The Baby Carriers
During times of the COVID -19 pandemic, three immigrant women struggle to rediscover their identity through the surrogacy industry.
The film follows the lives of three women – Vivien, a recent rich Chinese immigrant, founder of a California-based Sino-American surrogacy agency; Brenna, a 36-year-old single mother of four kids, also a surrogate mother who faces several complication throughout the journey; and Tonia, a young surrogate who has completed her journey, but transits to becoming a nanny for the baby as the COVID-19 pandemic delays the parents’ arrival. Throughout the course of a year and half, the film covers several crucial moment of each woman’s lives and examines the impact of the experience on them – Tonia gives up on her studies and starts looking for jobs in the fertility industry as she gets pregnant of her own child; Brenna may face abortion as her baby is diagnosed with delayed bone development; Vivien goes on to open her Branch in Spain. As a result, the film offers an intimate look into the Californian fertility industry.
I met Vivien in early 2020. As a Chinese parent with plenty of money, Vivien could have enjoyed the rest of her life without working, but instead, she decided to start a surrogacy agency. Whether in China or in the U.S., surrogacy as an industry keeps receiving negative feedback from the public or the media and is oftentimes related to the exploitation of women’s body. However, during my research, “Sympathy for the infertile couples” was a phrase constantly repeated by every single surrogate I met. There was a clear sense of proudness among them, which is the opposite from the surrogates I met in China, a country where surrogacy is illegal. I knew that is not the entire picture - a guaranteed win-win deal for all the three parties – surrogacy center, intended parents and surrogate mothers.
How much say do the surrogates have over their body when complications occur? Who is ultimate protector of their rights and health? I looked for more complex cases and finally found Brenna and Tonia, whose stories allowed me to better examine the impact of the experience on surrogates, as well as how this industry actually protects the most vulnerable.