Monday, September 29, 2008

We have a surrogate

I am sitting in an internet cafe in Chatswood, Sydney listening to some very excitable Asian boys screech with glee over their latest computer game score. Life is so complex for the young. I put up with this because I have not had internet access for 13 hours straight! Bob is on a computer too, fiddling with funds he says, but I know he is playing Mafia Wars with his online buddies.

So, two days ago we received surrogate profiles. I felt rather emotional looking at the faces of the women who have offered to carry our children. Wow. But I sucked it in because this is primarily a business situation with a win/win outcome for our family and hers. I was quite impressed that most of the women stated in their profiles they were wanting to be surrogates for financial reasons, in particular, to further their children's educations.

It was not too difficult to choose a gestational carrier. These women come with very little information and I guess their profiles have been completed for them as they do not speak English, and they all seem to have a diet of meat/pulses/rice and roti. I chose two women solely on their height and body weight. Our surrogate is named Chaya, but I don't think that is her birth name. She is five feet four inches and weighs 64 klilos. She has very kind eyes and some meat on her bones. The majority of the women were tremendously tiny, underweight, and very short. I chose the largest, most healthy looking woman ... height and weight being the only thing that differentiated her to the other eight women.

Then I had an anxiety attack about how I had my decision. I felt like a horse breeder choosing a brood mare. Good temperament, nice confirmation, sound hooves. Ugh. This part of the Indian surrogacy arrangement I am not at all comfortable with. I started thinking along the lines of "wealthy white Westerner so desperate to have a baby she will buy another woman to have the baby for her". The words "exploitation" and "degradation" and "selfishness" came to mind. My mind threw up images of slums and shanty towns, of washing clothing in drinking water, of barefoot children picking through rubbish dumps in search of dicards they may be able to sell. What was I thinking?!!! Was I providing the funding for women to be plucked from the streets and sold into surrogacy? Was the woman I had just chosen to carry my children being forced into carrying what should be MY pregnancy by a domineering male in her life? Did her children eat scraps from rubbish tips , or beg on the streets for handouts from overpaid, overfed Western tourists like me?

Let's be honest here. I was quite comfortable about telling the majority of people about going to the Unites States for surrogacy. Why am I uncomfortable about telling those same people I am now going to India?

I guess it is the "unknown". The images many Westerners have of India is what I have described above. We assume that women are unable to make their own choices about their own bodies because they are uneducated, repressed and supressed. The idea of Indian surrogacy conjures up images of poorly fed, unhealthy women who have subsisted on a diet of rice and cooked dog meat, who barely have the nutrients to survive let alone carry a big fat bouncy Western baby or two. That is what I freaked out about.

But then, I realised how racism was eating its way into my dream and my goal.

What do I know of India? what do I know about Indian women, or Indian families, much less an Indian woman's ability to make decisions on behalf of herself. Nothing. The closest I've been to India is a garlic naan and lamb korma from the Jolly Good Indian restaurant down the road. So who am I to judge what motives an Indian woman has for becoming a surrogate? I cannot and will not.

Then I thought about trust. The wjhole surrogacy process is based on trust - trust in the doctors running the program, trust in the IVF specialists, trust in the hospital. Trust also in the couples who I have met who have travelled this path before me and have assured me it is okay. These are the people who are able to truly judge whether paying an Indian woman money to carry a child for strangers is a good thing or a bad thing. Not me.

And trust goes both ways. How do the doctors know I am not a drugged out child-abusers with a criminal record? How do the doctors know I will pay the full account? How do they know I will not skip town, change my name and address and not bother to pick up the baby. (And that is an American surrogate's worst nightmare, which happens more often than a surrogate keeps a baby).

I guess there are no cut and dried answers. There are no guarantees. I know I am a good, honest, law-abiding, truthful person who fulfils my financial and moral responsibilities. I sense, and have trust, that the doctors have the saem ethical code. If they did not, they would have been run out of business many years ago. I also trust that any parent willing to put in the time to research surrogacy, and expend financial and emotional resources on travelling to a foreign land, has pretty much considered every option to parenthood and made an educated and responsible decision about pursuing surrogacy.

Surrogacy is not for everyone ... but it is for me. And I can't wait to discover India - the place, the people, the culture ... and we able to write firsthand ... as other have done for me ... about what I hope will be a positive and beautiful experience for us all.


Rhonda and Gerry W said...

NO DOUBT you will have an amazing, wonderful, and emotional experience. I can't wait to see you put it all into words...there is SO much to take in. You are a loving person and will be blessed with a little angel in the end. Routing for you Sweetie!

Been there done that...twice!!!!

Mike and Mike said...

Fasten your seat belt, it's gonna be a bumpy ride! But bumpy rides can be as much fun as they can be an annoyance. It's all what you make of the situation and how you handle it.

Mike and I had a crappy time out of the gate. But now that we're into the groove, we're looking forward to the return trip. All those things that initially terrified us and irritated us have fallen to the wayside. Now, our attitude is simple...Bring it on.

You and Bob will do fine. But I can guarantee you, the initial culture shock is going to throw you for a loop. Just keep in mind the "end-game." That's what it's really about.

Mike A.

P.S. Welcome to club India.

Amani said...

Mikes, we are used to culture shock. Bob has lived and worked all around the world, primarily in Indonesia, where he met his first wife. That was out in the slummy sticks part of Indonesia. He'll do fine.

I had a good dose of culture shock living in a rural area of Japan a decade ago. I found myself in a phone booth calling home, and a crowd of 6-8 people dressed in hotel yukata gathered around the booth giggling and pointing at me and my height and blonde hair.

End game ... yes.

TABI said...

Congrats on finding a surrogate! I can't wait to read about your journey. I am still waiting to match with a surrogate here in the U.S. but I think you are right there is a lot of stigma about doing it in India just because people assume it's more exploitive. But I think it is the same kind of trust in a relationship in to matter where it happens and the important thing is that you found someone who can help and that this will be a unique and amazing experience.

Anonymous said...

Hi Amani

We have been trying for 12 years to start a family and have decided to go down the surrogacy path (via India) - these are very early days and I know so little about it. One of my main concerns is the legal side of things in terms of how do we get our child into Australia once it is born?

ANY information would be much appreciated!