Surrogacy in India: Trying and Questioning

By: Kerrie Olejarz

We finished packing up and waited. The wait seemed forever. Mark snoozed and I paced in the room. Our car was booked for midnight as we had a three am flight. I watched some Indian informercials and Mark continued to snooze.

Our car came on time and we settled our bill at the front desk. We were ready to leave Mumbai and were optimistic that the next few weeks would bring us the news of a positive pregnancy.

Fifteen days later we got word that our transfer was set. We only ended up transferring two embryos –not ideal, as three is the norm. We were happy to have this step completed and now were in the dreaded two-week wait. (The wait is really more like 11 days, but to us all that mattered was that we were finally in that waiting period!) Our first real transfer had happened.

A couple from Boston had their transfer on the same day and were at the hospital in Mumbai for the procedure. They told us that our surrogate looked amazingly happy and proud of herself. We were so pleased to hear these words from another couple, not just the doctors. We were surprisingly calm during the wait. There was nothing we can do so we went about life as normal. We were more concerned for our surrogate and how she was feeling, both physically and emotionally. The days ticked by and on Day 12 we received a call very late in the evening from Dr Sudhir. His voice was solemn and he said he wanted to put Dr Yash on the line with us. We knew instantly that this was a negative. Almost everyone who had previously recounted their negatives mentioned the same series of events on their phone call. Dr Yash came on and told us she was sorry; our beta count was less than two and we were not pregnant. Our hearts sank. The doctors were supportive and empathetic. We eventually figured that at least we had finally had a transfer and it was a 50-50 shot. We told the docs we wanted to start up again as soon as possible. They were happy to oblige and recommended we switch surrogates to accommodate this.

We hung up the phone and were a bit numb. We talked about how this just sucked but also that it was the reality of the situation. You either get a negative or a positive; there is no in-between. The next day we told our families and close friends and updated the blog. Once again the support was immense and very much appreciated. We were not devastated and were able to deliver our negative news with the positive reminder that we will be trying again very soon. We decided to ship the balance of our embryos within the next two weeks and get this started as soon as possible. Typical in our life: we do not pout; we do not feel sorry for ourselves; we take action. We made the arrangements to ship our embryos and two weeks later our embryos hit the airport and flew to Mumbai. This was the least stressful of our shipments and they arrived in record time. Plans were set for our transfer to happen in a week’s time. We ended up working with a young surrogate, 21 years old with a young daughter of her own. She was beautiful, and completely supported in the process by her husband. On March 16th, 2010 we had three embryos transferred and were officially back in the “two-week” wait.

As we waited we had some unusual comments from friends. There was this assumption that when we finally brought our baby home that we would need help –more than a woman who gave birth herself. I started to get offended! It seemed the assumption was, because our baby was going to be born through surrogacy, that we were idiots and not aware of the work involved with a newborn –that we really had no idea what we were in for. Others in the surrogacy community had similar experiences. In my opinion I feel that parents of surrogacy babies are less likely to need additional help because they go into the birth at the same weight as they have been for the nine months. They have not gone through the changes in the body, the hormones, and the fatigue. Intended dads — whether straight or gay –were still dads and still play the same caregiver role as dad. I was getting so irritated by comments from people about us needing help. I made a statement on my blog about this and the comments from others affirmed that I was correct in my irritation. The battle of infertility, the multiple losses of pregnancy, and the whole experience and perseverance of surrogacy actually make you strong beyond belief. After twelve years of disappointments and losses we were the strong ones! Our future baby was extremely wanted, as were the nighttime feedings, the colic, the exhaustion…you name it, we were ready and wanting. I often feel that couples who get pregnant on their first try and have a boring and successful pregnancy have absolutely no idea how wanted and loved our babies of surrogacy are.

As the days went by in our two-week wait we felt nothing. I guess our brains were doing a very good job of keeping us numb. We knew it was a negative. The call came and we received the words of “we’re sorry” from the doctors. Our gut feel was right. We chatted over the next few weeks about what to do. The doctors emailed us some ideas and we took time to sort through it all. It was during this time that we discovered the numbing abilities of red wine. It became routine for us to enjoy a bottle together every Saturday evening. We would work in the gardens in our new home, take the dog to the park, barbeque yummy eats and drink our wine. We continued to follow the blogs and forums, yet found it difficult to read others’ news of a positive –why them and why not us? We spoke with the doctors here and in India about the continued plan of using frozen embryos. The chances with frozen embryos go down a bit, but the statistics were still in our favor. We had great embryos, so why was this not working? In this time of taking a break from surrogacy we sat back and questioned the process.

Up until now we had never doubted it, but the lull in time allowed us to question things we had not previously questioned – questioned, not judged. There is a fine line between questioning and judging and we had to be cautious to not get caught up in the latter. The world of Indian surrogacy is like living in a small town, especially if you are public like we are (having a blog). Some of the people in this small town would feel the need to stir the emotional pot sometimes. During our break we received some uncharacteristic emails about our clinic and our supposed bad choice and how we had been warned. People who were aligned with other clinics in India received similar comments and emails periodically as well. It all boils down to emotion and some deal with it better than others. Reactions to negative pregnancy results can turn to crazy. After years of suffering through infertility, some people just cannot cope and they lash out. People were switching clinics after one negative and trying a new clinic, yet still harbored unresolved emotions. They were angry and sad and I get that. I just chose not to react negatively about the doctors and their practices. We didn’t feel we had the financial luxury to start over with a new clinic and still had one try left in our package with the existing one. We also had to take note and keep in mind that there are cultural differences and that working with another clinic in India would be similar, and not the same as home.


[Photo Credit: Flickr Image]

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