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Is it a form of incest for a grandmother to give birth to her own grandchild?

Mama? Grandma? Grandmama?
Mama? Grandma? Grandmama?

In Provo, Utah, 58-year old Julia Navarro is weeks away from giving birth to her granddaughter. When I first read this story, my spider-sense as a profiler of sex offenders was tingling because I suspected this to be a case of incest between either a mother and son or mother 'n law and son 'n law. As it turns out, Julia is a surrogate mother for her daughter, Lorena McKinnon, 32 and son 'n law, Micah McKinnon after they had 3-years of failed attempts to conceive and nearly 12 miscarriages. A close friend of the McKinnon's offered to be a surrogate but eventually changed her mind and that is when Navarro offered to be the surrogate. In my professional opinion, any mother or grandmother in this case who conceives a child of her own flesh and blood that is a close relative has committed an act of incest. While unknown at this time; if the parents to be plan to be in the delivery room when the grandmother to be gives birth -- there are just some things too personal like a mother's (mother 'n laws) vagina that a daughter let alone son 'n law should see up close.

In the state of Utah, the only requirements for surrogacy of the parents to be are:

  1. 3- months of counseling prior to the procedure so that both parents are mentally prepared for the process
  2. Both parents to be must be married
  3. Financial obligations to cover an average of $60,000 in expenses related to the surrogacy (although, with the mother's own birth mother as the surrogate, the costs are likely to be minimal)

The only requirements for the surrogate are:

  1. 3-months of counseling prior to the procedure so that she will be mentally prepared for the process
  2. At least 21-years of age
  3. Has given birth at least once

The process of Embryo Fertilization in this case, basically involves the dad to be (son 'n law) adding his sperm to his wife's egg; from her uterus where it is then fertilized in a laboratory, and then transferred to the surrogate - grandma's uterus. No matter how you spin it, the dad to be had his sperm inside his mother 'n law's body. I have nothing against a surrogacy, so as long as there is not an immediate blood relationship between the individuals. As far as I am concerned, a case such as this is nothing more than a loophole for incest between immediate family members. If a first cousin had volunteered to be a surrogate with the father to be (immediate family members), it would still be a form of incest. Playing devil's advocate; if Julia Navarro was the mother (as in gave birth to him) of Micha with Lorena as the daughter 'n law -- having had his own sperm inside his own mother; regardless of the means, it would probably make quite a lot of people upset and disgusted. So, why is it ethically sound for blood-related-immediate family members between mother and daughter to be a surrogate for each other and not a form of incest?

Here is an interesting fact about the state of Utah and marriage between immediate relatives; if both are over the age of 65, they can marry and engage in sexual relations between each other. However, there is an exception to this rule, if both are at least 55 and one of them is unable to reproduce, then they can marry and engage in sexual relations with each other. With the case at hand, Julia Navarro is only 58 and while the law does not specify whether or not the ability to conceive is in lieu of surrogacy, I would suspect that a 58 year old woman who is still fertile and engages in sexual relations with her 30 something year old nephew or first cousin would still be a criminal action in the state of Utah. Thus, surrogacy in this case, simply circumvents laws surrounding incest. In fact, cases like this one is on the rise across the nation. Please click the X for laws against marriage and sexual relations between immediate family members in your state (X).

Erik Erickson's Psychosocial Stages of Development

Even if a judge ruled that there is no act of incest with a case such as this one, I would also argue that psychological counseling for the surrogate mother and parents to be is just the icing on the cake because the granddaughter/daughter to be will probably be in need of psychological counseling one day as well should she ever learn the truth about how she was conceived. The child's psycho-sociological stages of development will most likely be affected. Erickson's first stage of psycho-social development involves the identity of one's ego. A child's interaction between father and mother will no doubt be conditioned to what the child will identify each adult as, but what of grandma? Plain and simple, a child's identity is in a constant flux from one experience to another as they socially interact with different people in their life.

So, what happens to that child's identity as they age and there comes a time when the identity of grandmother could be confused with the identity of mother. What becomes of mom and her identity to the child? Erickson believed that during each stage of development there is a turning point that occurs with each conflict or negative interaction with a fixed variable. Stage One is also known as the trust/mistrust stage and if a child in later stages of development is faced with a question about who is their 'real' mother; the woman who raised them with dad or the woman who gave birth to them, a paradigm such as this can cause the child to revert back to this first stage of trust and mistrust. By the time, the child transitions into the stage of Identity and Role Confusion, I predict that it comes back down to who is the child's mother and grandmother through the eye's of the child. Furthermore, there lies the question about one's own identity-- does the child see themselves as daughter or granddaughter to grandma and if they see themselves as daughter to their grandmother, what identity is left with child : mother? If a true identity cannot be determined by the child, then neither can the role of the person for all parties involved.


  1. Trust vs. Mistrust (X-2 years)
  2. Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt (2-4y)
  3. Initiative vs. Guild and Shame (4-5y)
  4. Industry vs. Inferiority (5-12y)
  5. Identity vs. Role Confusion (13-19y)
  6. Intimacy vs. Isolation (20-39y)
  7. Generativity vs. Stagnation (40-64y)
  8. Ego Integrity vs. Despair (65-)
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