By: Kerrie Olejarz
We planned to fly to India in February, a mere five months away. In preparation for this, we contacted a lawyer who we had met on one of the Surrogacy in India forums. She was a local contact who was just in the midst of going to India to have a look at the clinic we chose. Things were really starting to feel real, and fall into place. In the meantime, we had received the enrollment package from India via email and booked an appointment with one of the doctors who I had seen during my last pregnancy. Unfortunately, I could not get in to see him until November and this was the beginning of my learning the true meaning of patience.
Our new lawyer contact met with us upon her return home from India. It was a wonderful meeting! This is a woman with passion way beyond the law. Surrogacy was in her heart; she yearned to help the infertile helpless. We came to her with a million questions, like the citizenship of the baby after birth in India? the legal ramifications of working with a surrogate outside of Canada? and the entitlement to Canadian maternity benefits should we be successful? In Canada, surrogacy must be of altruist intentions, and there is no legal allowance for surrogate compensation. Although the laws have not been tested, we were not willing to be the first! We needed to ensure that working out of country meant we were under Indian law and that bringing baby home was a task that would not cause long-term drama. Our lawyer answered all our questions and we were relieved to know that our dream was still a possibility. Near the end of our meeting, the lawyer discussed her upcoming support group launch. She wanted to create a network and meeting place where locals could discuss family options –whether it be adoption, egg donation, traditional or gestational surrogacy, IVF, and on an on. We were asked to attend to detail our journey to India, a way to encourage hope and determination to the others who are feeling defeated, and of course we obliged. We are a strong couple –-optimistic –and will not allow ourselves to feel broken. The first support group meeting was scheduled in one month’s time and we were ready and excited.
Shortly after our meeting with the lawyer, we jumped into the enrollment package details. There was a detailed chart of required tests, which we could check off the list in November when we would see our doctor. Also included were an eighteen-page medical history request and a three-page overview for both intended parents. In the surrogacy world the expected parents are called “intended parents”, or IP, for short. I am an IM and my husband is an IF. A surrogate is referred to as SM, short for Surrogate Mother. This was just the beginning of trying to learn the reproductive and surrogacy lingo. Thank god for the internet yet again as I was able to find a cheat sheet. This came in extremely handy as I stalked the India surrogacy forums and became an active member of one.
Getting back to the enrollment, I completed all the required forms as best I could and snuck these into work to scan and email to myself. Talk about paranoia! I scan documents at work everyday for emailing, yet when scanning such a secret I all of a sudden became a bumbling idiot! I checked the scanner/ fax/printer three times to ensure I was only sending to myself, made sure I did not hit copy or fax in error. I was sure my friends in IT were watching what I was doing and wondering what I was scanning and why it was such a large file. For now, I was not near ready to out myself at work. This was my secret journey to parenthood.
We attended the first family network support meeting, hosted by our lawyer friend in a big boardroom at her office. Snacks of all kinds were laid out on the table and we instantly felt the warmth and welcome in the air. Attendance was small, which we expected, as it was a kick-off night. We few couples were perfect strangers brought together by a wonderful woman and the desire to not give up on the dream of having a family. We detailed our next steps and answered questions about it all. We swapped stories and empathized with each other. The meeting was a success and we looked forward to the next.