When children are the must-have...
As surrogacy and adoption become the Hollywood norm, Judith Woods on celebrity misconceptions
Published 25/01/2011 | 05:00
Who could fail to feel uplifted on an emotional thermal of joy by the latest glorious concordance of celebrity and reproductive science?
First there was Elton John's new surrogate baby, Zachary, tenderly eased into family life with a front page exclusive in OK! magazine.
Then there was Nicole Kidman's surprise announcement that last month she had a baby girl, or rather someone else had one for her, and she wished to express her incredible gratitude to the "gestational carrier". Now there's a gap in the Hallmark card market if ever I saw one.
They are, you see, bang on trend; Sarah Jessica Parker had twins, Marion and Tabitha, via a surrogate last year. Latino singer Ricky Martin's twin boys Valentino and Matteo were born to a surrogate in 2008, and Frasier star Kelsey Grammer and his wife have two boys who were similarly conceived.
In the US surrogacy is the new adoption and a thriving business to boot. The rate, including brokers' fees is about $80,000. Anyone with enough cash can engage their services and celebrities seem unfazed by outsourcing their reproduction.
But then Hollywood always had a pioneering approach to parenthood.
In the early days studio bosses and agents would sternly warn starlets to retain their figures at all costs, which ushered in an early acceptance of adoption as an alternative to pregnancy.
These days young actresses know the score, claims comedy writer Jane Bussman who lived in Hollywood for 10 years.
"Hollywood is the sort of place where you have to sacrifice everything to be a success," she says. "If you want a baby but you don't want to interrupt your schedule and there's a nude scene coming up in your next movie, then sure, you adopt or get someone else to have the baby for you.
In some quarters, adoption has been viewed as the stuff of cynical career moves. Back in 1978, Christina Crawford shocked the world with Mommie Dearest, in which she exposed her adoptive mother, the film icon Joan Crawford, as a cruel, abusive alcoholic.
Crawford, who adopted four children, was widely applauded for her philanthropy. But Christina, adopted in 1939, claims the fairy-tale family image was a facade, concealing a world of violent rages and capricious punishments for even the mildest misdemeanours.
"It was complete and total hypocrisy between the public and the private," she observed, bitterly.
"What my mother wanted was fans and puppies, not human beings. She adopted us for the publicity."
Angelina Jolie, who has six children with Brad Pitt, three of them adopted from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam, is considered Hollywood royalty, so there was a gasp of horror at the Golden Globes ceremony last week when British comedian Ricky Gervais joked about her United Colours of Benetton brood: "You can be a little child, a little Asian child, with no possessions, no money -- but you see a picture of Angelina Jolie and you think, "Mummy!"
Sandra Bullock, who adopted New Orleans orphan Louis Bardo as her marriage to Jesse James fell apart, found herself elevated to the status of People Magazine's Woman of the Year 2010.
Madonna, who adopted children David and Mercy from Malawi orphanages, reputedly has three nannies on a rota looking after them as well as her daughter Lourdes, known as Lola, aged 13, and her 10-year-old son Rocco.
Although Nicole Kidman now has a baby daughter by a surrogate, she was once old-fashioned enough to have adopted two children with her first husband, Tom Cruise.
She probably won't be able to resist parading Faith, along with her elder sister Sunday, but let us hope she will be more low-key than Sir Elton.
"I feel very uncomfortable seeing Elton John's baby plastered all over OK! It reduces a child to a commodity, to be shown off like a new house or a new car," says behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings.
"It's great that surrogacy is being publicised for women who can't conceive, but it's troubling to see celebrities acquiring babies like designer accessories."