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Why motherhood is not just biological but also psychological

Why motherhood is not just biological but also psychological

Why motherhood is not just biological but also psychological

Understanding the emotional bond of parenthood.

Daye Wave Divider

Illustration by

Ralitza Nikolova


9th February 2023

Last year the celebrity couple Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas announced the birth of their child via surrogacy on Instagram. While many congratulated them on the news, a tweet by the radical Bangladeshi-Swedish author Taslima Nasreen left Twitter divided. 

"How do those mothers feel when they get their ready-made babies through surrogacy? Do they have the same feelings for the babies like the mothers who give birth to the babies?" tweeted Nasreen. 

She further went on to write, "Surrogacy is possible because there are poor women. Rich people always want the existence of poverty in the society for their own interests. If you badly need to raise a child, adopt a homeless one. Children must inherit your traits---it is just a selfish narcissistic ego."

Nasreen never called out the power couple in her tweets, but the timing of her surrogacy social media posts coincided with Chopra's announcement. A day later, she clarified, "My surrogacy tweets are about my different opinions on surrogacy. Nothing to do with Priyanka-Nick. I love the couple." But her earlier tweets had already raised a dust of conflict by then.

What is surrogacy?

Surrogacy is an assisted reproduction method. In this arrangement, a third party, with a uterus, agrees to carry and deliver a child of another person or a couple. Commissioning parents who cannot bear a child opt for this assisted reproduction procedure for building a family. People who generally opt for surrogacy have a history of IVF failures, complicated medical conditions, or biologically cannot carry a child - gay couples or single males. Transferring an embryo to a woman who is not biologically related to it but agrees to bear and deliver the baby is called gestational surrogacy. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother is genetically linked to the baby as she provides her egg.

The emotional disconnect post-delivery

When I first read Chopra's Instagram post, I wasn't aware of Nasreen's controversial tweets. Like Nasreen, I wondered if the India-born star could connect and have feelings for her newborn since she did not deliver the baby. Genetically the child is hers, but she did not bear the baby in her womb. But then I remembered, when I gave birth to my son, it took time for my motherly traits to kick in, as a result of the baby blues. Unlike most women who get emotional with joy when holding their newborn, I could feel a vast emotional chasm between my baby and me. Postpartum depression had kicked in, and I found the entire experience of becoming a mother overwhelming. Disconnect, distress, and anxiety took a toll on me as I failed to relate to motherhood. Despite carrying my son for 38 weeks in my womb, my maternal instincts did not set in instantly post-delivery. It took me a few months to accept the change and feel love for the little one. This behavior is not abnormal in the roller coaster ride of motherhood, as per the study published in BMC's pregnancy and childbirth journal. A study by Marshall Klaus in 2002 states that 25 to 35 percent of natural mothers do not bond immediately with their newborns. So, if commissioning mothers cannot establish a relationship right away with the newborn delivered through surrogacy, it cannot be considered odd.

Not all mothers are biological mothers.

How do mothers bond with their babies?

But not all mothers are biological mothers; some adopt as well. If we go by Nasreen's theory, it will mean that adopted mothers also cannot love their ready-made babies. Does this imply that motherly love is only biological, and women do not psychologically connect with their adopted or surrogate children? Definitely not, as the world has seen many cases of adopted mothers loving their children as their own. Parents establish a relationship with their adopted child over time as per a 2014 study published in PubMed: Are parents really attached to their adopted children? When I look at my friend, a mother of a child she bore and an adopted child whom she loves equally, it reinforces my belief. Activities like skin-to-skin contact or kangaroo care, holding, massaging, bathing, feeding, eye contact, and hugging help create a connection between the parent and the child.

Biological or psychological?

Surrogacy is a boon when couples cannot conceive or give birth to a child due to underlying medical conditions. Yes, it is expensive, and parents do have the option of adoption, but it is a personal choice. A study done by Susan Golombok in 2004 states that parents in surrogacy families enjoyed parenthood and showed more warmth and attachment to their infants than natural parents. The much-wanted children are born in this third-party arrangement to highly committed, loving parents, which explains their behavior mentions in the study. 

Becoming a mother does not necessarily have to begin by carrying the foetus; it can start at any phase of the child's life. Motherhood is much more than just giving birth to a child; it is a lifelong journey of caring, nurturing, and loving selflessly. The ethos of any relationship in a family is not dependent on a biological connection. Delivering the baby is just the beginning. You have a long way to go.

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