Challenges and Rewards of Surrogacy
In the first part of the series ‘Decoding Surrogacy’ we covered what surrogacy is all about. But the question several young couples who are contemplating surrogacy face is: Is surrogacy the right option for them? This article helps you arrive at the right decision - for you.
First off, surrogacy needs to be considered only if the intended mother’s womb is unable to hold a baby through full term for medical reasons. Infertility in either of the intended parents does not necessarily make surrogacy an imperative. In the event of infertility, donor eggs or sperms – as the case may be – can be fertilized in a lab and transferred to the intended mother’s womb, negating the need for surrogacy.
In order to take the right decision, a clear understanding of the issue is critical. Read on to know more.
Bias and stigma
Lata Verma, a professor married to an engineer, was happy and busy but always felt a void in her life. Eight years into her marriage, she knew she had to try for a baby. She had found love late in life, and realized that a natural conception and pregnancy was not possible. They would need donor eggs and an IVF procedure where the donor eggs would be fertilized with her husband’s sperms in a lab and transferred to a surrogate. Both intended parents were keen to go ahead but it was not so simple. The respective families were conservative and were not open to the idea…
This is a common sentiment prevailing in most Indian families. To begin with, the idea of donor eggs which means the baby was not ‘fully’ from the intended parents, is the biggest taboo. For many families, this is akin to adoption and come with all the attached bias of ‘unknown blood’. Surrogacy, where a stranger carries their family’s baby, is also difficult for most conservative families to come to terms with. Other than the families accepting the situation, there is, in our country the big matter of: what will people say?
The only way to deal with such a situation is with patience and perseverance. Prejudices run deep, and being harsh to people you love to get them to see your point of view seldom achieves much. However, after much gentle persuasion, if family members and the proverbial ‘people’ out there, do not understand or empathize, it is up to the couple. Finally, they need to listen to their hearts, and not be led by other people’s beliefs.
Finding the right fertility clinic
Talk to people who have been through the process, experts, do your research and finally go with your head. And your heart. A reputable clinic with a good success rate and experienced doctors, are the main points to be ticked off. The staff should be able to walk you through their processes, estimated time frame, and cost in an open and transparent manner.
Selecting a surrogate
The law now mandates that you choose someone genetically related to the couple or the intended mother. This is tricky and should be decided based on the intended parents’ level of comfort and trust with the surrogate. The intended parents need to take the tough decision on whether the surrogate should have a relationship with the baby as her birth mother or not. A potential surrogate should also undergo extensive medical and psychological assessment to determine medical and emotional suitability to act as a surrogate.
An Expensive Proposition
The cost of surrogacy in India can range from Rs 10 lakhs to an overwhelming Rs 25 lakhs - depending on choice of infertility clinic, location, doctor, lawyer and therapist. It should, ideally, include all medical and day-to-day pregnancy related expenses incurred by the surrogate carrier.
The good news is infertility clinics, private banks and financial services companies are increasingly providing interest-free or low-interest loans for surrogacy and IVF procedures. These loans can range from Rs 2 to 15 lakhs and can be customized for repayment within anything from 6 months to 5 years.
Need for Counselling
Psychological counselling sometimes becomes critical for both the intended parents and the surrogate. The intended mother may find herself experiencing negative emotions such as envy, jealousy, and resentment of the pregnant surrogate, especially if the surrogate is known to her. She is also likely to be overcome with sadness or even self-loathing that she cannot carry her baby. The surrogate, on the other hand, needs to be emotionally prepared to give up the baby she is carrying. She needs to understand that she is giving the biggest gift possible to the intended parents, and feel a sense of deep fulfilment.
Possibility of Multiple Pregnancies
Reena and Surojit, a working couple, well into their 40s, were very excited when their doctor told them that their surrogate was officially pregnant and carrying their baby. Careful planners, they had saved in advance and were prepared to ensure a good life for their eagerly-awaited little one. A few weeks into the pregnancy, they were completely taken aback with the news that they were expecting twins! With their well-laid plans up in the air, they took a while to come to terms with this development. Today, 3 years later, they cannot life without their little Virrani and Virraj.
Surrogates often end up carrying multiple babies. Because of the high chance of an embryo being ejected from a surrogate womb, in most cases, more than one embryo is transferred into the surrogate womb raising the chance of multiple pregnancies. So, if opting for IVF and surrogacy, be prepared that ‘good news’ may come in a pair, triplet or even a quadruplet!
Possibility of miscarriage
While doctors and clinics take every step to ensure that the implanted embryo and the surrogate mother are in the pink, miscarriages can and do occur. This can be especially distressing for intended parents who have already been struggling with infertility for years. It may feel like their worst fear is coming true all over again. It is also a huge setback given the time, cost and effort involved. In cases such as these, both the intended parents and the surrogate need to take the time to grieve and heal, and then move forward on the advice of their medical consultant.
This is the reigning sentiment among parents who welcomed baby into their lives through IVF and surrogacy. The jury is out on whether the surrogate child should be told he or she is a surrogate baby but not a single parent we met or reached out to regretted their decision.
As Sushmita Sen so beautifully put it, her adopted children were ‘born of her heart’, it didn’t matter where they originated or who carried them to term.
The joy of parenthood is indeed priceless.