'Glee' Exposes the Downside of Surrogacy

Lea Michele Glee
Flickr photo by david_shankbone
Glee may be a bouncy musical that's fun, fun, fun, fun, fun (thanks Tigger), but the producers' willingness to tackle tough topics is giving the Fox hit a leg up over the competition.

You can hear music on American Idol. You don't get an inside look at the effects of surrogacy on the mother anywhere but Glee.



Ever wondered why Rachel's (Lea Michele) two gay dads have never actually been seen on the show?

Perhaps because the masterminds behind this mega-hit didn't want to take away from the power of her re-connection with her mother, played by the beautiful Idina Menzel.

Menzel's Shelby Corcoran was young and in desperate need of cash when she opted to carry a baby for two gay men. Fast-forward 16 years, and her surrogacy contract stipulated she couldn't reach out to the child she'd given birth to.

But after she'd seen Rachel sing at regionals, she couldn't help it. Enter hunky Jonathan Groff, who snuck a tape of Menzel singing into Rachel's bedroom and voila -- the melodramatic songstress just had to meet this woman.

If the whole connection seemed too easy -- Corcoran just happened to be the coach of a competing glee club? -- Tuesday night's episode was made poignant by the writers' decision to sidestep the issue of will she or won't she snag the star.

Instead they homed in on the personal: The life of a child born of surrogacy, the life of a woman who gave up her eggs, nine months, and eventually her baby. 

Because it was "her" baby -- a true surrogate is genetically related to the child, while a gestational carrier offers only her womb for nine months to carry an embryo made from another egg (usually the mother-to-be's) and sperm.

Just five years ago, it would likely have been an adoption story written into the plot, but the rising numbers of infertile couples (7.3 million in the US) has met technology. There are no numbers on surrogacy or gestational carriers, but the stories are more common, thanks to the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker and story lines on Private Practice.

And now on Glee, where the unique differences between surrogacy and adoption played as undercurrents to the Gaga/Kiss theme. As the kids searched for their own identities, Menzel's Corcoran faced the fact that as a surrogate, she knew what she was getting into.

Unlike most adoptions, surrogacy is planned prior to pregnancy. Corcoran was aware before the embryo was implanted that she'd be handing Rachel over to her dads for the rest of their lives.

But that doesn't end the yearning. Or prepare a woman for how she'll feel when faced with that child 16, 26, 36 years down the road.

The feelings of loss are similar to that of a mom giving her child up for adoption, but as Menzel showed, heightened by the reality that it was her choice from start to finish.

Her decision to remind Rachel that her dads are parents, in this case she's just the "mother," would have left me in tears if they hadn't cut to a fun rearrangement of Gaga's "Poker Face"!

Did you like the way they handled the surrogacy story? Was it believable?

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