For the little girl who seemed to have everything, little Monroe Christine Lewis is now front and center of a nasty separation and custody battle, and her father, Jeff Lewis, is reporting that she needs counseling.

Monroe was born on Oct. 25, 2016, and is nearly 4 years old. She was the product of a four-party commercial contract conception. Let me unpack that.

First are the parents, Jeff Lewis and his then-partner, Gage Edward, both of Bravo TV’s show “Flipping Out.” Monroe is the product of an egg “donor,” a surrogate mother’s womb, and Jeff’s sperm, and Gage is the “other” father. This is the four-party conception arrangement that led to Monroe’s birth. Confused? It can be hard to keep up. But this is the face of the new modern high-tech family.

Since Lewis and Edward split in 2019, they have been locking heads over Monroe in a joint custody battle. She has been bounced between their respective homes when they attempted to share Monroe. One reporter said, “After another arduous court situation where Gage attempted to receive 2-2-3 custody (two nights for Gage, two nights for Jeff and then switching off for three nights between each parent),” however, Lewis is now claiming he is seeing some disturbing changes in his daughter’s behavior.

Perhaps, it’s partially because she is being bounced around like a ping pong ball. Lewis reports Monroe is clingy, while she used to be quite independent. She worries when he leaves, if he’ll return and who will be there when she wakes up from her nap?

In all honesty, this little girl has been set up to struggle since before she was born. Separated at birth from the only mother she had ever known, her birth mother, will induce trauma into any child’s life. Maternal-child bonding is real and scientifically documented in studies.

One article, “How Mother-Child Separation Causes Neurobiological Vulnerability Into Adulthood,” puts it this way, “From this point on, early maternal separation can result in a series of traumatic emotional reactions, during which the child engages in an anxious period of calling and active search behavior followed by a period of declining behavioral responsiveness.”

Not knowing her genetic roots from her biological mother—the woman who supplied her eggs to create Monroe—can cause genealogical bewilderment. That’s described as the longing for identity, kinship, belonging, roots, and self-identity that people who are here because of anonymous egg or sperm donation often feel. It’s often seen in children of adoption, but is also “a term that refers to a state of confusion and the undermining of one’s self-concept due to lack of knowledge of at least one genetic parent—is considered to apply just as well to offspring of anonymous sperm [or egg] donors,” according to an article in the National Center for Biotechnology journal Facts, Views, and Vision.

Monroe is having this trauma thrust upon her, as well as being denied all the many things a mother provides that no father can supply, no matter how good the father or fathers may be.

Due to her father’s bad behavior, she was expelled from a school at the age of 2, and as soon as she’s old enough to do a Google search, she’ll learn that her surrogate mother filed a lawsuit against Lewis and Bravo TV for filming the birth, without the permission of the surrogate.

The 2010 Hollywood movie, “The Kids Are All Right,” with Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo, tells the story of such an experiment. This movie was an award-winning film at Sundance (think “Cuties”) and made millions at the box office. The plot is Bening and Moore are a married same-sex couple with children through anonymous sperm donation (Ruffalo).

Their teenage son grows curious and wants to find out who his biological father is. Because his rights to this information will only be given to him when he turns 18, he implores his older sister (also Ruffalo’s child) to help him locate their father. They eventually find their father, there is a bit of tension within this new modern family, but in true Hollywood fashion, the film ends with “the kids are all right.”

In real life, things are more complex and messier. Clearly Monroe isn’t all right now and probably won’t be into her teen and adult years if we look at the data and the facts.

Perhaps Monroe doesn’t really need counseling after all. Perhaps she just needs her mommy and her daddy? But in these messy situations, where adult wants and desires trump the best interests of children, will we be able to even figure out who her mommy is?

First published by The Epoch Times

Author Profile

Jennifer Lahl, CBC Founder
Jennifer Lahl, CBC Founder
Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.