Kloé Khardashian posed for a photo in a hospital bed looking like a blissed-out mom who had just given birth to the tiny baby boy in her arms. But it was a surrogate mother, not Kardashian, who actually labored to birth the newborn, and critics piled on over a photo that many considered arrogant — and insensitive.
“It’s bad enough men trying to erase women but when a woman tries to airbrush the birthing mother out of the picture it makes me feel a bit sick,” one critic complained on the mom discussion site Mumsnet.
“Renting a womb, commissioning a baby, erasing the surrogate mother and the realities of her experience and posing in a hospital bed as if that cost and reality was hers [is] deplorable,” wrote another.
Others complained about “Handmaids’ Tale vibes,” referring to Margaret Atwood’s distopian novel of a future in which the remaining fertile women are forced to give birth for women of authoritarian leaders who pretend to be the children’s actual mothers.
But several defended Kardashian for taking the time to bond in a hospital bed with her new baby, whose birth was announced early last month.
The hospital photo was released Thursday, the day of the premiere of the latest season of “The Kardashians” reality show, now streaming on Hulu.
The first episode featured the baby backstory and his birth. It also focused on Khloé Kardashian’s painful experience learning that father Tristan Thompson had secretly cheated on her — again — and that his son with fitness model Maralee Nichols was born in December.
It’s unclear why Kardashian used a surrogate. She gave birth to her first child with Thompson, True Thompson, now 4 years old. The couple planned a second baby as their fractured relationship began to mend. They’re no longer together.
In an interview with Heat magazine in July, a source close to Kardashian said undisclosed medical reasons “factored into her decisions.” But “not putting a huge strain on her body” with a second pregnancy was a “huge motivation,” the source added.
There were also reports of fertility issues, but Kardashian’s fertilized egg was used for the surrogacy.
Older sister Kim Khardashian had two of her four children, Chicago and Psalm, via surrogacy. She reportedly suffers from placenta accreta, a dangerous condition in which the placenta attaches too deeply into the uterine wall.
Use of surrogate mothers has become increasingly common and is generally considered safe, although the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends making well-informed decisions. However, the practice does have its detractors. Some criticize financial arrangements that compel women who have few options to escape poverty to carry others’ babies, often with inadequate legal protections. Yet many surrogate moms say they freely chose the arrangements, which they often find fulfilling, and are grateful for the compensation that helped change the financial future for their families.
“I don’t entirely understand the argument against surrogates (although I don’t like the trend for celebrities to use them for convenience if there is no medical need),” noted a poster on Mumsnet.
“They are also autonomous individuals capable of making informed decisions, will have been told about the risks, and decided it’s worth it for them. I appreciate there are issues of power imbalance and equity with surrogates mainly coming from poor backgrounds, and needing the money, but I’m not sure if that makes it inherently wrong,” the poster added.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.