It is refreshing to share a positive account of an American couple who completed their family with the help of an Indian surrogate. One small caveat to this story- the law in India remains unsettled, notwithstanding what the author states. As of today, the Indian Parliament has yet to pass the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill of 2010.
After weeks in the heat at a fertility clinic in Northeastern India, I received the most profound and life-altering gift one could possibly imagine: two beautiful daughters from our surrogate Vaina, courtesy of the medical magic of Dr. Naina Patel.
When I first dreamed about having a child, I never imagined that the journey to motherhood would involve traveling halfway around the world to a remote Indian village to have my fertilized eggs implanted in another woman.
After three heartbreaking miscarriages (including one at 20 weeks), I was given the devastating news that it would be highly unlikely that I would ever be able to bring a pregnancy to full term. Infertility made me feel as if I had been cursed. It weighed on me constantly, and when among my pregnant friends I felt like a failure. But my husband, Alex, and I were still determined to have a family. We started exploring other options, including surrogacy. Alex read an article in The New York Times about a clinic in India that catered to women with profound infertility issues. The clinic and its director, Dr. Patel, had also been featured on “Oprah,” which made me even more curious.
We did look into surrogacy in the United States, but were concerned by the inconsistent patchwork of untested laws that varied from state to state. We heard stories about surrogates changing their minds after the birth and keeping the children, regardless of who the biological parents were. The mere thought of yet another loss was far too painful to consider and we knew we had to look elsewhere.
In India, by contrast, the applicable laws were written at a national level, the paperwork more straightforward, and the results far more predicable in practice. I also learned that for my surrogate, Vaina, surrogacy was an opportunity to help her own growing family. She would earn the equivalent of several years’ salary, allowing her husband to start a business and to better care for their children. I admit I’d imagined a proto-feminist surrogate, perhaps using her money on her own education, but Vaina is who she is. Dr. Patel’s clinic works with its surrogates to protect them, and their fees. Vaina’s earnings would go where she wanted them to go.
We knew we were choosing what might seem like a controversial route to parenthood — but it was one that Alex and I thoughtfully came to together, as a couple, after countless hours of research and reference checking. I firmly believe in Dr. Patel’s philosophy: “At one end of this world, there is one woman who desperately needs a baby and cannot have her own child. And at the other end, there is a woman who badly wants to help her own family. If these two women want to help each other, why not allow that? They’re helping one another to have a new life in this world.”
After Vaina became pregnant with our daughters, I decided to spend as much time with her as possible. And so I stayed in India and hardly left her side for the last months of her pregnancy. The relationship we built will, I am certain, be long lasting. If I have learned anything at all from this experience, it is that the bonds of motherhood are universal and you can find yourself with a new sister-in-arms midway through your life. In my case it was Vaina. She understood my longing for a family, and even told me on one of my visits that she wanted me to have what she was lucky to have – children. There isn’t a more profound connection than having another woman, a perfect stranger at first, carry and cherish the lives of children that you have wanted your entire life.
Almost three years have passed since the birth of our twins and I just returned to India to visit Vaina again. It was wonderful to see that she and her family are doing well, and that her life has indeed improved as a result of being a surrogate. Her anxiety about finances has lessened, her husband was able to buy a taxi cab, bringing in another source of income, her brother-in-law started his own business, and her children are receiving an education. We will always have a special bond, and I remain forever grateful for the gift of motherhood she gave me.
When I decided to embrace surrogacy, I vowed to be as passionate an advocate for the health and well being of our surrogate as I was for myself and my child. I was, and I still am. Our surrogate, Vaina, gave us our daughters. I know she knows that her act was priceless, but I’m proud that India’s surrogacy laws allowed us to help change her life for the better as she changed ours. Surrogacy was her choice, and mine.
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