Why I chose to have a baby through surrogacy. And not keep it a secret
“Once the baby is there, everyone forgets whether it’s surrogacy, IVF or what… it’s just your baby”
When my husband and I got married 10 years ago, we didn’t want to rush into having a baby. We were both doing well in our careers, travelling and doing everything young couples do. We were around age 30-31 when we seriously started trying for a baby. But it didn’t work. After 3-4 rounds of IVF, our doctor sat us down for a chat. It was an “unexplained fertility issue”. The doctor said we could keep trying indefinitely but with the timeline we had in mind, she suggested surrogacy.
We were surprised — surrogacy wasn’t something that happens with ‘normal people’, but celebrities and film stars. I never thought at the age of 35, I’d have to go through so many options of having a baby. When you’re younger, you think if you don’t do it in time, you have IVF as an option. Science is going to help you get pregnant, it’s fine if you don’t get into the baby-making process right away. But I had never thought about surrogacy. It took my husband and me some time to wrap our heads around it and get comfortable with the topic.
The main problem was that we didn’t personally know anyone who’d opted for surrogacy, who we could talk to. That’s when we decided that if we weren’t going to be quiet or secretive about it.
First, we had to get to know more about surrogacy ourselves. We read up, spoke to nurses and doctors about what happens before explaining it to anyone else. It’s such an unknown and unspoken subject in society and the references that we have around us are quite poor.
When we explained it to our family, I don’t think they fully understood the situation at that time. But as we proceeded with the journey, we’d keep them updated. The more they learnt of the process, the more comfortable and supportive. Surrogacy happens quite often, it’s just that no one is talking about it.
Surrogacy isn’t something you can opt for right from the beginning. A doctor looks at your case, and if you’re eligible, only then can they recommend it. The experts have to present it to you as an option, not the other way around. There are laws in place to prevent misuse and ensure protection for the surrogate, the prospective parents and the child. Other than financial planning, finding a doctor who understands and listens to you, and will help you get the best results, is so important.
Under normal circumstances, the to-be parents don’t interact with the surrogate much. In fact, it’s recommended that you maintain a distance.
There is a person appointed who handles the surrogate and their care. They are responsible for travelling with her, ensuring she is taking care of herself, taking her medicines. This person is the point of contact in between so you can get updates from them. You meet your surrogate every time she comes into the clinic for a check-up. You can write to her, check in on her through the middle person. After interacting with many potential surrogates, we finally met the lady who would carry our child. She was implanted with our last and final embryo on February 26, 2020. On March 19, we got the amazing news that we were going to be parents and four days later, the first nationwide lockdown hit us.
Then everything changed. When we went under lockdown, there were so many restrictions. The availability of medication was limited, especially fertility meds. So we had to ensure our surrogate was getting the right medications and nutrition, we were sending fruits and supplies to her house.
I asked her many questions. Is this your first time being a surrogate? Does your family support you? Who will be handling household duties and chores when you are unable to?
She had a supportive family and two children of her own, and this was her second and final time being a surrogate. The first time, she used the money to help build a home, and this round, she was planning to pay for her children’s education. She kept us updated on how the baby was feeling, what it was doing. Because of the pandemic, our interaction was a lot more. Rather than just meeting for the monthly appointments at the clinic, my husband and I got to be a part of the pregnancy.
There was a planned C-section. We had prepared everything 15 days in advance at home – toys, beds, clothes, everything. With the COVID-19 protocols at the hospital, it was all quite a blur. Before we knew it, the procedure was over and I think they forgot to tell us. We were waiting, roaming around trying to find out and then someone said “Oh, Your baby is born.” We got to see her from across the room through a window for a few minutes. Those protocols were in place for a few days before we got to bring her home. Suddenly we felt the weight of the responsibility of parenting on our shoulders, like, oh my god, we have a child now.
When we brought her home, our parents were waiting and planned a little welcome ceremony. Once the baby is there, everyone forgets whether it’s surrogacy, IVF or what… it’s just your baby. All the questions that were there at the beginning of the nine months disappear. When that baby is there, in front of you, everyone starts discussing, “Nose kiske jaise hai, eyes kiske jaise hai?” All the silly and insignificant things go out the window.
You will love this
I keep my surrogate in my prayers. I had asked her, why did you become a surrogate? It’s not something people usually do. She said just because a person can’t have a child in the ‘normal’ way doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a baby.
From films and media, you always imagine them living in poor conditions in bad neighbourhoods. But a surrogate could be anyone. The person standing behind you in line at the grocery store or sitting next to you on the bus. This lady is looking after her family by helping me expand mine.
While the definition of ‘what is a parent’ is changing, a lot of people came in with the usual questions after the baby was born. Some directly to me, others to family members. Some were concerned about how the baby will look. Will it look like me or my husband? When the baby was born, they said, “Oh, the baby looks like the father.’ I would say, “Wait until she starts talking, you’ll hear the sarcasm in her voice, then you’ll know it’s all me. I know so many babies who don’t look like the mother or the father. It doesn’t matter.”
Before our baby was born, one of my friends asked me, “How will you connect with the child?” But then she answered her own question – the same way that dads do after their baby is born. Nobody asks the father if he hasn’t given birth to the child, how is he going to connect and bond with the baby. Why would this be any different?
There’s a lot of pressure on women with thoughts like, will I be able to connect with the baby? Will I feel the motherly feelings that come through the pains of pregnancy and childbirth? What I feel for my child comes naturally. It’s not something I needed to worry about. I just needed to ignore the noise around me
For people who are considering surrogacy, I say, be open and honest about whatever your fears are with your partner and doctor. Do not hide it from your friends, family and your trust circle. Because you will need their help and support through those nine months and beyond.
As told to Sara Hussain