, they’ll grow up with problems, and that’s really sad,” she said.
After officially discovering at age 30 that she was born via surrogacy, she took to social media to tell her side of the story. Talking about her side of the story and how she finds “every aspect of surrogacy negative” is therapeutic for her and vital to helping heal her wounds. Throughout her research into her roots, she’s found a half brother and three half sisters who were more than willing to take her in as theirs, which she said is “the best present [she] could ever have had in her lifetime.”
She’s found that people don’t know enough about surrogacy. She stated, “…it’s so important to educate people on surrogacy. People just think that it’s a beautiful little butterfly world where everything goes right and that love is sufficient and that the child will grow up and everything will be fine, but, no, no. Not everything will be fine. We’re using wombs, we’re paying for women’s uteruses, we’re buying children. There’s nothing right with surrogacy.”
She identifies herself as a feminist, stating, “When you’re a feminist, you can only be against surrogacy. Using a uterus and giving money to buy…women’s bodies is against feminism. It just isn’t compatible at all. It’s correlated, one doesn’t go without the other…I defend the child’s perspective of it a lot, but I also want to protect these women that are used to produce these babies and sometimes are abused in the process of surrogacy. That’s being a feminist to me.”
She’s had intended parents reach out to her who have regretted going through surrogacy, and surrogates who are on the verge of suicide because they feel guilty, sad, and as if they have been used. She hopes that more surrogate mothers and intended parents will gain the confidence to speak out about why they’re against surrogacy.
Her own biological mother had lost a child from a dramatic event not long before she was conceived, and Olivia thinks she felt guilty because of it and wanted to donate her body to a family and give them a child. Her mother said that she had to “repay life in that way.” She also had four children to care for and no stable job, so “surrogacy is a good way out financially speaking for a lot of women.”
She stated, “We’re forgetting about all the psychological aspects of what the children will have to bear throughout [their lives]. It’s not ethical to take a newborn away from its mother… as well as paying to use a human body to have a baby…that’s absolutely disgusting, but we’re also buying babies, which ethically speaking is just terrible, and on top of that, we’re taking away newborns from their mothers…and we’re giving them away to another family. The entire thing is nonethical even when it’s not paid… it will never be ethical. There’s nothing ethical in surrogacy,” and “We’re trading with humans, we’re selling humans, we’re buying uteruses. It should be abolished worldwide.”
She continues, “It’s been proved that in the womb, a baby creates a lot of links with its mother throughout the nine month period of time. It hears her voice, it tastes what she’s eating, it feels her emotions. There’s a lot happening in the womb. This link is supposed to last after the birth, and it doesn’t. The baby, the newborn, that’s going to go out into the real world after birth, has first of all to make that big jump into the real world and it’s cold, it feels awful, and they’re asking the baby to be detached from its mother that nourished him for the last nine months. That is absolutely traumatizing for a newborn. It doesn’t matter [if] the surrogate is biologically linked to the [intended] mother or not. What’s horrible is that this baby is going to have to be separated from the mother that fed him for the last nine months and took care of him for the last nine months and just shot off to another family. That baby will never understand, and that is a traumatic experience. We underestimate how traumatizing that is…The surrogate mother is told to not share any link with the child within the womb. She’s been made to think that she’s not supposed to have a link, but the baby inside the womb will link to its mother. That’s natural, that’s human, that’s instinctive…you can’t tell that baby that it’s supposed to be detached from the mother that’s feeding it inside the womb…We assume everything. We assume everything’s fine. We assume that the baby in the womb doesn’t feel anything, we assume that at birth kids don’t remember anything. Of course we do. Of course there’s a memory, of course there’s trauma, of course the fetus remembers everything. People don’t want to believe, that’s the problem. They’re not willing to dig up on the information and try to learn more about what happens in the womb and what happens at birth.”
In response to what she would say to those considering surrogacy: “it’s not worth it…love isn’t sufficient. The love that they’re going to give to this child won’t be sufficient. We’re always as a child born from surrogacy going to try to find the other half of ourselves. There’s always going to be trouble – mental problems, problems during adolescence, there’s always going to be some issues because of surrogacy. Love will never be sufficient, unfortunately…I think it’s also really important to remind people what surrogacy is – paying for a womb, paying for a woman’s body, buying a baby, literally buying a human being. We’re forgetting what it really is and what it really means. We really need to remind people of this all the time, and if I have to do this every day for the rest of my life, I will be doing it. In the media, people show surrogacy as this perfect thing where everything’s fine and surrogate moms are happy, and surrogate babies are happy, and intended parents are just so, so happy as well, but we forget what surrogacy is at the base.”
Regarding homosexual male couples wanting to have children through surrogacy, she says that “having a child is not a right. It’s not because you’re infertile that you have to have a child. It’s not because you’re homosexual that you have to have a child… It’s not a given right for you to have a child. For them and for infertile couples, surrogacy shouldn’t even be an option…a child isn’t a right…children have rights, but we have no right to children. Ever.”
She expressed that the question shouldn’t be whether surrogacy is a good option or not, the question is why are we making it an option? People who are infertile have to mourn this fact, but turning towards surrogacy shouldn’t be an option. “The problem isn’t the people who are turning towards surrogacy,” she said, “it’s the fact that surrogacy is out there and it is an option. That’s why I don’t hate my parents. I’ll never blame them for using surrogacy because it was just an option that they took when they thought they didn’t have the choice. But, if it wasn’t there, they wouldn’t have gone through surrogacy, and they just wouldn’t have had children, or they would’ve adopted, but surrogacy was there…there are so many children willing to have a home, to have a happy life, to have a mom and a dad that love them, and don’t get me wrong, there is trafficking in adoption as well throughout the world. Adoption isn’t just perfect as a lot of people say as well. There’s a lot of bad things going on with adoption, but adoption is necessary…we have to get these children out of places that are terrible and try to get them a better house. However, surrogacy isn’t a necessity.”
Comparing herself to an adopted child, she said, “We have the same problem with being abandoned, the same issues growing up, I suppose, with being abandoned. However, with a child that’s been abandoned and then adopted, we’re trying to give him a better life. Surrogacy…we’re just signing a contract and buying a child, and hopefully it works out. It’s not the same situation, however, the feelings could be the same. That sentiment of abandonment is the same in abandoned children…we both look for who we are, so we share that feeling as well, but in my case, it was hidden. Children who have been abandoned and then adopted, it’s easier to tell them. People usually don’t lie when they adopt children, but people lie a lot when they go through surrogacy, they do lie a lot to their children. But, we share a lot. A lot of children that are now adults who have been adopted come to me and they’re like ‘I share the exact same problems as you. I can’t hold a job, I have trouble with creating contact with people, when I feel rejected I feel really bad,’ there’s a lot of similarities between us. A lot. But, the difference is what happens at birth. I was bought, and an adopted child, we’re just trying to give him a better life.”
What personally traumatized her the most was being abandoned. “I lived it as an abandonment. I feel as if I was abandoned by my birth mother… as I was sold. There’s nothing worse than for a child to feel that at one moment in my life I was literally sold for a check. So it screwed me up very badly. I have always had very complicated relationships with women in general, especially older women, because I’ve always searched [for] the mother in these women. I’ve also had problems with my other relationships because I was scared to be abandoned and to be rejected, so I kind of smothered people. Like my friends, I always smothered them, I always kept them within my reach, I suffocated them, and they eventually left. So I was alone a lot of the time. And then recently I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so I do thoroughly believe that that trauma led to having a literal mental issue…I’ve had a hard life. Things haven’t been easy for me. It’s been difficult, it’s been a hard ride, and that’s why I need to talk about it and I need people to understand how surrogacy can affect children, how being abandoned at birth can destroy you, how being exchanged for a check can destroy you as well. All of my life, I thought that I wasn’t enough for people because apparently I wasn’t enough at birth for my mother to keep me, and money was more important for her than me….I had to get psychological help myself when I was older, when I was 20ish because it was getting really bad. So I’ve had psychological help for the last 10 years, and it’s just now that they’ve diagnosed me with bipolar disorder…I would’ve needed to be told the truth of course at my birth, but I also would’ve needed psychological help since my birth. It’s a very big trauma and you can’t just ignore it and not have psychologists and psychiatrists follow you. I think every child that is born from surrogacy should have some sort of psychological help from the very beginning, not when they start acting weird, or start having weird tendencies, or start acting up. You have to prevent all of that with psychological help since the beginning.”
Her own experience of motherhood has also helped shape her view of surrogacy. When she was pregnant with her first child, she was asked what medical issues she had on her mother’s side and she had no idea, which made her scared for her babies. She didn’t know potential health risks for her children throughout their lives. Every time she gave birth, she couldn’t fathom how her biological mother would give her up for a check. That realization in particular made her hate surrogacy the most.
Olivia wants to write a book in the hope that her view will be written and broadcasted more easily, as the media isn’t currently letting her talk since being against surrogacy isn’t popular in France. She’s also been trying to make contact with the French government and parliament to proactively fight the legalization of surrogacy in France. In addition to educating others and fighting surrogacy legislation, she hopes to eventually create an association of surrogate-born children, intended parents, and surrogate mothers, and have a safe place for them to talk.
She encourages others to share her story: “I need to have my vision out there for people to understand the negative aspects of surrogacy. It’s really important…In France, we have this very beautiful vision of surrogacy and I really want people to be educated on knowing what the negative aspects are. It’s not out there enough yet…I know media has shut us off a lot, I know journalists tend to shut us off as well. We have a very hard time in getting our story out, but we are going to work through it…I know there’s a way to get this story out at a higher level.”