Christa Ackroyd: Why grandchildren are a gift not to be taken

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Grandchildren are the greatest gift. And not because of that well worn cliche you can always give them back at the end of the day. Sometimes we don’t want to, we love them so much. Though sometimes we definitely do!

We have three, all girls and we adore them. Put simply they make us happy even when we are sad. They were also the catalyst for my husband,who has been gravely ill, getting back on his feet and fighting to return to full health, because he worships them too and was desperate to be there for them. Elise flew half way round the world with her mummy to be at his hospital bedside. Matilda used to make the residents at my late mum’s care home come alive with her performances of Ba Ba Black Sheep and Twinkle Twinkle. And Margot, well at seven months, Margot just beams.Nothing prepares you for the love you feel for your children. But nothing prepares you for the joy of grandchildren. They fill your heart so full it aches.

So I totally understand why the British couple who lost their only child in a crash should grieve not only for their son but the fact they would never be grandparents. It is what they did next which I find disturbing. Their son lay dead, undiscovered, for two days. Horrific. But when he was found his parents, described as being from a wealthy and notable family, took the decision to take sperm from his body, ship it to America, and find a surrogate to carry their first and only grandchild. They wanted, said the doctor who agreed to carry out the procedure, an heir.

Their decision was wrong on so many levels. Firstly the last thing I would be thinking about having lost my child is an heir. Then there is the matter of not knowing whether their son wanted children. They say he did but whether it was wanting them when he was not there to look after them is another thing. He certainly had not given permission to harvest his sperm.How do they know ‘it’s what he would have wanted.’ They then ‘chose’ both the egg donor and surrogate on the basis of someone who was the kind of woman they ‘believed’ their son would have married in terms of physical looks, intellect and education. They were ‘very specific’ says the doctor. Now all three of our children have partners and we love them, but could we have picked them ? Of course not. How could we have chosen the right ‘look’ for them when they were no longer even alive? Impossible. As for choosing on the basis of where someone went to school or college, that’s just snobbery. Intelligence? Is that their IQ or their emotional intelligence? I know which is more important in my book. Putting all that aside the most disturbing part of this whole case was that this couple only wanted a male grandchild so the embryos were screened for their gender. Who in their right minds would decide only a male can be a suitable heir? No-one, in this day and age, or they shouldn’t. And unless there are serious medical consequences they shouldn’t be allowed to.

No, this was not, as a spokeswoman for the American doctor said, ‘a marriage of science and soul.’ This was the ultimate designer baby to fulfil a grieving family’s wishes and illegal in this country for good reason.

Fertility treatment has been a godsend to many but that doesn’t mean playing God to that extent. The screening of embryos for life changing horrendous illnesses is one thing but to screen out a whole gender is unacceptable, no frightening . Is that how the little boy now growing up in this country is to be educated? Will he be taught to believe that women really are second class citizens? On the basis of how he came into this world, I presume so. And if he doesn’t turn out to meet all their expectations I also presume his doting grandparents will blame the doctor, the donor or the surrogate, certainly not their selfish selves. How can you explain to a little boy he was created with a shopping list of requirements after daddy died for cash, in order to inherit cash.

As I say grandchildren are a gift. But gifts should always be given, never taken. That is theft. How can you explain to a little boy who is being brought up by grandma and grandad in their 50s he was created with a shopping list of requirements after daddy died for cash, in order to inherit cash. As I say grandchildren are a gift. And I know the joy this little one will bring to those grandparents especially after loosing their child. But gifts should always be given, never taken. That is theft.