My road to motherhood was less than usual: In 2008, at 36 years-old, I travelled to India to have my embryos transferred into Vaina, a 26 year old Indian woman who would be my surrogate. After three miscarriages and learning I would not be able to carry a baby to term, my husband and I forayed into the emerging world of foreign surrogacy with hope and fear. I went to India in the final months of the pregnancy and created a lifelong bond with an extraordinary new family including our Indian doctor, nurses, expectant parents, and most of all, Vaina.
But it all comes back to the desire to have a child. If you, like us, are having trouble conceiving, or if you are single, gay, or lesbian, it can be more challenging to become a parent. The main choices among alternative options are surrogacy, donor insemination, fostering, co-parenting and adoption. All choices have their benefits and draw backs, but some options are more suited to some people than they are to others. The key is to be open to all your options as beautiful things can arrive in many different ways.
Within surrogacy there are two main options – traditional and gestational. With traditional surrogacy, the surrogate’s egg is used, so she is also the biological mother of the child. With gestational surrogacy, a separate egg donor is used and insemination occurs via IVF instead.
In my case, surrogacy or adoption were my only choices. I had had 3 miscarriages, uterine fibroids and a misshaped uterus, and I was told I could not carry a baby to term. After exploring my options, I decided to try foreign surrogacy.
The surrogate screening process differs from clinic to clinic in India, so the best thing you can do to find the right surrogate for you is to select a clinic with a screening process that you feel comfortable with. At the Akanksha Clinic, where our twins were born, only a few surrogates are selected from the many potential surrogate moms that are screened. Those surrogates who are selected are in the best of health, are free of any sexually transmitted diseases, and most importantly, have the passion to support someone in making their family complete. Every surrogate selected must pass a battery of tests including a detailed verbal and written interview, a psychological analysis by a licensed clinical psychologist, and a review of their detailed medical history by a certified, overseas-trained fertility specialist. Additionally, India has stricter laws requiring surrogates to hand over the babies at birth, and the expense is significantly less than in the US. My choice was clear; it was a win-win for both myself and Vaina.
One thing to keep in mind is that foreign surrogacy has ripples that extend through entire villages. It’s not just about you and your future children. As a surrogate in India, Vaina makes ten-times her yearly salary. With that income, she was able to help her husband start a local business, as well as support her three children.
As I started to journal my unusual journey to motherhood, and its many highs and lows, I realized that a lot of women might be interested in my surrogacy experience. My hope is that The Sacred Thread can be both a resource for women considering foreign surrogacy and a story for my young daughters to read and understand how much we went through to have them. As a parent, I am no different than someone who adopted, is gay or bi-sexual, or had a baby the good old fashioned way. We as parents all have a common goal—trying to be the best possible parents for our kids so they grow up confident, happy and healthy.