I’m on the brink of a journey I never envisioned taking. It’s a journey that little girls never dream of, and one that women never imagine treading. My husband and I are going on this adventure together. We’ve finally decided to expand our two-person-one-pet household through the medical phenomenon of surrogacy.
For ten years, since we’ve been married, our attempts to conceive have been futile. It is a void we’ve understood in silent moments and gentle stares across a room, overdosed with parents and their adorable rugrats running around with chocolate frosting in their hair. We’ve held on to each other’s clammy hands while wishing moms-to-be at baby showers well, and politely taken turns clenching teeth when someone dismissed our comprehension of discipline or the responsibility needed to care for a child. But finally, my husband and I have looked at this option—intensely, I might add—and now we’re leaping all the way to Hyderabad, India, in the hopes a surrogate will help us complete our family portrait.
We didn’t have to move to a different continent to pursue this dream. Clinics, like the one we’re working with, offer services to couples who live across the world. A picture of the first sonogram is a wonderful memory to begin the baby’s scrapbook, and of course emailed updates of the baby’s progress are definitely exciting, but nothing compares to hearing the baby’s heartbeat and feeling those tiny toes kick. Luckily for us, my husband was born in India, and can quickly find ways to earn an income there. I’m able to continue freelancing in India. Our choice enables us to be a part of the process, at least as much as we can be.
It’s a lot of pressure to put on a woman offering her womb, and to compensate for her travails, she requires a hefty price. It’ll take about $10,000 to hopefully “rock-a-bye” our baby. It’s a minimal cost, compared to the services offered here in America, and is the core reason we’re traveling this trail. The fertility clinic has our initial deposit, and the search for a surrogate is well on its way, so there’s no turning back now.
As I’m boxing for storage the life we’ve lived for the last ten years, I have to kick myself in the shin a few times to make sure I’m not dreaming, or reading the life of a character I just concocted. Nope. It’s as real as can be. The condo is already on the market, and buyers are scoping out our place, inspecting our half-empty closets, and whispering if the second bedroom could be used as a nursery.
We’re definitely in this for the long haul. We’ve researched the clinic, which has several branches across India, and has plans to expand to other continents. We’ve read rave reviews from surrogates and couples, triple-checked the legalities. The clinic offers services with an affiliated fertility law firm, so all documentation will be legalized, and explained to us in complete detail. We’ve also decided to have an immigration lawyer on retainer if assistance is necessary when registering the child with the local police commissioner’s office. This is where we’ll need to obtain an exit visa and passport for the newborn; otherwise we’ll have to appear at the consulate in Mumbai.
Now, the only task left on the seven-page printed list is to purchase the airline tickets. Then we can sit nervously on the 20-hour flight, and hold our breath that the clinic won’t screw us out of our money. I plan to wash out any last minute anxieties with those mini-size wine bottles. And when we are being hassled by customs, we can force ourselves forward, realizing it’s worth every grey hair, forehead crinkle, unstable nerve, and erratic heartbeat. I guess I’ll just have to keep praying that the reality blender won’t mince our dreams, and hope our spirit isn’t crushed when the outcome isn’t positive, even after three cycles of IVF (In-vitro fertilization). I wonder if I’ll have a positive outlook even if I hear news that the embryo didn’t take to the surrogate’s womb, or we’ve lost the baby due to a miscarriage, which is not uncommon.
There’s no doubt that it’s a huge risk, emotionally and financially, but I believe the tribulations in our life have built our stamina to ride this train, however long it takes, however many pit stops there are. The checklist shows we’ve done our homework. We’re prepared as can be, but even so, there’s no way to be fully equipped for the unknown. And so, I begin the journey with a partner, who’s committed as me, with conviction, focus, positive energy, faith, support from loving family and friends, and with hope to return with a baby in its cradle.
I wish others to view surrogacy as an excellent medical door that should be encouraged to open, without hesitation or shame, so those who can’t achieve a family naturally can do so with science and faith. Technology is superb, and services prove to be hassle-free in India, more than any other country, but surrogacy is still taboo. We’re quickly learning how social communities of the Indian culture impress an unjustifiable theory: that it’s best to hide the entire experience, like one might choose to if they had an embarrassing plague. Some think discretion is paramount, because the feelings of the unborn child should be considered. And others nod their head, as if I’ve been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Still, I am more fortunate than my husband, because it is acceptable for me to bare my soul and accept my inabilities; my husband has it really hard. I think it’s time to turn this taboo into a trend.
Yamuna Kona will continue to share her journey of becoming a parent via surrogacy in future issues of India Currents.