Once upon a time, after the glaciers receded and men spread out among all the fresh green valleys of the world, freedom loving people of the North founded an enchanted Kingdom which can be still be found on any map of the world, where the Skagergatt meets the Kattergat. It was a magical place of great beauty; where no one was poor, and everyone was allowed to love and to marry the person they fell in love with, no matter whether they were two boys, or two girls, or one of each. But there was one law in the Kingdom that kept many of the married couples, especially the boy couples, from having children. The law proclaimed that no one in the Kingdom was allowed to bear a child for another.
Living in the Kingdom was a maiden of great beauty, with the musical name of Mette-Marit Hoiby. Mette-Marit was a spirited young woman, an unmarried mother who was often whispered about by those who are happiest when they are wearing frowns of disapproval. Mette-Marit paid them no attention. Yes, she liked music and dancing and watching the sunrise before going to bed, but she also worked hard as a waitress to support her son Marius whom she loved, as all good mothers love their children, with all her heart.
One summer, just before the turn of the century, Mette-Marit journeyed to the south of Kingdom where each year young citizens gathered outdoors to listen to rock and roll music; the kind of music that always made the frowners frown. It was at this festival that Mette-Marit’s beauty caught the eye of a handsome young man. In the way of all fairy tales, the young man was really royalty in disguise, Crown Prince Haaken, recently returned to his Kingdom from years of studying in the far away land of California, where he too had come to love rock and roll, even though it made his frowning subjects frown. One smile from the lovely Mette-Marit and Prince Haaken was smitten. He had found his princess, so he set out to woo her.
Those who spend their days enjoying their frowning were outraged over the match. They gossiped about the young woman. They said her son’s father had been in prison for cocaine. They whispered that she too must have used drugs. They proclaimed her unsuitable for their Prince, because she was friends with those who did not respect the laws of the Kingdom. When Prince Haaken and Mette-Marit and Marius moved in together without first having an official officiator officiate, they grumbled and complained that a commoner such as Mette-Marit must have so bewitched their beloved Crown Prince with her beauty, that he was blinded to the bumps and warts of her character. “The King and Queen must step in!” They clamored.
The frowners made such a fuss and furor that King Harald and Queen Sonia, (who was once a commoner herself), reluctantly decided they must address their subjects on the subject. But they did not give the royal decree of disapproval that the frowners wanted to hear. The King and Queen told one and all, that they had come to love Mette-Marit and little Marius, and that they knew if the people of the Kingdom would only open their hearts, they would come to love them as well. They said that they found Mette-Marit’s great beauty concealed only a kind and loving heart, and not a dark and devious character.
Mette-Marit also spoke to the citizens of the Kingdom. She humbly admitted she had not always been wise in the decisions she had made, but that she had learned much from each experience. She said that the bumps and warts of her life as a commoner had made her a better person, and she promised she would always be faithful to the laws of the Kingdom.
The frowners, of course, were still not happy, except in that puzzling way frowners are most happy when they are frowning. But most of the people in the Kingdom embraced Mette-Marit, and celebrated when Prince Haaken took her for his bride. Then, all the people of the Kingdom, some say even the most frowny of the frowners, rejoiced when Crown Prince Haaken and Crown Princess Mette-Marit, in the lucky way of boy and girl couples, gave to the Kingdom a new princess and heir to the throne, Princess Ingrid Alexandra. Then, not even a year later, a little prince, Prince Svere Magnus, was born. Because theirs is the most excellent kind of Kingdom where boys and girls are equal, Prince Svere is in line to rule the Kingdom right behind his big sister.
Prince Haaken and Princess Mette-Marit were busily living happily ever, as is the job of a fairy tale royal to do, raising the young Prince and Princess, and working every day to make life better for their royal subjects, until one day, a boy couple who worked at the royal palace, and who had come to love and to trust Princess Mette-Marit, came to her Royal Highness with a grave problem. The two men had fallen in love and married, and though they were very happy together, they longed to be fathers, but the law of the land said they could not ask any woman in the Kingdom to help them make a baby. They had tried to ignore their yearning; to be satisfied watching the children of friends and family as they grew, but it only made the emptiness more profound. So in spite of the law, they confessed to Princess Mette-Marit, their longing was so great, they secretly sought out a wonderful woman in far away India, who had agreed to help them. The wonderful woman was a mother, and in the way of good mothers everywhere, she loved her children with all of her heart. She was desperate for money to take care of them, so she was very happy to make a fine baby for the boy couple, because the money they paid her helped her children too.As they confessed their crime to the princess, Merre-Marit thought about how the news that this boy couple had paid money in exchange for a baby would make the frowners frown. She should tell the couple she couldn’t know about this secret; as Princess, she must uphold the law. But the eyes of the boy couple were so filled with worry that she could not turn them away. The boy couple told Princess Merre-Marit that the wonderful woman they had hired had already given birth to their babies. They were now the fathers of twins! The daddies puffed up with pride delivering that news, but immediately the distress returned to their eyes and their voices. India had not yet granted them the papers they needed to enter the country. The wonderful woman had to return to her own family. The boy couple’s helpless children were alone in a strange land, with no one to hold them, or to welcome them to the world, so that in the way newborn babies have of knowing these things, they would be assured they were loved. Please, they begged Princess Mette-Marit, please won’t you help us?
Mette-Marit was touched by the story of her subjects, whom she thought of as her friends. Yet as Princess, she was expected to abide by the laws of the Kingdom. Even the Kingdom’s Minister of Health, himself one half of boy couple, was known to have proclaimed, “Parenthood is not a human right!” in support of the law. The Princess knew the frowners would expect her to tell the desperate couple that she was very very sorry, but there was nothing she could do. The law was the law.
The Princess weighed in her heart the distress of the two fathers, desperate for someone to be with their newborn infants, all alone and helpless in a strange land. Perhaps she remembered from her college studies how important physical contact is with newborns. Perhaps she remembered her own days as a single mother, when she was all Marius had to rely on. Perhaps she was moved by the depth of the love her friends had for babies they had not yet laid eyes upon. Or perhaps it was the isolation of the babies themselves that spoke to her heart. Even if the fathers hired nurses to make sure the babies were fed and burped and changed and bathed, would they comfort them when they cried? Would they walk the floor with them in their sleepless hours? Would they sing them lullabies and rock them to sleep? The worried fathers might hire someone to tuck in the covers, and wipe away the spit-up, but there would be no one to whisper words of love and welcome in the language of the Kingdom. No one to stroke them, and cuddle them, and keep them comforted until their daddies could come for them.
Whatever her thought process, in the end, it was not the law, nor the certain knowledge that the frowners would be angered that persuaded the Princess where her duty rested. Princess Mette-Marit, as a diplomat, had the power to travel to far away India. So, disguised as a nanny sent by the adoptive fathers, Mette-Marit went herself to care for the twins until their daddies could come for them. Little did these newest of her subjects know that it was their Crown Princess who changed their diapers, and wrapped them in soft warm blankets, and rocked them to sleep with whispered promises that their daddies were coming.
After she had gone, the nursing staff in India said they never suspected the nanny who took such loving care of the boy couple’s twins, was royalty. They all remarked how impressed they were by how well and how selflessly she nurtured the babies. They said she loved them as if they were her own.
Princess Mette-Marit’s selfless act of kindness was not revealed until after the fathers managed to secure their travel documents and bring their babies home to the magical Kingdom where the Skagergatt meets the Kattergat. Many in the Kingdom see Mette-Marit as a true hero, giving of herself to her subjects. The frowners however, are predictably indignant that a Royal Princess would flaunt the law of the Kingdom, which says surrogacy is not allowed.
I will let you make your own decision whether a princess’ first duty is to uphold the law, or to help her subjects. You will find the people of Norway – the real-life Kingdom where the Skagergatt Straights meet the Kattergat Sea – are having that same discussion right this very moment, especially the people of Norway who like to frown. You see, Princess Mette-Marit is their real-life princess, who married Prince Haaken in 2001. It was just last week the news of her trip to India was made public, igniting a firestorm among the Norwegian chattering class about whether a woman should have the right to choose to bear a child for another party, and whether couples who cannot conceive on their own have a right to be parents.
So weigh in. Is it more ethical to forbid surrogacy, or more ethical to allow it? Is it more immoral to pay a woman to make a baby, or more immoral to tell a childless couple they cannot hire a willing woman to give them a family? Should the state have the right to regulate even the reason a woman gets pregnant? Or should women have the only say over their own bodies? Ask yourself, what would Mette-Marit do?