For the surrogate mothers...
“I live in a slum in Chennai's Vyasarpadi area and I come from a very poor family. My husband is an auto-rickshaw driver who earns about 8,000 rupees a month. I work in a factory that makes leather bags. I earn 6,000 rupees. Seven years ago, my family was struggling, we had borrowed 100,000 rupees from people, mostly to pay the fee of our school-going children, and the debts had to be repaid. One day, I met a man who worked as an agent for a surrogacy clinic. He told me that I could earn 200,000 rupees being a surrogate mother. I knew two other women in my neighborhood who had been surrogate mothers so I agreed. I thought, I have four children, and now I can help someone who cannot have any. I was thinking how horrible it would be if my daughter couldn't bear children. I believe everyone should have children and I wanted to help.
I never met the real parents and have no idea who they are. I was still under sedation when they removed the baby. I never set eyes on it. I have no idea whether it's white or black, whether it's Indian or foreigner, I don't even know whether it's a boy or a girl!
When I gained consciousness, my first words to my husband were, 'Did you see the baby? Is it a boy or a girl? 'He said he hadn't seen it. I asked my doctor, but she didn't answer my question. 'You are a surrogate mother, you shouldn't ask these questions,' she said. But I want to know about the baby. I want to know where he or she is and what it is studying. For three months after giving birth, I spent sleepless nights, I would get headaches thinking about the baby and I had to take medicines to calm down. Every year, on 4 November, the day the baby was born, our family celebrates its birthday. I do all the rituals that I do for my other children. I fast in the morning, I cook payasam and share it with my family and neighbors, and I visit the temple to pray for the baby's well-being and long life. I’ve always wondered if the baby is like any of my other children. I do miss the baby and would give anything to see it once. I know it's not my baby after all, but I know that if I'd seen the baby, I wouldn't have given it away. I hope the baby is happy and fine wherever it is.” Experience and emotions of a surrogate mother as narrated to a news channel.
Last Sunday, May 14, 2017 when the mothers around the world cherished celebrating Mother’s day with their children, happy and content to see their children play, learn and grow in front of their eyes; there were mothers who gave birth but could not nurture, who carried their child for nine months not with the dreams of raising the child but with the fear of parting with the child soon after its birth, who badly wished these nine months could last forever, who craved for that first touch of the child they nurtured in their womb for nine months, who longed to know if their child was a boy or girl, whose wish to know if their child is hale and healthy is always a wish unfulfilled. Yes! I am talking of the surrogate mothers, Women whom we are still skeptical about, women whose character has been in question because they chose to be surrogate mothers, women who have leased their wombs to give happiness of a lifetime to someone else. Today’s article is a dedication and a salute to such mothers. Unlike other articles of mine, it might not have tips and suggestions for my usual readers but through this I would like to make you all aware of the emotions and feelings a surrogate mother goes through and urge you to empathize & give them the same respect as any other individual in the society as they truly deserve it.
India has been a favorite country for those wanting a surrogate child as commercial surrogacy has been legal in India since 2002 but because the legal recourse is not very clear and is only driven by few guidelines from Indian Council for Medical Research, women in need of money and a poor background are being exploited for the same. Surprisingly, the world’s first baby factory is being built in India to house hundreds of poor women to be used as surrogate mothers to have children for western couples. One of the famous surrogate clinics in India has 45 mothers for surrogacy and 27 are already pregnant. Nearly 50 babies have been born during the last one year. Another 150 couples are still waiting.
In the West, a surrogate mother charges US$ 5000 to 7000, whereas in India it can be done at half the price. Now this I would call is a sheer exploitation of poor woman who can never imagine to earn beyond Rs.100/- in their regular jobs and in most of the cases she is being forced and threatened to go through this either by their families or the agents. It is true Surrogate mother is given a good amount of money even more than what she can dream, but that mere fact should not lead to her physical and mental exploitation. In my opinion, the medical guidelines, awareness and legal recourse should be so strong that surrogacy becomes a choice and not a compulsion.
For those who are supporting a surrogate mother, agents, family or the couples who have commissioned the mother for her womb, it is important that her physical, emotional and mental health is taken care of. She needs to be well prepared for her perception towards the child and this whole episode of surrogacy. Here are few suggestions:
Set the expectations right. Make the mother understand that it is painful to give up a child, and prepare her based on what is in the contract. If she can see the child or not see the child that way her expectations are set and she can cope the pain to a limit.
Contract Details. The surrogate mother should be given the opportunity to put everything she thinks right in the contract.
Consider additional embryos. She should what process she is going through, how many embryos they are transferring and the grade: educate her and get her prepared.
Be prepared for opinions. Everyone has an opinion, and it’s usually negative. Sure, you’ll get the “That’s awesome!” to your face. Some people say stuff about how it’s playing God and even accuse you of selling a baby. No one truly understands surrogate motherhood, so find people who do, and rely on them to fend off the idiots.
End of the day it’s for us to remember no matter how the motherhood comes to you, it’s a miracle if it’s done the right way. Sometimes when making something so precious, beautiful and unique, it takes an extra helping heart.
(The author is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Learning Arena, an e-learning company)